Posts filed under 'Aberdeen'

You bought a what?

A HORSE!

It’s time to address the elephant, errrr, horse in the room.  Okay he’s not really in the room, but it’s no secret my instagram is flooded with pictures of a certain mischievous, dirty, cheeky wee beastie.

I bought a horse. No seriously, I bought a horse with my Polish Christmas monies. (What you don’t celebrate Polish Christmas? You’re missing out!) Though to be fair, E was as supportive as a man could be letting his wife gallivant around the country trying out horses, obsessively stalking ads online, and making herself sick and hysterical over the thought of actually getting a horse. And ya know…staying supportive as every single horse owner we encountered made comments like:

“You know what’s easier, just dig a hole in your back garden and dump all your money into that. You’re less likely to get hurt at least.”

“You know they live like 25 years?”

“It’s not the horse that’s the problem, it’s all the shit you think you need for the horse.”

“You know what’ll be less hassle. Take all your money out of your bank accounts, put it in a wheelbarrow, and just light it on fire. There, done. One fell swoop instead of slowly bleeding you dry.”

“Hope you like the smell of horse-shit.”

“Say goodbye to a clean house, dinner on the table, or ever seeing your wife again.”

“I’m sorry mate.”

We already knew E was a hell of a guy, but just in case I had any doubts, he encouraged me to get a pony.

Happy wife, happy life

I know I had already teased that I got a horse, but I thought it deserved a proper post on my decision. Because, a lot of people think I’m crazy…and it’s not to say I’m not, but getting a horse wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I actually don’t take any decision lightly, I’m a bit of a head-case.  Even when we got Stella, on the 5-hour drive back to Chicago I cried and called my mom asking if we should turn around and give her back. I feel like taking on the responsibility of an animal is a very serious decision. You should provide the best life possible for that animal! And I was raised with a dog, cat, and rabbit…it’s not like I never had pets. I just don’t take the decision lightly…. probably a lot of insight on why I don’t have kids to be honest.

When I moved to Scotland I said I was going to start riding horses again. (It’s just a shame it got pushed back a year or so for marathon training.) I used to ride when I was young. Starting around 7 years old until about 15. I never had a horse, though I asked for one pretty much every Christmas in between those years. I would go away to Camp Tecumseh every year and be part of their horse program, my last year going on a horse packing trip in PA. So in preparation for summer camp my mom would let me do a package of lessons to get my muscles working again (PS – lessons are the most expensive part of horse-ing) and when I was little I would also insist on a lesson or trail ride (called a hack in Scotland) for my birthday. I loved ponies. Couldn’t get enough. But every year I asked for one, my dad asked with what money would we get a horse? And I would calculate how much he’d save if he quit smoking. It didn’t go over so well.

It’s a shame though really, because had I known that with hard work, I could have maybe bought my own horse, or at least part-leased one as a teenager, I would have put forth the effort. Because believe me, I was a hard worker. And of course, I would have needed some parental monetary support, but I tell you what, having a horse and working to have that horse would have probably kept me out of trouble!

So yeah, not all horses costs 20K it turns out. My horse certainly didn’t cost 20K.  And actually, it’s not THAT much money for livery. Okay, it’s definitely a figure that has to be evaluated and considered, but it’s not like you’re paying rent for another apartment. Hamish lives on a livery yard, which I guess would be called a boarding stable in America. Basically, I pay horse rent for Hamish to live on massive grounds (like 100 acres) and have access to on-site lessons, indoor riding schools, equipment like jumps, and mostly, help and experience from very dedicated and amazing staff. Now Hamish lives out in a field, all the time…which is cheaper than if he lived in a stable that needed to be mucked out, etc. So yeah, if it’s pouring down rain, Hamish lives outside. If it’s snowing, Hamish lives out. It’s not abuse, he’s a horse. He’s livestock. And I buy him really expensive rugs (called blankets in America) to keep him warm and toasty.

The most expensive part of horse ownership is insurance and injury. No doubt. Horses are stupid and built poorly. They tend to get hurt or break a lot so you need to be prepared for it. But I find that like human healthcare, veterinary care in the UK is LOADS more affordable than in the USA.

