10 Things You Need to Know!

Though we have roughly 9 more months to spend living in Aberdeen, I feel as though I've garned some worthwhile information that would be good to share with our friends and family who are plannings trips in the upcoming year, as well as with any other curious souls that might be reading this blog. Now remember, I'm no expert, all these tips come from personal experience or observation and certainly don't set the standard for everyone's visit to the UK as they are all different! Here goes...

1.) Because the UK is 6 hours ahead of the US, it seems best to arrive in Scotland mid-afternoon. This allows time for a short nap after arrival and a regular bedtime. It's the fastest way to overcome jet lag. Jesse and Leigh Ann did exactly this for their trip and were on our time schedule by the next day. When Mike and I arrived, it was late morning and we had the entire day in Scotland to face. We napped for 5 hours, a mistake, and spent days trying to adjust!

2.) Scotland -- and most of the UK, save for Ireland -- operates on the pounds currency (£), the GBP or United Kingdom Pound. It's best to have cash onhand when you arrive to easily pay for cab rides, snacks at the airport, tips, etc. This saves a lot of time and hassle. You can pull money from ATMs after arriving if preferred, there are some charges. It's best to pull a lump sum and use cash during your vacation in Scotland to avoid additional credit card fees. This turns out to be more convenient and easier to track, especially at the bars and pubs which don't allow credit card tabs.

3.) Don't overtip. Americans are known for their over-generosity when it comes to gratuity.  Some things don't even require a tip, depending on the situation. But when in doubt, tip a strict 10%. This goes for things like dining out and beauty treaments (masssages, manis/pedis, etc.). The servers in Scotland don't work for tips, they are paid stable salaries. Which brings me to my next point...

4.) Service is slow. The art and importance of customer service is a bit lost over here. Because, for instance, restaurant waiters and bartenders work on salaries, they're less inclined to deliver speedy and accurate service to your table. You must ask for the check as soon as you're ready for it, otherwise you could easily sit at your table for 20-30 min. waiting. If you want a drink refill, point it out. If you need ketchup, flag 'em down! Don't assume they'll recognize you're in need until you let them know. They also don't generally like going through the extra trouble of splitting checks, taking appetizer orders separately from the main meal, etc. but if you want something specific, go for it!

5.) The average cost per meal per person starts at £10-£12 and there's usually plenty to choose from. The UK is known for its variation on fish and chips, always always always a safe choice! They love chips here, which are French fries, and serve them with everything. Mike and I have ordered a baked potato and pizza and got fries with them! Talk about carb overload. Other worthwhile dishes include steak and Guinness pie, steak yorkies (similar to a Guinness pie, served in a round breaded bowl with mashed potatoes and veggies), Cullen Skink soup (a bisque-like soup with fresh fish), chili (it's not quite like the stuff at home, but still usually pretty good), a traditional Scottish breakfast (toast, tomatoes, fries, beans, eggs, sausage, etc.), chocolate and cookies (they're absolutely delicious) and most sandwiches. Their tuna or chicken sandwiches, though, usually come completely loaded down with mayo. They love the stuff here, in fact they love Heinz here! Everything like mayo and ketchup to vinegar and relish is Heinz brand. Food to shy away from: haggis (made of sheep's or calf's viscera minced with oatmeal and suet and onions and boiled in the animal's stomach), black pudding (a black sausage containing pig's blood and other ingredients), shrimp scampi (it's not like the usual stuff at home... unless it's indentified as 'whole' scampi, it'll be a creamy mush of small tails and shrimp pieces minced together and breaded).

6.) Extra words aren't necessary. As silly as this sounds, it's true. It must have something to do with the slight language barrier. For example, one of our first dinners out, Mike and I just wanted to start with waters. So I politely asked if we could have two glasses of water if it wasn't too much trouble. This managed to thoroughly confuse our waitress, who gave me a blank stare in return. We also figured out they will serve you a bottle of still water (which comes with a charge) unless you indicate you want tap water. So now when we order it, it comes out "Tap water, please." And we've never been misunderstood since!

