30 June 2008

Quintessential Scottish Experience

We've had Mark's sister, Kim, here visiting us since Thursday afternoon from Reading, England where she's getting her Master's. It's been good to see her again and catch up with each other. While looking online for some entertainment for the weekend we found there were some Highland Games about 40 miles south of here, so we decided to go. We probably couldn't have asked for better weather. Mark even got to wear shorts....couldn't talk him into a kilt of his own. The atmosphere reminded me of a county fair, though instead of 4-H competitions there was Highland Dancing competitions, track-type competitions, and of course the young men and more mature men competing at various things to show their strength. I could go on and on, but I should probably just let you enjoy watching the small slide show with snapshots and videos. (Make sure your sound is on because there is sound with the video segments.)

26 June 2008

Aberdeen Summarized

Monday evening we were "Skyping" (yes, that is the act of using Skype) with my parents. They were asking about the weather here (and mentioning that it was "cooling off" to 85F there! How mean!). I remarked how it was sunny in one window and cloudy in the other. A few minutes later I heard come out of my mouth "is that rain?" I looked out the window stating "yep, it's raining, and sunning" (yes, that is the act of the sun being out--I love making up words, so stay with me). Mom and Dad said, "look for the rainbow!"
We were nearly through with the conversation so when we hung up I quickly ran from window to window looking for the elusive rainbow (and even more elusive pot of gold). There it was! In it's favorite spot, out our back windows most easily seen from our "little" bedroom (our spare room). I grabbed my camera (of course, because you can never have enough rainbow photos....or photos for that matter) and conveniently found this seagull perched atop the chimneys posing for me with the rainbow as a backdrop. He was too kind, really :)
Today I finally got the pictures downloaded (or is uploaded?) to the computer. I stopped on this one thinking how it encompasses much of Aberdeen so well. In it you can see some of the granite we stare at more than we care to admit, the chimneys that line the tops of those granite residences, moss/grime on those chimneys reminding us we live in a moist climate where mold loves to thrive, a seagull (which being a reader of this blog you should know by now) reside in great numbers here in Aberdeen, and a rainbow signifying the fluctuation of weather between sun and rain/clouds in rapid succession.

Welcome to our small corner of the world.

23 June 2008

Scottish Food Favourites :)

There are certain foods that we have fallen in love with since being here. It's high time we shared! First up, Sainsbury's (our nearest and usual grocery store) Oat "Muesli" (i.e. granola cereal) for £1.30! It was a cereal we originally bought for Mark, but then I looked at the ingredients and nearly jumped through the roof because I COULD EAT IT!!! For most of you this probably doesn't make any sense, but for over 3 years I have picked up hundreds (probably no exaggeration!) of boxes/bags to read labels only to get a couple ingredients in and realize it had some allergen in it. Always a disappointment for that to happen so you can imagine my joy when I found something pre-packaged we BOTH liked and BOTH could eat! It's been a keeper. It's a nightly ritual to have some for snack before bed. Delish.
And since oats are such a staple food and I couldn't find rice crackers here (though I do eat rice cakes), I have become hooked on Nairn's Oatcakes. They are great at helping to maintain my blood sugar (that tends to go low if I don't watch it) and also very tasty (well, not all think so, but I enjoy them)! I have been so grateful I can eat oats while we've been here. The last time I tried them in the States they bothered me like wheat, barley and rye (and other glutenous grains) bother me, but by God's grace they don't here or maybe just don't any more in general. Again, for someone whose diet is so limited, this is a major cause for rejoicing!
Next up we have GIGANTIC British carrots! Can you tell how huge this thing is from the photo? I think you could have club fights with these carrots! And boy are they yummy. So sweet and so healthy. We eat lots of carrots here. I mean, we always ate quite a few in the States, but here we eat even more. When we watched Wallace & Gromit a couple years ago we both remember a big carrot (though not sure how that played into the story). Now we know that the Brits do indeed grow carrots that large.

