Saturday, November 29, 2014

"You ain't never caught a rabbit, and you ain't no friend of mine."

Well, my first time hosting Thanksgiving went well. The turkey came out really nice. Kidd Kraddick's Brown Bag turkey recipe was easy and good. My homemade turkey sausage was yummy. The cornmeal worked out well for my dressing, and I think everybody had a good time. It felt just like being with family. :o)

It's been really grey and rainy for the last week (or more?).

Steve and I have been taking our Vitamin D, and I've been going out with Angel in the rain, which leads to her getting VERY muddy. After her run in the park, I needed to give Frog some exercise. Remember I said he doesn't walk correctly, and so he drags his claws on the pavement until they are filed to the quick and bleeding? Well, because of that, my friend, Jeri, suggested I put him in the bathtub with some water and make him walk back and forth. Like water aerobics for dogs! I started that, and he was doing really well... until.. Remember I said that Frog has been waking me up super early to poop, and sometimes doesn't make it outside, like he's started having trouble holding it? Ugh, I'm sure you can guess what happened next. Yep, he pooped in the bathtub.

This dog is is really frustrating me. I guess I need to try ANOTHER brand of food. I also ordered one of Cesar Millan's videos about socializing dogs. I hope that it helps me deal with his crazy barking at other dogs. He has improved, but I'm thinking I could do better to help him. The story from one of the cases on the DVD was almost exactly like my story with Frog. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Where is the dang cornmeal??

Living in a new country means that occasionally you look for substitutes in recipes or have to figure out how to make things yourself that you would normally find in a jar or package at home. For example, once I couldn't find cream of mushroom soup, so I made it myself. By the way, if you are an American looking for cornmeal, don't get it confused with "corn flour," which is what Americans label as "corn starch."

For Thanksgiving, Americans make many traditional foods that require ingredients that are difficult to find in Aberdeen. I hear many women complain about not finding canned pumpkin. If you're looking, they have it in the American section at TESCO. I've spent the last two days looking for turkey sausage and cornmeal. I went to 4-5 different stores! We use it in the stuffing for the turkey. Cornbread stuffing.

I finally gave up looking on my own at TESCO and asked for help. The woman I asked couldn't find it where she had found it previously. She asked me to wait in the aisle. She came back with the store manager and who I'm guessing may have just been a floor manager. I was thinking, "Whoa! Now I feel silly. hehe." The store manager was out there in his nice suit and tie, iPhone in one hand scanning the inventory, other mobile in other hand taking calls. The other guy looked at me and said, "I've been looking for polenta (essentially cornmeal I've learned) off and on for the last week!" I was standing there embarrassed. All of this to help me find cornmeal! People are so nice here! We finally found it! It was in the Indian food section. I found this very strange. I have only scratched the surface with cooking Indian food. Do many recipes require cornmeal? At any rate, now you know where to find it here!

I never did find the turkey sausage, so I found a recipe for turkey breakfast sausage. I hope it's good. I mixed it up tonight, and I'll try some for breakfast tomorrow. Hopefully, problem solved. :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wow! This is behind your office, Steve?

Steve had to walk to his office for his laptop on Sunday. I told him that I'd walk with him and take Angel. When we got to the office, he pointed and told me that there are some trails through the forest I could take Angel through while he's getting his stuff. At first I thought, "Man! This is really muddy and thick!" Angel didn't mind. She was excited to run.

After a few minutes of trekking through the mud and brush, we came to a lovely stream with a nice walking trail and wooden bridge!
I know it looks really muddy and not so great in this picture, but the bridge and stream are so nice! Imagine it with the water flowing. :)

Steve texted me to let me know he was finished. I texted back, "Okay. It's so cool back here!" That's such a nice place he and his coworkers have to de-stress during the day (if it's not muddy!).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Another good-bye

Well, it's that time again. Another friend is leaving Aberdeen to go back to Texas. Today we said good-bye to Beth. She's been such a sweet friend, and in her short time here she was very involved with AWA. We went to Cocoa Ooze for lunch, chocolates, and hot chocolate (I had tea. I can't drink cow's milk, and they didn't have soy.).  Bon Accord Beth.
Photo credit: Jessica Yamaguchi

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Do you volunteer much? Donate to charity? I try when I can, but I'd really like to make more of an effort to make volunteering a normal part of my life. My mom is working through a Bible study just now that talks about giving to those in need. She was telling me what the Bible says about giving to the poor, and that it's part of showing your obedience and love to God. She said that they have never purposely put aside money that would be given to a charity, but that now she'd like to start doing that. It got me thinking.

