Thursday, December 29, 2005

Torchlight Procession

Tonight was the kickoff for the Hogmanay celebrations. There was a torchlight procession which started at St. Gile's Cathedral, then headed down the Mound and on up to Calton Hill. Torches were £4 and all proceeds went to charity. We had planned to participate in the procession, but forgot about it until today at dinnertime when we heard thunderous explosions that would make one think the castle was being bombed! These were the fireworks that began the procession. We put dinner on hold and ran outside to watch. Josh forgot his torch, though (flashlight = torch).

We had snow today...

Well, if that's what you want to call it. It was little more than frost to me! :)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Charlie Brown Christmas

For those who have asked, here is our Christmas Twee. Thanks to Grandma for the lights and Chris and Sarah for the scented pine cones.

We hope you all have a merry Christmas. Thank you for the cards and calls.

Why do you celebrate?

'Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.'
'Lift up your voice with a shout...say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!"
'Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Chrst the Lord.'

And our Lord says, "Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Some Christmas Sights

We went to see Narnia today. I liked it, but Josh said he was disappointed. On our way back from the theater we got to see Santa's reindeer! They were all just standing (or laying) around. I guess they are storing up energy for the weekend.

After visiting the reindeer we stopped by the nativity at the other end of Prince's Street Gardens.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

To Brenda's House We Go

A dear lady from St. Augustine invited us as well as some of the other newer 'young folk' over to her house last night. When we arrived she took us to her parlor to sit by the fireside and chat. She then stuffed us with a wonderful 3 course meal of smoked mackerel with salad, 'spanish loaf' (a tomatoey lamb and pork dish) with veg (potatoes, carrots, and green beans), and strawberry and raspberry fools. She then took us back to the parlor for coffee and chocolates. It was a lovely night, but we all felt that Ms. Brenda was just beginning at 11pm while we were all ready for our beds!
Brenda told us delightful stories of her experience as a librarian at the University of Edinburgh and her world travels. She also just finished a book and expects it to be published in the new year! We are looking forward to visiting with her again when she can show us slides of her coming trip to Australia and have tea in her garden.
The pictures above were taken just as we were about to leave, if you will notice the sleep in our eyes. The boys include Andy (also a student at U of E) Josh, and Peter (working for the Scotsman newspaper). The girls are Sam (the other half of Peter, working in admissions at a university), Emma (Australian, working in social services), and De. Of course, Ms. Brenda is the little lady in the front.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Christmas Carols

Being in the 3rd week of Advent and going to some carols services, we have been able to hear some of the carols that are commonly sung hear that we did not grow up with. Many of the songs are familiar, with only some slight changes in the words. A couple of the songs, we found, are commonly sung with different tunes. O Little Town of Bethlehem is one that I have come to enjoy. Here is a link to the tune we have been singing here in Scotland: The tune is called 'Forest Green.' You can listen to the music by clicking on the little play button below the picture of the people playing strings. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Chicagoan's Dream Turned Nightmare

The dream: Costco and Ikea...same parking lot!
The nightmare: no car!!!

I felt adventurous today (I was also craving good clementines). I packed my backpack with a shoulder bag as well as a wheeled carrier and filled up my waterbottle. Yes, I bussed it to Costkea Way...solo. My first stop was Costco, in hopes that they would do my 2x3 reprints that no one else seems to do. Costco, you let me down. Where can a person go to get something other than a 4x6 done?

So I ran to Ikea to pick up a couple of things in hopes of solving some storage problems, then back over to Costco, the problem maker. Costco is such a dangerous place to be in with no car and little money. I had my mind made up on the clementines, so I picked up 2 boxes. The tomatoes are so much cheaper, and good cheese for a good price. I said no to many things, but ended up loading my backpack with the clementines, and filling my wheeled carrier and shoulder bag with other things. Riding home at 1:30 I thought the bus would be empty, but I get on to find it is filled with school kids. Ah, well. I guess I will rest after lug my baggage up the mound to our little flat. And have fun finding space for it all!

Yes, we do have friends now who have a car, and they have already graciously taken us to Costco (they were like kids wowing over the huge pies and the 5 kilo block of cheese!), but I did want those clementines (they have become synonamous to the holiday season for me) and we do not want to take advantage of their kindness.

Well, we hope you are enjoying the snow and cold. We have had pretty mild weather today. Nearly 50 degrees, and it looks like mid-50's tomorrow. It certainly doesn't feel like Christmas weather, but it is not bad considering how much I have to be outdoors.

