Friday, September 30, 2011

The Unintentionally Creepy Nocturnal Activities of my 4-Year Old

Lots of horror movies seek a cheap thrill by having children say or do something which is completely innocuous, but in the context of the movie it is scary.  I say this as though I have watched a lot of horror films, which is not true.  I am scared of my shadow when it comes to movies (I was scared of Scream 2...yes, I know it was a parody) and I have not really ever watched horror movies.  But the television commercials often show innocent children who are scary because they are doing innocent things in a frightening context.

(As an aside, it once concerned me that these kids were in these movies and possibly suffering psychological harm because of their roles.  I now understand that the kids usually just film their specific, quite innocent scenes and never see the entire film or understand the context of the film.  So I am no longer particularly concerned.)

Anyways, back to kids doing innocent things which seem creepy because of the context.  My son does something that is entirely innocent but scares the socks off of me.  Here is a contextual description:

It is usually late at night and I am fast asleep in my bed.  I wake up and there is someone standing over me and it is terrifying.

What has happened is that my son has walked into my room to ask me something - typically to ask whether he can get up and play with his toys yet (the answer is always "no" because it is the middle of the night).  He has walked silently into my room and stood next to my bed to wait for me to wake up.  This is all exactly what he is supposed to do, as we have asked him not to bellow for us from his bed because he wakes up his brother.  Nonetheless it is incredibly creepy.  When I am waking from my deep sleep it is hard to put the person into context and it always makes me jump.

Another creepy illusion used to happen in our old house with mirrors.  I would normally say that I don't believe in ghosts, but that cannot be true given what I am about to explain.  If a person has no belief that ghosts exist whatsoever, that person should never be afraid of an illusion that looks ghostly, right?  And I have been scared by this one a few times:  It is very simple, you walk into a dark room in a place you are somewhat unfamiliar with and you see yourself in the mirror, in the dark.  Because you don't know that there is a mirror in that spot, you jump because you think it is a ghost.  This is silly, right?  But it happened to me a handful of times when we moved to our new place in Calgary and I was not familiar with the locations of all of the mirrors.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


I just cleaned my house from top to bottom (except floors – the kids are asleep and I don’t want to wake them with the noisy vacuum).  I hate this job, but I hate having a dirty house and I hate chipping away at the basics every day.  I find cleaning boring, so I had a lot of time to think while cleaning – here are the thoughts I could remember:

·      I can give this house a basic cleaning in about 1.5 hours.  Dubai was much worse because of the sand issues.  Here the outdoor (slop and mud) issues are contained to a purpose-built entrance – good design!
·      There are examples of very livable designs all over this house – such as the built-in bathroom storage.  Not all of it works with a curious 9 month old in the house.
·      I bought a bathroom cleaner and used it for the first time today.  It was amazing on the shower – you spray it on, wait 10 minutes and then wash off with water and the shower door is so clean it looks like it is not there….amazing!  But smelly.
·      Little boy’s washrooms are gross to clean.
·      Schluter trim looks good but is a pain to dust.
·      Radiators also look good but are a pain to dust and another obstacle to great furniture arrangements.
·      I hate pieces of furniture that require more than one product to clean, for example my chrome base, wooden table with a glass top.
·      Dusting baseboards is backache inducing.
·      I hate it when my dusting rag leaves fibres (i.e. different dust) behind.
·      I would fail the “white-glove” test.
·      I decided to wash all of my garbage cans.  They are taking forever to dry but it will make me very happy when it is done.
·      Dusting banisters is also a terrible job….maybe I just hate dusting.
·      We have an easy-to-clean gas stove.  Unfortunately the hood fan must be cleaned regularly as well.
·      Black electronics show the dust like nobody’s business.  Silver or white is the way to go.
·      It is not nearly as dust here as Dubai or Calgary. 
·      I love my long hair until I am cleaning the bathroom.
·      My stainless steel backsplash is much easier to clean than tile. 
·      Why do toilets have so many nooks and crannies on the base?  Why can’t they just be a rectangle?  Those nooks and crannies collect a lot of dust.
·      I bet my husband won’t even notice that I cleaned.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Abandoned Railway Line (AKA “Deeside Way” and the “Old Deeside Line”)

For a late afternoon walk last weekend we walkled along the abandoned railway line, a popular park near our home.  The railroad tracks have been removed and a paved path leads through a forested area, through fields and under car bridges.  There are many offshoot paths that lead down to the river or through to other parks or properties.

