Saturday, 31 October 2009

Pumpkins and Real Halloween Frights

I have a pumpkin to carve and spooks to scare away tonight so I can’t take too long writing this today. Happy Halloween everyone! I guess because this has always been pretty much a kid’s celebration it always makes me feel like a kid again to celebrate it now. Carving pumpkins and dressing up (which I will not be doing) brings back so many happy memories.

As many of you have already read on Facebook I did get a pumpkin this year and was going to carve it last night but I was just too tired getting back from the hospital for my weekly clinic visit. I have sketched out a scary face—something I never used to do, preferring to go “freestyle” with the knife!—on it and have carved off the top this morning but I think I’ll wait till Robbie gets back so he can watch and experience his first pumpkin carving, jack-o-lantern creation.

Yes, a man can attain the age of 55 and never have carved a pumpkin in his life—at least if he lives here! Contrary to common belief in the US people in Great Britain haven’t celebrated Halloween much until recently and then only in some parts of the country. And if they do, they call it “that American holiday” and rather look down their noses on it and sniff, “well, it’s fun for the children”. Still, lots of people do dress up and go to “fancy dress” (i.e. costume) parties and, naturally the stores have embraced the chance to sell extra candy and paraphernalia.

I just called Robbie on his mobile to verify that he’s never carved a pumpkin. He said he’s carved a turnip before but what they have done in the past is go out “guising”. That’s where the children dress up and go door to door but they must sing a song or tell a joke to get a penny. Another thing they did was 'Dooking fur aiples or nuts' (I got the spelling of that off the internet, it’s phonetic) which is the same as our dunking for apples. Robbie got some peanuts in the shell last week, I wonder if I can convince him to dunk for them (bwaaahhaaa—evil laugh). I asked him how you even carve a turnip and his answer was, “with great difficulty”.

This week was much quieter than last week. My biggest activity was finally being able to go and do a grocery shop in Tesco’s on Monday. There have been two reasons for that, my accident and the fact that until Robbie starts his new job next month, we’ve been keeping a tight rein on our spending. He has been going out to the local co-op and getting things here and there as we need them and we’ve not been doing much of a big “shop” like we used to.

I had been feeling pretty good over the weekend and since Robbie had to go and sign in (still) at the Job Centre on Monday afternoon, I just went with him and we drove to Tesco’s afterwards. The first thing I saw when I got out of the car as he let me off at the door was the pumpkins. It wasn’t as fun as going out to the patch with Ben (and sorry, Linus, I didn’t see the Great Pumpkin because these were all pretty small) but I had fun picking out a good one! I did get other things as well: they had whole chickens on sale which was really the main reason we went there. I’ve wanted to get a chicken to make for us because it can go for so many meals. That, and some hamburger and things to make lasagna, should last us a couple of weeks.

Sorry, I need to go back a couple of days and pick up my narrative where I ended it last time on Saturday. I’m not as organized this time as last week! After I got finished blogging last week I went down and made chicken curry. I think I’d told you I’d experimented and made some before this but the problem with the “throw it together” type of cooking and experimentation is that it’s sometimes hard to duplicate results a second time. This time it was different, slightly, but I still thought it was good. I didn’t use as much chili powder but more curry powder. I also added some yogurt to make it more of a korma-style sauce and cool it down more. It still tasted good but my biggest disaster was with the rice.

I have never been able to cook rice from scratch mainly because I don’t like rice in itself so if I ever have to cook it I’ve always used Minute Rice or boil-in-the-bag types (or leftovers from the Chinese takeout). Since all we had was regular basmati rice I had to cook it according to directions (which were in metric) that I didn’t understand. I got out the good ol’ Betty Crocker cookbook and looked up how to cook rice. Either I read it wrong, it was the wrong kind of rice or I just messed it all up but I ended up burning the rice! So, bless him, Robbie had to go down, in the pouring rain, to “Nice ‘n Spicy” the Indian takeaway down the street and get us some rice and Nan bread. Thus endeth the chicken curry saga... but I will try again, just not with the rice!

I need to break in now and recount how I had a genuine Halloween fright just now as I was writing this. With our computer being upstairs and the noise of the fan and the music I usually have playing when I’m writing (right now it’s Handel’s Water Music) it’s very hard to hear anything from downstairs. Many times Robbie’s come in and yelled or claimed he was making enough noise to wake the dead and I never hear him until he’s behind me in the doorway and scares me unintentionally.

Even if I know he’s downstairs I don’t always hear him come upstairs. One time, I was watching some old TV shows on YouTube and he came in and scared me and I jumped up, screamed—not in a high pitched shriek but a low, guttural sort of battle cry—and I crouched with my hands in a sort of claw-like configuration. I don’t know who was more scared at that, me or him (I think him!). It was purely instinctive—I have NO idea I could make that noise or do what I did but I’m kind of glad that maybe if I was ever attacked I would react as fight, since there’s NO way I could “flight”... Then again, it’s not something you ever want to happen to you for any reason.

Still, I say this to sort of set the stage for what just happened. I was here typing and listening to my music and I heard what I thought was the back door closing. Our back door fits quite tightly so when you close it it’s rather a loud slam. That is usually the only thing I can hear when Robbie comes in. It’s a beautiful sunny day today which is a change from our last week of mostly grey, windy and rainy days. Wasn’t it Stephen King that once said a story is more frightening on a sunny day? Well, someone did anyway.

After hearing the sound of the door I waited a while for Robbie to come upstairs. I knew it was too soon for him to be home from his usual Saturday “auntie outing” where he takes his auntie to get her pension and do her shopping but he sometimes leaves her at the Co-op chatting to her friends and runs home for something and then goes back and picks her up. When he didn’t appear after a while I just thought, well, he’s in the kitchen looking at what I did with the pumpkin so I called down on the phone. We have an intercom feature on our phones so that we can call the other phones in the house. No one answered, no, actually, the phone never rang at first. You can usually hear the phone downstairs ring along with the sound in your ear. I tried it again, no ring. The third time it rang but no answer.

Next I rang Robbie’s mobile. I knew he had it turned on because, as I said earlier I had just called him on it. When he answered I asked, “Where are you?” even though I could hear people talking in the background and I knew immediately he wasn’t in the house. He started to explain that his auntie wanted to get some lunch in a café, etc. and I broke in and just said, “So you’re not in the house. I heard the door downstairs shut so I better go check it out,” and hung up on him. I was trying to not scare myself but I confess my heart was beating a little faster by this time.

No matter how many times I told myself it was nothing, the ride down the stairs in my chair seemed to take forever and gave my imagination lots of time to come up with multiple scenarios. I had purposefully made a lot of noise and walked heavily to the stairs and to my chair so anyone there for nefarious purposes would know someone was in the house but what if they appeared, menacingly, at the bottom of the stairs while I was hanging, rather helplessly, in my chair coming down? What if they saw the three knives I left on the counter in the kitchen next to the pumpkin and armed themselves?

I began to think coming downstairs was a bad idea and when my chair got to the bottom and made it’s annoying beeping noises I wanted it to be quiet but it never is. In proper movie-style fashion I peeked behind the door to see if anyone was hiding behind it before I went from the hall to the living room. I couldn’t see from there into the kitchen so I stepped into the living room and saw no one there, and no one in the kitchen. As I was right there next to the phone it rang. It was Robbie calling to check and see if I was allright and I was happy to tell him I was and that whatever I had heard it wasn’t a burglar, rapist or anyone else coming in the house. No one was in the house but me...or were they?

I think that’s enough for this week. I apologize to the Orrs and hope you know I wasn’t making light of what Steve’s parents just went through. My prayers are with you and I thank God and all my guardian angels that I didn’t just have a similar experience.

Like I said, this is a time that makes me feel like a kid again, and it’s always fun to have that little shiver go down your back, although being really scared is not fun at all and not funny. I’ll have to tell you all about the one (and only) time I went to a “haunted house” and ended up scaring the Frankenstein...but that’s a Halloween memory for another time. I hope everyone has a fun and safe time and makes more fun/scary memories!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The Sun Didn’t Shine Bright on Loch least the day we were there!

The Week in Recap:

Saturday, 17 October:

Last week I wrote so long and set up my new blog that I hardly got out of pajamas until dinner time. I told you about having some leftover gravy that I wanted to make beef stew with so I had Robbie get some stewing beef cubes and some potatoes and carrots when he took his auntie to the store for her weekly Sat. shopping. I have to say, I don’t know how I ever cooked without OXO cubes which are beef stock cubes (I think Knorr has a bullion cube which is similar if you can’t get OXO over there). I love the beef cubes and now use them to make soup, stew and spaghetti sauce or anything I make with hamburger to give it a beefier taste. I also like to use the chicken and pork cubes for other dishes. I’ve become crazy for stock cubes!

The beef stew did turn out very delicious except for the stew meat. I’m very unhappy about beef over here; it’s almost impossible to get tender and tasty beef like back in the US and it’s SO expensive! Even this stew meat, which turned out to be awfully stringy and tough, was almost the price of a good steak back home! I’m also shocked, now I’m on the subject, of how much fat they leave on the meat. A pork chop over here is almost 1/3 fat! Unacceptable! One of the first lessons I learned at my mother’s knee is that when picking meat in the grocery store to choose the cut with the less fat left on it. I can still hear her voice saying, “You don’t want to pay for fat,” so I wish the butchers here would listen to that admonition too.

We rounded out the night watching “Simply Come Dancing” (called “Dancing with the Stars” in the US) and “X-Factor” (called “American Idol” in the US) which are two programs we HAVE to watch! When I first watched “Simply” I couldn’t tell the stars from the professional dancers because they have different professionals here (except for one American) but Len and Bruno were still there. I loved watching “Dancing with the Stars” back in the US from the time it first came on so it was fun to see how it differed here because, apparently the American show is copied from the one over here.

Other than the stars I didn’t know it’s pretty much the same except for a few differences. Here they have a panel of 4 judges rather than the 3 and here Len Goodman is the nice one! Bruno is still Bruno whatever continent he’s on. At the end, after the phone-in votes are counted, the bottom two couples then have a “dance-off” and the judges vote on who they thought did the best and can stay. I think this differs from “Dancing with the Stars” unless they’ve changed it this year. I haven’t seen any of it this year. We used to get it two weeks behind the US but we haven’t gotten it this year. I’m disappointed because I really wanted to see Donny Osmond dance! I tried to get a couple of feeds on YouTube but it’s not the same!

Sunday, 18 October:

I woke up feeling tired and achy so I decided not to push myself and go to church. I had forced myself to go last week even though I felt bad as I was getting ready and even though it’s always a blessing to go to church I don’t think pushing myself too much does me good sometimes. I was just so tired I didn’t even want to get out of bed and get on the computer so you know I wasn’t myself! I did rest and read and I felt more energized by evening so I think it was best. Maybe it was the fact that our two sunny days are over and the weather is back to grey and drizzly.

They have the results show for “X-Factor” on Sunday night so we watched that and were disappointed that the Scottish boy was sent home. He was good but just got a bad song to sing so it’s a shame. Usually when there’s a Scottish performer on everyone here calls in and votes for him so I’m surprised that he ended up in the bottom two. In fact, that’s the only time Robbie will spend the money on a phone-in vote! This is the link to see his final wrap-up:

Monday, 19 October:

Today starts National Baking Week here in the UK so to celebrate it (or just because I was in the mood) I decided to bake a cake. The last two Duncan Hines cake mixes I have left that I brought over with me are angel food so that’s what I made while I was waiting for the nurse to come. As usual, every time I get my tiny hand mixer out I desperately long for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer that I had to leave behind but maybe some day I’ll be able to replace it. Following a tip I learned years ago I also add an additional two egg whites to the mix. Since I also didn’t bring over my tube pan I had to put it in one of my Bundt pans and unfortunately, it overflowed a bit in the oven. It was also a lot harder to get it out of the Bundt pan and since I didn’t grease it (you’re not supposed to with angel food) it stuck a bit so not as pretty as it might have been. Still, all in all, it turned out lovely, high and with a beautiful texture.

The nurse came to change my dressing while it was baking and commented on how nice it smelled. No one seems to know about angel food cake over here. Of course I could go into a whole dissertation about the differences between what we call cake and what they call cake over here! I was shouting back at the chef on the morning program (as I said, National Baking Week so they had a famous chef showing us how to make cakes—ha!) when he actually said, “Now don’t beat it too much—a cake shouldn’t be beaten, just moisten the flour.” Gaaa! No! No! No! He was making a lemon poppy seed “cake” and I kept shouting, “You’re making a sweet bread not a cake!” A proper cake HAS to be beaten to give it a light texture. Sheesh!

Culture shock not withstanding I had to use up my extra egg yolks from the cake so I decided to make my Spam & eggs omelet for out dinner. It’s really more of a farmer’s omelet with potatoes, onions, Spam, eggs and cheese. Spam is just one of those things that tastes like it’s supposed to over here.

Tuesday, 20 October:

I woke up today in a really bad mood and the bad coffee didn’t help. One day last week Robbie had to run out to the Co-op and get coffee because we had run out. Since he’s in charge of the coffee making now I didn’t know to remind him or see to getting some more before it was too late. He was stuck with getting some awful cheap stuff and now we have to drink it till it’s gone. I’d say it was a little worse than Folgers’s or Maxwell House. Icky! Ordering our nice gourmet coffee online is one thing we’ve had to stop doing to economize. After this morning’s cup of mud, though, I’m thinking of protesting that some luxuries are necessities!

One of the things that has been weighing on my mind and making me nervous is getting this visa application in the post and getting it going. Two things have made us delay a bit: the cost and we’re still waiting for a copy of one of Robbie’s monthly bank statements. When the mail today brought a statement but the wrong month than the one he’d requested (one we already have) I just told him we’re going to have to get it sent off with what we already have. It takes 5 working days and £5 to get a copy of the statement and we don’t have the time to wait. So in the afternoon I sat down, went through everything and made sure we had it all filled out correctly and Robbie wrote in the payment information. This time it’s £35 cheaper than last time...£465 rather than £500...but still a LOT of money.

But, now it’s off in the post and out of our hands. I said a quick prayer over it before I sealed the envelope. There have been threats of the postal workers going on strike Thursday so it’s even more important we at least get it in the mail before that happens. Then we can use that as an excuse if we have to if it gets there late!

Wednesday, 21 October:

Nurse came in to do my dressing. I still don’t like the way the “hole” looks but the rest of it is healing up nicely. The nurse said everything looks good and is impressed at how it’s healing. Even the “hole”, she said, has clean edges and doesn’t have any sign of infection so I guess the silver dressing is doing the trick. Other than laundry, I didn’t do much else.

Thursday, 22 October:

What a good day this was! Robbie and I had appointments at 1:55 to get our flu shots so off we went to the Health Centre. We were surprised to see that the nurse that was giving us our shots was one of the nurses that comes here frequently to do my dressings on Mondays and Wednesdays. She was surprised to see us as well but we had a nice chat while she was “jabbing” us. I never felt a thing when it went in, in fact, I was so busy talking to her I thought she hadn’t done me until she moved over to Robbie. Later, though, my arm started stinging and burning like crazy. That had never happened before to me. I’ve never had any kind of an adverse reaction to a flu shot before and Robbie claims he always does. I sort of moved my arm up and down like doing the chicken dance to see if that would make it stop stinging. It was a little tender to the touch so I didn’t want to rub it. The discomfort went away about an hour later but that’s the first time I’ve had any kind of reaction to a flu shot.

Robbie wanted to go to a seminar in Broxburn that demonstrated computer access to the disabled since this could help him in his volunteer work and maybe in our future business. I knew I didn’t want to go so he dropped me off home and I just got on with some more laundry and made myself lunch. The phone rang and the woman asked for Robbie so I had to take a message. She said she was from the Job Centre and wanted to offer him a position. She gave me her phone number and I called him immediately on his mobile. I didn’t think much of it at the time (mainly I was struggling to see the number I’d written hastily on the newspaper with a really bad pencil!). His auntie also called and wanted him to help her with something she didn’t understand. I didn’t understand what it was she didn’t understand (!) so I told her that she could always get him on his mobile number. When Robbie got home we talked more about that and whether she had gotten hold of him than the first call. I finally had to ask him and he casually said, “oh yes, I can start at the Job Centre if I want the job,” Between wanting to strangle him and being happy I didn’t know what to say or feel!

So good news is, Robbie starts a new job November 16th. He’ll be advising other people on job hunting, helping them fill out forms and whatever else they need. This is something he’s been doing since April so he pretty much knows the ins and outs of it all. Plus he knows how it feels to want a job and not be able to get one so he can be more empathetic than someone else who’s not been through it. My Robbie’s not the most effusive or emotional of people but I can tell the difference in his attitude lately. In subtle ways he seems surer of himself and a bit more confident.

One other good thing that happened was that I found a £20 note I had hidden in my wallet. I had put it in such a secret place to save it that even I forgot all about it! So, shh, don’t tell Robbie!

Friday, 23 October:

We had to get up early this week because my clinic appointment was at 11:30 so we had to leave the house at 11:00. Our appointments have usually been around 2:00 so this was different for sure. It was kind of like the night before the first day of school in that you know you have to get up so you can’t sleep the night before. Robbie was really restless too so it was hard to get up when it was time. I was even nodding off over my first cup of coffee.

As usual, when I got in there everyone said hello and smiled and they call me by name. I guess since I’ve been coming there every week I’ve become well known. My usual nurse was on holiday this week so I had a sweet little girl, Gillian filling in. She mentioned about having seen me in the clinic and being known and I joked about everyone being sick of seeing me by now! She thought everything looked good and so that’s it till next week.

The weather was a mix of clouds and sun and when I came out of the hospital and waited at the door for Robbie to pick me up I noticed it was one of those fall days you get where the colors of the trees just stand out vividly because the sky behind them is dark grey. Yet, on the other side the sun breaks through the clouds and, like a spotlight, beams on the golden trees. I was just enthralled with the scene and the cool, fresh air.

Robbie surprised me when I got into the car and asked me if I wanted to go for a drive. He keeps saying he wants to take me to the Trossachs and so he asked if I wanted to go up there. How can I say no? We pulled over to a little parking lot across from the hospital next to an Indian restaurant so that he could check his road atlas and clean the windshield (windscreen to him).

Once we pulled in, we saw that there was a small mobile snack bar set up. Now let me explain, a snack bar here usually means a trailer of some sort off the side of the road or in a parking lot (car park) like this one was. Picture the sorts of vehicles you see selling food at country fairs. What they usually serve as snacks is hot and cold sandwiches, burgers, meat pies and drinks. Even though it was noon I wasn’t really hungry but my hubby can eat any time and wanted to get a sandwich so I had him get me a burger (which he had to finish for me) and he got a bacon bap (bacon on a roll) In previous entries I’ve told you the difference between bacon here and over there in the US. It’s much more like Canadian bacon.

I didn’t realize that Loch Lomond was in the Trossachs and that it was all so close. It’s at the most 2 hours drive from here and really close to Glasgow. As usual, we didn’t have our camera with us—I AM going to put it in the car and keep it there! So since we weren’t able to take any pictures you’ll have to check out these links to see some of what we saw:

Dryman (pronounced Drimmon) was a very pretty little village and I’d love to visit it again. We just drove through this time and didn’t stop.

Unfortunately the weather got worse the further west we went and by the time we got to the loch it was raining pretty hard and was misty so the mountains were hidden. Even if we had had the camera we couldn’t have gotten very good shots. There was no snow on the mountains yet and we did try to get a picture of one of the hills with some of the lovely golden foliage on Robbie’s phone. I’ll have to see if he can upload it later.

We stopped at the Loch Lomond Coffee Shop and had a light tea. I would describe it as modern tartan. The plates and dishes were in a tartan pattern but in bold colors, there was a log stove but it was modern. Still, the music was traditional Celtic and very soothing. I even heard some of the soundtrack from the movie “Rob Roy” which was appropriate since it’s Rob Roy country! It was almost surreal to me. I remember loving that movie so much and there I was sipping tea from a tartan pot listening to the same music I listened to over and over. Amazing!

The food was quite good. I got soup and a club sandwich and Robbie got a chicken wrap. He also had to finish my soup for me. They had a very tempting array of home baked desserts we had to pass up but I hope we’ll be back soon and can try them. There was a little gift shop in the restaurant too and they even had Yankee Candle items (the mark of a good gift shop in my opinion!) so now I know where I can go when I run out of my tarts!

Robbie had a Gideon meeting Friday evening so we had to get heading for home before too long. With the weather and our time constraints we didn’t really get out of the car or explore too far afield. We drove back through Glasgow and I was pretty amazed at the high hills even that close to the city. It was a lovely drive in the rain I can imagine it would be extra nice in the sunshine. We did get a fantastic treat, though. The sun came out as we got past Alexandria on the way to Glasgow and we saw a huge and bright double rainbow! Just the perfect cap to the evening!

I even got to see parts of Glasgow. I’ve only been in the city twice, well, once doesn’t count because it was the airport and we just kept to the motorway on the way home. This time Robbie took the wrong turn and rather than get on the motorway we ended up going through Glasgow. We thought it might be bad at that time on a Friday evening but it wasn’t bad and we didn’t really get into any traffic jams until we did get outside the city on the motorway. We went through the University section of Glasgow so the buildings were lovely and old—mostly Georgian. All very Jane Austen-ish.

I’d better let that be it for now. Quite enough to tell you all this time! As you can see, we’re doing pretty well this week and, as I said, Robbie is feeling very good now that he’s got employment! We put our clocks back tonight so we’ll only be 4 hours apart from those of you who live in the Eastern Time zone.

Till next week, love and joy and God’s blessings to you!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Here We Go...Autumn and Guilty Pleasures

Well here we go and we’ll see who gets tired of the minutiae of my life first (might just be me)! I’ve always hoped that some long-in-the-future generation will find some of the things I do quaint or interesting but I fear it might fall in the category of “too much information”. An old writing teacher of mine told us that to hone our skills we should write “anything” as practice so I guess this could just be my “anything”.
Since my accident in June our routine has been the district nurses coming to see me and re-bandage my leg Mondays and Wednesdays and going to the clinic at St. John’s every Friday. Friday has been my “day out” and we usually go out for late lunch/early dinner (depending on when my appt. is) after my time in the clinic.
I must say that the care I’ve received and the doctors and nurses I’ve met here at the NHS have been wonderful. I mostly now see a nurse/practitioner (I’m not sure what her title here is) named Tanya Brandon. She also lives in Fauldhouse which was a surprise the first time we met her but Robert doesn’t seem to have met her before and we don’t know much about her family but she’s so nice and really knows her stuff. As from the first, I’ve become quite the teaching model. It’s rare that a student nurse or someone else doesn’t pop in to observe. I really don’t mind in fact we usually have fun joking about it all and I’m learning more than I ever wanted to know about skin! Apparently these kinds of injuries are quite common in ladies of “a certain age”. The plastic surgery clinic at St. John’s has a very good reputation here so I’m really lucky to be here I guess. I’ve been going once a week for so long I’m becoming a fixture I think and all the nurses now recognize me.
This week I was a bit apprehensive to see what she thought of it after my course of antibiotics last week. Last Friday we both noticed some redness around the wound that hadn’t been there Wednesday when the district nurse had changed the dressing. When I got out of the shower Thursday I noticed some red spots that sort of looked like either pimples or shaving rash so when Tanya noticed it the next day she called in the doctor to prescribe some antibiotics because we wanted to catch any infection quickly before it got a start. I certainly didn’t want to end up back in the hospital like I did in July!
And just who showed up to look at it but the doctor who sent me upstairs in July—Dr. Brom (Bram?) I’m never sure of his name. They call them all by first name so I have no clue what his last name is. He’s young, tall, handsome with a nice smile and from some Eastern European country but his accent isn’t too heavy so he must have been in the UK for a while. I just don’t like him because in July he said I had to stay in the hospital and should have a skin graft (which I never had after all). This time, though, he just wrote me a 5 day prescription and we high-tailed it out of there before he changed his mind!
So I won’t get too medical/technical with you all but this week she noticed the little pocket that the district nurses noticed that seemed infected and now seemed to be healing better. She called it a “fat necrosis” (I’ll explain it further to you individually by email if you really want but not if you’re eating) and we have a bit of a new treatment. We’re back to the “silver” dressings which should encourage granulation (new skin growth) and clear up the necrosis. There, you know as much as I do!
After her poking and treatments my leg is usually sore and stings. Robbie had to go to Bathgate to the Social Security office which was unusual because he usually goes on Mondays. I sat in the car since there’s no need for me to go in there with him. Yesterday, and today here have been beautiful weather-wise: sunny but cool so I didn’t mind sitting in the car with my book. On a wall in front of us there was a patch of wild blackberries so I could also watch the birds coming to eat them. There are a lot of types of birds here I don’t recognize and they don’t have the birds I’m used to like cardinals and blue jays. What they call a robin is nothing like the robins we know which is a shame because they’re one of my favorite birds.
Rather than going out somewhere to eat we decided to go home and have fish and chips. As I’ve told you before that is definitely one of the biggest things I would miss terribly. Both of us hadn’t eaten since breakfast so we were both very hungry. Still, no matter how hungry I am when I start my fish supper I can usually not finish it. You get a huge piece of fish and loads of chips and it’s so yummy but so filling! Evening TV (the soaps: Emmerdale, Coronation St. and East Enders) then I came upstairs to finish the book I’ve been reading.
In the last couple of weeks I have been shocked, shocked (like Claude Rains in Casablanca) to find out that my Robbie is hooked on television roulette. Late at night one of the channels has this roulette program where you can log on and play roulette. Of course, Robbie just plays for fun and has never bet any money for real or logged onto the internet site to play but he keeps track of all his “winnings” and has his own “system” (mathematically based so it works---riiight!). Last night we were watching it in bed and I tried my own “system” and won almost as much as he did (ha!) on paper but then I lost some and fell asleep!
For my part I have been “addicted” to computer games like Cake Mania and Diner Dash in all the varieties. I think I have about four different Cake Mania games and four different Diner Dash games. And no, it’s not because they’re about food—I’ve also tried one called Passport to Perfume that I quite like. Ok, ok, I can hear the screams of “waste of time” from here but in my defense, it’s taken my mind off my pain sometimes and kept my mental faculties sharp and helped speed up my cognitive reaction times. After all, you have to quickly make decisions and carry out tasks...allright, allright, it’s a waste of time but heck, we all need a recreation!
So, speaking of wasting time, I better close this and get downstairs and peel some potatoes. I want to make a beef stew for our dinner with some leftover gravy I have. It’s a good cool fall weather dinner. Oh, one more thing, speaking of fall: yesterday our drive to the hospital clinic was just beautiful. Autumn colors over here are more golden than the russets and scarlets I’m used to but with the golden sunshine it was just a lovely day and a lovely drive. A few orange berries and red bushes made splashes of color along the roadside too.
Hope you are all enjoying a golden autumn day! Lots of Love!

Previous Blogs

October 30, 2007

The weather is finally getting seasonal here and right now it’s 42 and clear. It’s been a really hot fall and this is the first really cool weather we’ve gotten. I spent most of the day cleaning out the bookcase in my bedroom to prepare for the packing and moving. It’s always nice to browse through my books and I tried not to get too sidetracked! On the phone tonight Robbie and I talked about various Halloween customs. Apparently in Scotland they do something called "Guising" (sp?) for apples and would go around and sometimes sing songs for apples or money. He had gone to his friend Jimmy Gordon’s funeral today but wasn’t as down-hearted as I thought he might be. They had a chess club meeting tonight but didn’t play and Robbie was elected team captain. We’re not sure if that’s a good thing or just more responsibility. But for now we’ll think of it as a good thing. Ben is still working too hard and he worries me. Just seems quiet and not very cheery. I still haven’t heard from the movers with an estimate yet and so I’m going to have to call them tomorrow. Going to go spend the rest of the evening snuggling and reading. Love the cool fall weather finally!

