Monday, March 31, 2008

The Sweetest Gift

Imagine this scene...You meet your husband at the door after being separated for five days. You expect to see his smiling face, but not only do you find that. He also greets you with a box of 6 Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts which he bought at the aiport in London just for you, you who haven't had Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts in nearly two years...

The only way to heighten the perfection of a Krispy Kreme doughnut is not to have one for a very long time. The sweetest gift from my sweetie.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Baby Gwyneth's Sweater

My friend Tricia's baby, Gwyneth Rose Lawrenson, has just reached 2 pounds, 4 ounces and is well on her way to fitting into her preemie cardigan. I finished it last week, but I wanted to wait until I had the camera back from Trey before I sent it to them so that I could post pictures for all of you. I was surprised by how long it took to knit something so tiny. (It's designed to fit a 4-5 pound preemie.) The yarn was very fine and the needles very thin, so it knit slowly but was worth every minute.

Front view.

Back view.

Lacy detailing around the body of the cardigan.

Sleeve and cuff detailing.

Front closure and buttons.

Some perspective on the size of the sweater. It is just longer than the span of my hand.

It almost fits Curious George!

Friday, March 28, 2008

What I Learned This Week

I have learned one major lesson this week. This job was not meant to be done alone.

Trey returns tonight at 7:30. Hallelujah!

The Emerging Will

However bad the theology, I have always loved the song "Adia" by Sarah McLachlan, but even at the tender age of 16 when the song was released I was struck by the naivete of the chorus lyrics, "We are born innocent." And the intervening years have only further emphasized their inaccuracy. I don't know how anyone who has spent more than five minutes with even very young children can think they are sweet, innocent angels. With both of my boys, albeit at different ages, their own sinful nature started to rear its ugly head. It seems born of a radical self-centeredness. The desire for personal gratification and fulfillment gives rise to ugly behavior, which at a young age manifests itself in hitting, bickering, lying, tantruming.

I will never forget the first time Addison threw a fit. He was about 7 months old sitting on our kitchen floor and I took something away from him that he shouldn't have had. He shrieked in disapproval. I remember being so surprised that such a little baby who had received nothing but loving caresses and gentle words knew how to fight back. No one had taught him that. It was intuitive, part of his nature. Davis has now started just in the last week or so doing the same thing. He is also starting to instigate with his brother, provoking him by poking or touching, fighting with him over toys. It is both a good and bad thing. He is not the docile, pushover that I might have feared he would be with such a domineering older brother. However, his compliance, which could be mistaken for obedience, clearly has its limits.

Interestingly, this new behavior in Davis has revealed a new side of Addison. He's always been bossy (what else would you expect from an oldest child?), but he has now taken it upon himself to uphold the moral high ground and police Davis's behavior. Pot, meet kettle. Oi! And so the plot thickens.

Small Is Tall

I think my love of a certain nameless, Seattle-based coffee company is well enough established that I can post this hilarious video from YouTube.

She's on to something here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Word on Trey

Trey called last night around 5pm to let us know he had arrived in Oxford. Thankfully the snow in Aberdeen did not delay the flight to London. Travel by bus from London to Oxford went smoothly and he had located his lodging at Keble College (more on that in a future post) without incident. He'd even squeezed in some picture taking along the way. He was off to find the Eagle and Child for some dinner, the famed pub in Oxford known as the hangout for such literary giants as J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis. Ten quid to the first person who can guess what he had. Fish and chips, of course.

This morning he called right before heading off to the Bodleian Library to do some archival research. I gave him our update, which includes Davis taking a turn for the worse with his chest infection. He's been running a temperature since last night. Pray for his swift healing as he is not doing well. Also the snow has continued off and on with blizzard-like conditions one minute, glorious sun the next. Addison did better this morning talking to his dad. Yesterday evening he could barely squeak out between sobs, "Daddy, will you hold me?" Yeah, that one hurt. One day down, three and a half to go.

The famous Radcliffe Camera, part of the University of Oxford Library and next to the Bodleian, which makes you swear an oath not to kindle a flame or bring a sheep inside before they grant you a library card.

