Sunday, 16 December 2012

Christmas at George Square

It just isn't Christmas until we've been to George Square I tell you. So we went. And it was glorious!

There was an international market this year with food and crafts from all around the world. It smelled amazing. We had a hard time choosing what to eat! I ate the best German Sausage on sourdough bread I've ever had in my life. LD had a chorizo sausage on french bread. We grabbed an assortment of Italian cannoli and a cone of churros drizzled in nutella and off we went to see the big tree. 

The temperature wasn't bad {about 41 degree's} and it wasn't raining. It was the perfect time to go! The streets were a mass of people. It was crazy how many were out shopping. We couldn't go a few steps without seeing some street performers. All ages and different kinds of acts. It was totally festive. 

Once we got to George Square Sebastian wanted out of his stroller. I don't blame him! there were lights and rides! Ice skaters and a giant Christmas Tree! They even had a kids Christmas train giving free rides! Sebastian was too small to ride himself and they wouldn't let an adult ride with him. He was heart broken. The tears were epic. I felt for him. He should have been allowed to go. The other parents even wanted him to go. Poor thing. 

It feels like Christmas now. We had a great day and George Square has always been our Christmas kickoff. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Our Christmas Tree

{I need to do something with my mantle}
We have a special story about our tiny Christmas tree that we got our first year of marriage. We've retired the tree sadly. Only because the legs got lost in our last move. It was a sad day. I might try to fix it up into a pot or something next year. I miss it!

So, we needed a new tree. We are now the proud owners of a space saver tree. It is...thinner. We love it! It is exactly my height {5 ft 7 in} and Sebastian loves to take the ornaments off to inspect them. I don't mind. We usually play with a few of them before he tries to put them back on by throwing the ornament at the branch he wants it to go on. This of course doesn't work. So I help him put it back on. I think he has a collection of ornaments somewhere because I'm missing a few. I'm sure they are with his pacifiers and all the batteries from the remotes, and his first pair of shoes. I've yet to find this "secret spot" but I'm on the hunt.

My Mom sends a new ornament every year {since we got married}. Now she sends one for Sebastian too. This way when he graduates from college or gets married he has his very own stash of ornaments for his family tree. This year she sent us a little Scottish girl ornament and Sebastian got a Police Car that says "Hey sneeky McPeeky Pants! Back away from the presents" when he gets too close to the tree. He loves it and plays with it every day. I'm glad there is an off switch. But, it sure is cute!

My Mom also made our stockings, tree skirt, and table runner for my Christmas gift this year! She did a great job and it really makes everything feel more festive. My step grandmother Joan gave my Mom a table cloth and place mats of her mother's when she passed away. My Mom put them in the wash and shrank them by accident. She's kept them all these years because she couldn't part with such a beautiful heirloom even though they would never fit a table. She made my table runner out of it! I'm so glad it is getting used and I have a piece of family with me during the holiday's.

I love Christmas tree's! What does your tree look like? Put a link in the comments, email me, or tweet me {@SweetBookshelf} a picture! 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Life Without a Car

Just before Sebastian was born we got rid of our car. I hadn't been driving it regularly. I worked in a bakery prior to Seb's birth and had to pay for parking. So I used to walk the 30 min to work or take the bus instead. I did that for a year until my maternity leave started and we moved. My driver's license had expired anyway. Why pay for a car I wasn't using? So we sold it.

I now don't have a driver's license. At all. It expired over 2 years ago. I know, crazy right?! This is pretty common around here. I only have a couple of friends who actually have a license. Most families are a 1 car family here in Scotland. Public transportation is easily accessible and getting a British license is pretty expensive. So...I don't have one. Maybe someday I will but not right now.

LD has a company car and we use that for whatever we need. But, I don't have a car during the day. Ever. I'm fine with this. Sebastian and I take our trusty stroller out to the park, library, pool, Doctor's, play date's, lunches in town, etc.This is my normal. I use my two feet to get me places. The train station is just down the street and the bus station is around the corner from me. Makes it easy!