14 Nov. 2007

I am finally here. In my new home, with my (almost) new husband. As hard as it was to leave Virginia and pretty much the US it was a joy to finally arrive here after the long, uncomfortable air flight.
The night before I left I had a terrible time getting to sleep. I had given Ben an almost impossible task to get all the assorted odds and ends that I didn’t have the packers take into two suitcases. Bless him, he never complained, he never lost his temper, he was very patient and worked very hard to make sure that almost everything fit. He even went out to Wal-Mart and got me a new big suitcase rather than my bringing his rolling duffle bag. We still were left with a lot of things that he would need to occasionally mail to me and a box of clothes that I had to box up and ship before I left for the airport.
At least by my last morning there wasn’t really a lot to do other than pack the last things I needed to use one last time. I had also promised Ben that I would make him his cinnamon French toast for breakfast one last time so when he woke up around 10:00 I did that and then went in and took my shower and got dressed. I had planned to be at the airport by 2:00 and since we needed to ship that box of clothes we left the apartment for the final time around 12:45. I didn’t think we’d need that much time but it was good after all. I had planned to ship the box UPS since there have been lots of postal strikes here in the UK but when we went to the UPS store there nearby the woman advised me that it would be almost half the price to ship it by US Postal Service. Off we trekked to the post office and, as usual, ran into a long line but it moved pretty fast. We were able to jump on the interstate and get to the airport in plenty of time.
The suitcases were overweight as we expected so had to pay extra but I was able to check in without any problem. We were told that the flight to Newark was delayed almost an hour but since Robbie gave me a three hour layover in Newark to catch the Glasgow flight I would be able to make my connection without any trouble. Saying goodbye to Ben at the gate was brutal and it was very hard to go on down the length of the airport, through, Security (no problems this time) and sit at that gate. I was lucky when I got on the plane to be sitting next to a very nice lady who was making a connection to Manchester, England. She suggested putting up the arm rest to give myself some more room. Taking off from the Norfolk airport for maybe the last time ever was harder than I had even imagined. I felt a real tearing of my heart strings leaving behind all the familiar things and places I’d called home for so long and all the people I loved there and in the US. I had to keep it all inside, though, sitting on a plane with strangers but I wanted to howl and I had the panicky feeling that I wanted off that plane!
After touching down in Newark the nice lady from Manchester (yes, Ben, she did sound like Daphne Moon on Frasier) had snagged one of the passenger carts and was waiting for me to get off. The driver took her to her gate and then on to mine where I waited to board the Glasgow flight. I was happy to see that there weren’t a lot of people at the gate and had hope for empty seats on the flight. I just sat at the gate for the over 2 hours even though I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast and was somewhat thirsty. I knew we would have a dinner service on the plane and I didn’t want to drink too much because of the bathroom. Unfortunately as time wore on more and more people came to wait at the gate and they even took on all the standbys. This plane was also delayed almost an hour because it was late touching down from L.A. Not only was the flight late boarding but we were told by the pilot as we were on the tarmac that there were a lot of planes ahead of us and it might take us 45 minutes before we could take off so we were going to end up being almost an hour late arriving in Glasgow.
I was seated on the very back row on the aisle at least but next to an older man and his wife. He was very kind but I could tell he was uncomfortable sitting next to and so close to me. I did manage with all the discomfort but I didn’t sleep at all and kept having cramps in my feet and a crick in my back. My knees just ached from all the walking. This was also the roughest flight I’ve ever been on. Any time we were served food, it seemed, we ended up on a roller coaster ride. The whole flight was shaky and bumpy some times violently so. Made for an interesting time. The in-flight movie was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which was good but my sound was not good and neither was the picture so I’m glad that it wasn’t the first time I’d seen it. The food was not so good. By the time the cart came around to us there was no choice. It was the chicken and rice or nothing. I seem to always have had that awful chicken/rice/tomato sauce/veggie dish every time I fly--either over or back. As I said it was even harder to eat because of all the turbulence. Toward the end of the flight they had run out of the warm croissants for breakfast before they got back to us but apparently they found some more in first class. I think they didn’t expect or plan for a full flight.
As always, by the time of the landing I was so tired but I had more of a journey ahead. There was a long walk up and down corridors off the plane to Immigration and Customs. I even had to go down two flights of stairs which was quicker than waiting for the elevator. It all wouldn’t have been so bad except I was carrying a heavy purse and my heavy carry on bag. I didn’t think I’d ever get to Immigration and I tried not to be nervous as to the outcome of that meeting since I hadn’t had a good experience last time! As always I was the very last person through and even though the man was solemn he was friendly and I was cheerful and nice to him. He told me "Welcome to Scotland" and I was in. Whoo hoo! But…I still couldn’t get to Robbie since I had to pick up my luggage. There were no trolley for the luggage close so I had to find one quite a ways away and go back. I saw my red suitcase right away and snagged it with a mighty heave as it almost went by me too fast. It was quite a struggle to get it up on the trolley and when I saw what I thought was the black one—and it was--I knew there was no way I could pick it up and put it on top of the red one so I ended up pushing the trolley with my coat, purse carry on and cane and the red bag and then pulling the black bag with the other hand. More walking in and out of corridor after corridor and FINALLY the doors opened and there my Robbie was waiting. I’m sure he was as glad to see me as I was to see him. He stood there with his arms wide open and it seemed like I was walking in syrup because no matter how much I walked and pushed and pulled it was almost like I wasn’t getting any closer to him. When I would meet him at the airport in Virginia he would break out in a run to get to me but I finally said to him "I can’t run to you". I was so tired and even sweaty by this time I was just glad to get to him.
After reminding him that we were in public (!) we walked outside and then I found out that it was going to be another long hike with all the luggage. At least this time I had help! The car park was the closest place Robbie could find to park since the terrorist attack this summer. They had machines where you pay for your parking before you go to the car. Apparently he was parked on the second level and since we weren’t sure there was an elevator he went and got the car while I waited. When he was loading in the suitcases I called Ben to let him know even though I had to wake him up since I was later getting off the plane than I’d thought. As I was talking to him, Robbie was trying to lift the first suitcase into the back of the car and said, "Is Ben in one of these?" because it was so big and heavy. He had to put the back seats down in the car to get both in.
Finally we were off and I got to see a bit of Glasgow but not very much of it, from the motorway. Robbie told me that the airport is actually in Paisley so that what I was seeing was Paisley and that we drove past Glasgow later. As we were heading home he got a text message from his co-worker Christine asking if he’d be in to work and that their boss wanted a tele-conference with them about the contract. We decided rather than take me to the house and his going back out to work, we would just drive there and he would check in, change his tapes and then we could go on home. He figured that it might take about 2 hours. I was agreeable as long as he took me out to lunch since by this time it was almost 11:00. He found out after getting there that Christine was actually there and they were able to do the tapes together quicker and so we were off home sooner than we figured. We decided to just head straight home because I wasn’t sure if I was more tired and hungry and was just longing for a nap.
Familiar territory and I recognized it all coming back to Fauldhouse. It was so nice to pull up to my new house. I didn’t have much energy to take it all in but I could see that there was lots to do to get the house up to my standards! I expected that to be the case since left on his own devices my Robbie is an awful bachelor and a slob. He had put Welcome Home banners over both the front and back doors and in the kitchen and even had bought me a key chain for my new keys. The door keys over here are big old-fashioned things just like you’d expect a key to be if you saw an iconic picture of one. I now have three of those: back door, front door and garage.
We took it easy most of the rest of the afternoon while I looked things over. I kept dozing off if left on my own. Robbie made sandwiches and coffee and we had a bed picnic up in our room. I like the new bed but the mattress is hard so we have to get a featherbed. I unpacked just a few of the essentials so far and will do the rest a bit at a time. The only problem is that now that I’m here I want all my things to be here tomorrow. I know what’s coming and I’m looking forward to getting it all set up. But the stuff won’t be here for about 4 more weeks. I got to try my new chair lift going down the stairs from the bedroom to try to get on the internet or watch TV while Robbie is out. He had made a commitment, as the team president, to play in a chess tournament in Edinburgh tonight. It seemed a shame for him to have to go out just as I’ve gotten here but it gave me a chance to potter around and try to get this blog started. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the computer to work or get on the internet. Before he left I asked if there were any passwords I needed to know to get on the computer and he assured me that all I needed to do was to turn it on. Well, I don’t know his Windows password or the internet password so all I can do is type this on Word for now. I couldn’t even get the TV to turn on at first and now I’m having trouble changing the channel. Oh well, I guess it’s not important since there are only 5 channels available. Aargh! That will have to change. I’m sagging and fading again and think I’ll give up and go up and take a shower and maybe go to bed.

20 November 2007 Tuesday
Good morning friends! Hope your day is sunnier than mine. No, really, it’s not too bad here today. Yesterday was very rainy with a wind howling. Today it’s in the 40’s with clouds and the sun peeking through. I think I’m over jet lag now and am trying to settle in as best I can. There is so much to do to set up housekeeping. I had forgotten. I have most of my suitcases unpacked now and my kitchen pretty much organized the way I want it but there’s still the bathroom and the living room and bedroom to get into shape. We’re pretty much throwing out Robbie’s old bachelor things and starting from scratch so there’s lots to get. I was surprised to find out that he doesn’t even have a good knife set so that’s another thing to buy. I was trying to peel potatoes the other night with a large bread knife! Funny thing is now, you have to be over 18 to buy knives here. Apparently with their gun control laws they’ve been having a lot of knifings so they’ve restricted the buying of even kitchen knives! Ah Socialism! This weekend was busy with a lot of activities planned. Robbie went off to a Gideon meeting Fri. night but I didn’t feel like going. Sat. we did laundry and shopping. We decided to go to a place nearby rather than the big supermarket Tesco because someone had told Robbie that the meat prices were cheaper. It’s called Lidl and apparently it’s a German owned chain. They do have good prices and you can find a lot of interesting stuff but Robbie says that if you see something you like you’d better buy it right then because if you come back they might not have it again. It’s sort of a warehouse-type thing but not quite as extensive as, say, a Sam’s Club. The funny thing too, was that there were a lot of products from other European countries. It was hard sometimes to tell what it was unless you spoke German. It’s hard enough to get used to British products and now I’m having to factor in European items too! The good thing is that you get some good stuff. I was able to get some red grapefruit from Spain, lovely red delicious apples from Germany and some good old British cheddar cheese. We had quite a cart full by the time we were done which in the US is not unusual when doing your weekly shopping but here it’s pretty odd. We had to get a lot of things though, because Robert had NO food in the house when I came. And I mean that, NO food! Well, ok, coffee, tea, milk and a loaf of bread. We got by on fish and chips from the local Chippy for Thur. night’s dinner and a ready made meal from Paddy Brannen the local butcher for Fri. night’s dinner. One thing I may not get used to is that in almost every grocery store you’re expected to bag your own groceries. Actually, most people bring along a shopping bag because they don’t get a lot of stuff like we did. You really can’t stock up on too much at a time because the fridge is so small (the same size as the one we sent to college with Ben) and there’s not a lot of storage space in the houses. I’m lucky because my kitchen has lots of cabinets so I’m good. In fact one of the corner cupboards has a sort of lazy susan storage and it’s great for canned goods. I’m really loving my new kitchen. It’s just the right size and I don’t have to take a lot of steps to go from area to area. It has wonderful granite counter tops and, as I said, lots of cabinet space. The only bad thing about it is that it’s gas and so I’m having trouble getting used to cooking with gas and the oven temps are Celsius so I have to convert to know what temp to set it at. All in good time I hope. I need some more pots and pans. The ones I have are not non-stick so that’s another thing on the "to buy" list. Robbie keeps telling me "Rome wasn’t built in a day" but I’d at least like to get things looking half way decent for Christmas. Hopefully my things will be here by then. I’m trying to rethink my ideas for arranging the living room. Apparently the computer desk can’t go where I want it to go because it’s broadband and needs to be plugged into the phone line and there’s only one phone line in the room! Robbie tells me we can get wireless broadband soon and then put it wherever we want to. I’ll just be glad when my Dell arrives and he and his friend Gregor can get it up and running. This Compaq he has I’ve always called "the Flintstone computer". Someone this weekend joked, "where’s the handle to wind it up?" Sat. we were disappointed (my husband more than I although he claims he knew all along it would happen) when Scotland was beaten in "football" (soccer) by Italy. Since we didn’t have the game on one of our 5 channels of TV Robert was forced to listen to it on the radio. I sort of napped but there were some exciting bits. It was funny because when Italy scored I heard Robbie groan and almost the same groan from all over the neighbourhood. The same thing for when Scotland finally scored to tie it up--cheers all over. We were leaving to go to a gospel meeting later that night and Robbie was in picking up his auntie to go with us when Italy scored in the final minutes to end Scotland’s hope of qualifying for the European championships. The meeting at the Gospel Hall in Bathgate was really good and I got to see Rosemary for the first time since being back and since Jimmy died. She was pretty good and I was able to hug her. She’s so sweet and introduced me to all kinds of nice people. The singing was very lively and enthusiastic. All church services here have great singing and everyone loves to sing. Apparently this church where Rosemary goes has little prayer meetings once a month with special speakers and concerts, that sort of thing. I was introduced to some other people Robbie knows, a man he played chess with and another member of the Gideons that I had met before. Halfway through the service the members, men and women, came around and passed out plates and cups and then they came around with big pots of tea and food--sandwiches and cakes. It was almost Biblical and reminded me of the "love feasts" the early church might have had (altho. not with tea and sandwiches!). Still, it was so pleasant and hospitable. The guest speaker gave a presentation on a ministry called the Opal Ministry. It’s an international ministry that hands out Bibles and other ministry materials to the third world countries. Any Christian type book is sold for a very small fee. The reason, he said, that in some cases they don’t just give them away is because you sometimes have a line of people getting free books and Bibles and then the next day going to the market in town and selling them for a large profit. Sunday, Robbie and his friend Eric were scheduled to give a Gideon presentation to the Salvation Army so I went to my first Salvation Army church service! Robbie had gone there before because for a long time they were the only ones who had a service on Sunday nights here in town so he was known to most everyone. A lot of people wanted to meet me because, as one man said, he had only heard a rumour that Robert had gotten married and wasn’t sure whether to believe it or not! So I was able to prove that the rumour was true! The service was again full of lively singing and music and being the Salvation Army, there was a brass band playing which I actually enjoyed. They were very good and certainly played with joy and enthusiasm. Oh I almost forgot, for breakfast that morning Robbie fixed his usual big Sunday breakfast of rolls, sausage and black pudding. He gets the rolls home baked at the news agents down the street along with the Sunday paper. I finally got to try square sausage after hearing Sheena be nostalgic about it and it is different I’ll have to say. I liked it, it was good, but it’s not what I expect sausage to taste like. It’s not as spiced as, say, Jimmy Dean, and somewhat bland. I didn’t like black pudding at all. I guess it’s an acquired taste (and not one that I plan to acquire) and I’m told it’s better not to know what’s in it (kind of like hot dogs). The people here have all been wonderful and friendly and kind. I’m sure I’ll get settled in eventually and have things the way I like them. It’s been great being here finally and starting our marriage at last like it should be. The only things I’m dissatisfied with are the things that need done to make a home but that will come. After all, we’re "newlyweds" so it will take time to get my home set up like I want it to be. I’m much happier here this time in my own home. The chair lift that Robbie had installed is wonderful so I don’t have to go up and down stairs. I just ride up and down in style! I’m enjoying that! I need to get one of my baskets attached so tha I can carry things up and down with me. Well, so far, that’s about all the adventures we’ve had that I can think about. Miss you all and hope you’re well. Love, Janet

23 November 2007 Friday

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and were able to keep warm (for those of you in cold climates!). We had our first really cold night last night. It got down to -5 Celsius which I’m told converts to around the 20’s F. We were expecting to see frost and Robbie was figuring on having to scrape ice off the windows but there wasn’t any since it was a cloudy night. Today, though, is clear and sunny and in the 40’s although I still had to turn up the heat in the house to take a shower this morning. Robbie has instructed me on how to make his favourite breakfast: porrich (or porridge to some or oatmeal to the rest of us). The oats here are pretty coarse cut and I guess it’s against his religion (!) to eat instant oats and anyway, we don’t have a microwave yet so I’m making them from scratch for sure. He doesn’t like any sugar in them either and eats them with salt. I hear a lot of you saying "ewww" and believe me, that was my reaction too but I guess I made them right. I suppose it is something nice and warm in your tummy to go out in the cold with but I think I’ll stick to my honey nut flakes. Robbie came home with a "new" car last evening. It’s just a loaner from the garage while they work on his car fixing the slight damage he got from the fender bender he was in before I got here. It’s hard to believe I’ve been here a week now. It just seems like yesterday and I think I might have most of my suitcases unpacked! It’s hard to hang up my clothes with no hangers though. I think we’re planning to go out this weekend and shop for a mattress and maybe some other things I desperately need. Speaking of the microwave earlier, I had ordered a microwave and coffeemaker online last week from Asda--the equivalent of WalMart here and I got an email today telling me that they still haven’t gotten stock from their suppliers so I don’t know when they’ll be delivered. I’ve been going online and researching all kinds of sites here in the UK and hoping to do some shopping online for the house since it’s hard for me to do a lot of walking. It doesn’t take me long to drop when I shop! :) There’s a Primary school right behind our house and at certain times of the day the kids are all out in the yard playing. I was watching them yesterday out the window of the spare bedroom. As cold as it was they were mostly all out running around in their shirt sleeves. After the rain we had had Wed. the ground was still soggy and wet but that didn’t keep some boys from rolling around in the mud! It was mostly boys out that I saw, only three or four girls that I noticed. Hardier kids than I am! I stood there for a while watching them and then I thought, why don’t I pray for them while I’m here and so I did. I think I spent a good half hour watching them and praying. We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving yesterday, other than giving our usual thanks at dinner. I had made a chicken and stuffing dish for dinner Wed. night with mashed potatoes and sprouts (cooked those from scratch for the first time too and they turned out pretty good) and so since that was rather a heavy meal I just made a light cheese omelet for our dinner Thurs. night. Well, it started out to be just a cheese omelet but I decided to make more of a fritatta with potatoes and ham and cheese and it was really good. The cheddar cheese here is, as you’d expect, very good. After that, we just had some tea and cookies in the living room and watched some TV. Robbie signed on to his Open University course and did some work on his Cisco Networking course. He has to go into a classroom session the first of Dec. in Glasgow. He’s really enjoying learning more about computers and thinks it’s fun to even go back to the basics. He told me the other night about writing some binary code again and thought it was great fun. Oookaayy...He had had a conference with his boss yesterday morning and the latest date for the contract to end is Feb. 12th. He has an interview next week for a job in Livingston which would be much closer to home but it’s shift work so he’d have to work some nights. He says he wouldn’t mind it as long as the work was interesting and it seems like this job might be. He’s mainly going to go and talk to them and find out more about the job itself but he seems to think this would be a good position and it has a higher salary. So, closer to home, more money, more interesting work but not so great hours. We’re just going to pray about it for now. I have faith in God to see us through and confidence in Robbie that he’s imminently qualified. He just needs to have more confidence in himself. Well, that’s the latest from here. I’m definitely beginning to settle into things and it will only get better when my things come and we can get our furniture and everything set up like we want it. And as Robbie is fond of saying (over and over) "Rome wasn’t built in a day". Best wishes to all. Love, Janet

8 DECEMBER 2008 SATURDAY Snowy Greetings From Scotland

Sorry I haven't written for a while. The last two weeks first I and then Robbie have been fighting colds. I got it first--what a cliché' don't you think?--and I kept telling him to stay away from me because I might be contagious but noooooooo... :) What he actually said was, "Dinna be daft woman. O'coorse I'm gonna kiss ye.." So it's his own fault! Actually last Monday night he also walked home from the train station (about 1/2 mi) after a dinner in Edinburgh (more about that later) on a very cold, damp, frosty night with only a light jacket, no hat or scarf. He told me not to fuss and sure enough, the next night he told me his throat was scratchy. Anyway, we've been coughing and blowing our noses and feeling pretty bad for the last week or so but it's just a cold. We'll both live. It just worries me more at night with Robbie's asthma when he coughs so much. It sounds more serious to me but he says it's nothing. I had to figure out by going online to Tesco and Asda just what kinds of over the counter medications that I could get. At least what could be comparable to what I'm used to back in the States so that was difficult. Thank goodness for the internet!
Last Sat. Robbie had to go to Glasgow for his class period for his Open University course so we just did a big grocery shop after he got home. Luckily, when we got home, as I was putting the groceries away I heard it sleeting out! Tonight we weren't so lucky. We were driving home from Falkirk and it started snowing. It had been raining pretty much all day but on the drive home it was coming down pretty heavy and they were big, wet flakes. Parts of the roads were already covered as was the grass in the fields along the road. It got a little scary because they hadn't been out yet to get on the roads and we had quite a few steep hills to go up and down. I'm so glad I wasn't driving!
The reason we were in Falkirk was that we were finally getting to the store to get our new mattress. A lady Robbie works with, Jane, has a son that works in this bed shop in Falkirk and could give us a deal. We had tried getting there two Saturdays ago but got lost in the wilds of the city looking for the Cow Wynd (the area the shop is). Apparently Falkirk is a hard place to get around in (it sure confused me and I wasn't driving) because there's lots of one way streets, streets that just come to a dead end, and pedestrian only areas. I couldn't help navigate because I had never been in Falkirk, except once last summer we just came to the edge of the city for lunch at an Indian restaurant. As I said, we couldn't get there last week because they shut by 5:00 and Robbie didn't get home from Glasgow till after that so this week, cold or no cold, rain, sleet (or the post office) we were determined to get to this shop. Jane had told Robbie sort of how to get there but even with the scant directions he had we got lost twice. He finally decided to go into a multi-level parking garage by the High St. in a sort of shopping mall in the middle of the city and we would get out and walk and see if we couldn't find the place. He felt we weren't far. Well, after walking almost the whole length of the mall we finally found the door out to the High Street and from there walked down the street toward town. Did I mention it was cold and raining? Actually after walking through the overheated mall full of shoppers (just like it would be over there this time of year) it felt good to be out in the fresh, cooler air. It was maybe of a quarter of a mile down the road (at least it was down) till we saw the shop.
The man who met us was the owner and the only one there. He said that things had been very quiet this week because of the weather. He was very nice and very honest and gave us a great discount. We chose a really nice memory foam-type mattress with hyper-allergenic filling for Robbie. He was really open with us about delivery and gave us the option of our ordering one direct from the factory that might be in two weeks or if we really needed it soon we could take the one off the floor we'd been sitting/laying on and we could have it here by Wed. He told us that he had just gotten that one in two days ago so it was practically brand new but he knocked off another £60. I said that since we'd been sitting on it and had already made friends (I had been sitting on it a LOT after the long walk) we may as well take that one and that way we wouldn't have to wait. I don't know how much longer I can keep on sleeping on that "box of rocks" we've been sleeping on. I wake up every morning with every joint in my body aching.
While we were talking we mentioned our looking for furniture and he showed us this line he deals with that are made in England. He quoted us a price for a sofa, loveseat and chair that was better than some I'd seen online and I'd have the option of looking at the fabric swatches and picking what I wanted. I'd been having such trouble seeing anything style-wise I liked over here. Everything I've seen in ads seems to be very modern and stark or made of leather which is what I don't like. These that he had seemed to be quite a range of very comfortable furniture to my taste so I was definitely interested in that. Earlier, the man had even said that if we found a sofa or chair we liked somewhere else to let him know and he could see if he could get it for us from a supplier and save us some money. Like I told Robbie later, I'd rather give someone like that my business than some of these chain-type furniture stores. He agreed. We might, still, go out to another furniture store close by where his Auntie had had good service just to see what they have. The only drawback with ordering our furniture is that the earliest we could have it is sometime in early Jan. That doesn't bother me too much because by this late date a Christmas delivery could be difficult. As long as I know it's coming I can buy slipcovers for these old ugly things we have now and try to make it look a little better if anyone comes by for the holidays. As someone keeps saying to me: "Rome wasne built in a day" :)
Speaking of the holidays, of course we haven't gotten anything done yet! These colds have really sidetracked us. My decorations are on their way but I don't know yet whether they'll get here in time. I hate to buy more when I have some coming but we'll have to have something. Rob and I are having the real vs. artificially tree argument. Now I'm on the other side of it. I've always hated artificial trees until I'd gotten my pre-lit tree from QVC about 5 years ago. Now I don't know if I'd want anything else because they're just so easy to put up. Rob wants a real tree because they're cheaper but I keep telling him that we'd also have to buy and string lights and with an artificial one we could use it year after year even though we'd spend more now. Guess we'll have to see who wins. I may give in on the real tree just because they smell so good but he's putting the lights on!
I was excited to get my coffeemaker last week--finally. We're still waiting on the microwave though. It's so great to have a coffeemaker like I've been used to and lovely to get it set up and have the timer start it in the morning before we get downstairs. It came with a coupon for coffee from this place called Nairobi Coffee so I went online and ordered this wonderful coffee for 50% off with free shipping over £10. So with the coupon I got 8 bags for £11 with free shipping. Well, it’s the little things that excite me!
Oh, I said I was going to tell you all about Robbie's dinner in Edinburgh. Monday night he and the other 3 people who work for OAO were invited out by their boss for a "Christmas" dinner. Unfortunately, "partners" weren't invited so he went alone and I had to stay home. :( It was an Italian restaurant called Fabio's and he got "Steak Casanova" which made me laugh. Of course with a name like Fabio's you know what (or who) I was thinking about. I didn't know he had walked to the train station even though I knew he didn't want to drive into Edinburgh until he called me from there at 11:00 telling me he was on his way home. I figured, even though it wasn't that far, in the bad weather he would have still driven down and parked the car at the station. As I said earlier, by Tues. night he wasn't feeling so macho about walking in the weather and he stayed home from work Wed. He really should have stayed home Thurs. or Fri. or even come home early both days but he's still not listening to me so he's up a lot at night coughing so we're neither one of us getting a good night's sleep yet.
Robbie's dryer on his washer isn't working so we now have laundry over all the furniture and radiators. Groan. Of course in this weather there's no hope of hanging the clothes outside. The good news is that his sister has a tumble dryer she's going to give us; he just has to go and get it sometime this coming week. Till then, I guess we live like trailer trash.
That's all I can think of for the moment to get you all caught up---probably plenty to have to read! We are thinking of you all and hoping you're all doing well. We miss you all and hope to hear from you. Lots of Love, Robbie and Janet