Easter Miscellany

I've gotten a few more photos to share with you from one of the families that celebrated Easter with us on Sunday. I've put all of them in the Easter 2008 album, so check it out again even if you've already looked. There are more now! We celebrated with three families altogether and enjoyed a delicious and perfectly cooked leg of lamb, a first for me as we would traditionally eat ham on Easter. I love spending holidays with our surrogate "family" here in Aberdeen. Being so far from loved ones back home can be especially lonely on holidays, but the university community here is fairly tight-knit and above all we share a common faith which draws us even more closely together. Meal prep was divided amongst us ahead of time and made it a laid back and thoroughly enjoyable, not to mention delicious, affair.

Trey and I enjoying the delicious Easter feast with our friends Sian, Andy, and their little girl Jemima, who is the same age as Davis. They very kindly hosted all of us.

Addison playing with his new favorite toy, Jemima's doll house, which she has obligingly lent us while she is on holiday for the next two weeks.

Davis's Easter bucket, complete with baby friendly treats like Heinz baby banana chocolate pudding and chocolate biscotti, his first toothbrush, socks, and a board book.

Addison's Easter bucket, which included a Thomas the Train themed chocolate egg, Cadbury minis, Hippo biscuits, sunglasses, and bunny ears.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Pictures

Some of my favorites from yesterday. The rest are in the Easter 2008 album.

More White Stuff

This morning when Trey left for the airport, the ground was covered in snow. We checked the departure schedule and nothing appeared to be canceled or delayed and I have not heard from him, so I'm hopeful that he took off without a hitch. Blue skies have been peeking in and out between dark, snow-laiden clouds all morning making for an unusual combination of weather. Addison and I had fun making his first snowman. Unfortunately, Trey took the camera on his trip, so I couldn't get any pictures of the finished product. I didn't last very long outside though. My endurance has significantly diminished since I was a kid, but Addison remained undaunted and only came in when his mittens were thoroughly soaked. Here is video of our snow from yesterday. It's been such a mild winter that this springtime freeze has taken us all by surprise.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

White Easter

Our Easter was white indeed!

Lots more photos to follow tomorrow.

The first family photo we've taken so far of the four us (can you believe that?)!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cadbury Creme Egg McFlurry

One of the oddest experiences living in the UK is encountering familiar brands and chains that offer items unique to that particular culture. For example, I guarantee you that your local Starbucks didn't offer mince pies at Christmas. In fact, you may not even be sure what a mince pie is. And I dare you to find the grape Skittle in a package over here. Don't be fooled. The purple one is actually black current. Not the same thing!

This afternoon I went with my friend Rachel to the super-duper 24 hour Asda by the River Dee to get a few random items. The bus shelter outside the store had a large advertisement for the latest McDonald's McFlurry -- Cadbury Creme Egg. Now I love the Cadbury Creme Eggs as much as the next lass, but I had a good chuckle over the photo. It looked like egg yolk smeared in ice cream, and again my background in advertising revolted at the strange visual marriage of egg and tasty treat. What were they thinking?

Our Wee Rapscallion

To give you an idea of Davis's pint size see the above photo. To give you an idea of how that doesn't interfere with his orneriness see same photo.

Snow at Easter

Piggy-backing off my post from yesterday, the weather has continued to play beautifully to the theme of Holy Week. This morning we awoke to a dusting of snow on the ground. We've had flurries off and on for two days now. This morning the snow has come down so hard at times, blown about by the ubiquitous Aberdeen wind, you might just mistake it for a blizzard. Then moments later, the sunshine bursts through the thinning clouds, patches of blue sky peek out and the coating of snow vanishes in minutes. Although snow at Easter might initially seem out of place, the purity and peacefulness is altogether fitting -- white symbolizing the washing away of our sins and new life in Christ, a blanket of snow symbolizing the covering of our sins by His death, and the sunshine breaking through symbolizing the promise of a new beginning, the hope of the Gospel.

