Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Progress Report: Game Time

It’s game time. We are in the final week before our actual move and it’s about to get real. Things are now happening at such a fast rate that I feel like there should be a daily, rather than weekly, progress report.
Our biggest accomplishments last week were selling my car to Carmax, and getting the dog documents gathered and ready to be shipped off this Tuesday. We also spent A LOT of money on winter clothes. I bought a camel colored wool coat to go with my brown boots, and an ivory colored down-coat mainly for walking the dogs in winter.
It’s supposed to be good for up to -5 degrees Fahrenheit, so I’m hoping that means it will keep this southern girl toasty warm when Aberdeen dips into the 20s (it doesn’t get much colder than that).
Other than coats, I bought tons of leggings and tunic sweatshirts which I believe will replace my current uniform of skinny jeans, cowboy boots, and pocket tees. I did a lot of financial damage, but let me just say that Jonathan spent more on one down-vest than I spent on my entire shopping spree.
But when he put it on, it was like watching a girl try on her wedding dress for the first time; I just knew he had to have it.

I also made several trips to Costco and Target to buy items for our shipment. I counted, and if we use 1 can of Rotel per week, we should have enough to get us through the next 2 years. Mission accomplished.
Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on this week:
Monday: Selling Jonathan’s car and renting a vehicle until Saturday morning. Having good-bye margaritas with my brother and sister in law.

Tuesday: The dogs will get their tapeworm treatment Tuesday afternoon, giving them a 120 hour clock to enter the UK before this treatment is considered invalidated. The current plan is to get them to London by Sunday morning so, barring any volcanic activity, they should get there with a few hours to spare. Once we leave the vet office, I will high tail the paperwork to FedEx to have it overnighted to the USDA office in Austin. I will include a self-addressed pre-paid overnight envelope for it to be returned to us, hopefully by Thursday. But as long as it gets to us by Saturday at noon, it’s all gravy.

Tuesday night we are attending one final Houston event for GE’s annual shin-dig at the Museum of Natural History. It’s my very favorite museum in Houston, and it’s so much fun to get dolled up, drink champagne and have free reign of the exhibits, including the IMAX Theater. I just have to remember to leave one cocktail dress out before packing everything up, otherwise I’d look quite out of place in my skinny jeans, cowboy boots, and pocket tee.

Wednesday: The movers arrive to pack up our sea and air shipments. This should take two days.

Thursday: The movers finish packing us up. We either find an air mattress, book a hotel, or head up to Conroe for two nights.

Friday: Friday will be free to run any last minute errands before leaving on Saturday. I’m sure I’ll take up a significant amount of time breathing into a paper bag.

Saturday:  We’ll drop off our rental car in the morning. The dogs will be picked up at our house at noon, which I’m sure will induce a complete mental breakdown on my part. At this time I will continue breathing into a paper bag and, if that doesn’t work, my last resort will involve Xanax. Our town car will pick us up at 6 pm for our 8:30 PM flight to London. (P.S. How Fresh Prince of Bellaire is it that a town car is taking us to the airport?)

Sunday: We’ll arrive in Aberdeen at 3:45 PM, Lord willing. A pre-arranged taxi will bring us to our temporary housing for the week. We’ll have the night to settle in before our dogs are delivered Monday afternoon. We just found out that flights to Aberdeen don’t carry animals as cargo on the weekends so our pups will be having a slumber party Sunday night at the Animal Reception center at Heathrow Airport.

I’m sure the airport kennel will have utilitarian accommodations, but for the sake of my sanity I’m imagining fun-filled doggie day care with hired help whose sole duty is to rub my dogs’ bellies.  Xanax will be aiding in this illusion. I promise I’m not a druggie but I when I think about my dogs’ journey, I seriously CANNOT HANDLE IT, and so I literally will have to take a chill pill. Judge me if you want- one of the glorious side effects of Xanax is that I don’t really care.

In all seriousness, I’d like to do this drug free. I’ve been working hard on practicing faith and God has been gracious in giving me comfort and peace throughout this stressful time. I stumbled upon this verse recently and knew that it was meant for me:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9.

