Thursday, December 18, 2008

Merry Almost Christmas!

Well, I thought it was about time for another update, and now that I have temporarily relieved myself of all of my evening work (i.e. worked my tooshie off this week and now I’m done with my projects.. yay!) I have an evening to do so. Not to mention that I am suffering from what apparently 95% of the population of Scotland is suffering from right now.. Ian started it. I thought I was going to make it through with my awesome immune system, but I had to stay up until 2 a.m. on Monday to get some work done (seriously.. deadlines had to be met.. and I didn’t dilly dally either, promise!) and my immune system made it very clear on Tuesday that if I wanted it to do its job, I was going to have to try harder than that. So now I am being punished. My immune system hopes I will remember this next time. And so do I. So I am not at Bible study like I would normally be at this time on a Thursday. No, I’m on the couch, hoping I can breathe through my nose tomorrow, not to mention hear, and have a normal sized throat. That’s what I’m hoping.

Now on to the fun stuff! On Saturday we had our very first womens’ event in the St Andrews Free Church! It was all very exciting :) We had it at our flat (Ian wasn’t there of course, being a man and all..) and started off with about 10 of us and ended with 13 (I think.. unless my memory is failing me, which is very likely). We had a Christmas tea with lots of goodies, which I forgot to photograph, and we made Christmas cards for the residents of the Gibson house here in town. It falls under the category of an eventide home, or a care home for the elderly.

We had a wonderful time visiting together and are looking forward to planning a few events for next semester. Any of you ladies out there with ideas, please send them my way!

Here are some of the ladies that helped serve Saturday morning..

And here are the results!

They were beautiful little cards, and I must say they turned out wonderfully despite the many claims of not being creative. You never know until you try and I hope many of these women will have more confidence next time! :) They were all different and so creative – maybe this will become an annual event!

We’ve had our Christmas tree up for several weeks now (we put it up the weekend of Thanksgiving) and, as last year, we LOVE it. It was an awesome investment as well. Super cheap and a wonderful addition to the living room. Let me demonstrate…

This is what I see when I come home from work..

If that isn’t just the coziest little corner you ever did see! If only that was frost in the window instead of the never-ending condensation :) (side note: I got out some wrapping paper to wrap Ian’s present tonight and you’ll never guess what I found all rolled up in it… MOLD! Man, the things I never knew I’d have to worry about in life!)

It’s such a sweet little tree and has been greatly enhanced by the red bobbles this year (left for us by the beloved Williams! Thanks guys!). By the way, do you call them bobbles? I thought I always did, and then I was informed that it’s kind of a UK word. If it is, it just snuck right in without me even batting an eye! I’d like to know how crazy I am, so if you could let me know what you call the brightly colored Christmas orbs, that would be fantastic :)

Let me highlight the main parts of the tree.. You have the bobbles, the sparkly ones are my favorites; the hand-made twig stars which somehow survived being stored over the last year; the ribbon from the Poundland candles we purchased last year that ‘hold’ the stars on (even though they fall off all the time); the lovely lights that warm the room so nicely; and the noticeably plastic ‘tree trunk’ from our £4 tree! I think it works well together :)

And finally, my very favorite part of the tree..

The BIRD ornament! Yay!! This ornament makes me well up with good memories and love from our trip to Germany in April. While we were there, we took a day and traveled to Northern France with the Smith family to find some of their favorite wine (and to discover why it was their favorite!). Alyssa’s Grandma was with us and we made a stop into a Christmas shop where each grandkid is allowed to pick out an ornament every year. Well, bless her heart, Grandma let Ian and I pick one out too! It is most definitely my favorite ornament ever and I think it is beautiful! I am so grateful for it :)

