31 December 2009

Up, Up and Away on New Year's Day!

Our time in the U.S./Cayman has quickly come to an end. We aren't quite sure where the 6 and 7 weeks we spent here went. But the calendar tells us it's time to go so we'll trust it.  We'd ask for your prayers as we travel back to Aberdeen on Friday 5pm (Central time) until Saturday afternoon 2:30pmish (Aberdeen time). We particularly ask for prayer that we'll make our flight in Philly that is headed to Heathrow. When we booked he flight we had a 2 hour layover, but our flight got switched and now we have a meare 1 hour and 20 minutes. If I didn't think we'd have to go from a commuter terminal to another one via an airport transfer bus, and if I didn't think we'd also have to go through security again due to such a move, and if there hadn't just been a terror attach beefing up security, then I would probably feel better about it all. I mean, last year we only had a 55 minute layover in Philly and miraculously landed and took off about 3 gates from each other. Let's pray that happens again!

Thank you for your prayers thus far about my health, eating and taking my thyroid pills. I have probably felt better the past 6 weeks than I have felt since I first started getting sick about 6 years ago. The thyroid pill taking seems to be going well and I'm almost up to the full dose the doctor wants me on before retesting my blood to see if we need to readjust the levels again. I'd ask you keep praying for good health as we travel and re-adjust to being back in Aberdeen.

And you can keep praying they let me keep my ice pack on the plane with me (so I can keep my salad with meat cold since it is all I'll get for dinner)! I've had two guards try to take it from me (one in Aberdeen and one in Charlotte) during our various travels. Praise the Lord the doctor's note has saved me both times. I pray that it will continue to be sufficient for these new security measures. We shall see!

To those of you in Aberdeen, we look forward to being reunited! To those of you here, we'll miss you but are grateful for the time we've had to spend with you!

To all: HAPPY NEW YEAR!! (And no, we aren't going to ring in the New Year.  We need our sleep in preparation for not getting any the following night.)

25 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

We hope that everyone is having/has had a good Christmas! I know we have. We continue to be grateful for all of the blessings God has given us -- not the least of which is His Son, Jesus.

My parents joke about how there are two types of family Christmas traditions regarding opening presents -- "rip and tear" and "savor the moment." My parents came from opposing family traditions and had to decide early which our family would be. They settled on "savor the moment" -- when each person takes a turn opening a gift and the others watch. We laughed today, though, that Yafo, upon receiving his one gift, instantly dug in deciding "rip and tear" was the way to go.

After he opened his one gift, he snuggled up to Dad and spent the rest of the "savor the moment" ritual like this

While I was given some fantastic gifts, one deserves special mention -- the peptobismol pink Snuggie (actually, it's the Breast Cancer Awareness one). Thank you Mark and Grandma (they both had the great idea to give me one since I'm freezing pretty much always). I've had it on most of the day. It will be perfect for Scotland. Like Mark said, he should have gotten me one years ago. Here's me with both the Snuggie and another blanket.

Love to you all. May your heart have the joy of Christ within despite where you are and how you are celebrating this holiday season.

21 December 2009


Mark has a new name. Superstar. Yes, folks, his littlest fan is pretty hardcore. Today, Alison, our niece came over for a visit. Mark's started coming down with a cold today so was napping when she first arrived. But when he woke up and came into the living room she got so excited! She just wanted to go straight to him. We had to deny her this time so that he didn't get her sick. (The photo is from the other night.) Can't have her sick for her first birthday on Tuesday! But they waved at each other from across the room and she squealed with delight - until he left the room. Three times she repeatedly cried when he walked away. That's hard core infatuation right there. Her poor Daddy tried to see if he could get the same response (because he was the original Superstar and I think feeling a bit slighted), but it seems Mark's powers are greater at this point because she had no problem with her Dad leaving. So at least until Wednesday when we leave, Mark will hold the title as reigning Superstar.

18 December 2009

Virtual Postcard

I'll try not to torture you with too many more paradise photos, but I did want to include this one....a new fav of mine taken today between the torrential rains we had off and on. Take it as a virtual postcard from MO and RO since we don't have enough money or time to send them to all of you. 

And in case you haven't seen the sweet little lizards I took yesterday, see them here.

Without further ado:

16 December 2009

Top 6 Reasons to Love Cayman

Well, these may not be the exact top six (and there really are more than 6), but they are up there.

