Tuesday, 10 July 2012

My Life So Far 
and Something I Need You to Help Me With

Let me start out with the most obvious thing: The Weather. The following is today's report from our local TV channel.  Notice, before you skim over this, two things: 1) More than 3 months worth of rain fell in June and 2) wetter weather will be easing off (not stopping mind you) later this week before starting again next week. They are calling this the Monsoon Summer and have said that we have gotten more rain in June since records have been kept with a month's worth of rain falling in one day!


Heavy rain and flooding warning in east as wet weather continues

More rain: The Met Office have issued an amber alert for Edinburgh.
"More flooding is expected as heavy and persistent rain is forecast from Tuesday onwards.
South-east Scotland will bear the brunt of this latest weather front which is likely to cause flooding.
Edinburgh has been issued an amber weather warning from the Met Office for Wednesday with a possibility of 50mm of rainfall. (that's nearly 2 inches to you)
The Borders, Lothian, Central, Tayside and Fife have a yellow alert for Tuesday and Wednesday.
The forecast comes just three days after major flooding in the capital which affected up to 40 properties in the Stockbridge area with some residents unable to return to their homes for months.
STV’s weatherman Sean Batty confirmed that persistent rain was predicted for Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday.
He said: “The heaviest and most persistent rain can be expected across the south-east of the country where flooding is likely. A few inches of rain are likely to fall over parts of Edinburgh, Lothians, Fife, Falkirk, Clackmannanshire and the Borders during Tuesday and Wednesday.
“With high water tables in eastern areas after such a wet start to summer, the additional rain from this event will lie on the surface and create flooding. Low-lying fields and streets with bad drainage are the most prone areas for flooding.
“Drivers may find driving tricky tomorrow with a lot of surface water expected on the roads. Visibility will be severely reduced, especially on motorways, and my advice to motorists would be to allow extra time for journeys and drive with extra care.”
In addition to the heavy rain in the east there is also the risk of localised flooding in the west including Lanarkshire and Glasgow on Wednesday afternoon.
However, later in the week the wet weather is expected to ease off. Sean said: “From Thursday showers should be easing off with a good deal of dry weather around. This should hopefully allow the rainwater time to soak into the ground before more rain comes in later next week.”
More than three months worth of rain fell in June alone at the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden which was the wettest place in Scotland that month."
Here are a couple of pictures I took out back last month:
My wet garden
Some of the flowers Kailee planted when they were here are up on the bench so they don't flood.The blue bucket in the back is brimming over with rainwater.
I know, I know, back in the US most places have been having severe drought and hot--as in hotter than Hades--or as my favorite quote from the movie "Biloxi Blues" says: And believe me, I know what this feels like because I've been in Mississippi when it's been that hot (Pascagoula but we shopped in Biloxi) and it was February
So I have been having a debate back and forth for a couple of months with my Facebook friends: is it worse to be hot & dry or cold and wet? Right now I know which one I'd choose and I've been telling people I'll gladly trade places or send you ALL the cold and wet weather you'd like if you'd only send me some SUNSHINE!
You may remember a post I wrote back in November 2011 about having S.A.D. (Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder), if not the link is: http://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=992117099817378061#editor/target=post;postID=883195533008176249 and even though this mostly effects people in the winter months I think our long periods of sunless days lately have hit me hard. I have really been at the point where life seems pointless and everything is useless. I am used to, and expect long days (more than one at a time!!) of warmth and sunshine in the summer. I want to eat tomatoes off the vine and watermelon and iced tea. Don't get me wrong, in the temperatures you've been having over in the US lately, I'd be the first one running for the AC! I don't like to be hot, hot and sweaty. I've lived in Virginia summers without air conditioning and it's NO fun! Yes, I feel your pain but I also feel a bit envious too right now.
I also know part of my depression, "blues", "slough of despond" ("swamp of despair", John Bunyan--look it up), "black dog"  or whatever you want to call it, is a reaction to the kids, Ben & Kailee, going back home after our wonderful visit. I regret not blogging about that but anyone on Facebook could follow along on our photos and trips and we were so busy it was hard to write at the same time.
Still, whatever the cause, I need to snap myself out of it, as my S.A.D. post kept saying. I've wallowed long enough I think. Since the weekend I've been looking for a way to get myself out of this quicksand of despair. I posted my status today on Facebook and wanted to follow it up in a blog post. This is a quote I read today: "I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." GK Chesterton and I followed it up with this as a comment: I need to get more gratitude in my life to combat these "blues" I've been having for a couple of months. I could blame it on the weather or the depression of missing my loved ones but whatever is causing it, I can't wallow any more. I HAVE to start focusing on what's good in my life and let the rest of the messy stuff go to sort itself out!
And that just about sums it all up. Yes, there has been a bit of drama but it's not really for public consumption and I can't really go into it here. Needless to say, I can get myself really wound up by focusing on the wrong things and forgetting what's good in my life.

