A day in the life...

I think I've finally caught my breath. Sort of.

It's been a whirlwind 'round here since before we left for Texas. But I'm happy to report the self-sustaining pile of suitcases and clothes on the living room floor is slowly starting to diminish. And it will be all gone by 5pm tomorrow, since I took the liberty of inviting our fellow Americans over for a family dinner. Which will most assuredly motivate me to clear the mess... or at least shove it into the single closet in our flat. Whatever works.

I'm almost caught up on my writing assignments, with hopes of more to come. But I'll also be back to a regular three-day work schedule at the office, and I'm actually looking forward to that. I know you blog readers have been mourning my absence during the past week, right?!!? Right.

I think we'd gotten so accustomed to living in Scotland for the last six months, that spending just one week in Texas has us all upside down again. It's like we're having to get "re-used" to certain things. Funny how for six months we're fine, but one week in America is like pressing the reset button or something. Neither of us have attempted to drink many beers since we returned and we ate at TGI Fridays today, since it's the closet to an American restaurant you can get in Aberdeen. We even frantically searched Asda for all food products that reminded us of home. Some things make decent stand-ins, though they sure could use some Tostitos over here!


Yesterday Mike and I decided to forget about our trip to the gym and head up to the Ferryhill for a couple of drinks and our free serving of fish and chips (free fish Friday around 6pm!). Though I won't be eating much fish and chips for the next 30 days, in light of my newly motivated March plan, which I'll share more of on Monday. But it was good to get out for a bit since I've literally holed myself up inside all week. It was so beautifully sunny the day we returned from the States, but ever since the grayness has ruled the sky. Hazy steel-colored clouds so thick you feel like you could touch them, coupled with gray buildings and streets... well, you get the picture! I am seriously SO OVER winter that its ridiculous. I don't want to be curled under a cozy blanket, I don't want to have to drink hot tea to warm my innards and I don't want to have to crunch through snow or brave blisteringly cold winds whenever I leave our building. I just don't. You have all been so patient in listening to and reading about my rants and raves about the gray world that is Aberdeen in the winter, so I promise to lavish you with photos of the gorgeous spring and summer time should it ever arrive.


In the meantime, I felt the need to cheer up our flat with any sunshine-esque colors I could find. See examples of our fruit bowl and fresh flowers.


I'll admire these best I can while heating up my second cup of tea this evening and writing by the flicker of candles I've got lit around the place. If spring's going to hold out on me a little longer, than I'll do my darndest to put winter in it's best light.

My Recipes: Honey rosemary pork chops

I loved the combination of flavors in this dish. It's a Rachael Ray knock-off, since the original recipe was for chicken and called for a couple ingredients I didn't have. Like rosemary.

You really can't go wrong with this one, no need to actually measure out portions. Just eyeball the amounts and dump it all into your sautee pan as follows.

•2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided

•Salt and black pepper

•4-6 boneless pork chops

•1 large shallot (or onion), finely chopped

•2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

•1-2 tablespoons dried mixed herbs, just about anything you have on hand will work!

•1/2 cup honey

•1 rounded tablespoon Dijon mustard

•Juice of 1 lemon

Heat 1 tablespoon EVOO, a turn of the pan, in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. When the EVOO smokes, add the pork to the pan and cook for 6 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and cover with foil.

Reduce the heat under the pan to medium and add the remaning tablespoon EVOO, a turn of the pan. Add the shallots, garlic and herbs to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the honey, then stir in the Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Add the pork chops back to the pan and coat on all sides with the bubbling glaze. Turn off the heat.


For the original recipe, follow this link.

My saving grace to quick and easy cooking has been Uncle Ben's express rice. They've got a plethora of flavors, like tomato basil, whole grain, Spanish and golden vegetable. Heat for 2 minutes and serve!


I plated my honey and herb chops with some of the rice and fresh steamed veggies. I like the idea of something Mike's mom did when we were in town... she cooked veggies of all the same color: broccoli, zucchini and asparagus. Mix them up and serve for a very pretty and colorful effect. You could also do yellow bell pepper, yellow squash and corn.

