Monthly Archive: January 2016

Burns Night Supper

Not to brag, but Big E looked pretty killer n a kilt.

Not to brag, but Big E looked pretty killer n a kilt.

Ever since we first found out we were going to Scotland, all I wanted was to get E in a kilt. Now I see my fair share of men in kilts on a near weekly basis, especially in the summer. They are regularly worn to church, weddings, anything formal, and the Highland Games- generally by those who own their own kilts. But for a non-Scot, a non-kilt-owner, your only chance is a formal event. Which E’s company has 0. Enter Burns Night! An event honoring Scotland’s favorite poet, Robert Burns on his birthday January 25th.

Burns Suppers are either on his actual birthday, or the Friday and/or Saturday closest to. A lot of the big companies here host their own Burns Suppers, but of course not Erik’s…so I set out to find a public Burns Supper and got a table together. This all was a little last minute, about 2 weeks prior to the event, so options were a little slim. A lot of Burns Suppers were sold out already, but we managed to be able to get a table at the Aberdeen Council’s Burns Supper on Friday (Saturday was sold out) held at the Beach Ballroom in Aberdeen.

Our table.

Our table.

Good thing these fellas got killer legs.

Every man looks better in a kilt.

12605333_10102516484302307_205390791406214179_oSo what is involved in a Burns Supper? Well here’s a quick guide.  But they can be informal or formal; ours was a mix without a strict dress code. Most men were in kilts though or trews (tartan trousers that are super adorable with suspenders and a dinner jacket), and most women in dresses, though some were casual dresses, some cocktail dresses, some club dresses, and some formal gowns (ha, me!).   Anyway, all Burns Suppers follow a pretty traditional schedule. Ours was a Burns Supper was a ceilidh (pronounced /ˈkeɪ.li/ which had a live band and Gaelic folk dancing).

The evening:

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  • Piping in the Guests
    • Of course you need to be piped in! It’s getting hard for me to go anywhere these days unless I get piped there.
  • Ceilidh dancing
    • Not a totally full dance floor as no one has had enough drink, but nice opportunity to get totally sweaty before dinner
    • Ours started out with the Gay Gordons. Certainly a favorite.

Kaitlin & Cris Gay Gordoning it up

Kaitlin & Cris Gay Gordoning it up

  • Welcome Speech and The Selkirk Grace
    • Written by Burns of course:

Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it;

But we hae meat, and we can eat

Sae let the Lord be thankit.

  • Piping in of the Haggis
    • Why wouldn’t the Haggis get piped in? Everyone stands up and the Haggis is brought in on a big platter with it’s own piper, where it’s brought to a table in the center of the room.12605356_10102516483933047_4100911296766726277_o
  • Address to a HaggisScreen Shot 2016-01-28 at 12.34.40 PM
    • At the lineHis knife see rustic Labour dicht the speaker normally draws and sharpens a knife, and at the line An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht, plunges it into the haggis and cuts it open from end to end.
  • Dinner
    • Haggis, Neeps, Tatties. Your dinner must include this or it’s not a real Burns Night.
  • Toasts
  • Works by Burns
    • I’m not sure what exactly our MC read and sang…but there was reading of poetry and singing of Rabbie B’s works.
  • Ceilidh dancing
    • You’re cooled down, fed, and have more booze in your system. It’s time to dance. Have no clue how to ceilidh? Nae bother. They yell out instructions and every when it gets too complicated, pretend you are a river dancer and no one will know or care you’re just a jackass American.
    • Strip the Willow is the crowd pleaser and was played last at our supper. I think it should be played last at all events due to the mass amount of chaos going on. I tried to find the best example of it but unfortunately there are only videos with small groups. Our dinner had about 3 groups of at least 70 people in each grouping (35 men and 35 women). It was total pandemonium.

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  • The Closing
    • Everyone gives thanks to the great evening, stands in a big circle holding hands, and sings Auld Lang Syne (another hit by Rabbie!)

That’s a Burns Night!

I’m really glad to have done this. As an expat you never really know how long you’ll be around and I wanted to take advantage of something so quintessentially Scottish. I think as long as we’re here neat year and still have friends here, I’ll try and do it again. There seems to be some posh Burns Suppers held at various hotels around Aberdeen- so that’s the 2017 Burns Supper Goal! I’ll start dress shopping now….