Now here's the part where I need your help. I need as many people as I can get to keep me accountable and remind me of my blessings when I forget. I am going to resolve to be more grateful and talk about it more and I need you all to keep me honest. Is it a deal? And along with that, I hope it will remind you to look for the blessings in your life and be more grateful too. Remember: 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


Recently I've been following a friend's saga on Facebook dealing with the difficulties she's been having with the remodeling of her bathroom. Reading about her dealings with contractors and plumbers made me remember some of the experiences I've had here with plumbers and the like so I thought it might make a good topic for my next blog because it, again, points out some of the differences between life here and life in the US. As I told her, to me, plumbing and electricity are so very different here it's like we're on a different planet!

I'm definitely NOT
a Handy Woman!
I probably don't have to say it but I will: I know very little about how plumbing and electricity work. When I lived on my own I could sort of fix a toilet and understood how it worked. I installed and hooked up a DVD player to my cable box and TV all by myself and I knew how to use a plug and screw in a light bulb. Over here, I cannot do ANY of these things. I just don't get how they all work! Well, I can plug in a plug into a socket and I now know how to change a light bulb but both are VERY different, as I'll show you. 

So, yes, I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to DIY or home repairs or household maintenance. Most of what I'm going to say might make some men sneer or snicker but hey, we all have our areas of expertise don't we? For example, Sparky, do YOU know how to make a cheesecake or get blood stains out of clothes? Oh, and that last wasn't a threat just in case you're wondering. I'm not getting all "I'm woman hear me roar..." but I digress. I just want to make sure you all understand that any explanations are from my own understanding and might not have anything to do with the truth or how things actually work--just how I think they do! 

A boiler somewhat like ours
Once, oh, it must have been about a year or more ago we had an issue with our boiler leaking.  The best way I can explain the boiler is that it's the main way the water is heated and this is also how we heat the house. I'm not sure if hot water circulates to the radiators or not but it's somehow all tied in together. There are no such things, that I know of, as a hot water heater like we have in the US. All I know is that if your boiler goes you lose your heat and hot water. We were lucky, though, because even though the boiler was leaking we still had both hot water and heat.

Robert called a couple of people who knew people to come look at it and the quickest guy he could get to come out was a pretty rough guy from Glasgow who never smiled. Now, Glasgow gets a bad rep. for being rough and full of drunks and gangsters and the Glaswegian accent is notorious for being more incomprehensible than most. For those of you who haven't seen this, it's time for a wee video break:

I used to send this to friends and family back home not only because it's funny but because I would say, "See what I'm up against?" Glasgow is supposed to be more "working class" than Edinburgh but it's a really lovely city and I like it. It's sort of like the bad rep. New Jersey gets--not everyone who is from there was an extra on The Sopranos (I've heard, I think..Right?).

Still, this plumber guy could have been a stereotype and so right off the bat he made me feel a bit uneasy. He wasn't scary or anything and his helper was as happy and smiley and friendly as he was grouchy. He poked around a while upstairs with the boiler and then came downstairs and asked me the million dollar question: "Do you have an electric shower?" I said, "Do I have a WHAT?" Now earlier he had been telling me something about the boiler and I had been doing my usual, "nod and smile" routine giving it an "mmhmm" every now and then but mostly I had no idea what he was saying. So when he asked me if we had an electric shower I thought I had heard him wrong. He repeated it, "Do you have an electric shower?" giving me an exasperated look. I told him I had no idea what kind of shower we had but I couldn't imagine we had an electric one. He went back upstairs and then came down again and told me with a bit of an eye roll that we did have an electric shower. I told him that where I come from electricity and water DON'T mix but I don't think he found that amusing. He fixed our boiler but I'm sure he thought I was dumber than a box of rocks!

