Friday, 25 December 2009

Stranded in NYC

We'd planned on spending our 8 hour Newark layover in NYC but had a weather induced extension! When we fly to the states from Glasgow, we prefer the Newark route on our way south. We knew they'd canceled the mid-day flight to Dallas and so had planned to spend our 8 hour layover in the city. Seeing the sights at Christmastime. Quickly. What a treat.
Well, when we arrived at the Glasgow airport, we were told that our connecting flight to Dallas was canceled and that we'd need to spend the night somewhere and be back at the airport for a 6:45 am flight. Snowstorm. Big One. We had not checked the weather. Alrighty then! We googled hotels close to Newark and 2 came up with availability - the Days Inn and the W. I'm not too good to stay at the Days Inn but it is Christmas and well, we opted for the W. Boy am I glad we did!

The W Hoboken sits right on the Hudson, overlooking Manhattan. Bliss. Pure Bliss. We checked in, checked out this cool hotel and then headed into the city before we became too tired! The city was bustling. It was jam packed. It was cold, the snow was falling the the Christmas lights and decorations were all around. Really, what a treat. We didn't stay very long but were able to give the kids a taste of this glorious city at this wonderful time of the year. We saw the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, Skating Rink, Radio City Music Hall and all the people.

We look forward to taking our family back to this fabulous city soon. Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Ho, Ho, Ho

Merry Christmas everyone!
I am sure, like the rest of you, we have been busy, busy, busy. Apologies for the delay in posting.

We've had school parties and shows, office parties, Christmas parties and all of the usual fun. The boys made gingerbread houses, cookies for Santa and decorated our house in good style.

Santa made a special trip to Glasgow for the Nicol family this year. He arrived with goodies for each boy and we've spent every free moment playing with our new toys. What a good guy Santa is!

We hope he's as good to you as he was to us! Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, 11 December 2009

From Jesus to Joseph in 5 years

Charlie Nicol graduated from Baby Jesus in the St. Lukes Church Nativity 2004 to Joseph in the Glasgow Academy Nativity this week. He was precious. And darling. And remembered his line "He is the most special baby in the whole world" brilliantly. Don't think we'll move onto Mary!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

German Christmas Market

I've just returned from the Christmas Markets in Munich Germany. What a treat!

I went with 7 friends and we spent the weekend walking, shopping, eating, drinking and relaxing. We had a ball. Our friend Susanna is from Germany which was very helpful for translation!

I'd been to Munich while traveling Europe in my early 20's; it was everything I remembered and more. It's a beautiful city with pedestrian streets, lovely squares and interesting architecture. The weather was crisp, cool and dry. And the markets were brilliant!

We laughed until our sides hurt, walked until our feet hurt and chatted into the wee hours of the morning. A big thanks to my boys for letting me go! Hip, Hip, Hooray!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

NHS vs. Private Medicine

I'm not going to go all political on you guys, but want to share one of our experiences of socialized medicine.

Since moving to Scotland, we have been eligible for free health care through the National Health System. It seemed so strange to us since we've always had terrific health care through Scott's employer. With the NHS, you register with a General Practitioner (give them your name, address, phone number and date of birth) and then all of your health care needs are sorted. You call and make an appointment, and depending on your ailment, you turn up at said time, and you leave with the diagnosis/prescription/advice you need. No co-pay. No paperwork. No nothing.

The doctors offices we've been to so far have all been a flash back to another time. They are not flashy, there is little state-of-the-art equipment, and the customer service is not what we were used to in the US. At first, I criticized all of this with a sharp tongue. I found faults and noted them in my memory. But over time, I have come to appreciate the absence of unnecessary processes, procedures, equipment, paperwork, and treatments. It easy for me to say all of this because our family is blessed with good health and we have the back-up of private health care insurance. So if anything is not to our liking or our time frame, we can call the private guys. So I can look at both sides fairly un-baised.

So why am I telling you all of this?

