Monday, May 27, 2013

Home Economics in Scotland

Home economics here in Scotland is cool. We get to make a lot of cool stuff. I will list all of the things that we've done, some with some descriptions.

Fruit salad
Plated salad
Truffles-This was a particularly fun cooking class because this was the first
class that we got to get our hands messy!
Mini pizzas-This was one of the most boring classes that we had because all we
did was get a roll, put pizza sauce on the roll and put toppings on. And it
didn't even taste that great!
Banana buns
Lentil soup (I didn't actually cook that week because I was absent from school.)
Chicken fajitas
Spicy apple cakes-I usually cook with a partner when we do cook, and usually
it's harder when your partner isn't there, but I found it easier when my partner
wasn't there that day, and my cakes turned out great!
Burgers-Usually, if I won't eat something that I make in class, I'll give it to
mom and dad. This one was one of three that I think they actually liked.
Apple crumble-this was probably the best desert dish that I made!
Pizza-I actually remembered the recipe for the pizza and still sometimes make
it, even though it was still small.
Chicken Balti (curry dish)
Easter nests-Pretty boring (simple) lesson because it is basically cornflakes
and chocolate.
Mac 'n' cheese-Terrible. Absolutely terrible. The lesson was normal, but the
food was terrible. On Facebook, I had an argument with a friend about how bad it
was and my friends said it was the best Facebook argument ever!
Chilli chicken lot noodle-Another one that mom and dad really liked.
Veggie chilli wrap
Carrot cakes-One of the lessons that sounded good, but was terrible.
Fairy cakes-The last lesson of the year, also the best. Yummy Xd!

Home economics are cool because we get to cook cool and yummy foods. I have
enjoyed it this year.

Birthday Tea Party

Since we were on our Spring Holiday during Cara's 8th birthday, we scheduled a gathering of friends today and decided to make it a real tea party with a complete "afternoon tea". Cara has made me smile several times with her planning and list making skills (sounds like me) and did a great job figuring out what games would be played and what food would be served. We had three types of sandwiches, ham, cheese and jam, scones with raisins, cheese and pesto straws (her yummy recipe), and brownies, cookies in the shape of teacups and pots, and mini cakes.

When the day arrived, we got everything set up and guests arrived. They each decorated their own "tea" biscuit (cookie), decorated a cracker (a popping prize), and then ate tea.
decorating cookies
enjoying afternoon tea
After they wiped out all the sugar, they played pass the parcel, decorated rings and opened gifts. Fun was had by all!

Field Trips

This past week I had the opportunity to chaperone a couple of field trips at Kirkcaldy High School.   The first was an overnight trip down to Newcastle to see an English Premier League football (soccer) match and the second was paintballing during the schools activity day.

The trip to Newcastle was a long time in the works.  Originally it was supposed to be a trip to Manchester United in April, but Sky Sports changed the game from a Saturday afternoon to a Monday night (television and the almighty pound rule over here as well).  This game turned out to be the game in which United clinched the premiership title so I was not too happy with Sky Sports (Stacy and I were messed up on seeing a game 4 years ago because the match was changed for television).  Because of the change to a Monday night game, a school trip was not an option so a different weekend and game had to be selected. 

The next option was again a match at Manchester United but the new problem was that at the time, United was still in the FA Cup and could be potentially playing an FA Cup final that weekend.  The person at my school coordinating this trip (Paul) had it worked out that we would go to the United game against Swansea the next to the last weekend of the season if United got knocked out of the cup and if they did not, then we would go see Newcastle at Arsenal.  Since I am a United fan, I was disappointed when they were knocked out of the FA Cup, but I was excited about the possibility of seeing United.  Unfortunately, I could not go because my brother was in town, but there was also a problem with the company making arrangements.  Somebody did not make the necessary connections to guarantee the United Swansea match, so the school was going to Newcastle even though United was out of the Cup.  Needless to say Paul was extremely mad at this development and his anger became much more when it was announced that Sir Alex Ferguson was retiring and the Swansea match was his last game in charge at Old Trafford.  This change did work out for me since I was now able to chaperone the trip to see Newcastle against Arsenal. 