Then there is all the shit the horse “needs”. Like the aforementioned rugs. The sprays and potions in attempt to get him clean. The supplements. The saddle. The boots. The shoes (did you know horses need new shoes every 4-8 weeks?) The groomer because I pay to get my horse’s mane done and clip (shave) his coat in the winter. Which at current requires sedation because he’s terrified of the clippers. Terrified in a way that makes it dangerous for anyone to be in the stable with him. So the sedation costs more than the hair cut, but I’m hoping by the end of next winter he’s able to relax and not need sedation to be clipped- he’s just a baby! And then there’s paying for someone to ride/train your pony (especially necessary if you got a young/green horse). And lessons with you and your pony. And then there’s all the stuff you need as a rider…. which I’m still accumulating. Do you know a sexy riding helmet can cost like £600?!?!

Anyway…. I guess as the saying goes…. it all adds up. And so because of that, I need to re-state how lucky I am that my husband supports my childhood dream of getting a horse. Because it’s a monthly drain on his bank account, his time (he comes to the barn 1-2x a week), and his pleasant life because I am home so much less, thus making me an even worse house wife, and more so, I obsess over my horse. A bad day with him totally consumes my mood, I over analyze every thing my instructor tells me, I google horse related stuff non-stop…. it’s just all consuming. On the plus side…. I’m in love! Love, love, love. In fact, I have a shit-eating grin this whole time writing this post.

So I started this blog with the intent of writing about how I came to the decision to get a horse, and then the process that led me to my horse…HAMISH.   But as this is already pretty lengthy, I’ll just end up with why I did decide now was the right time to get a horse.

Well, there’s obviously more pros than cons….and we know which won. I got a horse! The biggest negative of my current situation is that we can’t live here forever which forces a decision sooner than most people who buy a horse expect. In anywhere from a month- to at most a couple years I will either have to sell my horse, or light a whole new wheelbarrow of money on fire to move him. I went in to this trying to hypnotize myself that horses are not pets, they are a leisure item. They are akin to a bicycle or boat. Not a dog. But I know (as does E) that I’m not always the most practical and the heart wants what it wants. So that being said, I cannot for sure say either way what will happen to my horse when we move. And to be honest, I would only be able to make a decision when the time comes because there are a variety of factors that will influence his future.

But the biggest persuasion of getting a horse now is that livery yard/support network I have here. I had been riding at Aberdeen Riding Club for over a year and a half and working there Friday mornings for a year. I had made horsey friends who would help, the manager of the livery yard was helping me find the right horse for me so I didn’t die, and everyone was there to guide me in the right direction. I’d never have more help getting a horse for the first time. And since one of my biggest fears is killing the damn thing (maybe a little dramatic, but that’s me), I knew the yard wouldn’t let that happen. My horse and I would be in good hands.

Perils of Country Running

I do really love running in the country. Maybe because this summer was surprisingly nice and dry and about 90% of my runs treated me to beautiful sun shining on amber waves of grain, or wonderful brooding shadows across the Grampian mountains, or at the very least, super cute and curious cows, coos, bunnies, and ponies. But it would be a lie to say it was all sunshine and rainbows. And as much as I love the countryside…. the thought of running south from Lincoln Park along the lakefront path back towards are our home in Chicago- seeing the Hancock, and the Drake, and knowing our little high-rise is nestled in there, in front of the Bloomies building…well, it brings joy to my heart and a tear to my eye. The point? I guess that I adapt pretty damn well to love wherever life takes me. Except San Diego…I don’t know if I just didn’t give it a chance…but I get no warm and fuzzies thinking about there.

How can you not have all the feels when you see this city?!

How can you not have all the feels when you see this city?!

 

I digress.

Country running does have it perils and pitfalls. I thought I’d enlighten you to the somewhat funny and perhaps unexpected problems I encounter.

The biggest issues of country running can be put into one category:

 

FOUR LEGGERS

I know, I’m an animal lover. How could furry little beebeeies be the issue? Well, they are in a couple different scenarios based on the animal.

 

Dogs

  1. They lunge at me and I think I’m going to literally lose a hand or worse
  2. They are off lead trotting along with a massive stick and take out my shins
  3. They are on lead with an owner not paying attention and I am forced to hurdle them so I don’t trip
  4. They are either on or off lead and are complete spazes and while trying to get past them I accidentally step on them or kick them which makes me feel terrible
  5. They are so effing cute I have to stop running immediately and pet them.

Horses

Little paths with big horses...it was hard to get by.

Little paths with big horses…it was hard to get by.

