A Scottish fling

It’s guid to be merry and wise. It’s guid to be honest and true. It’s good to support Caledonia’s cause, and bide by the buff and the blue!” — Robert Burns

Remember the old Saturday Night Live sketch starring Mike Myers as the curmudgeonly owner of an import shop named All Things Scottish? As the routine progressed, shoppers would walk in and ask for items that weren’t remotely Scottish in origin — Scotch Tape, for example. Or — gasp — they’d unwittingly request goods made in Ireland.

“If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!” Myers’ character would shout, pushing the offending customers straight for the door.

If you’re a real fan of all things Scottish, Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave, will speak to your inner bagpiper.

As the granddaughter of immigrants from Scotland’s Orkney Islands, I couldn’t resist a peek at a review copy of this handsome new guide. Illustrated with color photos of Scottish castles, clan lore, and national foods, it’s already provided hours of entertainment while serving as a test of my knowledge of the old country.

From ancient folklore to modern recreational pursuits, author Jonathan Green answers any question you might have about Scotland and its people. And even if you’re not of Celtic ancestry, you might like to know how deeply Scottish roots still grow in American soil. Just for fun, see if you can answer the following questions:

–Why is there an Aberdeen, a Dundee, and a Glasgow in the United States?

— We all sing “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve, but what does it really mean?

— What does the ubiquitous hamburger giant have to do with Scottish clans?

— Who was the real Macbeth … or was there a real Macbeth?

— Why is Scotland known as the home of golf, and what’s the origin of a “caddie”?

— Why was Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling adopted by Scotland as one of their own?

Scottish Miscellany would make an idea Christmas gift for armchair travelers as well as for the devoted Scots in your family. Likewise, if you’re planning a real trip to Scotland, this book will help pinpoint key sites for your visit. It even includes a short pronunciation guide to help translate a brogue. So, grab a copy, pour yourself a cuppa tea, break open the shortbread, and enjoy! — Cindy La Ferle

Where the heart is

Home ought to be our clearinghouse, the place from which we go forth lessoned and disciplined, and ready for life.”  ~Kathleen Norris

So … are you still eating Thanksgiving leftovers? Today I’m savoring the last of the long weekend with the family. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

My new Royal Oak Patch column is posted today. In it, I revisit one of my favorite subjects: the need to slow down and savor everyday pleasures — before the Christmas Machine cranks up. Quick reminder: I’ll display the official Patch logo, above, to alert you every time a new Patch column is posted. While the site is hyper-local, I’m focusing on themes that appeal to all readers, no matter where you live. Next week’s Patch column will address the holiday blues and how to send them packing. Please join the conversation! — CL


Gratitude is the heart’s memory.”  ~Jean Baptiste Massieu

My son Nate drove from Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with us, so I’m closing the door to my home office this week. Meanwhile, I’m sharing links to two essays with a Thanksgiving homecoming spin. The first is from the archives of my Michigan Women’s Forum column, and the other runs currently on Mothering by Jennifer Margulis. If you’re the parent of a college student who’s back home for the holiday, you’ll probably relate.

Another homecoming: My weekly Our Town column debuted on Royal Oak Patch yesterday. You’ll be able to read it all week (check under “Columns” or type “Cindy La Ferle” in the Search option). It’s fun sharing my little corner of the world, and I’m getting a kick out of the comments readers leave on the Patch site. I’ve even heard from folks who’ve left the state but still want to stay connected with their hometown. Happy Thanksgiving to all! –CL

–Photo by Cindy La Ferle–

Our town on Patch

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.  I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.”  ~George Bernard Shaw

Like friendship, community building takes care and effort — and modern life typically conspires against it. Thanks to a troubled economy, people move around a lot more now.

And even if we try to set down roots, it’s not easy to connect with neighbors. If we’re not multi-tasking at the office, we’re all cloistered at home in communion with the TV or our laptops. Building a stronger, safer, cozier, cooler, and friendlier neighborhood involves moving outside our comfort zones to talk to each other, just for starters.

My community always tops my gratitude list. I’ve lived here in Royal Oak for 28 years, and I’m thankful to be surrounded by folks who’ve bothered to read my weekly newspapers columns for ages and, bless them, even purchased my books. So I’m more than a little excited to be a part of Royal Oak Patch, a hyper-local and interactive online news service.

I’ll be contributing a weekly Sunday column starting November 21st. I’ll be on my usual “beat” — sharing thoughts from the home front on issues that many of us wrestle with, no matter where we live: the new empty nest, aging parents, career changes and semi-retirement, difficult relationships, and the challenge of finding balance in a world intent on driving us all a bit crazy. From the perspective of my front porch and home office, I’ll talk about places close to home and people dear to my heart.

Half the fun of this new venture is that I’m working with veteran journalists I met through other newspaper gigs in my hometown. And one of my neighbors, author Gerry Boylan, is a fellow columnist. In his inaugural Patch column today, Gerry offers the best description I’ve ever read about Royal Oak: “It’s apple pie ala mode, a drive right down the middle of the fairway, a strike over the middle of the plate, someplace that feels like home the day you move in and that’s why you don’t move out.”

Even if you don’t live in our town, you’re always welcome to visit Royal Oak Patch. Drop by and see what we’re up to. — CL

Think Christmas, buy local

Before you head to the malls with your holiday gift list, consider buying locally produced or handmade gifts this year. According to researchers quoted in Time magazine, when you purchase locally crafted items, more of your money stays in your community. And who doesn’t appreciate receiving a gift with a hometown connection?

“The Christmas season has come to mean the period when the public plays Santa Claus to department store merchants.”  ~John Andrew Holmes

So if you’re in Royal Oak this weekend, I hope you’ll visit Salt Box Specialties’ annual FALL AND HOLIDAY CRAFT SHOW at the First Congregational Church of Royal Oak. The show features more than 40 local vendors, including several new crafters and books of local interest. Signed copies of my collection of family stories, Writing Home, will be available at a special discount for craft fair shoppers, with proceeds going to the Welcome Inn day shelter for the homeless. Hours for the show: Friday, Nov. 12, 4:00 – 9:00 pm and Saturday, Nov 13, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. Admission is $2.00. –CL