Friday, November 30, 2012

New car and Victoria Park

Short post this time. Today we finally got our car. It's a 2011 Honda Civic ES. It gets AWESOME gas mileage, about 42 miles/gal. It's a manual, 6 speed, 5 door, with a double sunroof (covers front and back seats).

More later. :o)

I took Frog for a walk today, and then I took Angel. I got a few pictures at Victoria park. It's a really nice park. At least, I like it.

It was cold today so everything was covered in frost. It was really pretty. Everything sparkled!

On the way home the sun was setting, and the clouds were creeping into the city. It takes a while to walk 2 dogs a decent distance separately!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Healthcare, driving without insurance, and can you find Sushi in Scotland?

Healthcare. How do you get started? Well, you need two forms of ID and documentation showing that you are a resident. A TV license or utility bill will do the job. You need to check the GP's (General Practitioner) website to make sure you live in the area they cover. Then, you need to go to their office with your documents to register. They will then set up an appointment for you.

Car insurance. Geico does, in fact, have an overseas program. Look into that. In Scotland, if you are caught driving without insurance, it's not pretty:

You should have insurance set up either before you go to the lot to sign papers on your car, knowing that you are buying it and have an appointment to do so. OR make time at the dealership to set it up. You cannot purchase a new car or a used car without a tax disc included if you do not already have the insurance purchased. You must have insurance and provide proof. In some cases, you can get 7-day free insurance coverage, but for only 1 driver. I highly recommend calling several places ahead of time to get estimates. Also, think about if you want a monthly plan or to pay for one year in one payment. The "one payment" is cheaper by about £300-£400. However, you are locked into that policy for the year. If you pay monthly, you lose the discount received by paying it all at once, and there is an interest fee. Just some things to think about.

Sushi in Aberdeen

Tonight we went to Yorokobi for sushi. It's a bit pricey but they have great food and decent saki. Make a reservation ahead of time. If you are going with a large group, definitely call a day or so in advance and provide your order for food. It makes things easier. That's just how things are here. :)

Sorry, I was hungry and ate a couple. :o) This dish was about £11.50 and came with miso soup.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Weather in Aberdeen and a bit about doorknobs and dryers

“A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;...”
William Shakespeare; Romeo and Juliet
The end of life's journey was honored for two wonderful people today. I'd just like to have a space here that acknowledges the sadness their family and friends feel for their loss, and how I feel for them all.  And just like the weather, these feelings will not last forever. The sun will rise again, and your joy will come with it.

Today started beautifully. I walked to the AWA New Members' coffee break. It was a nice walk on the way and nice company there.

Notice the date on the building. :o)

We tried to go to lunch at Prego, but it was packed. You need to make reservations for small places, even for lunch. FYI. We went to Dizzy's instead. It wasn't too bad. Not my favorite... like pub grub, but not too bad.

The day turned dark quickly as you can see in the first picture posted. The clouds rolled in fast! The rain came, and tonight it's supposed to freeze. 
The stuff they put on the streets when it's icy is a mixture of salt and sand. They call it "grit" as I've been told.

Just for Fun:

I'd like to post a picture of the doors inside of my house. As I've mentioned, every room is closed off by a door. I personally like this because it helps to regulate the temperature in the rooms, which have individual radiators, AND it allows me to control where my dogs may roam. I started thinking about people with kids though. Works the same way I bet while they are small. Except in my house, I find it odd that kids would not be able to get into the bathroom, but could easily reach the knob that goes outside. Seems backwards to me.

That Santa decoration is hanging from the very low doorknob on the door that goes outside. All of the others are chest-high on me. I am 5'4". haha

I thought it might be interesting for those of you how haven't seen one, to see how these condenser dryers work. I took a picture of me pulling out the container of water that you have to empty after each load. You know you were wondering... Don't worry. I'm here the next couple of years for all your small town entertainment.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dreaming and Driving

This morning was crazy. I must have been really tired because I was having dreams that I was in battles and the enemy was trying to wake me so that they could win. I was caught by silver strands that shot through various places in my body as some dark shape was yelling at me to wake up and get out. I thought I was awake at one point. I could hear Steve talking to me, but I couldn't see him. I thought maybe he was in the bathroom getting ready for work. Then I realized that he was somewhere else, and my consciousness was pulled toward him, back into the dream. Suits of armor were coming to life. Creatures were climbing up walls. There were swords, spears, and some other weapons that would hook you upon contact and then shoot out a line to the person who threw it so that they could pull you toward them. I guess it's this Lord of the Ring book that is giving me some interesting nights! Steve says I should use the dreams to write novels like Stephen King's books. Perhaps. I'm not sure that I'd know how to put it into words or into a good complete story.