  1. I’m running along a narrow path, maybe my headphones are in or maybe I’m just in the zone, I go round a bend and run directly, and I mean directly into your horse. This actually happened.
  2. As a mindful equestrian, I need to slow down or stop, remove headphones and have at the very least a limited discussion on passing, or move off to the side to let them pass.
  3. Horse shit. Enough said.

Deer

There is only one negative experience I’ve had with a deer running but I honestly almost died because of a heart attack. Seriously, he’s my hear rate monitor. Guess where I encountered the deer?

I’m running alone, in an unfrequented area of trail/path. My headphones are in, I admit. I am on the left side of the narrow path. I see bushes moving (LIKE A LOT OF MOVEMENT) on the right side parallel with me and stop and turn toward the bush (to look my murderer head on obviously) and a stag comes flying out of the bushes. I clearly frightened him while he was sleeping or something. I jump back as his little stick legs hit the pavement and due to it having just rained, the pavement is slick and his legs sprawl out and he’s sliding across, thrashing about until he’s dumped on the other side into grass where he gracefully finds his footing and leaps through the wood to escape me. I cannot emphasize enough, that had I been on the right side (thus closer to those antlers) I would most likely been impaled, or f*cked up on some level most definitely. Luckily I was on the left, which gave me a little extra space and thus time to jump away. I immediately called E because my heart was just racing, he didn’t answer but called me back a mile later…where I answer his call to talk. You can see that’s when my heart rate returns to a normal level.

I have to say it seems my heart rate monitor was very off or I was extreeeeemely chill on this day in general...but the spike's definitely accurate.

I have to say it seems my heart rate monitor was very off or I was extreeeeemely chill on this day in general…but the spike’s definitely accurate.

Although…I guess it could have been worse: Runner Hit by Flying Deer

When you google "runner scared deer" this is the image that comes up, bwahahaha

When you google “runner scared deer” this is the image that comes up, bwahahaha

Okay, moving off of four leggers. The next on the list of perils is…

 

Being Scared Sh*tless

scared-runner

I wear sports bras so am hoping my boobs do not look like that regardless of the speed Im going…

I know in the probability of me getting abducted or killed on a run is MUCH greater in Chicago…but I just felt safer running there. There were streetlights, and lots of people, and a decent amount of cops….

  1. When the sun goes down, it’s dark in the country. Real dark. Even with a head torch…it’s dark. Therefore, I can’t be running more than 20 mins post sunset time. And sometimes, it’s even too dark in the woods to run if it’s a grey day. No joke. I get freaked out.
  2. It doesn’t help now I’m really into unsolved murder podcasts…not helping the situation, I know.
  3. The lack of people I see on a run…it makes me super jumpy. I nearly pee my pants or have a heart attack (see deer heart rate pic) every time an animal runs out, or I get the sense someone’s behind me, or a bird flies out of a tree, or a cyclist sneaks up on me….it’s traumatic!
  4. The people I do so, can be a little unnerving. Again, I’m sure I was way likelier encountering weirdos with weapons in Chicago…but then again, I always had my posse of homeless friends within earshot I like to think and the possibility of carrying mace. I think I only did like 3x but still. Anyway, sometimes I’m virtually alone other than a troop of young boys that look like they’re up to no good. In football kit on a bench, drinking out of 2 liters of Strongbow, giving me the side eye. Scares me. Then there’s the incident that happened on my Sunday run. I’m about 5 miles out (11 miles into my run) and the path is sparsely populated due to crappy weather and being 5 miles out from the big central park. A guy on a bicycle rides past me going the opposite way and gives me a strange look. 20 seconds later I hear his brakes squeal and I turn around to see he had slid to a stop (it was wet and there were a lot of leaves). I take my headphones out of my ear to be more aware and pick up the pace. I make it around a corner and up ahead I see a man walking his dog and feel pretty relieved. The cyclist (who wasn’t in like workout/spandex cycling attire) had changed directions to be going the same way as me and shortly passes me. Up ahead I see him pull off to the right on a ramp to exit the path. As I get to the ramp, I look and he is heading up and off the bath. But I’m pretty alone again and freaked out so pick up the pace. In about 4 minutes I finally see someone else and feel a little better…and about a minute after that the cyclist passes me again. It was creepy.

 

Bugs (and spiders)

When I trained in the winter I didn’t realize what a big problem bugs would be in training during the sprint/summer.

