Friday, 30 December 2016

Disney for Life

You know how certain newspapers spit vile hatred towards a certain group of people they just decide ‘ruined the country’ every so often?  Well, whilst getting the bus the other day I happened to pick up a paper like this as we were caught in a traffic jam, and the target of all derision was the baby boomers. 

Now I certainly don’t hate this generation (please tell me nobody actually hates a whole generation of people) but just when i think I might be lusting after that giant pension or massive cheap houses they apparently have I need to give myself a shake, as I’ve figured out what’s even better than either of those things….

I was born in Disney’s Renaissance Era….yup, I win.

Apparently when I was 2 the folks at Disney hit on a run of films and turned out many a classic, and here was I thinking it was just rose tinted glasses on my part.  The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas…all films I grew up with and sang along to.  Apparently not every generation had a run of hits like that and were spoiled for Disney choice, I never stood a chance, was hooked.

When I was 7 my Mum and Grandma took my brother and I to Orlando and we loved it so much we went back again when I was 9.  We were hoping to go when I was 22, but much drama ensued and I never went along (hey, I did get engaged instead).  My friend Christine and I would often speak about going to Disney World when we both came back from Singapore and I’d run little tests via online travel agents to work out the costs.

When I was in Singapore and unable to get out and about due to tropical thunder storms the first thing I’d think to do would be to settle down to watch Disney movies.  Daisy dog, in her more sprightly days, got lifted like Simba, I often sing “little town, full of little people” or “just around the river bend” (depending the locations obvs), and spent my time snorkelling in Tioman humming “under the sea”.  The only time I’ve ever shied away from Disney is when we had a 3 day thunder storm in Singapore and I was stuck inside with 2 under 3’s, one of which was obsessed by Frozen, and right there I thought that taking them to a mall playpark wouldn’t be quite so bad (it would dear reader, it really would).

Ok, so that Frozen misadventure aside, we agree I'm Disney obsessed.  Therefor it was only for so long that my poor enduring husband could put up with requests for us to travel to Orlando and so I can announce that WE ARE GOING TO DISNEY! 

I love travel anyway, but I have never been so excited to go on holiday.  We’re a whole year away, but what with dining reservations needing to be booked 6 months in advance I'm taking that it’s perfectly acceptable to be this excited, this early.  Not even the exchange rate can put a damper on my plans.  Get ready to hear an awful lot about my holiday!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

8 Years In

Around 2pm today Mark and I will have been married for 8 years.  During this time we’ve lived in 7 different houses, 3 countries, and we’ve visited lots of towns in Cyprus, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia together as well as holidays in Spain, Borneo and the odd road trip in the UK.  Although there's been some really rough times in there where we’ve just held tight, we’ve mostly had plain sailing and have certainly been blessed. 
However, I do wish I could go back and squeeze my 23 year old self and say marriage will be ok. 

I freaked out so badly and made myself so ill before our wedding.  I knew I wanted my marriage to last forever, I didn’t just want a wedding, I wanted ‘everything’ so I knew I had to put work into it.  I was worried that I didn’t have role models or that I was too young.  I kept thinking about calling off the wedding so we could work harder on ourselves, I just wanted a test I could pass to say we could do this.  I wish I knew then, and reminded myself that Mark was a good person who would reassure me when times were tough. 
I would explain to my 23 year old self that the Honeymoon phase was a downright lie for us.
I was writing my 2nd dissertation in a year, I was trying to write 20,000 words and keep a house and work 20 hours a week and volunteer and be home with our little dog.  I wanted a family (which would have been crazy young for me) and I wanted a full time job already.  I wanted somewhere bigger than our tiny 1 bedroom flat with a cupboard of a kitchen.  I wish I knew then that I wasn’t expected to do it all and listened when Mark reminded me of this.
I would tell my 23 year old self not to worry and that time will go so quickly and I shouldn’t ever rush it.
I don’t want it to sound too clichéd but we’ve been on some amazing adventures, but we’ve also gone through the tough stuff in between.  We’ve dragged our belongings from hotel to hotel between renting and moving to the other side of the world.  We’ve cared for each other when we’re ill or had scary hospital treatments and comforted each other in grief.    
I would tell my 23 year old self that we’ll hire yachts for nights out and go to parties at the High Commissioners house; we’ll go snorkelling in crystal clear oceans and watch the sunset over Borneo from our cabana.  We’ll meet some interesting characters in Spain at a little restaurant by the sea and care for foster children in our own home.    But we’ll also have countless special times together which would be insignificant to anyone else, having breakfast out on a Saturday in Ellon, having brunch out on a Sunday in Singapore, trips to Edinburgh or staying at the Marcliffe, BBQing at Benachie, afternoon tea at Pittodrie House, singing carols in Cruden Bay, dancing at weddings and all those silly code words that can make us laugh that no one else would understand.
I wish I could tell my 24 year old self that we’ll both slowly become new people, maybe more patient or assertive and we’ll build a life that we’ll love.  Happy Anniversary Mark!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Road tripping and New Kennels

What did you do this weekend?  I went to Hogwarts!  Ok, I went on the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Leavesden, Watford but you know, close enough.