We left Kirkcaldy High School on a Saturday morning and rode a charter bus to Newcastle.  There were 23 students and 5 chaperones from my school and another 18 students and 2 chaperones from a nearby high school.  The ride took about 4 hours with a lunch break and we arrived at a soccer pitch in Newcastle to play Swalwell Juniors Soccer Club.  One game was played between the 1st year students and a younger section of Swalwell Juniors and a 2nd game was played using the 2nd and 3rd year students.  While neither of our teams won, they did play well and scored a few goals. 


After getting cleaned up, we rode the bus to St James Park, which happens to be the stadium were Newcastle United play their football.  They are a pretty big club in England, but unfortunately for them they have not won very much over the past 50 odd years.   

At the stadium, we took the tour and got to learn about the history of the club, sit on the team benches, and go into the locker room. 


Next we drove to Sunderland, ate dinner at Frankie and Benny’s, and went bowling.  As the token American, I was expected by the students to be a good bowler since it is an American sport.  I did manage to barely pull off a victory amongst the chaperones, with a score of 138, and I think I had the highest overall.

Our final stop for the day took us to our hotel, which happened to be beachfront property along the North Sea although I did not realize this until the next day since it was quite foggy when we arrived.  Somebody, either hotel management or the soccer tour coordinator, did not arrange our students very well.  We had clusters of rooms all over the hotel, which led to some worry since we had students as young as 12 on the trip.  We eventually got things organized and retired for the night. 


The next day we got up ate breakfast and headed off to our training session with some of the coaches of Newcastle at their practice facility.  I don’t know exactly who the people training us were but they were connected with the club, probably coaching some off the academy teams.  Another staff member and I participated in the training sessions with the older students and had a good time.   Some of the skill level was quite good, with ball skills much better than mine, but most students still did not have a great idea of how to properly spread themselves out on the pitch.

Finally our last event was going to the actual football match.  This was the last day of the season and Arsenal had to win the game to qualify for the EUFA Champions League next year.  Newcastle was safe from relegation and did not have much to play for and it showed. 

There were a few exciting moments during the 1st half but neither team was playing serious attacking football.  Arsenal scored early in the 2nd half and that was the only goal of the game.  Newcastle rarely threatened in the game and I am not sure if they forced the Arsenal keeper to make a save.  I have been to two Newcastle games this year and they lost them both so I don’t think they will let me back anytime soon.  To end the weekend, we rode the bus back to Kirkcaldy, arriving at the school at 10:20 Sunday evening.

My other fieldtrip was chaperoning during the school’s activity day.  During the month of May, the 4th, 5th, and 6th year students are studying for and taking exams, so the population of the school is cut almost in half.  One of the things that most schools do then is have an activity day.  Students were able to go to amusement parks, white water rafting, go-carting, shopping, bowling, paintballing, and loads of other activities (for a price).  The students picked the activity that they wished to participate, paid their money, and then on the Friday school day, loaded up on buses to head off to their activity.

I got to chaperone the trip to play paintball.  I was excited to try this but also a little nervous since I could see a great many students ganging up on me.  Fortunately for me, the students were split into two teams and I was placed on one.  We were given instructions about how to handle our guns and then we were given our scenarios to play out.  My team did not have much concept about how to play war games and we lost 5 of the 6 scenarios.  Individually I did quite well, only getting “killed” in 2 of the 6 battles and painting quite a few of the other team.  In one battle in particular, I got 7 or 8 students by setting up on the flank and watching them run up to a wall that I had covered.  It was quite fun to take them out since they were mostly my 1st year students and they knew later that it was me that took them out.  Initially I was surprised about the lack of knowledge of how to play a war game and how to handle a gun, but then I remembered that I was in the UK and most kids (and adults) had never seen gun, let alone handle one (I would bet that most had never even held a toy gun).  I had to tell a lot of kids not to point their guns at people.  Overall I had a good time and would like to try the paintball again but looking at the prices, it seems like an expensive sport/hobby.