Finally, we have dessert. Mark enjoys these "digestive biscuits" with his coffee at tea time. We aren't sure what the name digestives has to do with anything, but he promises me it helps his food digest better to eat some :) If you can't tell from the photo, it is a wholemeal cookie covered in chocolate.

So there you have a short compilation of some of our new favorite Scottish foods. Not a complete list by any means, but a good start. If you come visit, we'll let you sample each one!

21 June 2008

A Momentous Morning

As I was lazily laying in bed waking up this Saturday morning I came to the realization that today was the first day (since staying in our own flats) we were both waking up to a tank full of hot water...that we hadn't turned on an hour prior! This, my friends, is a big day!

I think many flats here have their hot water tanks on a timer so they come on and go off at various times throughout the day when the family is most likely to need it. For some reason neither of our flats have had this convenience...until yesterday! Our landlords had been promising a timer for the tank since before we moved in. It has finally happened and we are grateful. It's the little things in life that often don't get celebrated, so here's to HOT WATER when waking up!

20 June 2008

Visitors from Afar

The silence here this week has been due in part to the visit we have had from my good friend from college, Kristin, and her husband, Brian from Minneapolis. They arrived Sunday afternoon but their 3 pieces of luggage decided to vacation in airports an additional 24 hours so that was a bummer. We hadn't seen Brian and Kristin since their wedding nearly 3 years ago so it was really nice to actually get to know Brian and catch up with Kris. Here are some highlights of their visit.Taking them to the North Sea that is a mile or so from our house. Kristin grew up on the ocean and was thrilled to be near one again!
Beautiful gardens we stumbled on in a nearby park on our tour of Old Aberdeen and Aberdeen University's campus.
Finding out Kristin also has a developing love for photography...especially flowers!
And other nature/outdoorsie things.
Welcoming Wesley (on left), Brian and Kristin's friend who is studying at the University of Durham, into our home Monday night and having him tour castles with us on Tuesday.
Hanging out with Kris, of course!
Finding black slugs at Dunnottar Castle. I don't think this was a highlight for anyone else, just me :) I tickled one of them with grass...he didn't like it. I am not sure why I am fascinated by these ugly creatures, but I am. He was soooo black!
Walking down by the seashore at Dunnottar and trying not to get pooped on by all the seagulls (see tiny white specks on rocks). We had never walked down there before and it gave a different perspective of the castle. Didn't care for the additional hike upwards, however (remember, it's set on a huge cliff)!
Actually going in a real preserved castle that wasn't ruins (our first). We all toured Crathes Castle and enjoyed learning about it and its history. It offered a great view at the top!
Getting to visit again (and share the "find" with others) this quaint little chapel at Drum castle.
Finding "hairy coos" at a farm in Banchory. They were spying us and not interested in being photographed properly much to Kristin's and my dismay!

Also a highlight, seeing a slideshow/hear stories of their recent mission trip to Uganda. They had arrived back from Uganda only 3 days before heading to Aberdeen! All in all we had a great time and we were sad to say goodbye on Wednesday morning as they set off for the rest of their UK adventures with Brian's family. Thanks, Tabbs, for making the long journey!

14 June 2008

Nocturnal Bliss....

....arrived in a small "parcel" last Saturday from Easy Blinds. They specialize in blackout blinds that use Velcro to adhere straight to the window frame (or pane as we chose so as to not ruin the frame) making a perfect seal around the window so no light can escape. You may recall we've been battling the daylight for many hours a day. Our makeshift blackout resources weren't doing the job very well any more. Besides, we figure we've got at least two more months of this, and 1 or 2 more summers, so it was worth the small financial investment to have consistent, regular sleep in the summer.

