Thursday, December 6, 2007

Where in the world is Ian Gillies?

The Dun Ochil Dinner Dance at Gleneagles
David and I were kindly invited to join Ian and Susie Gillies and Farquhar MacLean and his wife, Judith, at their table at the Gleneagles Dinner Dance. What fun! My first formal gig in the UK. Really cool stuff...had a lovely champagne reception upon arrival and it's at this point where everyone checks out everybody elses attire. Then the bagpiper starts playing and we all process in to the dining room where we managed to have a nice meal (with choreographed food service, I kid you not!) with lots of wine followed by a lot of dancing and yet even more wine. For those of you who know me well, you know my style of dance isn't exactly subtle which garnered many interesting glances my way. Eventually the alcohol consumption really kicked in and everyone was dancing a bit more like me, arms all over the place with a lot of bouncing!

Douglas and his wife. Diggin' the tartan trousers!

Susie Gillies and Farquhar MacLean.

Jeff and Obi (Farquhar's son and daughter-in-law)

Judith, Farquhar, me and David.

So over the entire evening I was able to get a picture of everyone except the elusive Ian Gillies who seemed to be missing every time there was a photo op.

David the Hunter

David is all smiles in his plus fours as he had been invited to go on a shoot. Who would have thought I'd end up with a big ol' huntin' man?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Some Pics

Just some pics that I wanted to post.

This is the view from Ullapool. There's a place in Ullapool that has the best fish and chips you have ever tasted!

On our trip to Lochinver we visited a place called Assynt which is home to Ardvreck Castle and Calda House. David said that they filmed some scenes from Highlander here at the castle.

Beach shot at Achmelvick...gorgeous!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Just Waiting

I have a little while before I have to go to the chiropractor and so I just thought I'd write a little blip. Things are well here in Stirling. Sophie was up for a week and so there was a lot going on. We went to Go Ape which is described as an aerial assault course. Basically, you're in a harness the whole time and you climb up trees and go from tree to tree in various ways - walking across wooden bridges, riding a zip line, or jumping off and swinging (the Tarzan move). It was fun but boring. There was a lot of waiting...waiting to climb up the tree, waiting to cross to the other tree, waiting because there were too many people on the platform (which is on the tree) and when you have to wait with people who are extremely annoying behind you (no, not David or Sophie but rather a Mother/Daughter trio who tried to tell you how to do everything even though you didn't want their advice) it can become a bit of a bummer. Best parts? The zip line across the valley and watching David (he's got a thing about heights - he says it's vertigo but really he's just scared and won't admit it!) It was slightly freaky to put your faith in to a piece of metal that would hopefully hold your weight (even though you've gained a few) and jump off in to nothingness. The caribiner was sturdy enough but my pants weren't and they split later that day...bummer.

Worked a half day on Friday so that we could have some fun and ended up going go-karting and to see Cats in Edinburgh. GO KARTING ROCKS! I love it. David had been before but Sophie and I had no idea what we were doing. Thought we'd be taking it easy around the course but David sped off right from the start (gee, thanks for waiting Davy) and when he lapped me and Sophie (with no regard for safety) bumping in to his own daughter's kart simply to prove his manliness, it really pissed me off and then we went flying around the course which, of course, is a blast. David won the race but I had the fastest lap time. I have challenged him to a re-match.

I love going in to Edinburgh because I miss city life and the normal things that you find in the city compared to Stirling - decent Pizza and salads, sushi, nice shops - it has become my new mecca. Cats was good but strange (maybe because it seems so dated?) It was fun going to see a show even though it was about Jellicle cats.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Warm Water Awaits

We have finally planned a trip. After 6 months of wanting to and waiting to plan a trip we have finally done it! 5 days in SF to visit the family and then we're off to Belize for diving and lollygagging. We are going to Caye Caulker which is a tiny island off of the coast, a place I never got a chance to see on my Mexico/Central America tour (ages ago) because Belize was a bit too scary (they had a Tourist Police Unit that followed us around because too many tourists were getting mugged and assaulted.)

We are staying at a place called Oasi, a wee inn (only 3 rooms) that I found by scouring Trip Advisor.

There are no cars on the island, only bicycles and golf carts...soooo totally my speed. I can't tell you how jazzed I am to do some really fantastic diving and, in particular, to see the Blue Hole. David is planning to get certified while we are there...I haven't had a diving buddy since my Dad abandoned me for golf!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Summer Antics

How do I catch up with a whole summer having gone by? With having finally gotten a job, I have been finding it hard to motivate myself to get my blog together. I'm tired and it seems that my weekends are packed with chores...yard work, cleaning, groceries, laundry, Newholme work. Like the rest of the world, I'm just tired. But I'll try to be better.

