The Skye's the Limit

You know that saying we often recite about if you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait 15 minutes for it to change? I think it could easily be applied to Scotland as well. Because the weather here is all over the place.

From the BBC weather page, taken in Lanarkshire, Scotland:


Yesterday there was a torrential downpour that threatened to drown the streets and a fair share of cars around the UK and throughout last night and today it's been snowing and freezing cold. Aberdeen seems to have been spared the worst by far, but surrounding cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh have received up to six feet of snow! And so many people have lost their power, which is unfortunate in such unforgiving weather like this. Our lights kept flickering last night while I was cooking dinner but never actually went out.

The forecast was pretty grim for the weekend, but now there's supposed to be some spots of sun and more rain. So Mike and I decided to pack our bags for the road trip we initially had planned and will be piling into our little Nissan Micra bright and early tomorrow. Our goal is to get to the Isle of Skye on the western coast of Scotland, which promises beautiful scenery and a unique coastal town feel. (Hopefully we get some beautiful scenery and not a big gloopy wet mess.)


We'll be taking a roundabout way of getting there, since we're in no particular hurry and only pre-booked one hotel for Thursday in Oban. (Ever heard of Oban whisky? Well, that's where it's from.) The place looks super nice with a hot tub overlooking the sea, a charming in-house restaurant and a spa, at which I just booked my Swedish massage. Awesome.

Image from Crerar Hotels website


From there we'll venture on over to Skye and take a gander at what it has to offer, picking a hotel or B&B at our leisure. Sometimes that's the best way to travel... relaxed and with no agenda. I am hoping that getting out of the flat will somehow miraculously make me well, but we'll see how that goes. Needless to say, Mike picked up a couple extra boxes of Kleenex and some more Benadryl. If he had it his way, I'd probably be riding along in the passenger seat in a soundproof box so he can't hear me blowing my nose! I'm sure this trip will bring us so much closer, haha.

Isle of Skye lighthouse.
Photo from travel-destination-pictures.com

Portree, the capital of Skye.
Photo from http://theisleofskye.com/out_and_about.asp


We'll get lots of pictures and report back on our trip when we return. Say a prayer we get some sunshine!!

Gloomsday

This is what I feel like:


This is what it looks like outside:


And this is what I'll be doing the rest of the day:


Hoping tomorrow is much improved, and that we get some cheery sunshine for our roadtrip weekend.

Moovin' Monday: Week Five, the Final One!



I can't believe we're about to leap into April and are already half way through the spring. I did notice that the sun was still working it's way past the horizon today at well past 7pm. Even though it was a milky gray kind of light, since it's been cloudy again, I still cheer for longer days! Hip hip...

Last week I did fairly well, up until the very end. I'd gotten in 3 really great workouts and 1 short pilates session and had eaten healthy all week. Then it divebombed with a BK burger on Friday night and Pizza Hut on Sunday to cure the hangover headache. Yowser.

But not all good things need come to an end, so I'm happy to report that "Get Moovin' March" has really motivated me toward trying harder. And I certainly won't be slacking off as spring fades into summer, since I plan on adding an additional two 45-minute elliptical workouts to my usual spin class and kickboxing routine. Which leaves me at four workouts a week plus weights and abs. Even though I won't be making my Moovin' Monday posts anymore, I like to feel good about reaching my goals and staying self-accountable. And hopefully it'll help me eat less burgers. Moooo.

I did finally weigh myself at the gym yesterday and I haven't budged an ounce. I've weighed the same for the past couple months now, and it doesn't tend to vary too much. So maybe that's a good thing. Yeah, I'll go with a good thing.

The plans for this week are a bit scattered, since we are officially out of groceries, leaving on Thursday for a road trip and I'm dreadfully sick and can't see myself hacking, coughing and sneezing my way through much of any workout at the moment. I took a yoga class on Saturday (loved feeling so stretched out and relaxed when I left) but I'm pretty sure I ruined everyone's "zen" by blowing my nose at least 15 times during the 60 minutes I was in there. And let me know tell you, for such a little person I sound like a train.