When it rains {which let's face it is a lot} I just try to be prepared for if/when the rain stops or slows down. Or I just grab my boots and we head on out in the rain to where ever we are going. It is rare, but sometimes I do wish for a car. I could run on over to friends houses on a whim or I could go someplace without having to pack for every situation possible.

This is some of what life is like with a toddler in Scotland! No car and it's no problem!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Recipe:: Banana Apple Bread

see? i always have over ripe banana's.
Recently we had a weather advisory here in Scotland. There were strong gale force winds and heavy rain. We'd planned on going swimming but we decided to do a little baking instead. I always have bad banana's in my house. Always. I also always say I'm going to make banana bread with them and I never do. But not today! Sebastian and I got to work in the kitchen and had a great time. He loved it! He couldn't eat it fast enough. It's safe to say I'll be trying hard to not let the banana's go to waste any longer. It was a perfect snack for a cold and rainy Scottish day.

Now I can't stop making Banana Apple Bread. The sun is shining but Sebastian and I tucked in to make some this after noon. We are sitting on the couch watching Cars and eating warm Banana Apple Bread. Bliss!

Banana Apple Bread

Makes: 1 Loaf
Prep Time: 20 min
Bake Time: 1 hr
Oven: 350 degrees


1/2 cup Shortening
1 cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 cup Peeled, Finely Chopped Apple
1 cup Mashed Banana
1 1/2 cup Flour
1 TSP Baking Soda
1/2 TSP Salt

  1. Cream shortening; gradually add sugar, beat well
  2. Add eggs, beat well
  3. Stir in apple and banana
  4. Combine flour, soda, salt. Add to mixture, stirring just until blended
  5. Spoon batter into greased and floured loaf pan
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hr or until wooden pick comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 min; remove from pan and cool on wire rack
  7. Serve with cream cheese or peanut butter. Plain is good too!


Monday, 10 September 2012

Wemyss Bay

LD was on call this weekend so when he got a call Saturday morning to go to Wemyss Bay we decided we'd go with him. Wemyss Bay is a village on the coast of the Firth of Clyde. There is a ferry there and that is where LD needed to go. He takes care of the computers in the office as well as on the ferry. It is uber cool the contracts that LD gets to do!

Every single time we go out this way I can't stop remarking how we should move out here. I mean, it's by the ocean people!!! I'd love me a sea view. We drove along the coast the whole way. It was gorgeous. It was overcast and grey {which was hard to get a good picture} but no rain and that is a plus. The sailboats were out and we had glimpses of a bright sun over all those clouds. Sebastian and I waved at the ferry as it left and enjoyed a walk along the sea front--while LD was working. We stopped at a used book store and I picked me up North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. We enjoyed a day driving along the coast and enjoying the fresh salty air. I really wouldn't mind living here!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Tantallon Castle

Saturday afternoon we decided to take a drive up the coast. We're lucky Great Britain is an island because no matter where you live, you aren't far from the beach. I love this. I'd love to live in one of these quaint beach towns and each time we drive through one I can't stop telling LD we should move.

We were headed to Tantallon Castle {built in 1350!}near North Berwick in Edinburgh. It is truly a picturesque drive. Not just the rolling hills and farm animals but the quaint towns along the way. I honestly wanted to stop about 5 or 6 times and just get out to walk around for a bit. We would have but we were pressed for time. There were lovely  bed and breakfast cottages adorned with flowers and vines as well as large family homes in an estate fashion. We're talking big gorgeous Victorian homes. We saw families stopping at the local fish and chip shop before they head down to the beach. Lots of bicycles about on this warm breezy day. It was just lovely. Sometimes living in Scotland can feel like a dream. Saturday was one of them.