Mark and I are a bit run down with colds right now so as long as he’s feeling better I will hijack the cute pictures he managed to take and fill up a post on why you should stop what you’re doing and go on the tour!

In the meantime I thought I could keep a note of the day before when we drove up to Watford, so that I’d not have to get up early on tour day.

On the Thursday before we travelled Mark ended up needing to stay late at work for a meeting…….. and then we got stuck in really bad traffic.  So by the time we were on the road home we knew we wanted to treat ourselves to some carry out Chinese food and not have to bother about finding something in the freezer.  Unfortunately the first place we went to didn’t take a card, “that’s ok” I said, “let’s just go to the normal place”, except they don’t take cards either and the cash machine next to them was broken….  Fast forward to a trip into town to get money and Mark making a phone order to speed the process up and I was munching into my delicious salt and pepper chicken in less than half an hour.  Not exactly the peaceful start to ‘our anniversary trip’ I envisaged.
leaving work in the dark
By this time it was about 9 so we decided to do a quick tidy up and then head straight to bed.  When we eventually got up on Friday (alarm free!) Mark started packing our things whilst I packed Daisy’s belongings and then went for a short walk with her.  We managed to get into the car pretty quickly and dropped her off at her new ‘kennels’ in Devon.  We’re now putting her to La Dee Da Dog which is a home boarding option for those pampered pooches who haven’t seen in the inside of a regular kennel.  Actually it works out a lot cheaper than half of the kennels I looked up, and although they did look fantastic, Daisy’s not used to them so we didn’t feel it was appropriate for her.  When we found Dee we were very happy with her big garden, comfy chairs for pups to lounge on and kind nature.

With Daisy waved off we headed onto the road, well I say road, but there was a slight miscommunication and the tickets weren’t picked up so after that little detour and a trip to Tesco we were on the road.
just a wee snack for the road
I picked the Watford Mercure hotel to stay at because 1) it was the second cheapest hotel at £55 for a very large family room 2) it had a pool which would keep us entertained when not at the studios. 3) they accepted taste card at their own restaurant 4) free parking.  As this was supposed to be a super budget trip we more than happy with what we got.

We got to Watford really quickly and were pleasantly surprised that it was very easy to find our hotel, we parked up and went straight into the reception who checked us in no problem.  We found our room which happened to be near to the pool and planned on jumping right in, except for there was a swimming class and anyone not involved could only use the Jacuzzi, steam room or sauna.  After faffing about for an hour and hoping in and out of the things we were allowed to use we eventually got in the pool for half an hour before deciding we were hungry! 

We decided to just eat at the hotel because we couldn’t be bothered going out and we found that they were on taste card so we might as well use a 2 for 1 deal on it.  I had a burger and then sticky toffee pudding and I don’t remember what Mark had, but he did like it.  When our bill came they knocked off about £21 so it was exceptionally good value.
sneak peak
All in all it was a very easy trip and I would definitely recommend the hotel as a great cheap and cheerful option for anyone visiting the Warner Brothers Studio in Watford.  Can’t wait to write up about the actual tour now, I desperately want to be back!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Feeling Thankful

A couple of years ago when we lived in Singapore we were invited to a thanksgiving party by some Americans and also hosted a thanksgiving dinner at home.  When I was little we used to visit my Granda’s old army friend in Canada and often went at Thanksgiving time for them and joined in on their celebrations. 
Although this isn’t somethings we’ll do again, it was really fun and sweet (from an outsiders perspective) to gather round when the season changes and give thanks for everything we have. 
So in honour of Canadian thanksgiving:
I'm thankful that we have a cosy house of our own.  When we started saving up to buy whilst living in Aberdeen I never thought we’d first become homeowners in the middle of Devon.
I'm thankful that we have the ability to travel around our beautiful new county and visit rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, hills, moors, rivers and valleys.  Where we live is gorgeous, the route we take to travel to work each day is breathtakingly beautiful and I shouldn’t be so blasé about it.
I'm thankful we have the ability to stop in by cosy county pubs or grand hotels to eat.  We’re able to go to places people only visit on holiday, and I call this place my home.
I'm thankful we get amazing summer weather which means I can use an outdoor swimming pool without getting frostbite, and although I do miss having a white Christmas, I'm grateful that our heating bills are much lower now due to a milder climate.
Most importantly, and after everything Mark has been through, I'm thankful for our good health.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Impey Walk