  1. Running through spider webs sucks. You can’t get em off. You think spiders are in your hair. It’s really unsettling.
  2. Little bugs that get stuck in your eyes. It hurts. They’re hard to get out. And I’m temporarily blinded. This has happened at least 3 times in this training cycle.
  3. Big bugs that go down your throat. And then I’m left hacking either trying to get them out or go all the way down. Either way, it’s not pleasant and it happens all the GD time.

 

Ridden off the Road/Path/Trail

  1. I’ve written about the lack of driver’s consideration/vehicle right of way previously (find it here). But going further, running on super narrow, sometimes one-lane country roads with no gutter…it sucks! I do NOT wear headphones in these situations because I seriously would die. I also can’t do these runs without sunlight, and preferably, mid-day before people are commuting back to work. It’s really unnerving. More unnerving is when it’s about a lane and a half width, and I hear the car coming up behind me, and I am literally running on the edge where the road meets the grass/drop down to the ditch, and the driver decides to HONK AT ME. WTF IS THAT BUDDY?! I can’t get over any more, I know you’re there, and there is room for you to scootch over and pass without any problems. And even on 2 lane roads I find drivers are just unwilling to really move over despite the fact there is no one in sight coming towards them in the other lane.
  2. Now, there’s the issue of horses on trails getting right of way (see above).
  3. There are cyclists that go whizzing past me, heaven forbid they give an extra inch.
  4. I had some airing of running grievances (i.e. #sorrynotsorry) last week here…. and I won’t harp on it. But I’ll just restate it in case you missed it.

    Can't really just run past this guy...

    Can’t really just run past this guy…

 

And finally…

No water fountains! Gahhhh. The night before every long run I drive (or make E drive me) dropping water bottles in strategic spots for me to pick up along my run the next day. Hoping I don’t forget where they are, are covered in dog pee, or misplaced.  I know it’s only Scotland….but I can still get quite parched…dangerously parched you could say.

 

For the love of the ‘Deen

I’ve said this before, but I really love Aberdeen….most specifically, Aberdeenshire, and really, all of Scotland. It’s charming and quaint, rural and majestical. In fact, last month a job opportunity opened up for E in Brussels. It’s always been the goal that eventually we would get transferred to Belgium, but when E mentioned it to me, I started to cry. I don’t want to leave Scotland! At least not yet….and to be honest, even though I know it will have to eventually happen, and I’m excited about the prospect of what the next expat assignment will bring, you’ll probably read about the fact that E has moved me kicking and screaming.

So for this Friday faves, I’m going to share 5 links that help me prove just how grand life in the ‘shire is.  Hopefully, this will inspire you to come visit (next year, fully booked this summer already) or make you a little more excited for your upcoming trip to the North.

  1. Aberdeen is Scotland’s “kindest city” and the third kindest in all of the UK. This was based on a study which “measured the average number of good deeds carried out by residents.” This is no surprise to me. There are so many stories of people helping each other out , from lost dogs to kindly neighbors. In my own time here I’ve been free to go after forgetting my wallet at eateries, given gifts by my neighbors, and had my house called up by another neighbor when there was a bad storm.   The people here are nice. See the article HERE.
  2. Aberdeen is the second cleanest city in the UK in terms of air pollution. Well done ‘Donians! See the article HERE.
  3. There are more castles per acre in Aberdeenshire than anywhere else in the UK. I personally fancy the very gothic castles (Fyvie) or the ruins (Dunnotar)…but there’s a castle here that will take your breath away, no matter what you fancy. See the article HERE.

    IMG_1537

    Dunnottar Castle….always breathtaking just 15 mins south of Aberdeen

  4. But somehow Aberdeen still has a bad rap. At least people have fun with it. Check out this Buzzfeed list: 32 Reasons You Should Never, Ever Visit Aberdeen. It’s more than adequate in summarizing why I love it here. Check it out HERE.
  5. And where else can I force my husband to take m on Sunday drives, pulling over and stopping suddenly everytime I see a baby sheep or Highland Coo? As I did a 7 days of Sheep on Instagram recently, I’ll just treat you to some Coo pictures now. 🙂DSC_1032 DSC_1060 IMG_3820 DSC_0104 DSC_0335

Stella in the Country

IMG_3512

I love country living. Even when its flaw (being far from city-centre) becomes more and more abundant (as our social life gets fuller and fuller). I was a little worried initially about feeling alone and closed off- especially when it came to just having contact with people on a day that E is out of town and I have no reason to go into town. I remember one weekend when we moved to San Diego- E had been sent to New Jersey to work and I didn’t leave my apartment from Friday when I got home from work until Monday morning. Hadn’t unlocked the front door! Man, I kinda dream of a weekend like that now with sweet, sweet hibernation.