7.) Walking shoes are your friend. If you're struggling to pack light for a trip across the pond, do a quick recap of your shoe inventory. If you have any shoes in your suitcase that make you wonder for even a second how long they'll be comfortable before they start giving you blisters, take them out! Hiking around town on foot is a requirement. The car we have is super small and doesn't allow for many passengers to begin with, plus there's rarely places to park and a zero drinking and driving tolerance. It usually ends up being much easier to hoof it to your destination, rain or shine, then driving. Thus the need for extremely durable and comfortable shoes. It's also good to have a pair or two of shoes that will withstand the rain and keep your feet dry for the more unpleasant days...

8.) Speaking of rain, there's a lot of it here! Especially in the winter months. If you are planning to bring a jacket or purse or shoes that can't withstand getting wet, leave it at home. Not to say that you should only bring bright yellow rain coats, just not things that would be ruined by water. If you're staying in the UK for several weeks or more, it might not be a bad idea to pack a little vitamin D or special things like coconut-scented lotion or bronzer or something. Just a pick-me-up for dreary days when you crave sunshine! It's also a good to bring a weather-proof rain coat with a hood. The wind is ridiculously strong and there's a lot of days when an umbrella doesn't do a lick of good, the wind blows it inside out as soon as you get out the door.

9.) The winter is COLD. Bundle up, scarves and boots are in here! Most of the girls my age wear tights and flats or tights and boots every single day. Wraps, scarves, cardigans (cardis), leggings... dress comfy and cozy! As much as it pains me to say, layers are a good thing here.

10.) Don't bother packing a hair dryer. As most of you well know, adapters are needed to accomodate US appliances but they still won't all work. The hertz for a blow dryer is much to powerful for the sockets in the UK and will blow the fuse if attempted. (I tried this in London and blew out the entire hotel my mom and I were staying at! The little man at the front desk was amiss when his computer went down.) I have a blow dryer and Chi straightner available at our flat for those coming to visit, so free up a little room in your suitcase for all the great finds you'll get while shopping over here! Guys shavers, iPod chargers, laptop plugs and battery-operated items are all okay.

Hope this helps!


Now I Remember...

Why I don't ever eat Mickey D's very often! Not sure if it's in the States as well, but they've got a new Chicken Legend sandwich and potato wedges here that look really appealing on the menu. I tried one yesterday before grabbing some groceries at Asda. By 4pm that afternoon, I was sure I had some sort of food poisoning, yuck! I felt pretty terrible the rest of the day and was able to sleep on and off through the night. Feeling somewhat better today but still a little "iffy" now and then. The potato wedges were too delicious to have been the culprit, but I'm thinking that sandwich meat or the "salsa" it was smothered with might be to blame...

I must also announce that the wind, the rain and the cold are officially here. We've experienced top notch weather since arriving in August, with only the occasional bad weather day. And most of the time, the rain goes away after a few hours at most. But today, all day, it's been raining, gray, overcast and gusty. I saw several people's umbrellas get whipped inside out by the unforgiving wind, and at one point thought one lady was going to turn into Mary Poppins and be carried up and away! She couldn't have been bigger than a twig and light as a feather.

So it was no surprise that I was soaked once I finished my dog walk this morning, but the dogs never seem to mind the water. They always look at me incredously when I clean them off with a towel as if to imply they'd like to stay that way, thank you very much! I invested in a simple pair of galoshes a few weeks ago and they've turned out to be one of my best purchases. I can handle a wet rain coat and soaked jeans, but not wet cold feet!

