Posts filed under 'Scotland'

A Horsey Update & Request

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted (I have started my Indonesia recap I swear!) but nothing like some time sensitive material to push me on a typing frenzy. I wanted to do a horsey update…because behind the scenes it’s been a hell of a journey. If you follow me on Instagram you’d be at least somewhat aware that Hamish got injured. In fact, he got injured the day after I posted my last horse post (Finding the Perfect Horse). Reiterating there is no perfect horse, all horses are stupid, and save yourself the heartache and trouble and just light a wad of £5 notes on fire anytime you’re yearning for a beast of the equine variety.

On May 20, the night before I was leaving to my girls trip to Portugal (recapped here), I was called out of my manicure appointment as I was walking into it, that Hamish was cut and bleeding, it looked quite deep, and the vet was called out. By the time I made it there, the staff was already doing a trot-up with the vet (of course he gets hurt the one time I’m in town with 5pm rush-hour traffic). The vet was hopefully at first that since he didn’t seem too lame, that perhaps it was just a cut. But because the cut did go all the way to the bone, she wanted to follow up the next week with X-rays.

horse fractured cannon splint bone

After unsuccessful attempts at giving him stitches (regardless of the amount of drugs we pumped into him, he wouldn’t keep his leg still) we did what we could with staples, and wrapped him up. This starting the first of twice weekly vet callouts to check on Hamish’s leg, and redress it. Not to mention the 3 (or was it 4?) rounds of X-rays and the taking out and putting back in of staples for said x-rays and 6 weeks of box rest. Box rest that was supposed to go on another 2 weeks but by this point, my newly turned 6 year old was doing more damage to himself by absolutely losing his shit, trying to canter and buck in his stable, kicking doors, and scalping himself along the top of the stable door. Truth be told, I was elated he was deemed too crazy for more box rest because by this point, I had become terrified of my horse.

“Why would you be scared of little ole me?” This was within the first week of box rest when he was slightly amused with being an inside pony.

So what happened? It seems he was kicked in the field by one of his mates at such a force his two leg bones (the cannon and splint) knocked together and chunks of bone fractured off of each. There were 3 little chunks, and one big one. Over time the little chunks absorbed and bone re-grew where the biggest chunk was taken out, but the biggest chunk that came out wouldn’t absorb. Last we saw, it had floated around to the side of the cannon bone and calcified itself onto that. Visually, he has a lump and would never win an in-hand show. But somehow, after 2 months off, and then a slow 3-4 weeks of building him back up and into fitness, he’s better than ever!

“Of course I am better than ever, I am SUPER HAMISH!” Seriously though, this was his get up on competition morning to keep his corn rows in place, his legs not bloodied, and his body kept overall white-ish.

And why was I scared of him? To be fair, Hamish was a star at box-rest…especially considering he just turned 6 in his 2nd week of box rest. I did my best to keep him amused. I used a treat ball for him to kick around and get treats out of (may or may not have been the reason that large chunk of bone moved), I hid carrots in his hay nets, I put apples in his water bucket, I gave him a saltlick…. but my normally cheeky wee chap became a bit of an angry, aggressive, lunatic by the end. In the second week when we realized it would be awhile, we took his shoes off…but I still needed to pick out his feet because he’s standing in wet bedding. (He got mucked out 2-3x a day, but he’s still going to be standing in wet bedding a large amount of the time in box rest.) The last 2 weeks, that didn’t happen at all because he would try to slam me into a corner and was threatening to kick. I couldn’t even turn my back on him mucking out the last 2 weeks because he would put his head down, shake it from side to side like a wild man, and start “skipping” (to me it was less skip, more bull charge) towards me to “play” (kill me.)   It doesn’t take a genius to see that this would knock a first time horse owner’s confidence. I was convinced he’d never be the same again and all the hard work of the past few months were lost.

Pissed off, over box rest, and really over people messing with his leg despite pretty bandages.

It also didn’t help, that I rode the first 2 weeks he was injured, than took a month off riding. I was too tired from being a slave to his box rest and vet appointments…then when I started riding again (on school ponies) I was a timid, weak, pathetic, ragdoll…. a passenger my instructor would say. Poor guy- it took some deep talks to get my head out of my ass, grit my teeth, and man up.