16 DECEMBER 2008 SUNDAY It’s All Go Here!

The above is an expression here to mean that everything happens at once or disasters don't happen singly! Thought I should update you since I haven't written in a while.
I think the last thing I had told you all about was our trip to Falkirk to get our new mattress. The next day, Sunday, we went out to the shops again in the afternoon to see if we could find some Christmas decorations and finally get our Christmas cards. We ventured into Livingston with Robbie complaining all the way because he hates, hates, hates to drive in Livingston with all the traffic and the constant roundabouts. I can't say I blame him. We first went to a store that was exactly like a Lowe's or Builder's Square called BQ mainly because I had seen a set of lamps in their newspaper ad. We didn't find the lamps but got a small artificial tree, a mistletoe wreath for the door and next door at Morrison's we got our cards. So, it looks like our Christmas cards to people should arrive some time in the New Year!
This week Rob found me a hammer and I was able to put up a nice hook on the front door for our wreath and I can keep other wreaths on it for the rest of the year. Robbie found a little lighted sign in a charity shop here in town that says Merry Christmas and we put it in the window of our bedroom that looks out to the front so we're trying to get the spirit. It helped that he got the tree put up with the lights. It's smaller than I expected--more like the first little one that I had gotten but it will do us for this year. It looks really pretty in the front window and even though it has only a few ornaments it's nice. We put it up on a box so it can be seen better outside that Robbie is now covering with Christmas paper to make it look like it's sitting on a present.
Now for the "all go here". Wed. was the day we were scheduled to have our mattress delivered so I was looking forward to that and waiting for them to call. I got a shower early to get ready and when I turned the tap on the unit off it didn't stop. Water was coming out of the back of the unit and it wouldn't stop. One of the problems was that since it was coming out of an odd place, it was spilling out onto the floor a bit. I closed the door and tried to put towels down, hoping that it would eventually stop but it didn't so I called Robbie at work. He was on his way to his Wed. Christian Fellowship meeting but when I told him that the carpet all the way out into the hall was getting soaked and I couldn't find any valve to turn off the water he said he'd come home. I didn't want to start turning knobs in the cupboard where the boiler was because I didn't know what did what. I did turn one knob that seemed to slow it down a bit but the water was still coming out and everything was getting wetter and wetter. I got dressed and then went downstairs and was horrified to find that the ceiling and floor in the kitchen were flooding. Suddenly the light shade over the light fixture above the table tipped over and a whole stream of water poured out onto the table and the floor. Needless to say, I put in a panicky call to Robert who was stuck behind a big lorry (truck) on the road home and couldn't hurry any more. All I could do was to get out the mop and try to sop it up the best I could as it was still coming down. It was scary to know that the water was coming in the fixture but it seemed to be dripping from the ceiling and not actually in the electricals.
When Robbie got home he was able to cut the water off finally but he had trouble finding which it was. He had called Jim Rogers, the man we bought the house from and he gave him pointers but it was still hard because there's more than one in the house. There are two upstairs and two downstairs under the kitchen sink. The good thing was that he could turn off the water to the shower and we could still flush the toilet and use the sink which I was really worried about. Robbie called his brother Jimmy who's a builder and knows people to give us the name of some plumbers. Robbie was also wondering if we're going to have to put in an insurance claim and he said his brother was really good at that and had helped him with that before. Of course at this time of the year everyone's busy because anyone who has any work done wants it done before Christmas. Jimmy was busy working in Shotts, the next town over putting in a conservatory and Jim Rogers was the same but even further away on the other side of Edinburgh. Jimmy told Robbie that he would have someone come out to look at it that night but it might be a while before he can come out and look at the damage. By 3:00, Robbie had to go back to work because one of his backups had failed so he had to go back and run it again. I still hadn't heard from the bed people and now I was waiting for the plumber and listening to the ceiling drip.
Well, naturally, both came at the very same time! So I had plumbers and mattresses going up and down my steps all at once. While it was all going on I was writing out Christmas cards at least to people who had already given us one. We've gotten a lot of them and every one is from people I don't know here in town. I wrote generic messages and Robbie will have to address and deliver them. Usually they just go around town and put it through the letter box rather than mail them so that can be his job.
Thurs. the next day, I got a call from the cartage company letting me know that my shipment is due to arrive in England on the 21st and since it will take approximately two weeks to get it unloaded and to the company's warehouses, with the holidays, it looks like my things won't be here until after the New Year. This was a big disappointment because I was hoping to at least have my Christmas decorations to use this year. Now they'll have to be stored in the garage till next year. Oh well, as I said, we're doing a little bit with some new things---making it our own traditions.
I talked to Robbie's sister Rowena on the phone yesterday and she said that the family assumed that we would want to have a Christmas to ourselves so that's why we hadn't been invited to anyone's house. I wouldn't have minded having people here but without my stuff I don't have nearly the right equipment to do a lot of cooking not to mention the decorating. It might have been nice to go to the family's and I know we'd be welcome but the more we thought about it we decided a nice quiet Christmas with just the two of us would be nice after all. I asked Robbie what he really liked to eat at Christmas (hoping he wouldn't say some weird British thing I don't know how to make) and he said he'd like turkey. Usually they go to his brother Jimmy's house and Jimmy doesn't like turkey so they end up having roast beef. Whew! I know how to make turkey although I've noticed in the ads and on TV that they usually have bacon on the top of the turkey and sometimes it's surrounded by little sausages or sausages wrapped with bacon. At least I can find a sage and onion stuffing mix that is familiar. I know because I made some once with chicken a few weeks ago.
Speaking of Christmas dinners, the 13th, Thursday, the day after the "Flood" was Robbie's work Christmas party at the Grange Manor Hotel in Grangemouth. Since my things weren't going to be here, it's a good thing I set aside the Christmas sweater Mom had gotten me from HSN years ago to bring over in my suitcase or I'd not have had anything festive to wear. It was a nice hotel but very crowded in the room we were all in and the music was very loud from the disco next door but the food was marvelous. We started (Starters) with potato and leek soup and for entree (Mains) I chose the salmon and Robbie had the (what else?) roast beef and they were both very good. Turkey was the other choice and it was hard to decide but I'm glad I went with the salmon. It was so tender and had a creamy dill sauce that I wish I knew how to make. Practically wanted to lick the plate clean! Yum! The menu called them "winter vegetables" so I'm not sure what all they were, I think I recognized turnips and green beans and maybe some cabbage but it was all delicious and also there were small creamer potatoes. For dessert (Sweet) I chose the Christmas pudding because I'd never had it before and thought I ought to try it. I didn't like it. It was like a heavy fruitcake. I've never been a fan of glace' fruits anyway which is what I don't like about fruitcakes. It was topped with a brandy flavored ice cream which was actually very good and a small shortbread biscuit (cookie). Since they were just small individual puddings rather than a sprig of holly it was topped with a sprig of mint and not set alight. I got to see and talk to again some of the people Robbie works with so we both had a good evening.
Robbie had taken Friday off so since we didn't get in bed until almost 1:00 we were able to sleep in the next morning. Speaking of sleeping in, we are really enjoying the new mattress. It makes a whole lot of difference and I'm not waking up any more with my back and knees aching.
Today after church was the church Christmas lunch. It was just soup and sausage rolls but I got to try a mince pie. It sure wasn't anywhere near as good as Mom's because I think I detected citron or orange in it. Robbie wants to know if I'm going to make some because I told him about having the recipe so I might have to see if I can get the ingredients and maybe try to halve (or quarter or eighth it!) the quantity. The lunch was still nice. The soup, which Robbie said was ham and lentil was delicious and nice and hot (the church was a little chilly today) and we got to take some of the sausage rolls home since there were so many left over. Robbie will have them to take to work this week for his lunch.
The weather has been alternately rainy or grey and cloudy but we haven't gotten any more snow. Today started out sunny and clear but we're getting a little cloudy now this afternoon. Last night it got very cold and today we saw ice layered on the standing water in some of the empty plant pots on the patio.
I left the most important for last---a prayer request. Robbie has an interview this coming Tuesday with The Royal Bank of Scotland at 3:00. It would be a good job for him, something along the lines of what he's been doing so he is definitely qualified. It's outside Edinburgh so really, distance-wise it would be a little closer but with the traffic into the city his commute time would be about the same as to Grangemouth now. The position is only contract work and supposedly only good until July of '08 but that would carry him along longer than his present job ending in Feb. This would also be much better paying and there's always a possibility that the bank could extend his contract past July (the present job that's ending now was extended for almost 10 years). I know he would feel much better and more secure in his own mind if he knew he had another job even if it's just until July. Please pray that God allows him to get this job. The other two he and interviewed for went to other people and even though it's early days yet and he hasn't done a lot of interviewing I know that sometimes he gets discouraged because of those two. Pray he keeps his confidence up and that the interview goes well.
We're both pretty much on the last stages of our colds although Robbie's cough has hung on a bit longer than we'd like. With his asthma it worries me to hear him coughing and wheezing a bit but he says it's good for him to get it all up and he's taking his inhalers like the nurse told him to. Otherwise, all is well with the two of us and we are very, very happy with each other.
Best wishes to you all, write and let me know how you all are keeping. Love, Janet

22 DECEMBER 2008 SATURDAY The Good News is Nothing’s Broken

As you can probably tell by the title, I've had an accident. The weather here the past three days has been strange. We've had freezing fogs at night and the temperatures didn't get much above freezing during the day. It made the trees all crystallized and in a few days the grass out back toward the school and fields looked like it was covered in snow rather than a rime of frost. It also embarrassingly showed how many cobwebs we had outside because they looked like lots of little icy clotheslines with icicle clothes hanging on them! I had been concerned with Robbie driving to work and we knew the conditions were bad sometimes. Unusually there haven't been too many road accidents--or at least that I've heard of. Yesterday, Friday, was a busy day anyway. Robbie had surprised me for Christmas and was having the Sky TV people hook up the satellite dish that was already up outside so we could have more than 5 channels of BBC. He especially set it up so that I could have TCM (the old movie channel) because he knew that was my favorite. A very nice young man came out and did the installation around 9:00. We had a good chat while he was working about the US and the fact that he'd lived in Spain and was thinking about moving back there or to Australia with his girlfriend. He said he has always wanted to go to New York or Texas. I told him if he liked Spain he'd probably love Texas! He then told me that he had just gotten back a few months ago from Florida where they celebrated his father's 50th birthday so that probably made him around Ben's age and made me feel very old! So that was good and I was enjoying checking out all the new possibilities on my Sky TV. We were also scheduled to have our microwave delivered yesterday. It had been back ordered from Asda (or WalMart) since the first week I was here so it was good to know it was coming finally. Around lunchtime I went out to the kitchen and heard the birds making a racket. I hadn't given them any seeds for a few days and Robert had said something about our seed being low but with all the ice everywhere I knew they needed some seeds. I also had some old bread and toast crusts and some old fruit to put out. Our back steps were slippery in spots but when Robbie left that morning they didn't seem to be too bad. We don't have a railing in the back but it's just two little steps up to the kitchen (I guess three altogether if you count stepping up into the kitchen). I usually hold onto the side of the door anyway with my knees when I got up and down it and have to take the steps one at a time anyway. I'm sure you guessed it, the steps were covered in an invisible layer of ice and when I put my first foot out on the top step I slid out and down all the way to the ground. Luckily, I landed mostly on my bottom and my elbow got scraped. Now I'm lying flat on my back below our patio and most of the whole surface of the walk is covered in a layer of ice. My biggest problem when I sat up and realized I wasn't badly hurt was how I was now going to get up. I'm not too good at getting up off the ground on a good day but definitely not when I'm trying to get up on a slippery surface. I can't get on my hands and knees either because of the arthritis but I did try but that didn't work. I was trying not to panic and thought I might have to crawl along and try to scoot up the steps somehow. Finally, the only way I could get any traction and grip was to take my shoes off and get up barefooted. It seemed a little steadier. I was able with great effort (and God's help, I'm sure) to lever up because by this time my elbow and shoulder hurt where I fell on it and hobble carefully into the house in my bare feet. I was wet and covered in mud from the garden. So, as I said, the good news is nothing's broken. I've since gotten very stiff and my neck and shoulder and elbow are painful. I have big bruises on my hands and behind and one of my ankles where it knocked against the cement. The back of my head is a little tender too because I hit it a little on the side of the house after I came down. When Robbie came home he went down to the road where they have a bin of grit that they use on the roads and got some in a bucket and came up and sprinkled the stairs in the front and back and all the paths. He even sprinkled some on the road as he came up. One of the neighbors had said that it was sometimes hard in the winter to come up the hill to our houses up here because the road got so slippery. I think because we're sort of in a cul de sac they don't always get in here and because our three houses here are at the top of the hill it could get tricky in the winter. The good thing is that here in Scotland they have these yellow grit bins on every other corner where you can get your own salt and grit if you need to. So, if there was bad timing to get hurt, this sure is it. We were planning on doing some last minute Christmas shopping this weekend and there's still the Christmas dinner things to get and the dinner to cook. I doubt I'll feel much like trudging around stores---even less than usual so Robbie may be on his own when it comes to gift shopping. It's all stuff for his family anyway. Well, my latest adventure in Scotland wasn't a very enjoyable one, but it sure could have been a lot worse! Love, Janet

8 JANUARY 2008 TUESDAY Can You Believe It’s 2008 Already?

New Year's Greetings and best wishes for everyone after the holidays. I hope you all had as nice a holiday season as we did. We planned--and had--a very quiet and peaceful time. I think most of Robbie's family had assumed anyway that we wanted to be alone (which wasn't necessarily the case, but never mind) so we didn't really get any formal invites to any dinners or parties. Of course, we knew we would be welcome if we showed up but really, with our being sick with colds and falls and other disasters here it was better if we were quiet at home.
As I detailed in my last email about the fall I had, it made last minute Christmas shopping more difficult. We went out and got our groceries and our Christmas dinner fixings in one long mad dash Sun. afternoon the 23rd. We went to Morrison's in Livingston which used to be owned by Safeway and has everything. Love that one stop shopping even over here. We were able to pick up a few things for gifts for his family: gift cards for the grocery store for his nieces with families, some lovely plants for his cousins and an ironing board for himself. Yes, the man found an ironing board on special offer (on sale) and since he threw his old one away before I came we didn't have one. Who am I to argue with a man who actually likes to iron? The only problem was that it stuck out the front of the trolley (cart) so much and the store was so crowded that people kept running into it and so I was meeting all kinds of folks. When I joked with one man about it being my husband's Christmas present he laughed and said, "Wrap it up and tell him it's a surf board!"
I was more surprised than I expected to be at the differences between our ways to celebrate Christmas. I knew about the Christmas puddings and some of the different foods and we at least had turkey in common although I'd been getting away from that back in the US since Thanksgiving is so close. Two things you supposedly must have for Christmas dinner are sprouts and roasted potatoes made with goose fat. I suppose goose is even more traditional than turkey but I wasn't prepared to go that "native" yet and Robbie was fine with that. He likes turkey better and usually didn't get it at his brother's where they went for Christmas dinner because Jimmy doesn't like turkey.
So, to simplify things and because it was just the two of us we got what they call a turkey crown (or a breast) and we were able to get it pre-stuffed with sage and onion dressing. It turned out very good and the dressing was delicious. Robbie helped me peel the potatoes and got me the goose fat from Paddy Brannen the local butcher the day before Christmas. I made sprouts and for dessert I had gotten a frozen chocolate and toffee cheesecake that was very good. The only thing I wasn't able to make were rolls since I don't have any mixing bowls or baking pans yet.
Sunday, while we were doing our Christmas shopping we ran over to the local cinema, also in Livingston and Robbie got movie ticket vouchers for his other nieces. We had decided to mostly do the vouchers for his family since everything was so last minute. I personally like getting gift cards since you can get what you want.
Day before Christmas, Robbie ran out to the Tesco to get the last of the vouchers for his brothers and sister and spouses. He had promised to pick up his cousin Robert Owen and Robert Owen's sister Ethel and Robbie's auntie Nancy and drive them to the cemetery so they could put holly wreaths on the graves. He then drove his auntie back to Livingston to the Tesco so she could get her last minute shopping done and he came home by evening in a foul mood. He said it had taken him almost 15 minutes just to get out of the car park (parking lot). Ho, ho, ho.
While he was gone I made broccoli rice casserole (my sister's recipe) in the new microwave which turned out very well. I also tried my hand at eggnog. It seems that eggnog isn't very popular (or maybe even known) over here and you can't get it in the stores that I can see. I had gotten a recipe from the internet that was cooked so there wouldn't be any problem with the eggs but unfortunately I let it cook too long and it ended up more like custard than eggnog. It was much too thick to drink but was allright if you thinned it with lots of milk. Consequently I made much too much for the two of us so we've frozen it and get some out a bit at a time!
New Year's here is more of a big deal than even Christmas but again we didn't go out to any parties or anywhere. Robbie had bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate my coming back in November but we'd never opened it so we thought that would be a good thing to toast the new year in at midnight. It was really the first time I'd tried champagne and I wasn't really impressed. I think I can certainly live without it. At midnight we watched the Hogmany celebration in Edinburgh when they switched over to Big Ben chiming from London. It's like watching the ball drop in Times Square. Fireworks went off everywhere and we had some big ones down the street we could see. It was almost like the 4th of July there. Superstition here says you should open the front and back door to let out the old year and let in the new so I opened the front and Robbie opened the back and we watched the fireworks.
Another superstition is that you can't step out of your door and come back in again unless you go "first footing" in other words cross someone else's doorstep. Another "first foot" custom is that visitors bring something with them to drink and you offer them something and exchange drinks. It doesn't have to be a drink-type drink. We were surprised by a visit from Robbie's Auntie Peggy and his cousins Carol and David and they brought cider and we gave them orange juice.
So, New Year's is mostly about visiting around and eating and drinking (if you're of such a mind) and everyone gets that day and the 2nd off. Apparently in England they thought it was unfair that in Scotland they have the extra day off and tried to get people up here to work that day and there was a big, big protest.
Weather-wise our New Year was mild with just some rain but on Thursday, when everyone had to go back to work we got snow! Robbie came home early from work because if he waits too late and the roads get too snowy he can't get home unless he drives way out of his way. Since he got home early we went down to the local Health Centre and got me registered for the wonderful (?!) National Health. So I'm official. Now, heaven forbid, if I fall again and get hurt I can get medical care.
Sunday the 6th was Epiphany (the day supposedly the Wise Men brought gifts) and is the traditional day to take down all your Christmas decorations. It's bad luck to take them down sooner or after that. Robbie said he couldn't remember if it was by midnight on Epiphany or sundown but since the sun goes down here around 4:00 we decided it was midnight. We'd been out all afternoon looking at furniture and did find a set that I rather liked. If you want to see it the link is just imagine it in navy blue with the floral pattern. We got a deal by buying the suite: 2 seater, 3 seater and power recliner (for Robbie). It will be delivered some time in the next 4 weeks.
So the decorations are down, Robbie is back to work and the holidays are well and truly over. This is much too long so I'll try to update more often so I won't have so much to write. Again, I hope you all have a very happy and peaceful year. I think 2008 will be great (because it rhymes!) :) With Love to All, Janet

15 JANUARY 2008 TUESDAY Making a Home

The good news is that my shipment of household goods has arrived with only a small bit of loss. Some of my glass Christmas ornaments and one dinner plate were broken and there's a small scratch on my jewelry armoire. Not so bad when you think of how far they have traveled and nothing is irreplaceable that was broken. I should say that's all that I know of so far because I haven't unpacked everything yet.
It seemed that I had finally gotten things tidied and set up mostly the way I wanted them with what I had after Christmas but then the boxes came last Thurs. the 10th and now is all chaos again. When they arrived it was a very rainy day, in fact while I was waiting and watching out the window I looked up once and it was snowing. I was afraid that the weather might delay things but they finally arrived around 2:45 and it was only drizzling a bit then. The two men were very efficient and quick; I don't think it even took them a half an hour to pile everything here in the living room and upstairs. Now the fun begins...
When I started unpacking I had a funny sensation. All my familiar things: my Longaberger baskets, my dishes, silverware, sheets, pillows and books and clothes, just like always but it almost made me feel sad. I was torn between feeling comforted that I had my things but yet it still seems that they, like me don't really belong here yet. Anyway, it's going to be a long process because as most of you know, you tend to make more of a mess unpacking for a while than you do cleaning up one! I've been trying not to stress about it and just do a little bit every day although once I get tucked into it I've been doing more than I should and wrenched my back a little Friday.
One other thing we need to do is buy more bookcases now that my books are here. I don't think Robbie believed me that one bookcase won't be enough until he saw all the boxes of books piled in the living room! I tried to tell him... I've been looking online and was surprised that Ikea had some not too bad-looking tables and bookcases for a good price. I didn't think I'd like Ikea because I didn't think they had anything other than Swedish modern-style and that's so NOT my style but they have other things now. I wish I could just order them online but we'll have to actually go to the store which is on the other side of Edinburgh nearer where Robbie's sister Rowena lives.
Speaking of Rowena, she invited us and their Auntie Nancy who rode with us, to her house Sat. for dinner as a sort of late New Year's celebratory meal. Unfortunately her husband John, whom I like--he's a very jolly sort of fellow---was at a car show in England somewhere so we didn't get to see him but Marilyn, Rowena's friend filled in. I like Marilyn too--apparently she and Rowena have known each other for so long she's practically part of the family. Rowena's a good cook and for starters (appetizer) served us a prawn (shrimp) cocktail that was so delicious. Hopefully she'll give me the recipe. For the main course we had a good roast beef and mashed potatoes, broccoli and carrots. There was cheesecake and coffee after and then we had cheese and biscuits for later. Rowena gave me a huge decorative bottle of lavender hand soap. It will look lovely in the bathroom and Robbie got a nice grooming set. Marilyn gave us a tin of Cadbury's chocolates and lovely as that sounds we have soooo much chocolate left over from Christmas it was not as appreciated as it might be. We may finish all this by summer...maybe. Robbie had taken our presents over to Rowena's Friday night because he picked up the dryer she had that she was giving us. It was a very nice visit and I got to know Rowena and Marilyn much better.
By the time we were starting home, the weather had gotten colder and there was occasionally snow falling. Because part of the motorway (interstate) was under construction Robbie missed a turn for the Edinburgh bypass and we ended up going through the city. I didn't mind and he said it was actually the shortest route distance-wise and it wasn't bad at that time of night even though it was a Sat. night. I always enjoy any glimpses of Edinburgh but with the rain/snow and the darkness it was hard to see anything much. It was good to get home and in a warm bed!
Today, Tues., Robbie had a job interview with the company he works for now. The job seems to be about the same thing he's doing now but in a different location so there's no question he's qualified. In fact this morning he said he's always felt overqualified for the job he's doing (without being egotistical he said they're using a 100 watt bulb when a candle would do!). He's also got other applications out for other things but this would be an easy transition and tide him over. I know it would make him less nervous about the future. He also said that it would be good for the company because they wouldn't have to pay him his redundancy (retirement) money if they re-hire him. So we're praying about it.
That's about all the news from here so far. Hope everyone's warm and can find some winter cheer now after all the decorations are down and the thrill of the holidays are over. Keep cozy! Love, Janet

22 JANUARY 2008 TUESDAY Why Can’t I Make Soft-Boiled Eggs?

We woke this morning to the crunching of ice over snow. It's a very cold morning--mid 20's. Robbie was in late last night, around midnight, from his chess club's match. Unfortunately their team lost 4.5-1.5 (don't ask me) but they were playing a group from Edinburgh University that were rated quite a bit higher than their group so I guess it's nothing to be ashamed of. As I've told him, you learn from your mistakes to play better the next time and as long as you're enjoying it and having fun it doesn't matter if you win or lose. Still and all, it doesn't make it any easier to get up the next morning--but who am I to complain when the latest and wildest night my husband has out is with a chess club!
One of the biggest frustrations I've had in the mornings is trying to make Robbie his eggs. He likes soft-boiled 3 minute eggs and no matter what I do they never turn out right--always too hard. Yes, I have an egg timer and I have experimented as to when to turn it over: a few little bubbles in the water, big bubbles, lots of little bubbles but no big bubbles, etc. etc. I've even tried different size pans. The last time they would have been right except that I forgot that Robbie had gotten small eggs the last time because that's all the Co-op had so I should have cooked them less. So every time he asks for eggs for breakfast I cringe because I know he won't be happy with what I make. He'll eat them and not complain but they won't be right. I've learned how to cut him his "toast fingers" and I've learned to have his little spoon, salt and pepper and his egg cup ready but I can't seem to make the eggs right. Actually, this morning one of them he said was "spot on" so there might be hope for me yet.
It just all cuts into my confidence as a cook. I know I've been out of practice, all those years of living alone and not cooking for just myself. I've gotten so I don't enjoy it as much anymore. I told Robbie I feel like a bad meal in a restaurant is preferable to my cooking because I wouldn't have to bother. I'd rather eat at McDonald's than cook. Robbie said he'd rather eat cardboard than eat at McDonald's so guess I'll be cooking tonight! He never complains and he'll eat anything so what do I have to grouse about? Just being lazy I guess!
One thing he will be cooking this week is if we decide to have any kind of Burns Night Supper here at the house. For those who don't know, they celebrate the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet with traditional food and ceremony which includes reading of his poetry. The actual date is this Friday the 25th but we've got tickets to a dinner here at the Masonic Hall in February. For more information on the celebration and the foods go to
It was last year about this time that I first set foot on Scotland and during that visit I had my first experience with haggis during a Burns night supper that Robbie made for me and his auntie. Haggis is one of those things like sausage and hot dogs that it's better to eat and not think about what's in it. It actually doesn't taste that bad although the one we had then Robbie said was a little too spicy (there are different brands and makers just like sausage and hot dogs). Maybe spicy is good and covers the taste of other things, I don't know. I actually didn't mind it--not something I'd want every day or even very often but tasty in its own way. When Ben was in Dundee he had tried a bit of it and didn't hate it either so I knew if he had done it so could I! To go with the haggis you have to have neaps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), maybe cockaleekie soup (a sort of a chicken/leek soup--good for colds!) and maybe a small dram of whiskey just because (it is Scotland and Robert Burns after all). I absolutely love to hear my Robbie quoting Burns and he has a lot of it memorized. Late one night, for example, I was trying to get to sleep and he started reciting "Tam O'Shanter" because the wind was howling outside. If you click on the link above there is also a list of Burns poems and you can see "Tam O'Shanter" is a long one. He can't remember all of it but he did pretty good to me. I had to keep asking "what's that?" or "what does that mean?" but just hearing all those lovely words rolling off with the accent...lovely!
I can look out my window and see to the end of the village and over the moors and to the further hills. I think it's the Breich valley I'm looking at. It is all mostly covered with white. Yesterday it was pouring down rain when we got up and Robbie left for work but by 10:00 the rain turned to a very wet snow and soon it was big white flakes. The funny thing is that later around noon when Robbie called me he said it wasn't snowing in Grangemouth, just raining and the delivery man who came with my books today said it wasn't snowing in Whitburn (the next town over). Rowena, Robbie's sister says that Fauldhouse, being higher up always gets more severe weather. Oh goodie!
Well it's almost 11:00 and I need to get dressed and get some more work done with these boxes. I put up a few pictures and put away a few things I've been wanting to organize in my "cupboard under the stairs" (sans Harry Potter) yesterday. All I really want to do is go upstairs, get under the comforter with a hot cup of tea and try to stay warm! Spring will be here...eventually. Love and Warm Thoughts, Janet

1 FEBRUARY 2008 FRIDAY Reconciliation or Do I Mean Adjustment?

I know it's been a while since I've written because there really hasn't been much to write about. The days have pretty much settled into a routine. We get up at 6:30 on weekdays, I make Robbie breakfast while he showers and shaves, maybe make him sandwiches to take for lunch or he takes leftovers. He goes down and gets me a paper from the Newsagents and goes off to work and I putter around the house doing what I need to do. I make dinner, he comes home from work and we watch TV, go to bed and then it starts again the next day.
From the warm and rainy way the week began it's now turned very windy, cold and with sleet and snow in the last two days. I've still been stalled in finishing my unpacking because we haven't been able to get out and get more bookcases and our other furniture. I saved unpacking my books for the last thing because I find it fun to revisit all my old friends. I either remember or look forward to reading them. I really love books! So I've been able to unpack and put out two boxes of my hard back books. That only leaves 4 or 5 boxes of paperbacks!
So, other than unpacking some books, life has been pretty normal and dull really. I've actually been in a bit of a slump, not only because of the weather but because I've been feeling homesick. Ok, ok, I've been cranky and hormonal because it's been that time of the month! I've been focusing on what I don't have rather than what I have and wanting what I can't have and being frustrated by that. I guess things being routine gives me lots of time to think and that always gets me in trouble! :)
...And that leads me to my cryptic Subject Line above. I've started to sit down to the computer many times this week and wanting to write about the adjustments of living in another country as I've already been doing but one day I couldn't think of the word "adjustment" (senior moment--good grief!) and the only word I could come up with was "reconciliation". That word has been rattling around in my head all week now and I think God is trying to tell me something. I know most people think of the word reconciliation when it applies to people who have been fighting and make up but the word really has another meaning when you think about it. We all have to "reconcile" things in our life. We have plans that don't succeed, things don't always work out the way we think they should, bad things happen, people and things let us down, reality doesn't match up with our expectations--you see where I'm going with this?
Marriage can be a big reconciliation project but I think we all face some adjustments nearly every day. It's not easy. When I get focused on the differences and how much it annoys me that things aren't what I think they should be or want them to be then reconciliation isn't possible--or adjustment. Robbie is a morning person. He loves to chat and whistles as he shaves and is very perky. I am NOT a morning person. I can barely manage a grunt (or a snarl) before coffee. He crashes in front of the TV in the evening and is ready for bed when I'm still wide awake and ready to chat. But no matter how bad tempered I am he likes it when I sit with him at the breakfast table hunched over my coffee and just listen to him and it's nice to have someone to sit next to you on the couch in the evening watching TV--even if they're snoring.
So my biggest reconciliation is trying to meld what I want with reality. I guess I've been a glass half empty sort of person and it's been a struggle for me to be content with what I have. I really have had to make an effort to look at the positive side of things because I got really tired of being miserable all the time and feeling like I was living under a dark cloud--disaster was just around the corner. There's nothing wrong with wanting things but not at the expense of missing all the blessings I already have. I don't want to be so focused on the spot on the window that I miss the beautiful view outside. A long time ago I read a quote I like to remember and I don't know now where it came from but it went: "We can choose to complain that rose bushes have thorns or we can rejoice that thorn bushes have roses". I think that sums up pretty well the way I want to try to live.
I'm still not there by a long shot that's for sure, but I'm trying. It's better if I think about the good things I have rather than the things I want but don't have. **Ok, spoiler here, I'm going to talk about mushy stuff so those who don't want to read it can skip down to the ** below in the next paragraph. Last warning...look away now... I'm really a very lucky woman and one of the good things I have is a man who loves me more than I've ever hoped. He's decided that when he's on the internet the www stands for "wonderful wee wifey" which is what he calls me (or wee sweetie--I actually don't have a name anymore I'm "sweetie") so that every time he goes to a web site or types www. he thinks of me. The other morning I was in a foul mood as I said, and sitting over my coffee and I looked up at him smiling at me and he said, "you look like a cuddly doll sitting there". The man's mental because I'm sure that's the LAST thing I looked like and those of you who have seen me in the morning can attest to that! But the eyes of love aren't really blind but look at the heart just like I see him.
**The rest of you may look now. Wed. night I was sitting in bed and the wind was howling around the house--almost shaking the rafters. Literally. It's been really gale force winds for the last three days and being up high we get it all. I was discontented and wishing I were back "home" and in the shower Robbie starts singing a Scottish song. For those of you who don't know he has a very nice voice and hearing that, I just knew I was in the right place. My heart felt at home. Robbie remarked, hearing the wind, that he'd never noticed any drafts in this house. It's true. We have a good snug warm house. I think it's the nicest house I've ever lived in. It definitely has a lot of possibilities inside and when we get our furniture I'm looking forward to taking some pictures and sending them along.
Well, not much news but a long email. Sorry about that. I'm never sure if you all keep wanting to get this but I'm assuming since I haven't gotten any "unsubscribe" emails I'll keep sending them! Ben had told me that people have told me they enjoy getting the emails (so blame him). I better leave this and not try for War and Peace! Love you all, Janet