When we arrived at Tantallon Castle it was seriously windy. The castle sits on a cliff overlooking the ocean. That strong sea breeze was blowing all around us. It felt amazing! There were families enjoying picnics on the grounds and several tour buses with American's! I wanted to stop and have a chat but Sebastian was pretty whiny and was running all over the place. The structure is pretty derelict and the elements have definitely had their way with her. Truly gorgeous!

There was a little island off the coast with a lighthouse on it. I was pretty obsessed with it. It had a Shutter Island feel to it. Creepy. It also had a white tint to it. What was it? It couldn't be snow. Upon closer inspection--seagulls! Thousands of them. It was truly fascinating.

We had a really good time and I wished that we had more time to spend. I'd love a weekend where we could stop and take as long as we wanted along the way. But, we were headed on a date to see Batman! Which was amazing by the way. How was your weekend?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Gap Year

Taking a Gap Year is very popular here in the UK. Prince William even took one before he started University. It is quite common to take some time off after you graduate and go volunteer around the world. Travel. Experience life. Then come back and hunker down at school. It makes sense to me! I think this should be more common place in the United States. But hey, enough about that. How do you fit in a gap year anyway?

My husband took a Gap Year when he was 29 yrs old. He actually quit his job, grabbed his savings, and went to a language school in America. He was living his dream. He wanted to learn English and he was done putting it off. This decision has shaped nearly every major decision he's made since. His life would not be the same if he didn't throw caution to the wind and leave for America. Now he's been speaking English for 11 years and he's fluent. A shop attendant actually asked him last week if he was American! Many doors have opened for him since learning English.

There is much to consider when taking a year, or whatever time you deem appropriate, off of your professional life. Is it something you can fit in? I personally believe that if you want to do it, then you will.

I took some time out of school to work onboard cruise ships. I really loved this experience. I need to write more about it because I learned so much about myself and about the world while cruising the Caribbean. Not to mention it was some of the most fun I've ever had in my life. I also took 18 months to serve a mission for my church in California. It was an experience that shaped me to the core. I paid my own way and worked hard. These are experiences I'd never trade for millions of dollars. If you take a gap year you too can have experiences you'd never trade.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

William Wallace Monument

Last week we took my sister and her family to see the William Wallace Monument. It is a gorgeous structure overlooking the scene of Scotland's victory at The Battle of Stirling Bridge. This is a place where you can touch and feel history as you follow the story of Sir William Wallace, Guardian of Scotland. 

We bought our tickets and started the 15 min hike up the mountain. We didn't take the stroller and Sebastian did such a great job all the way up! It was muddy and humid, but a lovely walk just the same. Once we finally made it to the monument we were greeted by breathtaking scenery of Scotland. I could have sat up there all day if it wasn't for an over active toddler pulling me every which way. 

Once we caught our breath we started up the stairs. Oh my were there stairs! Not just any stairs either. They were narrow, made of stone, and spiralled up for 246 steps. It was a doozy. Luckily there were rooms to stop and catch our breath while we learned some history. LD was carrying Sebastian up the stairs the whole way and that wasn't exactly fun. 

When we finally reached the top it was very windy. It actually felt amazing after our climb! I've not seen anything so beautiful in awhile.  

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Culture Shock

Why do you want to move abroad? What are your expectations? Why is it important to you? These are all questions you should be asking yourself {and answering} if you plan on moving abroad.

So, why am I in Scotland anyway? Well, I met my husband online and after 1.5 yrs of dating long distance we decided to stop going back and forth. We chose to get married and spend our time together. We had a dilemma. LD was living in Scotland and I was in America. Where would we make our home? After much research and deliberation, we decided I'd move to Scotland. I wanted an adventure. I wanted to travel. I wanted to try something new. And believe me...I got it. I've always felt that you never come back the same when you travel. I always want to be changing and getting better. I want to see how other's live. I want to be a part of something greater than just my neck of the woods. This is why being an expat is important to me.

