Friday, 30 November 2007

Still Unpacking....

Hi everyone. Sorry it's been awhile since the MacNicols have done anything exciting. We're still unpacking.

Do you know that game Rush Hour by Think Fun? If you've never played, it's a 3-D puzzle with cars and trucks and they are in a scramble blocking traffic. Well, you have to let the taxi through so you move the brown car up one space to move the green truck over 2 spaces to let the yellow bus down one space all without lifting the pieces. Are you with me?? It's a great game but it's all I can think about every time I try to find something that we've put away. You see, everything needs to have a place in this little house and as we unpack things and tuck them away, I am noticing the effort it is going to take to find each thing again! Things are stacked and organized into baskets and cupboards but I just know that the platter I need is the one on the bottom in the back which means I'll be playing Rush Hour to get it! And the shoes Scott wanted to wear this morning required an extension ladder just to get them down!

As we unpack all of this STUFF that we own, we wonder why we own so much STUFF. Even though we thoroughly cleaned out our closets, toys and things that sit on tables, we seem to still have plenty of all of the above! We are again cleaning out for a trip to the Salvation Army. (I think we've been good this year so I am anticipating more STUFF to arrive in a few weeks.)

We are preparing to host a Thanksgiving Lunch this Sunday for our friends so we have been busy getting the house in order and I have been busy visiting all of the grocery stores looking for the ingredients we need! Yesterday, I found a Mexican Deli that stocks grocery products from the US and Mexico! YIPPEE, YAHOO. This is what came home in my bag: Negra Modelo, Real Flour Tortillas, Arriba Salsa (3 jars), and Hidden Valley Ranch! The boys polished off the bottle of Ranch with their pizza and carrots last night and Scott almost polished off the beer! Tonight we are having tacos so the rest will be gone soon! I went into the deli in search of Karo Syrup and Canned Pumpkin but they were sold out because of Thanksgiving. That's what I get for waiting! It will certainly be a place I visit often and I look forward to going back again! (For my Louisiana friends, they even had Dixie beer! I'm bringing Lupe a bottle of Shiner after Christmas! If he can stock Dixie, then surely he can stock Shiner.)

We look forward to seeing you all in a few weeks! I'm off to unpack and bake....

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to each and everyone of you. We are missing our family, friends and a huge Thanksgiving meal today! Everything here was business as usual. We plan to cook and celebrate with our Scottish Neighbors next weekend.

We are oh so thankful today for many things but the one thing that is on the top of our list; our container arrived and we slept in our OWN beds last night! YIPPEE, YAHOO! We feel as if Christmas has come and gone because 6 weeks without your belongings really makes them all new again! Toys, books, beds, a new change of clothes, more warm pjs and mittens and real silverware left us all shouting with glee!

The movers arrived Tuesday morning and unloaded the container. Then we were off to the Thistle for one night in a hotel. I have to brag a little to say that our 3 boys have become quite the little travelers! They really have the hotel, luggage, taxi thing down.

Wednesday morning we met the movers back at the house and began the process of setting up beds and unpacking boxes. It was nice to have help and we were able to get lots done. We are not sure how we managed to ship quite so much stuff over but we are finding spaces under beds and on top of armoires for the extras. This house has a total of 2 closets and I am realizing how much iItook our last home for granted! Space, luxurious space. Anyway, it will all go somewhere or we'll find it a new owner. Nevertheless, we were thrilled to lay our heads on familiar pillows and mattresses last night and we are oh so thankful!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all and we are raising our glasses and bowing our heads in thanksgiving and prayer for all of you!

Friday, 16 November 2007

Pure Joy

I remember having the romantic idea that strolling to the market and/or butcher and/or cheese monger and/or roots & fruits market and/or wine shop would be fun; an adventure. Well, don't get me wrong, I still like those little shops and go on a regular basis, but oh what a joy it is to buy in BULK when you have 4 growing boys! I joined a friend on a journey to Costco yesterday and will admit that I couldn't help myself but to hop up and down upon finding many things that make our lives easier. Alleluia! I am trying to be mindful of waste and really we have no storage, but paper towels, toilet paper, laundry detergent, Ziplocs and Starbucks coffee, we really can't have enough in this household! and no offense to the butcher or the local grocer, but something larger than a half pound chicken is what the MacNicols need at dinner time! Not to mention it's a lot more economical to buy in bulk when the good ole american dollar is half of a GBP. And guess what, they had Amy's Burritos in the frozen food section! So I thought I'd let you all know, I can buy in bulk in Scotland. Now I just need a third refrigerator!