But after all that…. Hamish and I competed in our first dressage test! We didn’t even get last!! When I got a horse, I didn’t really have competing on my mind…I just didn’t think it was something I’d ever be good enough to do. Let alone the logistics… but low and behold, we entered the lowest level (Intro Dressage) which is just walk and trot (good thing because I actually wasn’t cantering on him at that point) and we get a 62.17%. I know if you’re not horsey, that sounds awful…but Charlotte Dujardin won gold at the Olympics with 93.857% and silver was 89.071%…no one is batting 100’s.

A brief glimpse into why I didn’t score better- Hamish decided he was a giraffe with his head.

We certainly do look the part at least.

The day after my dressage competition we’ve started cracking on cantering, and are looking at the next level up tests- Prelim. Not sure when I’ll have the confidence to compete but I like having a goal and working towards it. It’s definitely filling the void marathon training has left.

Supper chuffed with my boy!

So that’s my horsey update….now for the request. I have been nominated as one of 3 female finalists to be the Brand Ambassador for Country Ways. Country Ways is a country/equestrian store in Aberdeen Scotland.   The final decision is based on votes though- so I need your help. All you have to do is a) Have a facebook account and b) Like my picture from the following link: CLICK HERE

This is the picture that you need to like on facebook!! Photo by: Christine Jackson Photography

 

You don’t even have to like the store Country Ways! Easy peasy. If you could help me out and like the picture of me & Stella…and even share the post if you can, encouraging others to vote for me- I’d really appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Ugly American and UK Customer Service

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In America, I find my behavior acceptably, slightly a bit pushy, American. But I knew going into expat-ing, that that behavior is not acceptable. You don’t yell at the cable company when you don’t have Internet for 3 months. You don’t freak out on your rental company when you don’t have a fridge for 2 months. You don’t write angry emails when you order something online and they let you know two weeks later that they actually don’t have that in stock. You don’t complain when you come at your exact appointed time for a click & collect grocery order and they make you wait 25 mins in the parking lot. You either don’t order changes to your sandwich (no mayo, with avo, just a little bit of beet root, easy on the cheese, and please no weird tangy jams and/or chutneys that come out of nowhere) or if you do, you don’t send it back when they get it wrong and just bring you out white toast.

The ugly American is entitled and demanding…mostly in regards to customer service. But customer service isn’t a priority in the UK the way it is the states. It’s not as if the slap you across the face with your sandwich, but they don’t hustle for tips in the food service industry, and in all other industries, they don’t care to go above and beyond for a customer. They can take you and your business, or leave you. As mentioned with the cable company…for the first time I had a cable company tell me if I wasn’t happy that I could take my business elsewhere. That would never happen with Comcast.

I am happy to say, I turn off the entitled American 99% of the time in interactions with the outside world in Scotland. In my personal life of friends and family relationships, I am however, still probably an ugly American. There have been just 3 times I have gone off the deep end and became the ugly American here. 3 times in 2 years, I think that’s a pretty great track record… The first time was going insane at the aforementioned cable company where the man on the phone told me he would report me for verbal abuse (I seriously wasn’t even Lauren at peak craziness…I had toned it down, honestly, I just have a mouth like a sailor, and I don’t call names…. ever…. so don’t think I’m calling some man on the phone an idiot or anything worse!)screen-shot-2014-08-29-at-8-46-36-amThe second time, is a long complicated story, which did have me go absolutely ballistic at the inefficiency, miscommunication, and complacency of a company…. and I did go absolutely ballistic. I demanded to speak to managers, I exaggerated the outcome of their terrible work ethic, I was enraged. But I am not totally embarrassed to say that it got the job done.   And if I hadn’t had gone ballistic…. it wouldn’t have happened.

This weekend came my third bout of ugly American. Though it was a very tempered version of it…I’m actually not embarrassed, though E is a little. Maybe it’s because I was face to face with someone, maybe it’s because I was in a crowded location. Either way, I didn’t go absolutely nuts….but at the same time, I didn’t get the outcome I wanted. So maybe if I had gone ballistic I would have…something to think about. But I’m sure to this man I just fulfilled every idea he had about demanding ugly Americans.

What happened?

In August when we went to Edinburgh I forgot my running shoes, but had to get training runs in. So Friday night we swung by Scotland’s running shoe store-chain: Run 4 It. I had called to say I was coming, could they have a pair of UK size 7 Asics Gel Nimbuses for me. They did, great. I ran 6 miles the next day and my feet burned. I ran Sunday, feet still hurt, a little less.   I then spent the next 3 weeks wearing them a fair bit, on up to 10 mile runs, only to have my feet hurt, burn, and get blisters. These were not working.

