Sunday, December 30, 2007

Let’s see, let’s see…

What has happened since I last posted? Well, I think mostly Christmas has happened! We took a trip last Saturday to Tesco’s to buy a ridiculous amount of food for the Christmas holiday, as well as for the Ellis’ while they were here… It was definitely a record, but we carried it ALL home :) It was impressive. We had a really good sermon on Sunday morning (thank you Alasdair!) that inspired me to put together a little Christmas reading that emphasized what I think is a more well-rounded view of what Christmas is all about. So, we got the house ready and everything cleaned up and the Ellis’ arrived to a smoky home on Monday afternoon. We have a notoriously smoky kitchen… Our oven gets smoky, things I cook on the stove get smoky, and we can’t open the window so there’s very little ventilation. This time I was cooking bacon and it was veeeeeeery smoky. But, it was for the sake of BLTs, so I think I was forgiven.

We hung out on Christmas Eve, went to an afternoon carol service, and played Uno (which I found out some people thought may have been pronounced ‘you-know’…) and everyone had a fun time winning except Ian! Hubby just couldn’t pull out a win. We also took a little walk to see if we could see Mars (we’re pretty sure we did) and saw a gorgeous moon-rise. Then we did the traditional opening of one gift on Christmas Eve that is always a pair of pyjamas (UK spelling!). Mom didn’t fail us and we got our pyjamas and LOVED them :) we don’t have the pictures yet, but when I get them you will see they are pretty great pyjamas.

This was Lily’s first Christmas so everyone was very excited to see what she would get! I made chocolate chip pancakes as a special breakfast that were very tasty and then, while Lily took a nap, I did the Christmas reading.. It consisted of (in this order) Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 2:1-40; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Psalm 116. After Lily woke up we went ahead with the unwrapping.. She got an array of toys and books – some of which I think the gentleman had more fun with than she did, but we’ll get to that later. Ian got a French Press coffee maker, and I got a rolling pin! And some amazing sweaters that mom sent us. We got each other more gifts than that, but they haven’t come yet, so I’ll have to show them to you later.

Here’s Ian with a yummy cup of coffee made by his new coffee maker…

(I think they put extra caffeine in the non-instant coffee.. what do you think?)

And here’s me making crust for the chicken pot pie with my new rolling pin!

Kate and I spent a lot of the afternoon in the kitchen making stuffed mushrooms (specially requested by Ian), green beans, and apple crisp for the big dinner we had at Holy Trinity (especially for those of us who didn’t go to be with family for the holidays). Here are some pictures of the event:

Lily and Isaiah made friends! We had Lily on the floor and he came and plopped himself down so he could play too! So cute :)

We sported the Christmas sweaters to the meal – thanks mom!

In the evening we had the Williams over to play Uno and watch one of my favorites – Elf! Definitely going to be a family tradition :)

The following day we went for a little walk around St Andrews and took Lily down to the park..

But she wasn’t the only one that got to play!!!

Ian did an excellent job skipping rocks on the waves – he had the most skips I’ve ever seen at one time..

We had the Williams over again and played Texas Hold 'em with a poker set Ian and I inherited from a couple that just moved away, and I learned that it is very fun to play poker when there's no money involved! (I think we probably played Uno too, but I can't remember.. There's never enough Uno!)

And finally, what you’ve all been waiting for.. Playing with Lily’s toys!!!

Ian and Brannan devised a very original game where they each took turns trying to build to tallest tower out of the giant lego blocks. It had to be sturdy though because when it was finished and had been measured, it had to withstand being hit with a pot at the base. Anyone else very impressed at the complexity of this game? Needless to say, much fun was had by all :)

We bid our farewells to the Ellis’ Thursday afternoon and have been enjoying a few days of work mixed with play since then. We are looking forward to a New Year’s celebration tomorrow night with the McNeely’s! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! We are praying for blessing and growth in the year to come. Much love…

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It’s finally over!!!

