Friday, June 29, 2012

Hindsight: What We Shouldn't Have Brought

There are quite a few things I wish I’d brought with us to Scotland, but there are also several that I wish I’d left behind. For instance, my Mom urged me to get laundry detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets to put into my shipment, because she said the products here aren’t as good. Laundry detergent quality must be in the eye of the beholder, because before our shipment got here, I was really enjoying the little all-in-one detergent packs that you toss into the washing machine. Now, I'll agree with my Mom that they may not be of the same caliber as the detergent in the States, but I'm all about convenience, and these little guys give it to me.
They work really well, don’t weigh anything, don’t require measuring, and take up half the space of my economy size detergent buckets. But now I have 4 giant detergents and fabric softeners that I suppose I’ll be using for the next year in order to free up some storage space. Dryer sheets are a bit trickier because at first I couldn’t locate them at any of the stores. I ended up spotting them at Tesco though, so I have peace of mind that when I run out of the two boxes I brought, I’ll be able to find more.
Also, we brought 2 cases of black beans thinking that we wouldn’t be able to find them here. They aren’t at every store, but I have been able to locate them at two different spots so I didn’t need to buy them beforehand afterall. Also, salsa and taco seasoning. There has been an explosion of Mexican food items available in Aberdeen so tortillas, salsa, and taco seasoning are usually available at any grocery store.  
Less specifically, we just brought too much stuff in general. If I could do it again, I would just bring my furniture, kitchen supplies, wardrobe, and a few food ingredients for my Tex-Mex and Cajun recipes.
I think I just took for granted how much storage space we had in Houston. Yes, our house there was smaller than our current home, but we also had 2 hall closets, a garage, an attic, pantry and 4 bedroom closets. Why not hang on to that rice cooker that you’ve never used if you’ve got the pantry space to accommodate it? Having things neatly put away mislead us to believe that we didn’t have that much junk, but when the movers started rolling in 154 boxes, it got pretty overwhelming pretty quickly. And then there are things that I swore we donated.
Things like these vases we bought at Kirkland’s when we were broke newlyweds. It wasn’t until we got them home that we realized they emulated naked African ladies and I have been trying to get rid of them ever since. Yes, I’ve been trying to off load these for 4 years, yet somehow, someway, they are sitting in my house right now. How does that happen? I’m convinced it’s either a horror story or a practical joke that Jon is playing on me.
And of course, I’m wishing we didn’t tote our non-living-room-fitting sleeper sofa all the way across the pond just to get rid of it in a fire sale for about 1/10 of what it’s worth. Speaking of which, any Aberdonians interested in a brown leather pull out couch? Entertaining all offers! Oh wait, it won't fit in your house either? Figures...
Time will tell: These are the items that I’m unsure of how much use they will get while we’re in Scotland, but would definitely be useful in several other potential locations.
Two sets of patio furniture. Two sets. Of patio furniture. In Scotland. Since 90% of the time it’s raining and below 50 degrees outside, I doubt these will get much use. But you never know. Every once in a while Scotland will surprise with a week straight of sunny skies and mild temperatures which are perfect for barbequing. Even so, it’s doubtful we need both sets, and for now, our garden looks a little bit like a white trash backyard. I'm predicting a theme party pretty soon.
We’re just waiting for a sunny weekend to get it set up properly. Judging by the current 5 day forecast, that might take a while.
My elliptical machine. We originally bought the elliptical machine so that I wouldn’t have to join a gym in Houston. The traffic there was so bad that I knew I’d never get in my car to travel to a gym, and I definitely got my money’s worth out of this exercise machine on days where it was too hot to jog outside. Now that we’re in Aberdeen, it’s never too hot to jog outside, and on rainy days, I can always catch a Body Pump class at our health club.
As of now, our elliptical has not even been turned on in Scotland. I think it may get some use in the winter months, especially if there is snow on the ground. I’m already bad enough at driving on the left hand side of the road, so I doubt I’ll add in icy roads en-route to the gym to complicate matters. And also, the elliptical is definitely something that we would use the heck out of if we were to move to a place like Bangladesh where it’s just too hectic to run outside. 
We’ve already donated 3 giant trashbags full off stuff, and thrown out 2 more. We’re making a donation and recycling run tomorrow to off load the next round. I will make sure that the African vases are out of my posession once and for all.  After that, I think the junk will at least be manageable.
I wish we’d taken more advantage of storing sentimental items with our folks. Jonathan brought enough memorabilia with us to start his own museum. We obviously can’t get rid of his whole life history, but it’s hard to carve out a place to keep it. I had one tub of old yearbooks and photo albums that I left at my parents’ house, but the rest I just had to chunk.
I never would have guessed that Jon was the more sentimental of the two of us, but I’ve got the evidence to prove that he is.
It’s actually really sweet. We had a pow wow on the floor where he showed me all of his old football photos and high school photo albums. It kind of made me sad that I couldn’t pull out my own for show and tell. But at the end of the day, I’d rather have a de-cluttered house then one filled to the brim with sentimental objects that I might pull out once a year when I'm feeling nostaligic.
An attic or garage would be a simple fix, but it seems the Scots have a thing against storage space. For now, we're just having to use a spare bedroom for storage, and we're very grateful to have that.
But man, oh man, what I would give for an attic. Or a garage. Yes, Mom, I know: you told me so.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pinterest Fail: Frozen Yogurt Blueberries