I asked a FB women’s running group I belong to how long do they give a new pair of shoes to break in and comfortable and work? Maybe I needed longer than a month? Maybe I was being picky and demanding on my shoes? The response was no, I had given them plenty of time to break in, these weren’t working, I should return them. It was then that I was looking at my old pair vs. my new pair, and I realized I don’t wear Asics Nimbuses…I were Cumulus’s (for the love of Christ could they not find names that didn’t sound so similar?). Whoops. Had got the wrong shoes. I reach out to the store and explain that I bought the wrong shoes and these aren’t working. That I didn’t have the receipt, but I have the CC statement, and I know which day I went and who I bought them from, etc. I get a phone call from the manager saying to go into my local store and they’ll sort it out, that I shouldn’t be getting blisters. Excellent.

So I went to my local store and explained the situation, they should have received an email, that I was here to switch out the shoes. But they would not let me return the shoes, or do a 1 for 1 switch out (even though the shoes I want are £40 cheaper)…they could only give me a discounted rate on another pair. I went a little ugly American. The manager on the phone wasn’t clear at all…I assumed I was trading in the non-working shoes for another pair. And when explaining this, the man at the shop just kept looking at me and saying, “But you’ve worn them!!” Which was obvious. I had worn the shoes at least 50-60 miles running on paths, trails, and country roads. I said as much. He couldn’t grasp returning something that had been worn and thought I was being ridiculous for implying they would. He kept implying that I was being an absolute nutter for thinking that would take the shoes back.

I had said I didn’t think I was being ridiculous, because this is the first time I bought shoes in the UK, all my other running shoe purchases were in the United States, and EVERY. SINGLE. RUNNING. STORE. I had ever been to and bought from offered any where between a 30-day to 90-day return policy on worn running shoes. How else would you know if they work for you or don’t? They only way to test running shoes is to actually run in them! screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-3-05-35-pm

 

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I was pretty annoyed but I thought hiding it well…until he said, “Well if that’s the case I’m going to move to America.” Which I think was quite sassy and further implying I was lying and making this crazy excellent return policy up. My response was, “Well pack your bags then buddy.” At this point I knew I wasn’t going to get to exchange the shoes….and I wasn’t fighting for that anymore. I am stubborn and felt insulted and at this point I really just wanted this man to: a) acknowledge that I’m not lying or crazy in thinking that I could return running shoes, b) That I’m not insane for thinking they would return a pair of used running shoes, and c) that in comparison to American running shoes their return policy sucks (ugly American wanting foreigners to succumb and admit America is the best).

yes!

yes!

So yeah…I didn’t win the battle. But I also feel that while being an ugly American, I was a pretty toned down, well-mannered ugly American. It’s funny because generally I am the first person to air grievances on why America sucks. There’s a big joke here that I’m a wanna-be Canadian (it’s true!) but yet in these certain situations I am left longing for my homeland. Where the customers are always right, and customer service is second to none (you think returning used running shoes is revolutionary, one of my clients is a medical marijuana dispensary and we return and exchange WEED for the love of god).

So I wasted £145 on running shoes that hurt my feet. And now am praying these newly ordered shoes work (because it’s a new model of course and that changes everything). I let the ladies on my online running group know that the UK return policy is not as generous as the American one. And have wised up and added “running shoes” back to the list of things I only buy in American…. along with any electronics (Apple, Garmin, Bose), Mexican food items, and pumpkin scented everything.

Edinburgh in August

Another option in Edinburgh (August or otherwise) is a free walking tour with Sandeman! Highly recommend it.

Another option in Edinburgh (August or otherwise) is a free walking tour with Sandeman! Highly recommend it.

When we moved to Scotland just over 2 years ago, I had heard something about the “Royal Tattoo” and how it was this crazy big show of bagpipers and performers that only takes place in August at the Edinburgh castle and I realllly wanted to go. But there was about 2 weeks left of the show and the mark up on tickets/available dates were sure to make that impossible.