To this day I still don't understand what an electric shower is or why you have it or even where the electricity comes in. The only thing I know is that it has something to do with heating the water to the shower and works kind of like a mixer valve to mix the hot and cold water. Some of them also help to maintain the pressure of the water and make it more of a power shower but ours is definitely not that! 
An Electric Shower--not quite
like the one we have but similar
The inside of the electric shower

There you have it and if you can figure it out you're better than I am. But it's not just the showers (which are an afterthought in any bathroom really because most people prefer baths). To me, the whole plumbing set up is more complicated than it needs to be, or they just do things much differently.
Bathroom Plumbing, UK

Bathroom Plumbing US
I don't know which one looks easier or better but they do look different. To me it looks like you have a lot more pipes and paraphernalia in the UK bathroom. Like I said, showers are kind of an add-on thing even in new houses. I think showers are becoming more popular and accepted here but most people prefer taking a bath not a shower. 

Not only is the plumbing different but so is the electricity. Don't ask me about AC or DC or which is which. All I know is that the plugs are very different and there's a switch on the outlet where you can actually turn something off or on, when it's plugged in or switched on.

The switches on the outlet turn the plug
on and off. The one on the right is on

This shows the different sorts of prongs
going into the socket

One other thing that I thought was odd is that the plugs also have fuses in them. Once our TV kept going off for no reason and Robert said that the plug needed a new fuse. I said, "What? The plug needs a fuse??" I had never heard of such a thing. Like I said, it feel like I'm not only in a different country but a different planet!

Now let's talk light bulbs. When we were first furnishing the house we did some of our shopping at Ikea. I had chosen two lamps for the living room and a small desk lamp for the desk. I thought nothing of the fact that they required screw-in light bulbs--after all, that's what a light bulb does right? OH NO...you'd have thought I'd asked for Aladdin's Magic Lamp the way Robbie carried on. Apparently screw-in light bulbs are a rarity here and Robbie thought we'd have to go to Ikea every time we needed a light bulb (which I've found is not the case, they do have them elsewhere). The problem for him was that Ikea was a whole 30-40 miles away (they have a different idea of distance here). So he's never let me forget the mistake I made in choosing these lamps. So what kind of light bulbs do they have? Well,  they have prongs on the end and you sort of push them in and maybe sort of twist. I have a hard time getting them to go in right and usually have to ask Robert.

A typical UK light bulb

The EU has banned all incandescent light bulbs
in a ridiculous move to save energy so now
pretty much all you can buy are the energy
saving fluorescent bulbs. They are, of course, much
more expensive and much dimmer. I hate them.
As I said earlier, I may not have been Mrs. Handywoman but I could at least change a light bulb. Here, I'm not so sure. It kind of throws you off and you feel a bit incompetent. Things you used to take for granted and understand, if not well, at least enough to get by are now completely unknown and topsy-turvey to me. 

So, those are just some of the things I'm trying to get used to and deal with. I must say, it was easier, to me, when I could just plug in a 2-pronged plug and didn't have to flip a switch, screw in a light bulb and not have to worry about electricity in my shower! But maybe that's just me...

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

or is it??

Today, February 21, 2012 is Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnivale, or Pancake Day.  It's the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Everyone knows about Mardi Gras thanks to the celebrations in New Orleans and Carnivale has long roots as far back as Roman times and you might have heard of Shrove Tuesday if you're an Anglophile or like reading medieval literature. 

It's really all the same, essentially. It's the day before the beginning of Lent when you either use up your soon-to-be forbidden items or celebrate in one big blow out, deprivations, supposedly, coming up. I suppose if you want to do more research about the history or religious connotations you can Google it or check Wikipedia.

But, the reason I'm writing this is not to go into the history or religious significance of Lent or pre-Lent, I want to write--ok, RANT--about pancakes! Since this is a blog that I've been using to point out some of the cultural differences between the US and the UK I think this is a perfect time to shine the light on another GLARING  difference.  
The problem is this: What do we consider a "pancake"? If you look at the picture of the "pancakes" above they will not look like the pancake most every American is used to. Here in the UK pancakes are made with just flour milk and eggs, maybe a bit of butter. For those of you who cook, you will notice an essential ingredient missing: Baking Powder and baking soda! In other words the British "pancake" has no leavening agent to make them raise so they come out very thin and flat--which is, as I think you'll see in any cookbook, a CREPE!