Now that I'm feeling better, I'll tackle a homecooked meal tonight... and hope the food poisoning doesn't continue to follow me much longer. We certainly cook a great deal ourselves, for one it fits into our budget better. The cost of living here is so much more expensive (everything in pounds is roughly 1.5 times more expensive in US dollars... ie £5 equals $8), and going from two incomes to one isn't always forgiving. In fact, I've been cooking so much I should probably post a recipe on here every now and then. I make up dinners all the time, especially depending on what I've got in stock. At the end of Jesse and Leigh Ann's stay, I was nervous about what to cook since all I had in the way of dinner was rice, beans, salsa, chips and a can of corn. I combined a package of brown rice, a can of black beans and red kidney beans, a can of rotel, 1/2 cup of salsa, few dashes of hot sauce, can of corn, 1 cup leftover cooked ground beef and let it simmer in a pot for about 20 minutes. I poured the mixture over bowls lined with tortilla chips and topped it off with a little bit of leftover queso. Delicious! I love anything spicy or Mexican-inspired, which is exactly what the meal turned out to be. Everything over here is so bland, you begin simply craving "taste." When I discovered that Asda carried my favorite hot sauce, Cholula, I went overboard the first time I cooked with it. The food was so spicy, my mouth looked like I'd applied a rosy lipstick and had collagen injections!

Mike has his weekly soccer (I mean, football) game tonight after work. Fortunate for him, they play indoors so he doesn't have to deal with a muddy field. Unfortunate for me, there's no indoor seating so going to watch the games isn't an option. I haven't been able to witness the many goals he's scored, but by the sound of it, he's becoming pretty good with his feet!


Country & Castles

Today was the perfect opportunity to visit the country and castles, it was gorgeous weather! Not a drop of rain all day. We slept in then started off with a late lunch in Banchory at a cute little restaurant inside the local inn, The Douglas Arms. Jesse tried his first steak and ale pie on this trip (he's had them many times before in England) and an Orkney Red ale, a brew he'd been searching for since he arrived in Aberdeen. Banchory is a quaint, small town--probably established in the late 1700s--and consists of one main street surrounded by quiet homes and apartments. It's absolutely beautiful because it's in the middle of the country and simple with a few main stores, restaurants and gift shops in its town center. Lovely, like the Scots say!

Then we headed over to Crathes Castle. From Wikipedia: "Crathes Castle is a 16th century castle near Banchory in the Aberdeenshire region of Scotland. This harled castle was built by the Burnetts of Leys and was held in that family for almost 400 years. The castle and grounds are presently owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland and are open to the public. Crathes sits on land given as a gift to the Burnett of Leys family by King Robert the Bruce in 1323. In the 14th and 15th century the Burnett of Leys built a fortress of timbers on an island they made in the middle of a nearby bog. This method of fortiification, known as a crannog, was common in the Late Middle Ages. Construction of the current tower house of Crathes Castle was begun in 1553 but delayed several times during its construction due to political problems during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots. It was completed in 1596 by Alexander Burnett of Leys, and an additional wing added in 18th century. Alexander Burnett, who completed the construction of Crathes, began a new project, the early 17th century reconstruction of nearby Muchalls Castle. That endeavour was completed by his son, Sir Thomas Burnett. Crathes Castle served as the ancestral seat of the Burnetts of Leys until gifted to the National Trust for Scotland by the 13th Baronet of Leys, Sir James Burnett in 1951. A fire damaged portions of the castle (in particular the Queen Anne wing) in 1966. Another historically important structure in this region linked to the Burnett of Leys family is Monboddo House."

It wasn't quite as visually impressive as I was hoping for, apparently not all castles are grand and scheming and boast of visits by William Wallace! Some are more like estates, and this one was refurbished in what seemed to be a very Victorian style. But the weather has been so pretty the past few days that the pictures came out crystal clear with gorgeous blue skies. There was about four acres of walled gardens, manicured and colorful with fresh blooms and loads of fall foliage. It's everywhere here! The leaves started changing drastically in the past two weeks and it's so beautiful right now. I just hope the winter doesn't seem too bare and dreary after all this vibrant color and lush green.

After seeing enough of the gardens and grounds, we drove the short 15 or so miles to Stonehaven to show Jesse and Leigh Ann our favorite castle, Dunnottar castle. It's so picturesque, on it's own cliff of an island surrounded by crested white waves, deep blue ocean and rolling hills. We already had a ton of pictures but I had to post this one, the simple black and white makes it look so regal.