Most people envision expats as having an Eat Pray Love experience.  Walking through plaza's with a creamy gelato in your hands or sitting at a cafe writing your novel with bagpipes in the background. I'd say there is some of that, but it definitely isn't the norm. When you move abroad there are some challenges.

Do you know what culture shock is? Everybody thinks they are well adjusted and they won't have any problems but let me tell you. You will. Of course you will! You are in a country that isn't your own. They don't do things the same way. Even if the people speak the same language--they really don't. Living abroad is not the same as visiting. You will go through some culture shock. 

Culture shock will hit you in a variety of ways. It is different for everyone. It hit me about a month after I'd moved to Scotland. I hadn't seen the sky in 3 weeks and it had rained every single day since my arrival. I felt trapped. What had I done? I still didn't have friends. I didn't know my way around yet and I didn't have a job. I was wasting away. I had expected to be sightseeing non-stop and had pictured myself with many friends and a job by then {idealistic, I know!}. I was living in a studio flat that smelled of mould. This wasn't what I signed up for.

If you don't want to see yourself packing up and going home within your first few weeks you need to be prepared. Now answer these questions:

  1. Why are you moving abroad?
  2. What are your expectations?
  3. Why is this move important to you?

The answers to these questions will be what keeps you in the adventure and not cutting your dream short. You'll be able to see it through and enjoy it. For there is so much to enjoy!!

Here are some of my tips for keeping culture shock at bay {or keeping it to a minimum at least!}:

  • Do your research before you leave. Find out what is around you. Grocery stores, banks, pubs, and the movies. 
  • Join a church or group of some kind. You need to be around people. Locals that can welcome and help you. You'd be surprised what can be cured with a good old fashion conversation. 
  • Find some kind of work. This doesn't have to be formal employment but something to keep you busy. Whether it is volunteering at the local food drive or writing a that novel. Get yourself something to do. Idle hands and all that. 
  • Before you move make a list of places you want to see. Whether they are right around you or take a bit of a travel. Make a list you can check off. You wanted to move so you could see new things, go see them! 
  • Learn about public transportation. Ask questions and read about it. Then try it out. Make it your friend. 
  • Decide what methods you will use to keep in touch with friends and family. Email, Facebook, Vonage and Skype are my chosen forms of communication. Oh and Blackberry Messenger works abroad too! For free! I love this. 
  • Find other expats. You will feel a kinship with those from your home country. It will be helpful to have someone you can ask all manner of questions to. They will also help you exponentially with finding what you're looking for. They will give you the 411 on what to do and not to do. Use them. 
  • Have fun! If you wanted to walk with a gelato in your hands, do it! If you want to sit at a cafe drinking coffee and writing in your journal, do it! Just go out there and experience your new life as an expat. Carpe diem and all of that! 
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined." ~Thoreau

Monday, 25 June 2012

Freaky Scottish Foods I'm Still Afraid to Eat

I've lived in Scotland for almost 4.5 years and there are still a few {weird to me} foods that I've not tried yet. I need to gather the courage and just bite the bullet already. But something keeps holding me back. I just can't do it! Take a look for yourself.


{made of the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep or lamb, combined with oats, suet and other herbs and spices, and then cooked in a casing traditionally made of the animal's stomach.}

Black Pudding

{This is not pudding like we know it. There is something about sausage cooked in congealed blood that just doesn't work for me}

Scotch Eggs

{A hard-boiled egg enclosed in sausage meat, rolled in breadcrumbs, and fried. I'm re-thinking this one. I might need to try it. Doesn't look as bad it it used to}

Deep Fried Mars Bars

{Before I moved abroad I was told all about these and how everyone eats them. Since I moved here...I've never seen one. I think it's a myth, but I need to try it. Fried chocolate. Sign me up.}

Pizza Crunch

{It's deep fried pizza and it is divine! I'm not afraid of this one. It is yummy! Weird, but good}

Monday, 18 June 2012

8 Scottish Essentials

8 Scottish Essentials

Living in Scotland poses a change of wardrobe from my home town in the States. There are items I need to use daily here that I didn't need in West Virginia. My sister {and her fam} are coming to visit in one week. Here are some of the items I've told her she'll need for her visit. Let's discuss.