This is an absolutely beautiful place to walk and it reminds me of the unparalleled Edmonton river valley.  I’m sure we will enjoy many, many walks and bikerides on this rail line while we live in Aberdeen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Duthie Park, Aberdeen - Autumn Holiday

Yesterday was a holiday Monday.  The holiday is called the Autumn Holiday and seems to only be a holiday in Aberdeen.  I could not find any information on the origins of the holiday or what we were meant to be celebrating, but I’ll take a holiday without question when it comes around.  Problem was, we discovered mid-morning that it was not a holiday at my husband’s place of work.  It seems that the Autumn Holiday is one of those holidays that government, schools and medical people take, but no one else.  By the time we figured it out, my husband felt it was too late to bother with work….lucky us!

We drove down to Duthie Park by the riverside today, and we entered through the Riverside Drive entrance.  Duthie Park is one of those all-purpose parks – it has: a gazebo; a number of playground areas; an obelisque; a winter garden; a pond; a nature walk; picnic areas; a concession; and a great big lawn.  It was a beautifully sunny day and the park was in its full glory.

We started our walk through the park at the playground facing Riverside Drive.  This playground boasts two unique slides that are built into the hillside with a staircase to reach the top.  We walked up the hill and circled the park, basking in the sunlight with other families, walkers and dog walkers.  They seem to favor bulldogs here.

We stopped at a second playground for our snack and then went home for lunch (I made a delicious frittata – my first frittata and a really good lazy-cook dish!).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Drum Castle, Aberdeenshire

Yesterday we visited Drum Castle.  It closes for the season in 4 days, so we are lucky we got to see it this year.  The cost of admission was free because we have a National Trust (kind of like National Park) membership, which was £80.  If we did not have the membership, it would have been £22 for the family.

Drum Castle is about 15 minutes from our home along the A93.  The drive was lovely – it was a sunny day and we cruised along in our Range Rover.  The scenery was a romantic fall picture – with newly baled hay, rolling hills covered in crops, and trees and picturesque pubs, shops and terraced homes interspersed with churches and mansions.  We were not quite sure where to turn off of the A93 and initially drove into a garden centre, but we soon found our way.

The parking lot had plenty of space and parking was supposed to cost £2 but the machine was out of order.  We walked down a lovely green lawn to the castle and walked into the courtyard.  When we got into the castle the attendant gave our older son a worksheet of items to find while we wandered through the castle.  The castle was large and each room was decorated in original pieces or period pieces that had been brought in.  The castle was built in 1619 and the family still uses parts of it in the current time.  Each room in the castle had a sheet explaining its use and d├ęcor as well as an attendant to answer any questions (and police naughty fingers).

Our 4-year old was fully engaged with his scavenger hunt.  The clues were hard enough to present a challenge but east enough that he could find all of the items without parental assistance.  It made the trip through the castle exciting for him, and I was grateful that they had provided such a well-thought out activity to keep him busy.

After we wandered through the inside of the castle, we walked around the outside of the castle and climbed the sizable turret.  We went outside at the top and had a 360-degree view for miles around.   The views were spectacular.

Then we left the castle for the day, passing the rose garden and seeing a portion of it from the road on the way out.

The castle was a great place for a family outing, but there was one difficulty.  You could not bring strollers or back carriers for babies into the castle, so I had to wear my son in my Hot Sling.  I love the sling, but the stairs up the turret were narrow and uneven – they would have been scary without the baby, but with him in the Hot Sling they were downright terrifying.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Aberdeen Country Fair

Yesterday for a family activity in the afternoon (post babysitting) we decided to go to Aberdeen Country Fair on Belmont Street.  We drove into Aberdeen and located an amazing (pay) parking space after quite a lengthy search.  We drove in our new Range Rover (my husband’s truck) and we parked in the Union Square Mall parkade.  We even got a family-parking stall, which was ideal for our “big” truck.

We walked over to Belmont Street and from first glance we could see that the fair was dismal.  There were only a few booths on a long and narrow street.  We saw a booth selling kilts, a few art booths and two cheese places.  There were very few customers and it was not much of an activity.

So, we decided to continue our walk.  We walked past what appeared to be a church picnic with a live band at Union Terrace Gardens.  Then we walked up and saw the ever-present redheaded bagpiper on Union Street before heading back to Union Square for our car.  At Union Square there was a giant bouncy-castle with a slide and we let our son go onto it (admission was £2, given the disappointment with the Fair.

Then we paid for parking (another £2) and headed home in the glorious sunshine with the sunroof wide open.