I did get quite a bit of walking today (retail therapy... does it count when you're still sick at the end?), but we'll be on the road outta of town Thursday morning and returning Sunday. So basically as soon as I'm well again, it'll be back on the horse and hitting the gym as hard as I can about 4 times a week. And I'll continue to plan our meals, making creative use of baking, grilling and sauteeing healthy eats.

Though I'd like to end this on a better and more productive, note, this is my final Moovin' Monday post and I hope somewhere out there I've motivated others to try harder and stick to the gun! It's always a struggle. Hell, if it were easy we'd all be supermodels. But reality strikes, whether we like it or not, and I think my husband says it best when he tells me: "I didn't want to marry a girl who only eats salad."

Amen.

The Joys of Saturday

It's a gorgeous, sunny, beautiful Saturday in Aberdeen. At last. The past couple days have been filled with more rain, gloom and gray -- and a fog so thick you could barely see out the window -- then I care to have in an entire month. Or year for that matter. (By now, most of you should know how I feel about laying in the sand, hearing the waves crash while sipping out of a coconut drink and slathering myself in tanning oil.... ahhhh, perfection).

We had such a great time with my cousin, Leah, who is now safely back on US soil and immediately went for a cold Shiner beer, much to our envy! I think she really enjoyed her time here, and I know we loved having her. Whenever we have people visit, it's like discovering Scotland all over again, since we are always so excited to show everyone around and share our experiences with close friends and family. Our next visitors are Mike's parents and his brother, set to arrive at the end of April. We can't wait!


I've been struggling with allergies again, for like the 354873458 4th time since we got here, so it helps to have such a pretty day outside to perk me up. You feel like you just can't be sick when the weather is so nice! I don't know what's in the air over here or why my allergies are so bad -- I mean, I can't remember the last time I had this many problems -- but I really truly don't have the patience for being sick. There's just too many more important things to do.

This morning I was a wonderful wife and got my butt out of bed early to make the husband a big ole breakfast before I dropped him off at a nearby golf course. The rates are still pretty darn cheap until mid-April or so, and he's been wanting to practice on his swing since we're planning to take a weekend out at Carnoustie or St. Andrews or somewhere so he can play golf... and I can go to the spa. It's a rough trip, I know.



Pretty sure I could handle a day at St. Andrews:


To prove what a great day it is outside here in Aberdeen, I snapped some more pictures on the way home. From the car. While driving. Hey, somebody's got to document the good weather 'round here!





Later today, we're headed out to see The Blind Side. After all the movie's hype and Sandra Bullock winning her award and the fact that it's an American football movie, I'm excited to watch it at last. Plus, we're going to Vue cinema on Union Street... and they serve alchohol. Don't judge, it's Saturday, and you must have priorities. Movie and wine sounds just sublime!

What are your plans for the weekend? Have you seen any good movies lately?

Happy Saturday!

My Recipes: Roasted Red Pepper & Garlic Chicken

I made up this recipe a few weeks ago and loved it. Plus it's simple... my everyday cooking mantra. I love garlic, I swear I could put it on just about anything. I especially love garlic when it's mixed with something fairly spicy. Nom nom nom.

We had ordered a boatload of Chinese food the day before and so I had all this leftover steamed rice and some green and red bell peppers in a spicy black bean sauce. So it made it pretty easy to piece together a chicken dish. I decided to really go hot, so I chopped up some marinaded pickled green peppers and a couple breasts of chicken and tossed them with chopped garlic, red chillies and some chili paste.

This stuff is the bomb:


I decided to cook it all in the oven, so it'd be a bit slower cook time and help the chicken absorb the flavors and stay nice and moist. I guess it was probably 15-20 min. around 400-425. (My oven is in celsius and I never pay attention to a particular temperature unless I'm baking. I just crank it up and keep an eye on the food inside!)


