Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Death of a Pet

It's so hard when you lose a pet. I learned tonight that it's even harder for the friend who was their caretaker while you were away. Today, our 10 year old bearded dragon, Athen, took his last breath. It's okay though. He lived a long, healthy life. He was loved by many and well traveled. :o) It's sad that he passed so near the time when I was about to get to see him after being away for a year, but I know our friends took great care of him. They even gave him a funeral, which is amazing. The Trisch's are marvelous friends. Cheers to you, Athen. You were awesome, and even though you were a lizard, not typically cuddly, you were loved.

Farewell little guy. We'll miss you.

Darn.. I held it together so well, until now. I know it seems silly to some people... crying over a lizard, but we had him for so long. The hardest thing is that I haven't seen him in a year, I was looking forward to it during our visit, and now I'll never see him again.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Important Accessories for Pets in Aberdeen, Scotland

Sunset is at 16:30 now. By the time most people get home from work, it's already very dark. The first winter we lived here, I didn't think much of it, but now as I become a better dog owner who takes my dogs out every day and wants them safe, I've learned a few tricks. Dogs need to be seen. When I run with Angel, I wear a yellow reflective vest. She is white, and thus, doesn't need as much help to be seen. I use a blinking LED collar clip like the one below. It took her a few minutes to get used to it, but after a while she started to ignore it.

Photo from Amazon
 Frog has black fur and needs more than a blinking light. For him, I bought an LED collar, and I love it! I got a Firefly dog safety collar in red. I highly recommend it. £13 on Amazon.
Photo from Amazon

I took a short video to show you what they look like in the dark. Keep yourself and your pets safe.

In more exciting news, Steve and I took our first Kung Fu belt test this weekend, and we PASSED! Can you believe it? Girl with brittle bones has 2 belts in Kung Fu! I told one of my senior brothers that I was just happy to be allowed to train with them. A belt, for someone like me, is more than anything I could have hoped to achieve! It's not without it's consequences though. 2.5 hours of training in a seminar caused a little damage, but it's nothing that the grace of God and a little Chinese medicine can't fix. :o)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Leaves and Rainbows

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is
     to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone
     with the heavens, nature and God.

Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and
     that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple
     beauty of nature.  I firmly believe that nature brings solace
     in all troubles.

 - Anne Frank - 

 All those pretty colors sure put a smile on your face, don't they?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Volunteering at the Aberdeen Seafarers' Centre

Today my Bible study group went to the Seafarers' Centre to help wrap the gifts they give to the men. That is a really nice place. They have a lounge with free coffee, tea, water, and juice. Free wifi. They have a computer room and an entertainment room that has a DVD player, game console, and yes.. a karaoke machine! They run this place completely from charity. Each year they go out to the ships at sea to deliver gifts to the men. We wrapped beanies (winter hats) that were stuffed with toiletries, pens, pencils, candy, and a few other goods. They are open every weekday right now from 6-10PM. Get down there and volunteer. You don't have to be a wrapping pro, I'm not.

They gave us each a coffee mug for helping!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Few Things in Texas I'm Excited to Visit

 Steve and I will be visiting home, Texas, soon, and I am excited about many things! First, of course, I'm excited to see family and friends. We are having some BBQ's and family dinners so that we can gather everybody in one place. Next:
I love Chuy's. Steve and I were talking about it tonight. Great food. Great salsa.
Photo from Chuy's website.
 Oh yeah. We need some clothes, and this is the place to go!
Photo from The Clearance Chick
 When we lived in Missouri City, Steve and I used to go here for pizza and to watch the UFC fights. They have THE BEST pizza I've tasted thus far in my life. They spread garlic, EVOO, and rosemary around the crust... mmmmmmmmmm!
Photo from Center Court website on Google
 I have never seen this! A wall of waterfalls. I feel that I need to visit it on this trip home. Looks cool!
Photo from
 A family favorite in Greenville, TX. My mom said that she would take us here, but not every night. Spoil sport. Steve says this is his second favorite Mexican food place next to Chuy's. The salsa is so good that I've contemplated ways to bring jugs of it back to Scotland. I've discovered no feasible solution as of tonight.
Photo from Ta Molly's website
 This (below) is a picture of the cafe my great grandpa built and then ran with my great grandma for years. I remember helping as a "server" when I was little. We used to go there for breakfast, and "mammaw" would make me biscuits and gravy (or bread and gravy if she didn't have biscuits). Now, it is owned by somebody else, but my family still meets there every Friday morning for breakfast. It's the last thing we will get to enjoy before leaving. I'm so looking forward to it. How fun is that to have a place that your family has been going to all your life? So many memories.
Here is a photo of it today.
Photo from:
Here are a few old photos I found. One is a picture that my mom and grandmothers put on a "memory quilt" for me, hence the stitching. :o)
I think this was my 1st birthday party?