I’ve mentioned before that I’m addicted to running, and Scotland is a runner’s paradise. This is especially true in the summers where it stays light for 18 hours and the temperature never rises much above 55 degrees. Suffice to say, I’m running more than ever which means that I’m also hungrier than ever.
Earlier this week, I mentioned that black beans and sweet potatoes are considered power foods for runners. Other foods on the list include blueberries and Greek yogurt, which just so happen to be two of my favorite things on the planet.
When I saw this recipe for frozen blueberries coated in honey Greek yogurt, I desperately wanted to give it a try. After all, for my morning snack I usually toss a handful of berries into my tub of yogurt, so I was pretty confident that this variety would be a crowd pleaser. It was a good idea…in theory. In actuality, (*spoiler alert*) it was pretty much a bust.
The recipe instructed me to stick a toothpick through a blueberry, drag it around a tub of yogurt, and plop it onto a cookie sheet. Once your cookie sheet is full, place it in the freezer for an hour before they’re ready to eat. Then, once you’ve taken them out of the freezer, eat them within about 5 minutes or else the yogurt will melt and make a sticky mess. Simple enough. Until I got started and realized how much time it was going to take to do one single blueberry at a time. Especially since Greek Yogurt is pretty thick, so unless your fruit is securely fastened onto the toothpick, it will undoubtedly fall off and you’ll spend 30 seconds blueberry fishing.  
My original idea was to make a batch to take to our Tuesday Night Bachelorette viewing. However, after spending 45 minutes making 45 yogurt covered blueberries, I realized that it was a bit too labor intensive to make enough to feed 10 girls.
Oh well, 45 were still enough to make a respectable snack for myself, so I plopped them right on in the freezer and waited for them to ice over. When they were finally ready, Jonathan and I sampled them simultaneously and I believe both of our reactions were ‘eh.’ It was okay. But the flavor definitely didn’t reflect the labor involved.
Also, it’s only 54 degrees outside, which makes the need for frozen blueberries a little unnecessary. If we were in scorching hot Houston, it would surely be a welcomed treat. It was a valiant effort, but for now, I think I’ll stick to the ole handful of blueberries in the yogurt tub. It’s all going to the same place anyway.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hindsight: What I Would Have Brought

Now that our shipment has arrived and the boxes have been unpacked, I’ve had some time to reflect on the things that we did and did not bring with us to Scotland. I must have been having some serious brain freezes in the weeks preceding the move, because some of the things I omitted and some things I obsessed over were just plain dumb. Fortunately, I moved to Scotland instead of Bangladesh and I can run out and buy an extra set of tennis shoes if need be. Mind you, the tennis shoes will cost 30 percent more than they would have stateside, but that’s just a price I’ll have to swallow.  

Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and I honestly feel like we did about the best we could with the time and knowledge we were given. I don’t know of a single ex-pat who can say ‘nope, I wouldn’t have done anything differently’. It’s a complicated life, with so much to consider, and there is just no way to anticipate every single scenario. For instance, just when I confidently resolved that I didn't need 684 hangers, my mom pointed out:‘You may not need those in Scotland, but you’ll definitely need them if your next assignment is Nigeria’. Maybe so, but what do I do with them in the meantime?
Same thing with our pull out couch. It’s way too big for our Scottish sitting room, but it sure would be great to have if we ever need to fill a 5000 square foot house in Thailand. So do we hold on to it uncomfortably for the next 2-3 years on the hypothetical possibility that we’ll need it later, only to find out that we’ll be living in equally small housing in Perth, Australia? And if we do go to Perth, do we continue to hold on to it in case our next assignment is in Thailand? Mental gymnastics, I’m telling you.

So, with my limited knowledge, here’s the list I’ve been able to come up with of things I should have packed to bring to Scotland.
In my suitcase:
An extra pair of tennis shoes. I only brought one pair of running shoes in my suitcase because I figured they’d last me the 6-10 weeks until our shipment came with an extra pair of my favorite Nikes. What I didn't consider was that we’d be joining a fancy-schmancy gym in the first week of our arrival, and fancy-schmancy gyms usually frown upon wearing muddy shoes on their fancy-schmancy equipment and through their fancy-schmancy locker rooms. And it’s impossible to run in Scotland without getting your tennis shoes absolutely caked with dirt. Now that my shipment has arrived, I have my neat tidy gym shoes tucked into my gym bag and my disgustingly filthy running shoes sitting by the front door. I just had to live through 6 weeks of embarrassment in the meantime. Now, that’s a first world problem if I have ever heard one, but it was a problem that could have been easily avoided nonetheless.
Vonage equipment. I packed our Vonage box in our air shipment thinking it would get to us within the first week, and since we didn’t have our phone line/internet connected until 2 ½ weeks after we moved in, it would have been pretty useless to bring in my suitcase. However, our air shipment didn’t arrive until about 3 ½ weeks after we arrived, so I went a full week with pointlessly not being able to call home. I was really frustrated. So was my Mom. Again, an easily avoidable problem, and one that leads me to my next item.

A US Telephone. The telephones here have different plug ins that don't intuitively plug into an American Vonage box. We eventually got it sorted out, but instead of taking 5 minutes to get it working, it took us about 5 hours of frustration to figure it out.

Water proof hiking pants. The hiking in Scotland is magnificent, but the weather is not. I brought hiking pants with UV protection, but too much sunlight is usually not a problem in Aberdeen. I can easily buy a pair of rain resistant ‘trousers’ here, but again, at about a 30% higher cost.

Air Shipment: Hindsight regarding the air shipment packing is a bit skewed since ours didn’t arrive until 3 weeks into our move, and thus only about 2 weeks before the rest of our belongings. Most everyone else I’ve talked to received theirs within the first week. But even if we had received ours right away these items would have been left out.

Measuring cups and mixing bowls. I had to get creative for cooking supplies in our first few weeks, and the problem couldn’t be solved by getting measuring cups here since the Brits use the metric measuring system, and I use American recipes. My converter app on the I-phone has been a big help through the transition, and I also sterilized my dogs' food cups since I know Bailey’s is 1 cup and Sam’s is ½ cup. You gotta use the resources you have.

Sea Shipment:
Adaptors: I should have brought more adaptors for our US electronics. I only brought 4 with us, 3 of which were previously designated for our up/down appliance converters. That means that we are constantly switching the spare between our computer/phone chargers, our printer, lamps, hairdryer and American DVD players. I just ordered 20 adaptors from Amazon UK so I should have them by Friday, but I wish I would have had them off the bat. I really should have known better on that one.

A shoe rack. We’re grateful to have a master walk-in closet, which is truly a luxury in Scotland. And while this closet is enough to fit most of my clothes and shoes, there is a bit of overflow. Fortunately, we anticipated this to an extent, so we bought a hanging rack for my summer/work/church clothes. However, we didn't come prepared with a place to house my summer/work/church shoes, and for now they are thrown willy-nilly into a cloth box beneath the hanging rack. It’s working, but I’d feel better if they had a bit of shelter. I don’t want them to start feeling unloved.