Anyway. With Stella-dog that’s never going to happen again. But I still was a little worried about actually interacting with people even though I knew I’d be outside. As it turns out- it’s rare that I take a walk with Stella through the woods or down the road and don’t run into anyone. And a lot of time, they want to talk. Everyone is friendly and engaging. Just yesterday I met a 5 year old girl (and her grandpa) who told me all about her new baby brother that’s coming next week, that she wants to be a veterinarian, that there’s a boy in her class that squeezes her hand too hard, and then she likes to feed Disney and Spirit (the horses down the lane) carrots whenever anyone will take her to them. It was pretty delightful other than my worry that maybe Disney and Spirit are getting way too many carrots as I feed them quite often as well and I know of at least one other neighbor that does as well.

IMG_2152

 

In some ways taking Stella out here is the exact same as taking Stella out in Chicago. Of course we don’t encounter our regular local homeless people or stop in to the same high end shops to get free dog treats (shout out to Lululemon, Barbour, Burton, Brioni, Ugg, Ted Baker, Sprinkles and Ugg), but we do meet and talk with our neighbors, get pets from strangers (more Stella than me), and sniff some dog butts (more Stella than me). There’s just the added bonus of not ever being on a leash, drinking water fresh from the burn, and chasing the occasional deer.

dog water fountain

How stella hydrates: Chicago vs. Scotland

The biggest difference in our typical “go outside” in Chicago vs. Aberdeenshire isn’t the scenery, it’s everything else!

CHICAGO DOG WALKS

ABERDEENSHIRE DOG WALKS

Leash Carrots (for horses)
Standard Collar Light Up Collar or Vibrating Collar (depending on the season)
Poo Bags Head Torch
Money (it always seemed like a good idea to stop at the Sprinkles cupcake ATM) Reflective Vest or Rain Coat
Tennis Ball & Racket Wellies or Hiking Boots
Trainers, snow boots, or flip flops

 

 

I still am loving country living and fear more a re-adjustment to a big city rather than something more rural (I just may eat my words some day). I’m pretty sure Stella has so qualms about her change in scenery either!

IMG_3321

Sheepdog in training.

IMG_1719 IMG_1912 IMG_2651 IMG_1316

Wah-bulance

older

Quickly becoming the worst blogger out there. In my defense…I’ve had my usual busyness, with a bunch of extra nuts on top: a trip to NYC for my brother’s wedding, entertaining our first 2016 visitors, trip planning, and a last minute trip home. I’ve also spent a fair amount of time searching for a horse to loan (which only resulted in bruises, no horse to call my own), going to doctors, and trying to sorta kinda start marathon training.

I know I’m a shite blogger…and I’d love to be a better one. But honestly, a lot of the time I just don’t feel like blogging. Why? Because there’s a lot of other shite going down that takes up my time, emotions, and energy. But because of that, I wanted to take a quick moment to dispel the idea that twitter, facebook, instagram, and many blog posts might suggest: that life is a rose garden. I’m not looking for sympathy, and I’m not out to share all my grievances (no one has time for that list). I just don’t like feeding into the hype that everyone is having these kick ass lives that you see online, leaving you feeling inadequate and sad. We all know social media only highlights (or exaggerates) the good in everyone’s life. No one is out there bragging about washing their running tights with gum in the pocket, their favorite, most expensive dress not fitting, all of a sudden having a complexion that resembles a 13 year-old, being over budget for the month, feeling like their college education was a bit of a waste and not knowing what the eff to do with their professional life, and their husband coming home at 2am drunk as a skunk. It makes sense though, people either don’t want to be brought down by the Debbie Downer side of life or they don’t want to have to call the wah-mublance for someone who can’t suck it up and move on. But at the risk of seeming like I’m digging for some sort of attention… life isn’t all sunshine and sheep over here.

face-book-pic-screenshot

 

My mother in law has been ill for quite some time now. Which makes being thousands of miles away all the more difficult. There’s a lot of stress, worry, guilt, last minute flights, and overall sadness.