And my latest tea obsession is Twinings English Breakfast, perfect for getting going on an early morning or staying awake if I'm writing late at night. I love milk in my hot tea, which is good since I don't drink it otherwise, and I make my cups of the breakfast brew extra strong with half milk and half water. Delish.
 
 
"The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook." ~Julia Child

Taste of Home

I have never tasted carrot and coriander soup until today. In fact, I'm not even sure I've heard of it before. I'm sipping a fresh hot pint of it as I write and must admit it's absolutely delicious. Perfect for the miserable state I'm in (seriously, isn't three weeks of sick enough!?) and the dreary constant sheet of rain outside, threatening to overrun Aberdeen's already water-laden streets.


A quick trip to Food Story versus the usual Subway sandwich was just what I needed. The cute cafe's organic products aren't so much a plus for me—I can't notice much of a difference and don't have a preference anyway—as is the creative and full-of-taste menu. I'm kicking myself for not having my camera with me the past two times I've gone, but just give me a bright sunny day and I'll be sure to snap a couple cheery pictures of the place to share with y'all.

I'm also a sucker for yummy salads, so to compliment my carrot soup I got a bed of greens with pine nuts, goat cheese (delicious) and aubergines, thinking I was trying yet another new item with the latter ingredient. When I got back to the office I looked it up to discover aubergine is another name for eggplant. The same way zucchinis are called courgettes here. (Sent Mike to the grocery store the other day and asked him to grab a zucchini... he came home with a "courgette" and said he sincerely hoped it was close enough, he had looked for zucchinis everywhere. Was relieved when I told him that it was, in fact, said vegetable. Such a cute boy.)

So although it didn't turn out to be a new menu item for me, the marinaded aubergines atop my salad are pretty dang good. I picked off the tomatoes but left on the cucumbers, which I also started eating recently. But only on salads and with salt. Wierd. My taste buds must be having a growth spurt.

The drizzle outside has stopped momentarily, but probably not for long. So glad I wore my rain boots today (also referred to as Wellies, since we're on the alternative-name-kick-thing). To cheer up my mood a bit, I shall finally get to recapping our Texas visit. It was, in one word, amazing. Everything we missed, loved, adored and enjoyed was on our agenda during the one-week jaunt back across the pond. Couldn't have asked for a better time.

When our plane landed at DFW, I was momentarily distracted from my joy of being back on US soil by the dismal view from our window. There were no bright blue Texas skies, puffy white clouds or Lone Star rays of sun to be seen. None. Instead, there was ice, snow, water and grayness. It might as well have been the exact same scene we left in Aberdeen. Mike and I both thought, "You have got to be kidding me!" Was our pilot playing mean tricks and had simply circled the UK for the past nine hours?

Fortunately, within the next two days all the yuckiness had melted away and the sun did manage to grace us with its presence. I wore flip flops through much of the trip and relished the fact that I could occasionally head outside without layers of jackets, gloves and scarves.

Our dogs were absolutely estatic to see us and we were them. I don't think they'd forgotten us one bit. We brought home matching tartan collars for them and spent hours in the backyard throughout the week, getting pawed with mud, slobber and happy doggie kisses. One of my favourite days was when we took both dogs out to Weatherford to see Mike's grandpa, and let them run crazy on his huge backyard. They loved it. Shiner is a trained hunting dog and was so happy to see Mike and eager to please that he didn't need any prompting to remember his skills and would heel and sit at Mike's side without command. Jersey, my adorable black lab who's now 76 lbs and just over a year old, has learned to fetch and retrieve by watching Shiner the past few months. She still wants to do everything he does, it's the cutest thing. Our dogs are definitely sorta of like children to us, although we still treat them like dogs and not people. They live outside, they don't wear clothes and rawhides are their favorite food.


To spare you a novel-esque rendition of the rest of our trip, I'll just give you the quick recap:
We went to Sonic every single day. It was bliss. We jammed out to country music while driving the Avalanche around town and loved getting to see part of the country on I-45 to Houston. We partied with friends in Dallas, friends in Houston and had several dinners with parents and family. We visited Mike's grandpa and my grandma and enjoyed seeing them both so much. We had On the Border three times, steaks at Texas Roadhouse, fried heaven from Chicken Express and drank Bud Light and Crown every chance we got. We literally shopped till we dropped, hitting up our favorites like Target, JC Penney and the outlet malls. While Mike visited with a couple friends during the week, I made it to an engagement party for a longtime friend and got to spend a day with my bestie who flew in from Arizona. And we had one helluva delicious burger at the bar in Champs before boarding our plane back to Aberdeen.