(I finally found the £ symbol on the computer, in case you were wondering…)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

5 Under 5

This morning we baby sat my friend's kids for a couple of hours.  She has 3 kids, and with our 2 kids there were 5 kids under the age of 5 in our house.  I was worried about my house being destroyed and major tantrums.  I was also worried about the 3 kids crying for their mum.

When the other children arrived, the kids all played inside for a while, which seemed to break the ice.  Then they ate breakfast, which was messy but uneventful.  My friend had packed up lovely breakfast for her kids, but they all wanted the cheerios that I was feeding to the baby.  I gave them cheerios - maybe I have corrupted their taste buds?

Then we took the kids outside to the back yard for a while, where they ran wild.  Once it became too wild we walked them to the playground.  After a while there, it became apparent to me that they were all getting hangry (hungry + angry) so we brought them home for a snack.

Snack was home-made wheat-germ muffins (so new age of me, I know) and pears and apples.  After snack the older kids coloured while the younger kids made nuisances of themselves with the crayons and papers.

And that was our babysitting play date.  The house is in pretty good shape, I just need to vacuum some cheerios and there was only one tantrum.   No one cried for their mum.   I'd say we "done good."  As my husband said, "they are all good kids, there are just a lot of good kids here..."

I have concluded that I am not cut out to work at a daycare or playschool.....

Friday, September 23, 2011

No Internet!

I have had no Internet for a couple of days, but now it's back.  It is so frustrating, but I will post again on the wonders of British telecom technology when I am not so irritated...

Feeding my Sons

This week we started to feed the baby cow’s milk and eggs – two big “firsts” in his life.  He now eats a variety of foods, including:  cucumbers (his absolute favorite); peaches; nectarines; apples; boiled carrots; bread; baby cookies; rice cakes; cheerios; cheese; bananas; pears; plums; soup; ice cream; peas; corn on the cob; sandwiches; any bread products/baking that he can get his hands on.  He likes yoghurt, but other than that he strongly resists any food that he cannot feed to himself – so we don’t have much luck with baby food jars that you can spoon into the baby’s mouth.  This adds another inconvenience to the messy, sloppy baby feeding process.

So, basically the baby will eat anything you give him to feed himself….as long as everyone else is eating it as well.   He just wants to eat the foods that we are eating.  This is pretty easy to accomplish – just modify for safety and cool down most of our food.

I was thinking about this and it struck me that this is almost the opposite of my older son.  He was content to eat baby porridge by the bagful.  He still loves porridge of all descriptions – this morning, for a treat I made him porridge.  The package said to use 1.5 cups of oats for 2 servings.  I used slight less (about 1.25 cups) and then divided the porridge evenly between two bowls.  He finished his while I was pouring juice and getting coffee, and then he ate mine too!  He ate the whole batch.  Anyways….the point being, he really ate only baby porridge until he was about a year old, and then he slowly started to adopt new foods. 

The baby is the opposite of his brother; he seems to love all food.  He also eats in a disgusting manner.  I have been trying to capture it on video for posterity, but, of course, every time the camera comes out the behavior stops.   When he likes something he is eating, he hunches over, shoves it into his mouth and makes a loud noise that is a cross between “mmmmm” and “ggggggg.”  His aim is terrible, and it looks a lot like Cookie Monster when he does this.  When he is done eating the amount of food shoved into his chair, down his shirt and on his legs is massive.  He has actually learned to look onto his chest just a little bit under his shirt collar to retrieve lost food.

This weekend, he had a grilled cheese sandwich for the first time and he was barbaric in his approach to eating it.  He ate and made his noise, then opened up the sandwich and gummed off all of the cheese, then sucked the bread loudly.  Then he ate the damp, cheese-less bread and smacked his lips the whole time.  Then he grabbed for more with his cheesy, breadcrumb encrusted, fat hand….delightful.

I can’t imagine what my food bill is going to be like in a few years…

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Janice vs. The Spider

This evening I was standing barefoot in the kitchen taking care of the normal chores (drudgery), including Tidy Up and Making Lunch (sometimes I feel that I have accomplished more when I capitalize the tasks as though they were big, important jobs*), when I looked down at the floor and staring up at me was a huge spider.  It was about an inch in diameter, and it was a true daddy long legs.

The spider presented a problem – what should I do?  I was not afraid of the spider, but I found that I was afraid of killing the spider.  This is a fine distinction perhaps, but incredibly important in my mind.  I did not want to feel the spider being crushed…the mere thought repulsed me and gave me a nauseous, shivery feeling.

So, what to do?  I briefly considered just leaving the spider.  I would turn a blind eye and hope that in gratitude for magnanimously preserving his (or “her,” but I will hereinafter refer to it as a male because it’s my blog and I want to) existence he would leave me alone.  But, I didn’t want him to resurface in a few days, perhaps on my countertop, or in my food...or walking across my bare foot.  Another shiver.