01. {Trench Coat} It is always a bit cool in Scotland. No matter what time of year you'll need a jacket/coat. Something to repel the rain and keep you warm. You'll be surprised how much you'll use it.

02. {Rain Boots} These are a must! You'll do a lot of walking and you'll hate it when your feet get soaked when you're trying to enjoy your trip. 

03. {Shoulder Bag} I use my shoulder bag every day. I walk EVERYWHERE and it keeps my hands free and my possessions close by my side at all times. I'd say a shoulder bag is a travel essential anywhere you want to go.

04. {Umbrella} You'll never know when the rain will strike! It is best to be prepared. It is always raining in Scotland. Umbrella's even come in compact sizes. Perfect!

05. {Hat} Like I said before, it is cool here. You'll need something on your head. Not to mention to keep your hair under control from the wind/rain. Beanies are used year round here!

06. {Notebook} This is very cliché but you'll want to write down thoughts or feelings during your trip.  I keep a notebook with me to write down ideas or things I need to do. Sometimes I see details for events and I don't want to forget them. When you travel, you should always have some kind of journal. 

07. {Camera} This is a given. I carry my camera everywhere. I forget to take photos, but I always have my camera. You never know when a great photo opportunity will present itself. In Scotland there is always something to take a picture of. It is so beautiful!

08. {Cash} It is a little bit archaic but many shops do not take bank cards. Only cash. Make sure you always have some spare change for odds and ends with you. You may just want that sausage roll after all!

*I want all these items above. But mostly the bag and the boots. And the umbrella. Oh, and the cash.  Yes, most definitely the cash.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Your Visa {Part 2}

In case you missed it, Your Visa {Part One}

If you're wondering what Visa I have, I am living in Scotland on a Residence Visa. It basically states that because my husband is Portuguese {a member of the European Union} I am eligible to reside where he does. It is good for 5 yrs. I will be able to renew it easily enough for a small fee. Or I can become a dual citizen of Portugal and the USA and have my very own Portuguese passport. 

They quoted me 6 weeks to get my actual Visa. It took 18 months. Yikes! I did receive a letter 2 weeks after I filed that basically said I was good to go and work etc but my actual Visa was not ready yet. That took quite a bit longer. So, be prepared for the red tape.

For those of you whom are not marrying foreigners and would like to live abroad, Christy {The Departure Diaries} and I have a few options for you:

My husband lived in the USA for 6 months on a Student Visa. He attended a language school in Utah. I previously thought Student Visa's were for those in a degree program abroad. It's not! If you want to learn a new language, why not apply for a Student Visa? You're sure to immerse yourself in the language and get more out of it than you would a class at your local college. 

Here are some of the hoops you'll need to jump in order to obtain a Student Visa:

-Apply for the school of your choice. You need to be accepted into your program/class before you can apply for a Student Visa. 

-Once you're accepted, they will send you the documentation to apply for your Student Visa. {approximately 6 months before you travel}

-Get a Sponsor. A sponsor is someone who takes full responsibility for the candidate {ie: you}. You can apply without a sponsor but you will need to show that you have enough funds in your bank account to sustain you. This amount is usually far greater than your stay will actually cost. You won't need to live with your sponsor, they are just your "guardian" in a sense. 

-Save, save save!! Save as much money as you can. While you are studying you'll also be travelling around the country. You'll need to make sure you have enough funds. My husband came to the USA in 2001 with $5,000. I'd say that's a steal! You'd need a lot more than that now. But, that was sufficient for him at the time. You probably won't be allowed to work with a student visa. If my husband would have been in a degree program he could have worked his 2nd yr for a few hrs per week. But, if you are planning on just a 6 month stint to learn the language or take a fun class you won't be allowed. Make sure you have the funds to sustain you. 

