Monday, 26 May 2008

Garden Party

The sun has been shining so much that we just had to go out and buy a BBQ Grill and patio furniture. We purchased the furniture a few weeks ago after many warnings that doing so would change the weather. Our friends and neighbors all said, "don't bother, summer's over", "If you buy it, the weather will change back to cold and rainy!" and many more encouraging statements. We were not deterred!

Did it rain and turn cold as soon as we'd bought it? Yes, on the way home. But it didn't last and now when it's slightly sunny, we are outside in the garden soaking up the Vitamin D! And the grill, well, we were just hungry for some good ole' Texas BBQ. We've now been able to use it a couple of times and steak, grilled chicken, and hamburgers have never tasted better.

Yesterday, as we were outside enjoying the sunshine and the patio furniture, our neighbors joined us and before long, we'd turned the gathering into an impromptu Garden Party! Yummy nibbles, cold beverages and good friends and conversations were all in attendance! After a curry for dinner (ordered by our friend Pippa's father who you will remember lives next door); we challenged everyone to a Wii showdown.

Once again, good old fashioned fun was had by all!

Saturday, 24 May 2008


Well, I do not know why the Nicol family did not explore Dallas and Texas like we are exploring Scotland. It could be that we were over-committed, complacent, were blessed with more friends and family than we could ever spend enough time with, or just plain lazy! Whatever it was, we did not do the Texas Tourism Business justice!

Today we took a trip to the tiny island of Cumbrae, just and hour or so away off the western shore of Scotland. Friends had been telling us that it was a great day out and we were waiting for the right weather and day to try it. We drove to the town of Largs where we caught the ferry on bicycle to Cumbrae. It's only a 10 minute ferry ride so our ferry trip was quite quick!

There is one town and a fairly flat road that circles the island. We headed in the direction of the town with hungry bellies and enjoyed the scenic cycle on the winding road along the way. There happened to be a charity walk on Cumbrae today so it was busier that normal (we assume); but even so, there was little traffic and the walkers were happy to greet us as we pushed along. The town of Millport is a small, quaint seaside village with many beaches and cottages lining the shore. The main road has a few restaurants, ice cream shops and souvenir shops. We stopped for lunch at the Dancing Midgie (midgie is an insect like the mosquito that summer tourists despise!). They packed a picnic for us and brought it to us on the beach across the road.

The boys played on Crocodile rock, buried rocks in the sand and did their best to stay dry. Then we headed off for the rest of our journey. Cumbrae has many hiking trails traversing the island over the hills and rocks and we saw lots of trekkers. We enjoyed the sunshine and cool breeze and pedaled our way to the next stop; the tea room with ice cream! Once again, we ordered ours to go and headed for the beach across the road. From this side of the island you can see the Isles of Aaron and Bute. The scenery is picture postcard beautiful from each spot.

The boys did great on their bikes and we just tried to keep up. The circumference of the island is 10.25 miles with a nice stop at about every 3 miles!

It was such a great day and we look forward to our next trip! Come visit and go with us!

Monday, 19 May 2008


I had the opportunity to meet my friend Vanessa B. in Amsterdam for the weekend so I jumped on it! She was coming to Utrecht to speak at a graduate student program and then could extend for the weekend. We met Friday night and enjoyed catching up, slow meals, and a few museums along the way.

We visited the Anne Frank House on Friday night which is an amazing experience. I had been through 15 years ago but to visit as a parent sheds a whole new light on her courage and strength. On Saturday, after a late sleep, we had a long breakfast and then hit the streets. We went to the Van Gogh Museum which happened to have a travelling exhibition of Millais' work as well. Van Gogh's life was quite tragic and sad but his work is beautiful in person. Millais was a friend of Van Gogh's and he was renown for his portraits. One of the most famous is the Ophelia (of Hamlet fame). We also went to the flower market with stalls and stalls of bulbs and flowers and enjoyed a Heineken while watching the crowd go by. Both Friday night and Saturday night we had 3 hour plus dinners which was such a treat since that is a rarity for most parents.