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American Haul

I mentioned in my last post that we successfully (in my opinion) won the baggage options on our flight home this year. Last year was an utter mess resulting in about $500 of extra fees (eeeek! You live and learn.). This year we were much more strategic. Erik and I each have one normal sized carry on. Going to the states mine had my computer stuff, dog stuff, and workout clothes. My large checked bag had a folded up duffel inside and a lot of gifts (including a bottle of gin-heavy!) and things like extra sweats and running shoes I was leaving at home for my next return.

Erik’s carry on was full of all the extra heavy gifts (books, the heaviest box of chocolates ever, the board game stramash made of wood and marbles, etc). So full that he actually had to take stuff out because his puddle jumper first flight out of Aberdeen airport weighed it- oppps. His other bag had his clothes and some more gifts. As I was hoping was the case, on his layover in Frankfurt he bought me the large Longchamp weekender duffle (duty free and didn’t count against weight!).

When we repacked, all of E’s old undies got thrown out (hallelujah!) making room for his new (thank god). I got a new (smaller) mac book pro so it now fit in my (massive) purse instead of my carry on and left the old mac at my mom’s. Additionally I got global entry so I didn’t have to deal with the hassle of taking anything out of my bag. My carry on had a lot more space to go to things I wanted to bring back to the UK, as did my original checked bag. The two extra duffle bags (while impossible to fill to 50 lbs) got stuffed to the brim, along with E’s carry on and his normal checked bag.

So we came back with 2 extra duffels each costing $100. As far as I can tell, this is the best mode of transportation. To get more weight on the extra bags back, the only other option is buying extra suitcases stateside and filling them up to 50lbs (instead of bringing our own duffels from the UK originally). I feel that the cost of suitcases though negate that value. I have also heard of people packing shipping boxes full of clothes, etc and checking that as your extra luggage piece (lightest weight so the most poundage of goods) but with all our stuff that sounds like a nightmare to carry/move/fit in a car.

So with all this strategy….what did my haul back to the UK have in it?  I now realize I should have taken pictures at least of ALL the luggage, with or without opening the zippers so that you could see what a packing wizard I am.

  • Pumpkin Pecan Trader Joe’s Oatmeal
  • Kind Bars
  • Pumpkin Bars (by TJ)
  • Pumpkin coffee
  • Pupperoni – 2 lbs!
  • 2 bags of Target rawhides
  • 2 bags of Charlie bear dog treats
  • 1 dog toy
  • 1 light up dog collar
  • 1 dog vest
  • 4 sleeves of golf balls
  • Golf ball scoop/club
  • 4 books
  • new American full size sheet set for our guest room
  • new American full size duvet cover for our guest room
  • ipad mini
  • day planner
  • 1 supersize Charleston chew (what I couldn’t resist)
  • 3 Dylan’s candy bars
  • Beef jerky
  • Moscow mule mugs
  • Prescriptions
  • Nyquil
  • Massive bottle of Tylenol pm
  • 2 bottles of ibuprofin
  • hot water bottle
  • Garmin Forerunner 235
  • 4 bras
  • Gloves – work gloves, running gloves, and mittens
  • Stocking cap
  • 2 mascara
  • 2 pairs of lululemon tights
  • 2 vests
  • 4 shirts
  • Gravy boat & mini ladle
  • Sport bra
  • Sweatshirt
  • 2 running tops
  • 1 pair of breeches
  • half chaps
  • so many socks
  • 2 pairs of earrings
  • Trader Joes’ Balsamic glaze
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Browning sauce
  • Set of 4 tartan appetizer plates

Erik’s haul?

  • Aero coffee press
  • So many socks
  • Golf balls
  • 4 pairs of new dress pants
  • 2 sweaters
  • 4 new dress shirts
  • new running pants
  • so many new undies
  • poofy vest
  • deodorant

Would I die if I couldn’t bring back anything? No, but things can be so much cheaper stateside. Bringing back Stella treats sounds so stupid I know, but they are so cheap and the ones she likes. Here if I get a package of about 10 rawhides it costs £5, at Target I get a bag of about 50 for $12.99. Other things were gifts that I do want so of course I’ll bring those back. Clothing options and prices are 1000000x so taking advantage of that (thank you black Friday sales, ebates, and a friend that works at Under Armor.) Throw in some uniquely American pumpkin treats for me. And deodorant of course- I’m not switching to UK spray deo. And the drugs, ohhh the American Costco quantity drugs. Thank god for the drugs. Do you have any idea how much ibuprofen (running, lifting, basketball, horse riding, stable work) we go through in this house? What about allergy pills as we’re both sorta allergic to our dog and I have a hard core horse and hay allergy? Do you know sleep aides are illegal here? Not even just talking Tylenol PM, but even melatonin…so I got melatonin (275 tablets), Tylenol PM (375 tablets) and a big jug o’ Nyquil.   And don’t forget about all the cold & flu drugs I’m reliant one (hopefully only) once a year when I get sick and don’t get out of bed for 3 days.