Once the chicken was nicely cooked, I re-heated the rice and made a small heap of it on the plate, topping it with the chicken and peppers, being sure to drizzle some of the juices on there as well. I was craving veggies, so I loaded up on carrots, broccoli and asparagus as our sides and voila! A healthy little 15-minute meal full of flavor.

Moovin' Monday: Week 4



Well, folks, here we are again! I meant to get this posted yesterday (obviously, since it's titled Moovin' Monday) but ran out of time between work, meeting up with my cousin and preparing dinner. A healthy dinner at that, btw.

I'm happy to report that I got in all four of my planned workouts last week and did fairly well on the eating front... only one slice of booze-induced late night pizza over the weekend and maybe a couple potato wedges. I haven't weighed myself in a couple weeks, so no idea if this is shaving off any pounds or not, but with my luck I doubt it. Yet I am monstrously proud for having stuck to it and still managed work outs even though I didn't feel up to it whatsoever. And I've done quite a bit of walking. So there.

I made it to spin class last night, so that gets me off to a good start this week. Just one more week of Moovin' Monday March to go!!

Workout/dinner plans for this week:

Monday - spin class, 45 min/ baked bbq chicken
Tuesday - walking Union Street, couple hrs (ha!)/ dinner out, something non-fried!
Wednesday - kickboxing class, 45 min/ Mexican beef and rice dish
Thursday - Shred DVD/ baked pork chops and veggies
Friday - elliptical and abs, 1 hour/ fish and sausage one-pot (never made it last week)
Saturday - yoga/ loaded salad with turkey

Have you been keeping up a special workout or eating routine this month? Let me know about your progress!!

Whisk-y Me Away to Tolquhon!

It's been a really busy week with guests in and guests out. We celebrated St. Patrick's day in good style on Wednesday, drinking our fair share of lager (no green beer here, I'm afraid). Though there are a couple Irish bars in town, we spent our time out at a local watering hole with some of Mike's co-workers, which made for a good crowd. There weren't tons of people celebrating like we're used to at home, the Scots Aberdeen didn't seem to be too big on the Irish holiday. Imagine that.


My cousin Leah arrived at the rail station on Saturday and we picked her up then immediately headed down a country road out of town to the Glendronach distillery. It is one of the few currently open (everything re-opens for the summer on April 1) and since it was pretty quiet, we ended up with a private tour of our own. The tasty whisky is made at a small distillery, but it's picturesque and nestled in the Speyside area, where Scotland's malt whisky trail resides. It was started in 1826 and closed down a few years ago but reopened under new ownership (The BenRiach Distillery Company) in 2008. We even saw the cutest baby lambs in the adjoining pasture... adorable!






When we got back to Aberdeen, we headed to Soul for dinner and out for a few pints afterward, calling it a night somewhere around.... well, let's just say we did finally call it a night. Next on the agenda was a trip out to Tolquhon castle (the 'q' is silent, pronounced Tol-hon), which turned out to be a welcome surprise. It was so beautiful and was more than just a pile of ruins, there were plenty of still-standing walls, spiral staircases and baking ovens to keep us occupied. Built in a span of six years, the castle was created in 1584 under the direction of William Forbes, seventh Lord of Tolquhon. There were no major battles at this castle, the reason for its well-preserved architecture and its peacefule existence in the hilly green Highlands. We saw triplet gunloops in the gatehouse facade; Preston's Tower, which dates back to 1420 and was the initial residence for Forbes and his wife, but was replaced by the enlarged castle in 1584; the original castle well; and an old brewhouse. Though the cloudy skies seemed to threaten rain, it was actually the perfect weather for a day of outdoor sightseeing and the overcast made for some gorgeous pictures. There were birds happily singing around us at the castle, and for awhile we were the only ones there. Sigh.