That one’s going on the bathroom mirror for sure.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Air Shipment

Since it’s our first ex-pat assignment, we will get an unlimited shipment of our belongings from the US to Aberdeen. However, since this can take up to 10 weeks to arrive, we also get a smaller air shipment which should arrive within the first week. The air shipment will be about the size of two plastic storage tubs and should contain those things most pertinent to daily living.
I’ve started making a list and organizing the things I want in this delivery. Just a few things off the top of my head are cooking supplies, any sweaters or boots that don’t fit into the suitcases, an American DVD player and the first few seasons of Gilmore Girls, Friends, and Felicity (UK DVD players won’t play American DVDs), an up/down voltage converter, my teakettle, a small bag of dog food and dog bones, warm bedding and comfy pillows. Can you think of anything I might be missing?
Right now our guest room is serving as the holding room for all air shipment items.
This is one of three converters that we bought to take with us. They are deceptively heavy, bulky and borderline expensive. A lot of times, it’s easier and cheaper just to buy a new appliance when you get to the UK, but for beloved and costly items such as our elliptical machine, bedroom TV, and KitchenAid mixer, it’s worth the investment for a converter. If you’re moving to the UK from Houston, I’d recommend stopping by East West International if you plan on bringing any large appliances with you.
American TVs can’t utilize cable service in the UK, but since our bedroom TV is solely used for watching DVDs (and I can’t sleep without re-runs on) we’re bringing that one with us. The house also comes with a good sized TV in the kitchen living area, so we will only need to buy one for the living room and possible a small TV  for the guest bedroom.
Since we won’t have our furniture intially, we will rent a furniture package for the interim weeks which will supply us with a full size bed, kitchen table and chairs, a couch, TV, and place settings.  It won’t be anything fancy (which is why we’re bringing an extra set of bedding in the air shipment) but should be adequate to get us through those first two months.
I think that one of the things I’m most stressed out about is not having my stuff in those initial weeks. But Jonathan brought up a good point that it will be kind of nice to not have to worry about unpacking immediately. We’ll be able to move right in and focus solely on setting up our house services, starting a UK bank account, buying a car, registering for health care, stocking the fridge, etc.
We will have plenty on our plates without worrying about unpacking a thousand boxes. And when our stuff finally does arrive, we’ll know exactly where to put everything because we will have been living in an almost empty house for 6 weeks. Silver lining, right?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's always soup season in Aberdeen

As the days come and go, we keep checking “moving milestones” off of our list. For instance, today was the last day that our housekeeper, Erica, would clean our house. Since it’s doubtful we’ll hire someone to clean our house in Scotland, it’s safe to say that I am going to miss her a whole heck of a lot. If you’re in the Houston area and looking for someone to tidy up your house, I’d be happy to make a referral.
Another part of the moving process is getting rid of food in the freezer. This means that despite the 85 degree temperatures outside, I made vegetable soup this week. Homemade Vegetable Stew is one of my most favorite recipes, but due to the limited amount of winter days in Texas, it hasn't historically gotten much play time in our household. However, I have a feeling that it’s going to get moved to the starting lineup during our stint in Aberdeen.
It’s a simple recipe, scrumptious, and not unhealthy. If it’s cold where you are, or you cook without regard to season, or if you’re trying to unload 2 pounds of stew meat from your freezer, you may want to give this a try.
Homemade Vegetable Stew- Cajun Style
2 lbs of stew meat cut into bite size pieces
15 oz of stewed tomatoes
1 can of Rotel tomatoes
1 small can of tomato puree
1 can of kernel corn*
1 can of green beans*
1 can of sliced carrots or 5 carrots cut into bite sized pieces
1 chopped onion
A few cans of tomato paste to adjust consistency
Noodle or rice of your choice (I personally use long macaroni noodles because when they are cooked, you can use them as straws to drink the soup juice. It’s delightful, I promise)
2 large white potatoes peeled and cut into bite sized pieces (or 2 cans of sliced potatoes)
Chopped celery (Optional. Celery and I are not friends so I usually leave it out. The choice is yours depending on your own personal relationship with celery.)
Chopped Cabbage (Also optional.)
Salt, Pepper, and Tony Chachere’s to taste
1.  Put water to boil (I don’t measure, but I’m guessing 6 cups. I’d be conservative because you can always add water later. I also use tomato paste to thicken up if needed). Add tomatoes, onions, celery, stew meat, carrots, cabbage and any other fresh vegetables other than potatoes. Boil for 30 minutes or until meat is tender.

2. Add remaining canned vegetables and potatoes and boil for 5 minutes before adding noodles of your choice.Be careful not to overcook the noodles. You should remove the pot just before the noodles are done because they will continue to cook in the water.
3.  If the noodles soaked up too much water, add water and thicken with tomato paste. You’ll probably need to do this if you have leftovers, because the noodles will continue to absorb water overnight.
4.  Serve with Ritz crackers; preferably in front of a warm and cozy fire. Unless of course, it’s 85 degrees outside, and then enjoy with the air conditioner on full blast.

*Hint: This recipe can be as hard or as simple you make it. You can substitute fresh veggies for canned ones if that’s your thing. Just make sure to add any fresh vegetables into the pot at the beginning to give them time to soften.   