Because 2 weeks ago, Christopher fractured his toe. It was a Tuesday night and he tripped going up the stairs. He complained about it going to bed, but I brushed it off and said we'd see in the morning. Well, he could barely walk Wednesday morning and he and I were staying home that day sick with a cold virus. I phoned the GP to see what "procedure" to follow and/or to make an appointment. The receptionist let me know that it would be the following Tuesday before the doctor could see him. "Um, well, seeing that he can't walk and I think it's a broken toe, one week from now might be a little late. What could you do for me?" I said. How about Friday, she said. Um, no. I think it's an emergency. She then said, well, go to the emergency room. Okay. Point well taken. We'll go to the ER. (Having been through this with Ethan in Dallas, we called the PCP, say her straight away, and then went to the lab for x-rays.)

The children's hospital was quiet as can be so Christopher and I were quickly attended to by a very nice physician. They took an x-ray, "just in case." (The x-ray machine was fancy dancy. All the bells and whistles which surprised me since the facility itself is straight from 1973.) The physician looked at the film and assured us nothing was broken and sent us home to rest.

Flash forward one week. Another ER physician phoned to let me know that the results were in from Christopher's hospital visit. What??? "His toe is fractured and he should not participate in PE or any physical activities for 6 weeks" he kindly said. Um, okay. He's already been to football, PE and swimming. Does that count? Christopher was bruised but within 24 hours completely back to normal. It was not his kicking foot so we were clear there.

Thankfully, our situation is not serious and/or life threatening; so I can joke about it now.

But I'm not sure which is better: An over-priced, selective (not available to all), state-of-the-art, choice-filled, health care system; or one that is free, run down, over-worked, available to all, slow health care system. Both seem broken to me. What do you think?

Thursday, 26 November 2009


Last Sunday we had the privilege of hosting a Thanksgiving Celebration for our friends. 5 families came with a side dish, an empty stomach and a sense of humor. And boy did we have fun! We have been blessed with such wonderful friends here and for that we are thankful.

Let me tell you a little about our day and the preparations leading up to it. After researching my options for a turkey (they are not available until this week as people prepare for Christmas meals), I found one. One option. A FRESH one from the south of England (more Americans there so they raise turkeys for Thanksgiving) and the poor guy was delivered on Saturday. They phoned me week before last to say he been killed, plucked and hung. Whoa, that's a little too much detail for me to think about when I'm gonna cook the poor guy. And then we arranged for him to be delivered on Friday. Well, Friday morning, the turkey rep called in a panic to say the courier did not pick him up and would it be okay to deliver him before noon on Saturday. Yes, just fine.

He arrived and he was a fine bird. We had a moment of silence before we put him in the fridge.

Friday night, my friend Amanda (who is fascinated with all things related to American cooking) came to help me bake the pies. We had too much fun. It was so nice to prepare part of the meal with someone else! Apple, Pumpkin and Pecan pies were baked and in the refrigerator. YUM.

Everyone turned up around 1 on Sunday and stayed until 9. We ate, danced, played games, watched a recorded Dallas Cowboy game, and ate some more. And had a competition to see who could write their names with their BUM the best. It was fabulous.

As Scott said, if you invite the Scots for a day of eating and drinking, they will come and they will come ready to party! While we miss our families on this special day, we are reminded of the blessings we have here.

We are thankful.

For family, for friends, for shelter, for food, for rain, for sun (even though it is no longer familiar), and for all the blessings of this life. Happy Thanksgiving to each of you!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


We are building one! I'm not sure if it is making the news in the US, but the UK is being pounded with rain. I mean lots of rain. Steady rain.

We've had some flooding in Glasgow but I think the worst of it is in SW Scotland and NW England. Many of the villages in the Lake District are flooded.

So we're building an ARK.

Happy Thanksgiving cooking to you all.

Thursday, 12 November 2009


Or no pants. Underwear to you and me (if you are reading this from America).

In every souvenir shop in Scotland, there is a postcard of a man in a kilt, gently lifted by a breeze, and he is sans pants. Yep. Bare Bottomed.

So far, we have had little experience with kilts, and I haven't fully investigated the truth of the matter. I'm not really sure how I would have approached the investigation. Do Scotsmen wear pants under their kilts?

Well, tonight we found out. The Glasgow Academy held a charity fund-raising fashion show, with pupils from the prep and senior schools modeling clothes from local shops. One of the local kilt makers donated clothes to model and the senior 6 boys let us know what was underneath their kilts! One of the boys mooned us at the end of the runway and two of the boys mooned us as they exited the stage. Oh My! It was HILARIOUS. I wish you could have seen Charlie's face.