It has been a difficult summer, a sad summer. Thommy died and Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Let's face it...this summer sucked.

On a brighter note, Sophie came for a two week stay which coincided with a visit from the yanks. Hallelujah! I was saved. Just for a bit anyway.

David, Terry, Liz and the girls. We spent the night in Oban which is a small town on the west coast of Scotland. Notice that Kat Kat is wearing her princess dress even in the rain.

Here they are on a roller coaster when we went to the Safari Park. Notice that they're in the first (and best) car...way to go girls!

We finally got around to going to a pub! Once again, notice Kat Kat's attire.

The girls feeding baby Hammish. I've made peace with Highland set this summer.

Here's the story behind this picture and why I am swimming in freezing water when it's shit cold outside. There is a long standing tradition in the Callander family, that if you want to be able to go out in the boat by yourself, you have to be able to swim from a certain point on the shore out to island. Sophie, who is 12, is one of the few remaining in the Callander family that hadn't accomplished this task and so I stupidly said, "Well, if you do it then I'll do it with you." This was during the first few days of her visit and as the days went on, with her time in Scotland ticking away, she didn't mention it again. And neither did I. I was seemingly off the hook until David called me on Friday at work (Sophie was leaving the next day) and said, "she's going to do it." It was cold, it was raining but all the Callanders were in agreement that it was a good day for the family tradition to carry on. Andrew, David's nephew, was assigned to 'Sophie watch' as I haven't had the opportunity yet to display my great swimming abilities and I'm sure the Callanders were thinking that, under my supervision, Sophie was at high risk for drowning. Needless to say, we all made it and I actually enjoyed it. The unfortunate part of this story is that, even though Sophie can now go solo in the boat, she can't quite manage to get the boat in and out of the boathouse and so she is still shore-bound!

The glorious Castle Stalker on the way to Oban.

Puppy and gazelle at Safari Park (I was a gazelle too and Sophie was a guinea pig.)

Friday, June 1, 2007

I Have a Job!

Finally, it has happened. Someone hired me. Thank God for that! I will soon be a full time employee of the University of Stirling and I couldn't be more pleased!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Guess who...

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Animals Here Hate Me

I can't quite figure it out. I love animals. I even love insects and go out of my way to help them along every now and again. Stuck in the tub little spider? No worries, I'll save you! So why is it that it seems that the animals here are out to get me? I've been harassed by a donkey...remember the cute one that I posted on this site? A killer...nearly decked me and Sophie, David's 12 year old daughter who was almost trampled until I threw myself in the path of the beast. Last week I got stung by a wasp as I was sleepily crawling out of my bed and putting on my flip flops. What kind of animal/insect hides in a flip flop? Not exactly the way I wanted to wake up that day...and almost a week later, my foot starts itching in the exact spot where I was stung and now, of course, I think that it laid eggs in my foot or was carrying some flesh eating disease on its stinger - I know, crazy talk on my part but I have a really active imagination. The hum dinger to this whole animal thing is that somehow I've upset the local highland bull. I go running in the evening and end up going down this really peaceful, solitary road not far from here. On either side of the road are fields. The one to the north has the sheep, the one to the south has a horse and two highland bulls. It's a glorious setting for a run. On my last outing I was on my way back home, passing the bulls for a second time and one happened to be right by the fence. Normally they just stare at me and go on eating but in this instance one of them was giving me the evil eye. And as I was checking him out, he starts flailing his head a bit while he's glaring at me. Then he starts dancing around, kicking a little bit and yet he has not taken his eyes away from me and I am reminded of what an annoyed bull looks like from all the crappy bull fighting movies/videos I've watched. At first I knd of think it's funny but I realize at some point that he is really pissed off. Then I look at the fence which, in this particular spot, happens to be lying on the ground. SHIT. I don't know whether or not He realizes the fence is down but I suddenly start looking around for an escape plan should he come charging at me in order to gore me (because that's what they do) but I am on an open road. Can I outrun him? Probably not. Can I jump over the other fence on the north side of the road? Maybe but he might get a good jab at me before I'm actually over it and how will I get home if I'm bleeding to death from a giant gash? And because I don't have a magenta dress cape to throw him off, I start running like crazy only I'm not looking straight ahead because I need to keep an eye on the monstrous quadruped and I run straight in to a thorny bush and scrape the heck out of my legs. Even though it does no good and it's very childish, when I am finally at a safe distance I start yelling at the beast exactly what I think of him. What an asshole.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Terror at the Lake!