I really hope you get a chance to try this recipe. It’s the type of food that is just good for your soul...and yummy for your tummy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Irresistable Sam

Since the future owners of our house wanted to come by to do a walk through yesterday morning, I took the temporary exile as an opportunity to take Bailey and Samson to the dog park. How long do you think it took before Samson was sitting in someone’s lap? I’d estimate 30 seconds.
As soon as we got through the gate, he bypassed two dogs and ran straight up to a woman who immediately scooped him up, carried him over to the nearest bench and sat him down in her lap. Seriously, that’s the power of Sam’s cuteness. Complete strangers are helpless to resist. I sure hope he turns on the charm when he gets to animal control in London and they just let him and his equally adorable sister right on through.

Speaking of transporting the dogs, I think I finally have a handle on everything that needs to get done. The only problem is relying on my veterinarian for assistance. The man is seriously unhelpful which is complicated by the fact that he does not take appointments, only walk-ins. I went to the office yesterday afternoon and waited around until his assistant informed me that the vet was performing a surgery and wouldn’t be available for 2 hours.
I’m trying to send a trial run of the paperwork to the USDA this week so that they can confirm that everything other than the tapeworm treatment has been completed correctly. I left the paperwork along with instructions for the Vet to review and left a message for him to please contact me when the paperwork is completed or if he has any questions.
I appreciate the fact that he is a very busy man, but I also want to stress to him that importing my dogs to Scotland is very high on my list of important things in my life and I’d be ever so grateful if he could just reply to my various messages that I have left for him. Maybe I’ll stage a sit-in and bring Sam along. Those adorable eyebrows should get his attention.

The dogs have to be treated for tapeworms 5 days before arrival into the UK. Since our dogs will be getting to London next Sunday morning, the earliest they can get their treatment is Tuesday afternoon. Immediately upon leaving the Vet office next Tuesday, I will march right over to Fed-Ex to over-night the paperwork to the USDA Vet in Austin. I will include a self-addressed over-night envelope for them to return the signed documents to me.
From my local Vet, I will need a generic certificate of health for my pets to fly and the completion of microchip, rabies, and tapeworm treatment sections on the European Union Health Certificate. Seriously, it should take him 10 tiny little minutes and I will gladly take care of the rest.
I won’t mention the fact that it’s usually the Vet who, out of courtesy for his paying customers, faxes all of the relevant documents to the USDA a week early to make sure everything is in place. And I also won’t mention the fact that it’s the Vet who, out of courtesy for his paying customers, Fed-Ex’s the documents to the USDA for endorsement. I’ve had both the USDA Vet and my Pet Transport company ask me several times, ‘Why isn’t your Vet doing this?’ Good question! Come on Sam, I think it’s time for a sit in.

Okay, you're right, naps first.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Self Help Pep Talk

I actually sat down and wrote a blog post last night that I intended to publish today. However, when I read through it this morning it came across as extremely bratty. I guess the stress of the move is getting to me because I had written 900 words worth of complaints about moving, about Scotland, about myself.
As is often the case, a good night's sleep can often provide new insight and perspective. I refer to my anxiety patterns as sun-downing. I wake up in the morning feeling cheery, energetic, and optimistic but as the day wears on an impending sense of doom slowly comes over me and by bedtime I'm one American Idol elimination away from a complete mental breakdown.
Yes, it turns out that moving internationally is quite stressful. Imagine that. The anxiety is simply part of the package. I am resigned to the fact that I’ll be a bundle of nerves for the next 2 months or so, so I better go ahead and brace myself. 
I think of sky diving as a good analogy for ex-patriating. You decide to do it, plan your jump, get excited, brag about it to all of your friends and then comes the part where you actually have to jump out of a perfectly capable airplane.
I’ve never been skydiving before but I can imagine the thoughts and emotions that would run through my head in the moments before jumping. Thoughts like, “I don’t have to do this. There’s still time to back out.” contradicted by thoughts like, “But I already bragged to everybody about doing this. I can’t chicken out now.” Emotions of paralyzing terror, panic, and adrenaline.
Yes, right now, we’re about to jump out of the plane. And I’m scared. And I’m having second thoughts. And honestly, I want my Mommy. But dangit, I still want to jump. I want the excitement, the challenge, the life experience. I just have to close my eyes and jump.
And I’m only human. It wouldn’t be a realistic picture of an international move if I didn’t complain every once in a while. But I do believe that one of my biggest strengths is disallowing myself to wallow. I’m good at encouraging others and giving pep talks, so I’ve just got to turn that skill inward and pump myself up.
This time in our lives is hard; it’s stressful; it’s uncertain and unsettling. Or in the sage words of Jonathan, “Our lives kind of suck right now”. But this part, the actually moving part, is just a piece of the bigger package that we signed up for. And dangit, I still want to jump.
“You don’t get to taste the honey without the sting of the bee.”- James Morrison

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Progress Report: Let the Countdown Begin

Last week was definitely our most productive since getting the assignment in Aberdeen. We ended up both selling our house and also lining up great housing in Aberdeen. Two of our biggest to-do items are now behind us and it feels great.