The only way out of the situation was to kill the spider.  Queue another shiver.  I decided that I would get a thick, disposable paper product, like a paper towel and grab him, scrunch up my hand and throw the whole mess in the garbage.  I looked for a paper towel, and of course, we are out of them.  I found a worthy substitute – 2 “Lightening McQueen” napkins opened and layered diagonally and a Kleenex tissue on top.

I had my weapon and I swallowed deeply to put the shivers at bay, leaned over and grabbed the spider.  I smushed and squished the wad of napkins and tissue and, thankfully, did not feel the spider being crushed.  I turned on my heel to head for the garbage and saw the spider skittering across the floor.  What?????  I guess he won round 1.

He ran under the lip of the cupboard doors while I re-set my weapon and then I went to grab him.  He scooted out of my way and I jammed my hand into the floor.  And so he won round 2.

I reset again and chased him into a corner.  This time, I scooped and grabbed and stayed near the floor.  I scrunched up my hand tight while I looked around and saw no sign of him.  I looked further afield, just in case – at this point I really wanted to satisfy myself that I had him.  I did.  I smushed and scrunched some more and then triumphantly put the napkin/tissue wad into the garbage.  He may have won the battle (or 2), but I had won the war.

It is 10 minutes later and I am still shaking…

*Although having read the book "Room" I am now re-thinking my verb capitalization because of the noun capitalization in that book.  Makes the whole capitalization thing a little bit creepy.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sweet Freedom

My car insurance kicked in last night at midnight, so – of course – I had to go for a drive today in my cute Mini.  It was fun!  I thought it would be different to drive around in a “novelty car” but here they are a dime a dozen.  Seriously, every 5th car seems to be a Mini.

I was nervous at first, so a slowly crept around our front street a few times.  Another mum at school gave me some good advice for driving on the “wrong side” – she said, “always make sure you are in the middle.”  I got brave after a while and drove through our neighborhood – easy peasy!  So, I pulled over and typed the address of the post office (where a package was waiting for me) into the GPS.  After the post office, I got brave and drove to ASDA to do some big shopping (not too big though, it is a Mini).  The car was a dream to park and I could have fit twice the shopping load into the boot (that’s a trunk!  I wonder, do they say people have “junk in the boot” or maybe “loot in the boot”…who knows).

Anyways, here is my list of great things about driving today:
  •      Mini drivers wave to each other – kind of like a secret club! (And no, I don’t think they were all waving at me because I was making driving mistakes).
  •      I got 3 errands done in one morning!  This breaks all of my previous Aberdeen records.
  •      I could go where I wanted, when I wanted (within reason, of course, I do have 2 kids!).
  •      I did not have to pay the outrageous taxi fares – Dubai taxis may have been dirty, smelly and dangerous, but they were cheap! (By the way – I don’t think the trade off was worth it, even though I am frugal).
  •      The boot is way bigger than I expected, in terms of what you can fit into it.
  •      It was simple to park in the parking lot.
  •      Today was beautiful and sunny.
  •      The baby fell asleep.
  •      I rock traffic circles (roundabouts) after living in Dubai.
  •      My GPS (sat nav) makes it much easier to get around.

So, for once, I enjoyed driving.  I think I will take up calling it “motoring”….although it feels slightly pretentious for a Canadian.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Typical Scottish Walk?

Today I needed to buy some small grocery items (eggs, milk, bread, apples), and I am still without car insurance so we decided to walk to the store.  It was pouring when we woke up, but I was delighted that it cleared up around 9:00 a.m.  I decided that me and my sons would walk to the store and my older son could bring his scooter.  If conditions allowed (i.e. if there was pavement) he could ride his scooter.  I knew I would have to carry it through the mud puddles and unpaved roads.

We started the walk with a couple of nasty scooter spills because my son was going too fast on wet pavement.  With the exception of muddy knees, there was no lasting effect of these spills.  We walked on to the dirt (mud) section and I carried the scooter to the main road.  We walked and "scooted" into town and bought our groceries.  I had wanted to stop for a coffee but the coffee shop was not open, so we packed up our groceries and headed home.

About 5 minutes into our 20 minute walk home, it started to pour.  And I mean pour.  Our rain gear was soaked and it was getting windy.  We got the stroller stuck in the mud a few times (which made the baby cry) and the uphill-and-through-the-mud parts were a tough slog.  But we made it.  It rained and blew and rained some more.