That’s right folks, the days of darkness are now dwindling. We made it passed the shortest day of the year and now will be enjoying the slowly lengthening daylight (on the days when it’s not cloudy anyway)! We were living with only about 5-6 hours of daylight most days, and that wasn’t even a guarantee because a lot of days it is so cloudy and/or foggy they have to leave the street lamps on all day. We have learned that we don’t hate it when it’s dark, but we definitely would rather it be light! It makes us veeeeeeeery sleeeeeeeepy when it is dark all the time :) We wake up tired, go through our day tired, and go to bed exhausted.. even if nothing was accomplished all day long (although we hope that doesn’t happen). Sometimes to help our tiredness, this happens…

I captured the event on camera the other day.. as you can tell, hubby was really glad that I did :) We even hit landmark of tiredness today when I took a nap with him! I’m not very good at taking naps, I find them more depressing than helpful, but I just couldn’t make it today. It was nice and cozy :) So, we’re looking forward to reaching normal days of sunshine again – can’t come soon enough!

In other news, Ian wanted to show everyone one of his favorite Scottish meals.. I find them really gross, but he eats this meal almost everyday for lunch (yes lunch, while that could count as two dinners for me, it is lunch for the hubby). It started with just the noodles, then he got creative and started adding some variety of meat pie with the noodles, then he figured he needed to make it a little healthier and we got this…

Yes it looks ok now, but about 10 seconds after this picture was taken it became noodly, pie-y, broccoli-y mush… Ian-style :) I married a mixer.

What? A garden in the rubbish bin? Well not exactly.. but I thought it looked cool and couldn’t resist a few pictures.. Ian got me some flowers a few weeks ago that lasted a very long time. I would’ve left them out longer but they were starting to smell weird. They didn’t quite fit into the trash can, so we got that fun result!

On Wednesday evening of this last week, we had over two couples for a big pot-luck style meal. There were the McCrary’s (Lauren and Andrew), the Kynes (who you will remember from previous blog posts), and us. Together we made a meal of marinated, boneless pork chops, ranch seasoned mashed tatties, steamed carrots and green beans, bread, wine, and pecan pie with ice cream. It was delightful! We had a great time with them and Ian awed everyone with his extensive knowledge of… you guessed it – youtube videos! :) It’s kind of crazy how many he knows about because I can guarantee you he does not just sit around and find these videos, he basically just studies and writes all the time so I’m not sure how it happens.. Anyway, I caught the guys with some post-dinner entertainment while the ladies were finishing up in the kitchen..

And finally… The date. A few months ago, Ian and I received a coupon for a free entrée at a local restaurant in town called Little John’s. We had debated on how to use it and decided to make it a special date night to celebrate the close of Ian’s first semester at St Andrews. The restaurant is comparable to an Applebee’s and was really, really fun. We got all gussied up…

…And hit the town :) It’s pretty deserted now that students have left for Christmas, so we were only dining with 2-3 other families in the whole restaurant. A kink was thrown into our plan however when we learned that the coupon is good for every day but Saturdays!! Go figure. We ended up just splitting one entrée (some really good chicken and steak fajitas) and so didn’t end up spending any more than we would’ve, and now we have an excuse for another date night somewhere down the road since we still have the coupon :). We haven’t eaten in a restaurant since we got here, so it was really fun to remember what a privilege and what a special thing that is!

We came home and were going to watch a movie but instead played a few rounds of monopoly (weird, I know, but it was fun) and I totally cleaned house the second round. I had every property on the board… it was by far the best round of monopoly I have ever played :)

We love you guys and are sad we can’t be with those of you in the States for the holidays, but we are looking forward to our Christmas time with the Ellis family, as well as the community of friends we have developed here. God is good!

Monday, December 17, 2007

May I have this dance?

As most of you know, in the UK as well as many other parts of the world, driving takes place on the left side of the road rather than the right, as those of us from the States are accustomed to. This affects a lot of things even when you’re on foot basically all of the time as we are – you have to look opposite ways before crossing the street, be ready to guess which car might hit you if you crossed next to the roundabout, etc. I have learned that this not only affects my ability to cross the street, but it also affects my ability to simply walk down the sidewalk! I have noticed recently (even after being here for over 3 months) that I have been ‘dancing’ with a lot of people. You know.. we see we’ll hit each other if we both stay the course, so we move to one side or the other but accidentally move perfectly right back into each other’s way a couple times.. that kind of thing. It was getting to the point that every time I went out to do something, I ended up dancing with at least one person. I hadn’t taken time to stop and think about it, but it did make for a sense of dread in anticipation of these awkward events that were becoming more frequent every time I went out.