And here's photos to go with all that!

   

Our flight back was pretty miserable, since I was still sick and starting to feel worse. I felt like I might as well be folded up inside my luggage for as hard as I tried to get comfortable! And our individual lights and TV screens stopped working about two hours in. (We preferred our KLM plane to and from the States—with free booze!—versus American.)

I've always considered myself a true Texas girl and being away for six months certainly reinforced that fact! We realized there were even more things we miss about home and will be so happy to return for good in August. However, we're still really enjoying our time in Scotland, looking forward to the beautiful spring blooms and warmer traveling weather. We are so blessed with this opportunity and even more blessed to have so many friends and family sharing in our journey. It is truly amazing!

Back in Aberdeen

It's been a solid week since my last update, which should tell you we were busy having fun and enjoying being in Texas!! Mike and I were thrilled to visit home and had a really great time. We returned yesterday and it is a bit strange to be back in Aberdeen. Unfortunately I've been at home all day sick, battling my third week of a sinus infection or something. And while laying on the couch, I've been staring at this:


All our clothes and suitcases that need to be unpacked seem to produce more things as I try to empty them. At least I have until next weekend, which is when we'll be heading to Prague... and with one suitcase instead of four. We were lucky they all passed the weight limit on our flight back to Scotland! Speaking of bags, I love this cute carry-on/weekender I got from Ross for $25, it will be perfect for all our upcoming travels. We definitely helped finance American stores while home and shopped shopped shopped!


I'll plan to update about our Texas trip in the next few days... thanks to everyone for making it such a good one!

Wedded Bliss

THE LUNA DRESS BY RONALD JOYCE

In the midst of writing like a mad woman (over 7,500 words in less than two weeks!), I completely forgot to share the articles that have already made it to print! Before moving to Scotland, I worked for Modern Luxury Media as the Editor-in-Chief of Houston Brides as well as Senior Editor at Houston magazine. The bridal magazine was like my baby, I launched the very first issue less than three months after being hired. It's a gorgeous publication filled with all things luxury and bridal. During the next two years, I got to know some great people in Houston's wedding community, publish some amazing stories and meet tons of super excited brides who shared their wedding pictures and experiences with the magazine. It's a lot of work to produce a magazine on your own, granted I had some tremendous help from freelance writers and photographers and fellow colleagues. But I loved every second of it and when we made the decision to move to Scotland, I felt completely confident passing the reins on to Holly Crawford, who's done a fantastic job! She was also very sweet and allowed me the opportunity to write a couple stories from abroad, which you can read HERE and HERE. And you can see my smiling face HERE!


There's just something about the wedding scene that I can't get enough of. I would never have thought I'd enjoy writing about it so much. Yet here I am in Scotland, learning what the heck a Sgian Dubh is (turns out it's a ceremonial knife tucked into the sock and worn with a kilt) or what you do with a cĂ©ilidh (which would be a traditional celtic band... like our version of square dancing!). I'm enjoying looking at pictures of grand old hotels, tartan carpets and all, or reporting on some of the most gorgeous dresses from UK designers. It's kept me extremely busy the past two weeks but I'm glad to continue doing something I love, even when I'm countries away.

THE COLETTE GOWN BY MAGGIE SOTTERO

Beautiful Rays!

I would just like everyone to know that it's a BEAUTIFUL DAY in Aberdeen! This week has been really tough, long and busy and we're not quite to the end yet ... but creeping closer to being in Dallas! So I'll take whatever bright spots I can get. Wish I had a picture of the cute little cafe I grabbed lunch at today. It's called Food Story and has freshly made organic sandwiches, salads, soups and sweets. A small place with lots of fun meats, cheeses and sauces to look at on the display shelves and only a couple tables with cubed-shape ottomans for seats and some barstools. I sat on a barstool by the window with the sun on my face and had some really good broccoli soup and salad and even cold tea!! It's the first time I've seen any kind of "normal" tea here, it was lemon and green tea in a glass bottle and refridgerated. What a treasure. It was nice to get outside for a quick lunch break, the sidewalks were full of people shopping, heading out for lunch, grabbing coffee or just taking a leave from their desk for fresh air.


