Friday, November 30, 2012

Relatively high Highs and Somewhat low Lows

Last week I had more lows than highs, but this week has been pretty neutral. No real peaks or valleys. I’m trying to rack my brain to give you the highlights and I can’t seem to come up with much at all. Here is my best attempt...

1) The darkness. The fact that the sun doesn’t come up until 8 is really delaying my day. I used to be done with my morning run by that time, and now I’m just starting, and that’s only if the ground isn’t covered with ice. That little hour delay has been throwing me off, but I’m slowly starting to adjust. I better get used to it, since it is only going to get worse for the next 22 days. Heaven help me.

2) The same day we got our doorbell fixed, I noticed 2 leaky windows and also the hot water stopped working in our kitchen. I wonder how long those problems will take to fix... Winter is upon us and cold air and water are pretty high on the list of things you don’t want to be wrong with your rental home.

3) Jonathan’s moustache.
Thank goodness Movember is almost over. He thinks he looks suave;  I think he looks like someone I would warn my children about.
1) I feel like I’m starting to adjust to the winter darkness/dreariness. I kind of hit a wall on Tuesday when I just about gave up and took a nap, but then I was hit with a surge of energy and actually had a pretty productive day. I even moved furniture and got some much procrastinated work done on our storage room. I’ve been on a roll ever since.

Bypassed cuddly pups napping in bed.... (notice slanted dresser position) 
Repositioned dresser to give us more room in bedroom
Figured out putting luggage behind the dresser frees up valuable storage space. Gotta get creative with these storage solutions.
2) Hiking in the sunshine with 3 of my favorite girls and two of my favorite dogs. I’ll write more about this fantastic experience next week, but here is a sneak peak:
3)Weather. It has been consistently cold, but the sun has been good to us this week. Never underestimate the power of sunshine. It truly is a mood enhancing drug, and I have been soaking it up big time over the last few days.
Well that’s about it for my week. Like I said, nothing super exciting, but nothing catastrophic either. What about you? What were your highs and lows this week?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mains of Drum

In the States, when you think of a garden center, it usually centers on the sale of plant life and outdoor accessories. Seems pretty self-explanatory. In Scotland, Garden Centers sell plants and patio furniture, but they also peddle in various home goods: from pillows to pastries; from dog food to Christmas decorations.
If you happen to be in the UK and see a sign for one of these hidden gems, pull over. They are worth the stop, and plus they all house delicious cafes where you can relax and refuel with coffee, lunch, or a sweet treat. One of our favorite Garden Centers is Mains of Drum, located 30 minutes away in Banchory, near both Crathes and Drum castle. When they approached the AWA to host a special shopping event for us ladies, I was mighty excited, especially since it (theoretically) cost zero dollars to attend and included complimentary champagne and canapés.
Mains of Drum is full of cute home décor and delicious smelling candles, but the main draw for us Americans is their American food section.
Just for us, they made sure they were fully stocked with all of the impossible to find necessities such as Rotel, Dill Pickles and Aunt Jemima Syrup. Of course, since they are imported and taxed up the wazoo, each item cost a pretty penny. However, since the holidays are coming up, I decided to splurge on a couple of items that I am feeling particularly homesick for.  

I keep a pretty healthy diet, but my weakness is surely candy. Come October, my house is usually stocked full of candy corn. When I find the Christmas color candy corn, it seriously makes my week. Guess what they don’t have in the UK? Candy Corn- Thanksgiving or Christmas colored. I’ve been missing them dearly and therefore didn’t feel a smidge of guilt on spending the equivalent of $4.60 on one measly bag.

You know what else I love? M&Ms- all shapes, sizes and colors. Combine M&Ms and candy corn, and you’ve given me another reason to slap 5 bucks on the register.
FYI...worth every penny and calorie!
My friends and I are having a White Elephant gift exchange in a few weeks, and I’ve offered to host at my house. I really wanted to make Swedish meatballs, but all of the recipes I found called for ingredients that don’t typically exist in GB (Great Britain). This recipe in particular calls for Grape Jelly and Heinz Chilli Sauce, two items that you won’t find in a Scottish grocery store. How lucky for me (and my future guests) that Mains of Drum was stocked with both items!
They will be the most expensive Swedish meatballs ever made, but I am super excited to serve them for the party.

Other items I splurged on were Chocolate Pudding and Bisquick.
I’m hoping that I can use the Bisquick to make biscuit dough for our traditional Christmas morning Monkey Bread, since biscuits do not exist in the UK, in a can or otherwise. Unless by biscuits you actually mean cookies, and then they exist in spades. 
I didn’t just buy American goodies, but I also bought some organic lip balm and 2 Christmas ornaments for some ornament exchanges I have coming up next week. Of course, I can’t show those to you now or else it would ruin the surprise.