Sunday we woke early at hit the Rijksmuseum. Many paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and other Dutch artists and Blue Delft ware. I had not remembered that Amsterdam is a clean city with beautiful architecture and canals. Everyone and I mean everyone cycles everywhere. There are very few cars and the cycles have the right of way. We saw every type of cycle with boxes or seats on the front for children and even seats on the back for children Ethan's age. No one had a helmet on. But everyone had a bicycle (or tricycle as some had 3 wheels) and I was almost run over a few times! I didn't have my camera ready at the Central Train station but instead of a car park for commuters they have bike racks and the sea of bicycles is quite a sight! Scott loves to tell the story of moving to Arlington, riding his bike to school only to discover that there was no bike rack! The Dutch would not be able to believe it!

Vanessa and I had such a good time talking, walking and generally relaxing. Our hotel was a bonus as well. Small room typical of European style but very modern, chic and in the best location in the city. If you are ever heading to Amsterdam, email me and I'll send you the info!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Harlem Globetrotters

Last night we had a great time watching the Harlem Globetrotters right here in Glasgow! The boys have been so excited and the show was fantastic. I can remember seeing them in Shreveport when I was a little girl and even though they are quite corny, it is still great fun to watch. We've missed them the last couple of years in Dallas so we were thrilled to see them here.

Our seats were second row courtside so we could see the players up close. They pulled all the usual shenanigans like pants down, hassling the referee, water on the crowd, innocent children pulled from the stands for their stunts and much more. Ethan and Christopher loved it and laughed the whole time and Charlie like the candy and this blow up guy that came out at intermission!

Good old fashioned FUN!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Saxophone & Fencing

A few weeks ago, Ethan had a chance to start Saxophone lessons at school and to join a Fencing Club. His Saxophone lessons are once a week during school hours and he is really enjoying it. It's nice to hear him practice and he has a new interest in all types of music.

He also joined a Fencing Club (no, not the ones that keep cattle in one place), you know fighting with swords. He loves it and apparently is a natural. It's a big group of children and adults that meet regularly and travel all over for competitions. He is one of the youngest in the group and the particular practice that we go to is not the most competitive group so that is nice while learning. Each time he has been, one of the coaches has given him a 30 minute tutorial and then he gets a chance to practice with the children his age. I'll take some pictures at the next practice, I've just forgotten my camera so far.

Lots of new (to the Nicols) things to try and experience while we are here!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008


That stands for Glasgow Baseball Association! Yes, you heard me, baseball! We'd heard about this group in town and finally were able to make it to practice to meet the team. The Glasgow Baseball Association is the only baseball team in Glasgow and they have a 9 and under t-ball team, a 10-14 kid pitch team and an adult team. They practice year round and it is a great group of people. The boys had a good time at practice and it was nice to see them swing a bat and play a that good ole American game! Then Sunday was the start of the season for the teams so we headed back to the park where the GBA was hosting teams from Edinburgh and Aberdeen. The team from Aberdeen was all American boys as Aberdeen has lots of ex-pats in the oil industry. Therefore, they have an international school and all these American boys that want to play baseball. When Scott and I set up our chairs and settled down to watch, we quickly realized that the only voices we heard were American voices. (A first since we've been here) As a matter of fact, the first Americans I've meet since arriving. It was nice to chat with them and hear about where they've lived and their experiences abroad. They were all from Texas and we were the newbies in the group as far as experience with life abroad.

The GBA had a ceremony to mark the start of the season and then a local politician threw the first pitch and the games began. Watching the older boys made us feel right at home. (It was really windy and cold and we were not dressed for the weather so this is when I left to go home for more clothes and blankets) Then I missed the whole game for Christopher and Ethan. Scott said that it was a little bit of a letdown because they shrink the pitch (field) for the little ones to half size and the game was only 3 innings and 30 minutes long. Perfect for Christopher but Ethan was totally bummed! We tried to encourage him that he could be the star of the show but that's no fun when you need real competition! He was finally getting a chance to play a game he knows and loves and then the bubble burst! So of course, when he was disappointed, then Christopher became disappointed!

I'm going to call to enquire about getting him on the older team and then we'll decide what to do from there. It's really a fun group and it would be nice to travel to these other cities to play and to get to know the families on our team. They set up a huge tent with a BBQ and make it a true family affair. Fun but we're feeling a little homesick!