A band of sheep terrorise an unsuspecting lab. Check out the sheep wars!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Video for Jugie and Kat Kat

Scottish Update

Typical rainbow's so beautiful here that sometimes I just laugh.

The newest addition across the road.

Lake of Menteith at Coldon

The dogs sleep outside in a shed. At first, I was mortified. I couldn't believe they kept the dogs outside at night when it's so cold. But the dogs seem to love it. They make little nests in the wood chips and keep all snuggled through the night. I know two dogs in Orinda who would keel over at the thought of sleeping outside. And then there's Thumper...he would actually kill himself if you left him outside in a box of wood chips.

These houses are really gorgeous and their rooftops just kill me.

You can really tell that Spring is here!!

Wow, it has been a long while since I've posted so there is much to tell. David and I spent two weeks out at Coldon looking after Mrs. Callander and the dogs while Sheena and her husband were away on a skiing break in Colorado. Being out at the big house is like being on vacation. When you wake up in the morning the only thing you hear is the birds. No traffic, no people walking down the street...nothing...nada...zilch. At night when we would put the dogs to bed (they sleep outside in a shed and somehow really love it) you can hear the geese squawking away at the lake and nothing else and there are stars like you wouldn't believe. To put it simply, it was great. The only trouble was that it added on 30 minutes to my commute in the morning. Yes, you heard me...I HAVE A JOB! It's not a glamorous job, it's not a big job, but it's a job. I've been temping at the University here and I absolutely love it. I'm doing admin stuff in the Philosophy Department and while you might think that the philosophers may walk around all pensive and broody (some do) most are pretty funny. I love working at the University and hope to continue working there for a while. They must follow protocol and advertise the job and while they will most likely hire internally, I'm still going to apply for the position. I have to say that it is rather interesting seeing college life from a different perspective. I get all the lame excuses as to why they missed their seminar or why their paper is late or why they really really really need and an extension...did I sound so stupid when I was at college?

The campus is really beautiful...well, the scenery is but the buildings were built in the 70's so they are not so pretty. We have a lake on campus so there are lots of ducks and swans tittering about and there bunnies are everywhere. We also have a small, sort of unassuming castle. It's not much from the outside but has the most amazing wood work I've ever seen.

The weather is getting warmer like everywhere in the northern hemisphere. The roads are literally lined with daffodils, the trees are starting to bloom like mad, and most importantly the sheep are lambing. There are babies popping out all over the place and I hope to get some pictures of them soon...they are absolutely lovely.
I suppose that's it for now. I hope you guys enjoy the pics!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Ketchup is really okay...

Okay, so I actually tried ketchup on my cottage pie and really loved it. Perhaps it's my British heritage coming out in me? Strange, I know.

So my interview went really well the other day but once again I was up against 17 other people and so I'm not holding my breath. At least I'm not feeling as bad as before as I found out that there were 150 applicants for the post - so at least they don't think I'm completely incompetent.

On a brighter note, I have my first temping gig starting on Monday. I'll be working at the University of Stirling which is about 15 minutes away from here. I've been desperately searching for a job there but have been unsuccessful thus far and I hope this gives me a way to get my foot in the door there. Wish me luck.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Cottage Pie!

I made my first cottage pie today. A cottage pie consists of minced beef and onions and whatever veggies you feel like tossing in - I chose peas and carrots. After you cook everything and get the sauce just right (my sauce was aided by something that came in a packet), you place it in a casserole dish and cover with a layer of mashed potatoes. Yum. I love the cottage pie but it could sure use a bit of spicing up. David smothered it with ketchup which is the traditional way of eating a cottage pie...hhmmm, I'll pass on that method! I do believe that I'd prefer the cottage pie with a puff pastry dough instead of mashed potatoes but then this would not be a cottage pie but rather a mince pie. It seems that there are thousands of meat pies here and I can't wait to try every one of them.

On a different note, I'm going on an interview on Wednesday at the University of Edinburgh for a job in their International Office. Keep your fingers crossed! Although the commute would be kind of long, Edinburgh would be a beautiful place to work and I could get sushi whenever I wanted! This is only my second interview (went to one at the University of Stirling but apparently they weren't impressed) which is astonishing considering how many CVs and applications I've submitted. And only one organisation has requested information from my references. I suppose it's a numbers game but I'm getting quite tired of the whole business of finding's hard work!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Night fun

Got to see my first total lunar eclipse last night...very cool. It looked like a giant volleyball suspened in the air. Can't believe you guys missed it!