Steve and I give to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital each year that my friend Randi runs in their marathon, but I'd like to do more. Recently I went to the Children's Hospital here and volunteered with the Archie foundation. I'd like to do that more. I'd like to go help out at the Seafarer's Centre at the harbour in Aberdeen again as they prepare Christmas gifts for the seafarers. My friend Tekara said that she and her husband volunteered in the kitchen at Star of Hope in Houston, Texas every 2 weeks. It got me thinking, "I can do that... make volunteering a regular part of my life." We could even set aside a piggy bank that once full, we donate to a charity, and continue to do so each time it is full.

Wrapping gifts for seafarers last year.
What do you do, or what are you feeling inspired to do? :o)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Early mornings thanks to Frogdog and other activities

Wow, have I really not written anything in almost a week? Time really flies sometimes. Last week was so busy! We had our last AWA meeting of the year at Rosie Thistle's Tea Room (link).  It's a lovely place with good tea, coffee, and lunch. You can sit at a table or snuggle up on cozy chairs or sofas.

Afterwards, I had to take the dogs to the park and get some wool for knitting. On Thursdays I go to the Stitchin' Chicks meeting. We meet at a different person's house each week to work on projects, have coffee/tea, and chat. I've been trying to learn how to knit. Knitting is HARD! In the amount of time that I cast on, knitted a row or two, unraveled it all, and then cast on the stitches again about 8 times, my friend Kate had crocheted a hat with a flower attached. Let me type it again, "Knitting is hard!" I'm not one to give up so quickly though. I'm going to practice until I get this.

Friday is Mahjongg. Frog woke me up at 4:30AM to poop. He's relentless. He refused to go back to sleep. I was exhausted at Mahjongg. Then, I had to do my shopping for sweets for the bake sale to raise money for the Archie Foundation, which provides funding that benefits sick children. Get dog food. Walk the dogs.

Saturday I had Kung Fu. Then, I cooked lunch. I needed a nap afterwards. Because I didn't get up with enough time to hydrate before Kung Fu, I think I had a dehydration headache. After a nap I spent the rest of the night baking. I hate baking. It's messy and so easy to screw up. Also, whatever you make is going to rot your teeth, make you gain weight, and for me, give me the shakes from all the sugar.

I got up at 6:40 AM, although Frog woke me up at 5:15 AM to poop (ugh), on Sunday to finish my truffles and be at the hotel where we had our AWA Craft Fair to set up the Sweet Shoppe at 8:00AM. I worked for 3 hours, did a little shopping, went to the grocery store, and then went home to relax! But not really. I made lunch, and then Steve and I took the dogs to the park to play. Angel was rolling in the mud and leaves! That night we went to a friend's house to have pizza and watch American football. We had a great time!

After a busy day that included lots of running in the park for the dogs, I was not expecting Frog to wake me up early again (6:15AM) so he could potty. It's like he's reverting back to a puppy. He cannot hold it anymore in the morning. He wakes me up super early almost every day. I've tried ignoring him, but that proved to be more of an inconvenience because he couldn't make it out of the house before taking a poop in the floor. Great.

Any ideas? Have any of you had this issue with your dogs? He is 6 years old. He used to always wait until I woke up.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My Poor Kindle Screen Looks Like...

...somebody smudged the ink across the top half. I tried to reset the device. You just hold down the power button (or slide and hold) for 20 seconds until the screen goes off, and then you hold it a bit longer. When you let go, the start-up screen should come on. That didn't work. I tried changing the settings so that the screen would refresh each time I turned the page. That didn't work.

Finally, I called Amazon. Actually, I clicked on "Contact Us" on the website, highlighted my device, entered my phone number, and clicked "Call Me Now" on the screen. My phone rang immediately. Fabulous! Unfortunately, my device is out of warranty, but they e-mailed me a list of options with discounted prices included as long as I return the broken device using pre-paid postage that they also e-mailed me. What great service! Because you choose your device on their website before contacting them, they can easily setup a return and replacement. Then, they just ask which card on your account to use, charge it while you are on the phone, and you're done! It was so easy. I should have a new Kindle by Friday. I just have to pop the old one in the post tomorrow.

Thank you Amazon for the wonderful customer service.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Frost is Here

We had a visit from Jack Frost last night:

Beauty is everywhere. You just have to take a minute to see it. What have you taken a moment to notice lately?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Phrases - Houston Vs. Scotland

Since moving to Aberdeen, I've learned that some of the phrases I used back home are not understood at all here, or they are not as easily understood as using local phrases. Sometimes my friends/family give me a hard time or giggle when I say things as they are said here, and I always tell them, "Sorry! I've gotten used to saying it this way so that I'm better understood!" Here are some of the phrases we use most often (Both sides may find this very helpful.):

Houston: "Could you take out the trash?"
Aberdeen: "Could you take out the bin?"

Houston: "Is this for here or to go?"
Aberdeen: "Sit in or take away?"

