Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Humor

Thankfully Halloween is also celebrated in Scotland.  After a delicious dinner of Chillighetti (doesn't that just sound good!?) we threw on our costumes and hit the street. We went out with my downstairs neighbor's grandson, which was fun.  The surprise of the Halloween Trick or treating here in Edinburgh is that saying "trick or treat" is usually not enough to get candy in your bag.  Each child is expected to share a riddle or joke or song at the front door.  My mind drew an absolute blank, except for my favorite joke at the zoo: Q: "What do you get when you cross an elephant with a rhinoceros?" A: Elefino." Not a very good representation of America, or Christianity for that matter.  So at the next door we asked them to pass along some jokes to us.  Some were pleased enough with the "Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat" sung in our American accents.  But for the rest of the traditionalists who craved more entertainment, we used the following jokes:

Q: What does a witch put in her hair?
A: Scare spray.

Q: Why did the skeleton cross the road?
A: To get some work done at the body shop.

Thought this pic would go nicely in the Halloween post.  It was taken at church during Sunday school.  Isn't it a great drawing?!

Annie (Dead Bride) Owen (Skeleton) Simon (Batman) Finley (Dracula)
Calvin was also Batman and was out with some friends. Preston handed out candy at the door.

Watching Merlin in our bed after a night of collecting candy.

The Pumpkins, from bottom of the stairs to the top: Owen's, Simon's, Calvin's and Annie's.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trash Talkin

Back in Bountiful, we had 2 very large trash cans that were collected every Thursday morning.  Our recycling bin was also large and was collected every other Thursday. No sorting required.  Flash forward to the present and this is what we get: a small trash can that is shared with a neighbor that gets collected every other week, or 1/8th of what we typically use.  We have two crazy small recycling bins (think horizontal laundry baskets.) They get picked up on alternating weeks, and have a very long, detailed list of what can and can't go into each.  The lists are posted right above the trash can, and I think that I have lost at least 20 minutes a day to the task of trying to determine what is rubbish and what is not, and if it can be recycled, what container it should go in.   

Like George Washington, Ryan could not tell a lie.  He was randomly chucking stuff into the wrong recycling bins, so he had to re-sort out the recycling. Doesn't he look handsome?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Harry Potter is Real!

Preston and Calvin finally started school today.  Thank heaven, it's only been 5 weeks!  The real news though, is that prefects, head master's, and houses are all very much a part of the Edinburgh school system.  The primary school is sorted into 4 houses, whilst the secondary is made up of 6.  All of the houses are named after neighborhood streets.  Calvin's teacher  is Mr. Diagon, as in diagon alley!  For lunch Preston had a meat pocket, which was basically a very large breakfast sausage wrapped in a pastry dough (think pig in a blanket.)  They both had great days at school.  Only Owen is without a teacher, so we will continue to play all day and eat biscuits for snacks.  For dinner tonight we had jacket potatoes.

Calvin, ever practical, wouldn't unzip his jacket to show me his uniform because it was cold out.

Preston isn't wearing his striped green tie because he bought it this morning on his way to class. I was so tempted to use my eyebrow pencil to draw a lightening bolt on his forehead, but he would't let me.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Linger Longer

Sacrament meeting was devoted to missionary work as a young man gave his farewell talk today, along with his parents.  Pinocchio, Martin Luther King Jr., Forest Gump, Johnny Cash, The Killers, some scriptures, and "the great poet Eminem" were all quoted during the meeting.  Wowsers.  The entire family are Scotland natives, but even if their accents weren't music to my ears (which it is, I looove the accent), the meeting was interesting enough to keep the whole crowd's attention, even though the service ended 15 minutes late.  The family shared their conversion of coming back into activity and sung the praises of a missionary that reminded them of the path they had lost sight of.  Beautiful. Their testimonies were so sincere.   Following the meeting was a linger longer.  We lingered longer, and then walked home, which is 100 feet away.  It's just hysterical to us that we are way closer to a church building here in Edinburgh, Scotland then we ever have been while residing in Utah... Oh, the irony. We also had three missionaries over for dinner tonight; soup, salad, home made rolls and made from scratch apple pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert. 