Here's the harbour at Stonehaven, it reminds me of New England...

Now we're back at the flat and just enjoyed some queso and a little football. The Guinness stew is nearly done and smells delicious! We've eaten several meals by candlelight in the flat, enjoying a very relaxed and casual schedule. I think Jesse and Leigh Ann have enjoyed the peace and quite and a break from their three precious (and energetic) kiddos!

The weather is still getting colder and it's getting dark much earlier now. Mike and I both feel like it should be Christmas soon, we've started seeing a few Christmas decorations out, which makes me all excited. I brought some of our Texas Christmas ornaments to hang on a small tree for our flat and plan to make a Christmas wreath as well once all the decor is out for sale. We'll be celebrating both Thanksgiving and Christmas in our Aberdeen flat this year! Luckily, my mom is mailing me canned green beans and French's French Fried Onions so I can make green bean casserole and we found stuffing at Asda a few weeks ago. Plus, we still have Halloween to experience here... not sure yet if we'll dress up or not, although quite a few of the bars seem to be hosting special costumed events for the holiday so I'm sure we'll partake somewhere.

For now, we're soaking up our time with my brother and his wife. Tomorrow we'll go to a nearby church then lunch on Union Street and check out the William Wallace statue, theatre, a little more shopping, etc. Their trip will end all too soon, it's been so nice to have guests!


Good for the Soul

Hello blog readers! So we've been having a great time with Jesse and Leigh Ann in town... They've loved being able to relax child-free; we've loved having family here. We've enjoyed homecooked dinners and wine by candlelight, delicious chocolates, loads of shopping, a bit of sight seeing by car (more of that this weekend), more shopping, new beers and new foods. They've also done a couple of my dog walks with me, which was great to have the company and show them some of the gorgeous scenery. Here's some pictures of the foliage and fall leaves:

Right now, as I type, we're holding our own beer tasting at the house. Jesse and I both picked out some beers reccomended to us along the way...

Yesterday we spent several hours on Union Street, we are all completely addicted to Primark (pronounced Pry-Mark), primark.co.uk. The prices are amazing and the clothes are so cute! Jesse got a whole new outfit for £16. Leigh Ann and I also browsed at H&M, trying on hats and scarves. It was great weather to be out and about, it had been raining and cloudy since they arrived. We bundled up in jackets and scarves to keep warm and decided after our miles of walking and shopping that we'd stop at the Filling Station for dinner, yummy! I got a calzone absolutely stuffed with chicken, cheese, pepperoni and sauce.


Today, after Jesse went on my morning dog walks with me, we hit the beach. It was soooo cold because the wind was really blowing, but we manned up long enough to get a couple great pictures by the water.

Then we headed inside a little beachside cafe for some hot drinks--coffee for Jesse, hot chocolate for Leigh Ann and a tea latte for me (Mike's a dedicated water drinker). It was a really cute place and we enjoyed warming up and talking for awhile before we hit up the ARCADE! J & LA tried their hand at some mini-bowling while Mike and I did some racing and shoot 'em up action. Then we had a big air hockey tournament! So much fun.

I got some great news today! I am no longer "redundant" and have a new job!!!! I am the new marketing coordinator for H Marketing... it's a part-time position with flexible hours, great work and just a few blocks from my flat. I couldn't be more excited! So to celebrate, we went for dinner and drinks at Soul, one of our absolute favorite places in Aberdeen. It was the best food to date I've had here, it's been hard to find honest-to-good food on a consistent basis but Soul delivered.

Leigh Ann's been reading our "Welcome to Scotland" packet provided by Mike's company. She'd like to share some of the American-to-British translation with y'all:








Tomorrow we're headed to Crathes castle and to see some of the country scenery, and I'm due up to make my now-famous Guinness Stew. We couldn't be happier to have J & LA with us, and they're enjoying every minute. More updates to come later, cheers!


We have VISITORS!!

