Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Burns Night

I know I'm a little late sharing this with you, but, as the saying goes, better late than never. January 25th was Robert Burns' birthday, and here in Scotland, in honor of her most revered poet, this auspicious day is remembered with something called a Burns Supper. Before I get into the details of the supper, let me just jog your memory. The average American will probably remember Burns best for the New Year's song "Auld Lang Syne". You know...the song they play right after the ball drops in Times Square while everyone kisses their neighbor and tips champagne?

Anyway, once the guests have gathered around the table and the host has greeted them all and said the Selkirk Grace, dinner commences with a traditional soup, such as scotch broth. Then the haggis enters. That's right. It's a grand procession introduced by a bagpiper followed by the cook proffering the famed dish on a platter. The chef presents the haggis to the host, who addresses it with Burns' own Address to a Haggis, followed by a whiskey toast. After dinner is thoroughly enjoyed, there is a series of toasts -- to the monarch, the host, and the lassies present who prepared the meal. The toast to the lassies is traditionally a humorous speech expounding the speaker's views on women. But not to be outdone, the women reply with a toast to the laddies. Often the two speeches are coordinated to complement one another in comic tone. Then there are final speeches, singing of songs by Burns, and it all ends with a grand ceilidh (traditional Scottish dance).

We were hoping to celebrate our first Burns Night this year. However, circumstantially it did not happen. Stay tuned for next year. After all, I am a great lover of haggis!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ultrasounds for Dummies

I've had a number of people tell me that they couldn't make out the baby in the ultrasound picture from last Wednesday. In an effort to accommodate, I've added some visual aids.

Here is the original picture.
And here is the image with all the "parts" labeled. If you click on the picture itself, it will expand even larger for your deciphering ease. Keep in mind that this is a view of the baby looking straight down on the face, not in profile.
If, after all this, you still can't make anything out, I don't think I can help you. You're probably just not cut out for sonography.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Brief Hiatus

You must pardon my absence yesterday and any upcoming days. My mother-in-law is in town and we have been busy enjoying her visit. Today we are going out to the highlands for the third time now in just over a month. That should tell you something right there. We're hoping to do some antiqueing and book browsing in Ballater (I'll let you guess which one Trey is planning to do) and then get some lunch at the Station Restaurant like we did back in December. From there we're planning to continue on to Braemar. I'm hoping that we'll get some really clear shots of the mountains, and since we had snow in Aberdeen earlier in the week (which has subsequently melted, of course), I'm optimistic that the mountains will be covered.

Quick baby update: I think I'll start posting periodic Baby Holloway updates as we near the due date (2 weeks, 5 days away). I feel like my news from Wednesday gave me a new lease on the pregnancy. Although physically I feel much the same, mentally I feel renewed and prepared to face the upcoming weeks. Last night we went out to dinner and I had very regular, strong contractions throughout the meal but after a couple of hours they passed. No baby. So we're just waiting at this point. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Upside Down and Ready to Go!

You will not believe this, but the baby is head down and ready to come at any time. Today Trey and I went to the Maternity Hospital to have the baby manually turned, but when they did an ultrasound to confirm the baby's supposed breech position, it turns out they were wrong. The baby is head down and looks wonderful! Here is a picture from the ultrasound. It is a head-on shot (not a profile one). Look sideways. The two dark cirles are eye sockets with a little button of a nose in between, and if you look really closely, you can even see the nostrils. Then you have two adorable chipmunk cheeks and a little mouth. Also note the little shock of hair on the very top of the baby's head. To the right of the head is a little fist all curled up. It may just be my mother bias, but I swear this baby looks just like Addison!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Winter Wonderland

I've added our first snow pictures. We got about an inch -- just perfect. Not too much to make the roads treacherous, but plenty to create some atmosphere.

Monday, January 22, 2007

It's Snowing!

I cannot suppress my inner child. Today it's snowing for the first time this winter. Last night we got a lovely coating of sleet (note sarcasm), but then this afternoon when I had given up all hope that the forecasted snow would ever appear, big white flakes started to fall from the sky. It didn't last very long, and it didn't even coat the cars. Nevertheless, it was snow!

