Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween...and Fall Harvest!

Happy Halloween everybody! Any plans tonight?  Jon and I are sitting this one out since we have another costume party this weekend. We plan on eating pizza and passing out candy to trick-or-treaters instead of going out. Though I do feel like today would be an extremely appropriate day to start our Season 6 Dexter marathon.

As for Halloween treats, I thought I could simply waltz into Walmart  ASDA and buy a gigantic pack of fun sized skittles. Wrong. I’ve been to two stores and haven’t found anything really suitable to my American ideas of trick or treating. I do have 3 economy packs of fun sized peanut butter M&Ms that I brought back from the States, but (not to be stingy or anything) those are mine.

So I racked my brain for a solution and remembered that awhile back I bought a big jar of individual Haribo snacks at Costco, simply because they had 5 gummy bear packs inside. I find the other varieties quite gross, but the Brits obviously love them since they are everywhere! Handing them out to costumed kids is the perfect way to get them out of my pantry.

Something I learned about Scottish Halloween tradition is that children have to tell a joke before getting a treat (and those lazy kids in America don’t have to do squat). The 6 year old daughter of the lady who hosted book club last night practiced her trick-or-treat humor on us, which was uber adorable with her ½ American, ½ British accent. For example: 

Q:Why didn’t the skeleton go the party?
A:He didn’t have any body to go with.

Q: Who won the skeleton beauty contest?
A: No body.

So. Stinkin. Cute. On this one day of the year, I’m kind of glad we don’t live in the country so that I can get my fill of Scottish kid adorableness tonight. I just hope they aren’t so cute that I feel obligated to share my peanut butter m&ms with them.

I mean really, American kids don’t even deserve all the great American Halloween candy they get. They need to ship that stuff over here to the UK, where the kids know how to work for their sugar.

Now, growing up as a Southern Baptist, my family didn’t really celebrate Halloween, it being Satan's holiday and all.  We participated in trick-or-treat a few times, but mostly my mom would take us to the movies or we’d go to church. Yep, we were that family. The “Fall Harvest” kinda folks who got together at church on October 31st to have some good wholesome, non-satanic fun. So in honor of the Fall Festivals of my past, here are some pretty spectacular pictures of Autumn in Aberdeen.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jet Lag Ninja

First off, let me start by wishing a happy birthday to the absolute best Dad on earth (seriously, ask anyone). He is so sweet that he actually reads my blog, so I know he will see this shout outJI love you, Dad and hope you enjoy your new pool table!

Now anyway, back to me…

There are some people who can function perfectly well with less than 5 hours of sleep. Bill Clinton, Winston Churchill, and every mother with a child under the age of 6. I, on the other hand, am groggy, cranky, and slow-witted if I don’t have at least 8. Really, 9 is optimal. This is why, in my opinion, Jet Lag is one of the most dreadful things about international travel.

I am super strict about my eating, drinking, and exercise habits any time I travel because it is my goal in life to become a jet lag ninja. I restrict my alcohol and caffeine intake, never take naps, sleep with an eye mask, and drink plenty of water. With each voyage, I get a bit better at mastering the pesky inconvenience of restructuring my circadian rhythms.  

People usually get jet lag worse going one way over another. Traditionally, my worst jet lag has occurred coming from Europe to the US, but for most people that is switched around. I usually don’t have an issue initially falling asleep, it’s the staying asleep through the night that trips me up.

I have this crazy internal clock that will wake me up at 6:20 on the dot Aberdeen time, despite the fact that it’s 12:20 AM on the dot in Louisiana. And then I just lay awake, tossing and turning, and am miserable throughout the next day due to my lack of sleep.

When I mentioned this issue to my Dad, he loaned me some melatonin, which is a natural sleep aid that helps you to reset your circadian rhythms. I tried it the first night, and lo and behold, I slept until 6:20 on the dot- Covington time! And I didn't have any trace of that sleep hangover that normal sleeping pills usually give me. It was incredible. I took the supplement for the first 4 days until my body naturally got back on Central Time. Easy Peasy. Jet Lag Ninja status achieved.