Just two miles away, we visited the Tolquhon tomb in Tarves Kirkyard, where William Forbes was laid to rest in 1596. There were so many elaborate headstones and we walked around the perimeter of the cemetery, somberly reading a glimpse into people's past through their engravings and inscriptions. There was even one for a schoolmaster of 21 years in Tarves who was buried in 1864. How different that town must have looked then. Seeing all this history really makes me wish for a glimpse into what it was truly like, and I realize yet again just how far we've all come.



We drove back to Aberdeen just in time to meet Terri and Ryan at our flat and I made a huge spaghetti supper with all the trimmings, while we watched Old School. Yup, the one with Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn. My cousin had never seen it!


Leah will be hanging out in Aberdeen until Wednesday, so we're looking forward to spending a little more time with her before she goes. Mike and I are also looking into a road trip to the western isles of Scotland next weekend. I've finally cracked open my Fodor's guide to Scotland (we have for Europe too) and it's coming in pretty handy. After that it's a weekend at the spa for me and some golf for Mike, then a weekend in London (our tickets to Love Never Dies arrived this week!!!), then a weekend at the Granite City Rally, then a weekend with Mike's parents, then....

Edinburgh, Take 2!

It's a quiet Friday morning, I'm sipping off a mug of hot tea in bed while enjoying the beautiful rays of sunshine working their way around the curtains of my window. Oh, and I'm listening to "The Weary Kind," which is the theme song for the movie Crazy Heart (with Jeff Bridges). I'm not sure about the rest of the soundtrack, but for some reason this one really appeals to me.

Ahhhhh, I love perfect carefree mornings. (I've actually been busy working, believe it or not! And things are bound to get busier now that spring has arrive. Spring = travel weather and visitor time.)

Which brings me to the point of this entry: our Edinburgh trip! It's been nearly a week since we took our friends from Houston and hopped on the train to the capital city, and we had a fantastic time. It was really good that we took another trip, for Mike and I, since our first visit during Hogmanay (New Years) was bitter cold, rainy and all at night. It's like a whole new place seeing something in the daylight!



When we first planned the trip, we didn't realize it was during the same day as the Scotland v England rugby match. And holy heaven, was it hard to find a hotel room. (Which ended in a tie, by the way, and they don't do tie breakers. Bummer.) But we totally lucked out and managed to snag a two-room basement-level flat with plenty of beds for our party of 6. (It got pretty chilly at night, they turn the heat off at half-past midnight, it's too expensive to keep heating the place. Whatever. Do you notice how much I'm loving parenthese today?)

After a pit stop for a couple drinks and some lunch (my baked potato with bacon and brie was soooo good, never would've thought of that combination!), we headed out to see the sites. And see the sites we did. We had made it off the train in time to hear the cannon sound from the castle at 1pm, and after lunch we made a beeline for the mammoth structure to get a look inside. It's an absolutely gorgeous castle, with lots of painstakingly restored areas to preserve its authenticity.

Photobucket

We saw the Scottish National War Memorial - which also held the their tomb of the unknown soldiers - the Great Hall, the chamber where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son who later became King of England, and (drum roll... and more parentheses) the Scottish Crown Jewels. What a majestic site.

The Honours of Scotland, also known as the Scottish regalia and the Scottish Crown Jewels, dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, are the oldest set of crown jewels in the British Isles. The existing set were used for the coronation of Scottish monarchs from 1543 (Mary, Queen of Scots) to 1651 (Charles II). Since then, they have been used to represent Royal Assent to legislation in both the Parliament of Scotland and Scottish Parliament, and have also been used at State occasions, including the first visit to Scotland as sovereign by King George IV in 1822 and the first visit to Scotland as sovereign by Queen Elizabeth in 1953. There are three primary elements of the Honours of Scotland: the Crown, the Sceptre, and the Sword of State. These three elements also appear upon the crest of the Royal coat of arms of Scotland, where the red lion of the King of Scots is depicted wearing the Crown and holding both the Sword and the Sceptre. - Wikipedia

After we were done ooh-ing and aah-ing over those, we spent a couple minutes perusing the grounds until we noticed Dominick and Brittany looking quite romantic just outside the castle's chapel. As soon as Brittany looked at her hand, I knew he'd popped the question and she said yes!!