Another difference is the topping. As any red-blooded American knows it's maple syrup and butter all the way. Ok, ok, I know that in IHOP there is a whole rack of syrups and some people have other favorites like blueberry syrup but if you think of pancakes (you Americans that is) the first image that comes to your mind, traditionally is this:

See, nice light, cake-like inside

On the other hand, here in the UK, the preferred and traditional way to serve "pancakes" is with a squeeze of lemon juice and sugar. 
Or you can see in this video how Delia Smith (the UK equivalent to Julia Child or Betty Crocker) does it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QE0KEtWAmEw
As you can see on the video, tossing your pancake is very popular and they even have pancake tossing competitions and pancake races in places and villages.
 Of course when the pancake is thin like these it is easier to toss.

I was, by way of contrast, going to look up one of my old recipes for pancakes from scratch but I think everyone pretty much knows how to do it--if not, go to any recipe or food site: www.southernliving.com, www.allrecipes.com or even YouTube. 

My favorite pancake is buttermilk pancakes and the easiest way, and what for me turn out the best, is to just use Bisquick and follow their recipe. I always used buttermilk rather than milk even though there's buttermilk powder in Bisquick. I just like the extra flavor. 
But, since Bisquick is sometimes hard to find here, I have to usually, make them from scratch which has been a real challen for me, I'll tell you that. Buttermilk is also sometimes hard to find so I do think that my pancakes haven't been as good since I've been here. 
Check out the price of Bisquick here from Amazon:http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bisuick-Bisquick-PUSA-567g/dp/B003ZZ8E7I/ref=sr_1_1?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1329838117&sr=1-1 That roughly translates to about $8.00 a box!

So, back to "Pancake Day". One thing I do have to say about the Scots, in the grocery stores you can buy what's called Scotch pancakes which are very similar to what we would call a "Silver Dollar" pancake. It's the same as our pancakes just smaller. The one thing they don't do "right" is that they usually eat them at tea or dinner as a dessert with butter and/or jam. Sometimes they just roll it up and eat it in place of a scone, in fact Robert insists that pancakes like I make it are really what they call "drop scones". 

And there you have it, another cultural difference and I have had my annual rant. You will usually find me shouting to the TV: "THOSE AREN'T PANCAKES!" today. As far as I'm concerned, Shrove Tuesday ought to be called Crepe Day not Pancake Day! 

However you spend it, here's hoping your day is just how you like it: either sweet and tart with lemon and sugar or rich and sweet with maple syrup!  

Sunday, 12 February 2012

janetl621's Favorites | foodgawker


janetl621's Favorites | foodgawker

I have found the coolest site. It's called foodgawker and it picks and chooses from multitudes of food blogs and then posts some amazing recipes. These are just some of my favorites (click on the link above and you'll see). The pictures look good enough to eat on most of them and some of the links have taken me to a lot of fun new blogs. There's so many really interesting people out there doing some really interesting things with food! This is really widening my horizons...and probably other parts of my anatomy! Ah well, that's life for a foodie! Between this site and Pinterest, which I have literally fallen in love with...oh my goodness...(I'll blog more about this soon but you could check me out there at http://pinterest.com/janetlmccord/!), I have not moved from the computer all Sunday afternoon/evening. Good thing Robbie got a frozen lasagna for dinner!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Scottish saying for New Years: 
Literally translated: "Long may your chimney smoke"
I'll hold my hands up and admit I'm horribly late getting this posted. I could use the excuse that I was fighting colds during the first weeks of January (true) and that I was having technical problems with Blogspot in which everything I had previously done seemed to disappear or reappear in the wrong place (also true) but really, there were times when I could have forced myself to sit down and write this but I didn't. 

It's hard to recapture the holiday spirit after so much time has elapsed and it seems, although it's only been a month, that Christmas was a long time ago. There's been a dusting of snow on the ground today from the last evening's flakes so I guess that's the closest I'm going to get here to re-create a Christmas feeling--although this year, unlike the last 2 years, we did NOT have a white Christmas. 