We’ve had a very tragic, untimely death of a family member. Death is never easy, but when it’s someone so young, kind, promising, admirable…. it’s really unbearable. Emotionally, I’m exhausted.

I need two surgeries. They aren’t huge, but they both need me to go under, experience immense pain, and continue with pain and hard work for 6 months of 3x a week PT and rehab. As if that doesn’t suck enough…I can’t get them done at the same time, and each surgery would remove me from everything that makes me happy in my life for 6 months.

Aberdeen is an oil city, and oil prices are in the shitter right now. There’s also the whole Brexit thing. Most things are uncertain in North Sea oil and even more uncertain in the UK, and the things that are certain are a lot of my friends are leaving Scotland.

Gun violence is running rampant in my home country, and as is the case every summer, especially abundant in my favorite city: Chicago.

Trump is the republican nominee. People from my home country agree with the hatred he spews.  Enough said.

Those are my qualms.  So I’m sorry for going MIA, lame content, and a huge lack of specific blog posts I’ve been meaning to write because lately…it’s been hard. My heart’s heavy right now, and that’s okay, that’s life. I am fully aware that I haven’t exactly drawn the short end of the stick and there are thousands (millions?) of people going through much worse. But now you know it’s not all drinking cocktails on a beach/brilliant sunshine hikes/fabulous vacations…that’s just what I choose to share on social media. Because even though you wouldn’t feel any jealousy reading about my hurdles, I’m sure you’d get over reading about my pity-party too.

What do you do?

It’s a totally normal question, but I feel it comes with some weight in my present life. “What do you do in Scotland?” I always assume it initially means, “Why do you live in Scotland” and the easy, normal response is, “My husband’s work brought us out there.” Maybe, or maybe not a follow up with what he does. Then there’s the variety of follow-up questions from “Are you working there?”, “What do you do all day?”, “Do you have kids?”, and “So what do you do all day?”

I know these are probably innocent enough questions, and I’m probably more sensitive to them from my vast amount of time unemployed mixed with a preconceived idea that a housewife without babies sits around and eats bon-bons all day. Back when I was not-totally-intentionally unemployed, my life wasn’t glamorous in the fact that I was actually dedicating about 6-8 hours a day job searching, applying, and interviewing…. but of course it did have a lot of extra padded time for the gym and meeting for lunch. But people always asked, “Aren’t you getting bored?” No. I never got bored. There’s always stuff to do and fill the time productively.

But it seems from my encounters, people have a really hard time imagining how they would spend their time if not slaving to the man or changing diapers. I don’t really get it because isn’t that all what we’re working towards…getting out of the grind? Well I’m out baby, and this is how I spend my time.

IMG_2141

Horsey selfie.

I do work. Just a wee bit. I have two clients whom I manage their social media and create content. So that’s creating a two week calendar every week, scheduling all the posts, responding to consumers throughout the day, writing blog posts, and a once a week call with my employers. I also work Friday mornings at the stables I ride at in exchange for a lesson, because as it turns out, horseback riding is an expensive hobby. This is not easy work as it turns out…. filling and hanging about 60 hay nets and 30 water buckets, grooming and tacking up the school horses, sweeping the yard, etc.

Speaking of horses…beyond my stable job, I spend a lot of other time horsing around. I volunteer every Tuesday with the Riding for the Disabled Association (The RDA) for about 3-6 hours (depending on need). I take 2-3 riding lessons a week, and take a night class for a general certificate of Horse Care on Thursday nights. The class is two hours long and an hour away. So that’s a pretty large chunk of time where I’m busy and smell like horseshit.

For the last year and a half I also volunteered on the board for the American Woman’s Association. This commitment was 3 Wednesday’s a month: a board meeting, a general meeting, and my position, hosting/welcoming newbies to Aberdeen for a coffee.

Then all my other hobbies: book club, golf lessons every week, actually going out and golfing, running/working out/training for stuff, planning travel and holidays (more time than always anticipated), writing personal blog posts, entertaining guests, meeting friends for coffee and/or lunch, staying in contact with friends stateside, attempting to sew, taking pictures of sheep and coos, and walking my dog an hour, if not two hours every day.

How appropriate...our bookclub book for the month.

How appropriate…our bookclub book for the month.