1. Sun, Sand and Sea (and I'd add to that Snorkeling - it had been several years since I had done that until the other day. It was so peaceful and amazing to see/swim among God's brilliant Caribbean fish. And yes, I did think of y'all and wished you could have all experienced it with me.)

2. Year Round Flip Flop Wearing
(I'm trying to make up for my lack of flip flop wearing the past 2.5 years)

3. Getting to be Auntie Rachel and Uncle Mark
(This is priceless since we miss so much of our nephews and niece growing up.)

Dominic (age 8 - he's wearing the purple jersey with the ball) playing football and winning!

Chad (age 4.5) in his Christmas concert/play today (he's top right behind "Halo-girl" as I dubbed her because her halo was almost always blocking his face making photographing him difficult.)

Alison, who will be one a week from today! We met her for the first time last Thursday when we arrived. She adores Mark (we think because he looks like her Daddy, pictured below, and she's a Daddy's girl). In fact, when we went to meet her, she lunged for Mark before we were even in the doorway! I went to intervene (as I usually do when babies are being offered to Mark), and took her, but she still wanted him and lunged again...he did not deny her request:-) It was adorable! I'll have to get a photo of them together at some point.

4. Washing Dries Quickly (even outside)!

5. Wild Things!

My hunt for the perfect Rooster photo continues.

I was delighted to see this lizard out the car window today, even if he refused to look at me.

Palm Trees

6. Sunsets

Yes, we are enjoying our time - in case there was any doubt.

12 December 2009

Little Buddy

I promised photos of "His Royal Cuteness" but haven't posted any -- mainly because I've taken surprisingly few. Yafi, that this trip I've given yet another nickname, "Little Buddy," has a very funny habit of not eating his food out of his bowl. Instead, he likes to pick it up like so:

And then toss it, hoping some food will spill out. Sometimes it doesn't work, like below, but you can see it is sort of bouncing off of the floor. He wasn't too cooperative when I was photographing him. That was when he chose to actually eat out of the bowl like a proper dog.

Maybe that's why he seems to grumpy in this photo! Not his most flattering photo. Nonetheless, he is still a precious little buddy and Mark and I thoroughly enjoyed giving into (nearly) every whim he had to play tug-of-war or fetch. And we even sometime filled his food bowl when it was empty and he chucked that at us (another very funny think to watch).

I'll also have to photograph him "twirling" for his biscuit when we are back for Christmas. He's quite the two-legged performer/dancer.

11 December 2009

Blast From the Past

Sorry for the lack of silence. I've started two posts and haven't finished them. So here is one of them!

How do I describe the joy of having the opportunity last Friday night to meet up with a friend that I met half my lifetime ago?! The summer of 1995, just months before turning 16, I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime -- a 7 (or was it 8?) week mission trip to Honduras. I signed up with Teen Missions not knowing what the summer would hold. Turns out it held a lot - both good and challenging! My faith in God and relationship with Christ grew 100-fold that summer making all the challenges worth it.

Around 30 other teens and 6 leaders (none of whom I knew or met ahead of time) converged at "The Lord's Boot Camp" (yes, it's really called that!) in Florida for 10 days of intense training/preparation. Each team going out had to run a mile or so long obstacle course each morning. Somehow our team was the lucky one who got to go first every morning at 6:00am. And somehow we also had one of the tent sites the furthest away (at least a 1/2 mile). In addition to physical preparation we also had construction-type classes, as well as puppet practice. It was honestly a very grueling 10 days in the hot, humid Florida summer heat (remember I said we were staying in tents!) But in the midst of these challenges some amazing friendships were beginning to be formed.

Our leaders gave us a number in order of our arrival to Boot Camp. You would think after calling my number out a gazillion times I could remember if I was 19, 20 or 21, but I sadly can't. Regardless, it was one of those. The dear friend, Kelley, I met up with last week was number 22. This meant that all summer we were in line near each other as we ordered ourselves numerically. Each time we moved from place to place we had to make sure all members were present and we had to "count off." Anyhoo, Kelley and Josh (who was also near us), kept me in stiches the entire summer since both of them are rather witty and always up for a good time. They, along with many other friends, made the summer what it was - amazing and life-changing. Although many of us do not keep in close contact any more, I still hold them dear to my heart for what we endured together. It was our own sort of "Survivor" experience (except instead of getting to vote people off we had to learn to love each other since we were stuck with one another for so many weeks!).

While I could go on and on and on about this trip, suffice it to say, it was truly wonderful to meet up again with Kelley. Hopefully, since she lives in Nashville and now Mom and Dad do too, maybe we can see a little more of each other.