Since jet lag isn’t usually so bad for me coming from the US to Europe, I decided to just wing it when I got home. I got cocky. Jet lag, smet lag; I now knew the secret to beating it. The first night back, I easily fell asleep at a decent bedtime and slept through the night.

I felt great and jumped right back into life in Scotland. We caught the new Bond film with friends and made some soup for dinner. We watched 8 episodes of Top Gear on the DVR. Everything was back to normal and the thought of jet lag was far from my mind. Until we laid down at 10 PM and it hit me: I am wide awake.

I tried reading, which is notorious for putting me to sleep. I finished the last 30 pages of my dreadfully boring novel and I was still wide awake. I tried watching Felicity reruns, which usually lulls me to sleep like warm glass of milk. Three episodes in, I was still wide awake. And well, you know what happens next: “If I fall asleep now, I’ll be able to get 5 hours of sleep”, “If I fall asleep now, I’ll be able to get 4 ½ hours of sleep”, “If I fall asleep now…”.
Eventually I nodded off at about 1:30 AM, only to be woken up by Samson’s dragon-imitation snoring at 4:30. And well, that was all for my shut eye that night. I hopelessly started reading Game of Thrones in hopes of falling asleep, but was still at it when Jonathan’s alarm went off at 6. Jet Lag 1; Laine: 0.

I dressed for my morning run and walked Jon to work, panicking about how I was going to get through the day. I knew napping was out of the question, so I made a to-do list of the most productive day in housewife history, starting with a trip to the pharmacy for some melatonin (Take that Jet Lag!).

When I got there, I searched the vitamin aisle without any luck, before scanning the sleep aids. Nada. No worries, I’ll just ask the pharmacist where they keep it stocked. Only when I asked her where I could find the melatonin supplements, she looked at me as if I were a hooligan and sassily informed me that in the United Kingdom, melatonin is a prescription drug.

Uh, I wouldn’t get all judgy Ms. Pharmacist, since I just passed the over-the-counter Codeine on my way to your desk. Yep, codeine. In the United States, we fire people for using that stuff. But sorry, I didn't know that natural sleep aids are apparently restricted in the United Kingdom. Had I been well rested and thinking clearly, I might have just bought some of the *highly addictive* codeine instead to help me sleep, but alas, I left panicked and empty handed.

I headed to Walmart ASDA to see if I could find any sort of gentle sleep remedy and this was all I saw.
Sorry, Scotland, but I don’t think Chamomile tea is going to cut it. I could almost hear Jet Lag laughing at me as I walked up to the counter with my wimpy Sleepy Time Tea blend. I decided that without melatonin, I had no choice but to go old school on jet lag’s butt. I stopped any and all caffeine intake after noon, resisted having a glass of wine with dinner, and brewed my new tea an hour before bedtime.

And look, I want to give Chamomile tea it’s due. When I was a therapist, I whole heartedly recommended the stuff for insomnia. For me personally, the problem with drinking 2-3 cups of hot tea before bedtime is that, well, I have a bladder the size of a peanut. Suddenly, falling asleep isn’t as big of an issue as getting up every 20 minutes to use the bathroom.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. I drank the tea and...I got 8 hours of sleep last night! Whatcha got to say now, Jet Lag? Oh snap!

Now it could just be that I was so tired from my lack of sleep the night before, that I simply needed recovery sleep, and my circadian rhythms are still messed up. We will see tonight, but for now, I think Jet Lag is taking my Sleepy Time Tea a little bit more seriously.

