Strip the Willow

We just got back from a Rotary conference that was held in Carlisle UK and I thought the world would like to see Beth doing a bit of - Strip the Willow - Scottish line dancing. We had a really great time and I'm sure Beth will tell you all about it, I just wanted to post this as soon as we got back. You can't really tell in the video, but I thought she was about to lose her dinner on the dance floor. Enjoy.

New design for our site.

Well, as you can see, I finished the new design for the site. The site is now geared more towards the blog since that is what we are regularly updating, and there is also a new section for videos. I uploaded a ton of videos of Julian ranging from birth to now, so all the grandparents can now spend hours a day looking at their youngest grand baby. It's funny to see those videos of him when he was so little. Watching them makes me realize just how much he's changed and grown over the last seven months. His personality is really coming out and he's such a joy to be around. The galleries section contains all the photos from the previous site and I hope to add some more pics soon. I haven't decided what to do with the last section so if anyone has a suggestion let me know.

Things have been going really good lately and we are settling in quite nicely, especially since we have all recovered from our sicknesses. Last Sunday, we had lunch with Beth's Rotary Host here in Edinburgh. We had a really nice visit and even ate some haggis. We both thought it tasted pretty good. It reminded me of dirty rice or boudin (cajun sausage). It wasn't until we got home that I found out what was in it when I looked up the ingredients. I don't think I'll be eating it again anytime soon.

The weather has been nice the past couple of days and we have tried to get out as much as possible before it gets too cold. Lately Beth and I have really been craving and eating peanut butter sandwiches A LOT. And when I say a lot, I mean like, we eat them for lunch everyday. It's funny, we were talking about it and the fact that we watch the TV show Friends whenever it's on the tele, and we realized that this was the form that our homesickness has taken on. It's how we are are getting our fix of American culture. Sitcoms and peanut butter sandwiches..... who would have thought? Funny.

Well, we miss you all and think of you often. Let me know what you think of the new layout. Hopefully, it's easier to use and keep up with. You can even subscribe to the blog if you like. Feel free to leave comments too, it's always nice to know that someone actually reads our posts.

Stay gold.....

Four weeks in Edinburgh

We moved into our flat four weeks ago yesterday. I'm writing at the window desk in Julian's room, looking out onto the night sky illuminated by the up-lit castle. Last night the sky was purple and the castle truly was beautiful. Even though our view is of the "back" side, it's nice. In between us and the castle is what I lovingly refer to as the "TPS" building (Office Space reference). I'm not sure what folks do there, but our voyeurism leads us to conclude it is some sort of paper pushing. Regardless of what they do there, it has to be the ugliest building in the city, and I consistently wonder who sold their soul and signed off to allow it to be built. If you go out of our flat, turn right, and then left at the next corner, we're about two blocks away from the Grassmarket, which has lots of pubs. That means we get a good bit of street noise, especially on weekend nights, but it's usually folks singing! We haven't heard any fighting or angry noise. If you turn right at that corner, the way that the streets converge makes sort of a triangle on the map. In that area there are clubs of a different variety which led a former bishop of Edinburgh to refer to that area as the "pubic triangle." Irregardless, we haven't had any problems with the neighborhood. We feel safe and are happy with the location of our city flat. We laugh because of the six flats in our building, not one is occupied by a Scot! It's just fine, but not exactly conducive for getting to know Scots folks & culture. We're the only family in our building as well. When we were considering whether or not to take University family housing, I remember thinking that if we stayed in University housing, we would most likely meet other international families, but very few Scots. I thought that letting a flat on our own would help us meet locals! So much for that logic!
April and Julian

Our flat is starting to feel more like our "home" now, as we remember to buy spices when we order groceries, take out the trash, and negotiate the rounded stairs without too much thought. We've already had one houseguest; our good friend April was in Edinburgh on business and stayed with us for two nights. It was excellent to see her, and she brought us towels! Now before you think that they don't use towels here, let me explain! Lots of folks have asked about shopping, and Jonathan wrote about groceries in a previous post. Here's the thing we're learning. We can get just about anything you can get in the U.S. but the US dollar is so weak so everything is very expensive to us. Recently we wanted some Rotel so we found a Mexican grocery store which stocked diced tomatoes and green chilies (spelled chillies here). Excellent! However, the can was 1 pound 60 pence. With the exchange rate of 2 to 1, that comes out to about $3.20! Back home a can of Rotel is 55 cents, so that had better make some really good salsa! expensive beansThis is an exaggerated example, which brings me back to the towels. Here, my friend Maureen might pay 5 pounds for a towel and to her that might be a decent price, but to me that's a 10 dollar towel! It had better wash and dry and fold itself! But to her it would be like paying $5 for a towel would be for me at home. So many thanks to April for bringing us fluffy white towels! We're learning that everything costs about or at least double what we would pay at home. For example, a latte at Starbucks is 3 pounds 40 pence; a basic hair cut is 20 pounds; stir fried rice at the Chinese restaurant downstairs is 5 pounds 60 pence. To folks who earn their living in pounds it's no big deal. It "feels" just like we would when paying $3.40 for a latte, $20 for a hair cut, or $5.60 for fried rice in the States. But to us it feels like paying $6.80 for a latte, $40 for a basic hair cut, and $11.20 for fried rice! It's funny because we're not used to associating "weakness" with the U.S., but that's exactly what we're experiencing regarding the U.S. dollar.