This was the Smith family contribution to the linger longer.  They're called "biscuits" but are really crazy delicious butter cookies; some plain, others with filling like an Oreo, and the good ones are dipped in chocolate the way nature intended.  I normally would have made something for the linger longer, but forgot, so this was our offering.  Any visitors will dine on these with us, since they are now on the grocery list right up there with the bread and eggs.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Scottish Pumpkins

Scottish pumpkins look exactly like American pumpkins, but if you put your ear up close to the stem, like how you would listen to a sea shell, you can hear bagpipes... We carved pumpkins tonight and had a grand old time.  Only one of us got a cut, and she didn't yell or scream or cry.  It was just a minor flesh wound on my middle finger, not even requiring a plaster (Which is what the Scotts call bandaids. Simon told us this and all the kids thought he was making it up, but true to Simon's reputation for knowing random facts, he was correct, having heard it at his school.) No one will be pulling up the pictures below, wanting to recreate the magic of a Smith pumpkin, but we did have a good time, and listened to Thriller while carving.

This is a street right by our home, Grey's Loan.  Just a picture of the leaves changing color.

Calvin didn't want to get his hands gooey.

Annie carving, Ryan scooping.

Owen scooping, Ryan smiling.

Owen posing.

Calvin and Simon working hard.

Calvin wanted me to do the mouth on his pumpkin.  It turned out well.  Simon's pumpkin died and he will need a replacement on Monday.  

* Where are the final result pumpkin pictures? Guess you'll have to wait until 
Halloween to see them all lit up.

Friday, October 26, 2012

School Halloween Party, Scotland Style

Thank Heaven they celebrate Halloween in Scotland! Tonight Annie, Calvin and Simon attended their new school's Halloween parties.  The younger grades had their party from 17:30 to 19 (5:30 to 7pm), the older kids had their's from 19:15 to 20:45 (7:15 to 8:45pm.) The event was thrown by the school's parent organization and cost 3 pounds which is about $4.80. They had lights, a d.j./announcer dude, and different stations with Halloweeny activities, and tasty sweets. The kids could wear masks, face paints, scary and gory costumes, and everyone had a wonderful time.  The decorations were fantastic. I only wish I had thought to pack my silver spandex dress and matching wrestler mask so that I could have shown up as a luchadora...

One of my favorite pumpkins in the jack-lanturn contest. 

Calvin making some friends.  He starts school on Monday.

I promise I will stop photographing bathrooms soon, but I had to show you the soap.  It has a metal disk shoved into it and then it attaches to a magnet, so that the soap never slips from it's place, and is always easy to grab and return.  How have I lived all these years without a soap magnet?

Annie with some classmates.  Doesn't she look chipper?

Simon with a parent, The Joker and Batman.  The Joker was totally scary looking but was such a nice guy and helper, an obvious Halloween enthusiast.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tea and Cakes...

How lucky I am to have a downstairs neighbor named Ann that knows how to make delicious fruit cake (I seriously don't get the bad rep this delicacy has) and cheddar cheese scones that she spread with soft cheese (a.k.a. cream cheese.) It was wonderful.  I was invited this morning to have tea and cakes with her, which was an opportunity I could not pass up.  As I am Mormon and don't drink "tea" with "tea" in it, but am willing to drink warm fruited beverage,  I stewed momentarily about how to politely ask if I could read her tea box label to check on the ingredients.  In answer to a prayer, I decided it would just be easier to bring my own Lindsey approved "tea" bags.  In all honesty, I felt like such a weirdo pulling this tea bag out of my pocket... I probably should have put it into a ziplock and had it in my purse... but she didn't seem to care.  Her late husband (Ann is a senior citizen) used to do some work in Utah, and so she was somewhat familiar with our beliefs, tea included. She never offered me sugar and I didn't want to be the stereotypical Amercian who needs more sugar, so I just sipped my somewhat bitter tea and politely scarfed down two slices of the fruit cake and two cheese scones.    We chatted for about an hour and I gave her a copy of my book "FEAST." I hope that she will read it and will want to attend church with me (which is kitty corner from our home) and then take the missionary discussions (with the mission home directly across the street.) If, however, she never ever has an interest in the Mormon faith, I will still always consider her a friend due to pleasant conversation, delicious treats, and her kindness to me when I still feel so very out of place.

This is what the fruit cake looked like.  She used herbal tea (not the typical brandy) and it was crazy moist and delicious, and made entirely without any fats (butter, oil, lard, shortening.) I will crave it until I get the recipe and can make it for the world.