 We put our house on the market last Wednesday and on Thursday we received an offer for over asking price. Later in that day we received two other strong offers, one for full asking price, but nothing as strong as the original offer. I honestly felt bad for all those people who couldn’t buy our house. Since we were on the other end of the process in Scotland, I could empathize with really wanting a property and being spooked that someone else might scoop it up.
Our house in Houston really is lovely and I’m glad that so many others appreciated her charm. Now our beloved bungalow is officially off the market.

The most convenient part about it selling while we were out of the country is that now we don’t have to worry about maintaining the illusion for prospective buyers that nobody lives in our house. Staging is super stressful. I’m grateful that we can finally be messy and disorganized, which is mandatory when trying to pack up all of your belongings.
Overall I feel oddly calm, but with definite moments of freaking out. The most stressful thing is fretting over the dogs. To ease that anxiety, I’m going to discuss the paperwork with the Veterinarian tomorrow and then fax it to the USDA to check for errors. Next Monday, the dogs will have to have their tapeworm treatment before we can send the EU health certificate to the USDA office for final endorsement. Then we cross our fingers and pray like crazy that they get the paperwork back to us in time for them to fly out next Friday afternoon.
Since it’s such a short time window, there is no room for error. I’ll be using this week to annoy the hell out of my Vet, the transport company, and the USDA to ensure that all my bases are covered. Wow, just thinking it about it makes my heart rate go through the roof. I will be so relieved when my babies are delivered to me in Aberdeen.  They’ll likely be fine with the trip, whereas I will surely need to be sedated from the time they leave my sight Friday morning until they are safely returned to me Saturday afternoon.
We have their travel kennels set up in order to get the pups acclimated before the flight and they’ve really taken to them. Of course, Samson instantly claimed the large kennel while Bailey tried to squeeze into the smaller one. They finally decided that Bailey's kennel was big enough to share.

So now the countdown begins. Only twelve more days until we’ll be boarding our final flight to the European Union. Everything feels like it’s moving at warped speed. More than anything, do you know what made this impending move seem real to me? The gallon of milk I bought at Kroger yesterday doesn’t expire until after we move.

It doesn’t seem possible that life can change so drastically in the time that it takes milk to spoil.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

And The House We Chose Is...

And the house we chose is…none of the above!

On Friday morning we were prepared to make an offer on the Overbudget house in Cults, but our realtor still had one more house to show us. We kept an open mind and once we toured the home, our decision to rent it was pretty easy. The house is located about a half mile from Jonathan’s office on a quiet cul de sac in a residential area of the city.

It’s currently occupied by a young American couple with two small children who work for the same company as Jonathan. The layout is ideal with living space downstairs and three decently sized bedrooms up. It has a spacious and modern eat-in kitchen overlooking a small living area.

There is also a formal living room and an extra room that we will use as an office/storage/exercise room. It’s always easier to view a house with furniture, and this one was especially helpful because the couple had a King sized bed in the master bedroom. The master also includes a walk in closet which is almost unheard of in Scotland and the two bathrooms in the house are some of the nicest that we saw while house hunting.

There is a small fully fenced back garden that is perfectly adequate for our dogs to romp around.

But the best part of the house is its proximity both to Jonathan’s office and a few of the main city parks and gardens. The house is just about a mile from Hazlehead Park which contains a series of wooded running trails. The park is so large that you can run a full 10k loop within its perimeters, but it also has trails off-shooting into the countryside if you wanted to run longer distances or change up the scenery.

It will be a great place both to run and walk the dogs. And from our new house we can actually get to Hazlehead by walking through 2 other connecting parks so that we never have to get on any busy streets enroute to the trails.
The house receives extra bonus points for being walking distance to a Blockbuster, grocery store, pet store and drycleaner. It was also within our budget and will be available for us to move into almost immediately upon our arrival in Aberdeen. I definitely have peace of mind that this is the right property for us in this next chapter of our lives.
I have so much more to tell you about our trip, but Jet Lag is seriously kicking my butt right now, making it awfully hard to form coherent sentences.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

House 1, 2, or 3?