I had a photo to post, but just realized that I think I accidentally deleted it! Oh no! To see Kelley's cute face, and to hear her version of our time in Honduras, see this post. (Oh, and there are some crazy old [and scary!!!] photos of me on there if you are that hard core and need to see them.)

03 December 2009

Still Thankful

Every Thanksgiving affords a great opportunity to stop and reflect on what we are thankful for, this year has been no exception.

Being back in the U.S. during Thanksgiving after being away for the last two was extra special. We are grateful we had the chance to be here. It was the first time our entire immediate family was together since Mark and I were married. I think we figured the last time we were all together on Thanksgiving day was about a week after Mark and I started dating 8 years ago!

And if that wasn't enough, my Grandma and her husband, Marv came to visit from Missouri for a whole week. This was my Grandma that had triple bypass heart surgery this summer so we were all incredibly thankful that she was doing well enough to make the long trip. We had a great week together, including some time at Opryland Hotel. Here are some shots of our trip.

Two shots of the inside of two of the atriums. And these weren't even the two largest ones!

 There was this nice waterfall with a little bench so we all stopped to get photos (this was the day before my brother arrived that's why he isn't pictured)
My new favorite photo of us :)

There were tons of different orchid varieties, as well as many other flowers. I could have spent a very long time photographing in there!
 Aren't Grandma and Marv cute?!
And finally, Nessy is visiting Nashville this Christmas too!

Another fun time was taking photos of my single, hot bro. Let me know if you have a good, Christian girl wanting to meet him :) Go here to see those shots. I had fun not only taking those shots with him, but editing them. And in case anyone wonders what the haze is in some of the photos (like the first one), we were going for some fun sunflare shots, but it was an added bonus that some neighbors (we took the shots in my parents' neighborhood) must have been burning leaves so there were small particles floating adding a funky texture/ambiance to the photos.

Other fun family times included playing Apples to Apples (I forgot how fun that game was!), playing Smith Family Cut Throat Spades and watching Nacho Libre. And of course being entertained by Yafi. Sadly I haven't taken many shots of him yet. Keep watching this space.

Mark's been studying hard in my parents' bonus room. I've been impressed he's kept working so diligently. But not too much that he hasn't been able to enjoy being here. Don't worry, he's been taking breaks too!

Monday I got to take a long walk with a friend, Avery, we met in NC at my parents old church. Her parents and my parents have been good friends for years now. It was her parents that put my dad's name in the hat to come and be their pastor here. Avery and her husband (and 4 year old son) are missionaries in Cambodia, so it was great to catch up with her. On our walk I saw this sign that I enjoyed.

Last night we got a call from my Uncle Harry who lives in Chicago saying he was flying down for business in Nashville, so we met up with him for dinner. It had been about 4 years since I'd seen him (5 for Mark we decided) so that was a special treat as well.

All in all we have felt and continue to feel incredibly blessed and thankful for this chance to be home during this time.

23 November 2009

On the Other Side

Thank you so much for your prayers about my trip yesterday. I arrived safely after a fairly uneventful trip. Each flight was 30-45 minutes late leaving, but it had little impact on the overall trip. The one time my stomach hurt for awhile was short lived and I was able to rest in the airport while it passed. The worst part of the day was not having my luggage arrive in Philly when I did, but it hasn't been a big deal. Thankfully I found some clothes I had stashed in my parents attic so I had something to wear to church today. It was great to finally meet the great people in my parents church and take part in the largest Thanksgiving feast I've probably ever seen. So far I haven't been phased by jet lag and it has surprised me! We'll see how it continues to go. Hopefully my luggage will show up by tomorrow! Later.

P.S. Yafi says "Hi."

20 November 2009

Soon Yafi!!

Mark and I have a fun saying at our house: "Soon Yafi." We say it more frequently the closer we get to returning to my parents (and subsequently their dog, Yafo, whom I affectionately call Yafi). It's to be said both in excitement and by way of encouragement. For instance, if one of us has had a rough day the other will say "Soon Yafi" to encourage the other one to press on a little bit more. You know, just that little something happy to look forward to can sometimes keep you going in the darkest of days.

But it can also be said in a sheer state of glee, such as my title post today - SOON YAFI! Finally, I will get to see him (and mom  and dad, of course!) tomorrow night! Maybe you've got to meet the little guy to fully comprehend his sweetness. I am not a dog-lover, nor have I ever been, but as I've said on here before, Yafi is the coolest dog ever. He loves people and is always super excited to see us. How can I not love him? To be sure there will be photos of His Royal Cuteness taken and posted so stay tuned and see if you don't also fall in love with him as well.