A small bathroom Cabinet. The Scots are seriously storage challenged, and most of the bathrooms don't have cabinets or closets, so you've got to create a space to put your towels. Since our family bathroom is quite large, we'd like to put a small linen closet against one wall, but we can't find one here for less than about $300. And trust me, they aren't worth $300. At Target, something of higher quality would sell for less than $100, so it's a hard pill to swallow.

Food. This one is tricky because technically you aren’t supposed to bring food with you. I’m not sure if that’s a UK rule or if it’s the moving company’s policy, but either way it wasn’t that big of a deal. Knowing that, I probably would have brought an extra can or two of Tony Chacere’s Cajun seasoning, more JIF natural peanut butter, and definitely Smart Pop Fat Free popcorn mini-bags. There is no low fat popcorn to be found in Scotland, and we are really missing this go-to snack. We brought our air popper, but I haven’t found any raw kernels yet. For now, the hunt for raw kernels is on, but when I go back to the States in October, I’m definitely bringing back a year supply of the mini bags.  

Like I said, I’m sure I’ll be amending this list as the months go by and as my hindsight gets even clearer. However, this post is getting a little lengthy so I’ll save the things I wouldn’t have packed, and the things I’m glad I brought for another day.

Any ex-pats out there have any insights about what they would have done differently? Any future expats have any questions about something you’re debating about bringing/not bringing with you?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cask of Dreams: If you sign it, they will come.

Aberdeen is an extremely transient town. In the 6 short weeks that I’ve been here, we’ve said goodbye to three people, and also welcomed in two.  People are constantly coming and going, arriving and departing. It’s the oilfield circle of life.

To celebrate/mourn our friend Mackenzie’s return to the States, we decided to send her off in true Scottish fashion by touring the world famous Glenfiddich Whiskey Distillery, which is only about an hour and a half drive from Aberdeen. Since Jonathan first started his Scotch drinking hobby a few years back, Ole Glenfiddich Single Malt has been a frequent house guest of ours. Driving up to the distillery, I actually felt a little bit star struck to finally meet it face to face.
Of course, the surrounding scenery was breathtaking, despite the persistent fog and rain. Luckily, most of our tour was indoors, and our lovely tour guide, Amy, educated us all about the distilling process.

Since some tourist thought it would be a fun prank to pull the fire alarm in the usual 'tourist' warehouse, Amy took us to another storeroom off the beaten path. Since this particular room isn’t usually open for tours, the smell of whiskey permeated throughout the massive warehouse. Because the alcohol content is so high in these buildings, it's considered a fire risk to take pictures. Shhh..don't tell.
Can you tell that I am keeping my eyes out to make sure the guide doesn't discover our illegal behavior? I'm such a goody goody. Don't worry, no fires were caused, so no harm done.

Amy told us about this special stock that will be released in the States and Canada in about 12 years called the ‘Cask of Dreams’. The whiskey barrels themselves are covered in sharpie marker where people have written out their life’s hopes and wishes. Clearly sensing our enthusiasm over this, she asked us if we’d like to sign one of the casks. Without hesitation, our friend Caitlin pulled out a handful of colored markers and we each took a turn writing out our dreams.
I was stumped at first, since for so long, my dream has been to live abroad. It was a surreal moment to take a step back and think, ‘I can’t think of a dream to write down because I’m living mine’. And then it hit me. I have everything I could ever want. Everything that is, except for a horse.

So yes, my friends, in 12 years when you see Glenfiddich Cask of Dreams Special Edition Whiskey, buy a bottle and raise a glass to my life long dream of owning my very own horseJ.  I felt pretty confident about my choice of dream until I had seen what other people had written. Things like “I want to help those in need” or “I wish that there could be peace in the middle east”. And I’m still the spoiled brat, selfishly screaming out that I WANT A PONY!!! I guess God isn’t finished with me yet…

Either way, it was by far one of the coolest things I have ever done, and I can’t wait to see this special edition whiskey on the shelf at a Texas Liquor store and remember how I was a part of it. Our group will definitely need to have a reunion when it's released and toast a wee dram to those dreams we dreamed so long ago. And then they can take turns riding my horse, whom I plan to name 'Glenfiddich'.
After signing the Cask of Dreams, we were treated to a tasting of some wee drams, which was hands down, Jonathan's most favorite part. Yes, we are truly living the dream.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Meatless Monday: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos

When your body goes into survival mode, low priority bodily functions are put on hold so that all of your energy goes to maintaining life. A household is the same way. Mopping and dusting fall to the wayside when you’re buried alive under 154 boxes. Therefore, I think it’s a healthy sign that last Friday I managed to vacuum, do two loads of laundry, run the dishwasher and cook a healthy and balanced meal. It means that the crisis period is over, and we’re slowly starting to return to our normal daily lives.

