Things I Miss

I miss my dogs SO MUCH, my cats, meeting up with friends and family, Sonic drive-ins, our house, a real Walmart where you can find things, decent restaurants, tortilla soup and fajitas at On the Border, regular Chinese food, cheap tanning beds (so expensive here), hot summer weather where I can wear shorts and flip flops (I swear these people have no idea what sweats are, I get looks every time I wear them!), American dvds and Netflix, American movies that come out on time and not 2 months later, my cell phone, my Avalanche, driving on the right side of the road, driving anywhere for that matter instead of walking everywhere, Starbucks iced black tea (don't serve iced tea here anywhere), dishwashers, storage space or even an extra closet or two, our Texas-sized bed, central air conditioning and Bud Light. Gosh, I miss the hell out of some Bud Light.


Beach Babes!

Yesterday we went to the Queens Links, a beach and leisure park on the water. It couldn't have been a more beautiful day, the sun was out with not a cloud in the sky! Queens Links is various restaurants and a couple family entertainment centers--bowling, laser tag, videos games, bumper cars, etc. Makes for a fun afternoon!

We were excited to walk in the sand, but the water was FREEEEZZZZZING!!!

We decided to try our luck and ate lunch at Chiquito's, our first meal at a "Mexican" restaurant. It wasn't quite as bad as we had prepared ourselves for, you seriously can't go into any restaurant here, I've decided, and expect the food to come out just like you'd imagined. It's just not the same in Scotland, or we're just too used to the Americanized way of things. Either way, Chiquito's wasn't too bad. We got an appetizer (starter) of beef empanadas, which were too much pastry and not enough meat. They came with sour cream, which also wasn't quite like sour cream but more like sour curd. But our main meal of barbeque ribs, onion rings and fries was pretty good. I ate every bite!

Because of such vast food differences between the US and here, I've still been doing a ton of cooking. Especially our own Mexican and Chinese.

Afterwards we played a couple rounds of video games (I won!) and then headed home to park the car and walk to the movies to see "Gamer" with Gerard Butler. Swoon. The movie was pretty raunchy at first but got better in the end, an interesting plot idea.

Today we spent several hours trying to find space for the rest of our clothes, which have been stashed in the guest bedroom for the past few weeks. Since our first visitors will arrive before long we figured we'd better do some organizing. Everything is now almost put away. I'll be able to spend some time on it this week as well as make dinner preparations for a wonderful meal for our 3 year anny on Tuesday!


"Frustration causes accidents. Please allow overtaking."

We laughed every time we saw this sign during the drive to our cabin in the country this past weekend. Most of the time the two lanes were barely big enough to allow room for two vehicles, small as they are, and for part of the trip there was only one lane. I even drove our beetle bug car a good part of the trip. Some of the curves and bends and dips in the road were completely blind, you had no idea if anyone was on the other side and you were in a one lane-wide road with no where in particular to "dodge." But we only had one close encounter on the drive back when we cautiously came around the corner and another driver was coming the opposite direction pretty darn fast and for a split second I saw a head-on collision. But we missed each other by a hair. The scenery during the drive was gorgeous though...

The trip was to celebrate our three-year wedding anniversary on Sept. 30. I can't believe it's already here again! Mike and I have so much fun being married, we love traveling and having fun with family and friends as well as escaping for adventures of our own. Through Inverness, we stopped in a little town known as Dores and ate dinner at the local Dores Inn, it was gorgeous and right on the water. Mike and I have had a really hard time finding a local restaurant in Aberdeen that serves genuinely good food, which is why I've been doing so much cooking. But this inn was fantastic! Mike went for the staple fish and chips, which was delicious with fresh lemon and tartar sauce, and I got the steak and ale pie... my first official Scottish dish. It was mouth wateringly wonderful, a mixture of steak, mushrooms and gravy baked in a mini crock dish topped with a puff pastry and cheesy mashed potatoes. It also came with roasted potatoes, carrots and onions, yum! (The Scots, as I've mentioned before, are big on their carbs.) We even sipped some whisky on the rocks, which made us feel like we blended in or something. The restaurant was cute and quaint with candle light, fresh flowers one very table, a stone fireplace, wooden chairs and tables, a low ceiling and murmured conversations... just like something out of the movies.

