Saturday, March 30, 2013

Castles and Walks Near Aberdeen

There's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.
-Sir Rannulph Fiennes-

People in Aberdeen quote this often. I think it's a good motto to remember. Don't let rain, sleet, or a little snow keep you from getting outside of your house, especially in Scotland because if that's the case, you'll only get out and about a few times a year. There are often things close to home if you just do some exploring. For example, if you head down the A93 from Aberdeen there are several great places to visit. Here are just a few of the many:

Angel is in the back and ready to go! If you have a hatchback or SUV, I highly recommend a trunk cover for your dogs to ride. It's waterproof and keeps your car clean.
 Drum Castle
Drum Castle. You will need change to pay for parking.

Another view of Drum Castle. There are also plenty of paths to walk around the grounds. Dogs are allowed on those.

There were lots of bunnies carved in the snow for Easter!
 Crathes Castle
Crathes Castle

The gardens surrounding Crathes Castle have very interesting designs. It makes for a nice walk!
 Scolty Hill in Banchory
I recommend visiting Scolty Hill both with and without the snow. The snow makes everything look so different! It's like you are walking in a different place.

Jessica and I really would have liked to have some walking poles. Angel didn't seem to mind. She ran and jumped all through the snow.

We stopped for a photo break near the top.

You can see the tower WAY up there.

We still had quite a way to go after our break, and that hill was steep, especially so in the snow!
The view of the Cairngorm Mountains from the top was breathtaking.

Even with the snow on the ground, we had to take off our hats and gloves and unzip our jackets. You get pretty warm walking up the hill. Parking at Scolty Hill costs about £2 so make sure to bring some change. From the A96, turn left on Dee Street past King George V Park and cross over the river. After crossing over the river, you'll curve around and just after the curve there will be a road off to your right that involves a sharp turn in the opposite direction. Follow that one track road until you see the sign on the right for the Scolty Hill Walks. Watch out for the giant holes in the road.

Moving on to today. Today, Pam and I took a trip to Steptoes Yard. She has never been so I navigated! I found two more tea cups and saucers to have a set of six at home. I also found a few books that were printed in the early 1900s: Chaucer's Tales, Grimm's Fairy Tales, and The Real Robert Burns. I thought those old books would be great to display on my new secretary desk, and they are great finds in general! Also, while I was digging around, I found a picture of a guy holding up a shield that looks just like one that I bought! Check it out!
They have such interesting things there! After paying, Pam and I decided to drive into Montrose for some lunch and coffee. We really got lucky because they were having some type of international festival with food booths! One booth was advertising kangaroo burgers. I decided to pass on that one. Has anybody ever eaten kangaroo? It made me feel curious, conflicted, disgusted (sounds gross), and sad to think about eating one. Maybe in Australia it's like eating a deer? Anybody know? Anyway, we went straight for the German Barbecue booth for bratwursts and potatoes! MMMmmmmm. Yes, it was yummy. I think the mustard had some horseradish in it, which I decided was pretty tasty! Two bratwursts and a heaping container of potatoes (shared because it was HUGE) for £12.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Unfamilier fish at the fishmonger - What is that fish fillet?

Since we moved here, I have seen some fish that I recognize at the fishmonger, but others that I don't. For example, they have salmon, sea bass, and sea trout, which I know. (Info from

Fillet photos from:

Sea Bass


Sea Trout

Here are a couple of fish that I didn't recognize. Perhaps you'll learn something as well. :o)

Lemon Sole
These are typically white fillets in the market.
I really didn't even know much about haddock, and it's a big deal here in Aberdeen. Smoked haddock is pretty popular. Avoid the orange/yellow fillets. They were most likely dyed... probably had some liquid smoke type stuff applied. Properly smoked haddock should just have a sort of yellow hue. Fold here like it in soups, such as the staple here: Cullen Skink (creamy soup made with smoked haddock, potatoes, and onions.). A man at the grocery store said that at his house they serve smoked haddock pan-seared with a fried egg on top. Steve and I tried it, and it was pretty good!

This is pretty orange. It looks dyed to me...don't know about this one. :)
 As I was looking in the window of the fishmonger's shop, an elderly woman walked up and started talking to me about the fish. She explained that one was called a "kipper." I had to look it up online! Apparently, a "kipper" is an Atlantic Herring that has been gutted, butterfly split, and then smoked.



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My first auction visit and the umbrella infestation


Today my friend Pam and I attended our first auction. Every time I wanted to bid on something, I got so nervous. It was fun! We went yesterday to look at everything and went back today with a list of not only what we wanted but of what our husbands saw on the website that they wanted! It was interesting to see what people would buy and what they would pay for it. Some table and chairs sets went for £1! Some rough and tough looking guys were bidding against each other for frilly desk lamps or tea sets. Old men were battling it out for porcelain dolls. I learned that auctions quickly drive you to resent strangers and glare at people who you would not look at that way if you met at a pub. I also learned that people collect a LOT of stuff... some very cool and some very weird. For example, those dragon shaped vases and the silver tea servers were pretty neat. The nude painting of a woman with a rose in place of her head was pretty strange.