Sunday, 11 November 2007


After an exhausting week of logistics and paperwork regarding cars and bank accounts, we wanted a weekend away. So the MacNicols hit the road for Edinburgh! The lure of a castle, a zoo and a Hilton with proper beds was more than we could resist. (You'll notice a friend in some of our pictures. His name is Flat Stanley and he belongs to our cousin Drew and is visiting all the way from Texas!)

Edinburgh is one hour East of Glasgow so we drove over Saturday morning. We arrived, checked into our hotel room and walked across the street to the castle. Edinburgh Castle is perched high on an ancient volcano and it is an amazing sight. There is much to learn, see and do at the castle and we managed to hit a few of the highlights. The hike up the hill to the main gate guaranteed a few moans but once we arrived at the top and looked out over the city, we were all awestruck. The views of the city are unbelievable. It is absolutely beautiful. We entered the main gate crossing the old moat and immediately were drawn to the cannons. It is fun to think about the battles staged here; especially when you are 9, 6, and 3 and full of testosterone! Charlie's favorite new phrase is "hold your fire!"

We enjoyed the cobblestone roads and the details on all of the buildings. It's amazing to see these old structures and imagine the people that lived here. St. Margaret's Chapel on the castle grounds dates back to the 12th century and just happened to be hosting a wedding on Saturday(complete with Bagpiper). It is considered to be the only remaining original structure on the grounds.
Ethan, Christopher and I enjoyed the Scottish Military Museum; home to a wonderful collection of uniforms, weapons, medals and information about the armies that attacked and defended the castle. The Great Hall of the castle houses another collection of weapons and we were fortunate enough to be there for a short history lesson. Some things we learned:

Side burns did not originate from Elvis Presley but instead from these soldiers that were not allowed to have any other facial hair except side burns. It protected their faces from the gun powder from their rifles.

Flash in the Pan - muskets from the day had pans that held gun powder and an attempt to fire them sometimes produced small fire explosions in the pan and therefore the term Flash in the Pan was born!

Fire in the Hole - Small naval gunners were loaded with gunpowder, shot, and wadding and then lit by some poor fellow from the top and back with "fire in the hole."

Drafted to the Army - not sure if this one is true but here goes....all the Royal Army needed to have someone sign up to serve was their name and their acceptance of one Shilling. So when they were running out of volunteers, they headed to the local pub and started putting coins in pints of beer so that when the men finished their beer and picked up the coin, they could congratulate them on joining the army. Well, the pubs soon switched to glassware instead of pewter because the men were afraid to drink beer for fear of what was at the bottom! So then the term, drafted to the army was born.
Funny we've heard these things so many times, it's fun to learn about the origin.

We also enjoyed the Crown Jewels, the Queen's apartments, the dungeon and the VIEW, the VIEW, and the VIEW! From the walls of the castle you can see 360 degrees around the city.

We loved it and plan to go back soon. After 5 hours though, most of us were tired and ready to head to our hotel. Ethan and I decided to walk through a few shops and take our time getting back to the hotel. On the way home, we walked through the park just below the castle and enjoyed a night view with the castle all lit up! Spectacular! If only I'd had the camera.

Today we had a full Scottish breakfast (black pudding, or beans and/or mushrooms on toast still not appealing to me)at the hotel then hustled to the zoo. The Edinburgh Zoo is just on the edge of the city and it is old and wonderful. They have a fairly large collection of animals and we enjoyed the day outdoors. It was sunny and cold so many of the animals were sunning themselves in their habitats. Some of our favorites were the Polar Bear, Lions, Tiger, Red Panda, Rhinos, Pygmy Hippos, Penguins, Jaguars and the Honey Badger.

Weekend highlights for each of us:
Ethan: red panda

Christopher: Castle - looking over the wall at the ocean

Charlie - didn't like the dead people (all the fake costumed people in the castle)

Gwen - military museum and the view of the castle at night

Scott - looking over the castle wall and panoramic view from the castle

We had a fantastic weekend and we look forward to visiting both places again!

Saturday, 3 November 2007

A Country Drive

Scott arrived safely this morning in time for breakfast then we were off to the hills for a wee drive in the country! We headed to a town NW of home to the Scottish Wool Centre.