To top it off, when my mother was going through my dad’s office after he passed away, she found a file on Scotland that he had started for a trip they had been planning to take. On a sheet of yellow legal paper (typical Ray fashion) was the word TATTOO. Obviously, it had to be done. So we had planned my mother and her friend Pat were coming to visit in August and we would start the journey in Edinburgh. (It helps that in the summer there is a direct Chicago to Edinburgh flight). But when my mom came last year I never blogged about her trip. I was a bit overrun with things (also never blogged about my 2 weeks in Croatia…it’s coming I swear!): mainly visitors and vacations. And despite the fact that I’ve been a less than stellar blogger lately…I’m attempting to make up for it. So here’s a little combo post about why you should totally visit Edinburgh in August.

When my mom and friend came, the 3 of us had the place (a really fabulous and ridiculously expensive Air bnb) to ourselves for Friday and E came down on Saturday for Tattoo. This past weekend, E and I went down to Edinburgh for my birthday weekend getaway and stayed at The Carlton Hotel. Both really nice…but you should know, ridiculously expensive in August. Why?

Just a little wine spill in our Air Bnb

Just a little wine spill in our Air Bnb

We got to enjoy a beautiful fireworks display with our wine at night.

We got to enjoy a beautiful fireworks display with our wine at night.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Aka The Fringe.

The Fringe is the world’s largest art’s festival. It spans for the entire month of August. In 2015, there were over 50,000 performances of over 3,300 shows at 313 different venues. They say the city doubles in size during this month not only with tourists (to see the shows, but also to try and see summer in Scotland) but with all those performers as well.

And Edinburgh is a beautiful city...reason enough to visit.

And Edinburgh is a beautiful city…reason enough to visit.

Edinburgh Castle in the middle of the city.

Edinburgh Castle in the middle of the city.

Last year, I didn’t try to tackle any Fringe shows with my mother and her friend. I’m sure I could have, but there was a lot of the city to see, catching up, etc. It would have made it all a bit more rushed. And in hindsight, I agree with that decision since I knew nothing about Fringe. Now I’ve come back from 6 shows over the course of <48 hours and I think I have my wits about me and would be able to lead the charge for a weekend excursion back. (Which I totally am going to plan for my birthday again next year with some friends). So here are my tips for Fringe.

Fringe for Virgins

  • You can buy tickets the day of, 5 minutes before a show starts (or even possibly be given them for free), but I recommend doing some research and seeking out shows you want to see, and buying those tickets in advance- that you can do online.
  • Shows are split into categories: Cabaret and Variety, Children’s Shows, Comedy, Dance/Physical Theater/Circus, Events, Exhibitions, Music, Musicals and Operas, Spoken Word, and Theater…though one show might be in several categories. They all have a suggested age and a blurb about them.
  • Sometimes you read a blurb and are really interested in it, and then you go to the show and it is nothing what you expected.
  • At the Fringe website, you can sort by date, narrow by time of day, and by category. It’s really very handy in planning a weekend.
  • Unless it’s something very highly recommended and publicized, you can buy tickets the week of. There was one (small) show I had wanted to see that was sold out 3 days in advance. And then there was one larger one that was written up in a few publications as the Best of Fringe 2016 that was sold out at least a week in advance.
  • You can’t print tickets at home, but you just pop into one of the many ticket-printing centers, swipe your credit card, and all the tickets you’ve purchased come out at once.
  • If you’re planning on seeing quite a few shows, definitely pull up the venues on a map. Edinburgh is very walkable, but if you only have 30 mins to get from one show in the Meadows to another show on the North Side of the city…you’re not going to make it without a taxi.
  • Speaking of, there is Uber in Edinburgh. Not a big deal for Americans…a very big deal coming from Aberdeen.
  • There is no assigned seating. And even though we were never early to queue, and actually dead last a couple times, there are really no bad seats.
  • There are no bad seats because the venues are TINY. You will be sitting arm pressed against hot fleshy arm at every venue.   It’s Scotland so it’s never warm out, but underneath your sweater or jacket, have something cool on because the venues are hot. And take off your outer layer as you sit down because you won’t have the room to do it mid-show.
  • Shows are generally an hour. We went to one that was 90 minutes. I really wish it ended at 60 minutes. Make sure you really are keen on it if you see it’s 90 minutes.
  • Some shows really might not let you in if you’re late…generally shows start 2-3 mins late, so a small buffer window. But if you arrive RIGHT on time, you’ll be fine. And no one looks down upon you if you’re clearly late because you stopped at the bar first.
  • There are bars at every venue (pretty much) and you can always bring drinks in. I actually didn’t think the drinks were overpriced compared to something like Taste of Chicago.
  • At one show, the comedian (that I really enjoyed), asked for money at the end. But she referred to some people buying tickets. Which led me to believe a lot of people got in for free. But then I felt weird not giving money because I loved her…but also had paid about £13 per ticket. Just know this can happen, but in 6 shows, only one asked for tips at the end.
  • For dining: unless you’re planning on going to places that are strictly no reservation (El Cartel, Ting Thai Caravan), you need to make reservations. Our plans got slightly shuffled around and were originally going to do El Cartel for dinner, but did them for lunch instead. So for dinner Saturday night we went with the only place we could walk into, which was less than good tapas. Thankfully, it wasn’t our last meal on earth.
  • If you’re going to eat at the aforementioned no-reservation places, pad in lots of time to wait. Or better yet, go at an off time. For lunch at El Cartel, they open at noon and we were there at 12:15, which is early for lunch. But we had gotten up and ran 6 miles that morning so it was a late breakfast for us and we beat the crows and were seated right away. The next day, the same thing where we showed up for a late breakfast (11:30) and managed to get seated right away and beat the lunch rush.
Only at Fringe...Smut while you wait.