But now it's snowing properly and sticking. It's obviously far too dark to take any pictures right now, but I promise, if the white stuff is still around tomorrow morning, I will take some pictures and post them.

Georgia on My Mind

Very much in keeping with the last blog entry, I thought I would share with you another of Addison's new favorite songs -- Ray Charles' Georgia on My Mind -- or as he calls it, Georgia, Georgia. Somehow the song came up in conversation the other day, and in a moment of wistful nostalgia, Trey downloaded it onto our computer and played it for Addison as a little tribute to back home. Well, Addison was truly enraptured. Since then, I've lost count of how many times we've played it over and over for him, at his peristent request mind you. In fact, Trey will often just put it on automatic REPEAT to preempt the inevitable cries of " 'Gain! 'Gain!" from our little music man. He has a real thing for soft, jazzy, mellow music, and even this native Jersey girl has to say that, if I have to listen to a song over and over again, Georgia on My Mind, is by no means a bad choice.

Now all we need to do is get him a pair of dark sunglasses to complete the look for when he performs on his piano.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Jingle Way

"Jingle way? Jingle way?" This is Addison's request every night as we put him down for bed. Yes, our son is in love with the song Jingle Bells, but he thinks the name of the song is Jingle Way. Most parents read to their children before bed. We sing to ours. Ever since he was in utero he has loved music. I have vivid memories of the choir at Tenth singing and him swirling and kicking in tempo. His love of music has only grown with time. He glories in performing on the "manno" (piano) that he got for Christmas and contentedly hums tunes as he plays with his cars. And, of course, every night before bed, Daddy and I must sing his three favorite songs -- Jesa Me (Jesus Loves Me), Duwell (The First Noel), and his beloved Jingle Way. (In case you hadn't figured this out from his fascination with his Christmas bear Baby, he is definitely my son -- a little obsessed with the Christmas holiday.)

The nighttime routine goes something like this...after a diaper change and fuzzy jammies, Daddy makes all Addison's stuffed animals ask if they can sleep with him, using different voices for each one. This would include a duck, a lion, a rally monkey, 2 teddy bears, a kitten, and Baby, of course. Then Mommy covers Addison with his blanket after which he promptly requests Jingle Way, Duwell, and Jesa Me, usually in that order. Then he folds his hands and we pray. Then it's bedtime kisses followed by a chorus of "night night", "see ya", "bu-bye".

It's amazing how children depend so much on routine. If we dare forget one element, you can rest assured that Addison will remind us in his own way.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

To Brighten Your Day

...just like it did mine. This gorgeous flower arrangement arrived this morning, an early birthday present from my mom, dad, and siblings. They are so beautiful and brought a little piece of sunshine into my day. Thank you!

They're Back!

The students...that is. They started trickling back into town this past Saturday, but they are here in earnest now as evidenced by the lack of parking on our street and the overflowing queue (line) at Tesco Express (the convenience store around the corner). The University of Aberdeen is on a three-term academic year, so the returning students have exams this week...poor kids. Stinks to have to come back from Christmas break and go back into material you were covering prior to the holidays.

Yes, I pirated this image from the University's website. I dream of snow, and here is a lovely picture of the campus as it would appear should we get any of the white stuff I long for.

Update on the Light

One of the things that fascinates newcomers the most about Aberdeen in the winter is the light situation, or really the lack thereof. Just this morning I asked Trey if he had noticed how much more light we are getting in the morning and the evening already. When you have so little light on December 21st (6 hours, 40 minutes), any difference is HUGE, and as of right now we are getting 7 hours and 28 minutes of light. That means that in under one month we've gained almost an entire hour of daylight. We both have definitely noticed that! In fact, by March 20th, we will have surpassed the amount of daylight that Philadelphia is getting.

I have to say it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. We were prepared for the worst. People who had visited here had warned us about the bleak, dark days of winter and how depressing it can be, but I must say that I found it rather cozy. We have been blessed with incredibly beautiful weather. Almost everyday is sunny and the temperatures hover in the 40s during the day. This is not the frozen Artic I was prepared for. However, we have been warned that Aberdeen tends to get its worst weather in February and March, so we are bracing ourselves for the snow. We have yet to see one flake, and I, for one, am looking forward to a little of the white stuff!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Smoking Kills

Two things in particular stood out to Trey and me when we first moved to Aberdeen -- it seemed like more people smoke here than in the US and the cigarette packs bear enormous and terribly blunt warnings. The one I saw everywhere was SMOKING KILLS. I almost laughed when I first saw it because I thought it had to be a joke, but it is not. People, indeed, stand around puffing away holding cigarette packs prophesying their own impending demise.