On Saturday Mark and I took full advantage of the glorious autumn weather and headed out to Knightshayes for a sit down and rest for him / walk for me and Daisy in the sunshine.

Daisy and I headed to the top car park and walked past the kiddos making dens in the woods to follow the path out through the trees to start our walk.  I love the Impey walk and think it’s a great opportunity for her to be off the lead and sniff around in the ‘proper countryside’ like she used to in Scotland.  I love to see her run free without a care in the world and just go wherever her nose takes her.

This is a super easy walk and we passed a few other people out with dogs and kids, as we started at the top of the hill it was a very easy downhill walk.  Everyone was going the opposite way from us which meant we were only in each other’s company for a little while which fitted in with us perfectly.  Although Daisy is good off the lead, I wouldn’t have let her run quite so free if there was a convoy of people as she’d be very inclined to say hello (read: putting her paws on their knee to signal she wants attention)
Instead of looping back up the hill we walked out the lower entrance and to the tea room where Mark had bagged a lovely spot in the sun to have his black coffee in.  I got some tea and although I did look at the sweet treats, I decided it as it would be just too mean to make Mark watch me nibble cake.

We stayed out for a little while before it started to get a little bit dark (not hard at this time of year!) and whilst Mark headed for the car, I started to walk Daisy down the hill so I could tire her out a bit more before home time.
It was a really lovely way to spend the day, especially as things have been a bit all over the place with Mark being hospitalised so I was full of joy to be out and about having a nice relaxing time.  It’s such a pretty part of the countryside and I always feel more at home being out on a hill and it felt like ages since I’d really been outside and a bit peaceful.  Let’s hope there are plenty more walks and eventually hikes with Mark at my side! 


Sooo, it’s been a bit busy lately.  Poor Mark was rushed into hospital and for about a week I rushed from home to work to hospital and back again, I was out of the house for 13 hours each day and exhausted.  No time for blogging then.  Also, nobody wants to see a review of the café at RDE.
When Marks on the mend I’m sure we’ll be out and about again, but for now we are adventure free….which I have to say, I really quite like.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Those Darn Ducks

When you want to take pictures of the ducks by the canal but your westie chases them into the water #fail

Monday, 26 September 2016

Happy Harvest Festival

We had Harvest Thanksgiving at our Church last week and I took down some of the unsold goodies from our WI stall at the town market the day before to set up. 
Daisy duly helped us out just because she’s good like that. Whilst we tried to put our things on the table, she ran around and sniffed the artfully displayed vegetables. 
However I really don't think we messed the décor too much.  Just helped it along really. 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

18 Months In

At school I was quite good at science and got the pick of the biology, chemistry or physics.  I opted for biology and for a little while wanted to be a midwife but then I remembered it wasn’t all squishy babies and I hate blood.  From there I went down the english/arts/social subject’s route, so it came as a surprise when I had to write essays on the science of history and then did a MSc in librarianship.
I'm not a scientist but I thought I would use this blog post as an opportunity to do a little study…
18 months ago we moved to Devon, and 18 months before that we moved to Singapore.  I have now lived in Devon for as long as we were in Singapore, and that feels weird.  So here’s a little summary of life in Aberdeenshire, Singapore and Devon.
  • My home and I knew my way around easily
  • My house was a cottage in a valley with only one other house (until 1 month before the move when we stayed in 2 hotels and half a dozen different apartments!)
  • I knew and spoke Doric, could understand Scots, and knew a little Gaelic
  • I shopped at Aldi or co-op
  • I worked and met up monthly with a friend or had lunch with work colleagues
  • We rarely explored Aberdeenshire and took the majesty of the hills and glens for granted.  When we went on holiday we aimed for a hot location that was relaxing.
  • My understanding of the culture, history, law, most prominent religion and education system was very good. 
  • When we left I felt excited and was very ready for a new adventure.
the first snow of 2011