9 FEBRUARY 2008 SATURDAY I’ve Been Ikea’d

I guess I should start with last weekend and get things in order. We had planned to go out to Ikea on the weekend to see about getting some bookcases and maybe some other furniture. I had been doing some research online and it seemed that there weren't too many options for low cost items other than Ikea. The problem was that I had hoped we would get over there a couple of weeks ago but we finally made the plans to go this last weekend--start Feb. out right. We need bookcases and I was hoping to get some tables and/or a coffee table too.
We were glad to sleep in a bit on Saturday because it had seemed like a long week. Maybe it was the bleak (or dreich as they say here) weather that made it so hard to drag ourselves out of bed each morning. One thing I like is that we seem to be making it a habit on some Friday nights to have a fish and chip supper from the "chippie" down the street. I am just addicted now. It's not like any fried fish I've had in the States. The batter is really light and the fish itself is so meaty and sweet and I'm becoming a fan of Brown Sauce. I'll have to explain that to you all some other time or just email me and I'll tell you all about it. Just soo yummy.
Robbie brought me my coffee for breakfast and even ran out and got me the Saturday paper. He then got a call from his auntie to see if he could take her up to the post office and get her pension and do her weekly shopping. He needed to get her up there by 11:30 before they closed which was a bit of a hurry since we didn't get up till about 10.
Before he went out, someone came to the door during a survey for the government about identity cards. Apparently the British government is trying to push an initiative to require everyone to have this particular identity card. One of the questions that he wanted to ask the guy was about my status and whether I would be required to have one of these cards if this passes. If it does pass, everyone will have to have one of these cards by 2010. We in America have Social Security cards that we use for identification but they don't have anything comparable here other than driver's licenses and a National Health card. Most people wonder what information this additional card (there have been quite a few scandals about data being stolen or missing) will hold and why it's necessary so Robbie wanted to answer the guy's questions and have his say on the matter but he didn't have time since he was taking his auntie out. He asked the guy to come back at 1:30 and he did. They sat in the kitchen and I stayed upstairs.
So, by the time the man left, the weather started to get snowy but we were determined (or Robbie was) to get to Ikea no matter what. It was a longer drive than I had expected. The store was on the other side of Edinburgh--about a good 30 min. drive but the good thing was that the snow had turned to rain by the time we got to the outskirts of Edinburgh. Once you got off the motorway (bypass around Edinburgh) there were actually road signs directing you to Ikea. The closer we got there were actual traffic lanes for the Ikea traffic with the name painted on the road! I began to suspect that this was quite a big deal before ever we got there. The place was massive. Picture a combination of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club all under one roof (maybe even a little bigger than that) size-wise. Robbie had already been there once so I was following him but he wasn't sure how things were either.
Being not too savvy, we made the mistake of going to the Showroom first since the lifts were right there by the door. I had already had an idea of what I wanted so little did we know we really didn't need to go upstairs where they had acres and acres of set up display rooms with items for sale They gave you little forms and mini-pencils so that as you walked around and saw something you liked you could write it down and get it later. We got lost several times and then Robbie and I got into a tiff about whether things I picked out would fit in our living room. I said, of course they would, I didn't need to measure I could just tell by looking that those bookcases would fit and he wanted to measure and sit down and calculate (with the conveniently provided calculators) just how many square feet we would be taking up. He wasn't sure if they might not be too tall and I said that you could see that they fit in the "room" there in the store and that there was no way that their ceiling was higher than ours...etc. By this time I just wanted to sit down or get our stuff and get out of there but again, we got lost finding the lifts (elevators) and had to consult the "You are Here" maps (also conveniently placed) several times.
For those of you who don't know it, Ikea is famous for selling furniture at a low cost with all the pieces fitting in a flat cardboard box that you then assemble at home. Now I thought I would never want Ikea furniture in my house. I thought it was all Swedish Modern and stark and maybe it was at first. There is a lot of that now too---I would say the majority of the stuff I saw was not to my taste but here and there they had some surprisingly nice pieces. Not really something I would drool over or really love but things I could live with for now and maybe replace later. The bookcases I didn't care about--they didn't have to be fancy as long as they weren't crates or metal! But we needed occasional tables and a coffee table so I found a couple of styles that weren't too bad. And, as I say, it saved us money to buy it and put it together ourselves. Everything has Swedish names I suppose so the coffee table we got is called Leksvik (the gate leg table) and we got two of the Dalom tables and I chose the bookcases called Billy (how did that non-Swedish name get in there?) and the lamps I liked were Kroby. If you go to the Ikea web site you can take a look at them.
So there we were, tired, and finally finding the lifts and were able to go down to the Marketplace where we should have been all along (at least I thought so but Robbie was all for making sure we had precisely the right thing--we are SO different!). Now we're in another huge warehouse type space downstairs wandering around. There were dishes, pots, pans, anything and everything you could think of for your home and some things you might not think of. I had wanted to get some lamps too so we headed for the lighting department but on the way I was looking at curtains, rugs and finally got some decent pot holders (I'd been using these Christmas potholders Robbie had gotten as a gift who knows how many years ago!). It reminded me of the Williamsburg Pottery Factory for those of you who've been up there--nearly anything under the sun.
It was hard to find the lamps I had seen upstairs that I'd liked and as we were wandering through looking and I was trying to see if they had anything else on display that I might fancy, they made the announcement that the store was closing in 15 minutes. Would you please make your selections and head toward the checkout lines? We never did find the lamps but now the mad dash was on. We, along with many others, hadn't even been to the self-service area to pick out our "flat packs". Down the way, and around the corner from the lighting department was the Self Service area. It looked like a big Lowe's or Builder's Square or Sam's Club place with row on row of metal shelves to the ceiling and cardboard boxes (the flat packs) of furniture of almost every description. Now I realized why the furniture in the showroom had tags that said things like Aisle 18 Row C so you'd know where to go in this massive warehouse.
Robbie was directing me and the trolley to aisles where he started hefting the boxes off. We found out very early that we had gotten the wrong sort of trolley. We should have gotten one of those builder's type carts that they have in the home improvement stores for lumber rather than the grocery store-type cart we had. I'm trying to balance packs of tables on the top while he's trying to lift others out. They were even starting to chain the aisles so people wouldn't linger so we were really pressed for time. Everything was a lot heavier than I expected and when we got to the bookcases we realized that it was a lost cause. Lengthwise they were too long to fit in the car even with the back seat down. Robbie said he would have to put the front passenger seat down too to fit them in and since we needed three (we had decided on two large and one small) then the choice was to take the bookcases home or me! Yes, he decided on me! Ha ha. This meant he would have to come back another day by himself to get the bookcases and hopefully the lamps.
By now, it was way past the store's closing so we had to make our way to the checkout. After paying for our tables and other small things we had gotten, Robbie went over to the delivery desk to ask them about home delivery. We had seen how heavy the bookcases were and between the two of us we weren't sure if we could manage on our own. He said they would help you in the store get things to your car but, as I pointed out, we weren't sure what we would do when we got them home. One of the things I had been disappointed in when I was online was that they didn't deliver to our postcode. I would have much rather ordered online and had things delivered to the house. I guess they considered that we lived too "close" to a store and didn't home deliver for us.
Because it was past closing time we didn't even get a chance to try out the Ikea Cafe with their famous Swedish Meatballs. According to Christine, Robbie's co-worker, some people just go to Ikea for the meatballs! By this time it was after 7:30 and we were starving. I hadn't eaten since breakfast and Robbie said he just had a little something before we left home so we were both wanting something to eat. The problem still was that restaurants are few and far between.
He said he knew a place off the motorway near Livingston but when he got off the exit he was in the wrong lane and trying to turn around and get back to the other side was harder than it looked. For some reason, even turning around and going back didn't help because there was some sort of odd roundabout that seemed to make us go in the wrong direction. Trying to overcome that took us out of our way and the more Robbie tried to backtrack it seemed the further we got away from where we wanted to be. He said, "We're not lost. I know where we are but I don't know how to get back to where we want to be." After about a half an hour of this we did finally get to the restaurant.
It seemed to be a nice sort of what we would call a high-end chain called The Beefeater. They specialize in what we would called grilled food or barbecue (without the sauce). It was after 8:00 when we got there and were told that there would be about a 15 min. wait for a table. That wasn't unreasonable for a Sat. night with no reservations so we went and sat in the very spacious lounge and got soft drinks. We read the menus thoroughly, almost having time to memorize them because it was much later than 15 min. before we realized we were still waiting. The couple in line before us we saw sitting at a table a level above us and looked like they had ordered off the "Bar and Grill" menu that wasn't as extensive as the restaurant menu. Since we had decided we'd just get the burgers, Robbie went over to the bar waiter and asked him about our ordering off that menu too and just to forget waiting for a table in the restaurant. The waiter was very nice and told us that we could order anything off either menu and he'd bring it to us. While waiting I asked for a cup of coffee and Robbie ordered a pot of tea and we practically got a whole service--pots, creamers and sugars. We relaxed and when our meal came it was very good. The first hamburger I've had so far that really tasted like a burger. It was almost better than Fuddrucker's.
They were running a promotion for Valentine's Day with a special menu and if you signed up and reserved ahead of time you could be entered to win a prize. Since the dinner and service was so good and it was the nicest place I've been so far, I said I wouldn't mind if we came back there for Valentine's Day so that's where we're booked and I'm looking forward to trying something else, maybe the steak!
While we were rushing around Ikea Robbie's phone had made a funny noise and he said that he had gotten a text but we were in such a rush to grab and go that he didn't have time to read it and then we forgot about it at the restaurant after getting "sidetracked" getting there and then being so hungry and having to wait for our food. When we got home after 11:30 he looked at his phone again and saw that it wasn't a text message but a voice mail which happened to be from Ben wanting us to call back. Since I knew at that time of night he would be at work I called and of course played phone tag with his voice mail. He called me on break so by the time I got done talking to him and getting ready for bed it was almost 1:00 am before we got to sleep. Needless to say, the next morning we overslept and didn't get to church but came down and watched the GOD channel and had a really good worship experience.
This is too long now so I will have to continue with the rest of the Ikea experience and the rest of the week. I'm a week behind so I'm going to have to write a couple more emails to catch up on this last week and this this space for upcoming events! Love, Janet


First of all, before I forget, we just got a call that our furniture should be in (couches and recliner) by Friday. FINALLY! I guess when they said 4-5 weeks they meant 5 (which would have been Sunday).
Now to get back to where I left off: Last Sunday, 3 Feb. As I said, we didn't make it to church that morning but we had a very good worship experience at home. I was very much impressed with this one program that we prayed along with. Before that though, when we first came down and turned it on there was a Scottish preacher that really spoke almost directly to Robbie. Of course he was coming at Christianity from a monetary perspective. His ministry is called Practical Prosperity, but the message he gave mostly was about believing in God, having faith in His vision for your future and not letting negative thinking or the negative remarks of others around you deter you from what you know as your mission or calling to God. It was really just what Robbie needed to hear since he's still concerned about the job situation. It was just too right to be coincidental (God-incidence) that we just happened to oversleep and not make it to church and then when we went down and turned on the TV we just happened to turn it on to something that was a blessing to Robbie and what he really needed to hear.
After we had our brunch and got dressed, Robbie went off to Ikea to get the things we weren't able to get the day before, mainly the bookcases but he was also able to find the lamps I wanted. The funny thing is that again, when he called me he was rushing to get through because they were about to close. Again, no chance of meatballs...shucks!
Well the real fun started when he got home with these long, heavy boxes. As he said, they helped him put the boxes in the car but when he got home, it was just the two of us. We decided after some deliberation that it would be better to bring them in to the front and keep them in the entry hall until we can put them together. It was closer that taking them all the way around the back and through the kitchen.
Still, it was quite a chore and poor Robbie and I were more like Laurel and Hardy trying to shift them. He was able to get them out of the back of the car and lean them up the steps. The first one we tried to lift up the steps and it was harder because the boxes didn't have any way to get a hand hold on them so there was nowhere to grip. After much heaving and ho-ing we got one in with much strain. I was trying to pull while he pushed and I was groaning and he said, "Well you'll be ready to toss the caber next Games". For those of you who don't know the caber is a heavy pole the size of a telephone pole that men in kilt heave end over end at Highland Games. The funny thing was that was just what it looked like we were doing with a shorter, wider, cardboard caber. It sure felt heavy enough to be a caber to me!
The next one had a torn open top (we're not sure how that happened) and to get it in we leaned it against the stairs and rather than lift of pull it up into the house we sort of tipped it up in. Voila! Easy peasy (as they say here). It worked almost like a lever and was much easier. Isn't engineering or mechanics wonderful?
Last Monday I decided to get a start on the coffee table. Now I have put together some furniture when I was living on my own but I've never been very good at being handy or doing things like that. The directions that came with all our things were just pictures, no words or directions. I guess that's for the illiterate or to avoid having to translate into various languages. Mostly the pictures were clear and easy to follow although sometimes I felt like Clueless Clara and had to think and consider slowly. I soon figured out that all this was going to be a slow process!
Besides my mental and physical lacks I was also slowed down by the fact that we only had one regular screwdriver and one Phillip's head. I was definitely wishing I had my electric screwdriver by the time I'd worked just a few minutes. The first day I was only able to work on getting the hinges on the two sides of the drop leaf. The holes for the screws weren't drilled all the way in so I had to power them in. I found out pretty quickly that I'm not very good at screwing things in. I tend to do it crooked like I hammer in nails! Oh, and one other problem was that when we had been doing our mad dash through before closing Robbie had grabbed the wrong color off the shelves and we got the black one rather than the brown one. It would have involved a long drive and great hassle to return it so I'm just going to have to get used to having a black wood coffee table.
I think I might have gotten one side done before I called it a day. I thought I'd either work on it bit by bit or wait till Robbie got home and do it together. I forgot that Mon. night was chess night so nothing got done. Robbie was questioning my decision to start on the tables before the bookcases but I pointed out that since I had said I would do the tables and since he couldn't get to the bookcases till the weekend, what was I supposed to do during the week, sit around and look at them?
A week ago Tues. the 5th I decided to try tackling the two side tables because they looked a little easier. Usually when you get put-together furniture some of the things are already done for you but not these. You have all the pieces and you have to do everything yourself! I was right about the side tables being easier and I got them together (with some elbow grease and some crooked screwing!) before lunchtime. It was also a nicer warmer day so I went out to the garage and tried to knock out a couple of loads of laundry. The tables looked nice when I was done with them and coincidentally they perfectly matched the wood on our doors and door frames.
I had decided to put the tables up on the kitchen table to do them thinking it would be easier to get them off the floor and I was right plus the light was better so I decided to take out the pieces of the coffee table and do some work on that out there too. I was able to knock out at least half of the steps before I had to start dinner. When I showed my husband he was mightily impressed and I heard comparisons to Wonder Woman. He just couldn't believe that I was able to do the two tables and do laundry and make dinner in one day. Sheesh--the man is TOO easily impressed!
After dinner the two of us worked on finishing the coffee table. Now they say that there are stresses and pressures that couples go through that really test a marriage. I think putting together furniture is one of those. I learned that my husband is one of those that likes to jump ahead and see all the steps ahead and I'm one who wants to concentrate on just the step we're doing and then move on. That's the only way my brain works and his brain is bouncing back and forth from one thing to another. While we're putting on one part he wants to know where some other part goes or what's next two steps down the road. I kept us on track and helped with some of the screwing while he provided the muscle and the big picture. It took longer than we had expected and was coming up onto 9:00 which is the time Robbie insisted he "knock off" but we only had one more last step to do. Unfortunately this was the hardest step because it involved the gate legs that allow the drop leaf to raise or drop so it was a sort of precision process. I had to explain it to Robbie more than once and he just didn't get it and kept insisting I was wrong so I got up and showed him on one side. My side went in just fine but even though it was the right thing to do, his side was just a little out of line so we both had to push and prod it into place together.
We were so happy to be finished it felt very satisfying. Robbie says that's one of the things Ikea sells: the feeling of satisfaction of doing it yourself. We hugged and I said, "Congratulations, we're the proud parents of...a coffee table!"
Since this is getting too long--again!--I'll just say the three bookcases went together pretty much the same way. We worked on getting one together Sat. afternoon/evening and I was actually able to unpack 3 1/2 boxes of books and then we got the other two done Sunday afternoon/evening after church. It was a bit easier to do the second and third ones since the process was exactly the same on all three. Sunday night I had all my boxes unpacked and Mon. morning I straightened and continued to arrange them all. I actually have more room than I have books (for now) so I was able to display some of my Kinkade plates and Longaberger baskets in the open spaces.
By the time we finished all this we were both exhausted and hurting--myself especially. My knees were agony mainly because of the weather too and all the bending and straining gave me an ache in my back that has gone away since I've rested. I don't think we'll try to do anything like that again anytime soon! I hope to be able to download pictures of it all soon and I'll definitely want to take pictures when we get the new furniture and get it all set up.
Last Friday we went to a Burns Supper and I'll have to write all about that in a different email. This one has gotten much too long already. Love, Janet

20 FEBRUARY 2008 WEDNESDAY Burns Night Supper, Friday 8 February
I think I had explained in an earlier email why we were going to a Burns Night Supper in February. The short answer is that on the actual Burns Night, January 25th, it's difficult to get into a venue or get the proper people to do the whole ceremonial performance since they're so in demand. So smaller places hold the Suppers throughout the end of Jan. and February. Since it involves reciting of many iconic poems and a set menu of foods and music and hiring a piper all in honor of Robert Burns there's almost a small cottage industry out there of people (men mostly) who travel the country this time of year and do nothing but recite or sing or play.
I was really looking forward to the evening for two reasons other than the opportunity to get in touch with more Scottish culture: it meant a night out where I didn't have to cook (although I wasn't really eager for haggis--again) and it meant seeing my Robbie in his kilt again! We both got dressed up since this was a more dressy occasion. I wore my silk black skirt and a cream-coloured lacy twin set (sweater set) that had some sparkly threads so it looked dressy. I wore the pearl and amethyst Judith Ripkin necklace my mother had given me because it looks so good with the twin set and the cross looks slightly Celtic. I had worn this outfit with the necklace last year for Robbie's cousin Carol's birthday party in Aberdeen and when he had first seen me in it he said I was "gorgeous". Well, this night, he looked "garjus" too! I do love a man in a kilt and my Robbie looks so nice in his. He seems to stand a little straighter and all (he claims he has to because the wand (wind) gets up yer wullie---don't tell him I told you that!) ;)
We picked up his auntie and rather than going down to the Masonic Hall the dinner was moved to the Miner's Welfare Centre which from the outside looked to me like an awful dive sort of place. Robbie has claimed all along that it's nicer inside than the outside but I remained skeptical until I was inside. It really wasn't all that bad inside, in fact it was quite comfortable and the hall was very big and actually nice after all. Inside we met Robbie's cousin Robert Owen who had gotten the tickets for us.
Let me give you a web site address to go to for more information. It really tells you everything you ever wanted to know about Burns night and what goes on in the ceremony, about the food and some other links that you can click on. Our night went almost exactly the way it's written up on the site although we might have had some more singing and poetry reciting than is listed:
One of the interesting things that happened was that I met a young couple named Michelle and Dean that sat across from us. Michelle does Robert's auntie's hair and his cousin Robert Owen knows Dean from the pub. Apparently Dean and some friends have a band that do traditional Scottish music and some country and western (ohhkay). Anyway, Dean was just thrilled that I was an American and spent most of the night talking about all the places he wanted to go in the US. He really wanted to travel in the Deep South and New Orleans and Nashville since not only loving country music he's a chef. He couldn't imagine why my Robbie would want me to move here rather than take the chance and move himself over there. They were both a nice couple and maybe I'll see them again but I thought it was ironic to be sitting in a place extolling the virtues of Scotland's greatest poet (and thus Scottish culture) and talking to someone about the great things about the US. It kind of made me homesick to talk about all the places I've been and what they were like.
The funny thing is that I was as romantic about Scotland as Dean is about America. We all have idealized pictures of the places we love--or think we love. You can't help it I think, unless you're just totally cynical and bitter about life. Don't we all hope for a better place, a better life? Otherwise what is Heaven for? At least we can be sure that Heaven will live up to our expectations! I really want to hold on to my dreams and have a positive attitude about whatever situation I'm in. I know some people would mock and say that I'm unrealistic or "looking through rose-colo(u)red glasses" but, really, we have so short a time on this earth, why make it any harder than it is? Yes, we need to face the truth about situations but why not try to see the good in it as well? I guess I'd rather have my glasses rose-colo(u)red than jaundice yellow! I choose to rejoice that thorn bushes have roses rather than gripe that rose bushes have thorns!
Well, anyway, saying all that, I have to always work very hard to be a "glass half full" kind of person so I need all of you to hold me to that! Getting back to the Burns night it was really a good evening, my dear husband looked very handsome in his kilt and I got to hear some lovely music, piping and poetry. Oh, I don't think I even mentioned the piper. He was very young--about Ben's age--but very good.
One of the last things, and I thought it was very funny: afterwards, taking Robbie's auntie home she was remarking on the poetry readings. I suggest that when you go to the web site, click on some of the poems if you've never read any Burns. I've only heard the English translations in school but try reading it in the original Scots (if you dare). One of the virtuoso performances of the evening was an 80-something year old man who recited the whole of Tam O'Shanter from memory! (look it up and see how long it is) I don't think any of the poetry was read, it was all from memory. Anyway, coming home Auntie Nancy complained that she didn't understand a lot of the poetry because it was in "tha' broad Scots". I stifled myself and just laughed out loud a bit and said mildly, "well you can imagine how I felt" and, I thought, you can imagine how I feel when I talk to you--but I didn't say that out loud.
I know this is late getting out but I've been without a computer last weekend and busy setting up the house and other things so you'll just have to wait and hear about all that in the next installment! Love, Janet

23 FEBRUARY 2008 SATURDAY Valentine’s Day and Other Activities

Last week was a good week here. It began on Mon. the 11th with a call from SCS to tell us that our furniture was in and could be delivered Friday the 15th. We have been waiting a little over 5 weeks for it to come from the time we ordered it (I know because I went back in my organizer calendar and looked it up). To prepare for all that, as I've told you, we bought tables and bookcases and got all that together. So now we just had to wait and make sure the final things got done before the couches came. I finished getting all the books put up, getting all the boxes out and everything pulled away from the center where the couches will go. Robbie called the Council to get a bulk trash pickup for Thurs. (our regular pick up day) to haul away the old couches, some of his old stuff out of the garage and all the empty moving boxes I had emptied.
The week started out with our first sunny days. Tuesday morning, after we got up, the sun was shining brightly in our front windows. Our house definitely faces east! I almost felt like a mole coming up from underground; it was almost blinding. I also noticed that our windows are desperately needing washing after all the winter ice and snow! Most of the next few days were sunny to partly cloudy and in the high to mid-40's so there was a definite air of spring. The birds are more apparent singing in the morning. I told Robbie that our house seems very cheerful when the sun's shining. It's cozy in the gloomy, cloudy days and cheerful when it's sunny. He said that the weather at work in Grangemouth was terrible but it was sunny and nice here. Funny that.
As I said, the council was sending out bulk uplift on Thurs. (coincidentally Valentine's Day) so by Wed. night the old couches had to be outside and anything else we wanted them to pick up. I had been helping all along with some of the pushing and shoving and heaving but I told Robbie that I could not help him get the couches out. Luckily they were just two small loveseat size (2-seater) sofas and didn't fell too heavy so I think he mostly just shoved and pulled them out the kitchen door. I really don't know how he did it because I remained upstairs. He said it was a little harder than it looked but it was his own fault for being too proud to ask someone for help. I don't know why, when he was over picking up his auntie from her weekly dinner visit to Robert Owen and Ethel that he didn't ask Robert to come over and give him a hand. I just can't understand that "too proud to ask for help attitude" siree...right! And if you believe that, I can talk to you about swampland in Florida... So all day Thurs. and part of Fri. we only had our hard wooden kitchen chairs to sit on.
Even though this was our first Valentine's Day as a married couple, neither one of us felt a great need to go crazy. I know Robbie's job ending has been weighing on his mind and he swings from looking forward to challenges of maybe doing his own contracting and fear and depression about being out of work again. We have been going along pretty much happy and content together personally and neither one of us felt the need for a big blow-out. A quiet little celebration seemed more in order this year. We've also been focusing on getting our home in order (at least I have) so Valentine's Day just didn't seem to be on our radar screens very much.
I had told Robbie not to get me roses or chocolates because we still have so much chocolate left over from Christmas I am almost sick of the stuff! I'd never thought I'd ever in all my born days say this but I am tired of chocolate right now. I also have been unhappy with the roses you buy in stores or florists have these days. They have no scent and they die very quickly. You're lucky to have them for a day or two. Robbie has been buying me bunches of flowers from the co-op almost every week and I still had a very nice bunch that was so pretty and has lasted almost a month! Our furniture and house things are really our presents to each other. He did bring me home a card and I sent him two ecards to his office during the day to surprise him.
The night we went to Ikea, we had eaten at a restaurant called the Beefeater that we had liked so we had made reservations to go back there. I'd sort of describe it as a Ruby Tuesday or Applebee's gone up a notch. The same sort of feel--casual but also smart. Maybe just a tad more elegant than Ruby Tuesday's or Applebee's but not much. There's a motel attached to the restaurant but it does stand alone so you could compare it to a nice motel restaurant at the beach (without the seafood, more's the pity). We dressed up a bit but not a lot. I just wore a "church dress" and Robbie wore a suit. It was the one day of the week that rained, typically, so Robbie dropped me off and parked the car.
When we walked in the hostess said that she saw we had reservations but it had been crossed off for some reason but it wasn't a problem. I could see why when she led us back to the table. There weren't hardly any people there. We had made the reservation for 6:30 so it might have been the fact that we were just early or that it was a weekday. A few more people did come later in the evening but the crowd was pretty sparse. I was a bit surprised, expecting every place to be packed but it wasn't.
We decided to get the 3-course set menu for £11 so I got prawn (shrimp) cocktail, sirloin steak and caramel apple tart with vanilla ice cream. Robbie got the soup of the day (tomato basil) sirloin steak and profiteroles with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. My prawn cocktail came on a bed of lettuce and covered in a sauce that reminded me of creamy French dressing (at least the French dressing you'd get there--French dressing here is just vinaigrette). It was very tasty and I enjoyed it. Our steaks were delicious and mine was cooked just the way I like it. We noticed when we had the burgers the other time that they do a really good grilled meat at this place. We were almost too full to really enjoy our desserts but I hadn't eaten any lunch to save room so we pressed on! I liked the warm apple and caramel sauce with the ice cream but the pastry was tough and not very tasty. All in all, thought Robbie felt he got good value for his money and our waiter was very friendly and attentive. It was nice to be out and enjoy a nice dinner with my honey!
When we got home the romance was over because Robbie had to move the computer upstairs. Since the furniture was being delivered the next day we wanted the desk and computer out of the living room so I helped him unhook things and he played pack mule and took things upstairs. He left the desk downstairs because he said it came apart but he was too tired to bother with it that night. It sat at the end of the living room by the kitchen door and sort of was in the way but it couldn't be helped. I was afraid that they might have to come in through the kitchen and I'd have to move it because it was heavy.
Friday morning was another lovely sunny morning and the furniture people called before Robbie left for work to tell us they would be there between 9 and 11. They actually came a little after 10. The man asked to come in and see where it all was going to go. I pointed out how the front door angled in and you had to turn in a smaller space into the living room. I had put my chairlift up out of the way so that wasn't a problem. I showed him the back door through the kitchen but he said he thought it wouldn't be a problem to get everything in the front. I said, "Well, you're the professional" and he laughed and replied, "Supposedly--we'll see". They actually brought the two couches in vertically which I thought was odd and with the 3-seater they did have a bit of a squeeze, in fact at one point it was stuck and they really had to push and pull. I'm glad to say that it was well-wrapped in plastic so it didn't damage the couch or the door any.
I showed them where everything went and they even plugged in the "Power Chair" to make sure it worked. I really think the one guy liked that part of the job! They were in and out in less than 20 min. I had been anxious to see what they looked like with the blue fabric on it rather than the cream that was in the showroom. It's so hard to tell from just a small swatch what a whole couch is going to look like. I must say, the pattern is a little bolder than I would have liked and the flowers are a little larger than I might have chosen but all in all it's nice. There's a really nice gold and green and rose accents in the pattern that I can use for draperies and pillows and if we paint the walls a soft golden yellow it will set off the gold in the furniture just nicely.
When they left, I went around and sat in every seat just to see what it was like. I was so pleased with it all. It's extremely comfortable and cushiony but not so soft that you sink way down. It's a nice height and I don't have any trouble getting up once I've gotten down. I had decided to put the larger couch against the wall where the computer used to be and the loveseat on the opposite wall and the recliner in the middle because it was bigger than I had pictured in my head. I had been afraid that you then wouldn't be able to see the TV from the loveseat but you actually can see our TV from every seat so that's good for company.
So, now we can finally feel like we have a home we're not ashamed to have people come into. Because Robert hadn't set up the computer when he took it upstairs Valentine's Day night we were without a computer till he had the time Sat. to set it up. The biggest problem was that when we got the new TV we had taken his little old TV upstairs into our bedroom and it was sitting on the desk we wanted to put the computer on. So Sat. Robbie had to move the chest of drawers to the foot of our bed and put the old TV on that and then set up the computer on the desk and get that up and running. He was able to have us back on the internet by late Sat. afternoon. I see that this is running long so I'll leave it at that and write more about our activities over that weekend and this last week.
Hope you all had a lovely week with some sunshine where you are. Love, Janet

