Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Break

Sarah and Nate arrived Tuesday afternoon, and so we've been a little preoccupied with sightseeing and catching up. I may not be on too much over the next few days. I'm sure many of you are also visiting with friends and family and hopefully even have some time off from work or school. The sibs leave January 1st, and I promise to be back in full force come the first of the year.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas: One Year Later

Christmas 2005

Christmas 2006

First of all, I had totally forgotten that last Christmas Addison also got a little piano until I started comparing this year's photos with last year's. But secondly, and more importantly, can you believe how much he's grown in a year?!?

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas from Trey, Becky, and Addison. We wish we could be with each of you on this joyful holiday, but please know that we love you very much, think of you often, and wish you great happiness for the new year! I've added a new photo album called Christmas 2006 which has all our photos from Addison opening his presents this morning. Enjoy!

Friday, December 22, 2006

He's Calling Us Trey and Becky

Is that not hilarious and totally inappropriate all at the same time?!? It started a couple of days ago when he finally discovered how to say his own name. He says it something like "Asson". The next day he made the connection that I don't call Trey "Daddy" when I address him directly. Of course, I always refer to Trey as Daddy when I talk to Addison, but when I speak directly to Trey or call him for dinner or something I use his name. Well, Addison has started copying me. It comes out "Tway". And then very shortly thereafter he discovered that Trey calls me Becky, which he has turned into "Bucky". We keep telling him, "No, it's Mommy to you, buddy," but it's very hard to suppress our smiles. There is something so funny about a 22 month old little boy shouting from the other room, "Tway! Tway!" when he wants his dad.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Shortest Day of the Year


Sunrise: 8:46am
Sunset: 3:27pm
Length of Daylight: 6 hours, 40 minutes, 39 seconds
Solar Altitude: 9.5°

So when you are struggling with the winter blues, think of us. It's actually not as bad as it sounds. But talk to me in February. I may be singing a different tune. One benefit is that Addison sleeps later...until almost 8:30. I just hope that in the summertime when the sun rises around 4am he doesn't think we got all the sleep we needed in the winter and he can start the day with the first crack of dawn. Now that would really be cause for the blues!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Messiah

Last night Trey and I went on our first date since our Edinburgh trip. We had tickets to see the Aberdeen Choral Society perform Handel's Messiah at the Music Hall in town courtesy of one of the many student discounts Aberdeen has to offer. What a treat! It felt so good to get out just the two of us. We took the bus into the city because lately I just can't walk as far as I used to. The Music Hall was all decorated for Christmas. It's a fairly intimate venue. We had wonderful seats in the balcony with an excellent view of the stage. I've lost track of how many times Trey and I have gone to see the Messiah, but I know that this one will always stand out from the rest, in part because it helped us feel a little closer to our traditions from home. Interestingly, Trey and I were among the very youngest attendees. We guestimated that in our section alone there were probably less than 10 people under 65. Perhaps they offer a senior discount even better than the student rate?

Trey wanted to know if I would like to get the same voluminous number the mezzo soprano wore -- a delightfully sparkly, strapless red dress with a low, criss-cross back (in her defense, she did wear a black shrug over her shoulders). I said I would, but not until I shed this belly and only if I had a great party to wear it to.

Winter Has Arrived



Well, technically the first day of winter is tomorrow, but I will honor that topic with its own entry on the day itself. In the meantime, however, I wanted to share a couple of pictures I took this morning from our bedroom window. That, my friends, is frost. I know I keep talking about it, but I have never seen anything like it. Doesn't it look like snow? We have barely had a cloud in the sky since Friday. It's been the most beautiful weather, but very, very chilly. I don't think it's made it above freezing since Friday. And so the frost has just continued to accumulate on everything. I'm actually really enjoying it although it does make walking a little more treacherous, especially with my unsteady 32-week pregnant gait. It gives the appearance of winter without the nuisance of significant accumulation, and it really has just about satisfied my desire for a white Christmas, assuming it sticks around until Monday. Here's to hoping. Although you never know. With these temperatures, any precipitation will probably be snow. There's nothing in the forecast right now, but I put no stock in such local prognostications. Every day this week on bbc.com they've predicted the temperatures to get in the low 40s when we've barely been making freezing. How can they, in good conscience, predict that it will be 40 degrees at the same time that they are showing on their website a current temperature reading at NOONTIME to be 31? It just doesn't make any sense.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Seaton Through the Seasons

Late summer


Early winter


Late summer (9/7/06)


Fall (10/30/06)


Winter (12/16/06)


Monday, December 18, 2006

Frost



That's frost, not snow. It has been so thick the past couple of days that it looks like a dusting of snow. The amazing part is it doesn't really melt during the day. The sun is so low in the sky even at noon that much of the ground never even gets any sunshine and with the temperatures barely reaching freezing, the frost doesn't have a chance to melt. I don't think I've ever seen frost accumulate like this. It covers everything, including the sidewalks and streets, making them terribly slippery. I'm still holding out for a white Christmas, but in its absence I'll pretend that's what this is.