Incidentally, this year Easter is as early as it has been since 1913. It will not fall on March 23rd again until the year 2160. An early Easter, of course, increases the odds for snow. Strange that in my lifetime I've experienced a white Thanksgiving and now a potentially white Easter but no white Christmas...hmmmmm....

Purple tulips in my kitchen window before a backdrop of snow.


Kenyan Coffee

Both of my brothers are baristas at Starbucks. At Christmas David saved up his 1-pound-free-a-week allowance and gave me 7 lbs. of different varieties of Starbucks coffee, including their 2007 holiday blend and a new anniversary blend. While I am a coffee lover, I am no connoisseur, and this provided a wonderful opportunity to learn about new types of coffee.

So I am now sharing with you my new favorite, Kenyan. It is bold and strong with a rich fullness of flavor unmarred by bitterness. When you grind the beans, the resulting powder is flecked with blonde granules. I absolutely love it. I think it's time for another cup.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Promise

Growing up I can distinctly remember the Roman Catholic Church up the street, St. Rose of Lima. During the Lenten season they draped a cross outside the church with different colored cloth to symbolize the steps to Calvary. Purple during Lent symbolized the suffering of Christ as well as His royalty, black on Good Friday stood for His death, and then ultimately white on Easter Sunday showed forth life in the Resurrection. Although I do not come from the tradition of the liturgical calendar, I have always found the symbolism which accompanied it rich and meaningful. Good Friday, which we commemorate today, is a heavy day. I can remember attending Good Friday services and feeling a shroud of weighty darkness. The image above really crystalizes that for me. There is both an immeasurable beauty as well as a stark ugliness surrounding Calvary.

This morning as I got up with the boys, the driech was giving way to a downpour. The winds had been whipping up since last night when we had even received some snow. It all seemed so appropriate for the day, but as I looked out over the western sky across the bowling green a rainbow appeared. What a glorious reminder for me that this day full of sorrow and grief is but a moment leading to triumph and promise. The cross is not the end of the story, for out of death springs eternal life.

"He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken."

Isaiah 25.8

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Court Dress

The other day I saw the oddest sight. I was waiting for the bus in front of the Courthouse and noticed a gentleman smoking a cigarette who was wearing a black robe and curly, gray wig. Apparently, even to this day the various figures in the courtroom wear traditional garb. I felt a bit as though I were standing backstage at a play waiting for a character to make his entrance. In general, the robes and wigs are regularly worn unless dispensed with by the judge due to hot weather or fear of intimidating children, such as in family court. No surprise, there are some variations in dress here in Scotland. For example, advocates (counsel) wear coat tails and white bow ties instead of bands. If you're visiting and feel like stepping back in time and the ancient buildings aren't quite doing it for you, hang around the courthouse. You're bound to see one of these relics from days gone by.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bathing Together

For the past few months we have been bathing the boys together. They absolutely love it, and it certainly simplifies the bathing process -- two birds with one stone and all that. For Davis's birthday he received a bath toy set which has only increased their pleasure with this activity. Trey took some video of them the other day, and while I rewatched it I was struck with how evident their individual personalities are in it. See for yourself!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

That Makes Sense

"That makes sense," Addison told me matter-of-factly the other day. The incongruity of such an adult phrase coming from the lips of such a small boy surprised me so much so that I've now forgotten what exactly it was I said that apparently made sense to him. All I know is that I wish he could be so reasonable all the time.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Green Man in Our House

You may remember the Green Man post from a while back. Well, this Christmas Trey received a gift set from one of my brothers which included a history of the Green Man as well as his very own miniature replica to hang on one of our walls. Gag gift? Perhaps, but we have taken it deadly seriously. We have now found the perfect resting place for this funny-looking gentleman. His perch above our mantle could be viewed as slightly disconcerting, a nod to the head in The Wizard of Oz, but I like to think of it as reassuring, a grandfatherly eye watching out for us. The decorating standard is definitely different when you're renting.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Cake/Biscuit Controversy

Here is a totally useless and yet thoroughly entertaining tidbit, something I guarantee you did not know about the UK.