Only at Fringe…Smut while you wait.

The crowds are madness in August

The crowds are madness in August

My tops 3 (of 6) performances that I saw at Fringe this year was:

2nd runner up: Amelia Ryan: Lady Liberty (Cabaret and Variety/Comedy)

1st runner up: Andrea Hubert: Week (Stand-Up/Story Telling)

1st place: Love, Lies and Taxidermy (new writing/comedy)

If I had more days I would go see the other performances in the same venues as Love, Lies & Taxidermy – most of which have the same cast. Really cool venue, really liked what they did. Had actually wanted to see Every Brilliant Thing (done by them as well) but it was sold out! Alas…

Beyond Fringe

As previously mentioned, in conjunction with Fringe Festival is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Also only taking place in August, dubbed as the “World’s Greatest Show.” And I have to say…. it’s pretty great. With the magnificent background of the Edinburgh castle, more bagpipes than you can shake a stick at, a supremely choreographed routine that has a different theme each year, representations of many different nations, as well as different kinds of musicians, dancers, and performers, topped off with a stunning fireworks display…. it’s incredible.IMG_1415 IMG_1399
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So if you’re questioning if Tattoo is worth it? The answer is definitely yes! My advice would be to buy tickets as soon as humanly possible to get good seats at a fair price. Though there aren’t any truly bad seats…if you’re not in the Royal Gallery or Premier Seats (we weren’t) you just don’t want to be tucked in a corner, or too low so that you can’t see the whole scope of the arena. Even though we bought tickets months out, a lot of the good seats were sold out the night we wanted to go. I compared scalper-like sites but I found that if I bought directly through the Tattoo, paying a little extra for the ceilidh package, I actually got a better seat for less money than buying a normal ticket from Tattoo or a ticket from a third party. Bonus, we went to the ceilidh afterward, which provided one drink and quite a lot of food included, and my mother and her friend got to watch and learn some traditional dances. It was definitely worth is.

 

 

 

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.

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    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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Sheepdog in training.

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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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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?

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Friday the 13th Faves

Did you notice I slid an informative expat blog post in there Wednesday? After being MIA for a week and a half? Whoops. It’s been a mix. A mix of being super busy and getting enraged at the UK.  Both things I’ll touch on next week…

But lets focus on the good and share some tidbits on what’s going on in my life in Scotland with my favorite bits of the last week.

SHEEP, SHEEP! They’ve moved the sheep into the field next to our house. It’s a big field so depending on where they are, I get to see sheep when I wake up. And sheep when I come home. And be super creeped out when I don’t realize they’ve moved to the bottom of the field and I take Stella out at night with a head torch on…and see 50 glowing eyes staring at me from 10 yards away.

View from the family room.

View from the family room.

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American shopping!! Pre and soon to be post thanksgiving sales for me to enjoy! I still can’t order to my American hearts content (not in the 30 day window for returns yet) but Nordstrom’s always accepts returns and getting a sweater I already have in a new color is a sure bet. So stoked about a good sale on some new flats and my favorite sweater in black (pictured in red)._10979162 cn9971178

Scotland’s Weather! Still on my list of faves. I know Chicago had mid-70’s last week. But I’m loving mid-50’s and all the gorgeous leaves. When my mom was last ere I told her how fall isn’t anything remarkable here, but this year has proven me wrong. It’s not just me, a lot of ‘Donians are agreeing this is an epically beautiful fall. There are tons of leaves on the ground, but still a lot on the trees. And I guess without wind or heavy storms the leaves just had time to stay on tress and actually change colors for once. It’s gorgeous. So gorgeous, E & I ate outside in November.