Day 3 of house hunting is complete, and Jon and I have agreed on our favorites. In keeping with the House Hunters International theme, we’ve narrowed our choices down to three properties:
House 1: Overbudget in Cults

Pros: The house is situated in a quaint village just outside of the Aberdeen city limits. It has historic charm, is walking distance to great amenities, and backs up to a jogging trail that spans several miles through the countryside. It has a large rear garden for the dogs to play and a stunning view of the Scottish hills.
Cons: Little to no storage. Seriously, there is one hall closet and the bathrooms don’t have cabinets. Other than the master bedroom, the bedrooms are very small and probably can’t fit more than a full size bed. The biggest drawback is that it’s 200 pounds over our budget (about $318 more per month).  
House 2: Suburban in Kingswells
Pros: This house is large with a great layout and a decent backyard. It’s set in the suburb of Kingswells which, though farther from the city, has an easy commute. The lots are large and similar to an American neighborhood. There are several walking paths and parks within the development. It has American sized appliances, and is the only house we’ve seen that has a full sized dryer. It’s also way under our budget.
Cons: The house lacks character. It’s perfectly suitable, but nothing special. The finishes are outdated and we would need to make several repairs.
House 3: Busy street but large garden.

Pros: This house is in the West End of the City center about 1 mile from Jon’s office. It’s is loaded with beautiful features, including 3 working fireplaces. The garden is very large, especially for being in the heart of the city. The kitchen has been completely renovated and has a great view of the backyard.
Cons: Very little storage, the only shower is downstairs whereas all three bedrooms are up (there is still a bathtub upstairs), it is on a very busy street and you get some street noise in the bedrooms. The house is currently occupied and wouldn’t be available until a few weeks after we move. The biggest question mark about the property is that we don’t know if they allow pets or not, which is kind of an important factor.

So which will it be, House 1, 2, or 3 (or none of the above)? I guess you’ll have to wait to find out!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

House Hunting Internationally

Greetings from marvelous, magnificent, magical…wet, windy, wintery Aberdeen, Scotland! Day two of house hunting is done. We’ve seen a total of nine houses so far, and have narrowed those down to two choices. Tomorrow we plan to see a few more in the morning, and then use to afternoon to have a second viewing of any houses still under consideration.
On our first afternoon of searching, we saw three houses and it was set up perfectly like an episode of House Hunters International. One house was in the city, one in the country, and one was a compromise in the suburbs. It definitely gave us an example of the three lifestyle options in Aberdeen and got us picturing ourselves in each. Ultimately, I think we’ve decided that a life in the country would be beautiful, but a bit too isolated.

So now we are looking for our next home either in the burbs or the city. The first apartment we saw was heartbreaking because it was the absolute perfect house. It was in the western part of town, 2 blocks from Jon’s office, had beautiful historical character, a walk in closet (!), and a dream kitchen, but it had absolutely no yard. By far it’s been our favorite house, but a yard is just non-negotiable with two dogs, mainly because I’m lazy and don’t want to have to walk them every time they want to go out to potty.
If we can find a similar property with garden access, we would definitely be interested, so our relator is working hard to find something suitable. The problem with many of these historic homes is that they understandably don’t allow pets, so there isn’t much available to choose from.
The suburban area we’re mainly focusing on is Cults. The homes in this area have historical features and often have a large yard (with amazing views!). The village is just outside of Aberdeen, and with public transportation Jonathan could still get by without a car, though he’d rather have a car if he can't actually walk to work. For me, it’s ideal because it’s walking distance to several shops and running trails.
During her reign as Queen, Victoria built a railway through Aberdeen that has since been turned into a jogging trail. Two of the houses we’ve looked at in Cults actually have access to this trail through the backyard gate. It would be wonderful to let the dogs play and then be able to open the back gate to take them for a jog along the river. That’s the Scotland I’ve been dreaming about!
So what’s the downside? Very small rooms that will hardly fit Scottish sized furniture, much less American sized. Also, this is a highly sought after area that goes a bit past our budget.  
Another suburb we’ve looked at is Kingswells. It’s a bit farther out, but right on the main road to the office, so the commute isn’t bad. We’d definitely need two cars, but the rent is well within our budget so that’s not a big deal. It looks more like an American suburb, and the houses are newer meaning they don’t have as much character, but the rooms are decently sized.

Currently, this house in Kingswells is our backup in case we can’t find anything in West End or Cults that’s feasible. The other house still on our list is in Cults but is 200 pounds over our monthly budget.
We already agreed that the only way we’ll go over our max budget is if we can get by with one car. Though it’s too far for Jon to walk, it would be feasible for him to bus, bike, or carpool to work from this house. We’ve still got a few to look at tomorrow so I’ll keep you posted.
It’s been an exhausting 48 hours. Time for a good run and then a nice bubble bath at the hotel.