Through a little internet research I discovered that by law 30% of the cigarette package must be covered with one of the following warnings: SMOKING KILLS/SMOKING CAN KILL, SMOKING SERIOUSLY HARMS YOU AND OTHERS AROUND YOU. An additional 40% of the package must be covered by another warning, such as "Smoking can damage the sperm and decreases fertility" or "Smoking can cause a slow and painful death". In March of this past year, smoking was banned in Scotland in all public enclosed facilities, such as bars, restaurants, and workplaces. Despite all this, approximately 1 in 4 Scots smoke. The statistics are staggering and disheartening.

As of the fall 2007, all cigarette packs sold in the UK will be required to bear graphic warning images that cover 40% of the back of the package similar to those found on packs sold in Australia and Canada. I won't post any of them, but they are truly disturbing, showing diseased gums and teeth, cancerous lungs, and unborn babies in the womb. I don't know how someone could continue smoking when their pack has such horrible pictures on them, and as a non-smoker, I sure hope the street cleaners step up their efforts in the fall because I don't want to have to look at the discarded packs.

Monday, January 15, 2007

My Knight in Shining Armor

Dedicated to my loving husband...

If you will indulge me, I would like to wax slightly effervescent. The last few weeks have been tough, to say the least. Instead of burdening of you with my laundry list of physical complaints related to late pregnancy, I thought I would take a moment to tell you all about the amazing man I'm married to.

Trey wears many hats. On top of his regular work -- researching, teaching 5 online tutorials, leading an undergraduate tutorial at the University starting in February, attending seminars, and preparing for upcoming conferences, he has assumed a heavy portion of the household responsibilities. As I write this he is out at the grocery store doing our food shopping, patiently learning where and what everything is in a foreign grocery store and then hauling it home by hand in our shopping "trolley". He cleans the kitchen floor, vacuums the carpets, washes the dishes. The list goes on and on. He also changes MANY diapers a day, as walking up the stairs to the changing table has become a monumental task for me. (I now pretty much live downstairs, including sleeping on our super-comfy couch.)

And all this is done with grace and cheerfulness, never a moment of complaint. I can't tell you how many times a day he says to me something like, "How are you doing? I want you to put your feet up." He is patient when I'm grouchy, strong when I feel weak, encouraging when I'm down. I truly mean this when I say that, given our new set of circumstances here in Scotland and the added challenges we face on a daily basis, I do not know how I could finish this particular race without him. I thank God for blessing me with a man as selfless and giving as Trey is.

And his response? "Hey, you do the hard part! You have to carry and deliver the baby!"

Friday, January 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the Great Window

Here is a picture from this past July of Harry Potter author JK Rowling in front of the Great Window. She was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Laws (LLD), by the University of Aberdeen. Interestingly, the degree was conferred for her work on behalf of multiple sclerosis research, not her literary contributions.

The Great Window

One of the sites that Trey really wanted to see when we arrived in Aberdeen was the Great Window in Mitchell Hall at Marischal College. Graduation is held there, and he had seen pictures from the ceremonies posted online featuring the hall's spectacular showpiece. However, when we arrived back in August, we were unable to gain admittance as it was all locked up. But a week or so before Christmas, Trey tried asking one of the security guards if he could go into Mitchell Hall and look at the famed stained glass window. Since all the Christmas concerts were concluded by then and student exams weren't to be held for another few weeks, the guard kindly allowed him to go in. He came back awestruck, eager for me to share with you about the Great Window. Unfortunately, he did not have his camera with him at the time. A few days later we all went together to try to get a few photographs, hoping that we would meet with the same obliging security guard. Sure enough, we were able to go in, but this time the lighting was very tempermental, precluding any decent photographs. This time of year it can be very difficult to take good pictures due to the angle of the sunlight.