27 FEBRUARY 2008 WEDNESDAY Sometimes Life Hands You Lemons...and the last thing you want to drink is lemonade!

I was thinking about entitling this Sometimes Life Sucks but I thought it might offend some but I guess that's how I'm feeling right now. Don't take it seriously, I've been having a bad bout of PMS--and now cramps! So, as I've been told, "All incoming information is false".
It's actually a nice sunny day today for a change today. Yesterday and Monday were horrible weather-wise. It poured down, streamed down rain and the wind was horrible. There were up to 60-mph. gusts and there were news stories of lorries (trucks) being blown over and one man was killed not too far from here. He was sitting in his van getting ready to go to work and a tree blew over and crushed him. I told Robbie I was surprised that we still had our roof on after two days of sustained high winds but we were fine. He even remarked that he didn't notice any drafts at all during the storms so it really is a good, snug "hoose".
It really seems as if there hasn't been a lot of good news this last week. It's now been a week since Robbie's job ended and there doesn't seem to be anything yet on the horizon. He gets on the internet and checks every day and makes phone calls. This last Mon. he went to the governmental Job Centre to register with them and fill out their paperwork. I guess it would be like signing up for unemployment over there. It doesn't look, though, like he'll get any governmental payments because he might have too much money in the bank. He's trying to see how he can finagle it (legally) to maybe tie up some of it so it won't be considered. I'm leaving that all in his hands and I know he knows what he's doing because he's been down this road before. He's still got in the back of his mind venturing out into his own business and has talked to some people about getting contacts in that area but he'd still rather work for someone else because it would be easier and less hassle. So, he's pretty much got his network and doing what he can every day. He does get discouraged when he gets rejections (who doesn't) so some days it's up and down with him.
The biggest change in our lifestyles is that he's home all day and every day seems like Saturday. I really don't mind that because when he's upstairs on the computer I'm downstairs doing something else and when he gets antsy he can run errands or go out for a walk. He's not too much the getting underfoot kind and can be helpful around the house if asked. One bathroom and one computer sometimes makes us bump together and he now knows all the trashy daytime TV I watch while dusting or vacuuming but so far, this first week, it's not been too bad. I told him he would have a harder time getting used to being home than I would because he's used to going out every day and I'm not. He also can't stand to be cooped up inside all day and has to get out. I wish we had a dog for him to walk or a garden so I could send him out for a "potter" like Hyacinth used to send Richard (for those of you who've watched Keeping Up Appearances).
I think I left off just after Valentine's Day in my last email account and with the delivery of our furniture. We really are liking it and I think by now the "new" smell has worn off. That weekend the biggest project was getting the computer up and running in the bedroom with the wireless router. As I said, that involved moving the chest of drawers to the other side of the room at the foot of the bed and then putting the old little TV on top of it and then using the desk for just the computer. We were without a computer for part of the weekend because he didn't get it really up and running until late Sat. evening. Well, you could stretch the keyboard over to the bed and try to type on your lap and use the mouse on your leg but it sure wasn't easy so I just left it until it was all done Sunday afternoon.
I have to take a moment out to talk about having a TV in the bedroom. Rather than spend the extra money (ok, we're trying to budget now that he's out of work, I know..) to have the Sky hooked up here too, Robbie got an aerial from Bill at work. An aerial you say? Can there still be such things? Do people really still get TV service from a set of rabbit ears on top of their TVs? What century/decade is this??? Ohh yes, my friends, we have a TV in our bedroom that can only get one or two channels with any sort of clearness and maybe two others that you really have to manipulate the rabbit ears to get anything. Our 5 wonderful basic channels of BBC but only if the tides, moon or wind is in the right direction and Robbie stands with his hand on one side and lifts his foot! You think I'm kidding but I'm not. I once threatened to wrap him in aluminum foil if that would help the reception! Now, a few days after he set this all up, we were getting ready for bed and he was laying there watching the highlights of the latest football (soccer) games, something he dearly loves to watch. I said, "Isn't is nice to be able to relax and watch TV in bed?" and he said, "I feel very decadent." (and not in a voice that sounded like that was a good thing) Rabbit ears, snowy reception and he thinks THAT'S decadence? Oh boy.
That weekend, without the computer I ventured Sunday afternoon into making vegetable soup. I had seen a recipe for an easy minestrone on and I had some vegetables from the co-op I had to use so I tried it. It turned out really, really good. We had enough for a second meal and took some down to his auntie. I'd never made anything like it before so I was really pleased at how it turned out. I just coarsely cut up a cabbage, a clove of chopped garlic and sliced a carrot and braised that in vegetable oil for a little bit, added a can of plum tomatoes (crushed it up with my fingers), some salt and pepper and a packet of French onion soup and a little more water. The soup mix gave it a little bit of a beefy flavor and kept me from having to chop onions but I think next time I'll add some stew beef or even hamburger to make it taste beefier and more like my grandma's vegetable soup. Robbie said that the vegetables were cut a bit too big (he called it thick) so I told him it was a Rachel Ray "stoup" or even a French peasant style-soup. Hey, I was too lazy and in too much of a hurry to cut them small but he doesn't need to know that. :)
One of the reasons I ended up making the soup was that our pantry was getting a little bare because we hadn't really been out for a "big shop" since before Christmas. Robbie had been picking up bits here and there on his way home from work but we knew we needed to get out to do a big shop and get all the things we needed. It was hard last week to set a time because the last two days he was at work he was busy in the evenings. Mon. was his usual chess club and Tues. night, his last day, his boss took them all out to a restaurant in Edinburgh for a farewell dinner. He'd also been to a couple of luncheons and people had given him cards and chocolates (groan) and even another glass bowl as a parting gift. At least he said the glass bowl had a receipt so we can return it for something else because we already have two now and more vases than we can ever use from our wedding gifts. Wed. night he always has to take his auntie to his cousins' house for dinner and go back and pick her up so we finally were able to get out Thurs.
I like shopping at Morrison's because it reminds me of the grocery stores back there and they have a lot of really nice specialty items---bakery, deli, meat and seafood counters. I got some wonderful French bread and turkey breast in the deli that was on sale so we've had nice sandwiches this week. Luckily they also use lbs. on the deli counter because a lot of things are in kilograms. I think a kilo is a lot more than a lb. but I'm not sure so I'd have really made a mistake if they didn't have lbs. and oz. as well.
One thing we did have trouble with is when it came to buying aspirin. I was nearly out and was looking for a bottle of about 100 tablets, just like you'd get in any store there but all we could find on the shelf was packets of 16. I thought, well, get 10 of those but I didn't want to bother so...oh, just get 6 for now. Well, when he got to the checkout Robbie told me that they would only let him buy 2 at a time. I had had to go sit in the cafe and let him check out because after all the walking through the whole store my knees were hurting bad. He said that apparently there's a regulation that you can only buy 32 aspirins at a time by law. He still thinks that the clerk might have been mistaken because he said that he knows that paracetemol (another type of pain reliever they have over here) is restricted because people have tried to commit suicide by taking too many. An overdose can supposedly cause severe liver damage and kill you. We both agreed that restricting aspirin was crazy and neither one of us understood it but there you are. He was able to buy me 4 packets by having 2 rung up separately and pay cash for them.
As I said, the one thing I'm trying to get used to is having him around all the time but because of that he was able to get my Dell computer out of the box and set up this week so now my Dell has come back to life but we're still using his old monitor because he hasn't been able to get the proper power supply cord for mine. That's fine, it's no big deal. He also installed our new printer/copier/scanner yesterday afternoon and ran it this morning successfully so I should be able to get some pictures out soon.
This week I have to try to get things in the house in order for our first "social event" here. Robbie had volunteered (oh thank you soo much) to have the Gideon prayer breakfast here this Sunday so I have to make sure the house is clean and figure out what to serve. Robbie says that rolls, bacon and sausage is usually what's served along with coffee and tea but I also want to make some muffins and a quiche and some fruit. I made a test batch of blueberry muffins yesterday because we got some nice blueberries on sale at Morrison's and the muffins turned out very good. I'm going to give the quiche a test run this week and Robbie will be in charge of the bacon and sausage and we'll get the rolls from the newsagents down the street. I ordered some extra blue willow cups and saucers for the tea really cheap from the internet and they came yesterday so I'm good to go on crockery! The biggest problem is that today I didn't feel like doing anything at all. Back to Hyacinth Bucket, she always said that a good hostess should make it seem "effortless" so this is really going to seem that way because I'm not in the mood to make much effort at all!
So, I think that should catch us up to about the present for now. I need to go have a cup of tea, take a couple of those oh so dangerous aspirins and maybe take a hot water bottle to bed and moan. Please keep praying for Robbie's job situation. Love, Janet

4 MARCH 2008 TUESDAY Peace At Last…Will it Last?

This morning I was sitting at the kitchen table finishing my breakfast. It was a sunny morning after the snow we had Sunday night and yesterday. The house was quiet and I was alone because Robert had to take the car to the garage this morning (more on that later). I wanted to catch up on the Sunday papers but the book I'm reading is so good that I wanted to keep reading it while I ate. When I was finished eating, and put aside the book, the peace and quiet of the house just seeped into my soul. I put my head in my hands and closed my eyes and said a grateful prayer. The only sounds were the hypnotic, slow ticking of the grandfather clock in the living room and a bird cheeping, not really singing, in the back garden. I realized that after all the chaos, heartache and stress of the last years I'm now in a place and period of peace and rest. "He leads me beside still waters...He restores my soul". Just as I was thinking this I heard Robbie coming whistling up the path. It was a lovely moment of gladness. I've always liked the way he whistles around the house when he's happy or doing something. It just seems homey to me. I also said a prayer that I wouldn't ever let him down. He's so easy to please and is grateful and happy for every little thing that it makes me even more conscious of the need to not take him for granted. His needs are small and he's easily satisfied so that's another restful thing.
One of the reasons I feel so at peace is that I finally feel like my home is ready and we've finally had guests over and were able to offer hospitality. This last Sunday, the 2nd, we had Robbie's Gideon group over for the monthly prayer breakfast. When he told me last month that he had volunteered us to host it I thought at the time it was too soon and last week we, at times, were feverishly trying to get things ready. Last Thursday, for example, there was a marathon picture hanging session. Our systems again clashed because my Robbie enjoys going at such things with scientific precision using rulers, pencils and levels while I prefer not to bother and rely on my (if I may say so) good eye. Biting my tongue, sometimes, I'm sorry to say, unsuccessfully, (I seem to recall saying something about hanging all these pictures myself in my apt. in the time it took him to hang the one) it was finally my job to tell him where to hang things and then just stand back and tell him if it looked straight (although with his level that was not necessary). I gave up asking his opinion on what should go where because whatever I put up he said looked "nice" there. Still, everything got put up finally and I really like the way it all looks for now. We'll have to paint this Spring when the weather gets better so I might rearrange some of the furniture then.
Saturday Robbie had to go into Glasgow for his Open University day school which was bad timing since it left me with all the last minute things to do: the housecleaning and baking. I didn't want to do a big clean, vacuuming, dusting, mopping and cleaning the bathroom until the last minute with the company coming over. While he was in Glasgow Robbie was able to get a few last minute things we needed: candles for the candleholders, a lamp shade for the entryway light and a picture frame for my one picture. He actually did the vacuuming in the living room while I finished baking the blueberry muffins. This awful new carpet pills so that the vacuuming was the very last thing I wanted to do otherwise it wouldn't look nice the next day. By Saturday night I was so tired I fell into bed without taking a shower. They have a saying over here for tired, "cream crackered". It's sort of a rhyming slang for "knackered". When a horse is old and can no longer work or is about to die it's sent to the "knackers yard" (akin to the glue factory) so you can sort of get an idea where the description "knackered" comes from. As we went up to bed Robbie said, "poor wee honey, you must be cream crackered." I replied with a groan, "I'm beyond cream crackered; I think I'm just cracker crumbs about now".
We didn't sleep well that night I guess because of the nerves of our first job of hosting company in our new house. I knew I had to get up early anyway to make my fruit salad and set everything out and get the coffee and tea ready to go. The fruit salad took longer than I thought it might and by the time I had laid all the cups and dishes out and put the sausage and bacon (cooked the night before) in the oven to warm up it was almost 7:30. People were supposed to be here by 8:00 so I had to dash up and take a shower. I'm used to guests in Virginia being "fashionably late" so I was aghast that the doorbell rang at 7:45 just as I had gotten out of the shower and was naked in the bedroom getting dressed. By the time I threw on my clothes, smacked on a little bit of makeup and rode my chair downstairs with my hair still wet, just about everyone was already here. Ah well, I guess it puts your guests at ease when they see the hostess blow it!
Everyone was gracious and after apologizing for being late I went to the kitchen and got the tea and coffee going and made sure all the food was out. I'm so glad that I had gotten the extra 12 cups and saucers and we had our new juice glasses we had gotten as a Christmas present from Robbie's brother. That and paper plates and my Longaberger baskets to hold the cutlery and napkins I think it all worked well. I also used that really clever glass serving bowl I'd gotten as my last thing from QVC for the fruit salad and that looked really nice with all the different colors of the fruits. One woman was so glad that I had made it because she was on a diet and couldn't eat rolls or muffins and said that the fruit was "just perfect" for her.
Our black Ikea table was good because when pulled into the center of the room everyone had a place to put their plates and cups and didn't have to do the lap juggle. We had 10 people show up and that was just enough. Any more and we wouldn't have had enough chairs. The time of prayer was really good and Robbie had printed up the prayer agenda. The usual practice is that there are listed topics in different categories and after reading through each one and maybe the host explaining it there's a round robin type of prayer where someone begins it and someone else ends it and whoever wants to jumps in and prays for the given topic. At the end, with the miscellaneous requests two different men (Ian and Eric) prayed for Meleah and her healing.
We were pretty much finished by 9:30 and most people didn't linger because they had to get to their own churches. So for our first "shakedown cruise" (Navy wife lingo) it wasn't a bad effort. There are things we'll have to tweak and improve but all in all, not too bad. I was so tired I probably wouldn't have gone to church anyway but we didn't have a car so Robbie just walked up to the church by himself. He took what blueberry muffins were left over for the tea and coffee after the service and said that people went crazy for them and thought they were great.
Now, about the car. As of Friday we haven't had a car. Like in Virginia you have to have a tax disc (sticker) and an MOT (what we'd call an inspection) and proof of insurance. It's not necessary for you to display an MOT sticker on the car like in Virginia but if you get stopped by the police you have to show the paperwork. They are really serious over here and if you don't have all three things they will immediately tow away your car and if you can't produce the paperwork in a certain number of days your car will be crushed into a nice little cube. Uncharacteristically, Robbie had waited until the last minute this last week to get his tax disc paperwork together. He couldn't find his MOT anywhere and it was due last June. We got to thinking about what was going on last June and we came to the realization that with all that was going on last summer with my visa and the wedding he never got his MOT. He's been driving his car illegally all this time. He's lucky he's never been picked up--especially lucky because he's been having some trouble with his headlight and back taillights and if ever you get stopped it's for that. So Friday night he had no choice but to go online and declare his car "off the road" which means that it could only sit in our driveway or he could drive it straight to the garage. We had to wait until today for him to be able to get an appointment with his garage. He said it will be good now because rather than his tax being due in Feb and his MOT in June it will now both be due in March and easier to remember.
So, the answer to the Subject question is, I don't know. Who but God does? I suppose the better question is can peace in my heart last no matter what? And can I just let God give me rest now as a way to give me strength to go on to the next thing He wants me to do? I know we're never meant to stay in the green pastures because this is all about a journey. At least not until Heaven will we be able to just sit and rest forever. I know this is just the beginning of my new life---my next season. I just want to savor some peace and contentment right now. It really is a lovely day today. Upstairs here I can look out over the street. The sky is a powder blue and what clouds there are are white, not grey. The snow we got as a surprise yesterday (started as sleet Sunday night) is almost all gone. There are just little patches of white in the shade near the parking area and on a few of the roofs across the street. I can see quite far away, to the hills that are the foothills to the Cairngorms. A rather large flock of birds are flying back and forth and around and around in the air above our house and the houses across the street. I still can't get used to watching the traffic going back and forth on the road on the "wrong side". A large double decker bus (white not red) just went by. I'm enjoying listening to BBC radio on the computer and Handel is playing right now. This is my life. Maybe dull to some, who cares? This is what I want for now and my heart feels at home in Scotland.
Please take a minute, when you can, to drop me a line and let me know how you all are sometime. I do miss each and every one of you and want to hear about your life too.
With love, Janet

21 MARCH 2008 FRIDAY Quick Recap Covering a Lot of Ground

For some reason Robbie's not using the computer today so I better take advantage of the time here. I know it's been a long time since I've sent out any updates or news. For the past weeks I've stepped back from the computer so Robbie can use it for his University course and for job hunting. It's like he's been having office hours and working during the day in the bedroom on the computer and I've been staying downstairs doing my work or watching TV or reading. He's also had a lot of projects that he's had to work at that were due the last couple of weeks for the Cisco course at the Open University so it's been crucial that he have the computer because some of the assignments require him to book lab time over the internet. For one project that was due last week the only time he could book in the lab was from 10-11:30 at night and the assignment was due that day. He got it in a few minutes before midnight so he wasn't late but it was a squeaker!
I've been using some of the extra time downstairs to take a chance and do more baking. I've made muffins, Snickerdoodles and this week I made bread and cinnamon rolls. Next week I think I might try making gingerbread or pumpkin bread. They seem to like that sort of thing at the tea time after services at the church. Robbie said that everyone liked my blueberry muffins that he took to the church after our prayer meeting and I've been getting kind comments from ladies at the church the last couple of Sundays. Robbie and his auntie really liked the "biscuits" I made (the Snickerdoodles) and when I told him the name he said, "I'm glad you didn't tell me what you were making ahead of time because if you'd told me you were making Snickerdoodles I'd have said, No thanks, I don't fancy those!" I thought but didn't say, and that's exactly why I didn't tell you ahead of time!
The one thing I was disappointed that I didn't get to make was Robbie's birthday cake. The whole week before his birthday I kept asking what he wanted me to do for him and told him I would like to maybe even have a little party for him and invite maybe his family over for cake and coffee. He vetoed the idea of any kind of a party or even any kind of a celebration. First of all, he hates being the center of attention and being made a fuss over. Also to make a proper cake I still don't have a mixer to do it with which I've been wanting to get ever since I've been here. All I need is a hand mixer but when I brought it up he was in one of his "we can't spend any money until I get another job" moods and was especially against spending any money for his birthday so I backed off. I told him that the point of celebrating a birthday was to make the person feel good and even though I wanted to make a fuss and do things my forcing a celebration on him when he didn't want it would defeat the purpose of a happy day. If it would make him happier and more comfortable to just let the day go by like any other then it was his choice.
What he didn't know was that I had already ordered a book by Gary Kasperov (famous chess player) about how life is like chess although it didn't come till Monday after his birthday. The day being a Saturday we just started out quietly and I made him a card (happily we had gotten the printer working just in time!) and then, while he was out with his auntie on her usual Sat. pension/grocery store run, I printed out some banners that said Happy Birthday You are Loved and taped them to the back door and bedroom door so he could see them when he got home. I don't think I've ever seen anyone so touched to receive a home made card and a couple of banners. His auntie wanted to take us out for dinner for his birthday so we ended up back at our favorite old Beefeater. She had never been there before and really liked it like we did. Right almost behind us there was a huge party of nearly 20 people with all the tables pushed together celebrating someone's 60th birthday so it was almost as if we were part of the celebration too. Oh, and as for the cake, Friday he had come back from picking up a few things at the co-op and told me that he had seen they had a birthday cake and he had almost bought it, he picked it up but then put it back because he didn't want to spend the money. BUT, he came home with a bunch of flowers for me. I told him he better march himself right back there and buy that cake for himself or I would take the flowers back and exchange them for it. It was a nice little Cadbury chocolate cake (but I could have done better for him!). So, all in all, even he agreed that he had a nice birthday (I think he said one of the best in a long time) with just the right amount of fuss over him without making him feel uncomfortable.
Earlier this month (speaking of uncomfortable) I had a mammogram. Apparently they just schedule these things for you when you're over 50. I had gotten a letter from the National Health in Feb. giving me the time and date of my appointment for the mobile mammogram clinic that was going to be in the Community Center car park. Really nothing to tell about that. A boob (pardon my French) squishing is the same in any country! Seems I'll get a letter sometime if there are any problems or any follow up needed but it's been almost 3 weeks now and I haven't heard anything so in this case no news is good news.
The next day Robbie had made appointments for us to go to the eye doctor so that was interesting. I'll have to tell you more about that at another time. That was Thursday the 6th and we had 2:00 and 2:30 appointments. I let him go first. His eyes hadn't changed so he was good for another year. Since I'd never been in before it took me much longer and I really had the most thorough and actually pleasant examination I've ever had. Like I said, more details on that possibly later. The doctor wanted me to come back Monday the 10th so he could dilate my pupils and he could see the back of my eye better because it was difficult for him to do that because I'm so nearsighted without the drops. His final diagnosis after our Thurs. examination was that (with proper British understatement) I had a very "complicated" prescription but that I did quite well with what I had and that my eyes hadn't gotten lazy over the years. I went out and was able to tell Robbie that the doctor had said I was "complicated". He barely turned a hair and looked up from his book and said, "I know you're a very complicated woman". That made the girls behind the counter laugh. When I went back for my dilation he didn't find any problems with my eyes at all so that was very good news. I just wasn't able to see for a couple of hours afterward. I'd like to go back and get another pair of glasses some day because the ones I have are almost as old as Ben but I told Robbie that could wait until he has a job or income. I don't wear the glasses that much anyway with my contacts.
This being "Holy Week" because of Easter we've had special services at the church. There was one Monday night and the minister had asked Robbie to read one of the scripture passages so we attended that one. It was nice but the church was so cold. We took his auntie with us and then brought her home with us for tea afterward. There was supposed to be a service last night but we forgot about it till it was too late and then one tonight for Good Friday. Last Sunday, for Palm Sunday, the children from the Sunday School passed out crosses made from palm fronds. They were so very cute. The Sunday School class is all boys, no girls at all.
That's most everything in a nutshell really. The weather has been "dreich" (gloomy) as March usually is but this last week we've had a lot of sunny weather but it still stays cold. Last night we had high winds again and this morning it was sleeting/raining really hard. Crocuses and daffodils have been poking up and I've been getting eager to start planting something. I've got a lot of pots to fill but I'm not quite sure yet what to put in them because the night still can get below freezing.
Continue to pray for a job for Robbie. He has been sending out a lot of applications but, as expected, some days he really gets discouraged. He's even been considering delivering pizzas for the local take away down the street! He mostly can't stand just not having some where to do and something to do every day. He needs structure I think and the sense that he's accomplishing something. He gets antsy cooped up in the house so he has to go out for some time every day.
Better go and see what needs done downstairs. I've been up here reading and tidying up a bit all morning. I usually get on the computer before I go to bed but by that time I'm really too tired to write but it's nice to read any emails I might get! Love, Janet