As I fly to Nashville tomorrow (via London and Philly), just wanted to post a few requests and ask you to join us in praying:

-Obviously for me as I fly. Stamina and easy connections/flights, etc. It's always a bit extra tough for me to travel for so many hours and have to bring 3 meals and umpteen number of snacks with me. I am always a bit apprehensive at flight delays and running out of food. Not to mention my stomach doesn't do well with little sleep. It is already grumpy at me for the 2-3 hours less it has gotten the past two nights. (To be fair, last night wasn't all my fault. Some girls decided it would be a great idea to stand outside our flat in the road and scream at one another from about 2:15am-3:00am. Despite having the window closed, fan on, ear plugs in and pillow over my head I could still ocassionally hear a screech from the yelling. I mean, come on!) Tonight I could really do with some solid sleep even though I'll be up at 4:30am. Prayers to that end will be appreciated!

-Some of you won't know that 3 weeks ago I found out I have low thyroid function contributing to much tiredness at time, as well as other things. I've been having a hard time with the pill I'm on and have not been able to consistently take this yet. Pray that while away I can work on adjusting my body to this medicine and that there will be alternative medicines available if I need them. (One thing that seems to be working against me is the lactose and corn starch used as binders in this med - both of which I'm allergic/sensitive to.)

-A good last few days for Mark at his conferences. He flies back to Nashville on Monday but in the meantime, pray he makes some good connections as he looks for a future job and that in general his time would be encouraging and beneficial.

-Rest and relaxation for both of us! We've had a pretty crazy few months with both of us doing more than usual. Pray that our time with family and each other would be refreshing.

Thanks so much for your prayers. We appreciate having friends like you.

See you on the other side! SOON YAFI!!

18 November 2009

Biding my Time

 Many of you know that Mark left last Friday to head back to the US. He was with my parents over the weekend getting over jetlag, repacking, buying a few essentials, etc. He flew to New Orleans yesterday where he's attending one conference the remainder of this week and another over the weekend. Meanwhile, I've been biding my time at home until I jetset on Saturday morning! It's nearly here and I can't believe it. At this point I still have a lot to do and keep reminding myself I only have 2 days a few hours to complete them all - BUT, I think it can be done!

Since Mark left on Friday I have noticed a few things....

--How does one less person in the house equate to 2/3rds less dishes? (I'm going to blame it on the coffee addiction Mark doesn't have.)

--A couple nights somewhere between about 8-9pm I've found I'm not quite sure what to do with myself. It seems like time for bed since the sun has set 4-5 hours ago, but even that's a little early for me to hit the sack. (I think that must be the time Mark and I usually watch a show together.)

--My toothbrush is lonely. Everytime I look at the glass cup that holds our toothbrushes it takes me by surprise. My toothbrush looks so alone sitting there by itself.

--Despite enjoying a clean house staying clean this week, it's a good reminder that I'd rather a dirty, messy house filled with my husband too.

I've missed you, Mark, and am counting the days till I see you again too!

10 November 2009

Celebrate the Little Things!

When you live in a world of strict diets, it is definitely the little things that keep you going. Here in my local grocery store I have found various such food items that deserve their own blog post. Take, for instance, the delectible treat on the left. Rice cake with chocolate on top. You thought rice cakes were bland, boring and downright disgusting? Well, maybe. But certainly not with chocolate on top! And it isn't just any chocolate -- it's (or seems to be) dairy and soy free. Not easy done in the world of chocolate. Thank you, Kallo, for these sweet treats. (And also for the rice milk you make which is the only one not contaminated with other allergens. As well as your regular rice cakes. They really are way better than most folks think!)

The next thank you goes to Lyme Regis for their amazing fruit bars, "fruitus." They come in 4 flavors, but I think my fav is the blueberry-pomagranate one. The really surprising thing is that I can usually find them for a reasonable price. This is truly a rarity in the world of pre-packaged, non-allergenic foods. My life has been transformed (well, okay, maybe a slight exaggeration....sorry Bible study ladies!) since finding this food-on-the-go. Since I can rarely find pre-packaged foods that are "safe" and always need food, you can see why this has been a great find.

I almost feel normal.

Until Mark reminds me that I just got really excited about chocolate rice cakes.