So yeah…you might feel this list is a tad ridiculous…and that’s okay. If you’re an expat- what do you stock up on and bring from your motherland? Not an expat? What things would you bring with you on a checked bag under 50 lbs?

Long Trip Home

I’m alive! I swear. Alive and back in Aberdeen.   I actually got back 2 weeks ago and to be honest- I don’t think that’s a bad lag time from spending a month in the US and having to fight jetlag and jump back into the swing of things. But my mother thinks the lack of blog love is unacceptable. I know it doesn’t help that I didn’t blog the entire time I was home, and though I really meant to get at least one more blog out before I left….it didn’t happen. But that’s okay. I wanted to post about all that went into planning to go home for a month, when you only go stateside once a year and have to get EVERYTHING done and see everyone. But I’ll just post about the planning and the outcome.

Home, sweet home, Chicago

Home, sweet home, Chicago

 

Make no mistake; it’s a lot of planning. Going away to any place for 4 weeks is a lot of planning. It starts with figuring out the dates- I have a more flexible schedule obviously, E doesn’t- mostly because he has a finite amount of days off. This year he had to use all his days off so we scheduled around that. For our Christmas trip next year, E’s dates are already predetermined because it ends up being whatever days he can spare after our travel this year. Yes, we actually plan out and designate every one of E’s vacation days for 2016 before it even is 2016. Must maximize what you got with fore planning.

 

Once the dates are set all the other scheduling has to be laid out. The following doctors appointments must be lined up for both of us (these are really important to get done stateside): dentist, optometrist, and dermatologist. Then I’ll schedule in a gyno and shrink appointment. Next, I had to book a day to visit my clients, a couple days where I could get on a horse (first, finding WHERE I can even get on a horse), and my global entry interview.   One thing I booked far before flights was afternoon tea in Chicago with my mom and sister in law – a yearly tradition of shopping and indulgence. E reserves a day to come together as the Trifecta with his brother and drink heavily (and smoke brisket as it turns out this year). I book a day to go to Fort Wayne (2.5 hour drive) to see my best friend with her cousin/my friend, E plans a weekend to go down to Indy to see his brother an additional day and his best friends from college for a day – which I would drive down separately and join him in. Then there’s scheduling a couple evenings out in Chicago to see friends, New Year’s Eve, and seeing some local friends in our hometown. We even tried to schedule a Blackhawks game but I’m actually thankful that didn’t work out. AND AFTER ALL THAT, it’s bouncing from house to house every day to see and spend time with our families every other second.

That's one happy Santa.

That’s one happy Santa.

I don’t mean for our families to sound like an afterthought- they aren’t. But since they live there and we’re living with them, and we know their schedules, all the other planning is done first and they fill in the blanks. ALL the blanks. Like I know my mom watches Max, my nephew, on Mondays- so I didn’t schedule anything any Monday if I could avoid it. Basically this is what we were looking on pretty well set in stone before we stepped foot on our flight home.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
9 10 11 12 13
Arrive 5 pm

Dinner w. mother & in-laws

Wake up to flooded house- damage control.

Nails Done

Shop at Tony’s Saddle Shop

Morning train to Chicago w. Mom & SIL for shopping & tea

Meet Megan for dinner/drinks

Joined by others for after dinner drinks.

Spend night in Chicago.

Go to brunch with Tricia and drinks post brunch.

Nearly miss train home.

14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Babysit Max all day

10am eye doctor

Road trip to Ft. Wayne w. Lynda to see Heather – gone all day Train to Chicago

Go to Shoe Hospital to drop off fav. Boots for repair

Get/eat Doughnut Vault

Dentist Appointment

Apple store appt for new mac issues

Give homeless man extra doughnuts

Eat Roti

Shrink Appointment

Drinks & then tacos with Tricia

Nearly miss train home

Leave house 7 am

Drive to Northbrook, IL for Carol’s Cookie meeting

Drive to Mundelein IL for marijuana dispensary meeting

Drive to O’hare & have Global Entry Interview

Pick up E arriving at O’hare

Get Giordano’s Pizza

Drive home & have dinner w. E’s family

E goes down to Indy.

Horse Riding Lesson.

Meet hometown friend for drinks

Drive down to Indy to meet E at our friend’s house.

After their babies go to bed play beer pong as if still in college.