Under UK law, no VAT (value added tax) is charged on biscuits and cakes —they are "zero rated". Chocolate covered biscuits, however, are subject to VAT at 17.5%. McVities classed its Jaffa Cakes as cakes, but in 1991, this was challenged by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise and the case ended up before the courts. This may have been because Jaffa Cakes are about the same size and shape as some types of biscuit. A question that the court asked itself was "what criteria should be used to class something as a cake?" McVities defended its classification of Jaffa Cakes as cakes. In doing so it produced a giant Jaffa Cake to illustrate that its Jaffa Cakes were simply mini cakes. McVities argued that a distinction between cakes and iscuits is, inter alia, that biscuits would normally be expected to go soft when stale, whereas cakes would normally be expected to go hard. It was demonstrated to the Tribunal that Jaffa Cakes become hard when stale. Other factors taken into account by the Chairman, Mr. Potter QC, included: name; ingredients; texture; size; packaging; marketing; presentation; appeal to children; manufacturing process. Contrary to a commonly held belief, whether something is considered a 'luxury item' is not a test for VAT purposes. Mr. Potter ruled that the Jaffa Cake is a cake. He further ruled that, if it is relevant, it is not a biscuit. McVities therefore won the case and we do not pay VAT on Jaffa Cakes.

Ah, the stale test, a fool proof measure! Isn't it wonderful when the courts are used for such worthwhile pursuits? And now we fully understand the difference between a cake and a biscuit.


Notice anything different? (Hint: Look closely at the tagline.)

Give up? Take a closer look at the tagline on this US Oreo package. Interestingly though, the contents taste the same thereby definitively proving once and for all that biscuits and cookies are actually the same thing.

To whomever invented this ingenius method of Oreo dunking, have you considered running for office?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hairy Coo

Any time you drive around the countryside of Aberdeenshire you're bound to spot some Highland Cattle, or Hairy Coos as they're known here. They are unmistakable with long shaggy hair and imposing horns, a cross between a buffalo and Chewbacca. They are a hearty breed of cattle uniquely suited to this cold and sometimes harsh climate. Their fur provides them with excellent insulation and as a consequence their meat tends to be a little leaner.

Saturday I bought Davis his first Highland Cow for a real bargain, only 50p. I went to the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) Nearly New Sale looking for clothing and other bargains, and when I spotted this friendly little critter I couldn't pass him (her?) up. I've seen such stuffed animals sold in Scottish trinket shops for 20x what I paid, which makes him even more adorable.

Davis enjoying his Hairy Coo.

Proof that he is standing these days.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Jewel of Old Aberdeen

The scaffolding surrounding the Crown Tower has now reached its pinnacle. I was a little concerned with the storm coming how it would handle the high winds, but I'm sure they provided for such contingencies. Interestingly, back in 1663, high winds actually blew the Crown Tower over into the Chapel. I can only imagine what that must have been like. Obviously the type of work they are doing right now helps to ensure that such a catastrophe won't happen again.

Among other repair work, they are removing the cement mortar used in the early part of the 20th century to repoint the sandstone during previous rennovations. Limestone was the original material used since it is breathable and can expand and contract with the ever present moisture of northeast Scotland. Cement is not so forgiving and can therefore cause cracking in the sandstone.

The current repair work also involves inspecting the existing stones and determining if replacement is necessary. When stones are replaced, great care is taken to match them exactly, not just matching color for proper aesthetic blending but also for similar porosity. If the stones do not absorb water like those around them, they can cause accelerated weathering of the older stones. Similar stone replacement was done back in 2004 at which time clay pots were discovered behind some of the stones. These artifacts were removed for further archeological investigation.

The conservation work is projected to cost £300,000 ($600,000) to include roofing repair, repointing, stone replacement, and lighting. Trey is hoping to get some pictures of the men at work that we'll post here in the near future. Watching them high up on the scaffolding has really helped to give us some perspective of how massive the Crown Tower actually is. Seeing it from the ground can be a bit deceiving. The cross at the very top is about the height of a man. You can read more about the details of the conservation here.

Oh, and this is post 500!