Thanks for being patient with me guys; I’m aware that my last few postings have been pretty dull and a bit rushed. I’m just really struggling on what to write about, but I promise that next week will be jam packed with blog worthy subjects, so just hold on tight! And as always, blog topic suggestions are always appreciated.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Doorbells and Doric

Brace yourselves for you are about to behold a miracle. After 6 months, Jonathan and I finally have a working doorbell.
Isn’t that the most lovely sound you have ever heard? Watch it again. Now, did you notice how ferocious my guard dogs are when someone comes to the door? Watch it again. Did you notice that upon hearing the doorbell Bailey orients her head towards the back of the house? That is because the sound is coming from this little gizmo, which for the past 6 months, I believed was a left over baby monitor from the previous tenants.
Instead, when someone rings the bell, it sends a signal to this gadget which then makes a sound. Our doorbell was broken because for some reason the bell wasn’t sending a strong enough signal to the monitor. Funny story...a few weeks back, I was just hanging out in the kitchen when all of a sudden I heard the sound of church bells coming from this machine. (Imagine my confusion since at this point I still believed it was a baby monitor.) 

Hoping that our doorbell had magically started working, I checked outside but there was no one there. It happened a few times over the next few weeks and yet there was never anybody at our door. One time when it happened, Jonathan rushed outside and noticed that someone was ringing our neighbor’s doorbell instead. Kind of like baby monitors, the signals were apparently getting crossed.
While the handy man was fixing the broken bell, he also gave me some lessons in Doric, which is the native dialect of Aberdonians.  I’m sure it’s a kin to someone from New York trying to decipher the conversation of two Cajuns from down da bayou. For example the word ‘fit’ means 'what'.  As in:
Fit like? How are you doing?
Fit ye deeing? What are you doing?
Fit’s a dee? What’s wrong?

Other examples:
A’m fair fortochten. I’m very tired.
Far aboots? Whereabouts?
Louns an quines. Lads and lassies (boys and girls).

Here’s an example of it being spoken.
If you’ve ever seen DisneyPixar's Brave, the Young MaGuffin (the indiscernible one) is actually speaking Doric and not gibberish.

I'm sorry this is such a short post, but it's been quite the busy week and I'm trying to get all my chores done since the rest of my week will be full of hiking and mahjong! 

So as an extra today, you can read this article on how Aberdeen was ranked as the 3rd happiest city in the UK...which is kind of like being the 3rd skinniest sumo wrestler in Japan. It's all relative.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wearing a Ski Jacket to the Beach

I mentioned yesterday that Jonathan’s friend Ryan bought a Land Rover Defender this weekend. The car  he found was located in Newcastle England, so it was quite the road trip to pick it up. Jonathan and Luke decided to go along for the ride, which meant Jillian, Debbie and I were left without husbands for the day. What are a group of 3 housewives to do with a Saturday all to themselves? Get facials? Go shopping? Have a Gilmore Girls marathon? Play mahjong for 8 hours straight? Nope; we decided instead to hike 9 miles.

Since most of our hiking excursions take place west of Aberdeen, we were in the mood for something different and headed instead to the northeast for a coastal hike. Yes, northern Scotland is full of photogenic hills which offer breathtaking views, but the coast isn’t exactly lacking in the beauty department either.

We decided on the Forvie Sands trail which is quite a trek through grassy sand dunes, golden beaches, and coastal cliffs. Add in a few seal sightings and it was quite a lovely field trip. Since Jillian had walked this path before, she was our trusty navigator.
We started our hike at a visitor center, hoping to get a potty break before starting our walk. No luck however, since in winter, the Visitor center is closed on the weekends. Why it would be open during the week and closed on the weekends is a bit of a mystery to me, but I digress... (We are here. This is Britain.)   
We’ve all learned our lesson in the unavailable bathroom department, so we go on hikes fully equipped to use the open air bathroom that mother nature provides for us. TMI? It’s not the going in nature that bugs me as much as the fact that it is really stinkin' cold and windy and not a pleasant thing at all to drop your pants on a North Sea beach front. TMI?  Just sayin’; Forvie Sands Visitor Center, please reconsider your closed on weekends policy. Let’s move on...
The first half of the hike had us winding through sand dunes. Since it was a sunny day, there were quite a few people on the trail, including a mischievous setter who thought it was humorous to snatch up one of my mittens while I was re-tying my boot. I had to then run after him, hoping that I didn’t trip on my untied shoelaces in the process. Alls well that ends well, and I got my mitten back, which makes this a funny story. Otherwise it would have been tragic to lose a mitten on a bitterly cold winter day.

