Wednesday, June 30, 2010

MacDuff Marine Aquarium

And our car-rental, weekend adventure continues...

After our visits to Tolquhon Castle and Fyvie Castle we headed due north. Our destination was the MacDuff Marine Aquarium, located on the norther coast of Scotland.

Although MacDuff is not as far north as you can go in Scotland, it was definitely the furthest north Darren or I have ever been. The rocky shores were beautiful! When we first arrive, we sat outside the aquarium in the parking lot enjoying the view.

The center of the aquarium was a large, circular, open-air tank containing all the large fish that actually live on the coast of Scotland. There were large salmon, cod, haddock, etc. The kids liked the rays and the Lesser-Spotted Dogfish.

Joshua was especially like the large Wolf Fish. His fearsome teeth are for crushing crabs and sea urchins. This large fish passed by our view window several time, to the great excitement of our kids.

Abigail enjoyed the smaller display tanks full of beautiful Dahlia Anemone. She described each of the colors and sized she saw in this tank.

The large rays were also fascinating to watch. They would practically float around the tanks then sink to the bottom, skimming gently over the rocks and other fish.

Joshua loved this small tank. There were blue lobster, small rays and other funny fish. Several fish, including a ray, loved to poke their noses out of the water. We could lift Joshua up so he could see the fish noses.

There is a small auditorium with view windows of the large central tank. It is probably for educational talks. The kids sat here for the longest time watching the fish swim past.

We also really enjoyed the touch pools with starfish, anemones, hermit crabs and other fun creatures. But somehow I completely forgot to take any pictures.

We had a wonderful time at the aquarium, and enjoyed the beautiful coast! Check out the additional pictures in our photo album: MacDuff Aquarium - June 2010.

Our day was now coming to an end. The kids did great in and out of the car all day. We all went to bed contentedly tired, dreaming of the adventures awaiting us in the morning.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fyvie Castle

To continue our adventures from last weekend... After we left Tolquhon Castle, we headed north toward the coast. The plan was to spend the afternoon at the aquarium in Macduff. However, on the way, we decided to make a quick stop at Fyvie Castle only a mile or two off our route.

Fyvie is a beautiful castle, that feels more like a fairy tale castle more than the others we had seen. The approach was incredible. Down the long lane, line with trees, you could see the castle growing in the distance. Very impressive view!

The front of the castle is equally impressive. The front entry was definitely designed to impress any visitor with its splendor.

The kids were properly impressed with the castle as we walked from the side around to the front view.

Because this was a last minute addition to our trip, we had not looked up information on the castle and learned upon arrival that it was not open on Fridays (except in July and August). So we did not get to see the inside.

No one was really in the mood to tour the gardens on this visit. There was too much excitement about the upcoming aquarium. So we enjoyed the outside view of the castle, and the extensive lawns.

The kids have found the joy of laying in the lawn and playing (wrestling) with each other. They have also learned that if they smile, Daddy can't resist snapping some pictures.

Beautiful day! Beautiful castle! The sun was shining brightly, but the wind was still quite cold. There are additional Fyvie pictures at: Fyvie Castle - June 2010.

We enjoyed our quick tour of Fyvie, but were ready for our next destination. Come back for more...

Tolquhon Castle

With our rental car loaded and ready, we headed out on our family adventure. Our first stop was Tolquhon Castle (pronounced toll-hon') about half-an-hour north of Aberdeen (though not accessible by public transportation).

The initial tower to this beautiful ruin was built in the 15th century. This is a great castle to explore with kids. It is safe enough to let them wander (a little) and explore all the nooks and crannies.

The gate house has fascinating gun holes that provide a perfect view of the front lawns. Abigail especially like looking through these hole at the dog playing outside. (See our photo album for pictures of these holes).

The original tower was in the front corner of the tower, while the later family quarters (seen in the background) have the huge fireplaces, wonderful rooms, hiding places for the family treasure, and even a dungeon (that is literally a deep, dark hole).

The country side was beautiful. This castle had an amazing view of the surrounding lands, including cattle and a pigeon house (with a few nesting boxes still intact).