6 May 2008 Summer Time?

Happy Cinco De Mayo. No, they don't celebrate that here in Scotland, in fact I haven't seen any Mexican restaurants here although there are rumors of a place called Guadelajara somewhere in Edinburgh. I miss Mexican food and if I want to have anything like that I have to make it myself which, as you can imagine, is a pretty lame effort. I actually made chicken fajitas from a kit last week and they turned out pretty decent but nothing like I'm used to.
So, now, why am I going on about Mexican food when I haven't written is so long? I'm sure you've noticed that my writing tends to just be a free flow...whatever's in the head onto paper! Maybe it's also the lovely weather we're having lately. Right now it's actually about 63 degrees and sunny. A perfect summer day. I see now why they say it's summer here now. When the clocks turned ahead last month everyone talked about it being "summer time". I kept saying, "It's not summer yet, it's just spring" but it seems here there's not really a spring that we would think of. April was still pretty chilly with frosty mornings and clouds and rain. Then, all of a sudden out of nowhere, it's now sunny and hot. We've had quite a few pretty sunny days this week and looks like the rest of the week is going to be clear and warm. Robbie says that when they get good weather here they get REALLY good weather. I said it might be that you just appreciate it even more when it is nice.
March and April were sort of low months for me. It really didn't have anything to do with the weather although, as I said, that was bleak. I had gotten myself into a downward spiral of unhappiness that was in part my fault and in part my still trying to adjust to such a different life. My main focus was on all the things I "missed" about America and I got back to the "you people" do things "wrong" over here. I was trying to shove my square peg into this round hole and, rather than trying to smooth out my edges to fit, I was getting frustrated and angry and impatient that the round hole wouldn't become square. And I just wanted to give up and "go home".
I know that in any marriage (or even new change) there comes a point where you question whether you've made a mistake. You look at this other person and they're a stranger and you think "what have I done?" I know a lot of people thought, still think, I'm crazy for doing this: marrying a man from another country and moving away there and really, I've wondered myself. Anything about how insane this all is that anyone could say to me, believe me, I've said to myself at one time or another. The only thing that keeps me going and got me going in the first place is that I have always had a clear sense that this was what God wanted me to do. Sometimes we can prove that it's God's will for us to do something by how much we don't want to do it. I know this isn't the only way to prove that but I know in my own selfish way I tend to fight against that which is good for me. I know it's God's purpose for me to be here but I still don't know why yet. God isn't as interested in my happiness as He is in my holiness is something I heard that has stuck with me.
So, I have been struggling with whether I can accept where I am now and the man I married or keep on being unhappy because things aren't what I'm used to or the way I want them to be. As much as I want to, there's nothing to go back to. I really have "made my bed and now I have to lie in it".
One other factor that has made it harder is Robbie's job situation. Thankfully, there is no real financial problems to worry about although we're trying to be careful and not do any unnecessary spending. Unfortunately, his idea of unnecessary spending and mine are different! The main difficulty is his understandable feelings of depression and inadequacy that come from not having a job and not being hired yet. I know men view their jobs differently than we do and it's more important for their self respect. There has been quite a slow down in hiring here since the first of the year because of the credit crunch and I think it's true everywhere that there seems to be a bit of a recession coming on. He's been sending out resumes and applications in a lot of places. The Church of Scotland was advertising for an IT director and that looked promising but his application has been in Edinburgh for 3 weeks now and we haven't heard anything. Also the RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) actually called him about applying for a job in IT but again, the application has been on a manager's desk for weeks and we haven't heard back yet. Also the next day after he applied there was a news story about the RBS wanting more money from their stockholders because business was in a slump so we're wondering if maybe they've had to put a hold on hiring.
He keeps trying but he can tend to get in a real dark cloud of negativity about that and no matter how I try to bolster his confidence I sometimes feel as if I'm hitting my head against a brick wall. He's not only a "glass half empty" sort of person but an "oh my gosh, half empty means almost all the way empty and what if the tap doesn't work?" sort of person. Hmm..I can't relate to that at all...! Yes, all of you rolling your eyes out there and saying "who does that sound like?" I know it's ME. I'm just lucky that for a number of years I really had no choice but to rely on God's grace and favor to get by. God has proved to me time and again that He is faithful and will meet all my needs; my "daily bread".
Robbie has toyed with the idea of starting his own business and that still seems a viable option. He's worked out his business plan and has gone to the local council for advice and help. He picked out a name: Strictly Computing which I have to explain. The show Dancing With the Stars was developed over here in the UK first and called Strictly Come Dancing. Same format as Dancing With the Stars and even two of the same judges: Bruno and Len. So we thought Strictly Computing would be catchy here and memorable--certainly more so here than over in the States. We've still not decided whether to make it Strictly Computing or Strictly ComePuting or even Strictly Come'puting. He also has started setting up a web site although since that's new for both of us we're really teaching ourselves as we go along and the effort is pretty bare bones right now.
I still can't say I've been over the hump of discouragement yet. One of the problems is the loneliness. I haven't really made any new friends here yet. I've made quite a few "acquaintances" and I know to be a real friend takes a lot of time. I've been praying for God to put people in my life to become friends like I did when we first came to Virginia. Since I don't really have anyone to converse with on a daily basis I find myself babbling to people in church or writing long, long emails!
So, let me just get on to the things I've been doing lately and end this. Friday we had Robbie's Aunt Peggy and her son David and daughter Carol over for dinner along with his Auntie Nancy. Peggy and Nancy are Robbie's mother's sisters. Peggy and family were the ones we visited from Aberdeen. They had come down for a visit and had been here since Wed. evening but had been out visiting all the other extended family in the area. We had planned on having them over some time during their visit because they had come by during the holidays and we had had that awful old furniture and boxes everywhere and my stuff from the States hadn't arrived yet. I had just planned on something simple--cottage pie and dessert but I was planning on trying out a Victoria sponge again (more on that later) so I asked Robbie to find out about a day in advance so I could bake the cake. Well we found out they were coming at 1:00 that afternoon so Victoria sponge was out! Luckily the Cottage Pie was easy to throw together just had to worry about thawing the mince (hamburger). I had gotten a good easy recipe from a cookbook here that used frozen mashed potatoes on top of hamburger fried with carrots and onions. Top the potatoes with a few chopped leeks and cheddar cheese and pop into the oven to bake for a while until it gets bubbly. Easy-peasy as Jamie Oliver would say. That and green beans would be our dinner we could eat in the living room casually. I got out one of my Duncan Hines cake mixes and just made a devil's food cake in one of my bundt pans and glazed it with coffee glaze. I also had some extra time and threw together some snickerdoodles cookies and that was that. We had a really good visit. I really like Peggy, Carol and David. They are easy to talk to and be with. Peggy's husband was in the British Army for years so she's done a fair bit of travelling and has lived in other places so we have that in common. Her other daughter married an American and now lives in Oregon and her two grandchildren were born in the US so we have that in common too. They headed back up to Aberdeen Sun. and took Nancy with them to spend some time up there.
One last thing about the Victoria Sponge and then I'll end this and get back to my laundry. April 26th we had the church prayer meeting here. A few people get together and pray for various persecuted Christians around the world and then we pray for the local community and personal needs. It's always good to get together as a group and pray. The last few I've attended have been small--usually Robbie and me and Auntie Nancy and then Abigail who leads it and one or two other women: Nancy Waddle a retired school teacher and another woman whose name escapes me right now. Nancy Waddle's had the last two at her house so this time to give her a break we offered to have it here. Usually the prayer is followed by "tea"--not just the beverage but sandwiches and/or cakes or pastries. I planned to make sandwiches and muffins but I also wanted to make a cake. Robbie's favorite cake is Victoria Sponge and I found an easy (to me) recipe on the BBC Food website. I'll paste it so you can see:
Ingredients110g/4oz butter or margarine110g/4oz sugar2 medium eggs110g/4oz self raising flour

Method1. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. 2. Line 2x18cm/7in cake tins with baking parchment 3. Use a hand mixer to cream the butter and the sugar together until pale. 4. Beat in the eggs. 5. Sift over the flour and fold in using a large metal spoon. The mixture should be of a dropping consistency - if it isn't, add a little milk. 6. Divide the mixture between the cake tins and gently spread out with a spatula. 7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. 8. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before turning on to a wire rack to cool. 9. Sandwich the cakes together with jam and whipped cream or just enjoy on its own.

So basically a yellow cake with jam in the middle. I already had a can of squirt whipped cream but as I've learned by experience if you're going to put whipped cream in the middle of a cake it has to be cold, cold, cold--not even a little warm so I had to make it early and let it cool completely. Also, I decided to beat the egg whites separately because, for me, a sponge cake is lighter than this sounded. I also added some vanilla extract to give it more flavor. Not knowing what it was supposed to taste like made it a little hard but Robbie and everyone else seemed to enjoy it and said it was right. I just kept remembering the scene in Calendar Girls where Helen Mirren tried to pass off a bought cake as her own at a fair because she couldn't get the hang of making a "spoonge".
Yesterday we planted flowers in some of our pots because Robbie got bedding plants on sale at the Co-op. I planted sweet peas and snapdragons in two hanging baskets and sweet peas and petunias in the other two. We have lobelia and geraniums in our pots at the front and back doors. With all the sunshine they should do well the next few days and it felt so good to get my hands in some dirt! Robbie is down now getting ready to paint the kitchen ceiling. It's needed it after all the water damage when the shower broke back before Christmas but we didn't want to paint until the weather got nice. I'll have to sneak down and take a picture of him in his overalls!
As I said, I better get off and get some laundry done. It is Monday after all and take advantage of this nice weather! Lots of Love to All, Janet

June 9, 2008 Time Doesn’t Wait for the Lazy Blogger

Where did the month of May go? Here it is over and we’re already more than a week into June. You wouldn’t think that time would pass so quickly when you’re not doing much of anything! I think, though, I’d mentioned in a previous email that it was good, and finally time, for me to take a rest and enjoy some peace after years of having to work full time and pay bills and be involved in things. I’m getting my feet under me, as they say and finding out what it’s like to be “just a housewife” again—but this time with not child to raise in the process. I can’t say I don’t get restless but that’s usually when I think I “should” be doing something…I think the word “should’ is one of my least favorites.
I’m not having so much trouble cooking anymore but I still struggle sometimes with unfamiliar ingredients and mastering the cooking on gas rather than electric like I’ve always done. I made brownies recently for a prayer meeting we had here but they didn’t turn out right because I don’t think I got the right kind of baking chocolate—or enough of it. Everyone said they tasted good to them (but not to me!). Bacon is another thing I don’t understand here. Meat is pretty much different here and I still haven’t been able to make a beef roast without it turning out dry and like shoe leather no matter how or how long I cook it. I still haven’t gotten familiar with the names of cuts to know what’s most tender like I do back in the US. But back to bacon: what they call “bacon” here is almost what we might call small strips of ham. I really can’t think of an equivalent. It’s very good, if you don’t think of it as bacon; very lean. You have the choice of smoked or unsmoked which right there tells you it’s not like our bacon since what we call bacon MUST be smoked (otherwise, as I’ve said, it’s just a piece of pork). What we think of more as bacon would be what they call here “streaky bacon” but again, that can be unsmoked too and for some reason, it just doesn’t cook up the same even though it looks similar. The fat doesn’t render out and it doesn’t brown or get crisp. When you have to add oil or butter to cook your bacon and eggs in the same pan you KNOW there’s something wrong here. Bacon grease and buttermilk, the two staples of Southern cooking are unknown here so sometimes I’m at a loss. What would Paula Deen do?
I know it’s been a while since I’ve written and I’ve been keeping notes written on scrap paper here by the computer of things to tell you all about. It’s a list that just keeps getting longer the more I delay writing and I know the longer I wait the longer the list is going to get! Every time I write one of these long catch-up emails I chastise myself and resolve to write less but more often so that events don’t get “piled” up. But, as with New Year’s resolutions…and as Robbie Burns says, “the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley”. (ok, Ben, stop laughing, I know what you’re thinking!) Looks like I’m never going to get all this in one email so I’ll just hit some of the highlights of May.
Our first wedding anniversary was the 12th. I know we chose the date to be exactly 3 years since I received Robbie's first email but it can get a little crowded on the calendar for us with Ben's birthday on the 7th and Mother's Day this year on the 11th. Mother's Day over here is in March so I was really the only one "celebrating" it. My Robbie got away with only having to buy one bunch of flowers this way (I'll attach a picture). Another thing that's odd is that it doesn't really seem like our first anniversary, although it is officially, because we've only really lived together for a little over 6 mos.: 6 weeks before I had to go back to America last year and now since November. We decided that we might as well have a celebration in November as well because that will really be when we've been together for a year.
So, what did we do for our first anniversary? If you're looking for a story of a romantic fairy tale day, you don't know my Robbie. He admits that he's "romance challenged" but he's learning. More importantly, I'm learning to appreciate the little things that mean real love. And when he does come up with a romantic gesture it means all the more. For example, when he used to come to visit me before we were married and I would meet him at the airport, the minute he caught sight of me he would start running. To me, having a man come running across an airport to get to me is very romantic. Better than roses or champagne any day!
We spent most of the morning being lazy and not getting dressed—drinking coffee and talking. It was all very cozy and one of the best times we have is when we just sit and talk about anything and everything. Sometimes at night before we go to sleep we’re like two kids at a sleepover yakking and yakking and the only difference is that there’s no one to come in and tell us to shut up and go to sleep. I guess both of us have spent too much time alone and having this kind of companionship is precious. There had been a mixup with my medical supplies and Robert spent the early afternoon dealing with that for me which I also find, well, not romantic but nice to have someone else around to do it for me. We got ready and went out to eat at our “usual” place The Beefeater Restaurant. I think Robbie felt guilty for not doing something more elaborate or expensive for our first anniversary but honestly, I wasn’t in the mood to go all out (am I too old now?) and we’ve been keeping it pretty low key with his job situation. I guess one of the advantages of age and a “second time around” is that you don’t have the pressures and expectations you do when you’re young. I was perfectly happy to get flowers and a nice dinner and spend the day in cozy companionship. We even discussed whether we should get “dressed up” and go into Edinburgh to a fancy restaurant and I preferred not to. I felt that for a special dinner it would be nicer to go somewhere we knew the food would be good and we’d enjoy it. So it was off to The Beefeater in Livingston again. I took pictures that day of us and the restaurant and my flowers along with a few others that I have on Facebook but if you don’t have Facebook I can give you a link to the Kodak gallery site where they can also be accessed under the album “At Home with the McCords”. Just let me know and I’ll send you a link.
I better leave it all at that. This is getting too long now as it is. I will have to catch up on the rest of May and now June another time. Hope all is well with every one of you. I hear the weather back there is very hot right now so I don’t mind missing that! It’s been quite nice for here as well in fact we haven’t gotten any significant rain for a couple of weeks which, I’m told, is very unusual for here. I don’t think it’s time to think drought yet but we are having to water our flowers every day and the collected rain water Robbie had to water them with is now all gone. Hopefully this good weather will hold for this coming weekend which is Gala Day here in Fauldhouse. I have volunteered to do some baking for the church but more about all that later.
Love to All, Janet

June 12, 2008

I know I said that I had a whole list of things that I could write about that we did or that happened in May but I thought I should write about this last week—since it’s been so busy—while it’s still fresh in my mind. This way I can maybe keep a little caught up.
Robert had to go into Bathgate Wed. for his meeting with the Job Centre so since I needed to do some shopping I decided to go along. Unfortunately the appointment was for 10:40 in the morning not the usual 2:00. Since we overslept (what’s an alarm clock these days?) it meant getting dressed without a shower and going off with only one cup of coffee in me. Of course this meant that even with a list I managed to forget some of the important things I was supposed to get…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The weather was beautiful—in fact the weather here has been uncommonly nice the last month or so. Apparently May was the driest month they’ve had in a long time and we haven’t had any rain other than a slight shower yet in June. When we watched the BBC weather the other night it looked like Wed. was supposed to be a rainy day but it wasn’t. As we were driving down the hill to the main street, the postman across the road caught sight of us and we waved. Then suddenly, he started miming signing something so Robert pulled over and stopped and he came to the car and gave us our mail because one of the envelopes had to be signed for. Good thing he caught us when he did.
We got to Bathgate and parked in a little shopping center across from the Job Centre and he ran in and kept his appointment and I stayed in the car and read my book. When he came back, he decided to run into Lidl which is a sort of a warehouse-y type place and get a few things we needed. Our main reason for the shopping trip was to get in all the supplies for the upcoming Gala Day on Sat. I had volunteered to do some baking for the church and the stuff had to be delivered by Fri. evening and then we were also expecting Robbie’s family to be coming into town for the festivities so we planned a sort of open house/lunch for everyone and then take food down to his brother’s house for the usual Gala Day buffet. So…lots of baking and cooking and cleaning for the next couple of days.
After Robbie’s foray into Lidl’s we drove over to Tesco and I got the rest of my shopping in. I planned to make two of the Victoria sponge cakes for the church and one for us, blueberry and apple walnut muffins and cupcakes for the church and then potato salad and barbecued chicken wings for the buffet. Robbie also wanted to make one of his pizzas for his sister’s husband John since John loves Robbie’s pizzas. Like I said, lots of cooking and baking.
When we were in Tesco Robbie got sugar snap peas by mistake so we decided to just get them and make a stir fry for dinner. He had made Chinese food before so we got some veggies and stir fry sauce and he made up such a yummy stir fry—better than anything I’ve had in any restaurant here. After we got back it was after 2:00 so we just had a quick Caesar salad (I think I’ve gotten Robbie addicted to my favorite salad) and sandwiches for lunch and then got a surprise visit from Nancy Waddle. She had been saying she had wanted to pop in sometime and visit me so it was nice. She used to be a school teacher and has lived here all her life so she has some fascinating stories to tell about the people and history around here.
Thurs. I got busy on my cakes and cupcakes so they would be cooled and I could frost and decorate them Fri. and then I also planned to make the muffins Fri. That way I wouldn’t be running around like crazy on one day. That evening we watched the movie “Enchanted” that had come in the mail days earlier. It was a very, very sweet and funny movie and we both enjoyed it very much. I think my Robbie is becoming less romantically challenged…maybe.
Friday we got up early and I got to work on frosting my cupcakes when I got a visit from the minister next door. Earlier in the week, Betty had asked Robbie if we could babysit one of her dogs while she went on a retreat this next week. Robbie said he would ask me but when he came in I could tell he really, really wanted to do it. He loves dogs and loves taking them for long walks so I told him that I didn’t mind. When Betty came to the door she at first didn’t want to come in and I was a little embarrassed at what a mess the place was with cupcakes, cakes, pans and frosting everywhere. I was also surprised at Betty. She really didn’t look well and seemed uncertain and definitely tired. She came over to talk about our keeping the dog and I was able to reassure her that it would be fine and that Robbie was really looking forward to it and would like nothing better than to have a dog to take for long walks (he had run down to the store for a paper and was gone). I asked her about her health and she said that her health was fine but that she really felt the need to spend time just with God away from everything and to get filled with the Spirit again. I certainly can understand that. It was the longest conversation I’d had with her and we talked about a lot of things—families and the dogs mostly. It was the longest conversation I’d had with her. She seems to be going through something and I was picking up some depression or lack of confidence that just wasn’t her. I guess vulnerable is the word I’m looking for.

October 1. 2008 Wednesday WHAT I DID LAST SUMMER

So how cliché’ will it be to say, “Where did the summer go”? First of all the summer seemed short here for me because of the weather... Even the newspapers are writing about what a lousy summer it’s been here for most people--the credit crunch, the food and petrol (gas) prices going through the roof and gloomy weather it really didn’t seem like there was any summer at all, or at least like I’d expected it to be. I can’t say I miss the heat because, dang, I sure don’t! Those days when I’d come up and look on the computer at the temperature for back in Chesapeake and it said 90-whatever I’d breathe a sigh of relief that it was a nice 70-something here (if we were lucky).
Still, with all that being true, I can’t say I’ve enjoyed myself these last few months. That and with Robbie being out of work all summer it’s made the adjustment a bit more difficult. With relief, we seem to be back on track with the job situation. As for the weather there are two ways to look at it: no one comes to Scotland for the sunshine and heat and when the sun is out it’s appreciated all the more. Very rarely do we get a cloudless day because, I’m told, the winds constantly blow in moisture from the North Sea. But when it is cloudless the sky is such a vivid blue it’s just extra lovely and we often get rainbows over the hills because usually it’s raining somewhere even if it’s sunny here.
The rain aside, I have been more content and have been settling in bit by bit. If I look around at my little house here I really like it. We planted flowers in pots all around the outside and they’ve done really well. We’re doing container gardening since we don’t have a garden per-se. I’ve got an herb garden of mint, cilantro, oregano, basil parsley and chives. We have five cast iron holders along the fences and side of the driveway that were there before we moved in. In those we’ve planted petunias—red and white striped, pink and purple—ivy geraniums, begonias and fuchsias. In our pots we have geraniums and pansies and lobelia. There were three hanging baskets here so we put snapdragons, petunias and sweet peas in those. When we bought them as bedding plants they hadn’t bloomed so we were really lucky that the colors have turned out to go together so well! My two big pots of geraniums by the back door turned out not to be just the traditional red like I wanted but that along with salmon pink and a vivid magenta. I do like looking out my windows and seeing flowers blooming though.
I suppose in the interests of brevity and the fact that you all have lives and want to do something (anything?) else about now...I’d better just hit the highlights of the summer. I’d say the three big events of the summer were Gala Day, June 14th, my birthday June 21st and Robbie’s auntie Nancy’s 80th birthday on August 31st.
Gala Day is an event here and throughout the country that’s hard to find an equivalent there. Each city or town had their own on different weekends. It involves mostly the children in the elementary to middle school age. They choose a Queen and Queen’s court: Princesses, Fairies, Page Boys, Knights, and a few other things. They dress up in gown and tights and little kilts for the “wee laddies” and it’s just the cutest thing. They all ride in a float in the parade on Saturday and there are other special events. It’s mostly a weekend thing although each city/town has their own ways of doing things. There’s usually a county-fair type set up with booths and rides (they call that a fun fair here).
St. Andrew’s Church is in the middle of the village so it usually opens its doors and has tea and coffee and various home baking and sandwiches—a sort of glorified Bake Sale. Most of the Friday before Gala Day I baked muffins (blueberry and apple walnut) and chocolate cupcakes for that. Also since most of Robbie’s family was coming into town for Gala Day, I baked one of the Victoria sponges I’d made before for them and one for the church. I also made potato salad and chicken wings for the barbecue later with the family. Robbie’s sister’s husband John just loves Robbie’s homemade pizza so he made two Friday evening for John and the barbecue.
Saturday, Gala Day was chilly but sunny for the most part. There were a few showers and cloudy spells off and on and then it got cloudy and rainy by evening. As I said, a lot of the family came into town. Robbie’s sister has four girls and each one of them has numerous kids so we had a lot of people in and out the house. Robbie had volunteered to help out at the church for a while and he took his auntie down with him so she could be more in the “middle” of things and I stayed here to hold down the fort. People came and went for the day. We had room in the drive for cars if they wanted to park and wander down to town. With the cake and chicken wings and pizzas we had lunch and snacks and I made tea and coffee for everyone.
The parade went down the street right at the end of our hill so I had a great view from the upstairs bedroom window. It was shorter than I remembered from last year but fun anyway. It turned around a little bit further down the street and then came back so I got a double view of it all. I’ll try to attach a few pictures at the end. Late that afternoon the family traditionally went to Robbie’s brother Jimmy’s house for a barbecue but with the weather and the fact that Jimmy was out in Thailand it was just more of a potluck. I am starting to try and get people’s names and kids straight but there are still a lot of them to figure out.
My birthday this year was about a week after that and it turned out to be pretty quiet and uneventful because it turned out to be the last day that we watched Poppy, the minister’s dog. We really enjoyed keeping her for a week and Robbie loved taking her out for long walks. She just adored him and whined and cried any time he left her. She was a really good dog and I think Robbie really missed her. Robbie bought me a really nice portable DVD player mainly because he knew that I was in the habit of falling asleep to the TV when I was living on my own and he thought if I wanted to I could use the DVD player since it came with earphones when I couldn’t sleep at night. I really had trouble here at first because it was so quiet and dark at night and I wasn’t used to sleeping like that. We didn’t go out to eat because we were waiting for Betty to come that day and pick up Poppy but she didn’t end up getting back until almost 7:00 so Robbie ran down the road to the Chippy and got us fish and chips and we watched a rented DVD. The next day, Sunday, he took me to lunch at a hotel called the Caim Park in Bathgate and we had a very nice lunch before doing our grocery shopping at Tesco.
And that segues into Auntie Nancy’s 80th birthday celebration August 31st. I can’t say “party” because she didn’t want any kind of “party” or “fuss” for her birthday but, honestly, you only turn 80 once! I told Robbie IF (and that’s a big, big, IF) Lord willing, I ever get to that age he had better get ready to party hearty! You better believe I want a fuss (so you all are on notice to come and be ready to say, “Gee you’re looking good for your age!”). For some reason the family thinks it’s Robbie’s responsibility to take care of Auntie Nancy but I wanted to get the rest of the family involved so we called around and got help and suggestions from his brother Willy and sister and nieces. His niece Samantha decorated. We decided to have it at the Caim Park because of the nice meal we had there after my birthday party and they were able to accommodate a group of about 20. They told us they couldn’t put us in a separate room but we did end up all being in a back room which was really lovely. It looked over a back garden that was green and tree-covered. We had gotten her a cake and she got all kinds of presents from the family. It was a really nice and I think she enjoyed it. I know most of the rest of the family did. I’ll try to scan some pictures Robbie’s cousin Robert Owen took and send them along some time.
So for now, finally, I better wrap this up and send it off so you can all know what I did this summer. Ben tells me people have been asking so...just asked for it! J
Lots of Love, Janet

October 7, 2008 What I Like About Here—or what I will miss when I leave

I keep having to remind myself it’s October already. Each day doesn’t seem to go by any faster but the months and seasons seem to be zooming away. I’d told Ben the last time we talked that since I’ve been moaning and going on about all the strange things about living here that I can’t understand or don’t like I would next write down some of the things I like and would miss if I left here. For the past few days I’ve been jotting down a list as I think of things and I’ve come up with about 20: For brevity’s sake I’ll just send the first 10 for now so you all can have a life too!
1. Fish and Chips. Well this has to be number one with anyone who lives in Britain and what most people think of when they think of the food here. Whatever you might have had over there that was called “British Fish and Chips” cannot even come close. I’ve had many a fried fish dinner and loved it but I’ve never had anything like it here. There’s something about the fish itself maybe. I’m not sure what kind of fish it even is—some sort of whitefish—but it’s sweet and meaty and delicious. The chips (ok, think French fries or steak fries) are hand cut and real potatoes. Now I’d always liked my fish with tartar sauce (especially Captain D’s tartar sauce) but that’s virtually unknown here. There's a thing they put on it here called Brown Sauce (really, that's its name) and it's just the right thing. Funny story, the first time I visited here I went into the Chippy with Robbie I asked, "What are they putting on it?" and he said, "Brown sauce". I said, "I know that, but what is it?" and he said, "Brown sauce" Getting frustrated, I said, "I can see that, but what IS it??" and he said, "Brown sauce". The girl behind the counter was laughing and laughing at the American. He had to explain that it was a condiment like ketchup (it doesn't taste like ketchup) and showed me a bottle when we got back to his house. The closest I can come to describing the taste is it's a cross between Worcestershire sauce and A-1 sauce but milder than either one. Now I was never one to like vinegar on fish and chips but I’ve become quite addicted to Brown Sauce. I would definitely miss it back in America.

2. Chocolate: Oh yes, the chocolate over here is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Think Cadbury’s or some “expensive” chocolate in everything. It’s plentiful and inexpensive and even the “cheap” candy bars are rich and deelish! Imagine a Kit Kat, Snickers or Twix with really good milk chocolate on it. Heaven! Robbie introduced me to one of his favorites early on and that’s Tunnock’s Tea Cakes. A biscuit (cookie) bottom with marshmallow-ey center covered in chocolate. To die for! And there’s drinking chocolate too which is a very chocolatey hot chocolate you can make with milk. Oh yes, for those who love chocolate like me this is the place!

3. Cheese: Since Cheddar cheese was pretty much invented in Britain there’s a lot of really good varieties of cheese over here. The cheese counter in the dairy section is almost twice as big as the ones over there, believe it or not but there’s not as much variety. You might have a small section of mozzarella and others (Parmesan is hard to find and for Swiss cheese you have to get either Emmenthal or Jarlsburg). Mostly there are just different types of cheddar—white or yellow, whole, sliced or shredded, big or little, strong or mild etc. Still, if you’re a cheese lover like me it’s really good stuff no matter what you get.

4. BBC Radio: Imagine PBS on Talk Radio and that’s the BBC radio but there are about 6 or 7 channels of different programs. They do have a few stations that are just music (sort of the opposite of there) but most of the stations have talk, drama and readings. There’s “Book at Bedtime” and “Book of the Week” where someone reads excerpts of a book for a week. It’s great. On the news programs you get the traffic reports you hear about the holdup or jams in London or other parts of the country, which I at first found odd but now it’s amusing. Can you imagine living in Ohio or Virginia and hearing the traffic report from New York City or LA? It would be unheard of but here you can live in Scotland and know to watch out for a traffic tie up on the M-1 outside Reading. Too funny. It’s a lot like radio probably used to be before television and there are even soaps. I’ve gotten hooked on one called The Archers which is supposed to take place in a rural setting so you get a lot of sound effects of tractors and cows or sheep. And it has an unforgettable theme song that everyone knows if you hum it!

5. Some TV Programs: Ok, while we’re on the subject of soaps or continuing programs I confess there are some of the programs on the “telly” here that I would miss. I really like the evening soaps. I wasn’t a “soap” person back there except for a time in my life when Ben was young and I would watch them when he was napping in the afternoon. The soaps here are on in the evenings—7:00 to 8:00 time period—and they’re mostly involving “regular” people. I like Emmerdale, Coronation Street and East Enders and there’s a Scottish soap called River City that is shown once a week and is supposed to take place outside Glasgow. At least I can watch it with the captions on and understand what people are saying. There’s a police drama I quite like called The Bill. The thing is that along with the usual police stuff there’s usually a continuing story going with the characters that you have to tune in to the next episode to see how it comes out. Of course when you talk about mystery shows there’s always Poirot, Morse, Mrs. Marple and Midsomer Murders that you all can watch on A & E or PBS but I get to see them new first! I also get to see all those great Masterpiece Theatre programs first too like Cranford.

6. Towel Warmers: I used to think towel warmers were an unnecessary luxury item but here they’re a lifesaver and you can pretty much buy them anywhere. It’s not so bad in our house now but in Robbie’s old house the bathroom wasn’t heated and in the winter it felt like stepping into a refrigerator. Even here it can get a bit chilly and it’s hard to step out of the warm shower. How nice it is—necessary definitely—to be able to grab a warm towel to dry off with.

7. Electric Kettle: This is another silly idea I thought I would never need to spend money on. Why buy an electrical appliance when you can boil water in a kettle on the stove or in a pan? Well, let me tell you, an electric kettle is great! If you don’t have one already go out and get one! I LOVE mine. You can have boiling water in a few seconds and it might be my imagination but the water seems a lot hotter than I’d ever gotten in my whistling teakettle. It’s kind of like a microwave, after you’ve had one you wonder how you ever lived without it.