The tree in "soft focus"
Most of the people I've heard from or about said that this year's holiday was a very good one. Many people said that they had scaled back and bit and enjoyed it more. It was one of the most enjoyable I've had since I've been here too so hopefully this will remind you of happy memories of your Christmas and New Years.

First of all, I wanted to try to do as much ahead of time and plan and organize things so that it would make it easier and I wasn't running around like crazy at the last minute to get everything done on the day. I talked Robbie into at least getting out all the boxes from the "cupboard under the stairs" on the first of December. Now that doesn't mean that we got the decorations put up, we just had lots of boxes sitting in the living room for a while until I felt like tackling them or I could coerce Robbie into putting the lights on the tree. I think it took another week to finally get everything out and up. 

Robbie said that it looked very nice this year and someone else remarked that it was a pretty tree but I don't think I did anything differently than last year. I just have accumulated a few very nice ornaments and I love my old-fashioned glass Thomas Pacconi ornaments I got from QVC many years ago. Unfortunately quite a few of them got broken being shipped over here but I still have enough left to pretty much fill our small tree. One of the things I like best about getting out the decorations is seeing all the lovely things that you accumulate year after year and seeing old "friends" again! 

My Christmas Boyd's Bear--
he plays music too
This is like my snowmen set but
Robbie broke one of the little ones
last year  :(
It's always nice to see things you'd almost forgotten you had and that bring back so many good memories of happy times.

So I guess you could say that one of the reasons this Christmas was nicer was that we were able to get our decorations up earlier than in past years and thus could have longer to enjoy them!

This year, like times in the past I didn't want to go to a lot of unnecessary trouble and mess by going overboard on the food and baking and cooking. If you look at past blogs I've written about Christmas here there are very specific foods that are "necessary" for Christmas dinner. Usually it's turkey with dressing or stuffing balls, surrounded by chipolatas (small sausages) wrapped in bacon called "pigs in blanket , roast potatoes in goose fat, brussel sprouts and maybe roast parsnips followed by the steamed Christmas pudding, mince pies or Christmas cake. 
The typical Christmas dinner. Around the turkey you can see the pigs in blanket and stuffing balls. To the left going counter-clockwise is sprouts, probably mashed swede (turnips), roast carrots & parsnips, might be broccoli, I'm not sure, gravy, bread sauce and roast potatoes.

Traditional Christmas Pudding
("Oh bring us a figgy pudding")
usually set alight with brandy
Cute little mince pies

A Christmas cake
Looks lovely doesn't it?
But--inside is hiding the terrible fruitcake that nobody
wants to eat!

See? Fruitcake surrounded by
marzipan covered over with fondant
Or for further information and recipes you can check out this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/menus/classic_family_christmas_dinner

Now having said all that, that's NOT what we did for Christmas dinner! Other than the roast potatoes,  sprouts and mince pies we had a different dinner. Robbie's aunt Nancy doesn't like turkey or chicken and it's customary (can't really say traditional because it's not always the case) in his family to have steak pie for Christmas dinner. And Robbie doesn't really like parsnips so they were off the menu. None of us were really keen on the Christmas pudding or cake so forget that too.

Not knowing how to make--and to be honest, not really wanting to know--the kind of steak pie (or we'd call it a pot pie) that they're used to, I turned to the frozen ready made kind from the supermarket. Asda (British Wal-Mart) was having a 2 for 1 sale on frozen pies in many varieties so I called Robbie up to the computer a week before Christmas and asked him which kind he thought would be the best. 

He had cleaned out and defrosted the little freezer we have in the garage so there was plenty of room to keep the stuff and I was determined to get my shopping done ahead of time to not only avoid the rush (even when you shop online you can get disappointed if you wait too long) and the shortages plus I wanted to take advantage of the sales. 