But just in case it doesn’t work so well tonight, what are your personal remedies for Jet Lag? Please, I’m desperate. So desperate that I am washing all of the sheets in the house just to prevent myself from taking a nap in the bed. 
Help me!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

On Friday afternoon, I left the 80 degree temperatures of Orlando and when I finally got home Saturday morning, this is what I saw:
Yep, definitely not in Florida anymore. And I have to say, finding 4 inches of snow on the ground in October was quite the wake up call. We’ve had a great summer here in Scotland, but the reality is that winter is long and dark and cold and wet. But for now, we are giddy and na├»ve with the joy that the first snow of the season brings with it. By February I am sure we will be cursing this forsaken country and swearing to never complain about 100 degree Texas summers ever again. But for now, we're still in awe of all that white. 

The sight of snow instantly energized me after my transatlantic flight, and as soon as I freshened up, we suited up for a trip to the park. We were dog sitting for friend, so we took Bailey and our guest, Kady, for a leisurely jog and they got plenty of off leash time to romp in the snow.
Is there anything more beautiful than two dogs playing in the snow? I couldn’t stop snapping photos of these two.
Bailey's natural demeanour is one of perpetual joy, but let her play in some snow and she is purely jubilant.
It’s fun to watch, but not so fun to bathe her after every potty break. 
I have to admit, it was the most disjointed run of my life, because around every corner a scene like this was waiting for me, and I just had to stop and take a picture:
I doubt I’ll ever get tired of photographing this place. And no matter how cold and dark and miserable it gets, I hope I can always appreciate how blessed I am to have such a beautiful landscape to run along.

And this next picture is perhaps my most favorite of our time here so far:
It just captures so much of what I love most about life in Scotland. Which I need reminding of right now, because I desperately miss my momma already. Three whole weeks of someone doing my laundry, and taking me shopping, and making me dinner. Oh well. Back to the cold, dark, wet, messy, dusty, burgundy carpet reality that is the life of a housewife in Scotland.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Phone Photo Friday: Epcot Edition

Today is yet another travel day. Hopefully, by this time on Saturday I will be back in Aberdeen. I cannot wait to see my husband and give my fur babies some sloppy kisses. Until then, I will leave you with some of my favorite phone photos from Wednesday’s excursion to Disney’s Epcot.
Epcot has always been my favorite of the Disney parks, ever since I first visited at age 5. There are a few reasons for this:

1) It is the largest, but least attended park, which means it is the least crowded of all the attractions.

2) Its main focus is education rather than entertainment, and I am a huge geek, so it’s right up my alley.
3) The World Showcase!
I believe my passion for world travel probably got it’s beginnings in this circular walk through various world architectures and their different food, music, and souvenirs. I even bought my Freshmen homecoming dress in the China exhibit while I was on a trip with my grandparents.
This trip was extra special because it took place during the International Food and Wine festival. In addition to the countries permanently featured in the World Showcase, food and alcohol from various other places were strewn throughout the corridor.
If you were to ask Jonathan and I what our favorite type of food is, we would both answer with Belgian. What is Belgian food, you ask? Well, it’s pretty much unpretentious French food. Mainly mussels, fries, stews, chocolate, waffles, and the best beer on earth. Aberdeen is short on great Belgian restaurants, so I got mighty excited when I saw this booth in my path.
Um, steamed mussels and Belgian beer sampler please.
Altogether, we sampled a little from Belgium, Morocco, Italy, and China. That was about all my tummy could manage, though I was wishing I’d saved some room for the Swedish Meatballs featured in Scandinavia.
While walking from China to Norway, we were blessed with this sunset.
We watched the sun sink down before heading into Norway for the Viking boat ride.
Who says education can’t be adventurous?  

It was another memorable trip around the world, and so much easier than dealing with plane travel.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What We're Bringing Back

When we left for Aberdeen in May, we already had an October trip to the States on the books. It was comforting to know that if we forgot to bring any essentials with us, we’d be back in Louisiana to restock before long.
So, what items are we bringing back? Mostly clothes. When we were preparing for the move, all of the US stores had their summer lines out, none of which were UK appropriate. Our timing for this home trip was perfect for the new Fall and Winter lines so we scooped up plenty of sweaters, corduroys, tights, and boots.

