28 May 2010

The Love Continues

I'm not sure how it has been over a week since I've last posted, but alas, the time is flying.

I had one main goal for today and I'm happy to say I somehow accomplished it.

But first, a brief recap of last night's fun. Vicki (see photo below), is an amazing dancer and was in The Wedding Singer last night (and the next two nights). It was a musical based off of the Adam Sandler movie by the same title. After dinner out with Gemma and Fiona, we headed to see Vicki. We all really enjoyed the show and just spending a little time together for my "leaving do." Sorry, I opted to leave the camera home, sorry no photos, you'll have to take my word, it was a nice night out.

Now back to today: So what was that one goal? Not to cry as I said goodbye to everyone at work. Not an easy feat, but somehow managed with only a slight mist in the eyes at one point. I had lay down the rules to the other girls in my immediate room:
Behind me: Fiona, Vicki, Gemma

1. No crying.
2. No looking me in the eye.
3. Jokes and laughter must abound.
4. No reading of cards.
5. Remember number one.

I was proud. They did well too! But I won't lie, as I got home and read the sweet cards I was given and looked again at the abundance of gifts I'd been given, the flood came. Mostly gratitude to my God for His graciousness in giving me this job. I remember praying a good deal before I moved here about my job. I prayed for one I would enjoy and not dislike. I knew it was going to be hard enough living overseas without having a job I despised to go to. God answered my prayers in big ways. Aside from the few odd days, I have rarely had that "I really dislike work" or "don't want to go to work" feeling. And it has made the world of difference. And I will never be the same for having had the chance to work in Student Recruitment and Admissions.

I don't think I could have worked with a more generous bunch! Check out a few of the things I was given.

See ewe Jimmy reusable "carrier" bag - love it! Painting by Thomas Joseph; Thistle key chain and thistle earrings and celtic pendant (see below). 

I was floored that the girls in my room got me this among other little things!! The Ness store is amazing. I enjoyed browsing the one last year in Edinburgh when my friend Lisa was visiting. 

The whole department chipped in and got me these thistle earrings.

And this (what I guess would be described as) Celtic necklace. Such sweet gifts to take home!

One of the cards was a watercolor painting of the Unicorn in King's (right outside of Mark's office).

As a special treat they ordered in some soldiers and a piper band just for me! Just kidding, of course. The real reason was this. (If you click the link, at least in the next day or two, there is a slideshow of other photos too.) Anyways, Fiona, Vicki, Gemma and I quickly ran across campus to see the end of the show. We missed most of it, but I still managed a few shots.

I liked their massive feathers. Gemma (who grew up in Wales) said it is a Welsh thing. 

As we were leaving and passing by the group of soldiers getting on their bus, Gemma (who is also known to be a bit crazy at times), bear-hugged me and drug me over to the soldiers saying, "She's moving back to America, can she have her photo taken with you." Not my favorite thing, but what was I to do?
The best part was right before the photo when their commanding officer told them to remove their bayonets from their guns first. I guess that was so I wouldn't get hurt :)

So there you have it, my last day of work in review. It was a good day and I even got a little work done before all the partying and goodbyes started. 

20 May 2010

The Goodness of Kale

When food allergies became my all consuming life about 5-6 years ago (years I'd rather forget most of the time!) I had to pour a lot of time and energy into reading about how to cook with allergies. And what in the world to eat! One food I ran across several times in my researching was kale. I discovered pretty early on in changing my diet that I could only experiment so much within a given week or month. Sometimes it was lack of time, sometimes it was I could only handle so many failures! So kale, by nature of being a dark, green, leafy vegetable was left by the wayside. But it has always lurked in the back of my mind. What exactly does that stuff taste like? Could it be something to expand my diet?

Enter a grocery trip with my mom when we were home at Christmas. We were in the veggie section and I mentioned something about how I'd like to try kale sometime, but had no idea what to do with it - not to mention you can only buy it in what seems like a bulk amount. I don't like wasting things so why would a buy a large amount when it was just Mark and me and we might not like it? Here's the best part, my mom, being the healthy cook/eater that she is knew what to do with it and bought some on the spot saying she'd teach me. Thanks Mom!

To me kale looks a lot like collard greens. And according to that link from Wiki, both are in the cabbage family so I suppose they might look similar. Not that I've eaten collard greens. The name is a bit off-putting (whereas kale almost sounds posh). And I've had the impression it is bitter. I'm not sure if that is founded or not, but it's what I've always thought. And I expected the same of kale. But, to my surprise, it had a pleasant not overbearing taste. And strangely enough Mark liked it too. Hurray! A new food - a very healthy food - for both of us to eat. We already know that makes me happy :)

So when I looked for kale here I noticed it comes pre-cut and packaged (see photo above) and it is generally a £1 or under. So not only is it a steal of a deal, but the hardest part is done for me! All I have to do is dump it in a colander, rinse with water, chop some onion, use my garlic press for some instant minced garlic and heat up some olive oil, saute the onion/garlic and then toss in the kale. I love the simplicity of this side dish.