After leaving behind the dunes, we came up on a majestic cliff, where I insisted we all stop for a photo op. I’m sad I didn’t get a photo of the three of us, but I made sure to get one of each pair combination.

I daydreamed about what a great secluded beach this would be to lay out on before remembering that I was wearing a ski jacket.
Still, since this was the most sun we had seen all week, we were enjoying just feeling it shine on our faces.
However, since it was about 1:00 pm at this point, we knew we had to hurry up our walk since the sun would be sinking below the horizon in a mere two and a half hours. Not wanting to be left to fend for ourselves in the wilderness, we picked up the pace quite a bit. Afterall, we still had to make a detour to eat our lunches and look for seals.

With the sun setting in our eyes, it was hard for us to tell large rocks and birds from the mammals we were trying to spot. We asked some other walkers where the seals were and they quickly pointed some out to us. If you look very closely at this picture, you can see a tiny speck in the central left hand area, and that’s a seal!
Here it is blown up:
They kept bobbing in and out of the water which was fun to watch, but hard to catch on film.  After oohing and aahing over the seals for a good ten minutes we really had to head back to the car. By our estimations we had an hour and half left to walk and only 2 hours of sunlight. We put our powerwalking faces on and headed back.
I don’t think I’ve ever walked that fast in my life and yet people kept lapping us. We had to keep retreating to the side of the trail to let dog walkers casually pass us by. It was hard on my self-esteem but kept my little short legs pumping as if my warmth depended on it.
We finally spotted the closed visitor center in the distance and all breathed a sigh of relief. After all, our husbands were currently on a road trip to England and wouldn’t be able to come a rescue us from the wilderness. And it would be really embarrassing if we had to call mountain rescue to save us from the beach....

Fortunately we made it back to the car and to Aberdeen with little incident. We even managed to have dinner ready for the boys when they got home. Just kidding- Jillian managed to have dinner ready for the boys when they got home. Because she is apparently the absolute best wife on earth. I would have just  handed Jonathan a frozen pizza before putting myself to bed at 8 pm. Instead we were all treated to fajitas and a fun night of good food, Defender comparisons, and college football. Thanks for dinner and the navigating Jillian! You are not only a great wife but an awesome friend as well!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Growing Family

I have some very important news that I’ve been dying to announce. Our family is growing. Not in the way you think. This new member doesn’t have two legs, or even four. Instead he has 4 wheels, leather seats, and the ability to drive up a snow covered mountain. I’d like you to meet Fyvie, our new Land Rover Defender (aka Jonathan’s Christmas, Anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and Birthday presents for the next 3 years of his life).
I totally announced this development in the wrong way to my mother-in-law. She called right after we brought the Defender home and in my excitement I said “We have big news!”, and immediately realized that once you are 29 years old and have been married 4+ years, you cannot lead with that sort of statement. So I tried to rush out the next sentence of “I’m not pregnant!” but in my hasty speech it came out all marbled and could have easily been understood as “I AM pregnant”. So after a quick clarification, the announcement that we had just bought a second vehicle was not so exciting to her. Speaking of which, I feel like I've reached an age where everytime I call someone I have to open with: “Hey, I’m not pregnant. What’s up?’. Anyone else have that problem?

Anyway, back to Fyvie, whom Jonathan loves so much that he may as well have housed it in his tummy for nine months...
About a week ago, Jonathan finally wore me down and I consented to getting a second vehicle. At first I thought, ‘Yay I can get a fun vehicle like a mini-cooper’, while Jonathan was thinking ‘Yay I can get a fun vehicle like an army tank!’
He easily wore me down since my little BMW X1 is everything that I could ever want in a car, and he made the point that the Defender would be better for the dogs.
Since the entire back end is rubberized, the dogs can get as muddy as they please without us worrying about getting the car dirty. I’ve had the Beamer detailed several times, and within days it looks like it has never been washed in it’s entire life. Now, we can just use the Defender when we take road trips to forest hikes and not have to think twice about putting the pups in the back when we’re done. So that was the selling point for me.

For Jonathan, it was love at first sight. He’s always been a fan of the Land Rover line, but Defenders specifically aren’t available in the US. If he ever wanted to own one, now was his chance. Back in Midland, he owned a classic Jeep as his fun vehicle and it made him so happy.
He was very upset (I'm talking all 5 stages of grief upset) when he had to sell it when we moved to Houston so I’m really glad that he finally has a toy that replaces his Jeep.  
Fyvie isn't just a pretty face; he has an interesting history as well. He started his life as a UK army vehicle until he retired into civilian life. He was then sold to us by a man who was also retiring and therefore replaced his Defender with the more posh Land Rover Disovery.