***Secondary School Update:  Preston filled the very last spot, #200, available at the school in our catchment for his grade, S2. Yet another answer to prayers! He starts at Boroughmuir on Monday and will wear a tie and white church shirt, black trousers and black leather shoes (blazer optional) every school day for a year.  I like to think of this as missionary dress code practice time. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Home Sweet Home, Alabama

After 2 Scottish parking tickets, 4 temporary homes, and hundreds in Wells Fargo Bank transaction fees, we are home. Yippee!  The bed for the master bedroom arrives tomorrow. So tonight, we are playing musical beds. It mattereth not.  I am ready to get back into a family routine of saving the day, one meal, one laundry load, one hug at a time. 

You know it's my kitchen because I'm laying on the table for a picture. The table, incidentally,
 is huge, and could easily fit 10 hungry eaters.  Sounds like we need some visitors!

The owner wanted to make the kids feel at home when they arrived, so she placed this Annie sized cardboard picture of the UK Denis the Menace.  The kids thought it was cool and 
weird and really did feel at home.

FYI: Sweet Home Alabama happens to be one of my favorite chick flicks. Whenever I think of "home, sweet home", I invariably think of "home sweet home Alabama," and then just "Sweet Home Alabama." It's just a good movie.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Scotland Womps!!!

***Please be aware that reading the following will likely cause you to separate the romantic adventure of foreign travel from the much less glamorous reality of a worldwide move.

One of the joys of an international move is the "opportunity" to have an "adventure" and to learn some "different" ways of doing things.  Getting my children into the public school system has been a real "special" "treat." First, we found a permanent residence.  Second, we located the primary (elementary) and secondary (high) schools in our catchment area (boundaries.) Then we visited those schools to enroll the kids into school, something that they have been out of for about a month.  The primary school first checked to see if we were in their catchment (as if that matters) and told us that they could get Calvin and Simon in, but not Annie.  Blank stare. Then they suggested that we just visit all of the neighborhood schools and see if any had space... No head office at the school district to call... no informed head an answer to prayers, we found a great school that all 3 (Calvin, Simon and Annie) can get into.  Edinburgh offers preschool for Owen, but the school location will be found the exact same way as the primary school: miracles and divine intervention, and grit.

Calvin isn't in school right now, as his entire grade is on a 5 day trip up north exploring the rest of Scotland.  When I found this out I was so bummed for him.  This field trip/ vacation exploration with peers is the kind of experience we wanted our kids to have as we left home. However, upon reflection, Calvin is a bit of a worrier, and would have probably hated being away from home, and would have made all involved miserable.  So he remains home for another week.

The real "gem" of navigating through the public schools though has been with Preston. Ryan and I have physically been in the secondary school office three (3!) times to discuss whether they even have a place for him in his grade, S2.  Each time, they have let us know that the only person in the entire school that can answer that is unavailable, but will "most likely be around later." Of course I can't schedule an appointment with him.   I managed, after two calls, to get the guy (head master of admissions) on the phone and was informed that... he still doesn't know... and has to talk with the headmaster of the S2's to make sure there is a spot.  For the love of all !@#$%^&*! To quote a favorite movie "Flames...Flames... on the side of my face...."  All I'm trying to do is find out if he can go to the school that is in the boundary we moved into. Throw in having to find parking and pay the meter each time, and I am one angry, frustertated, ready to go home, check please, don't call us we'll call you, kind of mom.  Ahhhhh. Scotland womps!!!!

Annie and Simon at their new school: Craiglockhart Primary.

Simon and Annie. You can see Annie's school uniform. Simon is hiding his white shirt.

Annie wanted to do a silly pose.

Simon was hoping to pose like a Ninja and wanted me to snap the shot as a seagull flew by.  
I think we missed on both counts.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Not the smoke detector... Again!

On the Eve, Eve of our moving day into our official residence for the next 11 months, I wanted to post about our current, temporary living conditions.  We have stayed in a flat off of Slateford and Robertson, on the second story of a four story building.  A key is needed to get into the stairwell, and we have 2 keys to get into our flat.  It has a "quant" (small and cozy) family room with a table that seats 6. As there are 7 in our family, the last person to the table seats on the couch. There are three bedrooms, with a king size bed where Annie, Owen and Simon sleep.  There is a queen size bed which Preston and Calvin share. Ryan and I have the last bedroom with a king size bed and an adjoining shower and sink (no toilet though.)  The kitchen has been rather small.  I was making some baked potato wedges today for lunch, to be eaten with ketchup or chili and cheese.   I opened the oven door, and a puff of steam (not smoke!) caused the smoke detector to sound.  Those things are sooo loud, especially in a confined space!  Preston and I fanatically fanned the detector for what felt like forever, and luckily it went off before... the truth is, I'm not sure what could have happened. If the system were building wide, I bet the fire dept would be called in, and everyone evacuated! Mercy, that would have been a real nightmare.  Lunch was fine, but not worth the alarm. The kitchen also comes without a dishwasher, we have hand washed every dish that we have used, and broken only one glass.  The washing machine has only seen two loads, as I am simply waiting to get to our permanent home to do some loads with a dryer.  This 1000 sqft accommodation  has fit our needs well.  