So looking forward to our flight, to seeing my mom and LD at the airport, to driving through Sonic, arriving at the Bells and running to the backyard to see my dogs and going to dinner at Texas Roadhouse!! I know exactly what I'm getting: a frozen margarita, a cheese and onion-smothered sirloin, green beans and caesar salad. Holy Heaven, does that sound good right now!!!

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air…”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saints Victorious

"The rain was still hammering down and the people of Aberdeen had reacted in their usual way. A minority trudged along, wrapped up in waterproof jackets, hoods up, umbrellas clutched tight against the icy wind. The rest just stomped along getting soaked to the skin. Everyone looked murderous and inbred. When the sun shone they would cast off their thick woollens, unscrew their faces, and smile. But in winter the whole city looked like a casting call for Deliverance."

That's an excerpt from the book I'm reading, Cold Granite, set in Aberdeen. It could not be more true right now! The city has been under a perpetual gray cloud of mist, but it didn't dampen our spirits for the Superbowl. Steve and I went to Asda and loaded up on all the makin's for fajitas and plenty of brownies, cookies and treats for a little get-together at his flat. We were even happy to hear our National Anthem--I thought Carrie Underwood did a great job singing live!!--and listen to American commentary during the game. Mike and I weren't really pulling for a particular team this year, but I know boocoos of folks were happy the Saints came out victorious! We had a lot of laughs, saw some great plays and even had time for a beer pong tournament, naturally. (Notice my homemade Superbowl sign in the photo... I had to work with what was at hand!)






We were definitely dedicated to the game though, staying up till the wee hours of the morning to finish watching. It didn't start until 11pm our time, and it was about 4am before my head hit the pillow. Combine that with meeting up with friends Saturday night and then ending at Soul for an "early breakfast" and some fun at the roulette tables until 6am and we were exhausted!


There's still much to get done this week before we head off to Dallas on FRIDAY so I'm hoping the excitment carries me through. Only a few more days!!

"There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.”
~Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

Cold Granite

The title of this blog post is a new book I just started reading by Stuart MacBride. It's actually set in Aberdeen, which is pretty interesting and slightly funny. Better yet, some of the writing of people talking is "written" in their accents, like Aberdonian or Glasgowegian, which is pretty hard to do! "The wee shite's no gettin' banged up." It's a murder mystery, so not a light read, but I'm liking it so far.


I tend to go for crime and thriller novels mostly. I can spend hours in a library reading all the book summaries on the inside flap until something jumps out at me, plus I like to read the bit about the author on the back. One of the last books was written by a guy who was a former football player then studied law and became a successful lawyer as well as an established author of crime thrillers. Talk about being motivated! The first book I borrowed from the Ferryhill library was The Midas Man and I was a couple pages in before I realized they were using words and expressions we'd heard here in Scotland. Then I realized that the library only seems to stock books by UK authors or books that have some kind of UK relation. The same goes for TV, we were watching Unleashed last night (it stars Jet Li) when we noticed that it was set in Glasgow. We'd even seen it before but never noticed. Our cable box here includes a list of free movies, and seems to follow the same rule. Mike played one of the cartoon movies, Feivel, while we were doing things around the flat over Christmas and one of the mice had a Scottish accent! It's so funny to watch something and try to figure out where the UK connection is. I think they might be a little biased when it comes to their media...

It's been a quiet day here so far. Mike went into the office for a few hours this morning and I've been catching up on writing. We're working pretty hard to get ready for our trip home, which is officially now less than a week away. I'm getting more excited every day!


The rain and cloudy skies have persisted for awhile and I can't wait until we get some serious sun. We got a couple hours a few days ago but it also snowed at the same time, so just can't seem to get a clear day. I really don't know how the folks here handle this darkness every year, I think lots of 'em--including us--get pretty down in the dumps for awhile. It's no wonder the pubs are popular, they're the only entertainment once the sun goes down!