Joshua and Abigail loved all the staircases to climb, and I loved all the safety measures taken to help the kids (like railings).

This was a beautiful start to our family adventures! After lunch in our car (it was too windy for our planned picnic), we headed out for more fun.  Check out more pictures from Tolquhon in our photo album, Tolquhon Castle - June 2010. And come back soon to read about the other things we did on our weekend with a car...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

We tried several new items on our menu last week, but none of them were wonderful. I was very excited to try a new chicken piccata recipe, but it was not good enough to add to our 'repeats' list. I was just spoiled by the great flavor of Trader Joe's piccata sauce -- we use to add chicken, extra artichokes and sometimes extra capers. So good! Maybe we will live near Trader Joe's again some day.

Here is the menu for this coming week!
Check out more great meal ideas at Organizing Junkie.

Happy Monday! 

    His Affection - Praying Wife, Chapter 5

    When I first read this chapter years ago, I had not realized how much physical affection is a separate issue from sex in the physical life of a married couple. But it is not the same as the sexual relationship, and needs to be addressed as a serious aspect of a healthy marriage.

    My husband and I both grew up in families that had healthy affection modeled for us, so this is not an area that we have struggled deeply with. However, we have found that there are times we become too busy or are so tired that we forget to show physical affection. Some days we just both realize that we need to hug more, or snuggle while we watch a movie, or hold hands during dinner. For me, there is nothing quite like being enfolded in my husbands arms to feel loved, secure and content with the world.

    Stormie makes some interesting observations about affection and marriage. Many men view sex and affection as being the same. For most women, however, affection is their greatest need from their husbands. This issue is often further complicated by a woman's self-image and worth.

    Let us pray
    Here are some thoughts from Stormie's prayer to encourage you as you pray...
    • "Help us to demonstrate how much we care for and value each other."
    • "Change our habits of indifference or busyness. May we not take each other for granted..."
    • "Transform us and make us the husband and wife You called us to be."
    Next up, Chapter 6: His Temptations. As wives, we need to pray continuously for our husbands as they face temptations everyday. Who else would our enemy work to trip up more than Godly men of faith? We will consider the various temptations that surround us each day, and how to pray specifically for victory.

    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    Summer Solstice

    Summer Solstice, also the first day of summer, is the longest day of the year for those of us in the northern hemisphere. After all my complaining about darkness last winter around the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year), I am enjoying the light of Scotland's summer days.

    On June 21, we enjoyed the longest day of the summer from sunrise to sunset.
    Sunrise: 4:12 am
    Sunset: 22:08 (10:08 pm)

    Yes, the sun was up four minutes shy of 18 hours, not including the light at dawn and dusk. I was actually up with Abigail at 3am and it was already light out. I have heard (but not taken the time to observe) that it never gets entirely dark for few weeks before and after the solstice. The summer light definitely makes up for the winter darkness. I'm just thankful that it is not a one-to-one trade off; at its shortest this winter, the sun was still up for almost a full eight hours.

    At 10:30pm, as I start to get ready for bed, I glance out the front window hoping for a break in the clouds so I can enjoy the beautiful colors of the sunset. Happy Summer!

    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Sports Day!

    Today was Sports Day for the Nursery children (Preschoolers) at Joshua's school. They practiced all week for a series of races and relays. It was originally scheduled for yesterday, but was canceled due to rain. So today the kids and parents all gathered in the school yard to enjoy the fun.

    Here is Joshua crossing the finish line of the first race. He was so proud of himself. 
    They each received a sticker at the end of the race.

    In the second race, the kids had to run to the hoops, pull them over their heads, step out of them and run to the finish line.

    The third race had bucket and shovels spread across the field that each child had to retrieve before crossing the finishing.

    At the end, the pulled the families into the race to get involved. First, any fathers and grandfathers raced with the kids; then the mothers and grandmothers (Abigail join Joshua and I on that race); and lastly, the kids raced with their younger siblings. Abigail was so excited to race with Joshua.

    After all the sports activities, there was a medal ceremony where each child was presented with a medal for their hard work. 