So now you know. Kilts with no pants. Scots Style. Just in case you were wondering!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


Mims and Gramps sent a little treat in the mail and since the Royal Mail was/is on strike, they'd been holding these hostage and we did not know it:

I was able to pick up the package today and boy were our boys excited! It's the little things.....Snickers and Twix bars on the way home from school and then the Cheetos! Thanks Mims and Gramps! We still love us some Cheetos!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Guy Fawkes

We've been watching fireworks this weekend. Lots of them. You see, November 5th is Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes Day in Britain. This year since the 5th was a Thursday, the celebration lasted all weekend.

Bonfire Night, Guy Fawkes Night, is a celebration/remembrance of the "Gunpowder Plot" of 1605; the attempt to blow up Parliament. It still makes me chuckle that it's such a big deal. Ethan's done a research project on Guy Fawkes and we've now celebrated this holiday 3 times. Check out the history. Pretty interesting!

However strange the celebration seems to me, it has given us the weekend with friends, bundled up watching fireworks and sharing meals.

Life is Good!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


We had a terrific Halloween and hope you did too. Scott, Ethan and Christopher went to a party and Charlie and I went trick or treating in the neighborhood.

This year we had Darth Vader, An Umpa Lumpa, and Luke Skywalker.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Mims and Gramps in Scotland

This is the town of Tobermory on the opposite end of the Isle of Mull from where we stayed. We took the above winding road through the beautiful countryside to see this town.

This is the house we enjoyed, Ardchrishnish!
Muscles on the beach near the Weaver's Farm.
The beach and the locals. We never tire of the rural landscape here.
Weaving Machine.
Preparing for our Crab Feast and enjoying the sunset at Ardchrishnish.

More locals and buying our dinner as we exited the ferry. These fisherman charged us one pound (GBP) per crab. I still can't believe it. Huge crabs, don't know how I missed a close up shot!

The beach on Iona and the definite intruders! I can't begin to tell you how cold the water is.

On the boat to Staffa and on Staffa.

Fingal's cave on Staffa.

Staffa with Fingal's Cave on your right.

Iona Abbey.

Enjoying the fresh air and views at Ardchrishnish.

*****So sorry that you have to read below to find out what I am talking about in the captions. i still do not have the ability to post pictures anywhere in my post except the beginning! ARGH*******

Well, if this isn't long overdue like several thank you notes I need to write, then I do not know what is!

I can't seem to catch up. So if you log on regularly (grandparents), my apologies for the sporadic and delayed posting lately.

As I mentioned in my last post, we had the pleasure of having Mims and Gramps (my parents) here for the October School Break. It was delightful. We saw things we hadn't seen before (Scotland's Secret War Bunkers, Mull, Iona, and Staffa) and we did a few things that we'd not done together here (M & G played 9 holes of golf with Christopher and Ethan, Glasgow Cathedral and St Mungo's Museum, and relaxing lunches in cafes!).

Probably the highlight was our trip to the Isle of Mull. We stayed in a fabulous house on a fabulous hill with a fabulous view. It was isolated, rugged, well-equipped and perfect for our family. And to top it all off, we had absolutely brilliant weather, a rarity for this part of Scotland!

The Isle of Mull is one of the Western Isles of Scotland. We chose it for it's scenery and for it's close proximity to 2 other Isles we wanted to visit; Iona and Staffa. On Mull we enjoyed time in the fresh air, a pub dinner in the dark (electricity not too reliable in these parts!), a trip to an organic farm and weaving shop, beach walks and much more.
Iona is thought to be the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland. The Iona Abbey was founded by St. Columba and his followers in AD 563. Since that time, the Abbey and subsequently the Isle of Iona has been inhabited by many Christians from many different backgrounds. Today, the Abbey is home to the Iona Community, a "dispersed Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship." Mims, Gramps and I enjoyed a tour of the Abbey and the shops while Scott and the boys enjoyed a trip to the beach.

Our trip to Staffa was on a small boat with approximately 20 tourists to see the magnificent basaltic columns similar to those in Mammoth Lakes, CA at Devil's Postpile. We were also lucky enough to see a seal pup up close! It was a terrific tour, even if Gramps and I were close to heart attacks each step the little boys took! Check it out:

We had such a great visit and loved having you here Mims and Gramps. Thank you for coming accross the pond!