So the week before, I did my shopping online and ordered everything we could think of needing for our Christmas meal. It was great because in addition to the frozen ready made pies I didn't have to cook, I also ordered frozen sprouts with chestnuts and bacon and frozen roast potatoes. In the past I was never able to make my roast potatoes crispy like they do here so these were pre-basted and ready for the oven. I don't think, other than frying up some bacon to add to the sprouts, I cooked one thing! It was all just heat from frozen. I loved it! 
Steak Pie and Roast Potatoes

Brussel sprouts with chestnuts & bacon

Our Christmas table
Now that's not to say that I didn't do any baking. I made two of the "pumpkin" (aka sweet potato) pies like I had made for Thanksgiving and also decided to make two kinds of Christmas cookies. This year I thought I'd try Mom's butter cookies she made every year at Christmas when I was growing up. One of the things she always complained about was how hard it was to find chopped blanched almonds but here they're easy to get. What was hard for me to find was the vanilla bean! Since I'd never made them before I wasn't sure how they would turn out but they weren't too bad. ALMOST tasted like Mom's but, of course, not as good. Along with those I made ginger snaps which were always Ben's favorite cookie. 
Mom's Butter Cookies

Ginger Snaps
Selection of nibbles,
 smoked salmon pate, cheese plate
and mince pies.

If anyone would like the recipes for any of these just email me and I'll be happy to share. 

Ok, we have food, decorations, now....Presents! For my part I did all my shopping online and, of course, got all my gifts for friends and family in the US that way. I ordered a lot of gifts from one of my favorite places: http://www.wolfermans.com/  They make THE BEST English muffins and baked goods--at least I think so. Another favorite I used is: http://www.stashtea.com/ My sister turned me on to their teas, especially the peach tea. 

Robert, being a man, is hard to buy for, as you'd expect. I usually go to my default setting and buy him clothes because he always needs them. As the "absent minded professor" he will throw any old thing on, colors irregardless and go. He's not color blind but you'd never know it, sometimes, by the clothes he wears. For example, I once caught him putting on a black and red plaid shirt, brown trousers and a red & blue tie. (I'm sorry, honey, but you know it's true). At Asda I found these sweater and shirt sets where the shirt is attached to the cardigan so there's no confusion. Perfect, I thought, so I got 2 sets, a grey and a blue set. Later, when he tried them on we found that the blue shirt could be detachable but that's ok. 
Robbie with his two shirts & sweaters

I also got him a fluffy soft bathrobe and slippers since he really needed both of those too.

His other present from me was a spur-of-the-moment type. I suddenly remembered that he had once told me, I think when we had watched "The Santa Clause 2" (the part where they talk about the gifts that they had asked Santa for when they were little and hadn't gotten)  that he had always wanted a train set but had never gotten one. That set me thinking and I checked Amazon UK because I thought I'd have a better chance of finding just about anything there. They had 2 offerings: a Thomas the Tank Engine type and a couple of other regular ones. Not being a hobbyist and knowing nothing about gauge, one caught my eye because it said "Caledonian Belle" and one of the cars had "Edinburgh" on it and it was a "starter set" so that was the one! This is it: 

What could this be?
Oh my! It's a train! 
Santa finally got my note I put up the chimney!

We all know that Robbie is hopeless at present giving (this is him speaking, not me) and so usually I have to not give hints but clearly spelled out lists along with specifics and where to buy, etc. I always tell him that jewelry is always in good taste but that he seems to ignore...
A Senseo, like mine but mine is RED!
I had been wanting a one cup coffee machine ever since I'd see the Keurig, Nespresso, Senseo, and Dolce Gusto machines. I wavered back and forth between them, researching each one for pros and cons. The price was the big obstacle and in the long run, the features were similar, and to me, it really didn't matter which one I got. All I really wanted was an easy cup of coffee in the afternoon if I wanted it. Right before Christmas one of the big electronics stores Argos had Senseo machines less than half price (and in a really cute red color) and I remarked a couple of times what a good price that was and how I would like to have that. Yes, it went in one ear and out the other until a few days before Christmas Robbie flat out asked me what I wanted and I told him. Of course by this time all the ones on sale were gone at the local store because I helped him check online so I pretty much gave up on the idea of getting that for Christmas.

We opened our presents a little after midnight and I opened some microwavable slippers that he got for me. They are pink and you can heat them up in the microwave because he knows I always have icy cold feet! 
Yes, I need microwavable slippers for my icy feet!
Then, from behind me, he brought out a big box and when I unwrapped it I was surprised that he not only got the Senseo I wanted but in the cute red color! Turns out he had to go to 3 different Argos stores the day before Christmas. "You ARE magic!" I said to him. We have since used it many times daily and Robert loves it more than I do I think, because you can use round tea bags and make a very quick cup of tea. He thinks it's "brilliant" and makes the best tea ever (according to him). I also ordered an attachment that allows you to use regular ground coffee and not have to buy the special coffee pods so that will save money. We both are very happy with it and I suggested to Robbie that maybe the next time I mention that a certain gadget would be nice to have, he would believe me! 
What? You actually found a Senseo! In red? You ARE magic!