What a tub! If only I could find a house with one of these…

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Progress Report: Flying First Class

Greetings from Amsterdam! I’m writing this from the KLM lounge after my first ever business class flight. To my dismay, there were no warm cookies served, but this was compensated by the serving of mixed nuts, crab salad, goat cheese stuffed ravioli, chocolate torte, brie and as if that weren’t enough, Apple French toast for breakfast. Did you hear me? Apple French Toast.

It was hands down the best airplane food I’ve ever eaten, but the best part about the flight was definitely the leg room.

And not only was it my first business class flight, but also my first ever double decker flight. And we got to be on the second floor! I definitely felt like a rock star. However, even in the expensive seats, the journey is an exhausting one. I managed about 2 hours of sleep before Jonathan woke me up for breakfast. Apple French Toast breakfast.
So obviously the fact that we're in Amsterdam shows that we made a lot of progress in the past week, the biggest milestone being receiving visa approval and scheduling our house hunting trip. Funny story…Jon’s company acted as our travel agents and were responsible for booking our flights and hotels for Aberdeen using Jon’s company credit card. They booked my ticket just fine, but when they tried to secure Jon’s seat on the plane they were told his credit card had been maxed out. For a while there, it looked like I’d be the only one going until they figured out a solution.
Jonathan decided that the quickest fix was to just charge it on our personal card and ask for reimbursement. It makes me quite uncomfortable to see that Business class ticket charge on our credit card statement. We’re definitely not in Economy anymore, and I’m very thankful that the company will be reimbursing us. We both feel quite guilty that this little trip is costing so much money, and would have gladly roughed it to save the company some cash.
However, part of the Ex-Pat package is that the company offers several perks to try to off balance all of the hardships. We’re pretty down to earth people, so the Executive treatment may take some getting used to. The Apple French Toast is helping to speed up the adjustment period though. 
 I’ve got about two hours in the lounge before boarding our Aberdeen flight and once there we will directly go house hunting. Here’s just a brief rundown of the past week’s accomplishments:
Logistics: We got our Visas and scheduled a house hunting trip. Our house is set to go on the market this Wednesday with an Open House this weekend.
Shipment: We set up a firmer move date, arranged for our belongings to be shipped and I ordered the dog’s airline approved kennels.
This week’s goals: 1) Find a House in Scotland 2) Sell our house in Houston. Your prayers on both of these matters are highly appreciated.
And just one more thing: Happy Birthday to my dear lifelong friend Simone who is such a smarty that she just passed the Louisiana BAR exam last weekend. We’ll be toasting a Scottish Ale in your honor tonight, Monie.
Now I’m faced with that all too common dilemma- power nap or caffeine binge? Any tips for handling jet lag?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Got a Package!

I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief over the fact that our passports were delivered to our door this morning. Now we’ll actually be permitted to board our flight to Amsterdam on Sunday. And do you want to know the absolutely best part about it? We’re flying Business Class, baby! After traveling my whole life in Economy, I’m excited to see the view from the other side of the curtain. I heard they serve warm cookies. Please Lord, let that be true. I love warm cookies!
We are dropping the pups off tomorrow morning to give us a full day of both packing and staging the house perfectly. We’ve got a professional photographer coming to take pictures on Tuesday before our house is officially listed on Wednesday. Our realtor is also hosting an open house next Saturday, so when we leave for the airport our house has to be looking fine. It shouldn’t be too hard since she’s naturally so gorgeous. If you know anyone looking for an adorable cottage in the Houston Heights, I’ve got just the thing.
Have a great weekend. Hopefully, next time I blog, I’ll be posting from Aberdeen.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Visas Approved

Our Visas were approved!!! Woohoo!! Happy Dance! And we received them with enough time to spare so that we’ll still get to make a pre-assignment visit to Aberdeen. Our current plan is to leave this weekend, giving me only 2.5 days to pack. Yikes!
Unfortunately, HGTV has not gotten back to me on my offer to let them feature us on House Hunters International. Whatevs. Their loss (sniff, sniff). But don’t worry, I will be keeping you informed about our experience in finding the perfect Scottish home.
Ahhhh. I am just so excited!  I have a UK Visa. Can I just gush about that for a minute? Life is good. Life is very, very good.
The only snafu is that for some reason the UK embassy overnighted our passports to California. Why this happened is a complete mystery. Regardless, we managed to track them down and arrange for them to be re-overnighted to Houston. We are fervently praying that they will be delivered to us by Saturday so that we can leave the country on Sunday. I sure picked the wrong week to stop biting my nails.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Do Your Best and Forget the Rest