The last couple of weeks have been rough, as I caught a nasty cold which promptly turned into Julian's first cold. I made the mistake of trying to pretend that I wasn't sick. I didn't make any concessions and ended up making myself much sicker. Julian fared much better than me and never ran a fever or seemed to have much ear or throat pain. A few nights ago Jonathan started running a fever, but we had learned a lesson with me. He went straight to bed. Bed rest and cold medicine seemed to cut the cold short for him. The timing was really terrible, as we were just getting ready to implement some sort of daily and weekly routine. So we've lost a couple of weeks but we're hoping to get into the swing of things in the coming weeks. We've got fun stuff coming up... at the end of October we'll go to Carlisle for the district Rotary conference. Then Mom will be here for a week around Thanksgiving! We'll go to Dunfermline and celebrate our American holiday with friends! Jonathan and I are also hoping to take a trip to the highlands some time this fall. We have train passes which are burning holes in our pockets, so we'd better use them! We're trying hard to balance the importance of a routine with the fact that-- hello-- we're living in Scotland! As important as it is to do our daily stuff, we're trying to build in time for play and relaxation as well. We're half way between Princes Street Gardens and the Meadows (park) so we try to get out with Julian as much as possible. We don't want him to be one of those kids who's afraid of grass. ;) The weather really has been beautiful and we're trying to make the best of every sunny bit!

More soon! Much love to all.

Julian discovers his vocal power!

Finally, here's the video of Julian screaming. I had so much trouble try to convert it and blah blah blah, but I found a way! Enjoy.

Settling in

So we've been in our flat for almost 3 weeks now. The adjustment to city life has taken a little longer than we had thought, but we're getting there. As I'm writing this, some men are outside our window working on the side of our building with a jackhammer. Fun!

A number of people have asked me what the grocery stores are like here. Well, since we're in the middle of the city, there aren't any big supermarkets like a Publix or a Bi-Lo. It's mostly just a lot of little stores that have your basic things like bread, meat, milk, cereal, fruit and veg, and booze. You know, the important stuff. There is also a frozen foods store that guessed it, frozen food. It's a good place to get chicken and veggies or microwave meals. We don't have a car, so we only buy what we can carry. We've found it's easier to order groceries online and have them delivered than it is to make multiple trips throughout the week. The online stores have more of a variety too. One thing that's kind of neat is that the fruit we get comes from other countries. We had some apples from South Africa, some grapes from Israel, and tomatoes from Greece. Cool eh?

Beth and Julian

Beth and Julian have both been fighting off a cold since last weekend. Beths has been worse than Julians, so that's good for him, but not so much for her. Since she is still nursing Julian, the chemist (pharmacist) said that pain releivers and inhalants would be ok to use. So, she's been inhaling menthal crystals (NOT crystal meth) for her congestion and taking some over the counter pain releivers for the fever. Julian hasn't had a fever or anything, but has been really snotty and has come to hate the "snot sucker". Poor little fella.

Jonathan and Julian
The weather has been pretty good lately. Julian and I walked to the park one morning this week to get some fresh air and spend some time in the sun. Beth met us there after class and we all got to hang out for a while together. The parks here a really nice. There are lots of them and they usually have a playground for kids. Once Julian gets mobile, I think he'll really enjoy going. He's taken an interest in books lately and so Beth and I have been showing him his Who Loves Baby book and naming everyone in it for him. He also picks up anything he can get his hands on. Our friends Mike and Maureen gave us one of those bouncy seats that you hang in the door frame and so we tried it out the other day and it was hilarious. Our door frame is really high so Julian's feet didn't even touch the floor. We had to put a stack of books underneath his feet so that he could bounce. He had a lot of fun. I have a video of it that I'll post when I have chance. Very funny.
Julian in his bounce seat

Yesterday was my brothers birthday so in honor of him we introduced Julian to the Ramones. He seemed to like it. He's got the Rocker gene in him for sure.

I've been working on a new design for our site and I hope to have it up and running soon. The format will be geared more towards the blog, and you will be able to subscribe to the feed if you're so inclined. Also, we are posting our pictures on Flickr now, so if you have an account, you can add us as a contact to see all of our pics. If you don't have an account you can sign up for free.

Well, that about wraps it up. Julian and I are going to go for a walk now. Until next time....

Julian and castle

We're back.....sorry, I just thought this was a really cool picture and wanted to post it. The castle is a little washed out cause it is so bright out today, but it's still cool.