Other than getting our King Sized bed set up, my top priority in unpacking was getting the kitchen in working order. When I pulled my crock pot out of the rubble, I was so excited that I kissed it’s porcelain cheek.

Anticipating the impending arrival of my slow cooker, I had already bought the ingredients to make Crockpot Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos the previous weekend. I discovered this recipe shortly before leaving Houston, and quickly decided to add it into our usual rotation. It’s so very easy to whip together, absolutely delicious, incredibly healthy, and vegetarian to boot.

Bonus points: Black beans and sweet potatoes are both
considered power foods for runners. And double bonus points: all the ingredients can be easily found in Scottish grocery stores. Rarely do I find a recipe that doesn’t involve me traipsing all over town hunting down supplies.
All you do is cube 2 sweet potatoes, rinse and drain two cans of black beans, throw them into a crock pot with ¼ cup of vegetable stock, some lime juice, minced garlic, cumin, and ground coriander and cook on high for 3 hours. Once the mixture is a bit mushy, use it to make a burrito, garnished with fresh cilantro, mozzarella cheese, and some lime juice.
Yum, yum, yum. Healthy, healthy, healthy. Easy, easy, easy. Just the trifecta needed to make it onto the starting line-up in my kitchen.
And while I was on a roll, I decided to try my hand at making guacamole for the first time. I used 5-6 avocados, mixed with a drained can of Mexican style Rotel and some Tony Chacherie’s Cajun seasoning. I’ve titled it “Cajun Guacomole’ because I am oh so creative and it was oh so delicious. The only problem is that I made enough to serve a football team, and Jonathan and I couldn’t come close to finishing it before it went bad. I hated to be so wasteful, but I’m excited to have a new dip to bring to parties, especially since Velveeta is so scarce in the UK.
Now that we’ve sorted through all of the boxes in our shipment, I have put all of our food items in a centralized area. It’ll be nice to be able to go “grocery shopping” in our junk room when we’re running low on Rotel, Peanut Butter, Oatmeal, or Camellia red beans. I also have tubs full of household cleaning supplies and beauty products which will hopefully curb our cost of living over the next few months.

Here is a more ‘official’ format of the Crockpot Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito Recipe, if you’re into that sort of thing. I adapted it from this source. Enjoy!
2 Sweet Potatoes
2 Cans of Black Beans drained and rinsed*
¼ cup Vegetable Stock
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons of minced garlic 
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 
2 Tablespoons of lime juice
Fresh cilantro (garnish) 
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (garnish) 
1 Lime (garnish) 
Burrito Tortillas  

Cut Sweet Potatoes into 1 inch cubes
Rinse and Drain black beans
Combine Sweet Potatoes, Black Beans, Minced Garlic, Cumin, Coriander, Lime Juice and Vegetable Stock into crock pot and cook on high for 3 hours.
To serve, put mixture in center of burrito, adding mozzarella cheese, fresh cilantro, and fresh lime juice for toppings. Fold like an envelope and enjoy.

*Original recipe called for 2 potatoes and 1 can of black beans, but we liked the ratio better as 2 and 2.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Photo Friday: Bailey in Action