Drive home (3 hours).  

Pick up my brother from the airport bus.

Family dinner

21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Drive to Chicago 8 am

9:15- Gyno

10- Dermatologist

11-1: online shopping returns

1: E Dentist

2: Eat $100 worth of sushi

4: E eye appointment

5: Put name in at Au Chevel, go for drinks

6:30: Eat Au chevel

8: meet friends in Wicker Park for drinks

10: E’s little bro arrives in from TX

11: all drive home

Horse Riding Lesson

Nails done with MIL

Trifecta Day

Christmas Eve shopping (whoops)

Big Christmas Eve dinner at my family’s house

Wrap all the presents (whoops)

Presents at my family

Brunch at my family

Brunch at E family

Presents at E family

Dinner at E grandma

Lunch with Heather & Linz

See hometown friends

Celebrate East coast bro’s birthday and play games at my family’s

Brunch with all in-laws & my mom
28 29 30 31 1 2 3
Drive to Chicago w. Stella

See Dave & condo building friends

Pick up prescriptions

Pick up boots

Drive home

 

Lunch with hometown friend Stella Vet appt.

Train to Chicago

NYE celebrations w. Megan & co.

Stay night in Chicago

Brunch w. Megan & co.

Brunch #2 & drinks w. friends

Train home

Ribs w. E’s family

Undecorated Christmas Tree

Go to brothers and hang with dogs, nephew, and neighbors.
Ribs, Max, & sports at brothers

Dinner with E’s family before little bros flight home

Pack

See home-town friends

4 5 6
Pack

Say goodbyes

Start the journey home

8 am: Land in Edinburgh

Rent car and drive to ABZ

Nap

Return Car

Sleep until 3 pm.   Whoops

Remember- that doesn’t include eating dinner with one family or another every night (other than specific gatherings or nights out) or just hanging out playing with dogs or watching a movie with family at one of their homes. It’s pretty damn chaotic. Which might explain why I a) didn’t work out one single time, b) didn’t blog, and c) took so long to recover.

Christmas Eve dinner - not the best photo skills but captured the moment!

Christmas Eve dinner – not the best photo skills but captured the moment!

Stramash- Scotland's only board game: a new family tradition

Stramash- Scotland’s only board game: a new family tradition

IMG_2344

 

Lessons learned for next year:

 

1) I can’t eat all the things I love and miss in a month. I didn’t even get a DQ blizzard…for shame! Though making time for Au Chevel, sushi, and good steak are ALWAYS worth it. I did gain about 8 lbs while home, and I don’t regret that, but I need to manage my foodie expectations. But I did accomplish a lot….

Unique twist on the classic high tea- thanks for the Rose mum!

Unique twist on the classic high tea- thanks for the Rose mum!

Au Chevel - get in my belly

Au Chevel – get in my belly

Stramash- Scotland's only board game: a new family tradition

Stramash- Scotland’s only board game: a new family tradition

Sienna Tavern

Sienna Tavern

 

2) I need to make sure the dentist understand what needs to be done, and schedules 2 appointments with enough time to get a crown in. I’m currently sitting with 2 teeth that need crowns. Fingers crossed they hold on for a year.

 

3) Bring home fewer clothes! I really felt I did better this year…but really, LESS CLOTHES HOME. I just need 7 outfits and wear them on repeat. What’s worse is the things I wore the most were the things I got new while at home. Definitely could have trimmed off 7 tops. Also- since I didn’t work out AT ALL, all those workout clothes were a huge waste. That being said, last year I ran everyday. Though Christmas break 2016 I’m pretty sure I won’t be as it will be a month or two out for the NYC marathon. So definitely: MINIMAL WORKOUT CLOTHES.

 

4) While it’s great to see as many people as we did, next year I think will be different. Prioritize more on the really good friendships, less on the acquaintances that I do love the opportunity to see, but the time should be spent on those most important to me.

 

5) There is never going to be enough time. Doesn’t matter if I come home 6 weeks next year, it will be just as busy. And in some ways that really sucks (the fact that I’m exhausted the entire trip home) but at least I don’t leave feeling guilty for not making good use of my month home when I abandon the states for another 11 months.

 

The good is I feel I saw a lot of people and gave them a decent amount of time. We also did really well with bringing 2 extra duffle bags (which yes charged us $100 extra each bag but was way better than being over weight) and overall packing to go home. And I have to say, my obsessive pre-planning and scheduling, even though it left me exhausted, paid off in maximizing our time home. Now, my work continues to get back to life in the UK and get on a good sched