playing at the harbour in Cruden Bay
  • I knew each of the districts of Singapore and had visited them all
  • My house was a giant (by Singapore standards) black and white house with a manicured lawn in a expat area with a local celebrity down the road
  • I knew quite a lot of Singlish and Hokkien
  • I shopped at the CEX, local markets, fairprice and cold storage
  • I attended a monthly book group with the ANZA, weekly walking groups with the Dutch Association, helped with RDA every week, went to the markets or supermarkets, and out for drinks with friends.  I was a foster carer and volunteered with an animal charity too.  I also then became exceptionally good friends with someone (whilst Mark hit it off with her husband too) and we’d all hang out practically daily, going to craft shops, out for brunch, exploring and even on a cruise together.  From this list it’s pretty obvious I did not work!
  • I explored almost every day and had a list of holiday destinations I wanted to see further afield.  I slowly started to take Singapore for granted
  • My understanding of law was that there were lots of rules but I didn’t even bother to try to understand about government.  I knew a bit of history and chose to listen to audio sermon instead of attend a local Chinese Presbyterian church.  I knew what the expats did to send their kids to school.  I pretty much did nothing to integrate myself into society
  • Once we arrived I was so homesick for Aberdeen and constantly looked at house prices and jobs back there, but then I also felt devastated to leave Singapore and our great friends and life there.
Marina Bay

at the best seats in the house for the Grand Prix
  • I know my way around most of Tiverton, a little bit of Exeter, Honiton and Exmouth and still don’t know most towns around where we live.
  • My house is near a country park and looks out over neighbouring houses and rolling fields.
  • Not as many people speak in a ‘west country accent’ here as the amount of people that spoke Doric in Aberdeen, so that’s much easier.  However, if I do speak to someone who speaks like this I really have to listen.  I also love the advert for Cornwall ice cream that speaks Cornish throughout with no subtitles, but I do think local things should be celebrated.
  • I shop at Tesco and try to shop more at local markets and the butcher
  • Mark and I are active in our Church, and I'm also a member of the WI as well as its committee and all of its sub groups (meaning I'm out at least once a week with them), I fit this in around work.
  • We explore Devon at least twice a month (in the weekends) and visit new places every week.  We don’t take anywhere for granted and I’ve got a list of cities and villages I want to visit while in the south west.
  • I know general UK history but don’t really get the fascination with Stonehenge or the Romans.  I don’t even know if there are castles here, but there are certainly lots of ‘big houses’ we can visit with our national trust membership.  We go to a Methodist/Reformed church but its not the same (as Presbyterian obviously!) although everyone’s really nice.  I miss the ‘right of way’ I had in Scotland and I don’t understand the schooling system which is constantly in the news.  I try to integrate and want to settle here but there's no much that I don’t quite get or understand (however I do think I only feel this way because I am trying).
  • When we arrived in Exeter I started a job in less than a week, but I felt homesick for Aberdeen and Singapore.  I now feel Singapore would have changed so much if I went back and I don’t feel like I could go and visit anyone as everyone constantly moves on from there.  I’d not go back to visit to see any sights we missed (a couple of tiny islands close by), but I would spend a night there if I needed to whilst flying or cruising on to somewhere else.  I now love having the seasons again and feel that this is home.
the local market
mobile groceries

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

I am Divergent

I Am Divergent….actually, I'm not, I'm abnegation – thanks buzz feed. 

But the reason I took the quiz was because I’ve fallen for a new heroine.  Since The Hunger Games I’ve been looking for something else to fill the YA gap and although I can’t say that this trilogy does, it’s still really good. 

What I do love about this book is Tris, who’s point of view the books is taken from.  I'm nothing like the best parts of Tris, who is brave and strong.  (Sideways glance at a picture from Kota Kinabalu where I needed to get off the Jet Ski as I couldn’t stop screaming that I was going to lose grip of Mark).  She is the type of hero I wished I read about when I was a teenager and I think it’s great that so many girls (and boys) can read about her ‘journey’ and witness a strong female.

This is taken directly from Good Reads description of the first book in the series, Divergent:

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

I think I'm still looking for something to really sink my teeth into which leads me to my next point that seeing as next month is October, and October means reading Dracula, I'm not rushing to pinterest and good reads for ideas just yet.

Another small problem I have with finding something great to read is that I have been banned from adopting new books seeing as our last set of movers made that 50 meters of books is not really the average.  Therefore I need to get books from our local library and wait in great big long queues or try to find something I want to read there.  But, you know, I'm abnegation, so I wont complain…..