Our cabin was perfect, Mike did a great job tracking it down and getting it booked! The Loch Ness cabins are 10 min. past Dores and secluded just enough to make you feel like you've escaped into the roving countryside. Saturday we went for a 2.5 hour horse ride, I loved it!!! All the way to the top of the little moutain we were on, galloped around curvy gravel roads, through pastures of sheep and even passed a castle where we heard bagpipes playing. How much better does it get!?!

On Sunday we headed back, stopping in Inverness for lunch at the Filling Station, which we've decided is like the Scot's equivalent of a Chili's in the US. They have everything from salads to burgers to pizza and it's all pretty good for the most part. They also have popular local food, like meat pies and salmon AND they serve Coors Light! We figured that whenever we're having a rough week and need a little taste of home from a reliable restaurant, the Filling Station is the place to go.
And of course we had to stop for a few more pictures. The weather was perfect, blue skies and sunshine!


Must Love Dogs

It was beautiful outside when I took three of the puppies out for a trek this morning. The sun is actually still out this afternoon, an unusual occurrence. But I wanted to post a couple of pics I took and photoshopped. I hope to get some more cool pictures this weekend, the husband and I are headed to a little town just outside Inverness to stay in a cabin and do some horse riding!


It's brilliant!

For the most part, we've been able to understand everyone over here in Scotland pretty well. But you'll still run into folks that have a much heavier accent, depending on where they're from and how fast they talk. To give you an idea of how we are occasionally lost in conversation, I made up a stupid sentence using some of the stuff we've heard here. It's probably not in the best context but you'll get the jist:

Scots speak: I took me spurtle and tattie and footered about toon for a wee bit, searching for a hough. Forby I was pissed! Brilliant.

Translation: I took my wooden spoon and potato and wandered around town for a little while, searching for a shank of meat. Besides I was drunk! Cool.

Using the word "pissed" to mean drunk instead of angry is so wierd to me! I realized what it meant when we were out one night with some buddies from Mike's work. I was giving one of the guys a hard time for being a punk and told him I was suuuppperrrr pissed. They all laughed and said, "Really!? Brilliant!"

So I've been falling down on the job with such a long gap between blog entries, as well as not taking as many pictures! The honest truth isn't that we haven't been off on some amazing adventure, we've just been settling comfortably into everyday life here in Aberdeen.

Mike has joined the company's football (aka soccer) match every Wednesday after work, Steve returned to Scotland this past weekend so we're back to group dinners and happy hour ventures, and I've picked up a bit of freelance work as well as some part-time dog walking. I love it! The doggies are all the cutest things and, while they make me miss my own even more, it's nice to be around some furry creatures. I generally walk an hour to three in the mornings, depending on how many dogs I've got to take. It's always in serene wooded areas and trails, very relaxing. Here's a couple pictures of my dog walking ventures as well as my own pups at home, can't forget about them!!!!


We did make it out to the Highland Games in Braemar about two weekends ago. What an experience! Seeing grown men doing their best to launch giant wooden poles (cabers) or yank each other down during tug of war was, um... different. But they take the games very seriously and it's an incredibly popular event. I gotta hand it to the guys too, they're really tough--for instance, the weight that they toss over the bar high above their heads weighs 56 lbs! It falls so hard that sometimes it's difficult for even them to pull it out of the grass.

The queen also made an appearance just over half-way through the games. She wore a bright yellow hat and sat in her special "house," as Mike calls it, during the rest of the games. And part of her security team even wore kilts... I mean, it's not like the security guys in suits and ties were exactly blending in! I also enjoyed one of the best desserts EVER. Chocolate gateau with cream, fresh strawberries and chocolate sauce. Yum-o. Mike also tried a vension burger with carmelized onions.


Local and somewhat popular foods in Aberdeen appear to be fish and chips, salmon (it's delicious here), lamb, vension, animal kidneys and livers (yuck), chips (fries--they were served with my pizza at one restaurant), black pudding and haggis. We haven't tried the last two, and don't really intend to. But we are still cooking pretty often and get fresh fish weekly. Their produce and fruits are also really good, smaller in size than we usually see in the States, but still means fresh and healthy eating for us at home.