I also loaded up on cetaphil face wash which I haven’t been able to find in Aberdeen. We’ve been able to find great food in Scotland, though we do miss certain junk food items. Some examples are low fat popcorn, peanut butter m&ms, peanut butter cookie mix and dark chocolate raisinettes.
I’m not as scared of porridge as I used to be, but I bought a months worth of oatmeal as a special treat.

We’ve also been jonesing for our favorite TV shows so we bought the first season of Game of Thrones, Season 6 of Dexter, and Season 1-2 of Downton Abbey.
It was hard to resist Season 3 of Modern Family and ever harder to bypass the Complete Series of Dawson’s Creek, but we had to draw the line somewhere. Maybe next time, Joey Potter. We plan on signing up for LoveFilm which is the British version of Netflix, just as soon as we purchase a UK/Universal DVD player. If anybody has any hints at where to find one of these, please let me know.

Other essentials on the shopping list were printer-ink, camera lenses, headphones and breadcrumbs. And of course, we have to pay it forward by smuggling in some goodies for our American friends back in Aberdeen. I’ve got a few days left, so if any of you want me to stuff anything in my suitcase, speak now or forever miss your Twizzlers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bucket List: Visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Man oh man, I am knocking off Bucket List items left and right. At this rate, I should be done with my entire list by next Christmas. To be fair, visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter wasn’t on my “Living in Europe” Bucket List, but it was on my all-time list.

Those of you who have been reading my blog since before the big move, know that I tried to fit this trip in before leaving for Aberdeen, but just couldn’t squeeze it into our pre-expatriation schedule. Now I can say I’ve been there, done that and got the Gryffyndor Tshirt. Just kidding. That would be dorky. Everyone knows all the cool kids go Slytherin.
We did go two days in a row, so I can actually say I’ve been to Hogwarts twice.
Took two strolls through Hogsmeade.
Drank two Butterbeers (delicious, by the way, though I was disappointed there wasn’t a Butterbeer Zero option. Oh well, I’m on vacation).
Rode the Flight of the Hippogriff twice.
And as a doubly special treat, I took two nephews along for the ride.
I guess my initial impression was that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was an entire park, but in fact it is just one section of the Universal Islands of Adventure. It’s still mega-impressive how they’ve made the fictional world come alive. The castle and its roller coaster are especially magnificent, though I probably should have heeded the motion sickness warning and taken a Dramamine. It’s definitely a bumpy ride.

At one point, the coaster took us to a scene that looked remarkably like Scotland. I got a stab of homesickness before I got terrified by the forbidden forest and its eight legged inhabitants. Of course, that’s right where the ride snapped a photo, and the look in my face is a mix of pure horror and nausea. Sorry, but I’m not sharing that one with you.

Instead, here’s one I took in front of the Hogwarts Express.
Which gave me another stab of homesickness since it reminds me of this one I took in Mallaig.
Not to mention that all the workers in this section were wearing Tartan.

The Harry Potter Section consists of three rides, two of which I rode. The third rollercoaster went upside down and since I have this little rule that I don’t ride roller coasters that go upside down, that was out. It didn’t take us too long to sufficiently see the Wizarding World, though we did return for more Butterbeer.
Other parts of the Universal Islands theme park include Spiderman and Seuss Landing, which my nephews especially enjoyed.

Universal also has a second park, Universal Studios, which is right next door. We bought tickets to both parks and spent 1 ½ days at Islands before scoping out Universal Studios yesterday afternoon.
Now we’ve moved on to DisneyWorld and will be spending 3 full days at the different attractions. Today was Animal Kingdom where we went on an African Safari and travelled to the top of Mount Everest.

Suffice to say, we are pretty darn tired, which is why I’m going to cut this blog post a bit short. Thanks for hanging with me through my sporadic postings!