Visitors from NC

My 2 nieces from North Carolina just visited for 6 days. We had a lot of fun showing them some of our favorite places as well as seeing a few new ones. They arrived on a later flight than planned, so Friday was just relaxing and visiting. Saturday we headed to see Stirling Castle and Linlithgow Palace in the rain and wind, which was an appropriate introduction to Scotland (can’t have them thinking it’s beautiful weather all the time ;-)
rainy day at Stirling Castle
Cara & Amanda in the Great Hall at Stirling
Andrea at Linlithgow

Sunday we headed North with a stop in Pitlochry where we walked along the river and actually saw a few salmon swimming up the fish ladder. We then took off further north to hunt down the Manor featured in Monarch of the Glen TV series. We found the gatehouse, but couldn’t see the house because it was closed to visitors.


Next we drove to Kincraig to see a place I’ve had on my wish list all year long. We visited the Leault Sheepdog Farm and saw the farmer/shepherd manage 10-12 sheepdogs herding a group of sheep and responding to a variety of calls. He then demonstrated hand shearing a sheep (with a pair of huge rusty hand clippers) which both Amanda & I got to try. Next he brought our some tiny border collie puppies which had only had their eyes open for six days.

He also passed out some bottles so Cara & Carter got to feed the orphan lambs.


It was a long day of driving, but SO worth it and so much fun!
Queen's guards

Monday, while Jim, Carter & Cara were in school, we headed into Edinburgh via the train for a tour of Edinburgh Castle and more walking and shopping. The new things at the castle were Royal Guards and a re-enactor musketeer for Cromwell.
Finally got to see/hear the 1 o'clock gun!!

Tuesday we drove to St. Andrews and visited the Cathedral (for the first time I got to go up in the tower for awesome views of the town), castle, mini-golf and a walk on the West Sands and a quick Chariots of Fire jog!
insert music here!!

Wednesday we walked into Dunfermline and visited Pittencrieff Park, the Dunfermline Castle and Abbey and did a little shopping on High Street.
Pittencrieff Park
We finished our evening by sampling some haggis, neeps, and tatties, Scotch eggs, and for dinner – lamb chops!

Guess who’s coming to town…

Jim’s brother flew in from Colorado to visit us a travel around Scotland for 1 ½ weeks. We started our bank weekend(3 day weekend) by driving to Fort William via Pitlochry.
suspension bridge in Pitlochry
Spring is all over Scotland, and there are lots of flowers blooming and lambs in almost all of the fields. We arrived in Fort William right about lunch time and parked and walked through the rain on their High Street to a pub named The Grog and Gruel, with a good selection of cask ales (so Jim could introduce his brother to this type of beer) and yummy burgers. We also went to the West Highland Museum in town before checking in to our B&B which had amazing views of the loch and surrounding mountains.


Before dinner, we went for a walk along the Caledonian Canal and Neptune’s Staircase with 8 boat locks. At the far end of our walk, we found a pig pen with 3 noisy pigs right along the canal. A farmer came and fed the piggies, which made them quite happy, and gave us directions to a tunnel which cut under the canal so we could walk back on the other side.

The next morning after a full breakfast, we dropped the 3 guys off at the start of the trail up Ben Nevis, which is the highest point in the UK. The rain had actually cleared up overnight and you could see the tops of a few of the lower mountains.

Mike and I originally planned on climbing Ben Nevis but the weather forecast was for rain all day Saturday.  Therefore we decided that a summit attempt was not in the cards.  However, some time during the night the forecast changed and the weather was to be dry and clear until about noon.  Unfortunately Mike and I had not counted on the change in weather so we were not prepared for the small window of opportunity.  We decided to walk up as far as we could before we had to turn back and get to the train station for our train ride out to Mallaig. 

Carter, Mike, and I made it up about a 1/3 of the way to the top before we had to turn back.  We walked up for about 1 hour and 15 minutes and there were a lot of people on the trail (easily a couple of hundred) and  many were part of organized guided hikes.  I thought it was interesting that people would hire a guide to make an attempt of the summit, when you consider that most of those that are capable of physically attempting a hike would probably also have the hiking experience.  The weather for our hike was very sunny and it turned quite windy as we got higher up. 

By the time we got down at 11:00, the skies were overcast and by noon, the rains had returned.  We heard later that a good many people had to turn back and did not make it to the top.  Mike and I were of the opinion that if we had got the early start, we could have made it to the top and back but we did not know the weather would be like it was.  You would think by now I would know that you can never count on accurate weather forecast here in Scotland.