05 November 2009

The Hazards of Hymns

Our church sings a lot of hymns. Many of them I had not heard before moving here, but have grown to love some of them, especially the more modern, newer ones by writers like Stuart Townend. However, we do sing some more traditional ones like "Be Thou My Vision, " which I have always loved.

Since coming here, however, I have realized that there is a big hazard with singing hymns. Apparently Scottish hymns are at times different than American hymns. As I was reminded on Sunday the words can change without any warning.

I was singing away "Be Thou My Vision" and we were on verse 2: "Be Thou my wisdon, be Thou my true word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord; Thou my great Father and I thy true heir - wait - what? I hear an American friend next to me belt out SON (how it's usually sung in America) while I grin and chuckle. Thank goodness I was looking at the words and didn't make that mistake. But you know what the Bible says, "Pride comes before the fall."

Verse 3 was totally unrecognizable:
"Be Thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight; be Thou my armour and be Thou my might; Thou my soul's shelter and Thou my high tower; raise Thou me heav'nward, O Power of my power."

So by verse 4 I was excited we were back to something I knew. You know, didn't need the words for -- could actually worship and sing from the heart. Now I'm the one belting it out, "Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise...." While everyone else sings: "Riches I heed not, nor all the world's praise." That'll stop the flow of worship real fast, and humble you too!

The moral of the story is, when singing in church here, it is best to ALWAYS look at the screen or songsheet. I guess two years of learning this hasn't been enough. Maybe I just keep hoping one day they'll use the words I know.

P.S. At the bottom of the songsheet it is written that the words we were singing are from a 1993 edition of the song, so I think it is one that has been "updated." That would make the "heir" part more politically correct and gender neutral. So for this particular song that must be the "problem."

31 October 2009

Even Nature Celebrates

I've been holding onto this photo for months now -- since spring, so it'd be a shame to not share it. It is was one of my favorite photos -- until Mark said it looked like a ghost. I was mad at first because I liked the photo so much. Then I saw he was right. Then I was really mad because that was all I could see. Then I used my editing program and took out the "eyes." Then I liked it again. I guess this little guy was trying to scare off the photographer that day.

23 October 2009

500th Birthday!

(Two posts in 3 days - I know!)

Even after two years of being here I am still amazed that I daily work at an institution that has been around for over 500 years. And Mark's office overlooks the now 500 year old King's College Chapel. The first weekend of this month there was a big weekend celebration to commemorate the impressive birthday of King's. Also to mark this special occasion there has been a display in the Old Town House where I work from time to time. It's called "Images of King's: The artistic portrayal of King's College, Aberdeen." I've enjoyed looking at the very old paintings and drawings of how King's used to look "back in the day." The paintings are also some of the ones used in a the new book King’s College, Aberdeen: history, building and artistic portrayal and is now on my "to-get-before-leaving-Aberdeen" list.

The painting above is my favorite of the exhibition. Having learned this year that photography is all about light, I gather painting is the same. I love the light in this one!

If you are in Aberdeen and enjoy art, you should "come have a look."

21 October 2009

Wind Factor

Since living here we've discovered classifications of wind. Who knew they existed? On checking one local weather website (a nearly daily occurrance at our house, and more so when photo shoots are scheduled) we noticed they always categorized the wind speed with ratings like F4 or F5, and then a brief description of that wind speed. Our personal favorite classification (which we see far too often) is the F5 "Fresh Breeze." Take today, for instance, it is an F5. Friends, that ain't no "breeze" out there! Earlier I was walking to my car (yes, praise the Lord for such a luxury on a day such as this) from my office and was literally being pushed from behind by the wind. The wind was gusting so hard it put me into a brief jog. I do not classify that as a breeze. More along the lines of nearly a hurricane. And for the 3 minutes I was outside, my "trouser" legs were soggy. I need fully body rain gear with this wind/rain combo.

Up until about 2 weeks ago, I thought that perhaps Scotland (or the whole of the UK) had made their own classifications of wind just because there is rarely a day without it. Kind of like how I've been told the Eskimos have many descriptions of snow. They get it so often and with varying degrees so it needs to be explained just which one will be encountered on any given day. So that was my theory on wind speed ratings here.

But that theory was debunked when I discovered a website talking about the "F" numbers and the wind speeds, complete with each number's description as well.  Apparently these "F" numbers make up the Beaufort scale. Wikipedia's chart is exceptionally helpful as you can see the effects on the land, as well. Based on my observations we are more likely to be in the F7 or F8 category today. And for what it is worth, I'm not sure I've ever seen it at F1 during our time here. The F2 days are far too few, though are so very nice when we get them! (Incidentally, we miraculously had one on Saturday when I photographed 6 families outside. That was a HUGE praise!)