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Finding my bumper! So I started taking a college course once a week that meet’s kind of far away- about a 50 minute drive, 30 miles away, into the Cairngorms National Park. My first class I wasn’t really sure where to go, I’m out in the middle of nowhere, trying to find the building…. I realized I took a wrong turn and hastily did a 3 point turn. But it was pitch black and as I pulled forward I didn’t have the clearance I thought I did and kind of hit…something? I thought maybe it was a low rock wall in a ditch…who knows. I got to my class and looked at the front of the car and thought everything looked cool. The next day at the gym my friend asks, “Lauren, what happened to your car?” Apparently, that big bang was half of the front of my car being ripped off. 4 days later we drove back to where executed the 3 point turn and there was my chunk of bumper! Took it home and popped it back on. Okay, the bottom of the car is still a little messed up, but I can live with that. As for what I hit? We can’t figure it out. There wasn’t even a mound of dirt or a rock. Chalk it up to Scottish driving.

Lastly, two songs I’m listening to on repeat. Of course Adele’s “Hello” (and kind of Lionel’s) and “All My Friends”. Not LCD Soundsystem but someone or something by the name of Snakehips with Chance the Rapper who’s from my ole’ and favorite city of Chicago.

 

 

 

Driving in the UK: Quick Tips

This will be my last post on getting your UK license/overall driving in the UK (until I discover yet another weird caveat to driving here). E doesn’t understand how there’s MORE to say about driving here…but I reminded him of our parking ticket, traffic ticket, missing side mirrors, general confusion, and multiple month long process of obtaining a license.  And I just wanted to compile a little list of oddities I’ve encountered, things I think you should know about, or just humorous little tidbits.

Driving test related quick tips

Look, signal, and maneuver – This may not seem that difficult to grasp or seem that important…but it is. In the states we are generally taught to signal, look, then move. Here (to pass your test) you have to look in every single direction, check for bikers, and blind spots before you even think about touching that turn signal.

Speed Bumps – the are quite large and can be placed differently across the road- but you’re supposed to straddle them. Even if that means (that due to parking) that means going into the complete wrong side of the road if that’s the only place you can straddle the bump- because the goal is to make the person testing you as comfortable as possible.

Four Maneuvers – During your driving test you’ll be asked to perform one of four maneuvers. You won’t know which until your asked. You can make errors on the maneuver and still pass- unless you drive over a kerb. That’s an automatic fail. But you can hit the kerb, then pull forward and straighten out. During every maneuver you must look every direction 1,000 times. It makes actually completing the maneuver distracting.

  • Back In – Backing into a bay parking spot. Easy enough but make sure you practice it.
  • Parallel Park – also, not difficult. But you need to be a full car length behind the car in front of you (see road behind the tires of the car in front of you) and between 8-12 inches from the car. This is not Chicago squeeze in as close as possible parallel parking. Learning this should explain all your rage when trying to find a parking spot and freaking out because everyone could move up 6 more inches and create 10 more parking spots.
  • Three-point turn– don’t forget to swivel your head 100x more than actually necessary.
  • Back around the corner – yes, this is a maneuver. I have never in life encountered a situation where I would need to do this. But I actually have seen it down and if you mock it, the Scots will tell you all about how this is a maneuver they use all the time. It just seems illogical to me to encourage people to reverse down the road. But yeah, backing down a road- totally normally here.

Dazzled – All over your written test you will see/read the word ‘dazzled’ in regards to driving. You must avoid dazzling other drivers at all costs! Fog lights dazzle drivers. Reverse lights dazzle drivers. Hazard lights dazzle drivers. High beams (or brights) dazzle people. People are just easily dazzled in Scotland.

Emergency Stop – this may or may not happen during your driving test. E got one, but I didn’t. You literally just slam on the breaks as hard as you possibly can. No messing around.  Make sure your back seats and locked so they don’t flip down. Make sure you don’t have a soccer ball in your backseat that will fly forward and break your mirror or anything. Seriously.