    What a fun afternoon! Check out the rest of the pictures at Joshua's Sports Day.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    Kids in the Kitchen: Monkey Bread

    Last month I discovered this wonderful book about baking with kids (I'm sorry that I can't remember who recommended it to me).

    I checked this book out from the library here in the UK and was not sure what to expect. I was wonderfully surprised at the UK version of this book. It does a great job changing all the measurements to both grams and ounces -- and then it warns you not to mix the measurement type in the same recipe.

    My kids love working in ounces. It gives me the freedom to let the kids measure things like flour and sugar without worrying about getting inaccurate amounts. They just dump a little at a time onto the scale until mommy says its enough.

    This book has great pictures and very clear instructions to follow. On our first venture, we decided to make "Monkey Bread" (a.k.a. banana bread). Both kids helped measure the flour, then we divided up the tasks to get the work done 'faster.'

    Joshua peeled and mashed the bananas. 
    He loved using the potato masher and worked so hard to make sure they were very squishy.

    Abigail beat the eggs, then measured out the sugar and mixed them together.

    Mommy combined all the ingredients and poured the batter into the pan (with help from the kids scraping the bowl clean) and put it in the oven. It turned out wonderfully! And I managed not to stress about the added mess of baking with kids.

    Come back soon for a follow-up post about how we made their fun aprons to keep their clothes clean.

    And for great tips on stress-free baking with kids, check out Miss Mommy's post How to let little ones help in the kitchen {without going crazy!}

    Happy Baking!

    Read the Bible in 90 Days!

    This summer I am excited to join an online challenge to read through the entire Bible in 90 days. Beginning on July 5, Amy over at Mom's Toolbox will be blogging through the Bible in 90 days.

    Want to join me and help keep me accountable? Please prayerfully consider taking this challenge and committing the time necessary to read through the entire Bible.

    Keep in mind that this amount of reading takes about an hour each day (plus or minus 15 minutes). Before starting, review your schedule and determine how to clear the time for reading. This will help you maintain your commitment to finish reading.

    My plan is to split my reading into three separate times each day -- 30 minutes in the morning (before the kids get up), 15 minutes in the afternoon (during nap time) and 15 minutes in the evening before bed. This will also mean if I miss (or have to shorten) one session in any given day, I won't get too far behind.

    The reading schedule listed on Mom's toolbox is based on reading 12 pages each day from the specific 90-days Bible. I am following that schedule, but reading to the end of the chapter, instead of stopping on a random verse.

    Check out these resources at Mom's Toolbox:

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    Adventures in Driving!

    Last weekend we rented a car here in Scotland for the first time since we moved here nine months ago. We got a great deal on a little (the smallest they had) car, with a manual transmission -- this means I had the privilege of driving all weekend, as Darren doesn't drive a 'stick'.  So early Friday morning my adventures in driving began.

    We rented a little Peugeot 107 (this picture is from the Peugeot site, not a picture of the car we actually rented). It looked far too small to be a four door, but we did have back door access to the kids in their car seats (which was WONDERFUL)!

    I won't spend too much time talking about the time I barely avoided an accident... Instead, I'll focus on the positive.

    I was very nervous about driving here, but it was not as hard as I expected. The flow of traffic really helps... just follow the guy in front of you. However, I did get disoriented a few times after turning onto a new road, especially when making a left-hand turn.

    Any time I went to turn right I found myself looking over my shoulder to check my blind spot because it felt like I was turning across two lanes of traffic (imagine turning right from the inside lane...).

    I adjusted fairly quickly to changing gears with my left hand, though it was a little harder when under pressure. I found that my right hand was not as accustomed to holding the wheel steady while shifting.

    And Darren can attest that I favored the left side a little too much, trying to stay far away from the oncoming traffic on the right. I admit I ran over a curb at least once, but the victory is that I never hit anything. 

    The kids loved being in the car again, and riding in their car seats. And we really enjoyed the freedom on having a car to get around. And we took full advantage of it. We visited five castles, one cathedral, St. Andrews University (and town), the Macduff Aquarium, and the Aberdeen Highland Games.

    Stay tuned for more about our adventures in some upcoming. And feel free to ask me all those crazy questions about driving on the opposite side of the road!