The only slight draw back is that it looks like a ginormous amount when it goes in the pan. The stuff is springy but quickly starts to shrink/wilt as it heats up. This pan is sans a lid, so I either use a plate, or better yet because it is already dirty, the colander. 
I think I usually let it cook for around 20-25 minutes. I forgot to take a picture before Mark and I already had servings on our plates, but you can still get the idea how much it shrinks down. We've found we don't mind the leftovers reheated in the microwave so it does last several days.

I've also heard it can be frozen and is great in soups, though I haven't tried either of those options yet. Maybe some day soon! And, for the very adventuresome chef, here's a recipe for kale chips. It was originally the kale chips that got my interest in this veggie. Haven't tried those yet either (I'm not sure how well it would work with the pre-chopped kale) but hope to when we are back in the U.S.

One last tidbit for my Aberdeen friends - I've found this in ASDA (can even order it online) or Sainsbury's, but sadly found out on Sunday Morrison's doesn't stock it. Sorry.

So now you have no excuse for trying out this yummy and healthy veg!

16 May 2010

Golden Fields

Mark and I headed out yesterday morning for what possibly might have been our last Scottish adventure. I'm still hoping for one more final adventure, but am unsure where the time will come from to do so. Even yesterday's jaunt was a bit of a stretch. So this might have been it. If so, it was a phenomenal day to end our exploring of Scotland on. The sky was a deep blue, the sun bright, the clouds white and puffy, the grass a glorious green, and the fields a golden yellow. Just see for yourself.

I had forgotten the rapeseed would be in bloom across the hills so it was an unexpected treat as we headed to St. Andrew's. Hopefully I'll get a chance to blog some more about our time there. If not, you'll just have to trust me it was a wonderful quick trip out of the city on a rare gem of a day.

14 May 2010

One Month and Counting!

Hard to believe that today marks one month until we leave! It's on June 14th bright and early that we'll make our journey back to the U.S. Sadly, goodbyes are already beginning. Last week I said goodbye to a co-worker who was leaving for maternity leave. This week I said goodbye to two more who will be on holiday and overseas work trips and won't return before my last day of work. I'm not really looking forward to another 4 weeks of goodbyes.

One of the ladies, Wilma, that I said goodbye to this week is also one of the women that has enjoyed teaching me doric. The past few months, especially after I say, "huh?" occasionally to something she says, has said she should get me a doric dictionary so I can attempt to better understand her. So this week when she gave me a gift I was pleasantly surprised to find these inside the gift bag:

Though, she herself admitted, she really should have given me these when I first started working. Nonetheless, it was a rather special gift from her which will always allow me the chance to remember a few of the things I learned during our time here.

I was surprised to find that the bottom book in the photo above, "Doric - Alive and Kickin" was also signed by the author. I had to show you the funny woman on the front. She reminds me a lot of Princess Fiona, Shrek's wife. Once I read the book I'll have to let you know why she looks so scary.
Speaking of reading....after attempting to read the first paragraph I quickly concluded it was a VERY good idea that Wilma had also included the dictionary. See for yourself.
I just wish the books came with a CD of pronunciations. Or a CD of someone (preferably one of the women I work with) reading the book so I can forever remember the accent and pronunciations. Perhaps one of the other women in my office would like to give that to me as a going away present.

11 May 2010

The Big Red Crane

I feel I would be remiss to not blog about The Big Red Crane and all that it signifies. I actually took these photos a month or so after it was first erected (sometime in October, I think).

This is The Big Red Crane as seen from our kitchen window. The crane has become a permanent fixture on The University of Aberdeen campus. Namely, at the site of the new library that is being built. You get a sense for how tall the crane is since our flat is almost entirely uphill from campus and on the (U.S.) 3rd floor. No matter where you are in the area or on campus you can almost always see the crane looming large.

I had my camera on campus yesterday so I wanted to take a few shots to show the progress. Somewhat just for my own record, somewhat for our friends that used to be here and are now gone so they can see the changes around campus. And of course, just to inform you, my dear readers of life here.

My personal favorite part of the site - built-in windows in the wall surrounding the project for the curious of heart. I did notice, though, the bars are new and an obvious safety feature now that they are doing more work at eye level and less foundation work.

So you can't see the progress quite as well as prior to the bars.

And because I love you, I hiked up 4 flights of stairs to get you this view. You can see just how close the new library is being built to the old one - they basically touch (or maybe they do? see the 3rd photo on the blog to decide for yourself).

I really liked how you can already see the middle part (that is a major feature of the library) taking shape.
I wanted to give you a shot looking straight down, but they've put up more safety plastic/glass in the library windows where the construction is so it was inhibiting any decent downward looking shots.

Since the new library is one of my departments big sells for the University, I've heard a fair bit about it, thus being remiss if I didn't show it off a little to you! To read more about the new library, go here. Be sure to also to watch the video they have on their simulating the new library. There you should see the interior portion I was mentioning above.

08 May 2010

Busy, busy, busy....

I'm going to ask for a few days back this week because they are going by too quickly. The past 24 hours alone has been jam packed full of fun.