Trey was undaunted. More determined than ever, he set off this morning on a mission to capture some images of the Great Window so that I could blog about it. (We joke that Trey's category on the blog is the most neglected category, so this blog is, indeed, dedicated to him.)
Here at last it is -- the Great Window. It presents a pictorial history of the University of Aberdeen and was executed by TR Spence of London in the late 19th century.

It bears the shields of the first 8 principals and 22 early benefactors of the University. George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal and founder of the College, is featured quite prominently in the window. (You will remember him, of course, as a member of the Keith family who owned Dunnottar Castle.) The upper part of the window contains his arms while the lower left-hand portion shows a full-length portrait along with a number of other notable Scots, such as Thomas Reid, the famous Common Sense philosopher and professor at the University. Mitchell Hall itself is faced internally with white coreenie granite, and furnished with oak panelling, ornamented with Tudor leaf, thistles (of course), roses, and shamrocks.

As an interesting aside, you will notice in the first interior shot above that desks are set up in the hall. One of the main functions of Mitchell Hall is to hold exams. Eeach desk has a placecard with a number on it, and although you can't make it out in this photo, at the very front of the room on the platform are two timers. Yikes! Makes me glad my exam days are over.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Reading Together

With the park out of the picture for the next few weeks due to my advanced "condition", Addison has contented himself with massive doses of reading. When we first arrived in Aberdeen, it was all we could do to get him to sit through 3 or 4 pages of a book, but then magically one day it all changed and we read 9 books in one sitting. For Christmas he received a lot of books -- thank goodness! -- but just a few short weeks later, having read such volumes as Curious George and McDuff and the Baby umpteen number of times, I'm glad his birthday is just around the corner. We need more books or Mommy is going to join the 45 hippos in Sandra Boynton's Hippos Go Berzerk. This morning while reading to Addison a childhood favorite of Trey's, Daddy took a few pictures. His expressions are priceless. It's amazing to imagine what goes on in his little mind while you read to him, and it brings back such fond memories of my parents reading to me. It is not uncommon for the first words out of Addison's mouth when I get him up in the morning to be, "Duff? George?" Yes, that's right. He's on a first-name basis with these literary celebrities.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Locked Out

We finally did it. We locked ourselves out. Believe it or not, in 7 years of marriage we'd never even so much as locked ourselves out of our car. We've come close. But this time it was the real deal. The three of us left the house this morning a little after 11am for my midwife appointment at the Old Aberdeen Medical Practice. As we were going down the front path, Trey said to me, "You've got your key, right?" And I said, "Yes, it's in my pocketbook." "Good," he replied, "because I didn't bring mine." Little did I know that my key wasn't actually in my pocketbook where I usually keep it because it had been removed the night before by a nameless individual. But at that moment, it wouldn't have mattered if I had checked anyway, because the door was already closed behind us and we have one of those new-fangled doors with an automatic lock. Arrrggghhh...

An hour later we returned through the cold January mist ready for some lunch, when what should we discover, but, ALAS, we are locked out! So now what? Our landlords live in Cairo. We have no cell phone or a phonebook even to use at a payphone to call a locksmith. We try the neighbors to our right. No one is home. We try the neighbors on the other side, and, praise God, the woman is home. She very graciously lets me use her phone and phonebook. I call several locksmiths until I find one that says they can come out within half an hour. The damage? £47 (approximately $95)!!! I am stunned, but what are we to do? In actuality, it took them about an hour to come out to our house. The neighbor had to leave for a hair appointment, so the three of us sat on our cold concrete steps in the blowing mist and discussed how we could avoid this predicament in the future. First on the agenda: get a duplicate key made. Second: find a safe place or person to keep said duplicate key.

Around 1:15pm the locksmith showed up. A minute later we were thawing in our cozy house, hungrier, poorer, but certainly wiser.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Pregnant Mama

I haven't posted a pregnancy shot in a while. Thought I would share. This is a picture of Addison and me standing on the other side of the Aberdeen harbor. Before we headed out to the Highlands, Trey was on a mission to figure out how to get over to the other side where the lighthouse is, and his tenacity paid off. The view from that side is gorgeous reminding me so much of Maine.
Five weeks, 1 day and counting...