    School Days!

    Today was my day to visit Joshua's class for the first 45 minutes. It was so much fun to see him in this environment, interacting with his peers.

    We started out inside for a few minutes while we waited for everyone to arrive. Rebekah and Joshua started some crafts to pass the time.

    Then we headed out to the play area. There were so many things to do outside. Joshua rode the trikes, drove the cars and played with toy cars. It was nice to see how the kids interact; there was one little boy who filled up Joshua's gas tank and another little girl in a matching car who wanted to drive next to Joshua.

    Then we headed over to the sandbox to build castles. When we started, it was just Joshua and I, but soon there were six little kids all making castles. They all cooperated so well together, looking for shells to decorate, sharing shovels and buckets, and encouraging each other in their creations. Wonderful!

    We had a wonderful time together at Joshua's school. I am so thankful for this amazing class and terrific teachers.

    There are a few more pictures of our day in the FB album: Joshua at School

    Sunday, June 20, 2010

    Menu Plan Monday

    Has it really been a week already? I don't remember being offline for an entire week. We switched our internet service, and were without for a few days (off and on). And it was just a busy week, for no real reason.

    We are repeating a few meals from last week. During our weekend excursions (which I will be writing about later this week) we ate out a few times, so there were a few dinners we didn't try yet. We really enjoyed the Chicken Pitas, and had great Sausage Pasta Primavera instead of chicken to add a little more variety to our heavily-chicken meals. I'll post about both of those soon.

    Now to our plans for this week...

    Menu for this week:
    Check out more great meal ideas at Organizing Junkie.

    Happy Monday!

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Menu Plan Monday

    Last week we tried the Mushroom Haddock Bake and enjoyed it, although it was not as good as it could have been -- they don't have anything like good-ol'-American Colby-Jack cheese here in the UK. That would have made it much better.

    Menu for this week:
    Check out more great meal ideas at Organizing Junkie.

    Happy Monday!

    Saturday, June 12, 2010

    What does a PhD student do all day?

    Darren wrote a great post over on his blog answering just that question -- What does a PhD student really do all day?  He talks about the difference between the U.S. and U.K. systems. He also explains what he does with his time and shares a little about his specific project. Check it out.

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Luke's Party

    Okay, so I'm a little behind posting pictures... Luke celebrated his second birthday back in April. Here are a few shots from the great party day. You have to laugh that we have no pictures of the birthday boy...

    Joshua enjoying this perfectly sized bike. This was his favorite part of the day. 

    Abigail enjoyed a little "sportier" ride.

    And thoroughly enjoyed a the little toys in her party favor bag.

    Rachel painted beautiful pictures for this party of the "UP" characters, from Pixar's new movie UP. The entire party had an UP theme. Emily (Luke's mom and host of the party) wrote a great post about how to throw your own UP party.

    So, I didn't get any pictures of Luke, but here is Emily, Luke's mom. Great Party!

    Check out more pictures on Facebook.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    Calvin's Party

    Our good friends here, the Nigh's, had a birthday party for their son, Calvin, a few weeks ago. We don't normally take pictures at other people's parties, but we happened to have the camera in our bag.

    This picture of Joshua and me was actually taken by our friend, Emily. She does a great job catching pictures of everyone and sharing them. Maybe I should learn from her example.

    The Nigh's have a great back garden and we love being out there when the weather is nice. Joshua loves this front loader and has spend hours riding (or sometimes giving rides to other kids, when he can be convinced to share it),

    Abigail enjoyed the tricycle, and appreciated the help driving it on the lawn. Thanks, Rebekah!

    Rachel is an incredible artist; she treated the kids to face (or hand) paintings.

    Joshua shows off Percy (from Thomas and Friends). It isn't quite done yet... the painting was interrupted by cake time, and we didn't get a picture of the finished product.

    Abigail was so excited about her first pony that she begged for another on the other hand. Then she asked for some flowers on her cheek. I have never seen a two-year-old sit so still.

    And the guys sat and talked Theology (and LOST).

    Check out a few more pictures on Facebook.

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