My dad is usually a calming presence for me, but when he called yesterday to check on our relocation progress, he had quite the opposite effect. I was feeling pretty good about all we had accomplished in the past 5 weeks until he started asking questions. Questions like: Have you put your house on the market yet? Nope. Have you sold your cars? Nope. Have you planned your pre-assignment visit? Nope. Do you realize that May 1st is less than 3 weeks away? Not really…
So many of the big ticket items on our relocation to-do list can’t happen until we receive visa approval. As the days go by with no visa, this is pushing us up closer and closer against our move date. A little too close for comfort if you ask me. There is no realistic way that we can accomplish everything that’s left within a two week time span, especially since shipping the dogs will be such a huge priority in our last week. And I can’t even really move forward with those plans until we have a firm move date in place.
It’s weird because I know we could receive our visa approval at any moment. The embassy will send us a confirmation email and a notification that our passports are in transit back to us. An email. That's seriously the gunshot we're waiting for to start this relocation race. Needless to say, I've been obsessively checking it all day, every day. 
The most we can do until then is to be prepared. No, we don’t have our house on the market, but it’s ready to go with a moment’s notice. No we haven’t sold our cars, but we have a plan for who to sell them to when the time comes. We may not have a house hunting trip planned, but we know which neighborhoods we want to focus on when we do. I feel like that’s the best we can do at this point.
Patience is a key requirement in getting through an international move. You have to have the ability to take a step back and realize that everything is going to fall into place. Everything is eventually going to get done. Until then, as Tony Horton would say, “Do your best, and forget the rest.”  Oh Tony, the great philosopher.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Stop and Smell the Salsa

I’m a notorious planner and this is never more evident than when I’m planning a big trip. That’s why it is totally bizarre to me that I will be leaving the country within the next few weeks, and yet I don’t have any flights booked, I don’t know where I’ll be staying, and I haven’t made any arrangements for the dogs. Heck, I don’t even know where my passport is. I think this whole move will seem unreal until we purchase those initial plane tickets.
I’ve been doing relatively well with remaining patient, but I have to admit that I’m starting to get a bit antsy. I want to be there. I want to find a house. I want to buy a car. I want to obsessively email thousands of postcard-like pictures to everyone I know.
So when I start to feel impatient, I try to slow down and appreciate the fact that, for now, I am in Texas. In Texas, we can lay out by the lake. In Texas, we can eat crawfish. In Texas, I can blog from my front porch without wearing a jacket. And most importantly, in Texas, we can go sit on a restaurant patio and drink margaritas with chips and salsa.

There aren’t many 75 degree nights in Aberdeen, and as far as I know, zero good Mexican restaurants. So while Scotland has experienced a freak Artic Cold front this past week, we’ve been enjoying our Spring nights outside. Next April, we’ll be in unpredictable Aberdeen, and since it’s currently 40 degrees there, we’re in no rush to get there this week. No rush at all.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Progress Report: Crisis Management

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter celebration. We celebrated with our church at Jones Plaza in downtown Houston. It’s always a surreal experience to hear praise music echoing off the skyscrapers of this city.

Easter turned out to be quite the romantic day for us. After church, Jon took me on a cheeseburger date to Wendy’s, complete with a frostee. Then he took me to look at Volvo station-wagons, which I’ve determined to be my new dream car. He tried showing me Audi station wagons, but I explained that my new fetish is somehow Volvo specific.  

After a few hours of lazing around the house, we went for a rare bike ride through The Heights before ending the night with the latest episode of The Amazing Race, which added Tanzania to our “Absolutely must go there” list.
The fact that we haven’t received our visas yet combined with last week’s flea fiasco has brought several of our relocation efforts to a standstill. The good news is that the flea situation is under control. We’re still having the pros come to spray our yard tomorrow just as a precaution but Samson is doing 1000% better. That means my mind is free to refocus on the backlogged items on my to-do list.
Logistics: We decided on a realtor and have all of our housing paperwork ready to go so that when we do get our visas back, we can list our house to sell.
We also received a cost estimate for shipping the dogs (roughly $5,000) and put down a 50% deposit. Jon’s company reimburses us for the shipping costs of one dog so we’re hoping that only $2,000 will be coming out of our pocket.  
Another big accomplishment has been setting up our UK bank account. As an American, when setting up banking in Aberdeen you basically have 3 options: HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) or CitiBank. We decided to go with HSBC due to the fact that we could open an account now through their New York Branch. We’ve already transferred a large sum into the account so that when we get to Scotland we have the funds to buy cars a volvo station wagon and any major appliances that we need.
We had heard from other expats in Scotland that this is the easiest bank from which to transfer money back and forth from the US. CitiBank sounded ideal because they have branches in both the US and the UK. However, we discovered that they only have branches in England and there is essentially no relationship between the US and UK branches.
I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but banking really falls under Jonathan’s household duties. I just know how to swipe the credit card. If you’re moving to Scotland and want more specific information, you can email me at: theaberdeenwife at gmail dot com.

