Monday, September 30, 2013

Mushrooms in Aberdeen

My friend, Lo, has recently started learning more about mushrooms. She's been learning to identify them so that she can harvest and cook them up all yummy and stuff. She asked what kinds of mushrooms could be found here, so I took a few pictures while I was out today. One picture was taken a week or so ago on another walk. This is for you, Lo. Maybe you can figure out what they are. Or maybe somebody else reading this will know. At any rate, they are interesting to see.

These ones were so tiny, it was hard to get a good picture. Compare to the small blades of grass to get an idea of how little they are!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Weekend Joy

Steve and I started a Terminator marathon last night. Those really are great movies. It was fun to see how special effects have changed over time, which was very apparent since they made the movies so far apart (about 10 years between each of the first 3 movies). That's something I really enjoy... movies! It's so relaxing to cuddle on the couch with my husband and two dogs, who are total snuggle puppies.

Steve and I also took some time to work on organizing our winter vacation. We've decided to spend a week in Tenerife. We want a holiday all about us. We are going to sit out by the pool, go to the spa, maybe try some kayaking and rock wall climbing, and enjoy some live shows. We are going to just enjoying being us... with each other. I can't wait!

We also took a couple of walks this weekend. I'm enjoying the Fall colors. I couldn't help smiling as I looked around me. I think it's important to look around and find joy in as many things as you can. It's important to get outside and explore nature so that you can fully appreciate it.

Happens often to trees here.


I hope the views here never cease to amaze me. :o)
What brought you joy this weekend?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Oh Oh Oh! Woke up today.. feeling the way... I alwaaaays do

We saw Hairspray on stage, and it was marvelous. I highly recommend going to see it on stage. All of the guys really liked it too, so get your men-folk to join you ladies! We started with a pre-show dinner at Nargile with friends, and then we all headed to His Majesty's Theatre for the show. The costumes were lovely! The hair was FANTASTIC! The singing and acting was top notch. We laughed, sang, danced, and had a wonderful time. I think my favorite songs are "Good Morning Baltimore" and "Run and Tell That!" I wish I had thought to get a group picture of us all. We managed to snag one photo on the way out.
I could barely reach my head up to the cut out because it was so tall! We were trying to make "You are trouble" faces at each other.. hehe
Moving on. Today, I woke up to.. FALL! With the chilly weather came the falling of leaves. In Texas you don't see much of a change in leaves, at least not with such bright colors as in places with seasons. I may try to go on a walk tomorrow somewhere to see if I can get some good pictures! Here are a couple from my walk around town today. I did not alter the colors. I only enhanced them so that the photo accurately displays what I was seeing. Beautiful colors, aren't they?

What is your favorite Hairspray song?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Butchering chickens... Frozen ones that is....

Many of you know that I am in Kung Fu. In the last few months, I've started stepping up my training. I'm there about 4 times a week, and it's intense. To help with muscle repair and fatigue, I've started supplementing my diet with whey protein.

I think it's giving me nightmares and more vivid dreams. I wake up constantly. I've decided it's either doing this only when I'm not tired enough to outweigh the effects, or it's interacting with something else, such as caffeine. Has anybody experience something similar? I've been so exhausted from the lack of sleep. I felt like a zombie today because it's happened two nights in a row this week.

Anyway, on a more positive note, I tried another Guy Fieri recipe tonight, and it was FANTABULOUS! It was his grilled chicken tortellini soup. It took a while to butcher the chicken. He has you buy a whole chicken and cut it into pieces. It was worth it. It's nice to learn new things like that, especially in a society where so much comes prepackaged for us. I had my grandma on the phone telling me where to cut. I had to cut out the backbone!!! Steve looked at me and said, "Ewww!" as I held it up with two fingers asking him to open the back door. My grandma said that my great grandma used to kill, pluck, and butcher her own chickens. Apparently, they really do run around for a bit after you chop off their heads. She also told me that not everybody chopped off the head. She said that some people knew exactly how to grab the head and snap your wrist so that the head of the chicken popped right off the body! Oh my goodness! I apologize to any sensitive people; I'm just telling you how it was for country folk back then. Moving on. Grandma told me that they used the gas stove (hob) to burn the places where parts of the feathers were sticking out of the meat. It was a way to get rid of the feathers when they couldn't pull them out well. I wish I had some pictures of them doing that (prepping, not killing!). Do any of you have pictures or stories of your grandparents/great grandparents cooking at a time when it wasn't so... convenient? I'd love to hear about it. Next time, I'll take pictures of what I went through!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Preparing to take your UK driving theory and practical test

Alright, so you've just moved to Scotland, and you plan to be here for more than a year. What do you do about driving? First, you need to apply for your provisional driving license. Then, you take your driving theory test, and if you pass that, you'll sign up to take your driving practical.