The Highlands Continued

As promised, let me share in a little more detail about our trip into the Cairngorm Mountains. But before I get too far into the story, let me begin by telling you about the sweet ride we scored. I booked the car rental through Enterprise. We decided to go with a little bit larger car -- of course standard size by American reckoning -- just to provide added comfort for the drive. We also booked an automatic. Well, when we arrived at Enterprise on Friday, we learned that they did not have any automatics in the car class that we had ordered -- automatics over here are a rarity, and so they had upgraded us to the next level, Small Premium. And what type of car, pray tell, would that Small Premium car have been? A Mercedes. That's right. We got to zip around the back roads of Scotland in a silver Merc, as the salesman called it. Definitely a good way to start off the trip.

We headed due west along A93 towards Ballater, a small town just over an hour outside of Aberdeen. The countryside was exquisite. Sheep and long-haired cattle dotted the landscape everywhere as we wound our way along the Dee River. We passed through so many little villages with adorable shops and pubs. Just as we approached Ballater, we got our first glimpse of snow-covered peaks, the beginning of the Highlands. They were so unexpected and totally breathtaking.

In Ballater Trey visited a rare book store while Addison and I browsed the shops. Afterwards we got a bite to eat at a little restaurant called The Station in the center of town. Fish and chips for Trey. Soup and a ham and cheese toastie for me (that's grilled cheese with ham on it -- big surprise). Cheese sandwhich for Addison. All finished off with Eve's Pudding -- apples topped with hot sponge cake doused in cold double cream. It was such a treat since we hadn't eaten out as a family since coming to Scotland.

After Ballater, we proceeded on to Balmoral, about 10 miles further west. Unfortunately, the grounds of that great castle were closed, so instead of turning around and going home, we decided to drive on a little further to Braemar, a tourist haven for Highland skiers. What a quaint town twinkling with Christmas lights and holiday cheer. The view of the mountains even that much further west of Ballater was incredible. Trey and I want to go back so badly.

I hope you enjoy the pictures I've posted under the Links section. They hardly do the landscape justice, but it gives you a little taste of the rugged beauty of this stunning country.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Scottish Highlands

I wanted to draw your attention to the new pictures I've added from our trip today into the Scottish highlands. We rented a car this morning and drove out to Ballater where we had lunch and Trey bought a couple of books at a rare book store. We then continued on about 10 miles further west to Balmoral hoping to catch a glimpse of the grounds there at the castle. Unfortunately, the grounds are closed in the winter except for guided tours that are given on Wednesdays. So we'll have to go back at some point in the spring or summer. After Balmoral we continued on a little further to Braemar. I'm a little tired from all our traveling today, so I'll write more tomorrow, but I wanted to make sure that I got the pictures up today for you to see. The countryside was a stunning combination of ruggedness and beauty unlike anything I had ever seen before, and the grayness of the day just added to it. I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas in Aberdeen

This is the view down Union Street in the month of December. This picture shows the Christmas parade that "kicks off" the holiday season here. Santa rides down the street and as he passes under each light display it illuminates. We missed the parade this year but have really enjoyed the lights.

So how is Christmas different here? It's very different. In fact, until the last few days I almost wouldn't have even known it was Christmas time here but for the decorations in the shops, which themselves are rather understated by US standards. Now we are starting to see a few lights in people's windows and some decorated Christmas trees. Last Saturday I had just gotten finished telling my mom that I had hardly seen anyone's house decorated for Christmas, when on the way to dinner at Trey's advisor's flat, I was delighted to find myself sorely mistaken. Yes, my inner Christmas schmaltz overflowed, for I discovered several lawns in a row with flashing light displays in techni-color splendor and trees bedecked with strands of colored lights -- some blinking, some not. For a moment I forgot I was in Aberdeen and thought I was back in South Jersey...and by South Jersey I don't mean Haddonfield. But this was certainly an aberration. Short of the lone blow-up Santa Bugs Bunny at the newstand across from Morrison's (our grocery store), you will not find any of those life-size working snowglobes that fill me with giddy wonder or inflatable snowmen that populate suburban front yards back home.

I have been doing a lot of our Christmas shopping online. Thanks to Amazon's free shipping, I can get just about anything on my list without ever leaving the comfort of my own cozy living room. However, a few days ago Trey and I did venture out to get a few things for Addison at TK Maxx. Yes, that's TK Maxx (the UK cousin to TJ). We decided on this impromptu excursion after dinner and, knowing how early things close here, I checked their website. Get this. Their extended holiday hours? Open until 8pm! What convenience. I had to laugh. I checked the extended holiday hours at the one I used to go to at home. Yeah, they're open until 10pm on weeknights and 11pm on the weekend.