The Devil's Elbow: The Highlands Revisited

The Devil's Elbow is not as exciting as it sounds. It was the name given to the steeply climbing double hairpin bend on the old road through Gleann Beag near its highest point at the Cairnwell pass in the Cairngorm Highlands. In the space of 5 miles the height above sea level doubles from 1100 feet to 2200 feet at the highest point on the road from Blairgowrie to Braemar. The old road was bypassed by a wider modern road without such dramatic hairpin bends. It's located just past the Glenshee Ski Center, and based on the eternally vague directions of the girl at the coffee shop, a skill few seem to possess in this country, we "think" we found the actual location. Nothing special. Mainly just a very steep descent in the road. As she put it, "It's not a tourist attraction." Hmmm...well, we like that.

These are all pictures taken yesterday as we drove back to the highlands. Yes, we got the "Merc" again. They must love us or something to comp us again. The day started out clear and beautiful at our house and got progressively cloudier as we drove towards the mountains. This time we pushed further past Braemar than we did before Christmas, and we were rewarded with snow (the picture proves it)! I have added the rest to the Highlands photo album for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

Friday, January 5, 2007

The Green Man

I first heard of the Green Man from Trey after one of his Wednesday history seminars this past fall. The way he tells the story the guest lecturer was presenting historical information about St. Machar Cathedral, a church which dates back to the 6th century, when very much in passing he referenced the architectural phenomenon known as the Green Man still an intact element of one of the most ancient sections of the building. A confused student raised his hand and asked, "What is a Green Man?" At the very least, he gave voice to what Trey himself had been thinking although by Trey's admission he was wondering something more along the lines of, "What did that man just say in such a thick Scottish accent? It sounded like Grrrrrrrrreeeeenmun."

I've included a picture of the St. Machar Green Man, which Trey scoped out after hearing the lecture, and I've included an informative description from my favorite website Wikipedia to help explain the historical significance of these cathedral fixtures:
A Green Man is a sculpture, drawing or other representation of a face surrounded by (or made from) leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face, and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit. Commonly used as a decorative architectural ornament, Green Men are frequently found on carvings in churches and other buildings (both secular and ecclesiastical).

Superficially the Green Man would appear to be pagan, perhaps a fertility figure or a nature spirit, similar to the woodwose (the wild man of the woods), and yet he frequently appears, carved in wood or stone, in churches, chapels, abbeys and cathedrals, where examples can be found dating from the 11th century through to the 20th century

To the modern observer the earlier (Romanesque and medieval) carvings often have an unnervingly eerie or numinous quality. This is sometimes said to indicate the vitality of the Green Man, who was able to survive as a symbol of pre-Christian traditions despite, and at the same time complementary to, the influence of Christianity. (Rather than alienate their new converts, early Christian missionaries would often adopt and adapt local gods, sometimes turning them into obscure saints.)

Whatever his original significance may have been, many modern churchgoers characterise the Green Man as "the archetype of our oneness with the earth". The symbol is also popular with modern Wiccans and other Neopagans because it depicts an earth-centered concept of male divinity.

Thursday, January 4, 2007


Today we lost our second recycle bucket and bag since we arrived. They blew away in 35 mph winds. As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, the North Sea wind is a fearsome entity with which to contend, especially in the winter. We've grown accustomed to its roaring effect over our chimney, something akin to a great giant blowing across the top of an enormous Coke bottle. But every once in a while it still catches our notice and today was just such a day. As you can see from the chart above, once the sun sets, the winds die down. Not sure why this is, but the meteorological phenomena that we've observed here, such as extremely low flying clouds and high winds, make me want to learn more about weather and how it all works. And on my to-do list for tomorrow? Contact the City Council for our third recycle bucket and bag. Sigh.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Dunnottar Castle