Just as we were turning the corner onto our street, the sun came out and the rain stopped.  Typical Scottish walk?  Typical Scottish weather?  We will see.  I should be used to variable weather, I once heard someone say that "the only thing predictable about Alberta weather is that it will change."  I think this is true of Scottish weather as well.


Last night we heard some sounds outside and looked out the window.  There were fireworks!  I'm not sure what they were celebrating, but I am sure that we are not in Dubai anymore, and it was not to mark the arrival of a celebrity at the Burj Al Arab.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Doors Open Day - Fraserburgh Heritage Centre

Today we went on a driving trip to the seaside.  We packed a lunch and headed out of town on the A90.  We drove up to Old Aberdeen, were we had to stop so that I could feed the baby.  Then we drove on through picturesque countryside to Blackdog.  There were sheep, cows and patchwork fields to see along the way. 

The weather was pleasant but chilly today.  It is +14 Celsius but cloudy in the morning – sunny in the afternoon.

I thought the A90 would have sea views, but I was wrong, so when we were in the area of Collieston we left the A90 and took the A975 through Cruden Bay.  In Cruden Bay we saw dramatic beach views (there was a brave and probably chilly surfer!) and a beautiful church.  We did not, however, see the castle that was marked on the map.  We went onto a small access road for the castle, but saw only ruin walls.  I wonder whether the ruins were the castle?  I was a little worried that our car would get stuck on the small access road, but it did not.

Cruden Bay is a tiny town with a post office, a small general store and two small gift shops on the high street.  The houses are generally joined and some of them were colourfully painted in pastel colours, similar to Newfoundland (but pastel colours, not bright colours).

From Cruden Bay we drove back to the A90 and we stopped for lunch on a beach near to Boddam.  The beach had a long, wide sandy area with grassy knolls all along it.  There was a grassed berm rising away from the beach and when you crossed over it you could not hear the loud waves crashing down.  On the beach side, the waves were almost deafening.

Then we drove into Peterhead.  Peterhead was a fishing town but it looks as thought it is dying out.  There are shops closed on the main streets and the town was grubby and rough looking.  There was a large field where lots of people were flying kites.  The kites were arch-shaped and had two handles.  They were huge and the people flying the kites wore helmets.  Our 4-year old is interested in kites so we stopped to watch for a while.

Then we drove on to Fraserburgh, which, in all honesty, seemed like a part of Peterhead.  In Fraserburgh, we took advantage of Doors Open Day (a one-day event around Aberdeen where you can go into attractions that usually require an entrance fee for free) and visited the Fraserburgh Heritage Centre.  This was a great museum with exhibits illustrating the life of fishermen in the area.  It was interesting to children (including our 4-year old) because there were hands-on exhibits, such as a model of a bunk in a fishing vessel, and a train that the children could sit on.  The museum was organized and well run – impressive for such a small place!

After Fraserburgh we drove back to our home.  And it took forever!  There was a traffic tie-up in Aberdeen that delayed us for about 1.2 hour.

We had a lovely drive to the seaside today, something that we could never do in Alberta.

Friday, September 16, 2011

New Routes

I have, in the span of one day, found a new route to school and a new route to town.  This means that when I am walking to either of those places, I will not longer have my butt kicked by my nemesis hill.

Both new routes are along the same cobbled/dirt road/alley and I think it could get really mucky in the winter, but, fingers crossed, it will work out.  (I bought some tall Wellies today).  Both routes also involve the exact same elevation gain as the nasty hill, but the elevation gain is on more pleasant (ie paved), sister, if you are worried about my exercising, I will still be getting fit, just not on an unpaved, partially cobbled, potholed, heaving track.

I have been a little frustrated with the maps available in this area.  They show all the roads, but do not show which ones are paved and which have sidewalks, etc.   So I tried to use Google Maps, but the pictures are very out of date - our home has been standing for about 2 years, but on Google Maps it is a construction site without any buildings.  This has been hard, because to determine if routes are usable, I generally have to walk at least 1/2 hour out of my way.

Yesterday when I was walking to the school, I heard a car coming up to a blind intersection on the mucky road.  I stopped because I knew the driver could not see me, and then the car passed - it had a strange camera installation on top.  When it went by I read the sign on the side - Google Maps!  It was taking photo and video footage for the website.  Maybe we will have an updated description of the roads around here soon...

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Mums who want to get to know each other follow a fairly scripted dance.  They chat at school, or wherever they met, the go for coffee, then they start to do more interest-driven activities - like taking the kids on outings or going shopping or for lunch.