Grandma, Mom, Me, Great-Great Grandma ("Bossy"), Great Grandpa all standing on the porch of the Cafe.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Slains Castle - The pub in Aberdeen, not the ruins

This past Friday, I organized an AWA happy hour at Slains Castle in Aberdeen. I thought it was appropriate for our October happy hour because they keep it sort of creepy inside and serve drinks with creepy names such as the seven deadly sins. All in all, it was a good experience. Some of us dressed in costumes, which was fun! The place had a sort of Gothic feel to it. The drinks were reasonably priced, and the food wasn't bad for pub grub. Although, I did hear one person mention that the sharing platter they ordered, which had some items such as cheesy bread and fried spring rolls, wasn't that great. Burgers were good.

They had live music that started around 9:30 PM. The first guy was great! The second band was okay. The only problem was that it was so loud that we could no longer talk. Be prepared for that if you go on a live music night. Either plan to go somewhere later if you want to continue talking, or plan to be there because you want to listen to the music. I was sad to see that there weren't many people there, especially on a Friday night. I think the place has great potential, but perhaps would do better if they worked on their advertising. Don't be intimidated! Stop by and have a drink in this very interesting and laid back pub on Belmont Street.

I love Grease!

They spelled my name wrong... hehe

Steve's friend from Houston who just moved to Aberdeen!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Haggis, PJ's, and Duck Dynasty

I woke up early this morning and made some coffee. I love warm coffee on a cold morning. The smell of roasted beans and the smooth taste of the local blend I bought was just what I needed. Afterward, I took the dogs for a quick walk and then headed to the butcher.

Photo from: Herd's Butcher Facebook Page
I bought my first haggis. I've had it at restaurants, but I've never bought it to cook myself. I asked if it was already somewhat cooked, and the butcher told me that it was. I'm going to make a potato, apple, and haggis tart.
Frozen haggis
This post will probably be a bit random. It's not like we all think about one thing without straying all day, is it? I had another driving lesson today. It went better. I stopped thinking of him as an instructor and tried to just picture him as a friend in my car. That helped. We worked on backing up onto a side street. They are very specific with what they want. You have to check over both shoulders at two points: before you swing the front of the car out and halfway through your curve onto the side street. You cannot be too close or too far from the curb. You cannot hit the curb. You must begin two car lengths from the side street and end 4 car lengths from the major street. Don't forget to keep looking in your mirrors. My instructor suggested that I "drive at the speed of an old woman walking." I had to laugh, but it was great advice.

Just for Fun:
Check out my new pajamas and cute little mouse house shoes. They like animals in Scotland. Lots of things have animals on them.

Oh, and apparently Frogdog likes Duck Dynasty as much as I do. That show cracks me up. They are so funny, and I like that it's good, clean fun. It's not trashy like Honey Boo Boo or some of those other shows. They keep the cursing to a minimum. I also like that they show them praying together at the dinner table at the end of each show. My quote of the day from them:

"In my opinion, you're not a proper woman if you don't have a goat or two." - Miss Kay

Oh, and I used to have a goat. So clearly, I'm a proper woman. I used to take him for walks around town to grind down his hooves. I had a pass from my AG teacher that allowed me to show up late to class so that I could feed my goat the 6 times a day needed to bulk up his muscles (instead of 2 large meals, which isn't as good).  Yep, small town. Told you.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Feeling defeated by my own body and UK driving standards

“Somewhere in the world there is a defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory.”
― John Steinbeck, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights

Today I just feel defeated. I guess you need to feel that way sometimes... it's humbling. Yesterday in Kung Fu, I got punched in the face again. Last week the same thing happened. My nose bled. Clearly, I need to learn to move out of the way faster. I felt like all last night, I just kept getting my arms tangled. I felt like an uncoordinated person flapping my arms wildly. If you are a runner, imagine that you have been making progress. You are feeling great as you increase the miles, but one day, it's like your legs are mud. Like you are running for the first time even though you've been training for 8 months. You can't breathe well. You feel out of shape. The next day you run and feel the same way. Your legs are jello. It's like that. One day, I think I'm getting stronger and improving, but then WHAM.. suddenly I'm struggling like a fish out of water. Additionally, today I had my first driving lesson (I've been driving since I was 15), and I felt terrible about it. I hit a curb! Also, I stalled my car. Ugh! How embarrassing! Then, tonight at Kung Fu, I couldn't hold one of my stances. My legs started to shake, and I dropped to the floor. I felt so weak. I feel like I can't do anything right. Steve says that I should focus more on the fact that I'm still making an effort. I'm trying to do that, but I still feel... defeated.

Anyway, back to the driving lesson. He said I did many things well, but we have to fix some things. For example, when you are approaching a junction and want to turn left, the following must occur:
  1. Check your mirrors and make it obvious
  2. Signal
  3. Ease on the brake
  4. Clutch (I killed the car at this point because I'm used to pushing the clutch first and then the brake to avoid stalling)
  5. Stop the car in a curved position that shows your path is following the curb, not approaching the junction straight (I ran over a curb trying to over-correct for this once.. sighs)
  6. Pull out when safe while following the curb so that you don't swing out too far.
He showed me a diagram to help. It was sort of like the one below except that his was showing a car approaching a major road so that you have to stop and then pull onto the road.
That is so much to worry about while paying attention to the road and other drivers. When the instructor asked me how I felt about today, I told him that "this was probably my worst day of driving ever! I stalled the car AND hit a curb!" He reassured me that I was just over-thinking things and would get better as I became accustomed to the process so that it would be habit instead of a conscious effort.  He said that he thought I did good. My instructor said that most people find that their driving becomes worse as they are first learning new habits because their efforts to form those new habits actually become a distraction from driving. "You'll get better at it." He also said I did fine parallel parking, but that we could work on getting me a bit closer to the curb. I was surprised by that. I hate parallel parking. I've been practicing backing into a space whenever I can, but not parallel parking as much. I just watched this video and then practiced a few times. I'll probably mess it up completely on the test. I better practice more.

It's tough preparing for two major skill tests at the same time, especially when you feel like you aren't doing well. I've been going to Kung Fu 3-4 times a week and practicing at home because I have my first belt test in a couple of weeks. I'm also starting private lessons. On top of that, I'm taking 1-2 driving lessons a week. My brain is feeling an information overload. I'm feeling like laying around and sleeping most days because I'm just so tired. It's getting harder to get up and get other things done. Ever have weeks like that? 
I suppose to end on a positive note, I should be thankful that I am able to do all of this without having to worry about maintaining a full time job as well. So, thank you God for giving me the opportunity to learn and accomplish these new things without further pressure or injury.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Loch Muick, Scotland

Loch Muick (pronounced "Mick") is one of my favorite walks in Scotland. It's about a 7 mile walk all the way around. Give yourself plenty of time for the walk because you'll probably want to take pictures and stop for a snack or lunch. I'd say you need a minimum of 4 hours to complete the walk if you are a fast walker. I had read online that you turn right just after the visitor center, but the sign pointing in that direction said "Lochnagar," and we certainly didn't want to go up there! The other sign pointed straight for the Loch Muick Circuit.

We went straight at the signposts, but found out later that we could have taken that trail to the right because it branches to the left to go around Loch Muick while another path heads toward Lochnagar. However, the way we went turned out to be shorter. We kept straight and then took a trail leading down to the lake that led across a bridge and then up the hill to rejoin the main trail. If you want a shorter route that excludes the glen, go that way. If you have time and energy for a longer route, take the path to the right just after the visitor center. Ignore the Lochnagar sign. It doesn't just go toward Lochnagar. The path is good and is relatively flat. We saw people pushing strollers on it. Here are some pictures from our trip. By the way, sunsets there are beautiful! (Some photos courtesy Ana Barbalata)

The house that Queen Victoria bought and used to visit.

I thought this looked nice with the canvas effect.