Provisional License

You can apply for a provisional license as soon as you move here. You can apply on-line at at the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency) or you can pick up an application at the post office. The cost is currently £50.  If you use the DVLA website, make sure that you are at their actual website. The link I provided is correct. There is another site (www. drivinglicence dot uk dot com) that is a CHECKING service. They charge you a fee to review your application before you submit it. Do not sign up for that. It's unnecessary.

To fill in the information online, make sure you choose the correct box for your type of passport (this is important) and provide your passport number. If you do not have a National insurance number, don't fret. Just skip it. After you submit and pay online, they will mail you an application. You'll need to get your photo taken, passport style, at the post office. The post offices here in Aberdeen have a photo booth that will do it for £4-5.  You also have to send them your passport so make sure you plan to give yourself enough time to go without it. Don't plan any trips close to applying. When you've got everything filled in and double-checked, sign the application and make sure that you do not make any pen marks outside the white box. If you do, they will send back your application.

Just a slight mark outside the white box, and it was sent back.

Driving Theory Test

After you receive your provisional license AND have been a resident for at least 185 days, you can sign up to take the theory test. You apply with your name and license number at the DVLA website. You'll then choose a testing center and time.

Study Materials Suggested by Others
  • Download the Highway Code from the DVLA website (Link) or buy a cheap copy
  • Use the DSA Driver Theory App
  • Sign up for an online practice test program
  • You can take a practice theory test on the DVLA website (Link)
  • Make sure you get plenty of practice for the Hazard Perception part (DVLA DVD)
  • Know your traffic signs (Link from DVLA)
I always suggest asking around for materials you can borrow before buying anything. :o)

Going Greener - What About Cloth Napkins?

My grandma and I were talking about napkins tonight. She has decided that she'd like to start making her own from leftover fabric or possibly even old sheets. What a great idea! This got me thinking about lots of things. Imagine the amount of money and the amount of space in your rubbish bin that you could save by adopting this method. You don't have to make your own napkins like my grandma unless you want to make them. I bought mine. As long as you take care of them, they should last many years. I think I've had mine for about 4 years now. It's really no different than how you take care of your clothes. They get dirty, and you wash them. People have different reasons for wanting to go paper towel-less. I do it because it's an easy thing for me to do to reduce my consumption of resources. I also do it because it saves money. Some people choose instead to buy paper towels made with mostly recycled material. That's cool too, but I'd still rather save money by using the cloth ones, which I purchase WAY less often than paper towels.

Also, anything recycled is using additional resources to collect, break down, and recreate. Don't get me wrong here; I support recycling, but my thinking regarding recycling is that I'd rather change the way we are making things so that they can be "re-purposed" instead of recycled (Check out Cradle to Cradle - Re-Making the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart). Not many things come with that capability yet, so I do what I can to try to find some sort of balance in philosophies. I think my grandma's idea of using extra material is great. I also like the idea of using old sheets because instead of recycling (which costs), she is "re-purposing," which doesn't cost. :o)

Okay, I'm not going to go into a total breakdown of resource input versus output with all of these decisions, so let's just focus on something simple: money and number of paper towels rolls used.

I was doing some calculations tonight to see how much money a person could spend on paper towels over time. I compared prices from Costco and Wal-mart. Here is what I found out (rough estimates, but it gives you an idea):

**Let me know if you see any obvious errors in my math...I may have been typing too fast and messed up something. Also, it's sort of late, and my brain is shutting down. :o)

For a 15ct package from Costco:

  • Using 1 roll every 2 weeks you spend about $48/year or about 30 rolls
    • Over 5 years = $240 or 150 rolls
    • 15 years = $720 or 450 rolls
    • 40 years = $1,920 or 1,200 rolls
  • Using 1 roll per week you spend about $96/year or about 60 rolls per year
    • Over 5 years = $480 or 300 rolls
    • 15 years = $1,440 or 900 rolls
    • 40 years = $3,840 or 2,400 rolls

  For a 12ct package from Wal-Mart (same brand):

  • Using 1 roll every 2 weeks you spend about $50/year or 36 rolls per year (Let's assume here that you are using more rolls because, hey, you have them available since you will need to buy more packages per year with only 12 rolls in each.)
    • 5 years = $250 or 180 rolls
    • 15 years = 750 or 540 rolls
    • 40 years = $2,000 or 1,440 rolls
  • Using 1 roll every week you spend about $82/year or 60 rolls per year
    • 5 years = $410
    • 15 years = $1,230
    • 40 years = $3,280