I might also spend a fair bit of time trying to get Stella to pose for pictures.

I might also spend a fair bit of time trying to get Stella to pose for pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These coo pictures won't take themselves.

These coo pictures won’t take themselves.

Walking Stella is such a chore.

Walking Stella is such a chore.

Leaving the last bit that takes up my time…. Domestic Goddess/Manager of the Fellowship of the Babcock duties. I meal plan for the week, grocery shop and cook. I clean…not well or consistently, but it’s there! I fight with the gym to change membership rates, waste hours rearranging my day for a plumber that never shows, figure out the process of renewing car tax, sort out the weird expenses and bills we still have in the states, help my mother book her travel/figure out instagram, and engage with the neighbors. Phew.

AND. I tend to average about 8 ½-9 hours of sleep a night. WINNING.

So for the past (nearly!) 2 years…that’s what I’ve been up to. It’s a tough life I lead, but have faith I’m never bored and always well rested. Unless we have a 6 am flight…

5 Reasons Air France is the WORST

Just Say

  1. Their food sucks.   I’m not sure how a French airline sucks at croissants, but they do. I mean your flight is coming directly from Paris. How do you even find croissants that bad in France?! If I was French, I would have to quit my stewardess position as it would be unethical for to hand out such an abomination of an excuse for the pastry of my people. I could get a better croissant at Lidl in Aberdeen. And I won’t go into depth…but a “Radish and Pesto” sandwich? WTF is that? And where the hell is the Coke Light? No one likes Coke Zero. Give me the good stuff damn it!
  2. They are always on strike. It’s like everyone decides it would be a great time to go to Ibiza and so they just schedule a strike….like every other month. They apparently make it known their dates of holiday strike, but unless you’re getting French news, you’re not going to know about it. Because they still let you book flights on the days there will be a strike and don’t bother sending you an automatic email of their current holiday strike plans. And then they wait until the day before their holiday strike and they email you letting you know your flight has been cancelled- no guarantee to get you out, but give them a call and they’ll see if they can figure something out. What type of policy is that?! It seems airlines have no problems blacking out days of travel, why not start blacking out the days all your employees are going to take off?!
  3. They approve you for the shortest, stupidest, most unrealistic connection times that there is in no way possible for at least (if not more than) 50% of travelers. See: people over the ager of 50, people with children, people with carry on bags without wheels, people who aren’t aerobically fit enough to run a 5K at at least a 9:39 min mile pace. My last connection left me sprinting through Charles de Gaulle, boots and winter jacket in hand, trying not to slip on their stupid floors in my socks, not even getting a chance to see what the seasonal macaroon flavors are from Lauduree. If we weren’t Priority Access which allows us to cut some security lines (and weren’t runners), there is no way in hell we’d make half our connections. And last time, despite the fact that we made the connection, our bags didn’t. And this isn’t a one-off occurrence. I actually cannot remember the last time I didn’t have to SPRINT through Charles de Gaulle. At least carpet all your floors so I don’t have to worry about tearing an ACL on top of my worry of making my flight.
  4. Which brings me to #4. Not 100% an Air France problem, but because their hub is Charles de Gaulle, it goes into the pile of hatred for Air France. The flight to Aberdeen from Paris leaves from the same terminal every time. It’s always a little commuter plane, and you always have to take a shuttle bus out to walk up into the plane. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve (sliding into the line at the next security check point (whether that be passport control or a full on security screening), panting, sweating, and totally unnerved at the fact I am going to miss my next flight) and the airport employees brush me off. Every time I find an employee and explain to them that my flight take off time is in 20 minutes, they look at the gate number and tell me that it’s fine…the gate is right down the (slippery, tiled) hall, I’ll make that flight after standing in hellacious line. I then try to explain to them that no, I have to take a bus to the actual plane, the last bus leaves 15 minutes before the take off time (if I’m lucky, sometimes the last bus leaves 20 minutes before take off time.) Whether it is the language barrier (doubtful) or just the fact they are unaccommodating assholes, they don’t seem to understand this and just do a half-ass reassurance that I’ll be fine…not letting my skip to the front of the line. Do you know how hard it is for E to restrain me from finding that ass clown and absolutely freaking out on them after we miss connecting flights because the last bus already left?! I’m going to start taking pictures of them, hiring a PI, and sending them dog shit in the mail. Charles de Gaulle employees are the absolute least helpful, least sympathetic, and quite frankly seem to lack any moral compass or soul when it comes to the 3 minute difference between making a flight and not making a flight. Even when I am doing all in my power running through airports, hurdling luggage and children, and not eating macaroons. And what’s most frustrating is that I actually haven’t missed my flight…my flight is still out there waiting to take off…but I missed the last bus out to my flight. Which for some reason they can’t figure out a system to have a little backup van waiting or just arrange for another shuttle to take the 3-10 people out to the plane. I won’t even get into the massive dudes with machine guns walking around and being sequestered in little parts of the airport with 5 people per square foot for security lockdowns that seem to happen with alarming regularity…. No lie, on one connection we got put on lock down 3 different times on the way to our gate. But because there were 15 people held up in that- they arranged for an extra late shuttle.
  5. The accommodation they provide when you miss your connecting flight…or more likely, miss the shuttle bus out to your connecting flight. After we have been traveling all day (2 or 3 flights in Turkey to get to Paris) and then they wouldn’t let us cut the line or provide another bus to take us to our taxied plane, they give us vouchers for a hotel and dinner and directions to another shuttle bus to take us there. Despite the fact that our luggage is in the airport (because if you didn’t make the flight, your luggage sure isn’t), they can’t give it to you. So you get on the 20 minute shuttle and check into your shitty, shitty hotel (Ibis I think?) where they don’t have any simple hotel amenities (like a free toothbrush or a kiosk to buy contact solution), and E has to wander from hotel to hotel in the area collecting the essentials because you’re in the middle of nowhere with 0 stores of any sort. Then you eat from the weirdest and probably most disgusting buffets you’ve ever encountered (only made more disgusting from the fact you smell like a whirling dervish who has raged for 24 straight hours) and head back to your room to get out of your smelly clothes and shower, thinking you’ll just sleep/lounge in the towel (heaven forbid there is a bathrobe here) while you hand-wash your unmentionables and then use the 1 Shetland-pony-powered hair dryer to try and dry them for tomorrow…. only to discover the towels aren’t even big enough to wrap fully around you and the hair dryer smells like burning. UGGGGGGGH.