Last Saturday evening (after the morning festivities and an afternoon of working – boo!) was the Christmas party for work at the…. Old Course Hotel! I’d never set foot into that place, and honestly didn’t think I ever would, but lo-and-behold, not only did I set foot in it, I ate, drank, laughed, experienced my first Christmas cracker, and danced (if you can call it that). It was beautifully decorated and the food was sooooooooo good. Pumpkin soup with crème fraiche, RED meat (it was either ribeye or prime rib, I can’t remember.. I think it must have been prime rib because that sounds nicer and it was the Old Course after all) with yummy grilled vegetables, and then a luscious lemon tart for dessert. I really enjoyed the evening and spending time with my co-workers outside of work. I have to admit, I only hit the dance floor when I was dragged there.. Cut me some slack, I haven't been to a proper dance since high school! :) Anyway, there was much drama about what I would wear because the one nice dress I brought with me had a stain and snags across the front when I pulled it out of the closet - which would’ve been cute no doubt, but I was a little intimidated by the Old Course I have to admit. I found a dress I really liked, but it was very much out of the price range of what I was willing to spend on this outfit. However, my sweet hubby went out and bought it while I was at work to surprise me, so I got to wear it after all. And now I have the ‘little black dress’ that I’ve never owned, but always borrowed from dear friends :)

(you’ll notice I’m bracing myself on the wall, that is apparently to keep my balance while I stand on one foot.. I think it’s a lovely pose! :)

And, lastly, so you can see the fruits of my labor.. Ian’s presents under the tree..

The tall on on the left is from Terry, my boss, for both of us, but I thought I’d wrap it anyway just for fun. The one in front he already knows about and has been playing for about a month.. And, the one on the right is the only one that remains a complete surprise that he is going to love! :)

I wholeheartedly hope that each of you find much love and warmth this season, whether you are with family or away from them. Jesus is not bound by location.. May He fill your heart with grace and mercy, and may you reflect on the truth that while we celebrate His birth on December 25th, we’re really celebrating what that birth made possible - his life, death, and resurrection, and His sure return to make all things new. May you share in this anticipation with us this season!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Glencoe Hoooooooooooooo!

As promised, a report on our trip to Glencoe. After our Thanksgiving celebration we tried to get ready as quickly as we could so we wouldn't be up really late.. But, we were up really late anyway :) No biggie, we're on vacation! Friday morning we were picked up by the Enterprise guy (I think his name was Bob) and taken to get our CAR for the weekend. We were more than a little bit excited. We got the car, Ian managed to get us out of the parking lot and we were on our way! Until we got to Cupar (about 5 minutes from where we started) and missed a turn.. Never ones to be upset about getting lost (wonder why??) we just kept going and lo and behold we found a Lidl! Lidl is a store that we always get flyers for but can never go to because we don't have a car. It's sort of like a small walmart. There's food, but there's also other stuff that costs less money than it does in most other stores. So we had a good time marveling at how inexpensive the chickens and frozen food items were and bought some snacks as well as a stainless steel cake decorating set (come on, it was £4, like I was going to just leave it there). So anyway.. We headed back in the right direction and were happily on our way!

Until we got to Perth. Perth is where I told Ian to go the way I just told him not to go. Because I got confused. Because I had to decide where we needed to go real fast. And I wasn't ready. But it was OK! Because we were driving in a CAR.. and because we're used to getting lost. I don't fear it anymore. I don't hate it. I say, bring it on!

It worked out quite nicely though because we took a scenic route and ended up at the Crieff visitors' centre which happened to have a super cool glass blowing facility! So we watched and oooohhed and aaahhhhed while they made pretty things we can't afford. They also had a free bathroom! So we made use of that once and then stayed long enough to make use of it again! :) As we headed onwards and upwards to Glencoe, it got progressively snowier, I got progressively more excited, and Ian got progressively more quiet and tense. He did a great job driving, left-handed shifting and all! We both kept saying how weird it was that it didn't seem weird that we were driving on the left side of the road. I guess we've been here long enough but I still thought it would seem more strange since we're rarely in vehicles. The only thing that still gets me sometimes is turning. Fortunately, I'm never driving, so you don't have to worry.

So we made it safe and sound to our cabin, got ourselves organized and got kind of disappointed with the provisions in the cabin. It was a great cabin, but just lacked some of the essentials for making a meal, and you know, drying off after you shower (we had one hand towel), and you know, heat. But, we cranked her up and set out to find food! Fortunately the cabin had lots of movies to choose from.. The nights are long and cold and dark in such remote places in the highlands :) Not much to do after the sun goes down.

The next morning we woke up to snow! As we got closer to Gencoe, the snow started disappearing because it is very close to the coast like St Andrews (yes.. we drove across the horizontal axis of the country in less than one day! crazy!). I was afraid we weren't going to have any, but the Lord blessed us with a snowy Saturday. We went up to ask some questions before deciding where to go hiking and left for a hike that would be fairly easy, but would have good views and last us a few hours. The views were AMAZING! It was a beautiful day and we were just amazed at the treasures in that area.