Anyway, I came home with a secretary desk, a boat-shaped wine rack, an acoustic guitar, a bucket of umbrellas, and some shields. I don't have room for the wine rack away from a radiator in the kitchen right now (I could rearrange...) so currently the wine rack is a toiletry holder in my bathroom. I used some furniture cleaner to polish it. I like it.

The shields were too cool. I couldn't pass them up for the price! All that playing Skyrim and living where they have Highland Games ...

Now the umbrellas. So, Steve was looking online at the auction items last night. He came across a picture of a red bucket with some umbrellas in it. He said, "Hey bid on this. It's always good to have a few extras for guests who visit."

I bid and won the bucket for £14. I told Pam that those better be some awesome umbrellas. We walked over to check them out and found more than just a few umbrellas! There were 56 to be exact. FIFTY-SIX UMBRELLAS. Leave it to Steve and I to end up with 56 umbrellas. We have an umbrella infestation. ;)

"Well, (Steve chuckles) we have almost enough to supply your entire family."
Oh man. I can't stop laughing as I look at this picture. I knew you would all be curious about what some of these look like, so here is a preview:
Steve is behind that umbrella

"Well!!  I don't know what happened!"

Giant, solid black umbrellas aren't for you? Maybe you like polka-dots?
Or how about matching his and hers plaid umbrellas?

Do you like stars?

How about bunnies and puppies that are "Best Friends"... Do you think it would be funny for me to carry that frog umbrella while walking the Frog-dog?

Maybe you prefer kittens, and you are also very small.
With that, I would like to confidently state that if you come to visit, Steve's bucket of umbrellas has got you and yours covered... literally.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Surpressing the Hulk inside of me

Today was one of those days where I got to practice my patience. Ever have those? I had been cleaning the floors for about 40 minutes. Seriously, I was sweating. Vacuum... vacuum.. unplug... plug... pick up and carry downstairs... plug in.. vacuum... move dogs...'No! Away from the vacuum! (as Frog tries to bite at it)... it was like that. I let the dogs out thinking, 'Now I can get this done without them dragging stuff around and getting in my way.' WRONG. I opened the door to let them inside the house and quickly learned that they had both spent their time outside in the "mud garden" trying to eat the oyster shells that I threw out.

Muddy paw prints were all over the kitchen and living room floor! Angel had brought in an oyster shell. "Drop it!" I yelled without thinking, and she did. It was full of dirt, and that dirt went all over the floor. I took a deep breath, pulled out the vacuum again, and started to clean up the mess. About halfway through I noticed that I was getting nowhere. Why? Because they had packed dirt into their paws. I stopped the vacuum, grabbed a wet cloth, and started to clean their paws. Unsuccessful. Yep, they were pulling away and smearing more mud across the floor. I gave up. I picked both dogs up and put them in the bath tub, which meant of course, that now I had to also clean the bathtub... again. I tried to calmly pet them to assure them that everything was okay. I washed and dried their feet. I cleaned the tub, and went back to cleaning the floors...again. What I really wanted to do was scream and smash the floor like the Hulk, snap that vacuum in half, and then run outside to chuck all those oyster shells so far that they'd sink to the bottom of the North Sea!

Don't worry. Kung Fu adequately worked that out of me. 15 extra push-ups for people moving around and extra time spent down in several squats for our apparent inability to squat low enough. I usually try to sing songs in my head to ignore the pain. Tonight I sang, "Wheel in the Sky" by Journey. I am going to have some legs of steel if this keeps up. Although, that doesn't sound so bad, does it?

Steve and I decided we deserved a drink tonight, but we were also really tired. Solution? Highland coffee. This yummy drink has mixed malt whiskey, soft brown sugar, and hot black coffee with whipped double cream floating on top.

Am I wide awake now? Nope. It's a good after-dinner drink to have after a tough workout day or after some comfort food. I think the cream and whiskey probably help a little to cancel out the caffeine. :o)

Just for Fun:

I'd like to thank the crew that picks up my recycling every other week. They so graciously sort everything for us at the truck and will put little stickers on our bins reminding us if we put something in there that they don't accept. Also, all of the noise from them throwing glass bottles into the truck serves as an excellent back-up alarm if I have overslept. Good job Aberdeen Recycling! You are appreciated.

Monday, March 25, 2013

UK vs. US product names you may be searching for in the grocery store

I was talking to my grandma on the phone today about recipes that I would be trying this week. We started laughing about the differences in names of UK and US products, so I thought it would be fun to post some of the items you may be looking for in grocery stores either as an American moving to the UK or as a UK citizen moving to the US. Some items may not be exactly the same, but are the "equivalent" of the product. Pictures are from the Wal-Mart, Tesco, and Sainsbury's websites.

US Name                                    UK Name


Powdered Sugar vs. Icing Sugar

If you want bacon that is most common in the US, it is called "streaky bacon" in the UK. Otherwise, you get thicker slices in the UK that are similar to what Americans call "Canadian bacon."

Biscuits are tricky. 
These are "biscuits" in the USA

These are "cookies" in the US