Moving on. I finally unpacked the Christmas decorations, but I still need to get a tree. Out of the two CD's I found in my Christmas boxes, one was "Celtic Christmas." How fun is that? I played it while I decorated. I designed my Christmas town European style. Notice how the houses are all crammed in with seemingly no order.

I love Charlie Brown!

I took Frog to the park today. It was a dreary, rainy day, but getting out helps regardless. :o)

I found a butcher shop today. Maybe I'll find some time tomorrow to stop in and get some things. It's on Rosemount St. The beef at Sainsbury's isn't so great. It's pretty flavorless and "spongy"...I don't like spongy. There is a Costco here. I've been told they have pretty good meats.

I'm finally figuring out roundabouts. Here it goes. Pay attention now. If you pull up and want to take the third exit (because you can't just turn right, you have to go all the way around), you put on your right blinker, but you go left around the circle on the inside lane. Put on your left blinker just before your turn and whip off in that direction... carefully of course. If you want to go left, put on your left blinker and stay in the outer circle lane. It's about the same if you want to go straight, although some roundabouts tell you to get in the right lane and go in the middle lane to go straight. Some roundabouts are 1 lane, some have 2 lanes going about the circle, and some have three!

There aren't many stop signs here. Just about everything is a "Give Way", and if you are supposed to stop there will be a solid painted line instead of a dashed line across your lane. This means give way.

More Aberdeen grocery shopping and Tasha's creamy chicken

Today they have some construction going on across the street. It was very loud, and people were in the position to constantly look in my windows. I kept my blinds shut all day which meant less natural light, and we already see very little as it is.
Anyway, I had a new friend come over today. We exercised together. It was great! Then I drove to Argos to pick up some things (I finally bought a hand mixer!), and to Sainsbury's to get ingredients for the creamy chicken recipe my friend Tasha sent me. I figure, well, I'm here, I might as well start finding new recipes in which I know that I can find the ingredients! One ingredient for her recipe was double cream. It's what Americans call "heavy whipping cream." I took a picture because Randi was asking me what it was as well. Simple things people.. simple things.

Here are just a couple of other pictures of products that differ from US names. Just for kicks.

I just found this to be amusing. I'm assuming it means the meat from a turkey's leg.. hehe
 The grocery "trolleys" are incredibly hard to turn. All 4 wheels turn... so it's like your trolley is "drifting" as you try to turn down an aisle! LOL. Lots of people here bring their own grocery bags. I really like that. Food comes from random places that are fun to look up. For example, my grapes were grown in Greece. The tomatoes came from Italy. The mushrooms were grown in Scotland.

When I got home, I took Angel for another run. She really loves running here! As soon as I picked up the harness, she jumped straight into the air. I love it!

Here are the pictures from Tasha's recipe. I hope I did it justice. It was fantastic. I'll let her post the recipe if she wants since she gave it to me. :)  Loved it!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Must-see Parade, Fish and Chips, and other tidbits

Well, have I got some goodies for you. Today we went to the Christmas Lights Switch On Parade. It was fun! It's not very crowded, and it only lasts about 30 minutes so you don't have to worry about being cold for long. I recommend going if you are ever here around this time. You can find more information on the Winter Festival website, which gives a full list of events! Just download the guide for events and dates. Here are some pictures and video from the parade:

Steve waiting for it to begin
Drummers with lights!
Yay bagpipes!

Me at the parade!

It's Santa! I saw him first!

Steve and I

After the parade, we walked to the Fish and Chips Co. We walked up to a counter, told them we wanted the small haddock supper, and paid 10.50 for it! She threw the fish on top of the chips and smothered it in vinegar and salt. Oh man... so bad but it was so yummy! We rushed home to eat it! Fabulous. You know you want to go here when you visit. Take a look at this:

To-go wrap. :o)

Oh yeah.. it was great.
 So far everything is going pretty well. I'm getting better at driving each day. We've found a car that we like and may buy. It's a Honda Civic ES hatchback. I need to keep reading the diving manual each day and start lessons. They have different tests depending on if you want to drive a manual or automatic. I hear they are both difficult.