I had grand plans of waking up this morning with a ton of energy, taking Bailey for a 7 mile run, coming home and polishing off a bit of unpacking. Instead, I woke up exhausted and the weather looked something like this.
Something about sideways rain, fog, and cold temperatures just zaps all motivation out of my body. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to infringe on Bailey’s energy level at all, so I knew I had no choice but to brace the rain. I just keep repeating: ‘There’s no bad weather, only bad gear. There’s no bad weather, only bad gear.’ over and over again. Of course, I forgot the fact that I have bad gear, so for me, the sodden forest trails and waterlogged sidewalks were pretty miserable. Bailey on the other hand, had a blast. She’s of the world view that the muddier the better.
After a few run-away-dog scares in our first month here, I’ve been spending a lot of time working with Bailey on her re-call. Since she’s been doing a great job lately, she spent a lot of today’s jog off leash. 
I had my camera with me so I took some great action shots of Bailey on the run.
When I got home, I  quickly started feeling overwhelmed about how many boxes I still have to sort through. No sooner did I express this anxiety to Jonathan when this flier came through the mail slot.
All we have to do is put our old electronics and clothes in trash bags on Monday morning and they will cart it off for us. Such an answer to my prayers. I have to remember to cast my anxieties onto the Lord and He will swiftly send someone to take my junk away. I should take an example from Samson. He's been so zen about this whole moving process.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Solstace = Insomnia

The longest day of the year has arrived in Scotland, and I was up at 4 AM to greet it.
When it’s this bright outside at four o’clock in the morning, it’s hard to sleep in. Especially since, in my sleeplessness, I used my bedside i-phone to check a comment left on my blog and noticed that I had misspelled Aberdeen in the blog heading. Suddenly the typo of ‘Abderdeen’ was all I could think about and I just had to get out of bed to correct it. Now it’s hard to believe that after 4 months of blogging, not one of you called this glaring mistake to my attention. You guys call yourselves my ‘friends’ but let me humiliate myself in front of THOUSANDS of readers (okay more like 15 readers, but who’s counting?). Just kidding, of course:)
Another thing that makes sleeping in difficult is how extremely warm it is in our bedroom. Warm? In Scotland? I know, I’m a bit confused too. I’ve heard that heat rises but there is seriously a 10 degree discrepancy between the upstairs and downstairs in our house. Downstairs is always slightly chilled, but when you turn the corner on the landing of the stairs, it becomes uncomfortably warm. We’ve been sleeping with the windows open and only a sheet on the bed, but it still makes for some tossing and turning throughout the night, and for the past two nights I’ve awoken at 4 AM to find that Jonathan was sleeping downstairs in our guest bedroom.
Maybe the fact that our Queen Sized bed-set didn’t fit up the stairs was a blessing in disguise. We’d probably make that our Master except for the fact that our closet is upstairs and I feel more comfortable sleeping next to my shoes. And once winter sets in, I’m sure we’ll be grateful to have a warm and snuggly spot to escape the cold.
Another thing that makes it hard to sleep in…Samson’s snoring. He followed me upstairs while I was getting ready for bed last night, and quickly fell asleep on the floor next to our bed. I didn’t have the heart to disturb his nap to take him downstairs to his kennel and decided to let him sleep in our room, just this once. He was just so quiet and peaceful... until I started to fall asleep. And then, I could have sworn there was a dragon in the room from the noises coming out of that child’s sinus cavity.  
So do you get the point? I’m slightly tired. Okay, I’m so tired that it physically hurts, but there is work to be done. In the battle between power nap or caffeine binge, caffeine wins out today.
An update on unpacking: I’m officially out of survival mode. I have cleared a pathway on the floor and all of the kitchen surfaces are cleared off.
Our bedroom, kitchen, and living room are livable and next up is organizing the bathrooms and starting to chip away at our junk room.
The most panicked I felt during the entire experience was while opening boxes and thinking ‘why on Earth did I find this important enough to bring it across the world with me?’. Though our house is spacious, our storage options are not, and frankly there just isn’t any room to continue to hold on to 164 coozies. Or 651 hangers.
Seriously? We have no closets and yet we apparently brought every single hanger we’ve ever owned. Why, oh why?
The clutter is making me anxious, so I’m ruthlessly going through boxes and chunking half of the content away. The only problem with this is that the City of Aberdeen only picks up our trash cans every other week, which means that off-loading this trash is going to take about 6 months. We’re also making piles of items to try to sell, recycle, and donate.
I just didn’t realize that I was such a junk collector. Honestly, I could be up for an episode of Hoarders. I’m trying to revert back to my state of mind pre-move and wondering what posessed me not to get rid of this stuff when I had the chance. There is just no room to be sentimental when you transition into Ex-pat living.
I’ve written this saying down on a post-it and carry it around with me from room to room, so that when I start to hesitate about throwing away a party cup from DZ’s 2004 Semi-Formal, I ruthlessly toss it the trash bag. It's getting cuthroat in here.
And when throwing half of my possessions away gets too exhausting, I look around and acknowledge that buried underneath the chaos, my home is full of useful and beautiful things.
This loot was literally 'buried' underneath about 20 bathing suits. Because I need 20 bathing suits in Scotland.