Our first Texas visitors arrive in about one month! My older brother, Jesse, and his wife, Leigh Ann.... we can't wait! It'll be the motivation I need to finally finish putting up ALL the clothes that we didn't yet fit into our tiny closet. We're planning a getaway of some sort for our three-year wedding anniversary next weekend, plus a trip to Paris in early December! That will be followed by a much anticipated visit from my mom and step-dad as well as one from a good friend of ours, who we hope will spend New Year's with us in Edinburgh. So I'll soon have exciting updates and pictures to share as we travel... If you're looking into a trip overseas in the forseeable future, check out this sight: luxurylink.com. It's got some great hotel packages all over the world, including the US, and is a fantastic way to find some incredible hotels, see photos, read reviews and more. You can bid on any package of your choosing, starting with the minimum bid required. All the packages include your stay plus a couple extras, like discounts to local attractions, dinner for two, breakfast every morning, etc. Bon voyage!


Everything in Moderation

Since we moved over here to Aberdeen, our life has consisted of some difficult choices. What new recipe to try for dinner, which store to buy our groceries from, what pub we'll meet at for beers, what beer to actually drink, which wine looks the best to buy, where to go for the weekend and so on. Yes, it's a rough life, indeed.

So we hopped on the bandwagon when we found out Peckham's (a fine food & wine chain store, peckhams.co.uk) was holding a free beer tasting at one of their Aberdeen locations. After wasting away the entire morning by sleeping in, making French toast for breakfast and watching a few episodes of our new obsessive series, 24, we headed out.

An hour and a half later, we were pretty toasted ourselves!

But it was really interesting to get the 411 behind some of the popular local labels, like Williams Bros. Brewing Co. (http://www.fraoch.com/williamsbros.htm). They've got a great beer called Scottish Lager that we really liked. We tilted a lot toward the lagers, actually, which are a bit lighter and smoother than the wheat beers and ales. We're so used to drinking Bud Light and that's not available anywhere here! Someone said they did try to bring it in at one point and it just wasn't very popular. But on occasion you'll find a store or a bar that offers Coors Light, something I might have to give in to from time to time.

We also discovered we like the Australian Crown lager and a couple of German beers, plus an interesting brew named Sheepshaggers Gold by Cairngorm Brewery in the Highlands of Scotland (cairngormbrewery.com). The descriptive label on the back of the bottle claimed it was "baa none!" Mike also developed another nickname for it, which I won't repeat on here.

BrewDog was heavily respresented at the tasting, a sort of new-age, punkish type beer brand. I didn't like their stuff as much, though they had a lager that wasn't bad. Most of their beers were much stronger than average, including an 18.2% beer, Tokyo. From BrewDog.com: "This imperial stout is brewed with copious amounts of speciality malts, jasmine and cranberries. After fermentation we then dry-hop this killer stout with a bucketload of our favourite hops before carefully ageing the beer on French toasted oak chips."

But we certainly left with a newfound set of tastebuds for the local brews and a need for more! Right across the street we went into Triple Kirks, which seemed to be the equivalent of a sports bar back home. We got two pints of Stella on draught and watched a bit of the soccer game that everyone there was severly into. After Terri met up with us, we headed down a few doors to Vodka Bar for some Fosters and fish and chips. The potato wedges were delicious!

Then we stopped into Revolution, a pretty nice place with lots of outdoor seating and a good drink menu.

One vodka tonic for me later, we skipped on over to Dusk, where we met up with our Peckhams buddy, Jamie, and some of his friends from the beer tasting. He's a nice kid in school at Aberdeen University here and came over to talk with us for a bit. Through him, I discovered another new drink, vodka and ginger beer. It's a non-acoholic mixer that Schweppes makes and is new for me anyway. I kinda like it!

We even found entertainment as the bartender mixed his orders, his production and presentation of all the drinks he made was astounding. Very detailed and well-done. It was almost worth the price of the cocktail just to watch him make it. One drink that seems popular here is Brazil's national cocktail, Caipirinhas. They're made with cacha├ža (similar to rum and made from sugarcane), sugar and lime. It's very close to a regular mojito, which they also serve here... frozen or on the rocks.

But don't be fooled, we're doing more here than drinking! I've been working on my cooking skills and picking out some new recipes to try. My latest was Guinness beef stew, which turned out ah-mazing. It called for parsnips--the white version of carrotts--which we discovered are bitter and not good. So no more parnsips, I picked them all out of the stew. I also made a nice appetizer plate of grapes, cheese, salad and herb and butter toast. Yum! Good eatin' and drinkin' here in Aberdeen.

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