Thursday, June 27, 2013

Looking forward

My mom, stepdad, and two sisters arrive tomorrow! I'm very excited to see them. For all of them it's their first trip out of the USA. I can't wait to see their faces as they experience everything! I'm so happy that we could give them an opportunity and reason to do something like this. Had we not lived here, I'm not sure they would have done this because there are just so many places to visit in the US. Chloe was a little concerned about the plane ride. She and Cacie have never been on a plane before now. Mom said she was pretty nervous at first, but after looking out the window for a bit, she was fine. Here is a picture my mom posted of my sisters eating breakfast at the airport:
I cannot wait to see them! I'm glad that I had Kung Fu to wear me out tonight because I will need the help to get to sleep. It's going to drive me crazy tomorrow as I wait to hear from them about when they are boarding the train and when they are expected to arrive in Aberdeen. However, I am cooking stew for them and that takes a couple of hours so that should occupy a good deal of my time.

What are you looking forward to this week?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shopping? What?

I'm terrible at shopping for anything other than food. I have no idea where to go. I don't have a clue what is quality and what is a rip-off. I try to look around at what other people are wearing so that I'm not permanently stuck in a fashion for 10 years, although I must admit that it's hard for me to really care. I'd rather spend my money on video games, make-up, Kung Fu, and vacations. I'm working on it. Today I had to go to Sports Direct to get some sparring gear for us and some other items for Steve.

Afterwards, I decided to head over to the mall since I had some extra time. I walked in a few stores and was just speechless. "People still wear this stuff?" It was like an 80's poster exploded! Well okaaaay. Having found nothing in that place, I asked the girl at the smoothie stand where to shop. She directed me to a store called New Look. I found some cute things at decent prices in there including a pair of skinny jeans for only £10! Yes, I've done it. I jumped on the bandwagon. First pair of skinny jeans. Feels weird.

Know what else feels weird sometimes? Taking my dog for a walk a 10:00 PM when it looks like this outside (see below)!  :o)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Spiders in Scotland

I found this guy crawling up the wall yesterday. I tried to catch him, but he fell behind the couch. I remember thinking, "I better just move the couch and get him, or he'll end up crawling up my back!" Then, I got busy and forgot about it. I was having my coffee when I noticed something moving on the side of my shirt. Sure enough, there he was. I grabbed a piece of paper to try to scoop him. That determined little bugger shot up my back to my shoulder. I was petrified for a moment. In the end, I managed to get him off my shoulder and safely onto another corner of the house. I don't see a reason to kill them. They take care of any bugs in the house. I just don't want them on me! I was looking some stuff up tonight about spiders in Scotland and finally came across this pdf that identifies several. It tells you where they are typically found.

Speaking of "spiders"... of a different kind... my spider lilies have started to bloom! Pretty. :o)

Passion and Commitment

Well, last week marked the next step in my Kung Fu training. I've started sparring. That means I am now going 4 times a week. One thing I have learned being dedicated to something like this is that when they say it's a lifetime commitment, it really is. Training four times a week is a large time commitment. I also practice at home. I often turn down invitations to do things with friends because of Kung Fu training. Our (Steve and I) weekends have changed drastically since we started Kung Fu. We no longer stay out late on Friday nights because we have training Saturday morning that lasts 2 hours. The people I train with are becoming more and more like a family to me, which is really nice to have when your family lives an ocean away from you. That's to be expected though when you spend 4 days a week with essentially the same people who are passionate about the same thing. I know I'm going on and on about something you may not fully understand, but it's been really good for me. I have more energy. I feel better in general. Little things don't bother me as much as they used to.  My nightmares have even changed! How interesting, right? I've always had nightmares, but now instead of always being helpless and running, I'm fighting back and not afraid. Martial arts has induced a really good physical and mental change in me.

Anyway, I really enjoy sparring. Martial arts was never something I thought I'd be able to do since I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bones), but my Sifu and other instructors are very aware of my condition and very adaptable with my training.

This is the form I am currently learning:

Gung Ji Fook Fu Kuen
"Subduing the tiger in an 'I' pattern." This form teaches the basic stances and techniques of the five animals and the five elements. It develops stamina, endurance, flexibility and sets the foundation of the Hung Ga style. It is traditionally the first form taught in Hung Ga.

Here is a link to the lineage of Yee's Hung Ga. It's such an interesting form with an interesting history.

Here is a little about the Great Grandmaster Wong Fei Hung:

"WONG FEI HUNG is a charismatic figure who has been portrayed in over 100 movies, played be such greats as Kwan Tak Hing (who just recently passed away at the age of 92 – 1 year has been officially added due to his many humanitarian accomplishments) and Jet Li.

The real Wong Fei Hung was born in 1850 in Guangdung, Lam Hoi Province, Sai Chu County, Luk Huern Yan villiage, China. His father was Wong Kei Ying, a student and disciple of southern Siu Lum Master Luk Ah Choi.