(As an aside - You always want to make sure that your lunch date is on the same page as you.  Ie, a bad match could be taking a vegan to a game restaurant, etc.  Personally I hate to lunch with perpetual dieters.  You are out for lunch to eat.  So eat.  You can make your wise dietary choices during the other 20 meals during the week but when you have a meal out, enjoy it.  But not too often).

The new school year and new beginnings in Aberdeen puts me into the wallflower stage of the dance.  I am waiting to be chatted to or asked to coffee, and, conversely I am looking for openings in conversations or other mums who are alone to chat to.  In Dubai, this all happpend at the playground and it was quite awkward with the nanny population interspersed with disinterested mothers - only a few diamonds in the rough.  I am finding Aberdeen, and particularly the school, much friendlier.  There are only a couple of closed cliques of mums, everyone else is very open and friendly.

So far I have had 3 coffee dates, and one activity.  I'd say that it is going well for my 15th day here.  I sometimes feel "coffeed out" at this initial stage, but I know that this is how the dance works and after the inital steps, the other mum and I will see whether we truely have common interest and the desire to spend time together.  (I also think it is important to not have a treat every time I have coffee).

I met another mum yesterday that I quite liked - maybe another coffee date next week?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gorgeous Day

They weather was beautiful today - I wore sunglasses and no jacket with a t-shirt!  The house got too hot from the sun shining into the window and the mud trough on my way to school dried up.

We celebrated the weather by spending 1.5 hours at the playground after school - that's a real treat!

Back to 1995?

I started university in 1995 and the Internet felt quite new (yes, I know it was invented years before, but I am talking about regular people using the internet).  I got an email address sometime in my first year and I remember a black screen with white font, and the letters would appear “Doogie Howser, M.D.” style as you typed.  When you wanted to connect to the Internet to check your email, you had a dial-up modem that made dialing noises and blocked your telephone line while it tried hundreds of times to connect. 

In my second year of university, we were expect to register for courses online and it was an absolute nightmare with a dial-up connection, so I did it from work.  But I remember having to later make a bunch of corrections in person or via telephone.  (Anyone remember the STAReport at UofA...the bane of my existence at the time).  

When you wanted to view a website, it would take minutes to load, so generally I would type in the address (no bookmarks bar on my computer at that point), and then go make tea or grab a snack.  When I came back, sometime the site was still loading.  It was nearly impossible to get any one task, whether sending an email or looking something up, done without the modem disconnecting and all of your work being lost.  We also didn’t turn off the computer very often; for fear that our computer would not re-start.

Obviously the technology and the Internet have come a long way since then.  Except in Scotland.  So far, Aberdeen is the most technologically backward place I have ever lived (unless you count the past).  We purchased a 30-day voucher so that we could get Internet access while we are waiting for our broadband to get connected.  After about 2 days the voucher did not work anymore.  My husband called the company to check why (remember, I don’t have a landline or mobile), and they explained that the connection is patchy, and, if it disconnects you 2 times while you are logged in, your voucher is frozen.  Then you have to call in to have it unfrozen.  Fat lot of good it does me.

Alternatively, we can use Wi-Fi on my husband’s iPhone.  That is an incredible service, as we only have to hold the phone up to the window in the living room to get a connection.  I can use Wi-Fi at my son’s school and it seems to work well, but it disconnects about every 2 minutes or so, and then all of your work is lost.  Very frustrating when you are typing an email to your mum on an iPhone, which is difficult with autocorrect to say the least.

In 2 weeks, we will have a landline and the much anticipated broadband connected in our home….but I’ve been warned that the broadband does not work all of the time, especially when a lot of people want to use it.  Thank goodness we don’t have television so we are not concerned with that hook-up.

Technologically I feel like I have returned to 1995 - or perhaps earlier...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Variety of Accommodations

We have stayed in so many different places over the last while.  We left our apartment in Dubai to stay in the Sutton Place Hotel in Toronto.  Then we spent a few weeks at my parent's house in Edmonton, which was interrupted by a short stay with our friends in Redwood Meadows.  Once we arrived in Aberdeen we were in a furnished, serviced apartment for a few days, a hotel for a few days.  Now we are in our more permanent rental accommodation.

Moving between accommodation is always lots of work.  We have to pack up, clean up and ensure that nothing was left behind.  At this point, I'm not sure where some of our things are because we have unpacked and repacked so many times.

The children have been remarkable adaptable to all of this change.  The only real concession that we have made is that we co-slept with the baby basically from when we left Dubai until we moved into our permanent accommodation.  When you are in hotel rooms, there are not often safe beds for babies and co-sleeping is the best option, no matter how inconvenient it is.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hover Mower

Last Sunday, my husband went out to cut the grass.  I thought we would not have to cut our own grass at this property, but it turns out that the landlord did not want to pay for a gardener as he was supplying a mower.  Fair enough.