I was walking home from church with Ian last night and I mentioned that I had been having this problem. He said, “Well you know why that is don’t you?” I proceeded to tell him, “No, not really.” And he said, “It’s because their instincts are to move left, and yours are to move right.” The light bulb finally came on! So every time I went out today I made a conscious effort to move to the left if I saw a person coming towards me and I officially danced with no one! :) It works! There may be some other reason that we are unaware of that was causing these dances to happen, but as far as I’m concerned hubby’s hypothesis has been proven correct!

(it never looked quite like the above picture when I danced with people on the sidewalks, but that is actually a Scottish Highlander dance!)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Church Family Philosophy #1 : Pursue what you love.

OK, first things first.. Poundland loves us! I got an email today saying that Poundland Administrator commented on our blog.. You can see it for yourself if you go back to November and check out the comments on the post 'Here Goes..." Apparently we mentioned their name enough times they decided to return the love and inform us of some new developments they have. Hilarious! I though that was amazing and had to share.

Now, here's what I really wanted to post about...
While we were visiting the Ellis family at Thanksgiving, they began to develop a list of family rules relevant mostly to things that are important for Lily, but we had fun with it and made up all sorts of rules. Some recent happenings have lead to the Church family imitating this, except we are developing a list of philosophies for obvious reasons :) Our first philosophy is “Pursue what you love.” This sounds cliché and simple, but it has become very important to us during the last week. I have spent most of my time through this last semester job-hunting. I was hoping to have obtained a job within a month of being here. We are now well past our 3-month anniversary and I still have no job. I was incredibly discouraged about this, really worrying about finances, and considering taking a coffee shop job that would be stressful with very bad hours for the sake of some income. Upon further deliberation, the Church family has decided that it’s just not worth it. I do not want to spend possibly the only year of my life that I will live outside the US working a job like that and missing opportunities for travel, socializing, and generally learning about life in Scotland. So we have decided to tighten the reigns on our spending (hence the Christmas postcards rather than proper gifts for Christmas :)) and make do with what we have. I can’t tell you what peace this decision has brought me. My entire first three months here was spent with so much stress and worry about this, and I didn’t even realize how much it was affecting me until it was gone! We are in the Lord’s hands and there is no safer place to be. So, in lieu of a formal ‘job’ I am taking on a number of fun, smaller things that will bring in some income for us…

1. I am going to beef up my graphic design business into something a little more significant. I will be using the next few weeks to develop a website and really get moving on putting myself out there. I have also signed up for weekly newsletters from two Graphic Design magazines and will be requesting some instructional books from those of you who are looking for Christmas suggestions.. Hooray Ombelico Artworks!!! (please refer to the May blogposts for a description of why I chose such a unique name, aside from the obvious factor that I tend to occasionally do odd things)

2. I have decided it's time to get back in the habit of doing daily paintings, as well as pursuing some more long-term paintings. I have contacted two galleries here in St Andrews who are more than willing to show and sell my work if I would just produce some!

3. I will be giving art lessons to the large community of home-schooling families in St Andrews starting.. sometime soon :)

4. Not only am I a freelance artist, I am a freelance babysitter!!! Call me if you need one and you don’t live an ocean away :)

That’s the scoop for now.. Depending on how busy I make myself with these things, I may also do some tutoring in the spring (Ian may too actually!). So. We are quite content with our current situation and are so thankful for the Lord’s timing and purpose for us here (and the other wise voices that took part in making this decision!)

If you have any need for a graphic designer let me know :) It works even if you are an ocean away.. And the Church family is certainly open for other Church Family Philosophies if you can think of any.
Oh, and just for fun, I ‘simpsonized’ myself.. here I am as a Simpsons character.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Time is Here!

(On a side note, Ian and I sang hearty and beautiful renditions (from Charlie Brown maybe?) of that song the first few nights we had lights on our tree) And it has definitely snuck up on me! I am so unprepared for Christmas.. I mean I decorated, but as far as being ready for Christmas day to actually arrive, not so much. I’m getting Ian basically the best present ever (I’m sure you’ll hear about all about it). Our Scottish family (the Ellis clan) is coming to visit around Christmas and we are so excited! :) We love having them nearby.