Other than just being a meteorological nerd, I often have my eye on the wind reports because of the loudness in our bedroom. Remember this post almost exactly a year ago? Yeah, it's been a long year of wind.  I can pretty much determine ahead of time now if I will need to sleep in the living room (my solution for getting some sleep on noisy nights) depending on the wind speed and direction. For instance, anything constantly blowing over about 25mph in a South or South-East direction at night (probably a good 10 times a month) and I'm pulling out our fold out chair for a bed because our slates are bound to be jumping. Last night it was so bad I even had a hard time sleeping in there.

All told, perhaps the thing I will miss LEAST about living in Scotland is the WIND (and our slates)!!

08 October 2009

This Week's Cultural Lesson

I have been exposed to yet another part of the British culture. Once again by way of a student worker (though techinically she's graduated and  is working with us as a full-time staff member now). Ayme came in wearing a Blue Peter Badge (more by way of a joke) and was proudly showing it off to me. Too bad I had no idea what it was!

Then came the 10 or so minutes of catching this daft American up to speed on this rather big children's program run by the BBC. Here is the BBC site where children can go and find out how they can earn the famed Blue Peter Badge. From what I can gather, children have to submit letters or do things to impress the "presenters" (hosts of the show). It seems it must be somewhat challenging to actually get a badge so that's why it was a big deal Ayme had received one. The awards have been given out since the early 60's so have quite a heritage by now. The coveted award also allows the under 16 children to gain free entry into some of the larger attractions in the UK, like Legoland. In searching the net to find out more, I uncovered a scandal with the badges from a few years ago. People were selling their badges on E-bay offering free entry into the attractions at a minimal cost! The BBC now also awards an ID card along with the badge to stop such falsifications.

The final thing my co-workers mentioned was all the bloopers that would happen on the show as a result of it being broadcast live. They specifically told me one of the most memorable occurred when they had an elephant relieve himself on national television. I had to look it up. See for yourself.

P.S. If you see any spelling errors (here or in the future) please ignore! I'm a terrible speller and since Blogger has "updated" some features it has decided to take this feature away. Grrrr....

28 September 2009

It's Time for an Update!

Two weeks without blogging and it feels like maybe 2 days. Okay, slight exaggeration, but the past two weeks have flown by, been full and wonderful and tiring. Thought that maybe I should write about some significant and also random things. So here goes, in my fav, bullet point style:
  • I've been home all day with a man who looks like he was in a pub brawl or domestic dispute. Your choice. Said man claims to be my husband, but looks more like a creepy man I can't look too long and hard at without scaring myself. Poor guy has a swollen eye that is half shut. Due to it being a "bank holiday" (more on that later) he hasn't been able to see a doctor to find out what in the world is going on. I think Mark was just jealous I had the day off work and decided to poke himself in the eye so he could stay home "sick" too. In all seriousness, we'd really appreicate your prayers that his eye would heal soon and he would stay HEALTHY. Mark's been sick waaaaaay too much this year and really can't afford much more time away from his thesis.
  • As mentioned, today is a lovely, random day off work. They call them "bank holidays" or "local holidays" but in all my digging I still can't quite figure out why they have them. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about time off work, it's just counter-intuataive to this American to have a day off when you aren't actually celebrating something. At church another member and I were discussing various cultural differences regarding holidays and I brought up this point. He was surprised we didn't have "local holidays" (each city or town here has their own days and they don't always coincide with the neighboring towns), but only really national holidays. I mentioned the fact that when we have days off we are usually celebrating something. He sort of took offense at this. I think they just celebrate the seasons instead. There are two days off in the spring, one in July and one in September (and of course ones for Christmas). Note to self, be careful how I talk about this in the future :)
  • I received an orchid as a gift (same time as the chocolate on the previous post) and while I have been known to have a green thumb, I've been leary of killing the orchid. It's my first so I've had to do some reading and talking to friends to make sure I'm doing everything correctly. 