So far the purchase has been a bit anti-climactic since we weren’t able to secure car insurance on it until today. Poor little guy just sat in our driveway all weekend long getting no love. I’m sure we’ll take him out for a spin this afternoon, though it will be pitch black by the time Jonathan gets home at 4:30.
The cutest part about it is that Jonathan's buddy Ryan bought his own Defender the very next day, so now he has a friend that he can obsess over cars with. Which also means that I don't have to hear his non-sensical rantings about light racks and lift packages and such. That's what I call a win-win situation!
Ryan's Defender...It has a snorkel...for going under water...Jon's doesn't have this feature, which is quite a sore subject so please don't bring it up!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Highs and Lows, Lows and Highs

Today has been a really long day. Or maybe it just feels that way since I left the house at sun up (aka 9:00 AM) and returned at sun down (AKA 4:15 pm) which made it feel like I was going nonstop for much longer than I actually was. The downside of that is that I didn’t prepare a blog post and so I’m just writing this one by the seat of my pants. And since my day isn’t nearly over (still have a car to buy and an LSU game to watch), let’s get down to business.

Lows: (Ugh, so many lows this week, y’all.)
1) I apparently reached my max data for this blog which means I can either post way less pictures, post way smaller pictures, or pay for more data. For now, I’m posting less and smaller pictures but it takes a long time to resize all the photos I want to share with you guys. I suggested that Jon buy me more data for Christmas, but he told me my Christmas list is about full with the mahjong set, fluffy robe, and ipod speakers that I have already requested. Drats! Hey Mom, if you’re reading this, I know what I want for Christmas….

2) In other computer related news…yesterday I was transporting my computer from the kitchen counter to the table in order to charge it, and I tripped over Samson, and I fell, and my computer fell, face down, on the laminate floor. So far, the wounds appear to be superficial, but I can no longer close my laptop. Which means I can no longer tote it around town/Europe and blog from the road. And since my Christmas list is already full and my birthday is 10 months away, I guess I’ll just have to deal with it. Unless my mom wants to get me a new laptop for Christmas... (Mom, I am just kidding. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT buy me a new laptop!)

3) Thanksgiving was a lot harder than I expected it to be. I cried more yesterday than I have total since moving here.  And that was before I broke my computer which resulted in a big ole meltdown on the kitchen floor. It was tough.

4) Mommy guilt over not getting Samson out more. The weather this week has just been miserable. Pelting rain and hurricane winds miserable. And I have just been so busy lately that something’s gotta give, and unfortunately, it’s his morning walks. I may or may not have overindulged him by letting him have some thanksgiving leftovers yesterday.
5) Missing my husband. He’s been in class this week and therefore still has work to do when he gets home. Then he goes to the gym and I go off to book club/mahjong/another social activity and we just ended up going in opposite directions all week long.

6) Jonathan had the car all week this week, which combined with the bad weather meant I was homebound most of the time. Which drove us to make a pretty huge decision…to buy a second vehicle, which we are about to go pick up just as soon as I finish this blog post.
Feel a bit mafia-ish with the car cash just sitting on our kitchen counter.

1) Buying a second vehicle. The one vehicle worked really well, and we could easily continue sharing. But it was getting annoyingly inconvenient when we wanted to do separate things at night and we thought ‘if we can afford it and have the space to park it, why not?’ I’ll write more about the new car when I have time to go into it next week, but here is a sneak peak:
2) Thanksgiving dinner with the AWA.
Tanvi did a great job of organizing this event. And after my emotional wallowing day, it was just the thing to lift my spirits.
I miss my family so much, I really do. But our friends here are fantastic. I crave spending time with them and it’s so hard to believe that 6 months ago, I didn’t know a single one of them. It reminds me of a Carrie Bradshaw quote from Sex and the City when she is having her final dinner with her girls before moving to Paris. She says “Today I was struck with a thought: What if I had never met you?”. It’s cheesy but I think about that often- how easily all of our lives could have taken us somewhere else, but yet they led us here, to these wonderful women and these amazing friendships. I am more thankful for this than anything else about our life in Scotland.

That about wraps it up highs and lows today. I feel like I’ve had a lot more lows than highs this week, but sometimes that’s life. You can’t win them all. Unless it’s mahjong, and then all I do is win.  

I hope you had more highs than lows this week. Why don’t you fill me in on what they were?