For a 6ct package at Wal-Mart:

  • Using 1 roll every two weeks you spend about $55/year or 30 rolls per year
    • 5 years = $275
    • 15 years = $825
    • 40 years = $2200

It's funny how some of the numbers compare differently depending on how much you use, isn't it? I only looked at this from a financial and consumption of rolls point of view. If you want more information about how paper towels are made, eco-effects, or global stats about consumption of paper towels, check out the Growing a Green Family Blog post: Wait paper towels really come from trees? She does a great job of gathering and summing up information!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Glamping at Loch Ness

"Glamping" is "glamorous camping" in a pod, or an armadilla, as they called it where we went. We went in August. The armadillas are really cute and cozy. There were fire pits outside and BBQs. Even though it was August, it was still a bit too chilly for us. We chose to cook inside their  BBQ hut, which was really cool! If you want a cheaper option for a place to stay, but don't want to be in a tent, this is a great option! They have glamping in other areas. Here is a link to where we stayed. They owners were so friendly and helpful. They sell firewood, charcoal, and matches there. The rooms have cups, plates, silverware, tea/coffee stuff, and some condiments. There is a small refrigerator as well. We loved it! 

We stopped in one of the small towns on the way to have lunch.

The Armadillas

We had to go see the neighbors

This sheep liked to scratch his head against my rings.

Back view

The BBQ Hut!

The owners have horses, and they train them.

Look! We found Nessie!

It was such a relaxing place! I highly recommend it for couples! I wish we could have stayed longer than one night there.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"All I know since yesterday is everything has changed"

I'll give Taylor Swift some props, she keeps it classy and knows what she's talking about. I know my circumstances aren't the same, but as I was listening to this song, I thought, 'How true is that line for the EXPAT life?'

"All I knew this morning when I woke
Is I know something now, know something now I didn't before..."

Yep, I feel that often. I'm always meeting new people or learning something new, especially in a new country! 

"All I know since yesterday is everything has changed."

One day I'm hanging out with a good friend like any other day, the next day I'm hugging her goodbye. Then, the next day I'm hugging somebody to say hello. Every day can be so different. What a blessed life to be able to meet so many people and to learn so much about yourself in the process. Well, I went all philosophical on you, didn't I?

Moving on. We had a beautiful day today at Crathes. We carpooled to get there. We walked about 4 miles with the AWA Walkabout group. If you want to walk the trails around Crathes, it seems like the best place to park is at Milton of Crathes (FOR FREE). From there you can walk under the bridge to access the trails.You don't really need special shoes or to be fit. It's a great walk to take with your dogs as well!

I told Tanya to turn around for the picture, so she did AND she started running in place. She is fantastically funny.

I know what you're thinking... "Where did you find the supermodels?"  :o)


Scotland knows how to show off the goods.

We ate dinner at the restaurant at Milton of Crathes. It was good, but it was also expensive. One appetizer and an entree with water = £21! Yikes. The selection was severely limited for groups with more than 10 people. I understand why they picked this place; we paid for convenience, but I don't think I'll go back. Maybe the menu for groups with less than 10 people is cheaper. I can get food just as good or better for less...especially for lunch. That's just my opinion, which is what you get on a blog that I write.. hehe. Maybe you've been there and you loved it. That's cool. I didn't.

Just for fun:
Now, some of you may wonder, what women talk about when it's just them. Well, one of our conversations went something like this:

-Have you seen the new Miley Cyrus video.... Wrecking Ball?
-Oh my gosh! Yes. I got part of the way through it and couldn't watch her lick that sledgehammer anymore. lol
-I read the comments and somebody was mad that people were saying it's porn. This girl was saying that nobody knows what the "F" the song is really about, that it's about something really important to her, and we just don't get it.
-Okay well.. what part does licking a sledgehammer symbolize?
-I have no idea...

-Did you see the wrecking ball video? She's licking a sledgehammer.
-OMG! Really?
-Yeah, she was licking it.. and she was swinging on a wrecking ball...naked.
-Yeah.. naked.. like with the chain between her legs.. naked. 
-OMG! What is wrong with her?
-I don't know. And why is she licking so many inanimate objects? First the doll.. now a sledgehammer? All I could think about were the bits of metal that were probably flaking into her mouth...
-Yeah and she was like.. twirling her tongue around it and stuff.
-OMG! I'm going to have to look this up when I get home.

Oh man.. I love a good laugh, which is why I like to save/write down conversations. They are just too funny to forget. Also, I thought you all might enjoy this one as you probably have had or will have a similar conversation. LOL