We're definitely not in Kansas anymore.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Food for Thought

IF
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

--Rudyard Kipling

Little Boys

What is it with little boys and trash trucks? As I sit here writing this blog, my son is staring longingly out our bay window at the big yellow trash truck out front. He'll stop whatever he's doing and hop up on the couch for a better vantage point. I can only imagine what's going on in that little head of his. Whatever it is, it has the amazing ability to turn this otherwise manic toddler into a calm and contemplative little man.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Health Visitor

Yesterday I had an appointment with the health visitor -- an aspect of the National Health System that I really like. As part of my pre and post-natal care, they have an assigned nurse come visit you in your home to talk to you about how you're doing and what your needs are. It's so wonderful. Once the baby is born I will be visited every day for the first two weeks at home by my midwife to keep an eye on my recovery and the health of the baby. After that, the health visitor will continue with weekly visits for about a month or as needed to take care of things like scheduling immunizations, educating you about home safety, registering the baby, etc. Yesterday the nurse and I chatted for an hour just about motherhood and adjusting to having 2 little ones. She is a lovely person. I really like the emphasis on "whole" well-being. Sometimes in the States it can seem that the emphasis is strictly clinical and here I appreciate that they want to focus on you as a whole person -- physical and emotional. For example, one of the things the health visitor talked with me about yesterday was the statistical spike in accidents that occur with toddlers immediately following the birth of a new baby. She explained that often what can happen is the mother is engrossed with feeding or changing or bathing the new baby and the toddler wanders off and can very seriously hurt themselves either accidentally or even sometimes intentionally to get attention. I had never really thought about that, but it was so helpful to have that brought to my attention so I can better prepare for life at home once Baby Holloway arrives. As she pointed out, the baby can always wait and won't wander off. It's important that Addison is cared for and incorporated into the new routines so he doesn't feel shoved aside.

Two more weeks and we'll find out if Baby Holloway has flipped the right way down. So far, I don't think it's happened. I still have a lot of kicks very low and get so out of breath, which makes me think the little head is right up against my left lung. Only 9 more weeks to go!

Friday, December 8, 2006

Sock Wars

Trey and Addison have declared war...sock war, that is. This morning Addison bounded into our bedroom, discovered Daddy still lazing in bed, grabbed a rolled up ball of socks that hadn't made its way into a drawer yet, and chucked it at Daddy. Trey returned the favor, and so it was on! Before I knew it, Trey had gathered an arsenal of all his athletic socks out of his drawer and was lobbing them in quick succession at Addison. He loved it giggling his little heart out! And I don't know if it's just foolish parental pride or what, but I swear this kid has a decent arm. He's not even two and he throws with correct form and excellent aim. Sign this kid up for baseball!

Freak London Tornado

The down side of not having a TV is that it's easy to remain fairly cut-off from local news. In fact, we only found out just this morning that a freak tornado ripped through a northwest London neighborhood yesterday, and, of all places to learn this news, we discovered it watching NBC's nightly news online, something we do just about every morning during breakfast. This comes as quite a shock to us because one of the benefits of living on an island is the temperate climate. "Temperate?" you might question. Indeed! Since we left Philadelphia, the temperature here has only gone down about 15 degrees. By contrast, Philadelphia temperatures have dropped more than twice that. In fact, Trey remarked the other day that he bet they'd never had a tornado here since even thunderstorms are rare. Apparently he spoke a little too quickly. Thankfully, no one was killed in the tornade and only 6 were injured.

As a sidenote, we are tentatively planning to take a little family vacation for a couple of days down to London in January right before the baby is born. Trey joked with me that we were like characters in a Jane Austen novel jaunting off to London during the cold winter months. I don't know about that. As far as I can tell, neither of us is forlornly following a marriage prospect. However, it seems like an ideal time to go. The rates are good, the days this far north are way too short, and our little band of three seems slightly more manageable than four.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Poor Sick Baby

One of the things we've noticed since moving here is that we've all been sick a lot more. Generally at home Trey and I rarely, if ever, got sick, but since our move, we've each had a number of pretty bad colds back-to-back. I can only guess that we're being exposed to new viruses and we have to build up immunities to them.

Well, this morning Addison seemed just fine -- his normal chipper, active self, but by about 11am he was circling the drain fast. We had gone over to a friend's house for coffee and playtime and all he wanted to do was sit quietly on my lap. As you know, that IS NOT Addison. His breathing seemed a little labored and he was so pale with droopy, glassy eyes. I decided to leave and, sure enough, when I got him home, he was running a temperature of 103.1. When your kids are sick, your heart just aches for them. All he wanted to do was snuggle in my arms, and it reminded me of that universal phenomenon where, no matter how old you are, all you want is your mother when you don't feel well.