First, our department (SRAS - Student Recruitment and Admissions Service), had a night out (or, as they say in Doric, "night oot"). It was a whopping £20 to go so I was not going to participate. But, when a very kind co-worker discovered that was why I wasn't going she offered to pay and let that be my "leaving" present. I was going to decline, but she persisted so I agreed. She was too kind and I think I will forever be grateful. I really enjoyed myself. One of the most interesting parts was beholding some of my co-workers consume more alcohol than I thought possible in the space of 4 hours, though I always hear stories at work so I was not surprised. They weren't all like that, just a handful. Thankfully the night ended before I could see things get worse!

It was a full night of Dodgems (bumper cars), dinner (the chef did an amazing job catering to my needs, so props to him), indoor miniature golf (which I think I heard referred to as "crazy golf" and was so happy it was indoors), and "ten-pin bowling" (it took me a long time realize they call it 10-pin bowling to differentiate it from lawn bowling, which is quite a popular sport amongst the older generations of Scots).  All in all it was a great night out and I enjoyed getting to observe a different side of the Scottish culture than I had before. Oh, and two hole-in-ones, one strike and a couple spares helped things too! To see some of the fun, go to my Facebook album SRAS Night Oot.

This morning first thing I finished up some photos of the Stratis family that we took on Monday (in the FREEZING cold, I might add). Here's a couple teasers to get you to click and see the rest of the cuteness.

Oh, and while you are there, be sure to check out the shots from Luke's two year photos that I put up a couple days ago. And just because I know you can't wait to see his cute face, here's one to get you started:

Then, it was off to my friend, Allison's baby shower. Allison and her husband arrived in Aberdeen a few days after Mark and I did. We met them the first Sunday we went to church here and have been friends ever since. We've been through the ups and downs of living overseas together, and I'm confident that she is an answer to my prayers before moving here that God would give me friends upon arrival. To see highlights of the shower, go here.

Right after the shower Mark picked me up and we headed to our friend, Ivan's, for our first taste of haggis (hmmm....it sounds much worse than it tastes if you read what it is)! We met Ivan our second week at church when we had been invited to someone's house for Sunday lunch and he was there as another guest. Since then we've enjoyed chatting with him before or after various services at church. A few weeks ago, when he found out we hadn't had haggis yet, he offered to have us over so we could try it.  So today was the day! Mark was committed to trying it and I was going to take the "out" because of food allergies. But, after looking at the packaging and determining it was safe enough, and feeling rather bold, I decided to just go for it and try it too! I'm glad I did just so I know what it is like. My stomach has been a bit of a mess since then, but it might have been a couple other things I ate that I don't typically eat, or perhaps the combination of all of them. But, you only live in Scotland once (I hope!) so it was worth it and I'm still glad I did it. To see documentation of monumental said event, click here.

Whew. So that has been my busy 24 hours and now that all photos are on-line for others to enjoy, I'm going to sit back and watch a movie with Mark. Or maybe LOST. Mark somehow roped me into starting to watch it, so now there is no turning back - we are officially LOST junkies.

02 May 2010

Our Faithful Father

If you have known me for any length of time or been reading here any length of time you know that I like to look back at life and reflect on God's goodness, especially at milestones in life. Moves, like birthdays, often precipitate such reflection in me. I am not generally one to take life changes too well, so it helps for me to spend time before the change dwelling on the past and preparing for the future.

Maybe it was the amazing rainbow that God displayed on Friday evening that started such thoughts, may be it was the reality that now that it is May our move feels more imminent, maybe it was that 6 weeks from today is our last full day in Aberdeen. Whatever the cause (and probably more likely all of them together), this morning before church I spent a great deal of time reflecting on God's amazing goodness and faithfulness, especially in relations to our lives here.

I think it was the rainbow - perhaps the brightest and certainly one of the longest lasting - that first made me remember a rainbow shortly after arriving in Aberdeen over 2 and a half years ago. As I hung out of our window awestruck and shutter happy, I remembered that post. And I remembered God's faithfulness. Even rereading the  post now brings tears to my eyes. God went before us into the unknown of this city and the move here and provided ever so much for us.

This morning I reflected on so many prayer requests we prayed in the months prior to our arrival - a church to call home, friends to share our hearts with and to laugh with, a flat that would meet our needs and be near to the University, a job I would enjoy, financial provision of paying for tuition and other expenses, better health for me (I was quite sick right before we came and once we arrived), and on and on the list goes. It was so good to remember because I saw how perfectly and uniquely God answered our needs and many of our wants.
Looking back is so comforting as I look forward, praying many of those same prayers again that I was praying 3 years ago - a church family to be a part of, jobs we enjoy, financial provisions, friends, etc. Nothing can give you confidence and faith in God quite like remembering how faithful He has been to you in the past. He is worthy of my trust and He will not fail me/us.

If you read the post I wrote back in Sept 2007 that I linked above, you read that we had sung a song that Sunday in church called "What a Faithful God Have I." I am pretty sure that I've written out the lyrics before as well (though at the moment can't remember where that post is), so I've included a video for you to hear the tune/lyrics. In many ways I suppose this song has become a bit of a theme song to me personally during our time here. I will not soon forget it, nor the things God has done in our lives while we've been here.