Nothing beats having family fly all the way from good ole Texas to Aberdeen, Scotland for a visit!!! My older brother,  Jesse, and his wife, Leigh Ann, arrived just over an hour ago and we are so happy they're here!! They flew first class (my brother works for American) and showed me the menus they ate from... marinated cheese antipasto starter, salad cart, bread basket, beef fillet with red wine onion sauce, rosemary garlic shrimp. Tough flying, right? Plus, they literally got "breakfast in bed" thanks to the super-sized cubicle-like seats that fully reclined.


They are taking short naps (you can't oversleep when you get here, or you'll be off schedule for days with the six-hour jump forward) and then we're headed to dinner! Ferryhill House Hotel (http://www.ferryhillhousehotel.co.uk/) has become my new favorite place to eat and drink. Firstly, their food is really really good. I've written about their Cullen Skink soup but they've also got an amaaaaazing fig and goat cheese bruschetta that'll just knock your socks off. And the bar area looks exactly like a Scottish restaurant should: warm and cozy with tartan colors and worn wooden tables and chairs. Thirdly, they serve McEwans on draught, which we love, and their wine is just as good as any. Fourthly, their cheesecake is heaven. The end. I'll take some photos at dinner tonight to post later so you all can get a look at the place. Can you tell I'm excited about eating there?!


We've got lots of fun things and eats and drinks planned for the week. I will do some homecooking like salmon and guinness stew (a winning recipe with folks thus far), take them on tours of Union Street and all the local shops and pubs, tour Crathes castle over the weekend and explore Aberdeen in general. We've been here long enough to nose our way around town, so it'll be exciting to show it all to someone new! Not sure how that'll feel after the 2385734583975489 visitor, but it'll do for now. :)

Jesse was also kind enough to bring me ping pong balls from home. They do. not. have. ping pong balls here. I just don't understand why... Don't they know how much fun beer pong is!?!? We've been jonesing to play and Steve's kitchen table offers the perfect setup. We actually went over one night with the intention of playing only to realize no one had a ping pong ball. We scoured every store we could think of but no luck. They're either in hiding or the Scots are missing out on one of the greatest drinking games ever! (Or Steve guessed the ping pong balls are illegal here.)

We spent a night at Soul a few weeks ago playing Quarters with our group. They'd never heard of it... you bounce a quarter off the table into a glass of beer. If you make it, you designate who drinks the beer. Except that here, we have to call it Ten Pence since that's the closest thing to an American quarter we've got. Thankfully we're used to the beers here, so the next day wasn't as painful as it would have been two months ago. Come to think of it, perhaps the overall need for drinking games doesn't exist in Scotland. Most of the fellows we've met have been imbibing since the age of, gasp, 13. And the legal drinking age is 18, which turns out to not be quite as big of a celebration as your 21st in the US. And now the goverment has passed the law prohibiting alcoholic promotions of any kind--which means no happy hours, no alcohol ads and no promos. They're supposedly also working on yet another law of raising the price of alcohol. What about just raising the legal age to drink?

I must sign off for now, there's so much to do and talk about with my brother! I will post updates as often as possible this week, expect plenty of smiling faces!!


Go Aggies!!!

Just a quick post to let everyone know what a wonderful day it is in Aberdeen... we've got AMERICAN FOOTBALL!!!! Steve got his slingbox set up so we're able to tune in and record games from back in the States. (A day game in the US equals a late-night game for us.) We just finished our huge boxes of fish and chips and the guys are happily drinking their beers on the couch as they clicked on the game. Mike even wore his A&M t-shirt and hat today in support of the Ags, which got a rile out of two drunks standing outside a local sports bar on our way over here. This is real football, not rugby.... so take that, Scots!


Ale for an Ale

Earlier this week I met Terri for dinner at Pizza Express--it's a great place for, well, pizza. It's not a fast food restaurant, though, like the name suggests. They have all types of delicious salads, pizzas and pastas and appetizers like dough balls... hot garlic-flavoured balls of baked dough served with soft butter. We topped those off with a fresh pizza and glass of red wine, yum!