My husband said it was fairly easy to obtain but the sponsor was the hardest part. He is fluent in English now and his accent is diminishing with each year. He had a great time and learned a lot!!

LD did say that he knew people arriving on a Student Visa, and planned on staying in the USA. Do not do this. If you enter the country on a limited time Visa, make sure you abide by all the rules. If he had overstayed his Visa then, we would have trouble getting him a Visa today now that we're married. You don't want to miss any future opportunities to travel because you broke the law. 

Friday, 8 June 2012

Bagpipes and Drums

One thing we really love about Scotland is the music. On weekends you can always hear bagpipes in the air. It is straight out of a fantasy. You'll hop off the train and hear the bagpipes calling. They do it for the tourist, but I love it.

Here are a few video's LD took over the weekend. Enjoy the sounds of Scotland!

{Big Peat--one of our favorite bands}

{Diamond Jubilee Parade in Perth, Scotland}

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Your Visa {Part 1}

I personally feel that your Visa {permission to stay} in the country of your choice is the most important piece of documentation that you will need. Period. Don't try to out smart the authorities. You could land yourself in a heap of trouble sooner or later. You can live abroad, but there is a process. Do it legally.  It will be worth it.

When LD and I got engaged we had to choose where we wanted to live. My husband was born and raised in Venezuela to Portuguese parents. He was living in Scotland. We knew we needed to get our future spouse permission for where we wanted to live. Scotland or America? We decided I'd come to Scotland. I thought it would be a great adventure, and it is!

We thought about these Visa's:

-Fiancée Visa {takes a few months to get and you need to be married within 90 days of receiving}.

-Married Visa {I'd be a spouse of an EU member, but I wouldn't be living in Portugal, so this one would be complicated to obtain at the present time}

-Residence Visa {I could reside with my husband in his country of choice}

I think these are the easiest ways {probably} to live abroad. Just marry yourself a foreigner and you're good to go! There was a lot to think about though. If LD was to move to the USA we'd have gone through rigorous questioning and a lot of expense. We chose Europe because the process was cheaper and faster. We had more options. We could get married when we wanted and I'd be able to move straight away. This was our main reason for choosing Scotland. We were married in Ohio Feb 2008 and I moved to Scotland 3 days later! It has been quite the adventure.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Perth Kilt Run

We celebrated Queen Elizabeth's 60 years on the throne this weekend! There were celebrations all over Great Britain. LD especially wanted to go to Perth for the Kilt Run. So we went!

{Sebastian's 1st kilt!}

It was a cool and overcast day but we didn't let that deter us. We packed up the car and drove the 1:30hr drive to Perth. The drive alone was gorgeous. So very green and inviting. I'll never tire of the Scottish country-side. It is something to behold. I tried to take pictures from the car, but well...I'm awful at it! It has actually become a joke between LD and me. Anyway, the drive was full of lush green fields, baby sheep, and quaint cottages.

We arrived just in time to catch the parade! In America, parade's consist of many different floats and acts. In Scotland they consist of piping bands! They are the best part anyway, right?!

After the parade we walked around town. This curious village has plenty of special shops. All looked inviting and made me want to sit and stay awhile. I love that the main street's in Scotland are all unique.  The main shopping happens in the town centre.


This Diamond Jubilee anniversary bash was all happening in a giant field. It was packed full!! There was entertainment, food, and sign-ups for the kilt run were in full swing. They were going for the Guinness  Book of World Records for the most kilts running at once. Ha!! There were thousand's of participants!

We had a great time! The food was great, but I didn't get a picture. Scratch that. I couldn't get a picture. Sebastian was running all over the field and I was shoving food in my mouth as I tried to keep up. He just wanted to run all over everybody's picnic's! But we ate Scottish beef hamburgers on home made rolls and fresh ice cream. Yum!

The town of Perth is lovely and I can't wait to go back and enjoy more of it!

How was your weekend?