Shipment: We got our Restoration Hardware furniture! It was delivered Saturday and we are so happy with our choices. I gave the comfy chair and ottoman a test drive on Saturday and it is the perfect reading spot! The challenge is teaching Bailey that it is not the perfect dog bed.
shhh...don't tell Jonathan
I’m currently blogging from my new desk and its turning into quite the perfect space as well. One thing I will surely miss about the US is Restoration Hardware. I’m crossing my fingers that they start delivering to the UK soon.
We were able to donate our old desk and bookcase to Goodwill along with 8 trash bags full of clothes. With the delivery of our new furniture, I feel like the house is officially ready to stage. All it needs is one final deep clean, so as soon as our visas are approved I’ll start manically dusting, sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming. Or I’ll just call the housekeeper. What Jonathan doesn’t know won’t hurt him, right?
This Week's Goals: This week my biggest priorities are to buy the airplane approved kennels for the dogs, start filling out their paperwork with the assistance of the pet transport company, have Samson shaved, have the yard sprayed for fleas…yes the first 4 things on my list are dog related…Other than that, I’m continuing to get the house in showing order: reorganizing closets, pantries, cabinets, fridge, etc.
Hopefully I’ll be able to scratch some of the miscellaneous items off of my big list like getting Jon’s cowboys repaired (major priority when moving to Aberdeen, right?) and getting some art prints framed.
We’re dealing more and more with the possibility that we may not get a pre-assignment visit to line up our housing. But we’re also leaning more and more towards a house in the country which will give us more space for our American sized furniture and a bigger yard for our beloved flea bags.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Secret Life of Fleas

I don’t have much to report so I’ll keep this post short and sweet. For the past few days, I have singlemindedly declared a war on fleas. I’ve been crazy busy vacuuming the house and spraying all of the carpet, rugs, and upholstery to try to exorcise the little monsters. Jonathan is in charge of spraying the yard this afternoon. Hopefully our efforts will keep the pest situation under control until the professionals spray our property next Tuesday. 

At first I viewed preparing my house for pest control as a setback from getting our house ready to sell, but actually it has given me the kick in the butt I needed to finish organizing the closets and getting the clutter off of the floor. It took me the better part of yesterday afternoon, but look at my closet!

After donating the majority of my professional and summer wardrobe, it’s opened up a ton of space. I don’t think I’ve seen my closet floor or ceiling since we moved in.

Can I complain for a second? I am exhausted. Again, not to draw any parallels between pets and children, but my dogs are definitely curing my most recent bout of baby fever. Since we had to destroy the dogs’ beds due to flea infestation and we don’t want to buy new ones until the flea problem is eradicated, the dogs have been sleeping in our room.

Since I’m supposed to stop Samson from scratching, I am hyper vigilante to any movement he makes during the night. And I’m sure it’s psychological, but when they itch, I itch. I woke up at 2 AM to the sound of Bailey scratching her bites and suddenly I felt itchy all over. After trying to fall back asleep for 30 minutes, I decided to take me and my body pillow to the couch.

As soon as I got settled in with a midnight snack and a How I Met Your Mother marathon, I heard Jonathan yell from the bedroom, “Laine! Bailey threw up everywhere.” I rushed upstairs to find Jonathan still tucked comfortably in bed and a pile of dog puke in the corner of the bedroom. I guess since I’m the housewife, that means I’m on clean up duty at 3 AM.

After scrubbing the carpet, I headed back down to the couch. Four episodes of How I met Your Mother later, I managed briefly to fall asleep until Jonathan left for work at 6. I. am. so. tired.

Seriously, I don’t know how you parents do it, especially you parents who both work full time. I simply cannot function without 8 hours of sleep, so my off and on 4 hours I got last night are not hacking it. Right now I’m torn between a caffeine binge or taking a nap. Decisions, decisions.

One thing I know for sure: one of the biggest pros about Scotland is that there are NO FLEAS! Samson has been a big ball of allergies ever since we moved to Houston. I’m hoping that since his ancestors hail from the UK, these will be cleared up once we move.

In super, awesome, wonderful news, a house down the street almost identical to ours just went on the market last Thursday and it has already sold! We’re crossing our fingers that ours will sell as quickly. We’re also crossing our fingers that we’re able to put our house on the market next week. Still no word about our visa approval…