Wong Kei Ying was also one of the earlier 10 Canton Tigers of the late Ching Dynasty while Wong Fei Hung was one of the later Tigers. It is important to note here that both Wong Kei Ying and Wong Fei Hung were inducted into the “Ten Tigers” while they were still in their early twenties.
The other 8 Tigers were all at an advanced age and of a higher kung fu generation. We must also note that the positions of the “tigers” was chosen according to Chinese tradition. The oldest or most senior holds the highest position i.e…#1, #2, #3 etc.

This placement was given out of respect and had nothing to do with level of skill. It was also apparent that the induction showed the great respect and had honored the Wong’s in that their skills were compared with the Sifu’s of a higher generation."


I guess you can tell that I really enjoy it. Here are couple of video's of my Sigung (my Master's teacher), Sifu Pedro Yee.

What are you passionate about?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Visiting Scotland from the U.S. - What to bring

Since many people are coming for a visit this summer, I thought this post might be useful for them and for any others. People often visit other countries and pack everything but the kitchen sink because they have no idea what they will be doing, what the weather will be like, or what kind of ground they will walk across. So, if you are visiting Scotland between May and September, here is what you may need, particularly if you will be in the Aberdeen (or similar) area.

The Flight
First, let's start with the plane. Coming from the U.S., I think it's best to fly overnight so that you are leaving the U.S. in the afternoon/evening and arriving in Scotland in the morning. Once you arrive, stay awake. It's difficult, but it's best. For the sake of getting through security quickly, do not wear baggy clothes, belts, loads of jewelry, keep tons of coins in your pockets, or wear hard to remove shoes. Forget fashion. Wear what will get you through security the quickest. You may not want to wear sandals if you get cold easily. I did that once and my feet were freezing! Also, don't forget to check your bags for things you may have put in them for a camping trip such as pocket knives and lighters. You can't bring those! On the flight, if you are traveling coach, you need one of these:
You may think it looks silly, and yes, it does, but you will thank me and yourself for buying it. With a chair that only reclines a few inches, it's like sleeping in the back seat of a car. Your head always falls to one side, and you wake up with terrible neck pain. Just buy one. You'll want to sleep at least a few hours to make life easier on yourself. Also, bring plenty of snacks especially if you have kids. Sometimes those in-flight meals are just not that filling, and if you have special dietary requirements, consider that they may mess up your order, or if your flight gets changed, your meal may not be switched over to the new flight. I've heard of it happening, and people are starving by the time they arrive. You should also bring a change of clothes, all expensive electronics you intend to bring, and toiletries that you cannot live without (i.e. contact stuff) in your carry-on bag. There is ALWAYS a chance that your luggage will not arrive with you or that when you do get it, your expensive electronics (such as your camera or cell phone) will be missing. Again, I've seen both of these things happen.

Bring what you would normally wear for going out to eat or out to pubs/clubs. For everyday clothes, bring things that you can layer. T-shirts with long-sleeve shirts that can be worn under them. Light jacket/cardigan and a heavier one (I don't mean a ski jacket... just something a little more such as a pea coat) if you are acclimated to a very hot climate at the time. Don't forget a rain coat WITH A HOOD. It doesn't rain hard here, but it's often sprinkling or spitting (misting). You really don't need an umbrella. It's so windy here that it's difficult to use one. Bring a beanie (winter hat) and some light gloves if you intend to do some hill walking or any coastal walks. It can be very windy and cold as you approach the summit or as you walk along the coastline. I just carry mine in my backpack any time we go hill walking. Most hill (mountains) walks in and around Aberdeen do not require a backpack, but you may want to at least take a bottle of water and a few snack bars with you. If you have kids, bring a backpack.

Shoes. Bring what you normally would wear unless you are going hill walking. You'll want to bring something that won't slip (it's wet here!) and that you don't mind getting a little muddy in case it is wet. Also, bring at least one pair of shoes that don't readily soak up water. Some flats, for example, will absorb water if you are walking on wet pavement for too long. It's wet here often. Just keep that in mind. Lots of people wear some form of boots here such as ankle-high or knee-high boots. I see lots of Toms too.

Bring outlet adapters and check your voltage. Scotland uses 220 volts. The U.S. uses 110-120V. You'll need a step-down converter to plug in some of your electronics. Just read the label on the back or the label on the plug, and it should tell you the range of voltage the device can use. Many things like e-readers, laptops, and phones can be charged by just using an adapter:

 Other items, such as a curling iron or hair straightener will likely need a transformer.
They are a bit heavy and about half the size of a child's shoe box, so prepare for that when you are thinking about how much you can fit in your bag and still be under the weight limit. Also, many places in Scotland do not have outlets in the bathrooms. If they do have outlets in the bathroom, they are only for low voltage electronics such as for charging razors or toothbrushes. For ladies, I suggest bringing a small mirror with a stand that you can just hold or prop up for fixing your hair. It's also nice for putting on makeup because the lights in bathrooms are usually LED's in the ceiling or are florescent bulbs. If you bring your own mirror, you can use natural light from the window or a lamp in the room.
Well, I feel like that pretty much covers the main things to consider when packing. Well, don't forget to leave space in your luggage for souvenirs! You can bring whiskey back to the U.S. I recommend buying it at the duty-free shop in the airport if you can find your brand there. Any that you buy or bring to the airport with you can be sealed in a special bag so that it clears customs. Hope this helps. Any questions? 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Back to blogging - An itinerary for a visit to Scotland