I thought that great sleep would arrive last Sunday night when we were able to put the blinds up, but then Mark's been sick all week (can you believe he hasn't left the flat since last Sunday night!?) so good sleep has been hit or miss. Yesterday Mark finally started acting more like himself and I could tell he was on the mend (yeah!). Sure enough, last night finally brought the long sought after nocturnal bliss.

10 June 2008

A Man-sized Cold....

.....deserves Man-sized Tissues.

This picture isn't the greatest, but you can sort of see the size comparison between regular tissues and MANSIZE. I think I laughed out loud the first time I saw these in the grocery store. I bought some to post about and just hadn't gotten around to it yet. Yesterday when we ran out of the wee version of tissues I was grateful I had the big 'ole ones stashed in the "cupboard" (i.e. closet). Not sure what they are intimating about men needing bigger tissues....

09 June 2008

It's HOT!

Haaa haaa haaa! Aberdeen made it to about 73F today (according to Firefox's readings when I saw them in the afternoon) and it was declared HOT by Aberdonians! LOL :) The radio announcer we listen to at work repeated multiple times that today's high was going to reach 24C (75F) and he was having people call in to share temps where they lived. For a recent North Carolinian I got a huge kick out of all of this!

However, I do have to admit, it was an amazing day. I went to work in a knee length skirt, short sleeves and sandals :) It was truly the first day I felt warm (almost hot) with the sun beating on me...at least for a few minutes. It was also definitely the first day I have ever felt a warm breeze here. It's always cold or cool. Today it was refreshingly warm. Too bad Mark's been sick at home with a cold (?) all day and even wearing a fleece! I always know he is sick when he has on more layers than me. Poor guy.

I have tried to find out today's actual high and also the record high for Aberdeen, but have been unsuccessful. Here is one article I found discussing our two day "heat wave" :)

08 June 2008

A Snail's Life

One thing I've noticed this spring is that Aberdeen has a lot of SNAILS! I first encountered several of them by accident while taking photos of flowers in our garden (backyard). As my camera sometimes does, it focused beyond the flower onto the wall behind it, showing me this little guy hiding in a crack.Next we noticed this fellow snug under our security buzzer by our front door when we came home from NC. He stayed a couple days and then I guess moved on his merry way.
Last week one day on my walk to work I saw several snail shells crushed on the sidewalk. Maybe they come out when it rains a lot like the worms do sometimes.
Yesterday it was time to pull the overgrown weeds from the flowerbeds in the garden. I lost count how many snails I found in the small section I worked in an hour. I would guess (without exaggeration) there were at least 30! I had to move quite a few and they weren't too happy I was moving their hiding places around (or removing them all together). Here are several of them on their journey to find a new resting place.
I was fascinated by how they moved, albeit disgusting! Please, can someone tell me why anyone would want to eat this creature?!
I think his antennas are soooo cute :) Still wondering how he keeps that shell on his back when making moves like this!

06 June 2008


Nearly 14 years after obtaining my first driving permit, I now have my second one in hand. I've never really wanted to relive any part of being 16 again but as UK law would have it if I want to keep driving I have to. Legally we are allowed to drive here one year from our first entry to the UK on our US licenses. As we have now been here 9 months (as of yesterday!) we have begun the process of obtaining UK licenses.

My "provisional licence" (as it is called and spelled) arrived today. Mark's was sent back yesterday rejected. My guess is that someone must have figured he lied on the portion of the application stating he didn't have "repeated attacks of sudden disabled giddiness!" (No joke, that was under the medical conditions section, right alongside epilepsy and diabetes, etc. I had an attack of disabled giddiness just reading it! Is that a real condition?) Actually, Mark's was rejected due to inefficiency in the process. Long story, but it is hopefully being addressed now.

So here we are 29 and 32 preparing to go through theory and practical licensing exams again, as well as a few sessions with an instructor (the exams over here are pretty tough from what we've been told, so it is advised we take this additional step). We aren't too thrilled, especially at unlearning bad habits long enough to convince an examiner we know what we are doing! We have multiple books checked out from the library to help prepare us for the joyous journey.