  • Turning 31 was MUCH easier than turning 30! I'm grateful. I had a delightful and restful few days on and around my birthday. Thanks for all the birthday wishes, cards, gifts, etc. Mark obliged my one birthday wish and took me to Dunnottar Castle to get some photos of the castle as the sunset. Too bad the clouds creeped in. But, I did get these and the one below, so the evening wasn't a total disappointment. Just means we have to go again to get the shot I'm looking for :)

  • It's been a full few weeks of welcoming new students/families to the University, both at work and also personally amongst my group of friends and our Aberdeen Women's Fellowship. I look forward to this time of year, so I've enjoyed the opportunity to meet new folk and help them settle in to Aberdeen.
  • The nights are quickly becoming darker and longer. The longer summer nights are but a faint memory. There is nothing exciting about this except that it signals that the time for us to go "home" for the holidays is creeping ever so closer! We are both now under 2 months to go before being back on US soil! (I say both because we are leaving about a week apart. Mark will go early for 2 conferences while I stay behind and work and then we'll be reunited on the Monday before Thanksgiving.)
  • While many in the US have been drowning in buckets of rain, we've had two weeks of very little rain and large amounts of sunshine and fairly warm temps. It's been those days that I am reminded of why I love it here. On one such Saturday afternoon/evening, Mark and I hopped in the car and headed for the hills of Aberdeenshire so Mark could do some fishing and I could (what else) photograph! Here are a few favorite photos from the adventure....
 Mark's in the lower left getting his gear ready and Bennachie is the hill range in the background, with Mither Tap being the peak farthest left. We still need to hike that before we leave.

Beautiful purple heather in the glowing evening sun.

I love me some b/w reflections and lines.

Bennachie again, with maybe Oxen Craig in the distance? I was drawn in by the golden fields as the sunset on them, constrasting with the darker areas around.

More glowing sun on flowers. 

More amazing Scottish scenery. Had to go slightly off the beaten path for this, but well worth it. I like the new header version even more (though the header doesn't do it justice, in my opinion). Mark really liked this version, though, so here it is!

  •  While we are sad that Jack is not back (until January), it's been nice to welcome other old friends like Gibbs and gang, as well as Office-mates back into our home.
  • Planning a surprise get-away weekend for my dear hubby has proved challenging. He knows we are going way this weekend to celebrate his birthday (and just to give him a much needed break after working so diligently the past couple months), but he doesn't want to know where we are going. I, however, keep forgetting that he doesn't know and have had several near misses of spewing vital information. I will be glad when Friday gets here and I can share my secrets!
  • I'm sure I could go on and on, but in the interest of your time and mine, mabye we should call it a night. Hopefully it won't be another 2 weeks before I write, but we'll see!

15 September 2009

Word of the Week

I love that even after 2 years here I am still learning more things about the culture and language. Thought I would share with you today's word of the week.  I was just reading the box of some chocolates we were given to us recently. On it there was the word "moreish." I've heard this word at work and gathered sort of what it meant, but never fully appreciated it until I looked it up on an on-line dictionary. It is an adjective used of food in British culture to describe when something tastes so good you just want more. And just so you can see the word in context, the box states, "...this delicious assortment of moreish chocolates captures Throntons quality and craftsmanship in an indulgent moment."

No wonder it was on a box of chocolate. I like this word.

06 September 2009

A Wedding: Scottish Style

I was fortunate enough to be able to go to my first Scottish wedding this past Friday. It was of Pip and Alec that I took photos of on Saturday. Mark was bummed he had a NT conference on campus to attend so he was unable to join me for the festivities. And I had some girl friends unable to go as well, so this post is as much for them as the rest of you :) We've all been wondering how a Scottish wedding compared to an American one. And while I do realize that even amongst American weddings there is diversity, and assume the same is true of Scottish ones, I thought I'd still share what I observed as different in this particular Scottish wedding compared to the multiple American ones I've attended.

For starters, it poured all day the day before. Like for over 24 hours it just kept coming down hard and steady. Things were flooding, roads were closing, train lines stopped. I kept waiting for Noah and his ark to go floating by. I think everyone participating in the wedding must have been praying overtime, because around 20-30 minutes before the wedding the sun came out!! It was so great to see again and that way the bride didn't have to get drenched going into the wedding.

In Scotland many more weddings are conducted on Friday's. Often on summer Friday afternoon's on campus there are weddings taking place at the chapel. I'm unsure why this is such a popular time to get married, but it is. All I can figure is that everyone gets plenty of days off work so it isn't such a big deal for all of your guests to take a day off to participate in your wedding activities.