I guess you've noticed that I haven't written in a while, or maybe you haven't. My friend, Kristi, was here for a two-week visit, and then I needed almost a week to recover, catch up with friends, and get my house restocked and back in order. This left me questioning the importance of blogging. Is it a worthwhile time investment? I don't make any money from this. I rarely hear from people, so it's not like it's helping me to really connect with others. What do I get out of this? I've identified one simple answer: It's a journal. No, I don't really share many of my personal details, so it's not that kind of journal, but I guess it will serve the purpose of preserving memories for myself and my family one day. With that said, Kristi and I had a wonderful time. Instead of posting all of our pictures (over 500), I put together a slide show of the best pictures that also lists where we were at the time. Here is an overview of what we did:

Sunday: Walk through Kirkhill Forest to stretch legs after the plane ride. Dinner at my house.

Monday: Slains Castle and the Bullers of Buchan walk in Cruden Bay. Dinner at Nargile in Aberdeen.

Tuesday: To Stonehaven to see Dunnottar Castle (Allow a couple of hours to explore). Then, we ate a late lunch at The Bay Fish and Chips followed by ice cream at Auntie Betty's next door. We took our ice cream with us as we walked around the harbour. We stopped for a beer at The Marine Hotel and took it outside to enjoy.

Wednesday: The Victorian Heritage Trail - We followed in Queen Victoria's footsteps in Royal Deeside and explored Scotland's crowning glory! Our stops included (some weren't part of the trail but were on the way to the next landmark so we stopped!):

  • Crathes Castle
  • Drum Castle (although it was under repair)
  • Queens View
  • Tomnaverie Stone Circle
  • Cambus O'May
  • Ballater for lunch
  • Balmoral Castle
  • Loch Muick

Thursday: We went shopping around Aberdeen, and then went out to The Globe and the Triple Kirks pub.

Friday: Mah-jongg with the ladies. Then we drove down the A96 past The Pitstop (closed.. boo) to see the Brandsbutt Pictish stone and then to Daviot for the Loanhead of Daviot stone circle. Coffee and cake at Touched by Scotland. Went to The Grill for a taste of whiskey that night.

Saturday: Drove to Edinburgh and parked at a park and ride lot for free. We paid £1.50 each to ride the bus into town. Allow an hour for this if you are arriving during peak hours. It was worth it though to not have to drive down town and pay excessive prices for hard-to-find parking. In Edinburgh we saw:
  • The Elephant Cafe (Where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book)
  • Edinburgh Castle (Give yourself about 4 hours for this if you plan to spend time in the museums in the castle)
  • Walked around looking at street vendors
  • Dinner at Under the Stairs
Sunday: Walked up Clachnaben. We packed a lunch, but it's not necessary. It can be quite cool at the top so bring some layers! Dogs must be on leashes most of the time due to sheep.

Monday: Flew to London. GET AN OYSTER CARD for the tube. We walked around looking at shops and to Trafalgar Square. We stayed at The Ampersand Hotel, which was amazing. That night we ate dinner at Wahaca! Finally, some good Mexican food in the UK.

Tuesday: We saw:
  • The British Museum
  • Tower Bridge (and went on the tour)
  • Tower of London (the tour was really expensive so we didn't go inside)
  • Met Debbie and explored Harrods! They have a chocolate shop and entire grocery store in there that is complete with bars to sit at where they will cook you a steak or lobster! 
  • Ate dinner at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and sat at a table that had written on the wall that Charles Dickens sat there often.
  • The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
  • Westminster Abbey (tour was worth the cost)
  • The London Eye (although we didn't ride because it's expensive, and I was told it's not worth it, especially on cloudy days)
  • Went to the Royal Opera House to see Mayerling. If you go, do it right and book a table for dinner. You can come back to your table (and treats and drinks) during each intermission!
Thursday: We hopped on the tube to King's Cross Station so that we could see Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter films. We got our picture taken pushing the buggy through the wall! You can take your own picture or buy the one they take. We did both. Then we checked out the Harry Potter shop. Afterwards, we went to Piccadilly Circus. I've never been to NY City, but Kristi said it looked very similar, giant screen included. We picked up some steamed buns in Chinatown and headed back to the hotel to check out! That night, we took Kristi to The Albyn to have her first plate of haggis, neeps, and tatties! She said she liked it. It IS good stuff if it's done correctly.

Now you can see why I needed almost a week to recover. We were busy! I had such a wonderful time! Here is the slideshow.