Photobucket

They were so adorable and I think Brittany was truly in shock, she said she'd had no idea it was coming. And what a wonderful engagement story, being proposed to in the castle chapel - the oldest building in Edinburgh - followed by pictures atop the spired capital city of Scotland. Of course, that called for some Champagne, so we made our way to the nearest bar where we could find a seat and popped the top!

The rest of our night was spent doing a little pub hopping around, and unfortunately, we had to spend nearly an hour and a half trying to wave down a taxi to get back to our hotel. If they don't feel like pulling over for ya, it's not going to happen. And several places in the city have "taxi stops" so you have to wait in the longest line in hopes of actually catching a cab before they just stopped coming by completely. We ended up in one such line and a couple of drunks, too-small cabs and impatient sighs later, we were on our way.

The next morning, we squeezed in a visit to the National Museum of Scotland (free admission) and got to see some unique pieces of history like an old ledger containing Certified Tartans of the Highland Society of London from the 1800s; old bank notes dating all the way back to 1764; a calculator from 1698; and a Scottish international football cap and jersey issued in 1907.




Afterwards, it was a quick pint at Frankenstein's pub and a skip and a jump over to the train station for one of the most fun train rides ever. Like ever ever. We'd taken a cue from the train riders on our way up, who were all stoked for the rugby game and had taken the liberty of bringing tons of adult beverages and snacks with them for the journey. So, likeminded, we scooped up a couple bottles of wine, some Walkers shortbread cookies, cheese, crackers, pistachios, meats and piled onto the train. Our group of 6 shared one of our two tables with a fellow couple from the Aberdeen area who'd come in town for the game. They were nice enough and got even nicer when, after we'd told them about Dom and Brittany's engagement, pulled out two bottles of Champagne! It was his birthday as well, so we dubbed one bottle the celebratory engagement bottle and the other one for his birthday. His name was Sean, but we weren't totally sure until we sang him happy birthday... when we got to the "deeeeeeaarrrr INSERT NAME HERE," uh, well we didn't all know his name. Which only erupted into yet another fit of hilarious laughter. I think he appreciated the sentiment nonetheless.


When we got back to the flat, we had our own little beer tasting (found the beer we liked in Prague, Krusovice, at Peckham's! Last parentheses I swear.) and ordered some Chinese food. It was the perfect ending to a great day.


Congrats to Dominick & Brittany!

My Recipes: Cake Balls

So I told you in an earlier post how I was planning on making these cake balls from Bakerella's blog.

Before I go any further, let's recap: I am not a baker. Not a baker am I.

One good thing happened and one sorta bad thing happened with this recipe. The good thing is that I managed to make a red velvet cake AND cream cheese icing from scratch. And they were both delicious. The sorta bad thing is that by the time I got the cake balls made and rolled in the white chocolate, they were so unbelieveably sweet, it was like eating straight sugar. The husband loved them and so did the folks at work that I took a batch to. But I'm pretty sure next time, I might just use ready made frosting. If I bake these again. And we all know I'm not a baker.

Making the cake and the icing. I tried dying it green but didn't use enough and was too lazy to get back to the store:



There were a few detours along the way. I had to stop and take pictures of my pretty flowers that are starting to bloom:



And drink some wine:


It takes awhile to get these prepared, since you have to chill the cake balls before dipping. Our little fridge is pretty much a large college dorm fridge. I work it like a puzzle:


I also ran out of white chocolate, but since they were already so sweet, I decided to just drizzle 'em instead. (Please please please don't compare my lumpy brown cakeballs to Bakerella's cute looking, perfect ones!!! She's a professional!!!)



Hope you had a shamrockin' St. Patrick's day!!!
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