When we moved in there was a tiny orange machine in the garage, which we assumed was a mower, and, indeed it was.  So, he took the machine outside to mow the grass.  But, there are no wheels…so how does it work?

It turns out that it is a “hover” mower.  A stream of air keeps it hovering above the ground and it sort of vacuum cuts (like that hair clipper that vacuums your hair up and then cuts it into a mullet – the Flowbee) the grass.  It has a catcher for the clippings and then you dispose of them into a special waste bin.  It is lightweight, but you have to pass over each area 2-3 times before it really cuts all of the grass in the area.

Another interesting difference between Aberdeen and Calgary…

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Good Day - Doonie's Farm

Today I had a good day.  I think the other members of my family did as well.  

To start, it is Sunday today and my husband was not at work!  It is so nice to be back to a Saturday and Sunday weekend.

We started the day with a drive to Nigg (about 15 minutes away from our home) to see Doonie's Farm, which is a rare animal farm.  The cost of admission was 10 pounds for the family and that included a free bucket of feed, which consisted of huge chopped-up carrots.  The premise of the farm is that there are rare breeds of farm animals and you can wander around and feed them all.  I was worried that my older son would be a bit of a pansy when it came to approaching and feeding the animals, but he was right in there, braver than I was!

We started off small - he fed some sheep, a small cow and some goats.  He fed each of these animals by hand and their mouths actually touched him.  Then we went outside and saw some rare breed chickens and some piglets.  The piglets wanted to romp and play - they were completely uninterested in the carrots.  They were so cute - they ran in a pack and wagged their curly tails.

Next came the horses.  My son has decided as of late that horses are his favourite animal.  In fact, he told his pre-school teacher that he wanted to be a horse and live in a magical house when he grew up.  The other kids wanted to be builders, doctors, etc.  I guess he must be creative.  Anyways....we walked toward the first horse and he bravely fed it from his hand.  The horse, of course, wanted more and he grew more brave and soon he had the horses following him all around trying to get more food.   He was petting their noses and playing with them.  His favourite was a black pony that trotted across the compound to beg for more food.

After the animals my son played on a big playground at the farm.  It was very windy, but not raining and the outing was a success!  I would highly recommend Doonie's Farm to other families for an outdoor activity.

The farm is on the coast and the views were incredible.  After we finished up at the farm we decided to drive down into the community of Cove Bay.  When we first found out we were moving to Aberdeen, I wanted to live in Cove Bay, based on some Internet photos and commentary.  This was entirely impractical once I found out the location of our son's school and my husband's work.  It is a beautiful seaside community with sweeping views of the sea and traditional homes.

Then we drove back up to the Beach area of Aberdeen and we stopped for some groceries.  Then home for lunch.

After lunch my new car was dropped off at our house!  I am so excited it is my favourite colour (blue) and it is so cute, because it is a Mini Cooper.  I will love driving it.

Then my son played outside while we did a bit of housework before a supper of stew and fresh-baked buns.

What a lovely day.  I can't wait for next weekend...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mobile Phone Madness

I am not referring to "mad" as the British do, meaning "crazy," but "mad" as Canadians mean it...."angry."

I have been trying to get a sim card for my mobile phone so that I can talk and use data.  I have just arrived in the UK and it seems that without a credit history here, no-one wants to give me a plan.  Everything (school forms, insurance, bank accounts, etc) seems to require a mobile number here, but getting a mobile number requires that you have some history in the UK.  It is an impossible circle.

Unfortunately, the only option available to me will be to get "pay as you go" until I build up a credit history here.  The silly thing is that a mobile here is only about 15 pounds per month - much cheaper than Canadian plans and I'd have no problem purchasing a Canadian plan.

And landline installation takes about a month...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Long Time No Post

Or so it seems....

I still don't have permanent Internet at the house, but I have a temporary connection so I am posting an overall update.  There are many different topics, so bear with me.  Those who know me personally may see this post as similar to having a conversation with me....I am told (although I think it may be exaggerated) that I switch topics about 10 times a minute when I am talking.


My son completed his first week of school and it went off without a hitch.  He fits into his class, he has a new bestie and he has started to eat all of his lunch.  He is learning French and has come home with new words.  I think he is happy to have an activity that is his "own," but it has made him a little jealous that his brother and I spend the entire day at home together.