The scene of the crime!
Q: What was I making when the smoke detector went off the first time?
A: Frying up some chicken for a bacon, chicken, cream sauce to go with green beans, and potatoes.
 It was good.

The kitchen, in all it's glory.  It's about 5 X 7. I'm 5' and 2".

The bathroom has heated floors.  How will I ever go back to cold tile?!?

I am very amused by this.  The top dial on the shower lets you pick your water pressure: low, medium or high.  The dial below has you set your perfect shower temp, as in when you come back 
for your next shower it's right there!  Below is the on/off button.  
When you know how to use them, foreign gadgets are fun!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Open Mic at the Primary Presentation

Today was our Ward's Primary Presentation, which is when the kids aged 3-11 help give talks and sing songs and speak in the most sacred of our church meetings, Sacrament meeting.  Of the 13 primary children, Calvin (10), Simon (9), Annie (6), and Owen (4) all cheerfully participated in what might have been the most unique (yet highly entertaining) Primary presentation I have ever been to.  Before I give the details, I need to make a few things known.  It was lovely.  The theme was Choose the Right and the talks were fantastic.  The children sang on key and with vigor.  The uncommon part came when the primary president had all 4 members of the junior primary (2 of which were mine) head on up to the microphone for a little "Friendship Q&A." She asked them questions like "Why is it important to be a good friend?" and "What do you like to do with your friends?" and "What do you like to play with your friends?" The children willingly and simultaneously shouted their various answers into the mic.  The President was so lovingly and enthusiastically, unintentionally, egging them on that they couldn't help themselves.  I know what words have escaped the mouths of me we ones, and I was scared to death! It might have only gone on for a few minutes, but it felt like 10, watching my dears yell and giggle into the chapel mic.  In her defense, she has had this calling for 2 weeks adn I'm sure had to leap into the role of planning this thing. Regardless, she made every single child feel like they were very special, important, and wonderful children of God.  I wonder how often my kids are getting that same message from me? 

The monthly Relief Society enrichment meeting was on Thursday.  We wrapped shoe boxes for Christmas and filled them with goodies (sweets, tooth brushes, toys, etc.) This is the 6th year that the ward will be shipping Christmas care packages to Bulgaria. Charity Never Faileth.  
I love these kinds of R.S. activities.

The ladies bathroom at church.  The hot comes out very hot and the cold comes out like ice.  To wash my hands comfortable I bounced back and forth between the two extreme temps. The pale pink just killed me dead, and the door locks look like a portable potty, 
with a green patch if it's open and red if in use.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Union Canal

Today we focused on leisurely strolls around our new home.  On the street just North of Colinton runs the Union Canal.  It was a remnant of pre-railroad shipping transportation.  Now it is used for recreation, is home to some ducks and swans, dog walkers and many joggers and bicyclists can be found on it's path.  When we were polite enough to move out of the way, a happy "Cheers" was expressed.  A nice man let us pet his dog. I told him to have a good day and he replied with "And you." I thought it was very funny (I'm sure because of the accent) but Ryan did not.
I am reading the menu of a narrow boat cafe along the canal. 

This is the public park just opposite the canal. Dogs run free, and so do our children.

This is inside the cafe boat.  We ordered hot chocolate with whipped cream and cakes.  The owner/chef/waiter had dread locks down to his belt. Unexpected.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lothian Bus to Greyfriars Bobby

Annie Joy Smith has been begging ever since we got off the plane to ride around in a double decker bus. Today, finally, her wish was granted.  The dealio with the bus situation is this: public transportation womps.  Here's why: you have to have change (coinage) on you, the bus drivers don't announce their stops so if you don't know where you are then you get to beg for assistance from the bus driver or strangers, you can't come and go whenever you want, and with a family of my size, today it cost 10 pounds to ride, versus the 1-5 it would have cost me to park. Let me be even less PC.  Public transport rocks if you can't afford any better, are overly concerned with your carbon footprint, are single or the mother of 2 or less well behaved children, or if you know the city like the back of your hand.  I love my suburban, car driving, Bountiful Utah life!  Who knew my first rant would be about the bus? Throw in some rain, a few children tripping, the typical squabbling of juveniles, and you get today, which was... today. They can't all be winners, right? On a final note, several of the kids prayed with gratitude that they could ride a double decker bus, so hopefully my stinky attitude didn't ruin their fun.