I'm learning to cook new things, because what I normally cook isn't always easy to find. A friend I have here in the UK is giving me some recipes that I can't wait to try!

We got to watch the A&M vs. Missouri game. Well, we watched until halftime because by then it was 2:00 AM!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Games, Air shipment goodies, and what I wish I'd packed

Today I learned how to play Mahjong. It's really great! You should learn. I even won a round. This may not make sense to you, but it's proof that I won a round... for real.

When I got home, I cleaned, did some laundry, took Frog for a walk, and then took Angel for a run to Steve's office to pick him up. We all walked home together. It was nice. I like this.

I unpacked our air shipment today. Oh such yummy things that I forgot I packed. HEB stuff... I already miss HEB, but that's probably in part because it was familiar. So many things had "Texas" or Texas-related things written on them. I felt a little bit of homesickness with that. On another note, guess who's having chili this weekend?? Anybody want to come? You make the cornbread. :o)  Seriously.

Here is what we packed:

  •  iMac
  • Shoes
  • Clothes
  • Jackets
  • 1 good pillow each
  • Dog treats
  • Some seasonings, sauces, spices, coffee, popcorn, fiber 1 bars, pasta, and rice
  • Christmas decorations (just b/c it's so close, and I didn't want to miss out)
  • XBox, controllers, and a few games

 I wish I had packed the following:

  • At least 1 blanket
  • A few movies
  • A few kitchen utensils and mixing bowls
  • Adapters
  • Another transformer for the XBox

Dinner tonight was a pre-made dish. Sainsbury's makes some pretty good stuff. Chicken, potatoes, and other veggies topped off with a nice glass of wine. Yum! I love the freshness of stuff here!
This is how it came. I just pulled off the lid. mmmmmm

I killed my XBox

I did. I killed it. We got our air shipment, and I was so excited to play. I plugged it in just like our laptops. It didn't occur to me that it could need a different output voltage. It didn't come on. I told Steve, "Hey, it's not coming on." He paused, then stared at me and said, "Turn it off right now." He checked some other things plugged into living room walls, and they were not working. I'd tripped the breaker and killed my XBox power source. At least I hope it's just the power source. Tragic day. Now I have to buy a new power source. Doh!

Steve walked to work today. He said he had to walk at a slant because of the wind. I could hear it moving between the houses. It sounded like a plane coming, and then the windows would shake as it hit the house! They get strong winds here.

So I made my cakes today. I again forgot to buy a mixer so it took FOREVER! I had to mix everything with a fork in a roasting pot (no mixing bowls). By the time it all finished, 2 hours had passed. We were 1 hr and 20 minutes late to the pot luck. We still got to meet lots of great people. Everybody was so nice!

Tonight I took the dogs running. I took Frog first. He has to learn his place in the world before I can walk both of them together again. I don't know if he's being territorial or is afraid. I'll keep walking them separately until I can figure him out. When I took Frog for his jog, he barked at every dog. When I took Angel, a man was right outside our door walking his lab. She waited for me and calmly walked up to sniff the dog. No problems. The Scottish guy said he'd spent some time in Bryan, Texas for firefighter training. Pretty cool. He also said that Angel had a "real smart sweater." He asked if I knitted it. I told me "No, Martha Stewart did." :)  I know dog clothes are silly sometimes, but I don't do it to dress them up. They came from Texas. They have no winter coat. They go outside and shiver. In hindsight, I wish I'd spent a bit more time chatting with him. It's good to get to know your neighbors, and I didn't really try. Americans are always in such a hurry. I need to train myself out of that. I don't feel like it is as much that way here.

Angel and I in our warm stuff out for a run.
Angel ran about 1.5 miles with me tonight then did some sprints up and down the hill by our house. Finally wore that dog down! YEEEESSSS. Calm rest of the night for me!