I'm just grateful that as far as I know we are exempt from placing the "L"oser (oh, sorry, I mean "L"earner) sign (see above) on our car as we drive around town. I'm sure our car will have to wear it while riding with an instructor, but at least not while we drive alone.

I'm sure this won't be the last you hear of this subject!

04 June 2008

Appointment at Hospital

Yesterday I got to go "to hospital." Before you worry, it was just to have an appointment with a dietician/nutritionist to make sure I am doing okay with my limited diet. Thankfully she was overall impressed with how well I've compensated for my lack. We're trying to figure out if maybe I can trial a few things I've stayed away from over these past 4 years just to make sure I'm not avoiding foods that really don't bother me. So we talked about how I can test out various foods and which ones those might be, etc. I'm a little disappointed because I thought she'd work more closely with me in the actual process of testing foods. But who am I fooling? It took 4 months to get the appointment, and it will be another 4 and a half before she's even able to see me for a follow-up appointment. Oh well. At least she promised if I needed her I could call and we could talk on the phone.

Anyways, that's not the real point of my story, just a brief update for those interested. So my favorite part of going "to hospital" (here they always say "she's in hospital" or "he went to hospital" never "the hospital" which many of us not from here find a bit grating on the ears), is when they take my weight. They have me sit in this big chair (that's looks pretty old school-puffy olive green vinal) that is a scale! I think it is the coolest thing! I am not sure if they have those in that States (maybe somewhere, but I've never seen one), but it's a very comfortable way to weigh :) And then the even better part is when they give you your weight in kilograms...you weigh about half of what your normally weigh in pounds! Actually, it's more like you have no idea how much you weigh! And the dietician asked me how tall I was and I said 5'6'' or 5'7'' and then I realized, "oh wait, she needs that in meters. I was no help. Good thing they had a conversion chart on the wall.

01 June 2008

A Time to Remember

Today marks our 6th anniversary! I love that anniversaries (and birthdays) offer a chance every year to reflect on where you have come from, what you have learned, how you've grown, and to remember God's faithfulness through the years. They also give an opportunity to look ahead to the years to come and reevaluate the life you are living. So Mark and I have been for the past few days remarking about various things related to six years of marriage. Who would have known six years ago that today would have seen us celebrating in Scotland!?

We chose to celebrate yesterday by taking an opportunity to take in more of the country around us. Not too romantic, but a very enjoyable day that was even educational. Mark gave me my choice of a couple things to go see and I chose Archeolink. When we arrived a little before 11am I thought he had rented out the whole place because there was no one else there! We even had the movie viewing all to ourselves. One worker said that this year had been particularly slow for business with rising fuel costs and the "credit crunch" as she put it. Slowly through our 5 hour stay other families arrived.

Highlights of our day included a guided tour explaining various facts/demonstrations of how life might have been like in the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. This weekend happened to be Stone Age weekend with extra events focused on the Stone Age period....which ended up being kinda fun because after the kids had all had their turns at archery, we got to take ours :)
At the end of our time we got to hike a small hill that offered an amazing view. By this time it had cleared off some that it was warm enough to take my coat off! (Doesn't happen often for me here, so each time is usually a time to rejoice!) The hilltop allowed us to walk through the brilliant yellow Gorse. As well as view the many rapeseed (canola) fields in full yellow splendor (see below in distance). When Mark and I flew into Aberdeen two weeks ago today we could see these yellow fields that looked like someone had put down yellow plastic tarps on the fields. Turns out it was the flowering of the rapeseed. We could also see the long rows of gorse that are often used along property lines or lining fields. I love how the yellow contrasts so well against the green of the fields (and blue of the sky if that pertains)!

What a great day to spend together with my dear hubby. I am so grateful God has given me the chance to be Mark's wife and accompany him in this journey called life. May He give us many more years of faithfulness to Himself and each other.