That afternoon, we had booked a train ride from Fort William to the seaside town of Mallaig. The purpose for this trip was for the scenery, a good way to get out of the returning rain, and a chance to ride over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is the raised railroad tracks filmed in the Harry Potter movies. Our train actually stopped a few minutes right in the middle of the viaduct for a good photo op before taking us to Mallaig. There wasn’t a lot to do in Mallaig, but we found a nice circle walk that took us up for views of the harbor.
Mallaig harbor

That evening we dined at the Ben Nevis inn, which was quaint and rustic looking inside, and with delicious food. Mike got to try haggis and found out it was pretty good.
Mike & C&C at dinner

On Monday, we drove to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct and were able to walk up to, under and around it.
Glenfinnan Viaduct
We also stopped for a quick look at Inverlochy Castle before heading to the Ben Nevis Distillery for a whisky tour. Because it was a holiday Monday, there was no actual work going on, but we got an informative tour and learned that taxes on the distillers is around 80+% - wow!

We left Fort William and drove to the town of Crianlarich to drop off Mike for some solo touring. On our way, it was raining once again, but we got amazing views of waterfalls down the sides of all the mountains and drove through Glencoe area which looked like the setting for James Bond’s Skyfall house – a place we’ll have to come back and visit some time.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Liverpool


Last weekend, we went to Liverpool to see Everton play Fulham at Goodison Park, but also just to see more of Britain. We went there on the train, and I got to ride on 2 new trains (Virgin and Northern trains). The Virgin train went really fast (not as fast as the high speed Italian train though), and then we switched trains at Wigan, which turned out to be a really slow train, stopping every 2 minutes at stations. Eventually, we got to Liverpool Lime Street station only to walk a mile to our hotel, a Holiday Inn on Albert dock. We walked through Liverpool One, a big shopping centre near our hotel.
 
About 10 minutes after we got to our hotel room, dad and I had to go out again to catch the bus to the game. We asked for directions at the front desk at our hotel and they told us to go to the bus station, but didn't tell us which bus station. So dad and I went to the closest bus station, right across the street, then we figured out that this was the wrong bus station and we couldn't catch our bus from here. We asked for directions to this next bus station, which turned out to be back at Lime Street. Finally, we got the 19A bus and were off to the stadium.
 
When we got to the stadium, dad and I walked around, got a bite to eat (fish & chips), and I bought an Everton scarf to hang up on my wall in NC! Dad and I walked to the part of the stadium where we thought our seats were, to find out that our seats were on the other side of the stadium. So we ended up walking around the stadium, but at least we got a tour of the stadium!
 
We got in and up to our seats, and we got a view of the whole field! Unfortunately, there were some poles which blocked a little bit of the view of the penalty box. The game was fun(ny) with there being some guys in front of us with fake Fellaini (Everton player) wigs which were Afros because that's what Fellaini's hairstyle is like. Then the game started. There were a bunch of chances early, but then in the 13th minute, Steven Pinear scored a goal! It was an average goal, but still a good one. Not much else happened in the first or second half with no more goals.
 
Dad and I were going to take the bus back, and we did, but we ended up walking part of the way because no buses were running for a while. We got on the bus got back to the bus stop, met mom and Cara, and went back out for dinner.
 
The next day, we got all packed up, left our hotel, and went exploring. We found Chinatown and mom found soy sauce and sweet and sour plums. We also went on a Yellow Duckmarine (AKA duck tour) tour and had a scenic ride around town.
 
Then we walked to get lunch, (fish and chips for me again) and then walked to the train station.
 
We got on our train, rode to Preston, and caught our train back to Edinburgh. Unfortunately, we were supposed to have seat reservations, but in Manchester, the train was late and they didn't have staff to put up seat reservations and it was free for all, and someone took our seats. Someone else took another woman's seats, and they talked and swapped insults for about 5 minutes. Dad and Cara found seats close to each other, but mom and I didn't. Eventually, we found seats, but pretty far from dad. So we just texted him to talk to him. Eventually, we got home on another train. I liked that trip because it was funny, boring, and just cool!