As for Frog, he was ready to snuggle with Steve on the couch. He couldn't jump up, and wasn't allowed up, so he stayed like this:

The dogs are both passed out snoring now. I wish I could run with them more, but I seem to have a pulled muscle in my leg that never heals. :(

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Adventures in grocery shopping in Scotland and more reasons why I don't bake

This morning was nice. I woke up knowing that there wasn't some engineer or other service crew coming to my house at an unknown time. It was a pretty nice day too.

View from our bedroom window
I've been reading The Lord of the Rings every day while I eat breakfast (and before bed). It's a nice morning routine. Great book! I got to sleep in a bit today because Steve decided to walk to work. I know what you are thinking. "You don't have a job. You sleep in every day." No, I don't. I get up when he does and take him to work. When I get home, I eat breakfast and start my "to do" list for the day. I very rarely even take naps; usually I only take them if I have a headache or just didn't sleep well. I'm still not used to some of the noises in the house.

Tomorrow is the Thanksgiving Potluck with all the AWA and their families. I went to Sainsbury's for groceries. I was there for TWO HOURS. You just don't realize how much you rely on knowing what things look like instead of reading the labels until things don't look the same anymore. For example, what do you think of when you hear powdered sugar? I think of the clear, plastic bag that says "Powdered Sugar" on it. Nope. This is what it is here.

I'm not a baker, so I already have limited knowledge of these packages. It took me so long to find everything! Cocoa. Oh my goodness, cocoa. It was in a section labeled "Drinking Chocolate." :o)  I found one container of cocoa; the rest were hot chocolate mixes....drinking chocolate. Baking soda is "Bicarbonate of soda," and breakfast sausage comes as links mostly, but in oh so many yummy looking flavors. I also learned that they don't have crescent rolls in a can. At least they don't sell them at Sainsbury's anymore, so I was directed to rolls of dough. Hmmm.

It's paper thin sheets of dough, but it doesn't give you that fluffiness that you get with crescent rolls from a can. It just bakes to a crisp, flaky crust like you would find with crepes. Now, I can make this work for my cream cheese and jam filled "braid," but I'll have to be creative, and it probably won't be shaped like a a braid. Glad I did a test run tonight.

Random for you, but I was looking for these a few days ago. Finally, I found a box. Are paper products easier to obtain here than cans? I wonder why they use more of this style than we do in the US. 

Anyway, after my adventure, I drove to Argo's. That's the store I've mentioned previously where you look through catalogs for the item(s). Then, you write the catalog number on a slip of paper with the quantity and either pay by card at a machine or pay at the customer service desk if you don't have a card, as in my case. Then, you wait for your number to be called so that you can pick up your items at the counter. I went to buy telephones now that our service has been activated. I got a picture for you guys too! You shouldn't be surprised. You already knew that I'm "small town." It says so in the title.

  I just think this is great!
Later tonight I practiced making the Coca Cola cake my grandma makes. She gave me the recipe. In the grocery store, I had a really hard time finding buttermilk. I was looking for plastic jugs, but here it comes like this:

It's about the size of a sour cream container. Anyway, I mixed it all together by hand because I forgot that I don't have an electric mixer here (back to Argo's tomorrow, I guess). Then, I popped it in the oven. After about 35 minutes I pulled out the oven rack to check on the cake. It wiggled like pudding. Uh oh. That's not a good sign. I stuck in a knife, and it came out covered in cake batter. Even worse, the top of the cake was burning and so much that it was starting to smoke! The house smelled like burned marshmallows. Steve said, "Better call your grandma and tell her that you ruined it!" He loves that Coca Cola cake. hehe

Now, it turns out that this was totally not my fault. The oven here is very different. In the US, we have the option to "Bake" for one item or use "Convection Bake" for multiple items in the oven. I put the oven on the symbol that just shows the heating coil thinking it would be like the "Bake" option. WRONG. Here in this oven, that means "grill and turn it over half-way through cooking time." I love Adam's response, "Why would you turn your cake over half-way through baking?" HAHA.

I guess everything not being "grilled" and flipped over should be cooked on the convection setting. As soon as I switched it, the cake began to rise. However, by the time it cooked fully, the top was completely burned. I had to cut off the entire top layer. I carried the napkin full of blackened cake and marshmallows into the living room and said, "See Steve! This is why I don't bake!" He just shook his head and laughed.

In the end, I added the icing, and everything turned out just fine. It was a little gooey, but good!

Look, after the icing you couldn't even tell that I cut off the top!