The drive up was fantastic; winding roads, sheep everywhere, cattle (but no highland cows), century old farms and hills! The fall color was magnificent too. Red maples and yellow and orange leaves everywhere. Because everything stays damp year round, it is of course super GREEN! The pastures do not look quite like Texas pastures. You get a sense of the lives of many generations of families living on these farms producing sheep for wool and meat and Angus cattle for good ole mince!

When we arrived at the Scottish Wool Centre, we discovered it was simply a very large souvenir shop and cafe! Thank goodness they had a playground so Scott took the boys outside to play while I enquired about the wool demonstrations quoted in the Fodor's book! Come to find out, Hand, Foot and Mouth disease put an end to the hands on demonstration of wool production! No longer could you pet the sheep, seem them sheared and then see the women spinning the wool! Apparently, they still have a lady that comes in once and awhile to use the loom. She was coming that day and when I asked "what time" they relied, "when she gets here" with a friendly chuckle as only the Scots can pull off! And in the summer, they now have dog shows, so maybe we'll head back to the Scottish Wool Centre next summer!

We grabbed a coffee to take away and hit the road again.

Next we headed to Loch Lommond to the SeaLife Aquarium. Along the way, I kept thinking that it sure would be nice to see highland cattle in the pasture and guess what? We finally spotted 2 live and in person! We passed them and quickly turned around to get a second look so everyone could see. (remember we are on tiny, two-lane roads in the Scottish hills) On our third pass by (there was no safe place to stop), no one was behind us so we slowed to a crawl, got the camera and got a shot! They turned to look at us and Ethan yelled from the backseat, "Hey cows, we are Americans!" Christopher then chimed in, "we come in peace!" We are the loudest people in Scotland.

The SeaLife Aquarium is in a beautiful setting right on the Loch and we enjoyed the visit. It's no Dallas World Aquarium, but we all enjoyed the afternoon. There was a park just beside it so we spent sometime there and had a picnic. Then a quick ice cream cone before Scott passed out! It was a great day and we are so excited to have such beautiful scenery close by!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

A Scottish Halloween

Happy Halloween from the Nicol Clan! It was school as usual for the big boys with the exception that they could wear one small piece of their costumes. Charlie had a party in his class but was not interested in wearing his costume!

We went to a neighborhood party downstairs at our landlord/friends' (the Watsons) house; apparently a tradition for generations in Pippa's family and in this neighborhood. What a fun time we had!

Shortly after arriving, we headed out to try Trick or Treating Scottish Style with a group of neighborhood families. We went to houses where Pippa had warned the families that we were coming. In Scotland, you are invited in to share a "Trick or Treat" with the homeowners before receiving your sweetie". The children are invited to tell a joke or sing a song! The homeowners were so gracious and allowed us to share our trick or treats and then generously filled the children's bags with all sorts of sweets. Our boys just went right along with this new tradition and eventually were telling jokes of their own. I was so surprised by the going inside tradition. I mean all the way in to the living room with all of these little costumed children with sticky fingers! (costumes are called "Fancy Dress")

Ethan and Christopher were befriended by many of the children and loved the opportunity to get to know some children that are their age and are so close by. Charlie was in it for the candy but otherwise stuck pretty close to mommy.
I LOVED meeting the grown-ups and met some moms that were especially friendly and helpful. One that has 4 children, 3 boys (same ages as ours) and a sweet baby girl. They live around the corner. Another family across the street that has a boy that is 8 and a 6 year old girl. Ethan also hit it off with a little girl his age that lives around the corner and I really enjoyed meeting her parents. The mom moved here from Peru when she was 18 and her brothers live in the USA. One is an actor on the TV Show Lost. I don't watch it so I was clueless about that.

We spent an hour trick or treating then ended up back at Pippa's for snacks and playing until time for taming the monsters. I am so grateful to have landed in a place where the people are especially friendly and more specifically in a neighborhood full of wonderful families with lots of children! God has provided such blessings everytime we need them on this journey!

Our neighborhood is only 4 or 5 streets so it very small and after last night, I can't believe how many children live here that we have not seen! Lots of family have 2 working parents and the children go to many different schools so I guess everyone has been busy working and going to school. Of course, the weather is not very conducive to playing outside, so that could be another thing.

The boys already have playdates planned for this weekend and had huge grins when going to sleep last night! What a relief for mommy! Charlie had a bit of a Halloween Hangover this morning so he and I are at home today catching up and cleaning house. It's pouring rain.

Hope you and yours had a wonderful Halloween Stateside. Please send pictures if you can!