Tonight we're looking forward to a fun time on Union Street with a group of friends, both Scots and Americans. Our American "family" has grown by one, a fellow engineer from the States moved to Aberdeen a few weeks ago. Tomorrow we'll be holding our own little Superbowl party thanks to Steve's slingbox. Apparently the game will also be aired on live TV here in Scotland as well! So we'll have a backup plan in case the slingbox doesn't pull through. The radio stations have also been talking football, American football, all day. A player from the 49ers was sharing tips about how we play the game and all the rules, it was weird to hear an American accent on the radio and I was totally caught off guard when they started saying "NFL!"

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Inspiration Overload!

May-day, may-day! I think I've gone and done it and have been reading too many blogs. It's so easy to get sucked into the blogosphere, I mean there is a blog out there on everything. If you've been following, you'll notice my list of "Blogs I Love" to the left has really grown. And I actually do read just about every one of them regularly. It's part of my tech-update routine in the morning: check email, check Skype, check Facebook, check blogs. I know, I know... sounds like I've got a bit too many electronic resources going on. But when everyone you know is in another country, it becomes required so don't judge me too harshly! :)

But back to my main point, I have been getting hooked on interior design and DIY blogs. I love being creative and I've felt a bit out of place here in Scotland since there's not any Targets, Michael's, Hobby Lobby's, Walmart's (well, Asda but its limited) or Marshall's to run to when I need something... like string for the painfully simple Superbowl banner I made yesterday. And if there were, then I'd literally have to run there by foot and I don't see that happening either. I'm not one of these people that can transform my home into a magazine-worthy space or that handmakes all my gifts at Christmas time. But I'm certainly capable of mastering a few projects here and there. Anyways, I've found all these totally inspiring design savvy blogs, the latest being The Lettered Cottage, that have got my creative wheels a-turnin'. Which means more and more ideas cluttering up in the back of my head that must wait until we move back to the States. And the more I read the more ideas I get and the more I want to do but I can't do anything right now so what do I do with all these thoughts!?!? That's when I hit Inspiration Overload. I think I need to take this stuff in small doses and just make notes of the projects I'd like to try and tackle at home and stow them away until August.

And here's some projects to get me started:

This would be great for the fall, when we return home. I love the monogram! http://www.theletteredcottage.net/2009/10/lettered-pumpkin.html

I never know what to do with baskets. This is a great storage and display idea.
http://www.theletteredcottage.net/2009/03/kitchen-update-march-2009.html

Easy to make frames.
http://www.centsationalgirl.com/2010/01/diy-craft-yarn-wrapped-frames/

A totally painless jewelry idea.
http://www.ambersnotebook.com/2009/11/diy-lets-make-steal_13.html

All the blogs I just listed are totally adorable and very themed. They're either fashion or home decor or interior design or food, like some of the other sites I visit often. Which led me to wonder why type of blog ours would be considered. Since there's a little bit of everything (food, travel, photos, food, activities, food), maybe its a lifestyle blog? At the very least, I hope there's some inspiration tucked in there somewhere. It's the spice of life!


“Enthusiasm is excitement with inspiration, motivation, and a pinch of creativity.”
~Bo Bennett

Food Is Where the Heart Is

Just a quick, quick post from me today. Things are really busy this week and next week with all the work I've got going on, plus preparing lists and strategically packed suitcases for our trip to Texas in 10 DAYS!!! I love being able to say that!! The sun is out in Aberdeen today at last and I hope this good trend continues.

But as the title of this post implies, one must always take the time to admire good food, good recipes and the joy of eating. I know I certainly do. Hell, I don't go to the gym to burn extra calores—I go to burn the ones I've already eaten!

Anyway, I've been on the prowl for a good food blog—since I've become quite engrossed in the blogging community these days—and found this one this morning that looks to be very promising. I love the Jalapeno Cheddar Bread recipe, that'd be perfect to make in Scotland for a welcome taste of home and to serve to our unsuspecting Aberdeen friends.

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