After dinner, Terri and I bounced around to a few places--as is the custom that comes with living here and walking everywhere you go--and ended up at McGinty's Ale. The pub with the pig on the front.

It always amazes me how most of these places start out with a very small or narrow entry, one of many in a string of shop doors outlined in gray granite, leading you to believe it's a small establishment. But once you're in, a lot of them are much more spacious than you'd first imagined. The buildings seem to grow once you're inside, with so much space behind that simple granite fa├žade, and often house additional space underground. (Though I do have a claustrophobic paranoia when it comes to spending too much time in a space below ground and with no windows.)

Now I know a lot of people feel like all we've been doing is frequenting the bars and drinking too much, but, like the food, it's a huge part of the culture here. Needless to say, Terri and I got a bit of a beer education at McGinty's and sampled the pub's house ale they brew in Perth (Scotland, not Australia). It was nasty and bitter, the bartender admitted he hated the stuff. He said the barrels are given great attention though, they're uncorked and left to stand for 24 hours, then tapped and stand for four more hours before being served. The tap goes all the way to the bottom of the barrel and any time someone orders a glass, the bartender has to hand-pump the beer. The hand pumps are pretty common in Scotland, you usually see at least one or two at the local bars.

After deciding the homegrown ale wasn't worth finishing, Terri and I ordered a McEwans. This has become one of my favorite beers, it's a lighter ale with a really smooth finish. And it's not too heavy so you can have two or four and it still tastes good. But every time I've ordered it at a beer (and not all the bars have it on tap), I get a funny look. It happened again at McGinty's so I asked the bartender if it was just a crappy beer and no one drank it. He said it was a very nice beer but that you don't normally see women drinking pints. And you don't normally ever see women drinking pints of McEwans! He compared it to being an "old man's beer," like a guy that's drank Pearl or Natty Light all his life. I take a bit of pride in relishing an acquired beer. And besides, I like the jolly-looking pirate fellow on it.

Life here is good, the weather is still getting colder and the wind is really picking up. It'll be worse when it rains and the water is driven in horizontal sheets on the gusty breezes that kick up every day. I'm still dog walking in the mornings and having a great time. This week I've gone on some trails in a very wooded area, lots of soft pine needles blanketing the ground and rays of sun glinting off of mossy covered stones and tree trunks.

I went on a really great interview a few days ago and the job seems perfect, and I should hear something by next week. I won't go into more detail in hopes of not jinxing anything! Hopefully I'll land something part-time and keep up the freelance writing and dog walking as I can. Mike's job is going great as well, he really enjoys the group he works with and just spent this evening helping one of the guys move into his new flat. We are blessed to have come in contact with such friendly and welcoming Scotsmen and ladies!


King of the Castle

We literally just got back from an afternoon trip to Stonehaven where the main highlight was finally getting to see a castle!! First we stopped in the actual town center for lunch, we found a restaurant right on the harbour... The Captain's Table. I had stuffed peppers and a glass of cab and Mike got Cullen Skink soup and a shrimp cocktail. No, the Cullen Skink isn't made from skunk! It's a bisque-like soup made with haddock (fish), potatoes, onions and double cream. Really delicious if you get it at the right place.

After lunch we hit up the castle. Amazing!

For some reason I'm sort of obsessed with the legend of William Wallace (I'm sure it has everything to do with Mel Gibson in Braveheart), but it was really neat to find out he's been to Dunnottar castle on several occasions. Most notably, ahem, burning down a chapel. From the website (dunnottarcastle.co.uk):

In the 12th Century Dunnottar Castle became a Catholic settlement with the first stone chapel being consecrated in 1276. According to "Blind Harry", a 15th Century poet, whose epic poem was an inspiration for the 1996 film "Braveheart", William Wallace set fire to this chapel with a garrison of English soldiers taking refuge inside. The current chapel was built in the 16th Century.

Parts of the castle seemed to have held up really well, being more than a thousand years old and all. It's impressive to think there are people who so diligently study this type of history that when a discovery such as this castle is made, they can identify it and label specific things like where the bread oven was located, the main suite, the dining room, etc.