I’m energized by the fact that slowly, but surely, our house is beginning to resemble a home. A home occupied by a band of particularly messy pre-schoolers perhaps, but a home none the less.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I’m taking a mini break from unpacking and wanted to assure you all that I am no longer having a nervous breakdown. In fact, I’m through with talking about the move altogether…at least for the next 10 minutes. I need to blog as a form of sanctuary from the choas surrounding me. So, let’s talk about something else, shall we? How about the fact that tonight is my first ever book club meeting. I feel like joining a book club is a rite of passage into adulthood.
The book we read this month was On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe and is about four women from Nigeria who immigrate to Belgium as part of the sex industry. The subject matter made me empathetic to a population that I don’t think about too often. It’s just puts into perspective how dire it is to be a woman in certain world regions. So dire that it’s actually preferable for them to work as prostitutes in Europe than in squalor in a 3rd world country.
It was really well written and I am always glad to learn more about Nigeria since my parents lived in Lagos for several years and it’s a possibility for us as a future ex-pat assignment. The most tedious part of the book was deciphering the Nigerian dialect. Usually I can piece together the gist of what is being said when authors utilize a local form of English, but this was way beyond me. Which makes sense, because during previous trips to Nigeria, I did have some difficulties communicating.
In other fun news…our first Europe trip is booked!!! When anticipating our move to Scotland, we did a lot of brainstorming about where we wanted to take our inaugural holiday. We dreamed of France, Switzerland, Greece, Portugal, Croatia; or perhaps Italy or Spain. But nope, 2 months in and I’ve got a flight booked for Warsaw, Poland.
 Even though Warsaw didn’t make the list, Jonathan has a business trip there in a few weeks so I figured I’d meet him there for a long weekend and we’d see what the capital of Poland has to offer us. I’ve got my research cut out for me because I have little to no clue about what there is to do there.
The Nazis annihilated Warsaw during their invasion of Poland, and the Soviets took over afterward, rebuilding with utilitarian concrete box buildings, making the city less architecturally appealing than it’s European capital counterparts. I believe the city recently earned the title of Ugliest City in Europe. No bother. The ugliest city in Europe is still more lovely than 90% of the other cities in the world.
Plus I am excited to see Old Town Warsaw which was painstakingly rebuilt as a relic to pre-WWII Warsaw. I’m sure I will discover all sorts of things to keep us busy during our weekend visit. And once upon a time, I didn’t know much about Scotland, and now I can’t imagine a place I’d rather be. So who knows, maybe Warsaw will knock my socks off. Hopefully, because it’s a possibility for a future ex-pat assignment as well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Just Keep Swimming...

I spent most of my day unpacking the kitchen. When my morning started, this was my view of the house.
A few hours later, this was my view.
And a few hours later…
And now…
As you can see, I’ve got my work cut out for me. I’d love to stay and chat, but I’m busy trying to keep my head above water. As my good friend Jill reminded me, I’ve got to ‘just keep swimming’. Just unpack one box. And then another. And then another. And another. And hopefully, in 6 weeks or so, I’ll be able to see my kitchen counters again.
I promise that I’ll fill you in on all the moving details later, but tomorrow’s trash day and I’ve got to make sure that our rubbish bin is as full as possible. Thank you all for your words of encouragement, your prayers, and positive thoughts. For now, there’s not much I can do except ‘just keep swimming’. Anyone else’s world view come from the script of Finding Nemo?
Here are a few pictures to demonstrate the status of our unpacking.
Guest Bedroom and Elliptical Room

living room


Master Bedroom
Some people have a junk drawer...we have a junk room.

so. many. papercuts.

Staying out of the way. Smart dogs.