8. Duvets: Cold nights, thick feather or down comforter and removable washable cover—nuff said.

9. Disbursible Aspirin: This caused me trouble the first time I got this. I like to take aspirin sometimes for my arthritis or headaches rather than Tylenol which doesn’t do a thing for me. To make it easier on my stomach I like to let the pills dissolve in my mouth before I swallow. What I didn’t know is that disbursible aspirin is meant to be dissolved in water and it sort of fizzes like Alka-Seltzer. It wouldn’t have been quite so bad except my knee was aching in church so I thought I’d just sneak a few aspirins during service. There I was foaming during service like a mad dog and no water to drink. I don’t think anyone else noticed but I was trying not to choke! Now I love the things but I have to really be careful to put them in water! I mean, you tell me, would you know with a name like that? I thought it meant that it dissolved quickly or was easy on the stomach like Bufferin or something.

10. Church Bells: Since I’ve been going with Robbie to St. Andrews (for now) I kind of like going into this gothic looking building to the sound of the church bell. The Catholic church is a bit closer to us down the other side of the village and they usually ring their bell a few minutes before the Church of Scotland. So we know we better be getting in the car when we hear them ring. I just can’t help feeling that it’s almost comforting and “right” to be in the church as the bells ring.

I'll send along the next 10 soon. Today it's been pouring down rain all day and we haven't seen the sun at all. Robbie came home for his lunch and we went down to the Health Centre and got our flu shots.I didn't get one last year so I'm glad to have it now. This should keep us going through the winter (we hope!). The practice nurse is named Heather and really sweet, easy to talk to and has one of those comforting personalities. I went in last week to get my blood pressure checked. They had called me to make an appointment the week before. That was unreal. I've never had a doctor nag me to come in! Apparently she said that they were trying to have everyone over 45 come in for a routine check. Mine was high at first but it always is the first time they take it. When she took it the second time it was only slightly on the high side of normal. She said that she would have me come in sometime in December just to have it checked again. By then I might have a blood test to check my hormone levels because I really think I'm finally going through "the change". They've been bugging me to get a cervical (pap) smear too but I've been so irregular it's been hard to find a good time. They really do bug you here to come in and get things done. If you don't call in, they sometimes make an appt. for you and you have to pay if you don't call or don't come in. Geez!
When we got home we listened to a little BBC5 and they had a man who was broadcasting live from Ohio! It was mainly about the election but they were in a high school somewhere outside Dayton from what I could gather (he was talking about the near-by Air Force Base) and Simon, the host, was asking the principal (he kept calling him the "headmaster") about posters on the wall for "Spirit Week" and the Homecoming Dance. Needless to say, it made me homesick but was also a bit surreal. Better get this sent out and get dinner started. Love to Everyone! Janet

November 7, 2008 Halloween Scares, McDonald’s and Driving

Before it gets too late I thought I’d try to get another blog started and sent out. November is here and before you know it, Christmas—gaaaa! But we won’t go into that right now!
I’m sure I had mentioned in my previous entry that the weather here has turned definitely wintry. Some places in the Highlands got quite a bit of snow as a bad storm blew across the whole UK before Halloween. We had high winds here and rain but, luckily no snow. Right now the temperature hovers in the 40’s and this last weekend and the beginning of this week we’ve had some nice sunny mornings. Still, the frost has taken some of the flowers we didn’t get in and Robbie is putting grit on the back steps so I can go out to do the laundry without falling like I did last year.
Halloween here was very quiet because they really don’t celebrate it like we do, although they do sort of, halfheartedly, seem to be getting on the bandwagon. Funny thing is, they call it an “American-style” Halloween if you do the trick-or-treating and carve a pumpkin and dress up in costume. Now there in the US they talk about the origins of Halloween being Celtic or Druid from the British Isles! So to them, Halloween’s American and to us Halloween is British. I was watching a morning news-type program (along the lines of Good Morning America or Today) and they were going to show some celebrity guests how to carve a pumpkin and have a little contest about who ended up with the scariest one. Three of the four contestants had never (let me repeat that, NEVER) carved a pumpkin or knew what a pumpkin looked like inside! The eeeww noises they were making were hilarious.
I really missed not having any decorations up or any pumpkins on the doorstep like usual. I always used to hang Indian corn on my door in Oct. and Nov. but try to find some of that here! Try to find corn on the cob at all! Next year I just might do it anyway because it just seems so blah when you don’t celebrate at least the seasons. I’m missing my goose and my seasonal/holiday wreaths. I guess it’s easier when you have kids because you have to do something to make holidays special for them and it’s fun but even we old folks need some fun in our lives! We didn’t have any trick-or-treaters either so, darn it, I guess Robbie and I will have to eat the Twix and Bounty (Mounds) bars between us. It’s tough...
Halloween night did offer us some scary moments though. Being a Friday night it was our traditional fish and chip night. I don’t know how or why this started but lately every Friday night I don’t feel like cooking and so we just treat ourselves to fish and chips. Robbie had some prepared meals for his auntie he’d gotten for her at the butcher’s earlier in the day and had to take them down to her so he thought he would call her and see if she wanted a fish supper while he was picking ours up so then he could just take it all down to her and come back up and we’d have our dinner. I had wanted to watch my favorite Halloween movie “High Spirits” (one of Liam Neeson’s first movies and he’s a hunk!) to celebrate the season and we were going to watch it after we finished our dinner.
When he called Nancy her phone was busy and he kept trying all the way down to the Chippy. We just figured she was yakking to her sister in Aberdeen so we ate our dinner and he kept trying all through the evening while we watched the usual soaps. When it was still busy at 9:00 we knew she had left it off the hook by mistake. She had done this once before because she can’t hear the siren tone that lets you know you didn’t hang up the phone properly.
Robbie went down and I waited and got the DVD ready. He came back frustrated because he said he didn’t have the right key and he was knocking on the door and she never answered. We really didn’t think anything had happened to her because she has a “panic button” that she can press and it calls the local emergency service but with her phone off the hook we weren’t sure if it would work and you \just never know. This time he decided to drive down and I went with him to help knock on the door. She’s hard of hearing so we didn’t know if she just couldn’t hear or she would think it was trick-or-treaters or “guisers” as they call them here.
Nancy has just gotten a new door installed by the local council and Robbie thought she had given him the new key but he couldn’t get it to work the first time he went down. We banged on the door and hollered “It’s Robbie and Janet, not guisers!” and Robbie banged on her front window. I even tried to holler through her letterbox but nothing. Finally, Robbie fiddled with the key and got it to work and we went in.
She always keeps the door between her front room and the hall shut to keep in the heat so that’s one of the reasons she can’t hear the door if she’s got the TV turned up loud. She was fine and we explained what had happened and why we were worried and Robbie made sure her phone was back on the hook. I figured with all the shouting and banging we were doing she’d at least come and look and see what was going on but she never did and I was afraid we were going to scare her more (and irritate the neighbors) by making such a racket.
So I guess that was our Halloween “scare” for the season. We came back and watched the movie but Robbie fell asleep. It just wasn’t as much fun watching it alone and without having the “girls” over like I always have on past Halloweens. Not like the time Mary Lou scared Jorine and me and Keith Ethington threatened to don a wig to crash our party!
We are concerned about Nancy living on her own and Robbie has been trying to urge her to consider going into an assisted living facility here. It would be so much better for her because she would have company and not all the burdens of living alone in that big house. It really is too much for her and she chooses to isolate herself because she depends on Robbie and when he can’t do things for her she won’t call anyone else in the family to drive her anywhere. Over here seniors are well looked after—she could get groceries delivered free, she gets free bus transport, a taxi card to get reduced taxi fares, meals, nursing, whatever she needs at home. She’s been dragging her feet about going into assisted living and has already let one opportunity go. She’s back at the end of the list now so we’ll see what happens.
The next day, Sunday, I got a treat because Robbie finally took me to McDonald’s! Now most of you won’t understand the excitement this gave me because you might not know what it’s like to have lived for almost an entire year without any type of fast food like McDonald’s. Of course, if I were back there I doubt I’d cross the road to go to a McDonald’s but here, after all this time, I have been having fierce cravings for a Big Mac! Maybe it was just the sense of “home” it represented to me. I wasn’t holding out any real hopes that the food would taste just the same because I remember going into a McDonald’s in Germany and the food tasting just a bit “off” (not spoiled but different). I know that beef and hamburgers taste different here. I can’t really put my finger on it, so I didn’t really expect a Big Mac here to taste the same as there but it did! Everything was perfectly the same and it was wonderful! I’ve never enjoyed a Big Mac more since the days I was young and it was a new item on the menu!
The nearest McDonald’s to us is in Livingston, Robbie’s hated city and so, of course it took us longer to get there because he made some wrong turns. Livingston is a man-made, planned city and when it was planned, he tells me, it was laid out to keep the pedestrians apart from the cars and to almost discourage (or at least restrict) car traffic. So it can be a difficult place to drive in. The city planners also wanted to do without traffic lights (although that didn’t work) so there are roundabouts everywhere and they can be confusing and can send you off on the wrong direction if you don’t get in the right lane. My Robbie is not really good at forward planning so he tends to remember that he’s supposed to be in the other lane when he gets to the junction and by then there’s no time to change your mind or no one will let him over. So we got to McDonald’s by a very roundabout route. You would think that having worked in Livingston for a couple of weeks last month would have given him a better familiarity with the roads but it seems not!
We ate in the car since the restaurant was very crowded. Apparently they have very strict parking rules about how long you can park in the McDonald’s lot. There was a highly publicized case recently about a woman being taken to court after being charged nearly £100 for parking longer than the required 1 hour even though part of that time she’d spent inside the restaurant. The problem is that there are never enough parking spaces here. The McDonald’s is in a large shopping center/mall complex but unlike there where a mall usually has double the acreage in parking as they do in stores, here it’s the opposite so everyone is always driving around fighting it out for spaces. It can be a real headache. So I expect the management of the restaurant is trying to cut down on people using their lot to park and then go shop but they sure don’t do themselves any favors with the customers. Can you imagine your local McDonald’s taking anyone to court for parking longer than and hour?
Because of the delay in getting to McDonald’s and Robbie deciding to stop for petrol (gas) because the station across from the hospital has the cheapest prices, we were late in getting back home. Robbie has decided to join a group that is going to be putting on a singing production of The Witness for Easter and they have rehearsals every fortnight (two weeks). I thought since we were almost a half an hour late he would just give it a miss but as we came into town he pulled into the parking lot of the Salvation Army Hall (where they were having the rehearsals). I complained I had to go the bathroom and wanted to get home and I didn’t want to stay since I wasn’t singing, etc. So he handed me the keys and said, “You drive home then”. I had only been out once in his car on the road and then I had scared him because I kept driving too close on the left hand side (passenger side). Ok, so I did run up over the curb twice on the left...the streets here are really much more narrow than I’m used to let alone that I’m on the wrong side of the car and having traffic come at me from the right throws me off. And then let’s not even mention the gear shift—and its being on the left side rather than the right. At least, at least, I CAN drive a stick and can work a clutch but there are also hills to contend with, one of which is at the end of the road from the Salvation Army Hall to get to the Main Street to get home.
I was not prepared, I was nervous, I had to go to the bathroom, it was a panicky trip! Only by the grace of God and the fact I never got out of second gear and that other cars seemed to get out of my way and the fact that it wasn’t but a few blocks home I did it without any incidents. I definitely didn’t feel comfortable or in control of the car at any time so I really can’t call it a successful test of my driving ability. I have never felt afraid of driving in the US even when I was first learning at the age of 16 but I am terrified to drive here. When I got home I texted Robbie, “I smashed the car and I’m dead, now are you happy?” although he didn’t have his phone turned on in the Hall and so he didn’t get the message until he got home.
So that’s what I’ve been up to, some of it anyway. Hope everyone’s recovered from the Election. I really don’t know what to say about it. We have been getting news in the papers and on the BBC and TV that I know better than to believe. Everything I heard about any of it on either side I took with a grain of salt. Maybe you all can tell me more what really happened. I have some of my own opinions and maybe I can tell you more about the coverage from this side at another time of in an individual email if you want. Write when you can, if you can.
Lots of Love, Janet

November 30, 2008 November but not Thanksgiving

I started writing this a few weeks ago and then we had some power outages—of course right when I was on the computer and once lost what I was writing and that’s delayed me getting this out. Right now it’s in the 20’s outside and I’m looking out at our front hill and street covered in snow. We’re supposed to get blizzard conditions tonight so I guess it’s a good time to stay in and get caught up on my email! I’m not even eager to venture out to the back to do my laundry seeing as how last year I took a tumble off the steps when they were icy. Robbie has put down grit and salt and they’re not icy. It’s more a psychological fear of slipping down them again. I was lucky last time and didn’t get hurt. Looks like it’s time to hibernate! Anyway, here goes:
Mondays are usually busy days because I let things slide on the weekend so that by Monday there are lots of chores to catch up on. The first thing I did after I got up was tear off the sheets and take them down to wash. Lots of laundry on Monday and then the vacuuming, dusting and cleaning the kitchen—all the usual stuff. Going out to do the laundry was especially difficult yesterday because we have been having gale-force winds since Sunday. The advantage of that is that the wind seems to be blowing the clouds away before it rains so that we didn’t get any rain until last evening. It’s a cold, biting wind and when I had to be out for more than a few minutes it was very cold. My hands especially, got numb. One of the times I was out for a while was first thing when I had to try to fix the catch on the dryer door that seems to be broken. So now we have broken doors on both the washer and dryer!
The one thing I wanted to do yesterday—and the one reason I’m describing the weather more than I probably should—is that I wanted to make a big pot of vegetable soup. Robbie had gotten some carrots and cabbage on sale over the weekend and I had a small amount of stew beef left over in the freezer so Monday I finally got around to making that. I really like making soup and it’s surprisingly easy. I don’t know why I’d never really done it before other than the fact that I used to be the only one in the family who would eat vegetables!
When I made a list of things I really like here and would miss if I left, I forgot one of the things I use a lot and that’s OXO cubes. I’m not sure if you have OXO cubes over there but they’re stock cubes. I think Knorr makes a similar product. I’ve never used anything like them before but now I wonder why! I use the beef in spaghetti sauce and soup and stroganoff (to name just a few things) and the other night I opened a can of green beans and since I didn’t have bacon (see previous emails!) to make them like I usually like to, I added a chicken OXO cube to the undrained can of beans with just a little salt and pepper and simmered them until the juice was mostly absorbed. Yummo, as a certain TV chef likes to say (and I suppose, lower in fat than bacon and onion). It’s just easy, instant flavor and I really don’t know if I can now cook without them. I’m also getting a better appreciation for olive oil. How European of me!
It’s been one year ago as of Nov. 13th that I arrived in Scotland to live. I can’t say that after a year I really yet feel at home or am happy about being here. I still want to go “home” to the US. I was talking to Ben the other night and I confessed that I still struggle with the “trying to fit a square peg in a round hole” syndrome and getting unhappy because this round hole (metaphorically) won’t become square to fit me! I lead a pretty comfortable life all in all and certainly don’t have the heavy burdens I did have of worrying about paying the bills and working to make ends meet so it should make me feel better to be here and in some ways—the essential ways it does. Am I happy? I can’t say that I am but I’m not sure if I trust happiness anyway. Being “happy” is such an elusive thing. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be” and that’s true. I can decide to think positively on my situation and make myself feel better or to look on all the things I don’t like about living here and all the things I miss and be miserable. I have to say I swing back and forth from the two—sometimes from one day to the next. I can say without doubt that I am content, I am comfortable, things are not perfect and I am lonely. I wish I had been able to make some friends but I expect that will come. I have met a few people and have some “acquaintances” but I know real friendship takes time. I’ve not really put myself out there anyway or sought a lot of companionship so it’s been somewhat my choice.
I have to tell you about this concert we went to in Glasgow back in the beginning of Nov. (the 8th). I’ll attach a scanned copy of the advertisement. It was billed as traditional Scottish music, “The Magic of Scotland”. Yes, that does mean some bagpipes and kilts, the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band played but as you can see from the picture, it was more a folk music-type thing. I mean, the guy with the banjo—banjo?? I guess I would describe it as a cross between the Lawrence Welk show and the Grand Ol’ Opry. Very enjoyable, very fun, from what I know a sort of English music hall type program (like vaudeville).
Other than the little girl sitting in front of us with her grandparents, I think Robbie and I were about the youngest people there. That didn’t stop the audience from being enthusiastic. Apparently audiences for these kind of shows are used to—maybe expected to—sing along to the songs because they pretty much all joined in on the more popular ones. In the interval (intermission) Robbie’s auntie Nancy and I found out that the worst part of this kind of audience was the long queue (line) and wait for the “disabled loo” (handicapped bathroom). I really enjoyed myself and it would have been even more fun if I could have understood the comic (emcee) because he had a very thick Glaswegian accent and talked very fast. I leaned over to Robbie and said, “I need captions” like we have on the TV. And it would have been more fun to be able to sing along to the songs too. The Pavilion Theatre is an older theatre, very ornate and Victorian so that was fun too.
Of course, coming in to Glasgow with Robert Owen in the back reading the map we got lost trying to find the theatre mainly because he and my Robert were trying to get to the wrong place. As we were approaching the city centre Auntie Nancy pipes up from the back, “Isn’t in the same place we went to last year?” Oops. Good thing we were already stopped at a traffic light. So rather than go toward the one place they thought it was Robbie now had to get to a different area. Like any big city Glasgow is hampered with one-way streets so it’s not as straight forward as you’d like so it took us longer than we had planned. He dropped us off across the street from the theatre and went to find a car park. As I had said, Auntie Nancy wasn’t the only person with trouble walking and I wasn’t the only one with a cane. They had a separate “disabled” entrance that you could go down a ramp rather than having to deal with stairs so that was good. We just had to wait outside on the sidewalk for ushers to let us in a few at a time.
This was my first time in Glasgow and even though I saw more of it than planned, I don’t think I got a whole picture of the town. Edinburgh with its history and being the capital with the Castle and University has a more refined feel to it understandably. Glasgow is a working man’s city and proud of it. There’s culture and busyness. People just didn’t seem as kindly but they were friendly—more the I’ll be nice but I don’t have the time to be too nice sort of attitude which is fine. Maybe it’s just the reputation Glasgow has for a hard drinking/fighting sort of town that precedes it. I do remember seeing some lovely buildings and a beautiful park full of trees in lovely autumn colors. So, I’ll reserve my opinion for a time when I have seen more of the city.
I better end this now before it gets too long again. I’ll have to write later and tell you about my Thanksgiving celebrations—or lack of! Keep warm and safe wherever you are.
Lots of Love, Janet

December 21, 2008 Twas the Week Before Christmas...and we’ve finally got the tree up!

Yes, it’s true, the tree is finally in the house and in the stand. Robbie brought it in Thursday night. Last night he got the lights on and we’re hoping to feel like trimming it today. We’ll see. We bought a real tree last Sunday (Dec. 18th) afternoon but it’s been sitting outside the back door in a tub of water since because Robbie’s had a bad cold and cough. He was off work Wednesday and Thursday this last week because not only did he feel bad, the idea of him walking around in the cold and rain and wind here would have been disastrous. He says he feels all right but with his asthma he coughs terribly in the night sometimes so I have to practically tie him down to get him to rest.
What with sickness (thank goodness and knock wood I haven’t caught the cold yet) and just general ennui we’re having a harder time getting in the Christmas mood but one thing I’ve noticed is that everyone puts so much pressure on themselves anymore to get everything done ahead of time. Robbie was beating himself up for not having the tree sooner and then not having the tree up sooner...on and on and I reminded him that in Victorian times they never even put up or decorated the tree until Christmas Eve. Who’s to tell us how to celebrate our holiday? However and whenever we want to put up our decorations, whatever we want to do/eat or not do/eat is our business. He said once when we were out looking for the tree that this is going to be our first real Christmas together. I reminded him that I was here last Christmas but he says it seems like the first because last Christmas I had just been here a month and we didn’t have most of our stuff—no furniture and hardly any decorations and a very small tabletop tree.
In church last Sunday I just had the thought that whether this is Jesus’ birthday or not (and I really doubt it is) I should start thinking about welcoming people and greeting people as if I were greeting and welcoming Jesus, whether in my home or out and about. I thought about decorating and fixing my home up as if Jesus were coming over and it made it easier to feel happy about all the work that goes into Christmas and look forward to having people over.
I have been baking cookies and have stumbled on a really good sugar cookie recipe that turns out really well here. I think I’d shared with some of you the problem I have here with the fact that they don’t have anything we would consider “shortening” like Crisco. The last time I tried to make chocolate chip cookies with what I thought was an equivalent to butter flavor Crisco turned out to be a disaster and was nothing like it. Butter is fine for making some cookies but makes a crunchier-type cookie. This recipe (I’m including it below if you are interested) makes a softer recipe without the Crisco and with butter. I made a batch last Wednesday and another batch last night and halved it and added cocoa to the other half to make a chocolate cookie and both batches turned out very well. I also made a batch of Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies (if you want the recipe I’ll send it, just ask) last Thursday but Robbie didn’t like them as well as the sugar cookies. I overheard him make the comment to his auntie on the phone that they were better than any you’d get in a professional bakery! I’ve mainly made them to pass out to other people because this recipe makes a lot and we sure don’t need all these ourselves! I think this will be my “go to” recipe for sugar cookies from now on:


¾ cup butter, softened
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Sugar for decorating

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, oil, confectioner’s sugar and white sugar until well blended. Stir in the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients until well blended. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto the cookie sheet. Flatten cookies to 1/8 inch thickness using the bottom of a glass, dipped in sugar. Colored sugar may be used if you do not plant to frost cookies later. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are golden brown. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

This week, Robbie’s niece Charlotte invited us to her place Christmas day for dinner. She requested I bring my “special” chocolate cupcakes (the ones I made on Gala Day: Duncan Hines cake mix and canned frosting little do they know!). Charlotte has two boys, Josh and Lewis. Robbie thinks that Josh is almost 13 and Lewis is about 10 so interesting ages...The last time we were at her house I met a friend of hers who has a son named Ben who is a good friend of Josh’s and we talked about boys and boys named Ben! We had imagined that we would be on our own again this Christmas which was fine, in fact I was thinking about having Robbie take me out for Christmas dinner so I didn’t have to cook but this will be nicer. I still won’t have to cook and we’ll be around some kids to have more Christmas spirit.
Before Christmas I suppose I should write and tell you about my Thanksgiving that didn’t happen. Of course the holiday doesn’t exist over here and we had decided to celebrate it on Friday rather than Thursday so that we could use the leftovers for our Saturday prayer meeting (sandwiches and pumpkin pie). Robbie had to work both days and on top of it all he had to take his car to the garage and his auntie to the doctors that day.
On Thursday the parking brake on Robbie’s car had failed. Here, with manual transmission on all the cars and the hills, the parking brake is essential as the steering and regular brakes so he had to take the car in and get it fixed Friday morning. The garage gave him a very small loaner car so he could go back to work and also take his auntie to the doctor’s. We were afraid that we might have to postpone the doctor’s but really didn’t want to do that because it had taken over a week of persuading to get his auntie to make it in the first place.
We have been concerned about his Auntie Nancy. The February before we were married she had had a mild stroke and she just turned 80 this last August although I don’t think she would like me telling anyone. She could walk and get around more if she used her walker which she won’t do. She really isn’t physically unable to walk but psychologically she’s afraid and gets shaky when out. Also, living on her own now she doesn’t eat right and has been suffering (she says) from chronic diarrhea. She was blaming it on her pills she’s been taking since she got out of the hospital but we told her do NOT stop taking your medication unless you check with the doctor first. I had noticed when I was helping her (the blind leading the blind or the crippled leading the crippled) in Glasgow that she said she was dizzy and had trouble walking.
I became especially concerned with the diarrhea and not eating much that she was suffering from (or would eventually suffer from) dehydration and malnutrition. We try to send her down soups and things and Robbie makes sure she gets microwavable meals from the butcher’s and does her weekly shopping on a Saturday when he takes her down to get her pension. We even bought her a supplemental vitamin drink because she was complaining that sometimes her stomach bothered her and she didn’t feel like cooking a meal. So for a couple of weeks in November we urged her to make an appointment to see the GP. I had wanted to be in there to talk to the doctor myself (being a mother and advocating for someone else with military doctors I sort of knew the routine) because she had told me that when she brought up some of her concerns in the past the doctor just shrugged and said there was nothing they could do. I didn’t believe that because I didn’t think, even with institutionalized medicine and her medical history they would say that so I wanted the doctor to say it to my face. But Robbie had just a little two seater loaner car so he had to go in with her. I briefed him on what I would have brought up with the doctor and told him which questions to ask and what to tell the doctor that Nancy wouldn’t.
It was a successful visit and he had alerted Social Services that she might need someone to come in and help her cook her meals and set her up for a hearing test (remembering what happened on Halloween). He also told her that if she were worried about her medication to stop taking one and see if that helped. When she stopped taking her night-time pill she said it made her feel worse after all the next day so we’ve pretty well ruled out her medication being the problem. We think the majority of her problem is living alone and that’s another reason why we wanted to get her into the Bield (an assisted living facility here) but that’s another long story for another time...
I’m telling you ALL this to sort of set the mood for the day. So far, not your typical Thanksgiving Day. To begin with, I had no one to make cinnamon French toast for. Then I was trying to do some baking: rolls and pumpkin pies while Robbie was running in and out and we were talking about what to say to the doctor when he took his auntie. He came home told me all about it while I fixed him some lunch and he finally got off to work around 1:00 which meant he had to work late to get all his calls made. Later in the afternoon while I was folding a load of laundry (also non-traditional) after rolling out pie crusts (so I was rather dusted with flour) a man came to the door and introduced himself as a friend of Robbie’s. He asked when Robbie would be home because he had a friend who had a computer that needed fixing. I called Robbie and he told me to give the man his mobile number and he would work out a time to go down to work on this computer (yes, for all you suspicious folk he really was a friend of Robbie’s I hadn’t met yet). Robbie also told me he wouldn’t be done with work until about 7:30 so I told him that I would plan to have dinner about 8:00
Well, 8:00 came, and no Robbie, 9:00 came and no Robbie and finally after numerous phone calls that went to voice mail and texts that didn’t get answered he finally shows up. Of course the dinner that had to be warmed and re-warmed wasn’t very good and I had been nibbling a bit off and on but increasingly had become too worried to feel like eating. With his car trouble I was afraid he’d had some problems. What had happened is that he went down to that man’s to see if he could sort out the computer problem (“honestly, I thought I’d be there a half an hour tops”) and hadn’t realized how much time had gone by. And on top of it all, his mobile battery had run out and he didn’t have his recharger so he couldn’t call me or get any of my calls. I’ve always known about “computer time” which is when you’re doing anything with a computer and you think only, maybe five minutes has gone by and it’s really an hour (some sort of motherboard time vortex kind of thing) so I forgave him for worrying me and I was just glad he and the car were all right.
I think that’s enough to be going on about. I know everyone has better things to do this time of year especially than sit and read an impossibly long email. I wish everyone a warm and happy Christmas full of love this year...and with no expectations. Enjoy it all whatever it turns out to be because these are the stuff of future memories. I know that’s what I plan to do! “God bless us every one”!