Houston: "I'd like to make a reservation for seven at 5:30."
Aberdeen: "I'd like to book a table for seven at half five."

Houston: "Where is the bathroom?
Aberdeen: "Where is the toilet?"

Houston: "I jammed my finger."
Aberdeen: "I staved my finger." (This may not be a common phrase to you, but for us it is!)

Houston: "How do you like Scotland?"
Aberdeen: "How are you finding Scotland?" (The first time somebody asked me this, I thought they were asking about my ability to navigate. hehe)

Houston: "I'll call you tomorrow."
Aberdeen: "I'll phone you tomorrow."

Houston: "No problem."
Aberdeen: "No worries."

Houston: "Give me a few minutes."
Aberdeen: "Two seconds, please."

Houston: "Did you figure it out?"
Aberdeen: "Did you get it sorted?"

Houston: "Knock on wood." (When you don't want to jinx yourself!)
Aberdeen: "Touch wood."

Houston: "What's your last name?" (Like when you show up with a reservation.)
Aberdeen: "Surname please."

Houston: "Watch your step."
Aberdeen: "Mind your step."

Houston: "Do you want salt on your popcorn?"
Aberdeen: "Do you want your popcorn sweet or salty?" (Sweet OR salty? Awesome choice. I had to add this one in because I'd never been asked that at the theater before moving here.)

Houston: "Bring a dinner dish or a dessert!"
Aberdeen: "Bring something savory or sweet!"

Houston: "How have you been?"
Aberdeen: "How are you keeping?"

Houston: "Is this the line?"
Aberdeen: "Is this the queue?"

Maybe this has just brought greater clarity to your life (insert grin). There are loads of words for things that differ between the countries, but for this post I wanted to stick to the things we say most often instead of giving you an exhaustive list of words such as carriageway, crisps, boot, bonnet, knackered, etc,...I'm sure some readers have additional phrases that they use often (feel free to post them as long as they are clean). I will likely think of more when I go to bed later. :)

Maybe I'll compile individual words for my next post!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Times when I wish I was back in Texas

Most of the time when people ask if I like living here, my answer is "Absolutely," or if I'm ready to go back to Texas, my answer is "Not really." Today, however, I feel differently. I was talking to my mom on the phone, and she's having a pretty stressful week. I wanted so badly to offer to come for the weekend or for a week just to help for a while. That's not possible from here. It's so expensive. I don't want to leave my husband during the holidays (he can't leave just now), and we have the dogs. If I were back in Houston, I could easily load everybody into the car and drive to my mom's house.

Photos from the last time I was with my parents (and my cousin, Michael who is coming to visit soon!) at Christmas.

 Or when I hear her talk about my sisters being in band. I'm missing all of that. I don't get to be a part of the crowd watching them perform and cheering them on. I only get to see short video clips. Technology really can be a blessing.

I'm not unhappy here. I love it here. I wish we could stay! But I also love my family and want to be there for them. It's a bitter sweet lifestyle -- living abroad or going home -- on both sides.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Habits - Houston Vs. Aberdeen

"We cannot change life! We can only change the way we live life. Any moment is the best moment, and any place is the best place." -- Tishan

I've been in Scotland for almost two years. I've really enjoyed the experience, and I've learned so many things that I will take back to Texas. It's funny how easily we get stuck in habits in life. Habits that we never think could or possibly should change. It's interesting to me now how little I thought of life outside of the USA (probably because I never imagined I'd have the opportunity to experience it). When I write "life" here, I suppose I am referring to daily common activities and how they differ between places. Don't get me wrong. I lived outside of Texas for a few years in graduate school. I lived in Minnesota and let me tell you... that was a big change from Texas. IT...WAS...COLD, but I loved it. :)  Here are some difference between my life in Houston and my life in Aberdeen that I've been thinking about lately :

First, I almost always carry shopping bags with me now. I did it occasionally in Texas, but now it's a habit. I even stuff a bag into my purse sometimes just in case I might stop somewhere. I don't just take reusable bags for groceries. I take them for all shopping. I didn't try very hard to do that in Texas.
Oh here's a big one! In Houston, when I needed groceries I would drive to ONE SHOP. I would then buy enough groceries to last 2-3 WEEKS at the ONE SHOP. Then, I'd have about 10 bags full to carry inside the house. I'd stuff items anywhere I could fit things throughout my kitchen consisting of a pantry and 12 cabinets. What was I doing? Preparing for the next zombie apocalypse? Here's how my grocery shopping was today (and is now always how it is): 

I drove to LIDL, remembering to put a pound in my pocket before leaving. At the store, I deposited my pound into a shopping cart (er.. trolley) so that I could "rent" one for my shopping (you get it back but man is it a pain the butt when you can't find a coin). A purchased ONE bag full of groceries there. Then, I drove to the butcher to get my meats. ONE bag there. Lastly, I drove to Sainsbury's to hopefully find the items on my list that were not at LIDL. I go to LIDL first because it's WAY less expensive than many other grocery stores. I used 1.5 bags there. I got exactly what I needed for meals to last until Friday. That's 5 DAYS folks. Then, I came home with my 3.5 bags and put things into the refrigerator and my TWO cabinets.