It was even more of an experience when you actually try to imagine what it looked like so long ago... armored horses and their riders galloping down the hill to the castle, where everyone was dressed like they worked at Medieval Times and drank wine from copper cups and kept cannons at the ready for imminent attacks.

In fact, the castle is also well known for it's part in protecting the Crown Jewels. Also from the website:
In 1649 Charles I, King of both England and Scotland was executed by Oliver Cromwell, the self-proclaimed Lord Protector. In 1650, his young son Charles II arrived in North East Scotland, and stayed a night in Dunnottar on his journey south to give battle for his fathers' two kingdoms.

In England, on hearing of the young Kings arrival, Oliver Cromwell was so enraged that he ordered the invasion of Scotland. In some haste Charles II was crowned at Scone, but the "Honours of Scotland", the crown and other regalia, could not be returned to Edinburgh Castle, as it had been taken by Cromwell's army. Having already destroyed the English crown jewels, the Honours of Scotland were the most potent icon of monarchy, and as such were next on Cromwell's list. Cromwell's army was fast approaching, so Charles II ordered the Earl Marischal to take the Honours to Dunnottar and secure them there.

It was not long before Dunnottar was under siege, and a scratch, aged garrison of seventy men held out for eight months against the invading might of Cromwell's army until heavy cannons arrived. Following ten days of heavy fire, surrender was made. This was not however before the Honours of Scotland were smuggled out of the Castle and taken to Kinneff Church, where they were buried in the Church. They remained there undiscovered for eleven years, until the King returned to the throne and the Honours were returned to Edinburgh Castle.

The wind has really picked up today and we just about blew over during most of the self-guided tour. I've never had more sand in my hair for a day of NOT being directly on the beach!


Fall is here!

Just a quick update in between cleaning up the flat and doing laundry. I still impress myself that I've figured out how to use a foreign washing machine and oven! Anyway, the weather here has turned colder seemingly overnight. Jackets are now required. We've enjoyed so much sun the past couple weeks, it's really spoiled us. With the colder weather comes cloudy, gray skies and drizzling rain. I keep a small umbrella in my purse and finally bought some galoshes a few days ago!

Mike and I just celebrated the official date of our third wedding anniversary, Sept. 30. I can't believe it's already been three years! Time flies when you're having fun. We've been together much longer, but just in those three years of marriage, we've already shared so much. Plenty of trips, our first house, our dogs, moving, new jobs, new cars, new friends, old friends--I love every day with my husband! Mike is truly a stand-up guy, full of character, wisdom and strength and quality family values. I am so blessed to have found such an amazing man and more blessed that we make such a great team. And ever since we embarked on our Scottish adventure, we've only become closer. We are best friends as well as husband and wife and there's no one else I'd rather be sharing this experience with. (But we can't wait for the rest of our friends and family to come join us!)

When I went to the post office today to mail some letters and post cards, I realized we've officially "settled" in here. It's still odd sometimes to suddenly remember exactly where we are--in a strange country--and that we're actually living in Scotland! I would never have guessed this is where we'd be for 2009-2010 in a million years.

I'm still staying busy doing dog walking in the mornings. It's so great to see all the cute puppies and go hiking and walking in such pretty places. I'm also filling my time with a little freelance writing and keeping my eye out for any other part-time jobs I might enjoy. There's a lot of city recreation centers with indoor pools and since swimming is such a big part of my background, I might get into teaching lessons later. And I'm still acting as "travel coordinator" for friends and family that want to come visit. If there's anything specific someone wants to do, let me know and I'll work it into the itinerary! Mike and I booked a trip to Paris in December and Edinburgh for New Years and might throw in a weekend pass to Prague in November. I personally can't wait until our trip to Italy... I'm thinking a one-week getaway filled with breathtaking moments spent at places like the Coliseum in Rome and romantic evenings with wine in a cozy candle lit restaurant near our hotel. The opportunities are endless!
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