We went to Dunnottar Castle this past Friday, and it was an experience I will never forget. For the past few weeks we have had the most glorious, sunny weather you could imagine, but the day we planned to visit Dunnottar Castle dawned dark and gloomy. We took the bus down to Stonehaven, a coastal town about 15 miles south of Aberdeen, and as we travelled the gray clouds opened and it started to rain. We were undaunted, however. What would a visit to a ruined Scottish castle be without some fine Scottish weather for atmosphere? But once we got off the bus, we weren't just dealing with rain. We were dealing with the infamous North Sea wind. We caught a cab from the center of town which took us the 2 mile journey further south to the castle ruins. As soon as we stepped out of the cab two things caught our breath -- 50+ mph winds and the view below.
It looked like something out of a movie. In fact, it is. The Mel Gibson Hamlet was filmed here and we marveled at how they could possibly get all those people and equipment out to the castle promonotory. We followed a long, stoney path down to a steep set of winding stairs -- well over 100 steps, I'm sure. Once we reached sea level, we had to climb back up another flight of rocky steps made slick by the pelting rain -- no small feat for a 33 1/2 week pregnant momma who finds walking along a level sidewalk challenging at times. Once we paid our admission to a man in a shoebox shelter (who promised he'd call our cab again for a donation to the Grampian Police), and mounted another flight of steps, we emerged into the center of the castle ruins. Our pictures hardly do the scene justice. The ruins form a border around a grassy quadrangle with a well-like structure full of deep water (at least according to the caution sign). The wind whistled through the ruined doorways and windows creating a swirling vortex in the quadrangle that made it nearly impossible to stand completely upright. In fact, after Sarah and I found shelter we noticed what appeared to be huge flakes of snow falling from the sky. It turned out to be frozen foam. The waves were crashing so violently against the castle cliffs that it was churning up piles of foam which the wind then caught into the icy air, freezing it and blowing it back into the castle quadrangle.

If you click on the title of this post, you will go to the official website of Dunnottar Castle, which has a great deal of historical information. The very first fortress was built here in 84 AD although the current ruins date back to the 13th century. Such famous figures as William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots have all been to Dunnottar, the official residence of the Keith family from whose line the founder of Marischal College at the University of Aberdeen, George Keith 5th Earl Marischal comes.

The rugged northeast coast of Scotland.

This tiny cell is called The Whig's Vault. Its history is most grim. In May 1685 167 dissenting Covenanters were imprisoned without food or sanitation for two months. A few tried to escape, many died of starvation, and the rest were transported to the West Indies in July of that year.

Ultimately, the snuggest in our little band was "bubble boy". He found great comfort in a protective raincover, many handfuls of cookies, and a doting aunt and uncle. Had I known what a steep and rocky climb awaited us, we probably would never have attempted the trip with Addison in tow. In the end however, it was a trip well worth taking and whet our appetite for what the seaside view must be like on a clear, balmy day. Anything will seem like a piece of cake after this.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007


I stole these pictures from Nathaniel. He uploaded a lot of his pictures onto my laptop, and when I stumbled upon these pictures of Addison, I couldn't help myself.
And I have to share this one because his expression is such a classic one. He has a face like mine, incapable of hiding any emotion.

Happy New Year

I know it's one day late, but allow me to wish you all a very happy new year! We rang it in while unsuccessfully trying to find a streaming live webcast from London or Edinburgh with the official countdown but were pleasantly surprised in the midst of our vain attempts by a Skype call from my parents, who were at that moment still living in 2006. Technology is amazing. You could hear fireworks all over the city, and we enjoyed a private show ourselves out the bay window. Because fireworks are legal here, the ones people set off themselves are generally pretty impressive with decent height and bang.

As you know, during the week that Sarah and Nathaniel were here, I took a little break from blogging. However, I plan to get back into the swing of things this week. We enjoyed a lovely visit with my siblings and were very sad to see them go this morning. Addison, in particular, shed more than a few tears as they wheeled their luggage out our front gate. I'm not sure how he's going to cope over the next few days as he grew terribly attached to both "Sawah" and "Neat". I was pleasantly surprised by a Skype call from them this afternoon. They had made it down to Edinburgh all in one piece although with many tales to tell along the way. We have come to learn that rarely do things happen just as expected.

Let me draw your attention to the new photo album I've added in the right-hand column. They are pictures from our trip to Dunnottar Castle last week. I have much to tell about that trip, but I will save it for later this week. In the meantime, however, I wanted to include the photos so you could start enjoying them now.