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Fish Pie Competition

David dressed for his presentation.

Traditionally a fish pie is made with smoked salmon and smoked haddock, cooked in a cheese sauce and topped with mashed potatoes. There was quite a stir when Dennis claimed to have put crab and monk fish in his pie but the monk fish did suit his presentation as he dressed up in a homemade monk outfit and recited the biblical version of how the fish pie was was a really great presentation. Another ongoing debate is the use of hard boiled eggs in the fish pie, not really a traditional ingredient and one that David uses every year despite protests and jeers from the other competitors. In the end there was a huge upset as John Garden won the contest. He used a recipe from Jamie Oliver's cookbook (which is allowed), had a great presentation which was an Ode to Sandy Callander (David's father who had just passed away), and served the judges his pie in a waiter's uniform and served sorbet to cleanse their pallets. But, as all of Scotland knows, it's John Garden who has never been allowed to win even if he has the greatest pie on the planet simply because he's John Garden! But he won and will bask in the glory of the winner's circle until next time. David had a really great presentation as well, concocting a story about how the hard boiled egg was introduced to the fish pie via military presence in the Middle East.

David's Fish Pie (with stolen parsley)
(A startling and upseting 2nd place finish.)
John's Fish Pie
(This year's champion.)
Bruce's Fish Pie
(3rd place)
Dennis' Fish Pie
(Came in 1st at the last competition but came in 4th place this year.)

The Judges from left to right: Simon, Keith, and Alistair

The Competitors from left to right: Bruce, Dennis, David and John

I know you all have been waiting anxiously for the pictures from the Fish Pie competition so here they are!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

It's been a while...

Sorry it has been so long since my last post but there has been a lot going on here. David's father passed away on Friday the 9th. I had never met him because he had been too ill since my arrival here but I've heard great stories about him and I anticipate more to come. Sophie (David's daughter) arrived on Saturday the 10th in time for the Fish Pie competition, an event that happens every few years. David wanted to postone the contest but his family thought it would be best for him to be surrounded by his friends and so the comptetition went to be posted later!

Sophie spent the week here in which time we baked, went swimming, rode bikes and made s'mores over the bonfire in the backyard. We had a great time and I was sad to see her go back to Loondon.

The funeral was on Friday and so I got a chance to meet David's entire's like watching a Gap ad...all of the grandchildren (and their spouses)are gorgeous and really delightful to be around. And David's sister, Sheena, somehow managed to put together a roast lamb dinner for 18 with all the craziness that was going on.She really is the Martha Stewart of Scotland (without the jail record of course.)

Still not much luck on the job search but I haven't given up hope yet. Keep your fingers crossed for me! There will be more posting to come as I have to upload pictures from the Fish Pie contest...hope you are all well!

Monday, February 5, 2007

My stuff is coming, my stuff is coming!

Having seen the MSC Napoli beached off of the coast of Devon with its contents spilling out in to the sea, it is with a big sigh of relief I am happy to announce that my shipment from America is finally making its appearance on my doorstep tomorrow (barring any disasters on the road like bird flu road closures, snow and ice warnings, etc.) I can't tell you how excited I am and, yes, I know they are just things, but they are my things and having lived here for a month, in a house David has lived in for the last 14 years, being able to surround myself with the familiar is a welcoming thought, not to mention that my very warm (yet stylish) down jacket is somewhere in boxes 1 - 9. Hallelujah!!! It'll be interesting to see what condition my boxes are in and what made it without getting smashed to bits and so I'll post a follow-up report on my blog.
Here are a couple of tidbits I've been meaning to post:
I met a guy named Farquhar McClean - pronounced "Farker McClane" - and I almost started this funny or am I just strange?
Cock-a-Leekie soup is simply a soup with chicken and leeks (the Brits always seem to try and come with "cutsie" names for things which end up sounding ridiculous.)
Black beans don't exist in Stirling, Scotland and neither does sushi...quelle horreur!
Snow peas are called "mange tout."

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Pony for the Girls!

Hi Jugie and Kat Kat! I saw this pony and thought I'd take a little video of him because he was so cute and I know how you love ponies! I hope you had a lovely time at the mini golf party...I wish I could have been there! I miss you both so much.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Applying for works sucks...