April 21, 2009 Spring Time, New Start

Spring and after Easter seems to me to be the best time to make new resolutions and start new things. I don’t know why we have New Year’s in the dead of winter so soon after Christmas. I think I had read somewhere that some pagans celebrated their new year in the spring? Anyway, when the sun’s shining and it gets warmer and flowers bloom everywhere, this looks like a whole new place so it’s a good time to start over. Renewal is the message of the resurrection too. Things can be reborn; in Christ we always have a second chance.
So, I thought, why not resolve to begin again with my blogs? I really let things slide over the holidays and winter and have been feeling guilty. I just seemed to be suffering under a huge load of writer’s block. I wanted to write but just couldn’t be bothered to go to my keyboard and start typing (or even pick up a pen, for that matter).
I’ve been reading some other online blogs, mostly from writers and other friends in my online book groups and they have—well, maybe not as much inspired me but given me a kick in the pants. One of my problems in writing is waiting for that one big, interesting or exciting event to happen. Well, I have to wait a really long time for that! My life is anything but exciting or even interesting I don’t think. Still, since the idea of this from the beginning was to keep in touch with you all, my friends and family—people I love, you might just have to suffer through the mundane along with the interesting. I’m sure you all know how to hit the delete button or email me and I’ll take you off my correspondence list. I’ll try to make these shorter so you don’t have to spend most of your day reading.
Some of you have written or sent me links to Susan Boyle from Britain’s Got Talent. Yes, we did see it and watch it but we saw it later on a recap of the show because we were busy the week of Easter. Yes, it’s a guilty secret that we watch that, American Idol, X-Factor (Britain’s version of Idol) and the two dancing shows: Dancing with the Stars and the original British version Strictly Come Dancing. I used to look down my nose at those kinds of shows and I must say that Britain's Got Talent is a little better than America's Got Talent mainly because they're trying to get acts for a certain event (royal performance) and it's not just about the money (and it doesn’t have David Hasselhof!). I still feel uncomfortable watching the early ones where it just makes me want to cringe to watch some of these people humiliate themselves (freak show) but that's the part Robbie likes and thinks is funny, especially how these people don’t seem to know they’re rubbish! Anyway, he's got me hooked although you sure can overdose on Simon Cowell! Susan Boyle is actually from near here in Blackburn near Bathgate and Robbie thinks she's on a local talent CD he has from the Millennium celebrations.
As I said, being the week before Easter it was a busy time for us. Robbie had been rehearsing with a group from local churches and the Salvation Army since after Christmas to put on an Easter performance of The Witness a sort of musical re-telling of Jesus' story. They had their two performances Tues. and Wed. evening. Then, on Thus. night we went to Breich Valley church for a communion service commemorating the Lord's Supper and Friday night was Good Friday service here at St. Andrew's.
The Thursday night communion was the first time I've ever done something like that and you can imagine with my CofC upbringing it sort of felt uncomfortable to be taking communion at any time but a Sunday. But then I thought, what better time to recreate the night of the Lord's Supper? It actually was very moving. It was also the first time I've ever actually "broke bread" because they passed two loaves around and also two silver chalices (they had the separate cups for anyone who didn't want to use the "one cup"). I was getting over a cold Robbie had shared with me (!) but I was at the end of the row and no one would be drinking after me so I went ahead and drank from the chalice rather than have someone down the table pass me a small cup. Like I said, it was all quite moving and actually focused my mind more on what Easter was about than anything.
We had a long day Easter Sunday. The church had a communion service first and then breakfast and then the regular service Sunday with an Easter egg hunt during the service in the church for the kids. It was fun because the adults were getting in to it helping out the kids (although some of us were hoping that the kids might just happen to not find the eggs near us since they were Cadbury’s Crème Eggs!). Every time a child (they were all boys) found an egg he was supposed to shout "Jesus is risen!" as loud as he could and you know how loud boys can be so it was quite a clamor of "Jesus is risen!" Too cute.
After the service I would have gone home and taken a nap since we’d had to get up early for church but Robbie's auntie wanted to stay for the tea after (I was still too full from breakfast!) and then since it was such a nice day she suggested we all go for a drive. I really don't know where we went but it was a lot of back country roads along the Clyde-bank. We ended up off the beaten path once on our way to find some old ruined castle (Ben: it was like the back roads we ended up on when we got lost looking for Hadrian’s Wall) and we kept driving and driving and the road kept getting more and more deserted. More than once Robbie grumbled that there was no castle or we'd have seen it by now and once he joked about maybe that was their defense: the enemy couldn't attack the castle because they couldn't find it! When we got there it wasn't an "old" castle (i.e. medieval) but built in Mary Queen of Scot's time as one of her palaces. There wasn't a whole lot left and it was down in a steep gully that you had to walk to so I had to pass. The funny thing was that when we got there the parking lot was packed with cars so we wondered if something was going on or if it was actually a more popular place than we knew! It was raining a bit when we got there and Auntie didn't want to go down either. Robbie went a little way down but didn't want to go too far in case they charged him admission.
Auntie had heard about some new restaurant in the Clyde-bank along the Ayr Road (don't ask me) but she didn't know the name of it or where exactly it was and that's why we ended up making a great big detour in our drive. We finally headed back that way--and back toward home--and came across this new hotel and restaurant. By this time we were hungry so we stopped there and had a good dinner. They had a carvery with your choice of ham, turkey, roast beef or lamb. We had a lovely pea and ham soup to start with and then a choice of dessert for the set Easter menu. They sat us in the "old" portion of the restaurant in the pub/lounge section which was actually nicer because it was all dark wood and cozy rather than new, stainless steel and modern. By the time we got home it was nearly 7:00 and we were exhausted!
Now that’s the latest of our adventures and I hope to keep this up more so we can keep in touch. I hope everyone had a lovely Easter and that your weather’s better than ours. While it was perfect the week of Easter our spring seems to have left us. We didn’t see the sun again till Thurs. this week. Robbie said that it was the moist air off the North Sea. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were cloudy, foggy, and cold. Wednesday and Thursday were also very windy making it feel even colder. It was the kind of wet chill that just gets in your bones. Anyway, enjoy your sunshine and spring flowers and keep in touch!

April 28, 2009 The Day Robbie Was Hit by a Bus...and Other Near-Disasters

Yes, as you can see by the title, it’s true. My Robbie was hit by a bus last Saturday. Now without leaving you in suspense, I’ll just say right off that he wasn’t hurt badly, just a bruise on his elbow. So, now we can all calm down and take a deep breath and I’ll fill in the background.
Most of you already know that before Easter Robbie lost his job—again. Since he hated the job so much his first reaction was one of relief. He was working too hard at too many hours for too little pay and it wasn’t even utilizing his skills and education. Walking around and reading gas and electric meters is really not using his level of expertise but when he took the job it was just a stop-gap measure; any job rather than no job at all. Still, I hated to see him get up every morning and dread having to go in and coming home so exhausted he would fall asleep on the couch right after dinner. Therefore, other than the loss of the small wages he was getting it was almost a good thing when he was told his “services were no longer required”.
Now we’re back to where we were last summer, filling out applications and his going off to the job centre. With his savings depleted a bit after last year’s unemployment we’re in a little more of a pinch but I don’t think it’s any different than most people are facing right now (and thankfully, better than some). Cutting back, being frugal, doing less with less...all very noble but dreary isn’t it? We had hoped to travel back to the US this summer but that looks like it won’t be happening and Robbie is going to have to make the old car last another year (or years). Not that we ever lived wildly or lavishly to begin with but I am sorry we can’t come home to visit.
Surprisingly Robbie is the one keeping a positive attitude He has been going around the house with his mantra: “Good things are going to happen” and even though he might not always believe it (especially when we have the gray, cold “Dementor weather” he calls it) he’s trying to “act as if...” which is a definite improvement for him. I’ve still be encouraging him to start up his business and he keep saying that it’s time but it’s just taking that fist the edge of the cliff!
Well, I said all that as background for the bus incident. One of the jobs Robbie recently applied for is with Social Security (what they call Unemployment, not retirement). As you can expect, jobs are opening up in “unemployment” so he thought he might as well go for it. He was to go to Edinburgh on Saturday to take an aptitude test then if he passed they would schedule and interview. It was mainly a grammar and math test any junior high student could pass so he wasn’t worried about the test itself.
They asked him to arrive 15 min. before the test at 12:00 and since he knows his way around Edinburgh he had a pretty good idea where the place was (near Hollyrood Palace) but I advised him to look on Map Quest anyway which he did. That all being said, he left the house later than he’d wanted and took a wrong turn at a roundabout and ended up getting to the test late. Luckily, they told him he could come back at 2:00 and take it so he had some time to kill. He called me and I suggested that he go to a café and have something to eat but he told me he thought better on an empty stomach so he planned to eat after the test. He thought he might get a coffee and a newspaper and just sit and read till the time for the test.
He still can’t tell me how it happened. He isn’t really sure how he tripped or stumbled out into the road. He was heading for the paper shop and he said he just lost his balance and tripped off the sidewalk and into the road in front of the bus. He didn’t fall and the bus just sort of clipped his arm, banging his elbow a bit. The worst part of it was that the bus driver had to stop the bus and make a report and even offered to call an ambulance. I think the only thing Robbie really injured was his dignity and the embarrassment of making the whole bus stop. He even told the bus driver that he was alright and to go on but the bus driver said that he had to stop and make a full report with his name, address and telephone number—I guess in case we wanted to come back and sue the bus company or something. Robbie was a little shaken, as I said, but not really hurt. He was more worried that they might call me at home and scare me before he got home to tell me.
After all that, he still went to the office and took the test and passed it so he has an interview, next Tuesday, May 5th. Not knowing any of this had happened I had a suitable panic attack when he came home and told me and I think by then what “could have” happened hit him too so we were both very, very, very grateful that it turned out the way it did and wasn’t worse.
One other disaster that I need you all to pray about is that I got a phone call late last night (actually early in the morning) from Ben to tell me he’s lost his job at QVC. As with Robbie, it wasn’t his dream job, or even the career he wanted or was suited for but it was a job, although even at the time he got it, it was only supposed to be temporary and he’s been there longer than we had anticipated. Being without a job at times like these is scary but as I was talking to him on the phone I was telling him that this will be the beginning of a new path and we’ll have to wait and see where the Lord will lead him. The only thing we know for sure is that it will be good! Like Robbie said when he lost his previous job, “God just has something better planned.” And we know we’re promised that ALL things will work together for good. Still, it’s one thing to take a leap of faith off that cliff and another thing to be pushed! So keep Robbie and Ben in your prayers and if any of you know of good jobs.... J

May 6, 2009 Be Careful What You Wish For

Tomorrow my wonderful son Ben is going to be 25 years old. It’s just so hard for me to imagine that so much time has gone by and he’s so old! And let’s not even go into how old that makes me feel! No, the time has gone by in a flash and it seems just like yesterday that he was born. I know that’s so cliché’ and it’s easy to talk about time flying by but it’s true, there’s just no getting around it.
I must confess—to those I haven’t already shared this with—I did not enjoy motherhood at first. Ben didn’t sleep through the night until he was almost a year old. I have never seen a baby literally fight sleep. With lack of sleep and worry about doing things right it wasn’t what I would call a happy time. It is a really daunting prospect to have this little life depending on you so much and you worry all the time you’re making mistakes.
When he wouldn’t sleep and would cry and I didn’t know what to do or just didn’t want to deal with another diaper I used to wish that he would grow up and be able to do some things to take care of himself. It seemed that infancy would last forever and I was so tired it seemed like even just a year was forever away
So, now 25 years have gone by, he’s all grown up and lives far away on his own and is doing great. I can’t believe what a wonderful boy and now a wonderful man he turned out to be. I think if I knew how he would turn out I might not have worried so much. I do wish I’d slowed down a bit and enjoyed the times more when he was little.
I told him once I was proud of something he had done and he just said, “That’s the way you raised me.” But I told him I really can’t pinpoint one thing I did that was so special or take all the credit. Like I said to him, if I knew the secret I’d bottle it and sell it and be set for life! Who wouldn’t want a great son like him? I think we just all do the best we can and other than that we have to leave it in the hands of the Lord. I know I’ve made plenty of mistakes! Once when he was sick as a baby I remember sitting up with him praying and I just told God, “I give him to you like Hannah gave you her Samuel.” I’ve always felt that God had a special plan and purpose for him and special care for him after that.
As for me, it’s hard not to be very sad at this time because we can’t be together. I miss making him his birthday cake like always but I know there are wonderful people there who will fill in the gaps for me. It’s always hard to be away from family and loved ones on special days and holidays and I’ve been struggling with homesickness anyway. I don’t think the constant rainy, grey weather we’ve had all week helps any either.
Robbie had a job interview yesterday, the 5th for a job with the social services department. Before he went away we had a bit of a practice and coaching session for the interview. I asked him questions and gave him feedback and suggestions to help him prepare. He took the train in to Edinburgh so he didn’t have to drive. Apparently the interview was at a hotel not far from Waverly Station so it wasn’t a far walk or he didn’t have to take a taxi. He’s not sure how it went. He said he felt satisfied with how he did during most of it. He wishes he had answered some questions differently now but you always go back and second guess yourself. We’ll just have to see how it all comes out later. The first thing he said, though, when he came home was that he was glad it was over!
Tonight we’re starting a new Bible study at church in Philippians so I’m looking forward to that. They haven’t had a weekly Bible study in a while since the previous minister had gotten sick and now is no longer there. There hasn’t been one since I’ve been here so it will be nice to have one again.
Not much else to report. This was one of those weeks where nothing much happened so I was not very motivated to send out a blog—and that’s why it’s a day late too! Anyway, just remember to be careful for what you wish for and really take the time to enjoy the people you love right now. And that’s with my love and appreciation to you all!

May 21, 2009 I Know Some “Successful” People

I know I’m a little late this week with my blog. For the first part of this week I’ve been having trouble sleeping to the point that Tuesday night I had such bad insomnia I was up almost the entire night. This left me useless to do almost anything Wednesday and I didn’t even make it to the Bible Study which disappointed me. At least last night, I guess through sheer exhaustion, I was able to sleep most of the night which actually makes me feel even groggier today. Still, I’ll try to press on because and maybe unload a few things that have been on my mind.

I don’t think I’m the only one these days revisiting the definition of “success”. Lots of people are finding out that all the things they depended on to define them as a successful or valuable person are now gone. What good is the high-powered job if it keeps you too busy to spend time with and care for your family and then is taken away during an economic downturn? What good is a big house if it takes two of you to pay for it and the kids have to go to daycare and then you still can’t pay for it if something happens? What good are cars, electronics, furniture, etc. if our credit cards are so overloaded that we can’t pay for them? WHO are we trying to impress? Who are we living for?

Now before I start preaching what most people have already been saying I just want to confess that I personally have spent too much of my time living to fulfill other people’s perceptions of what I “should” be. I myself had my own expectations about the life I “should” be living and how it should turn out. As many of you can imagine it sure didn’t turn out the way I planned it!

I think that’s part of my trouble with sleeplessness. Nothing lately is the way it “should” be. Neither my husband or my son have a job which makes them both, in the eyes of some, unsuccessful in life if your definition of a successful man is one who has a job that earns a lot of money. I, myself, am in a foreign country way out of my comfort zone, Yes, we all need money and we all need to earn a living but we all know there’s more to life than just that.

My son and my husband are godly men and I’m so grateful for that. Both of them when they lost their jobs turned to prayer first. It makes me so proud to have raised a son whose first response to losing his job is hitting his knees and asking God for direction and then secondly looking for ways to use this time to be of service to others. Robbie, too, is doing the same thing. We pray over job interviews and sometimes I’ll find him in the bedroom next to the computer on his knees. Too long I’ve wasted my time in thinking how I’m living up to others’ expectations (usually I’m falling far short and failing!) and not even wondering or worrying about living up to God’s expectations or living in His plan. As I said, His plan sure brought me to a place in my life I never thought I’d be!

There are two Scriptures I looked up because they came to mind as I was typing: I John 2:15-17:”Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” And Psalm 119: 105-112: (I like the way the Message translation says this)

“By your words I can see where I'm going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path. I've committed myself and I'll never turn back from living by your righteous order. Everything's falling apart on me, God; put me together again with your Word. Festoon me with your finest sayings, God; teach me your holy rules. My life is as close as my own hands, but I don't forget what you have revealed. The wicked do their best to throw me off track, but I don't swerve an inch from your course. I inherited your book on living; it's mine forever— what a gift! And how happy it makes me! I concentrate on doing exactly what you say— I always have and always will.”
Both of these verses talk about other people trying to get us off the path or not understanding why we are where we are. I guess that’s one of the harder things about living how you think God wants you to live. There will always be other people who think we’re crazy or don’t get it. Don’t get me wrong, I like my creature comforts as much (maybe more) than the next person! But when do we say enough is enough? When does the “things” we have and want get in the way of our walk with God? And isn’t that Idolatry? My only hope for this “credit crunch” (boy am I SICK to the back teeth of those two words!) is that maybe some people will wake up out there and start to wonder what it is they’re chasing and spending so much time on and if it’s all worth it in the end.
I know this hasn’t been the usual “newsy” email and I apologize for “preaching to the choir” but it’s something that’s been on my mind. Just put it down to lack of sleep or something. My mind has been wandering a lot lately. As what’s been going on around here, we’ve been having a lot of rain and gloomy days weather-wise. I’ve gotten some flowers planted and Robbie got me some verbena but I don’t have any more pots left. I’m waiting for my tulips and daffodils to be done in the pot in the front so I can plant the verbena. He just got back from taking his auntie for some physiotherapy for a back problem and while he was gone we had sleet! It was a lovely sunny morning and then it got cold and cloudy and started to sleet. He just came up looking for his glasses—he’s put them down somewhere and can’t find them (absent-minded professor, sigh!) So, life here is as normal as it will get.
We have a leak of some kind in the bathroom and Robbie can’t seem to pin it down but it’s ruined the rug. Aww, too bad, we’ll have to get a new rug (hated it anyway!) J Looking out my window right now I can see that lovely golden light you get after a rain. The sky in front of me is grey with clouds but the sun is shining behind the house making everything almost glow. The other day we had a lovely big rainbow out our front window because of that effect. OH! Yes, there’s a rainbow right now! Second one this week! Sorry folks, I tried to take a picture but the batteries in my camera are too low, drat it. You’ll all just have to imagine it. Better go and get busy. Laundry never waits for anyone!

May 27, 2009 I Hate Summer Colds!

I really didn’t expect to sit down today and write because I’m still not completely recovered from whatever sinus crud I’ve been laid low with since last Friday. At first, I thought it was just a spring cold and I really didn’t feel too bad with it but then Monday it turned into almost a hay fever-type thing with the burning sinuses and itchy eyes and ears and sneezing. That on top of the barking-like-a-seal coughing I was already doing and my nose running like a faucet it’s been just magic here! I’ve discovered that my poor husband is pretty useless as a nurse. He tends to stand at the bedside and wring his hands (yes, literally) and say things like “I hate to see you sick” or “what do you want me to do?” and just generally act helpless. As long as I have the energy to give him very specific and clearly detailed directions and instructions he’s fine and he cheerfully and enthusiastically fetches and carries and otherwise waits on me hand and foot but I can’t rely on him to think of anything for himself or to take any hints (“you know coffee doesn’t really taste good when you have a cold” for the third time as he brings me a cup of coffee). But then, I guess it’s a “man” thing and unless they have been well trained (hello my son!) you can’t expect men to be good “mommies”.
With all of that I haven’t ventured out the house much—I hadn’t even gotten dressed for the past two days—but the weather here has been pretty foul so I’m not missing much. The forecast was calling for frost over the weekend but I don’t think we got any because, thank goodness, all the flowers I set out seem to still be all right. Yesterday we got sleet again along with pouring down rain.
Robbie had gone out Monday night to play some chess with some members of his chess club. He is really missing his weekly meetings and even though he can play online with lots of people he actually misses the physical interaction of playing someone across a board (or so he tells me). The club had lost their usual venue because the pub they had been meeting at (in a back room) was renovating so Monday they met in a place called The Badger’s Brook. Now I’m picturing a really quaint-type pub but reality could be quite different. He said it was pretty nice but then that’s what he says about most everything! He also “attended” a computer software seminar online yesterday and went to Edinburgh to another seminar about funding your own business. So, he’s keeping busy even though it’s not making us any money...yet.
Sunday night was the big night for TV in that Susan Boyle was finally going to be on again on Britain’s Got Talent show. Probably one of the most anticipated singing performances in a very long time and the pressure on the poor woman must have been incredible. Robbie and I had been talking about what it must be like for someone like her to suddenly be thrust into the harsh light of ‘fame” and everyone you ever knew coming out of the woodwork to talk about you and people dredging up old videos of you or pictures that would make you want to cringe. Even the papers, although trying to be complimentary, have really been harsh with headlines about her calling her the “hairy angel” etc.
Robbie’s cousin Robert Owen and his auntie both think they remember her singing at some of the clubs here in Fauldhouse (either the Miner’s Welfare or Masonic) in years past. There are a lot of good natural singers around here and apparently it’s not unusual when you go out to the pub or club to karaoke or have a “sing song” or talent shows where you get up and sing so that’s what she’s done in the past. Now everyone wants to claim they heard her sing once.
As I said, though, her performance Sunday was greatly anticipated and I don’t doubt a lot of people were hoping that she might fail. She got off to a very shaky start that almost seemed like nerves and my heart dropped. It was almost like expecting a train wreck but at the last minute and half way into the song she seemed to get her feet and then came back with a good performance. There you go girl! You had us worried for a minute! If you haven't seen it yet, I think you can probably see it on YouTube. Of course we had to vote for her and I imagine most everyone in Scotland did so she got the most votes and goes on to the finals on Saturday. There are a lot of good acts and a couple of other very talented singers that have already gotten through so she’s got some stiff competition. We’ll just have to wait and see. I mentioned all this because I know there’s been a lot of interest in her over there in the US and I expect if she doesn’t win the competition here she can go over there and have a decent career.
If she’s as stuck in the mud of Scotland as my husband is, however, she won’t go anywhere! I’ve been—I think because you feel emotionally weak when you’re physically ill—really pushing him about moving back to the States. It’s not been for want of trying that he’s not gotten work here and I don’t even know now if it will be that easy there but I really am wanting to move back. Badly! I was reading a book yesterday that was partially set in colonial Virginia and it was killing me! Every place it described I’d been and I could see it, feel it, smell it and experience it so vividly it was like I was there again.
I know it’s going to involve a lot of red tape and it won’t be an easy solution or a quick process. I don’t think Robbie would feel good about it unless he had a job lined up to go to but for the first time in a long time he’s actually talking about it and he’s looked at some sites and emailed someone about a job there yesterday (funnily enough her name is Mary Lou). As with everything it’s in the Lord’s hands but I am so ready to come back home!
I think I’ve really typed enough today. My head is starting to get fuzzy again and it looks like my higher brain functions might be fading away! Time to call down to “room service” for lunch. We have an intercom system on our phone so I can call down to the living room to Robbie and see if he’ll bring me a tuna sandwich and juice. The man has me spoiled rotten!
Hope everyone keeps healthy this week—take your vitamins and get plenty of rest! Well, it’s always easier to give advice than to take it isn’t it?

Written on 6/11 and typed by Robbie) Two Steps is a Long Way Down
I had wanted to write last week--I started really I did! The first week of June, last few days of May were fun with lots to report: we had unusually wonderful weather (sunny and in the 70's with no rain for over a week), Robbie barbequed outside for the first time in his life and we went to see the new "Star Trek" movie at the Odeon in Wester Hailes (outside Edinburgh). BUT all that will have to wait. I'm not even sure when I'll be able to type again (I've written this out longhand). The reason is this: Tuesday afternoon around 4:30 I took another tumble off the stairs out of our back door. Those of you I wrote to then will remember how I slipped the first Winter I was here, but then I could at least blame it on the ice. this time I have no excuse other than the door sill or my own feet. I really don't know or can't remember what actually happened. One minute I was opening the back door with the laundry basket to take it out to the garage, I took as step and the next thing I remember was being on the ground. Robbie was in the living room and came out quickly but we had a very hard time getting me on my feet. I could definitely tell that my left hand was broken because it was at a funny angle and my left leg was hurt. At the time it seemed almost impossible to get me up but we finally managed and went straight to the car. We drove to St. John's, the nearest hospital, which is in Livingston. It seemed to take forever; it is a half hour to forty-five minute drive depending on the traffic (it seemed more like the second because of all the traffic). During the trip my leg began to pain me more and I started seeing stars. I had a huge bruise on my leg that was beginning to swell and I must have hit the left side of my face on the edge of the terrace because I tasted blood in my mouth and I had a huge gash inside my cheek and a large bruise outside. I felt around in my mouth for my teeth and they seemed fine, none loose, which was a relief. So Robbie drove to St. John's A&E (not the TV channel it's what they call the ER!), and I began to have excruciating pain in my leg because it was so swollen, and my wrist was fractured. I had to spend Tuesday night and Wednesday in the hospital. On Wednesday they had to realign my wrist by anesthetizing my arm and manipulating the bones back in place. It was just like the scene in Harry Potter "Chamber of Secrets" were he loses all the bones in his arm! I'll have to tell you more later about the nice Irish doctors and the lovely nurses and the laughing gas... At the same time the plastic surgeon was working on my leg and ended up draining a little too much blood out of it. Because of that, I had to spend Wednesday night in the hospital on bed rest. I wasn't even allowed to walk to the bathroom. I was kept in the observation ward with three other women in the room which did not make me comfortable but could have been worse. Another thing I'll have to tell you later is all about my "room mates"...
(written 16th June)
They finally let me come home Thursday evening and I've had nurses in every day to change the dressing on my leg. I'm still in quite a bit of pain and poor Robert has to help me do the most basic things - fetch and carry for me - since I am supposed to keep my leg elevated and they don't want me walking much. My left wrist is in a cast and my bruises are healing, but I'm having trouble sleeping because I have to stay on my back. I will recover but it looks like it will be a long drawn out process and may be harder on Robbie than on me. Pray for us please and I will try to keep you updated, that is if my secretary will cooperate. For now, everyone stay safe and well,

11 August 2009, Tuesday Prayer Request and the Latest News

By now most everyone who gets this knows about my fall in early June and my subsequent all-summer-long recovery. I am glad to say that I have been out of my cast for the broken left wrist for over 2 weeks now and my leg is nearing full recovery. Last Friday when I went back to the clinic after my two week stint in the hospital they took the “mummy wrapping” type bandages off and now I have what almost looks like just a big band aid (really, really big) and a sock to cover it with just an antibacterial crème over the wound. It’s amazing how much skin has grown just in the last two weeks to cover almost half of the wound. For something that almost covered the whole front part of my leg below the knee and was in some places about an inch and a half deep this is pretty impressive. God really did a wonderful thing giving our bodies the ability to heal.
So I’ve now got that behind me but another concern (ok, yeah, worry) has now popped up and this time it’s Robbie. Sunday afternoon Aug. 2nd he was carrying the laundry basket down the stairs (yes the same one I had when I fell—beginning to think that thing is cursed!) and he had what he calls a “funny turn”. He said he felt dizzy and his chest hurt so that he had to sit down. He didn’t pass out or anything but he said it felt as if he was having heart palpitations. I was upstairs and didn’t know anything until he came up and was standing by my bedside table where I keep my things and asked me for some aspirin. This was odd because of his asthma medication I knew he isn’t supposed to take aspirin so I kept questioning him as he was taking it. He then told me about his “turn”. I made him sit on the bed and felt his pulse. It was fast but not too abnormal. The only other symptom he said he had was that his chin hurt like he’d been in a fight.
I guess you can imagine the concern and worry this can cause. I made him call the doctor on Monday because by this time he hadn’t had any other symptoms and said he felt just fine. We were able to get in to see the doctor on Tuesday afternoon and he said that Robbie’s blood pressure was just slightly high but that frequently happens the first time for many people (it always is for me). He prescribed a spray to take under his tongue if he has any chest pain. He lined up more tests and Robbie had an ECG (we call them EKG) the next day and they said there might be a slight irregularity. He was to go into the hospital for a chest x-ray whenever he could and so we thought it would be most convenient to go last Friday when I had my appointment at the clinic. So while the nurses were working on my leg he was down having a chest x-ray. Tomorrow, Aug. 13th he’s scheduled at 9:00 for a fasting blood test to check his cholesterol.
He went yesterday to see the Practice Nurse for his annual asthma checkup (he usually has a bad time of it in Sept. every year so last year we talked about allergies and he has antihistamines to take starting in Aug.). While he was there the Doctor called him into his office about his recent ECG. The doctor told him that on first glance it shows his episode might have been a heart attack. Of course another cause of the reading could be equipment error so the doctor is putting him in for a further stress test (monitoring his heart while on a treadmill). He should be receiving an appt. with the cardiologist in about 2 weeks.
Since that Sunday afternoon he says he's had no other pain or episodes like he had and he walked himself to the doctor's and back yesterday and last week. He's been up and down the stairs every day and has had no ill effects and hasn’t needed to even want to use the spray. So we're hoping for the best. It is still a great concern and it doesn't help that his asthma makes him breathless sometimes. I find myself waking up at night and not being able to sleep because I'm listening to see if he's breathing!
I’m sure I’ll be writing in future with more details about my recovery and all the “fun” I had in the hospital—my close up view of the NHS that I never wanted to have! It’s good to have two hands back and able to type but my wrist gets a little achy when I’ve been typing for too long and I still have a bit of stiffness and swelling. I’ve been doing exercises they gave me so hopefully I’ll be back to full range of motion with little or no ill effects.
Thank you all for the prayers that I know—I felt—from you all and please, please, keep Robbie’s health in your daily prayers. Thanks and God be with you all. Lots of Love, Janet