Pull Over Anywhere – literally you can (and will be encouraged to) pull over anywhere. As long as there aren’t 2 yellow lines. But you will be asked to stop and pull over on busy country roads with no kerb and a straight drop off to a ditch…totally inconveniencing everyone around you- but it doesn’t matter. I got asked no less than 10 times to randomly pull over during my test.

No Hazard Lights – hazard lights are like a dirty word here. I don’t know when you’re supposed to use them other than never. They might dazzle a driver. Also you’ll have to drop your automatic into neutral with a parking brake instead of park…because to get to park you go through reverse which having your reverse lights flick on for a second might either dazzle the driver behind you or confuse them…as if they aren’t already confused what the hell you’re doing pulling over at such a stupid place on the road blocking all traffic.

Parking Brake – they don’t care if you have an automatic, every time you come to stop you must put the parking brake on.

BYOML – Bring your own mirror and L-plates. I have no idea why the test administrator doesn’t have his/her own since they do the job all day every day. But nope. You need to bring “L” learner’s tags for the front and back of your car and your own suction cup mirror for the test administrator to use.

Passport Date Fear – Your driving instructor may put the fear in you that you can’t drive yourself to your test, especially if you technically aren’t supposed to be driving. But I can say they didn’t check E or I’s visa/passport date to see when we entered the country. So I wouldn’t worry about it.

General driving in the UK tips

 Parking ALL directions – You might turn down a road and see cars facing you parked on both sides of the road and suddenly freak out that you’ve turned the wrong way down a one way. Fear not. Most times you haven’t. You’re just allowed to park any direction you please.

Must be a one way road – See above. And in addition, you turn down a road, and there’s cars parked on each side, and you see a car coming at you, and this road CAN’T POSSIBLY BE A TWO WAY ROAD BECAUSE YOU SIMPLY CAN NOT FIT TWO CARS PASSING EACH OTHER ON IT. But, it is actually a two-way road. And furthermore, this is almost every neighborhood road in Scotland. You really practice your patience waiting for an oncoming car to pass through.

Parking Garages – they have them and they didn’t design them well. Sometimes you go wind up at a dead end in the parking garage and have to do a 42-point turn to get out. A lot of the time you won’t be able to make it up around the next floor’s corner without a reverse involved.

Unnamed Roads – Quite common. Not in any downtown, but I live under 5 miles from the city centre of Aberdeen, and you have to turn onto two unnamed roads to get to my house. Do you know how hard that makes giving directions?

Disappearing Lane Markings – you might be driving down the road, clearly seeing the dividing line between your lane and the other. And all of a sudden that lane marking disappears, only to reappear 10 yards later. When the lane divider disappears, suck it in! That means that out of nowhere on that wee bit of road it’s not actually two lanes anymore. As in, there isn’t room for two proper lanes.

Handmade Road Signs – You learn those are the ones you should listen to the most.

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Dual Carriageway – A proper American highway! Two lanes of traffic going each way and a median!

Stop Signs – There aren’t any! Okay, I’ve seen about 7 since I moved here over a year ago. Yield. Always a yield. Generally just the triangle painted on the pavement. Be careful not to miss it or you could end up blowing through an intersection and getting sideswiped.

Tire Pressure – Apparently Scots are really stressed to an extreme level the importance of tire pressure awareness. There is always a line 3 deep to fill up your tires.

Gas Station Etiquette – Gas stations are one way. One way in, one way out. But it’s not marked as such. You’ll just realize it when everyone is glaring at you. To that end, all the gas pump hoses are extra long so you can almost always fill up regardless of what side your tank actually is.

Winter/Snow Tires – extremely overused in this country. Possibly another fear mongering tactic. Although I might eat my words now that I live in the country…But we drive through some pretty rough snow and conditions in the Midwest and I don’t know anyone who swaps out their tires in the winter.

Set Speed Limits – you won’t find many speed limit signs in Scotland. More than anything you’ll see this sign.040924_cb_mp_comm_sign_001

That sign means national speed limits apply. And 90% of the time, all speed limits and signs are just national speed limits. Here are the rules:

  1. Dual Carriageway: 70
  2. Residential Areas w. Street Lights : 30
  3. Anywhere else: 60

The only time when it’s different than that is in some residential areas where they speed limit will be posted as 20. Those are your options: 70, 60, 30, and 20 mph. That means that on crazy ass absolute pitch black windy unmarked narrow roads with sheep jumping across….it’s 60 mph.