Right now he is asleep, and I'm about to run out to the chemist (pharmacist) to get some baby Paracetamol (Tylenol).

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The Sweater

This is the Christmas sweater that we bought on Saturday for Addison. Can you believe that this was made by hand? It has totally inspired me to pick up knitting again. I had started on a blanket right before Addison was born and haven't touched it since. You can get a lot of really nice wools here...what with all the sheep and all, and I think knitting would be the cherry on the sundae of my new domestic bliss.

Nice!

This morning when I got Addison up, I told him the Christmas tree was waiting for him downstairs. He followed me into the living room and his eyes brightened as I switched on the tree lights. He breathed one word with awe in his voice, "Nice!" That was my Christmas present this year. I have always wondered what it must be like to watch your own children, especially when they're little, marvel at the magic of Christmas, and this morning I got a little taste of it.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The Tree

So here it is at last. I think this is the latest that Trey and I have put up our Christmas tree since we've been married, but it was worth the wait. Like so many other daily tasks here, we had to work a lot harder for this tree than any of her predecessors, and so, in my opinion, this tree is one of the sweetest and prettiest we've ever had.

I had not seen any tree lots anywhere in the city and uncertain where we could secure a tree, I called Asda (UK Walmart) to see if they had any. We were specifically looking for a live one in a pot for a number of reasons. We knew it would be small enough to wheel back in our shopping trolley -- not having a vehicle for hauling it home and all, but also, we were hoping for a modest size tree that would fit the scope of our living room. Asda did indeed have live, potted trees for £13.97 (about $26), so this morning Trey and I along with Addison and our shopping trolley made the nearly 2 mile trek to get the tree. We also picked up a couple of strings of lights, some red and gold Christmas balls, a star for the top of the tree, a few candles, wrapping paper, bows, gift tags, and a box of Christmas cards for our local friends.
It suddenly dawned on me how much I take for granted that I have all this stuff back at home. I usually buy the following year's Christmas cards during the post-Christmas sales, we have bags upon bags of decorations, and our ornament collection grows every year. If I think about it too much it makes me a little sad because one of my favorite holiday rituals is getting out all of the Christmas paraphernalia and reminiscing about each item. Nevertheless, if I close my eyes and breathe in the piney fragrance, I am 5 again lying underneath our family's Christmas tree gazing up into the maze of twinkling white lights and criss-crossed branches. Smell has the amazing ability to do that. And to help make it feel a little more like home, I made sure that the velvety tones of Nat King Cole played in the background while we decorated the tree.

Christmas Fair

This past Saturday we visited the German Christmas Fair at Castlegate. Here are a few pictures from our excursion.
A sight I've never seen in America...a kilt-bedecked Santa.

A broader view of the fair with a very large Christmas tree to the right. Addison and I are in the foreground.
The first Santa Trey or I had ever met who said "Cheers!" instead of "Ho, Ho, Ho!" Standing outside of the St. Nicholas Center where we ran into Old St. Nick, we enjoyed a brass band serenade the crowd with Christmas carols while a Salvation Army volunteer rang his bell for spare pence. The air was crisp and chilly and for a moment I felt like I was standing in the opening scene from "A Christmas Story", except I was in Aberdeen not the Midwest. Although we were unsuccessful in finding any Christmas presents during our shopping outing, we did manage to score a beautiful, hand-knit, cream-colored sweater for Addison at the outdoor Scottish market on Belmont. I've become quite friendly with the lady who owns the knitting business and she insisted on selling the sweater for only £13 (about $25). Not surprisingly, Addison has become suddenly very attached to his new sweater. You remember the fleece saga. We were going to get his photo taken for Christmas in his new sweater when, sure enough, Sunday morning he had a little tussle with the wall in our bedroom. It left him with a nasty scratch and bruise that runs about 3 inches down the right side of his face. Needless to say, Christmas photos will now be January photos for his 2nd birthday.

This morning we got our Christmas tree, and I promise that before the day is out I will post pictures of it all decorated and lit-up.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Skeletons at St. Nicholas Kirk


I've added another link with photos from this past Saturday. We went with my parents to St. Nicholas Kirk in the city center for the public viewing of the excavations I mentioned a little while ago in my blog "Them Dry Bones". What a site! I have never seen real skeletons live (or I guess I should say dead) and in person. And not just in person, we got to witness the archaeologists actually unearthing the bodies with their little shovels and picks and brushes. Once all the bones are removed, they will be sent to Glasgow for analysis and then reburied back at St. Nicholas. It's interesting to note that in the pictures you can see lots of "spots" of light that only showed up in the pictures taken in the church. I'm sure that ghost hunters would call them the orbs of the dead who still linger there or some such nonesense, but I'm pretty sure it's just dust. Archaeology is certainly a dusty business.