A classic phone booth shot taken in downtown Edinburgh.  It smelled of elephants. 

Annie, Owen and me in the doll collection room at the "Museum of Childhood." 
What a name for a museum.

The fam in front of a statue of Greyfriars Bobby.  It is the world famous skye terrier of Edinburgh who was so loyal to his deceased master (John Gray) that he slept on his grave for the remaining 14 years of his life, rain or..rain.  The city eventually bought him tags and gave him legal free reign.  
What a loyal dog!

The story.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

King Arthur's Seat

Ryan had some work to do so I decided to venture out with the kids and finally do something touristy.  I randomly decided to take the kids on a walk to see what was described as an extinct volcano, titled King Arthur's Seat.  To be honest, I pictured the volcano in Midway at the Homestead (it takes like five minutes to walk up to the top, and you get to peer down into a giant hole, pretty exciting stuff.) OUr new sat nav (GPS) doesn't accommodate for construction, so I got a little lost and pulled to the side of the road to ask a woman, where I was going.  She started to giggle a little and told me it was about 100 feet away, to the right of me, just behind the building.  When I rounded the corner, I saw a giant towering mountain, right in the middle of the city.  As we were already there, and it was just a light drizzle, we decided to give it a go.  It was like hiking 2 Ensign Peaks, with mini waterfalls over the stones.  I think Owen clearly worked the hardest to reach the top, as his legs are short and his feet are small. Incidentally, I was informed that Mormons commonly refer to this Mountain as "Prat's Hill."  When Parley P. Pratt (a well known LDS apostle in the early days of the church) was in Edinburgh serving a mission, he was struggling to find success.  He climbed the hill and promised to work as hard as he could, and prayed for 200 baptisms before he left his mission.  He would go up the hill monthly.  When it came time to depart, he had indeed introduced and helped to convert 200 baptisms.  Goodness knows, I did a lot of praying on the hill today... that no one would break their legs, or fall off any cliffs, or that the heavens wouldn't decide to really open up their faucets... Preston did slip on the way back down... but he insisted I take a picture of him, so we know he's just fine.

Us at the bottom of the hill we are about to climb.

Me at the top of King Arthur's Seat (I don't know why it's called that. I should look that up.)

Ruins of a church on the way up to the top.  Owen is being a weirdo in the doorway.

All the kids in the doorway Owen was standing in.

Th back of Preston after he slipped in the mud.

Preston having a good attitude about slipping in the mud.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


We have found a room in the inn!  Thanks be to prayers, a lot of looking around, a relocation agent, an increase in our housing budget by 50% (mercy!), a plea to reduce the rental rate of the place we wanted, and basically a housing miracle, we will be living in a lovely Edwardian villa (circa late 19th century) for the next 11 months, starting next Wednesday.  It is 500 feet from Ryan's work, across the street from both the LDS mission home and church building, half a mile to the kids' schools, and just 10 miles away from the cookery school I hope to attend (you all can see where I really am in the pecking order around here:~) It is 5 bedroom, 2 baths, is completely furnished, comes with kitchen plates, utensils, etc. , has a washer, and a DRYER!!!!, a piano, a lovely garden out back, a parking space, access to a private neighborhood park (there is actually a key to get in!) and it even comes with friends!!!! Just kidding, I still need to make those. Check out the pics, and here is a link to the map of our new home, ( for all of you fluent in Edinburgh geography.

The front of our new home.  We get the top two floors of one half, the right side is ours.
85 Colinton Road, Edinburgh Scotland, EH10 5DF, UK
That's the address for all the packages:~)

My glorious kitchen, that seats the whole family!

The parlor, with piano in corner.

The front entry sitting room.

Our master bedroom...a.k.a. "the love nest"

The downstairs/ master bathroom, with a cat door in the middle of the window.  It's the big circle thing above the stool... and we are not getting a cat.

Our Scottish garden.

The fridge is far right, hidden by a fancy cabinet facade. Two ovens!

Calvin was none too impressed with the bedding. Too Bad! Simon will share this room with him. 

Front entry, snazzy carpet.