I love my present!
 Christmas Day I didn't have much to do, as I said, other than to put together the cheese plates and smoked salmon, put the food in the oven and have Robbie set the table. So I enjoyed the day too without any stress at all! If you also notice on the table one other tradition we adhered to was crackers

Now where I come from "crackers" means something else entirely.
A cracker, as I know it...
Also crackers...and boy, do I miss saltines!

But here, you pull crackers at Christmas
These look a lot like the ones we had.
They were "luxury" crackers and had nicer prizes.
Robbie got a silver yo yo and he played with it
all Christmas. I got a nice nail buffer
and Auntie Nancy got a book marker.

 The Christmas crackers here are pulled and they give off a crack like a cap gun and inside there's usually a prize (much like a Cracker Jack prize), a joke and a paper hat you're supposed to wear during dinner.
Robbie wearing the paper hat from his cracker
Robert's Auntie Nancy joined us for dinner and we all watched the Queen's Speech and then ate. The food was enjoyed by Robbie and his auntie so I was pleased that something so easy was a hit. 
Robbie's Auntie Nancy waiting for dinner
Now for New Year's. In Scotland New Year's or Hogmanay is a bigger deal, in some ways, than Christmas. Apparently as recently as the 1950's, in some places, Christmas wasn't even celebrated because since the Protestant Reformation it was banned as being "Popish" or too Catholic (Growing up in the Church of Christ I can't imagine what that is like, I say sarcastically). So Hogmanay is the time when families got together and feasted (and drank) and even exchanged presents. It was a time to clear out and one of the good luck traditions was to take the old ashes out of your fireplace. I'm glad we don't have to worry about that but I do miss a fireplace for looks! For more information on the Hogmanay origin and tradition check out: http://www.rampantscotland.com/know/blknow12.htm

Another thing you do for good luck is to open your front and back door when "the bells" go at midnight. That's supposed to chase the bad out the back door and the good in the front. There were big fireworks in Edinburgh and London but none here at Fauldhouse. Robert has his own superstition that if you get new clothes for Christmas you don't wear them till the new year so now he tried on his clothes and they all fit him perfectly. He wore his new bathrobe on New Year's Eve. We've never been ones to drink on New Year's--or any time-- but I had ordered a bottle of sparkling rose' Cava (cheaper than champagne) when I was ordering the Christmas foods. We opened that, had a glass each and that was that. 

My own family tradition is to eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day for good luck and I've also eaten black-eyed peas since I lived in the South for so long but sauerkraut, believe it or not, is very hard to find and forget black-eyed peas! This year, for the first time, I was able to find sauerkraut in a jar! What I had to do was look for it in the Polish foods section. There are a lot of Polish and Eastern European workers in Britain (sort of like Hispanics in America) so some of the supermarkets carry Polish foods for them. In Polish, sauerkraut is "Kapusta". 
Polish sauerkraut or "kapusta"
Now, I'm not a big fan of sauerkraut and Robbie had never eaten it before. I cooked the pork and sauerkraut together like my mother used to so that the flavor of the pork would make the sauerkraut less tangy. I have to say, too, that this Polish stuff was really tangy but not too bad. Robbie thought it was fine and I was glad to have been able to conjure up as much good luck as I could. I didn't remember why or even where the tradition had come from in our family and I remember asking my mother once and she didn't know. I looked it up online and it said that pork is always considered a good luck food because a chicken scratches backwards for their food, a cow stands still but a pig roots forward to get food. Interesting. The pork and sauerkraut tradition, apparently, comes from New England and the Pennsylvania Dutch because the wish is that the sauerkraut is the most sour or bitter thing you "taste" (or experience) the whole year long. I think I like that!

So, whatever you did to ensure luck for 2012, or even if you don't believe in that--I expect we all take it with a grain of salt, don't we?--my hope and prayer is that this year becomes a better one for us all. And that's all we can hope to wish for isn't it? I know, now, that some of you haven't had a great start to the new year but, again, we will all believe that, especially with God's help and presence, it will only get better and better!