We headed out to Fort William in the evening and found most things closed (one of the downfalls of being a tourist when it's not tourist season) but grabbed some ingredients for a delightful dinner of chicken, potatoes, broccoli, rolls, and cheesecake! Yeah, we were roughing it. It was really tough.

Sunday morning we decided to drive to Oban with a stop at Dunstaffnage Castle on the way. It was another beautiful day and the drive was stunning. We most definitely want to head back west during the tourist months so we can experience more of this location. It was a wonderful trip!

I know I haven't included any pictures in this post.. That's because I'm tired and it would take longer and I just spent too much time going through our pictures for the slideshow over there on the right. So please, please look at the slideshow. There are some beautiful pictures that I wouldn't want you to miss! :) And, more details of our adventure that I know you will enjoy!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Master Carver

Hi everyone and Happy Thanksgiving! I’m sure you all have moved on to Christmas by now. They start packing out the stores with Christmas items even before Halloween here, but the Christmas music is blaring through the speakers at Tesco now, as of Dec. 1. It is Christmas time and all the cheesy Santa sing-alongs won’t let us forget for a moment!

Before we move on to Christmas however, let me tell you about our Thanksgiving… I got to have 2 days holiday last week! I took off Thursday and Friday knowing it was Thanksgiving, and… Ian’s graduation!! I got to sit and watch my hubby get tapped on the head with an old dirty hat and receive his official Master’s degree! It was all very exciting.

He got all gussied up in a black suit complete with white bowtie (required, I might add.. and stunning. I’m a fan of the white bowtie)

Here he is looking all GQ getting ready to have the degree conferred…

And here is the tapping.

Oh, and the part where he gets the hood added to his robe :) There are lots of traditions here at St Andrews, which is to be expected from a university this old. Most of the graduation service is conducted in Latin between the Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor. The Heads of the departments present their students to the Chancellor, he says a little something in Latin, and the degree is conferred. The student has to come up on stage, present the hood to the helper man (I’m sure there is a more correct term for that guy), kneel before the Chancellor after which the graduate gets tapped on the head with the cap (some believe this cap was made from John Knox’s britches, I don’t remember what the more likely story is, but it’s been used for quite a while in the graduation ceremonies) while the Chancellor says the Latin words and the helper man puts the hood on. The graduate then rises and bows to the Chancellor who returns the formality, then proceeds off stage where he/she is handed their diploma and returns to his/her seat. It’s all very formal and fun to watch. Ian did an excellent job, but as you can see, I couldn’t use the flash so it’s all very blurry. I can’t hold still! I try so hard. I’m using a video camera next time..

If you can bear it, there will be lots more fuzzy pictures in the slideshow to the right when I post it later today :)

And, here he is… Master Ian

There was a big tent party afterwards, but I couldn’t stay (don’t worry, Ian did) because I had to run back to salvage our Thanksgiving turkey! And make stuffed mushrooms, and finish the pumpkin cheesecake and… Anyway, it was my first official turkey and I think it turned out really well. I got very good comments from the eaters :)

Here’s my few-hours-graduated Master Carver hard at work

The oven full of a few things needing to be kept warm until we were ready to eat..

And when we were all set to go, I took a quick snapshot of the group (sans myself, of course). You can see the lovely Thanksgiving decorations donated to the cause by Rebecca and Christian, and lots of food donated by everyone! There were three other big dishes on another table that you can’t see.. we had quite the spread :)

And here is a picture of the whole group all together

Left to right you will find: Sara and Shawn, David and Joy, Ian and Corrie, and Rebecca and Christian. All PhD students and their wives – goooooooooo husbands!!! We had a great time eating and enjoying one another’s company and eating and telling about things we’re thankful for and eating. Oh and we also had THREE desserts! Apple pie, Pecan pie (or crouton pie as we affectionately call it in the Church household), and pumpkin cheesecake. Mmmmmm…

So now that you’re drooling and wishing it was Thanksgiving all over again, I’ll sign off with promises of pictures from our amazing weekend excursion coming soon!