We’ve decided to keep Christmas presents for our loved one in the states low key and are sending a personalized postcard out to all of you! So get ready to hang us on your fridge :) We had an expert photographer take our picture and she did a great job (yay Vanessa!).

Some things that I decided are blog worthy…

The blob

Ok, yes they are bells with lights on them but I am telling you, when it’s dark outside and all you can see are the lights, they look like a blob. We got so excited when we saw it because it reminded us of home.. You see, there is a building right across the street from Taylor U. that puts out all sorts of Christmas decorations. Amongst these decorations every year have been these little deer figures that they spread out through part of their property. In the daytime, they look like little deer. But at night, when they’re supposed to look like little deer with lights on them, they just look like blobs. There just aren’t enough lights for you to really be able to tell what they are. And we loved those blobs. So we are so thankful that the Lord has blessed us with a blob, right across the street no less!

The other thing we’ve been learning about lately is Christmas cake. This is something I have yet to understand.. You make these cakes and then can let them just exist for over a year without eating them. Usually people make them in November and then don’t eat them until the NEXT Christmas. You use a special kind of icing that can be made into all sorts of fun things like choir members and mice. This is a picture of some Christmas cakes at the coffee shop across the street.. They aren’t good pictures because I didn’t want to be obvious about photographing the coffee shop – it seemed weird when there were people right inside eating.. I don’t want to develop a reputation. Anyway, I think you can still see the cuteness of these cakes.

And, us in front of ‘our’ sea (I know it’s not ours, but until we live somewhere else, it’s ours). We were looking nice because we had just taken pictures for the postcard, so we took a few extras :)

Friday, December 07, 2007


Some of us thought it would never happen.. but the Church household has officially entered the 21st century and we have the internet!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was about to go down to our provider myself and start beating people up (don’t get nervous, I’m not as strong as I look) but they finally came through for us three months later than they were supposed to… So anyway, we are shocked at how we can sit on our couch and do things like post on the blog!!! Yay! (not to mention chat with our loved ones! Please email us your IM or skype names if you’d like to chat!)

We had a great time in Aberdeen for Thanksgiving as I mentioned, and I was able to find a Christmas tree in a charity shop there for GBP 4.00! I was super excited because we’ll be having a Scottish Christmas so I really wanted to have a little tree and make it feel cozy and Christmasy. We also took an excursion to Poundland and it just so happens that everything is STILL only one pound! Amazing. So, among some other items, I purchased 3 Christmas candles to help set the tone in the living room (Just to keep you up to date, we have spent GBP 7.00 so far on the Christmas decorations). I decided I wanted to do a tree where I made the decorations but had debated on what kind of decorations we should have. I settled on stars made out of twigs I found in a park a little outside of town center. Those were free. Then, I used the ribbon that came wrapped around the candles to hang the stars on the tree. And, no tree would be complete without lights! So we bought a strand of lights from woolworth’s for GBP 1.99. And the grand total was – 8.99!!! For a mere 8.99, this is what we now have to enjoy:

You’ll even notice our windows are sensitive to the need for decorations and provide us with imitation frost every now and then (it’s actually just condensation, but makes for a great effect).

In other news, I would like for you to know that my hubby is not the only genius in St Andrews. :) St Andrews is just full of genius birds. I was walking home the other day and I saw an unbelievable number of birds making the most perfect V’s I have EVER seen while migrating. I am telling you, these birds were proper! I think there were about 5 V’s with some sprouting off of each other and it was beautiful. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a whole art department to marvel with me as in the past, in fact, I was the only one that marveled and so I’m sure people thought I was some crazy lady staring up at the sky, but I still enjoyed it! Now, if you think that’s genius wait til you hear this… Ian and I were walking through the cathedral grounds the other day where there are often seagulls hanging out. As we walked by we noticed that the seagull was dancing. I am not joking – it was the funniest thing I have ever seen. I was cracking up and he was just dancing away. As we watched we noticed that he would occasionally bend down and grab something and suddenly we realized the bird was simulating rain! At least that’s our hypothesis (we’re not sure if we’re quite as genius as the birds). Then the bugs/worms come up, and the seagull gets a full belly. Amazing! Here is an example of what we saw. Hilarious! So, there you have it. Genius birds. Some say instinct… I say genius.