There was, of course, the traditional piper (bag piper, that is) outside the church playing signaling to all wedding was about to start. Sorry, no photo. Couldn't bring myself to be a tourist this time.
Another thing you would notice quickly at most weddings here are the hats. Many women, especially the, er, more mature generations, would be wearing hats. At this wedding there weren't too many worn, but some of the weddings I've seen on campus have had nearly all ladies in hats. 
They did have the bride side and groom side, but the ushers didn't properly escort anyone to their seats. Just more of a "go find your own seat" approach. I noticed that even when the bride's mother went down the aisle no one really escorted her. There was an usher with her, but he just walked behind her. 
The dad still escorts the bride into the ceremony, and the groom with groomsmen were waiting at the end of the aisle. However, the bridesmaids and then the minister followed the bride in! (You can just see the bride's sister and maid-of-honor in the back of this photo.) Isn't Pip beautiful?! Her dress was amazing and I'm not sure if I've ever liked a wedding dress quite as much as I liked hers. Might have even liked it more than my own (which I loved). But I digress. There were no ringbearers or flower girls. Not sure if this is standard or just this particular wedding.
Another thing that caught my attention was how there were two groomsman (his brothers) and 3 bridesmaids, but the other two bridesmaids didn't actually stand up during the ceremony (just her sister). (Note large purple hat on bottom right.) Also, decorations much more simple. One large arrangement at front of church and then small arrangements hanging from the columns on either side of the stage (though not sure they are pictured in any of these photos.)
As for the ceremony. It was definitely a worship service, which was great. Lots of singing which I have seen at some US weddings. The thing I found most interesting was how quickly into the hour or so wedding they were pronounced man and wife and got to kiss. There was the giving away of the bride, a song, Scripture reading, and then the exchange of the vows and rings (which the minister [his dad] had and gave to them), the kiss and lots of people taking pictures. Then we kept singing. Then there was a charge or sermonette from the other minister [our church minister, he's pictured above]. During this charge the couple, as well as their attendents, sat down. I liked that idea as usually everyone gets tired of standing and this keeps anyone from wanting to faint. I wish we had done this! It is probably easier to listen and concentrate on what is actually being said. Then again, that might be why everyone gets videos to watch later :)

After more singing the couple, their attendents, and the ministers went to the back room to sign the marriage register while everyone else stayed put and listened to two songs sung by a duet. It felt kind of weird not to have the couple there for so long. Finally they came back, think we sang one last song and had a prayer, and then they got to go down the aisle. Slightly anti-climactic (in my opinion) but joyous nonetheless as you will see below.

Below is my personal favorite photo of the day for it's artistic quality. It paid to be on the back row and have the glass window looking into the vestibule at my disposal. Despite the sunny look, it was drizzling again at this point. In the words of another guest, the day was very "changeable." I love that Scottish description of the run/sun/run/sun/rain/sun pattern on many days here. It embodies the "you can never be quite sure what will be happening in the next moment weather-wise" reality.

I think they were scheduled to do photos outside, but because of the drizzle kept them inside. Seemed very typical. Bride/groom ones, family ones, wedding party ones. Do you see that dress? Lovely. And while we are on clothing, yes it is very traditional and typical of the gentlemen to be in kilts (wearing the tarten plaid/colors of one side of their family) with those socks/shoes and a tux-like suitcoat. Oh, and wearing the traditional sporran which is possibly the Scottish version of a "murse." Awesome. I also noted that the men's lapels were unopened thistles, which is the Scottish flower/national emblem.
And wedding party ones.
Just to give you a better idea of the kilts. Mark was disappointed Alec wasn't wearing a dagger in his sock like you sometime see. This also is a good place to mention other men (other than the groom) at weddings will be in kilts (again sporting their personal family tarten, though at times maybe they just have whatever pattern they like most). Definitely the wedding party men, male musicians and many other male guests who are Scottish.

I was sad that I never got a chance to say congrats to the couple afterwards, but the tea/coffee/sandwiches/cakes (which means, sweet baked goods, not THE cake) reception through the "hall" was jam packed. Plus I think they were still taking photos and maybe even braved a few outside at some point.

The partying would have continued later in the evening with many of the guests attending a ceilidh. Maybe even a dinner? To read more about another friend's wedding experience (though more just the reception experience since she says that usually only family and close friends attend the actual wedding ceremony. I think that because this was a Christian wedding maybe it was different?) go here.

So think that is it. All in all, it really wasn't too different than what I've experienced at American weddings. I'm thankful Pip and Alec invited the entire church to attend their ceremony so that I could celebrate with them, but also gain another cultural experience.