Looking back, I've realized how much unnecessary excess I was buying, and that I didn't try very hard to venture outside of mainstream supermarkets. I'm sure part of it was that I was working full time, commuting, and didn't want to fight traffic on the roads and down the aisles after work. Buying loads at a time was also a way to avoid having to go through that effort very often. Also, while farmer's markets were available, I had to drive for 30-45 minutes one way to get those local products. By the time I factored in time, the cost of gas, and the typically higher cost of local meats and produce, it just didn't seem worth the effort. I'll definitely do my research and make more of an effort when we are sent back to Texas.
In Houston, I could wash and dry HUGE loads of laundry in a few hours. Clothes came out of my gas, front-loading drier completely dry and wrinkle free. They'd go on the hangers or were folded. Done!

In Aberdeen, one load of clothes takes me all day from start to finish. The machines are smaller so I wash less at a time. Then, I take the clothes downstairs and outside to hang on the line, or I hang them all around the house if it's raining. If they are hanging inside the house, they usually aren't dry until the next day. When they are dry, I carry some downstairs to iron. I hate ironing. The rest go in the dryer for 20-30 minutes or are folded as they are. Honestly, after doing this for 2 years now, I prefer hanging the clothes to dry. They smell nice, and I'm not using any energy to dry them. I do pop a few things into the dryer for 30 minutes to soften them up. If I didn't do that, our towels would feel like sandpaper! Nobody wants that.
Going out to eat:
In Houston, if we wanted to go to a restaurant, we'd just pick one and show up. We'd ask how long we'd have to wait. Sometimes we'd get seated immediately. Other times, we'd have to wait. Waiting for 30-40 minutes to get seated was common. We rarely thought to make reservations. Many places won't even allow it. Oh, and servers will ask you if you need anything else and then bring the bill if you say no. Sometimes they bring the bill as soon as they bring your food! Subtlety was not always their strength. However, the good thing about it is that when you are ready to go, you have no problem getting the bill and getting out. The con to this is that you feel rushed or have to tell them to take the bill back because you want dessert.
In Aberdeen, we almost never go to a restaurant without calling to book a table, even for lunch during the week. The good thing about it is that we don't have to sit on a bench by the door for 45 minutes. We have our table, and they book enough time for you to enjoy yourself without feeling rushed. The bad inconvenient thing about it is that it's not always easy to just go somewhere on a whim and get a table. If people have booked all the tables, they will tell you they are booked for the next 2 hours and sometimes for the night to avoid rushing people. Moreover, while you are dining they won't bring you the bill until you ask. I prefer that unless I get one of those servers who you know is playing angry birds in the back. "Where the hell is our server? We've been finished for 30 minutes..."

Paying at a restaurant - Splitting the bill
So you've gone out to eat with a group of friends and you want to split the bill. In Houston, they often review or remember what you all had and will split the bill for you. I used to do it. You go to the computer, highlight the specific items on the bill, and click a button that says "Split" to separate them. Easy, right? Sometimes, they'll ask you to circle and initial the items each person wants to pay for so that they can split the bill. No problem usually. Want to pay with a credit card? Not an issue for most places, but they will take your credit card out of sight to a machine at a desk. I'm not comfortable giving my credit card to a stranger to take out of sight.
In Aberdeen, "There's no button for that." Yep. Splitting the bill here takes an act of Congress at most places. They either tell you that they can't do it, or you have to pull out your calculator to add up exactly what you owe. Then, you tell them how much in GBP you want to put on your card, and don't forget to add in the tip because most of their card machines won't add the tip separately. I can't tell you how many times we forgot that when we first moved here and ended up digging frantically through pockets to find change for a tip after! LOL. Unlike Texas, there is not an additional line to write in a tip on the credit card receipt that you sign. On a positive note, they bring the card machine to you, which is so much better than taking your card away. On another note, loads of places here don't accept credit cards.

So, we usually have to withdraw cash before dinner, which is a new habit we developed here. I know what some of you are thinking. Why is bringing cash an issue? We only receive a limited amount of Steve's salary in GBP while the rest is paid in US dollars to our US accounts. We are limited with our cash withdrawals. And.. who carries cash anymore?  I almost always have a little cash on me now. That's something I rarely carried in Houston, but it's always been a habit of Steve's. It's probably a good habit to have.

It's all good:
Really! It is what you make it, and often times I try to make new things fun. If I can't make it fun, I'll try to make it funny.