air france devil

Seriously. Air France is the worst. You’ve been warned. If you have the option to take an Air France flight, or ANY OTHER FLIGHT IN THE WORLD, take your chances elsewhere. I mean, I think Malaysian Airlines would probably be a better bet at this point.

Do you have an Air France horror-story to share? Or any other airlines you suggest I avoid in the future? I wanna hear em!

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:

12622017_10102516483913087_4779970614938324238_o

  • 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.

12604871_10102516484496917_7955502278108875440_o 12513525_10102516484726457_8579008742177516181_o 12640355_10102516484736437_4820332211188903711_o

  • 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….

image1 (11)

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

 

 

 

Know Your Scottish Round 3

IMG_1290It’s that time again! A new bundle of words I’ve encountered. Some of which were easy to define (especially in social context but even on a list), but was noted if it was something that I a) probably have never said in my life and b) actually hear the unspoken word several times a month here in Scotland.

As always, I’ll note these actually aren’t Scottish specific, but most often UK specific.   Although there are some you’d only hear in this country, and possibly even only here in this shire. Good ole’ Aberdeen.

 

Corn Flour – Corn Starch

Cracking – the best. “This roast is cracking.”

Dummy – Pacifier

Spit Your Dummy – throw a hissy-fit

Casting – shedding (as in Stella is casting all over the house!)

Hack/Hacking – Trail Ride (on horseback)

Whist – a card game

Blether – like “blather”, but used without negative connotation. Like, “Haven’t seen you for a while, let’s get together and have a blether.” The google tells me a Scot uses it to mean “a chat, often a long chat with a good deal of juicy gossip thrown in.”

Clampett – White Trash – from the Beverly Hillbillies.

Snookered

Gilet – an outerwear vest. Think of a poufy vest or faux fur vest…along that line.

Home-bakes – kind of self-explanatory. But you’ll see home-bakes sale or be asked if you’d like any cakes or home-bakes at a café.

Niggle – an ache or pain, or annoyance.

Stramash – a disorderly gathering….and then became the name of a Scottish game.

Trump – Fart

Doon – how Aberdonians say “down”

Ooot – can you guess what Aberdonian pronunciation this is?

IMG_1544