What are you doing to celebrate this Advent season?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Expats Get-together

I had the opportunity to meet some of the American expats on my forum today. We met at Starbucks (where I was able to utilize my discount!) and spent a couple of hours chatting; getting to know eachother and venting about some of our frustrations with customer service and other things we have had to get accustomed to here. Erin is in the picture with me. She is the one I met on the forum before we came who has helped me so much pre- and post-arrival!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Where's the Sun?

What a gloomy day! And they are forcasting rain for every day in the near future (though the forcast is a joke here...'becoming wet in some areas with a little sun and a little cooler a bit on'). I was comparing the sunrise/sunset times for Edinburgh and Chicago. The sun rises here at 8:21am and sets at 3:43pm, giving us about 2 hours less of sunlight. Mind you, when the sun has risen here, it is still not very bright. It rises in the south-east and sets in the south-west. I realized a few weeks ago that if I am heading south at 'high' noon, the sun glares in my face making it difficult to manuver the already crazy traffic on the footpath. You do have us beat for cold, though. It is in the upper 40's here. Despite the gloom, Lady Grey (a delicious tea made by Twinings) continues to be a comfort to me (on days I am not working, when I cannot get my double tall, semi-skimmed, wet latte :) ).


Here are a few more of the differences we have found.

1) Driving on the left side of the road. You probably already know all about this, but have you thought of what this means to you as a pedestrian? One must look the correct way before crossing the road. I quickly became accustomed to looking right, then left, as I spent a lot of time walking around. It took longer for Josh since he locks himself up in the library every day. :)
2) Dual/single carriageway. These are the names for the 4/2 lane highways.
3) Boot and bonnet. Trunk and hood. Our friends got a kick out of saying 'trunk' when we were putting our Costco purchases in their 'boot.' You will also see advertisements for 'boot sale,' which I guess would be like a flea market.
4) Parking on either side of the road. So you are driving south-bound, carefully looking for a parking space. You are thrilled to finally spot one, but then you notice the north-bound SUV waiting for the spot. Not willing to duke it out in your 1.5 ltr car, you move on to allow Mr. SUV to become the rightful owner of the coveted parking space. He does not even have to do a U-turn because it is ok to park in either direction. (everyone drives tiny cars and SUVs are only driven by the very wealthy because of taxes and gas prices). We discovered this road etiquette when we were about to park in a spot in Ireland, only to hear a car horn blaring at us. We found that it must have come from the car sitting on the other side of the road, but they couldn't be waiting for THIS spot, could they? Sure enough, we drove off and the other car pulled into the spot.
5) Double-decker busses. We have not had the chance to right up top yet.
6) No free transfers for public transportation. The cost is .80p or £1 depending on how far you are going, but don't hope for a transfer within 2 hours.
7) Emissions tests. Cars older than 3 years have to pay £80 (about $150) every year for an emissions test. No chance of getting one of those tickets good for 2 years because you passed so well.
8) Roundabouts. Hmmm...How to descibe these. They use these at intersections rather than stop signs or traffic lights, however, traffic lights are still used on city streets and at some large roundabouts. There is a large circle in the middle of the intersection with 3, 4, 5, however many exits. Cars drive clockwise on the roundabouts. As you approach, if there is no one coming on your right, you can countinue around and exit as you need. If the intersection is busy, you will need to wait until there is room for you. There are usually 2 lanes in the roundabout. The cars in the right lane will be continuing on the roundabout to another exit. The cars in the left lane will be exiting at the next road, so if the cars coming toward you are in the left lane, you can enter the roundabout because they will be exiting just before they approach you. I didn't expect that you would grasp all of that, but I wanted to show you how confusing it is to drive for the first time here! And try doing this while driving on the left side of the road, sitting in the right side of the car, shifting your gears with your left hand! It's a wonder there are not more accidents caused by tourists. :) If you are really determined to figure out how to handle a roundabout, here is a link giving a better description than mine: Here is another great link. This is for a "magic" roundabout. This one has mini-roundabouts within the large roundabout. I can't quite figure it out, but I figure it would be 'magic' to make it through!
9) Exit on the left side of the road. The exit is just a ramp, sometimes with a roundabout at the end. Australia, having much British influence, drives the same way. When they decided on having their first 4 leaf clover, they hired an American to design it. The designer did not take into account that they normally exit to the left, making it a bit confusing for the moterists needing to exit to the right. It still worked out, though.