It has been a very frustrating task applying for job posts thus far. Applying for posts has mostly required submitting an application rather than just sending along my CV and references and this has been extremely time consuming and dreary. Furthermore, the actual time frame from when you actually apply to when you might hear if you have an interview can be anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks! I was not anticipating this and have yet another appointment at a temporary placement agency tomorrow. I've been concentrating my searches for work in Stirling and the surrounding areas but now have to expand my search to Edinburgh and Glasgow which means a lengthy commute.
I received my first rejection letter today from the University of Stirling for the position of Postgraduate Secretary for the Department of English Studies, a job I am over-qualified for. The letter states "Thank you so much for coming for interview for the above post. Unfortunately..." What the hell? What interview? So I called the University to see what happened and, yes, a mistake has been made but "sorry, the post has been filled." Ridiculous.
So anyway, I'm trudging on and submitting another application today, this one to an organisation called Keep Scotland Beautiful. Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

For Jugie and Kat Kat

This is especially for Jugie and Kat Kat as I know how they love animals!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Day at Coldon

I call this one "Sheep on a Hill"

The view from Coldon

This is Coldon

David and I spent the day at Coldon House, the home where he grew up and where his parents, sister, and brother-in -law still live. The house is in the village of Port of Menteith (and it really is a village) and overlooks the Lake of Menteith, the only "lake" in Scotland. The lake is home to Inchmahome Priory whose illustrious guests have included Robert the Bruce and Mary Queen of Scots. In the summer it's really lovely because there's only one tour boat that goes out to the island and after they shut down for the day, the only folks that have access to the lake are those that live around the lake. I think that there are fewer than 15 homes that have access and so visiting the priory in the evening when it stays light til 11 at night is a real treat because it's so quiet and no one is there.

We were able to borrow the dogs (Himba and Dido) and take them for a walk on the hillside of a neighboring property (they have a freedom to roam act here). It doesn't look like it but it is freezing outside and all the rain has made it really muddy and so I donned wellies for the first time!

Friday, January 19, 2007


It's been awfully cold but I know that you guys are freezing your butts off in California as well. We had a lovely snowfall the other day and so here are some pics of the backyard and the road out front. Needless to say, I stayed off the roads as my driving leaves something to be desired. I'm sure the residents of Stirling are wondering who the new kooky driver in town is...the roundabouts really freak me out!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Castle and the Cold!

The Stirling Golf Course...and yes, there were golfers out!

The Castle from afar...remember I had to get back to the home to avoid a house fire!

It's been a busy week again as I'm starting to look for work and still trying to get settled in. There isn't much room in the house so the "settling in" is taking a bit longer than expected. My boxes are due to arrive in two or three weeks (all 27 of them) and I'm hoping for some type of miracle by then - some kind of act of God remodel??? Perhaps I'll wake up from a wonderful night of sleeping and find that suddenly there is an extension that has been added to the house??? Here's to hoping!

Yesterday was the first day the sun has come out since I moved here. It has been the wettest 2 months in Scottish history (since they've been recording the weather anyway) and even the Scots are sick of it so yesterday was a real treat. It has gotten really cold in the last two days and the snow started falling last was great! But sadly most of the snow was gone by morning and so I didn't get any good pics. It's been sporadically snowing all day which is why I've been spending as much time as possible on a bean bag in front of the fire. I have taken to wearing my hat, gloves, and scarf inside the house...not a really great look but it does warm me up!

So I took advantage of the weather yesterday to take a couple of pictures but they're not great as I had to hurry home because I couldn't remember if I put the fire screen on and was paranoid that the house was going to burn down!!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Scenery and my town!

A church in our town...more pics to come when I get some time!

Part of the town center...
Lousy picture but can you see the sheep?
Yeah!!!! Scotland!!!
On the way to Scotland...

British Sensibility

I love the Smart Car! If it looks like David has to pee it's because he really really really needed to! We were just on our way home from the pub.

Weather Update

It's my second day here and it's windy this morning! This link will get you to the video I took this morning...just a little bit of a breeze!

Got a bank account today and it was as hard as I 'd expected...all kinds of background checks because of money laundering schemes and as I have no identity or background as of yet in the UK I am actually no one!

Monday, January 8, 2007

I'm in Scotland!

I'm finally in Scotland! I spent three days in London...hung out with Peter and Helen in order to get my head on straight before heading up north. David came to town to pick me up and we spent a day with his daughter, Sophie, playing laser tag and eating Itlaian food...not a bad way to usher myself in to a new country. Drove up on Sunday with David's nephew, Josh, who we dropped off at the University of Edinburgh, finally arrived at the house where David put on a nice fire and we had grilled cheese sandwiches (american style) and plum tomatoe soup for supper. Today is busy...I have to set up a bank account, get my car registered and me insured, and figure out how on earth I'm going to get my life sorted out!