My son had to get rubber boots for school; it is an actual requirement on the school supply list here.  They call them "Wellies."  He loves those boots to bits and insists on wearing them everywhere, even though they are cumbersome and often inappropriate.  Everyday when I picked him up from school he wore them home and I believe he walks about 15% slower when he is wearing them.  Today he wore them to ASDA and got stuck when I tried to lift him out of the buggy!


I have been walking my older son to and from school each day.  It is a pleasant walk to the school, but on the way home there is a hill that has become my nemesis.  It is a road that was partially paved at one time (maybe 100 years ago....I do exaggerate) and the road is all sunken pits, dirt, gravel and really old pavement.  It is incredibly narrow and has an extreme grade.  The path up the hill is actually a 2-way road and I have encountered cars and horses as well as pedestrians.  I have to hoof it up this hill with the buggy twice a day - painful!  It is my new fitness plan.

We got our furniture on Wednesday this week and the movers brought it into the house and did a "surface" unpack which means that they build the furniture but we put our stuff away.  I am incredibly disappointed and frustrated with the amount of damage that was done to our furniture when it was packed up in Dubai.  It seems like the packers completely disrespected our furniture and just smashed it all together.  What can you expect from Dubai?

Unfortunately we will have to go through a painful process of insurance claims to get this all fixed up, and some furniture will be beyond repair.  I am bitter, angry and annoyed about the damage, and in particular I am livid about a piece of furniture that was never supposed to leave Calgary and is now damaged.  I had marked it "storage" in Calgary and I also pointed it out to the movers as an important piece for storage.  Unfortunately they shipped it to Dubai where it was wrecked in the second moves.

I really do curse the shoddy work of the Dubai packing/moving team and I find it typical of the disappointing service and workmanship in Dubai.  Almost everything I had done in Dubai was a disaster, with the service company employees and owners lying and doing half-assed work - all while looking at you with a smile on their faces and calling you "Madam."

On the Aberdeen side, I was disappointed that the movers wore their shoes in the house and forgot to assemble a few pieces of furniture.  Sigh...

On the evening of our move we entertained our first guests for take-out pizza in our chaotic house.


Our baby acquired a frightening new skill today - he can walk with a chair or walker.  He has been pulling himself up to a standing position on anything that he could for the last while, but today he started to push a chair along and walk behind it.

He has also sprouted a top tooth - which looked like a painful process.

He has been eating a lot of "real food" and hates almost all baby food that you spoon into his mouth.  He likes anything he can eat with his hands so I have been boiling carrots and apples for him to munch on.

Birthday Party

Today we attended a birthday party at a local community hall for one of my son's classmates.  It was a soccer-themed party and the kids had great fun running around and playing "football" (I'll have to remember to call it that).  I will have to up my game when it comes to birthday parties.

Inspector Rebus

In Dubai, I happened upon the Inspector Rebus crime novels.  This would not be my typical genre, but I must say that I am enjoying them.  I have read about 4 and I plan to finish as many as I can.  


The weather has been beautiful since we arrived.  Everyday we have had sun and it is such a pretty place when it is bathed in sunlight.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Church Bells

On the first Sunday that we were in Aberdeen, the apartment we were staying in was located across from a lovely old church.  At 10:00 am on Sunday morning, the bells rang out and I peeked out the window to see churchgoers making their way into the church.  They were mostly elderly ladies, dressed up in their Sunday best and walking slowly, some with the aid of walkers or canes into the church.

No Internet

Hello readers. I'm in Scotland and everything is good, but I have no Internet at this point. I will post when I can and I should have Internet next week at the latest.

Monday, September 5, 2011

First Day of School

My older son started school today.  He is in KG1 (Kindergarten Level 1) at a fancy private school.  He seems so grown up!

He started late this year, most of his class has been in school for about 2 weeks already, but today he already made friends with another little boy.  The school is physically really nice and his teachers seem to be attentive and caring.

I took all of the obligatory "first day of school" pictures and he looks so cute!  He had a great time at school and his teachers said that he did well - no problems with the late start.

I did not ever envision that he would attend fancy private school, but, given our circumstances as expats it was the best option available.  It is a beautiful school and I'm sure he will learn a lot there.

My younger son and I went to our new house (we have not yet moved in, we are in a new hotel tonight) for the day to organize what we could.  He is cutting two teeth (one top and one bottom) and was a bit miserable, but with good reason.  He used his jolly jumper imitation for the first time today and it went well.

I walked to the school from our new house in no time at all.  I stopped to take pictures and I got a bit lost and it took about 20 minutes.  It is a hilly route - should be good exercise!