Friday, 30 January 2015

Home to Portugal

For New Year we gave ourselves a trip to Portugal! Home to see my husband's family and enjoy some sunshine. It was lovely! I wish we were still there. Waking up to this view right outside my window was just amazing. The sun was shining bright every single day and I took my jacket off most of the time to soak it all in.

Having family around to love on us was the best part by far. We've really needed that. I didn't have to cook, clean or do any laundry too. That's my kind of holiday! Luis has a huge family so most of our days were visiting with aunts, uncles and cousins, eating yummy food and taking in the sights.

Portugal is a beautiful country! But I think it is the people that are the real gem here. I have never in my life met a more humble and happy people. They are generous with all they have and live a simple life. Which I find heavenly.

Here are some highlights from our trip::

+ Temperatures were in the 60's and we had sunshine every single day.  We took walks around the village, played at the park, went to the beach and even drove to Spain! The weather couldn't have been more perfect.

+ When Luis's father saw Sebastian he started crying. He's such a sensitive soul. Sebastian is the only grandchild. Luis's parents are in their 80's. Anytime Sebastian would say, "Abuelo" he would start to cry. On our first morning in Portugal Sebastian said, "Abuelo, sit. Play with me." I about started crying too.

+ Sebastian was obsessed with his cousin (once removed) Ricardo. He is a few years older than Sebastian and didn't speak English but they played well just the same. Sebastian read him books, shared his toys and wanted to be wherever Ricardo was. Luckily he lived across the street.

+ One day when we drove into Spain we walked into a restaurant and a there was a little boy Sebastian's age there. He took one look at Sebastian, smiled and said, "Hola amigo! Vamos!" Then they ran all around the restaurant playing. Then he kept asking him, "Como te llamas? Como te llamas?" It was a really fun moment that I don't want to forget. To see Sebastian playing and being social with other children is a big win in the autism department!

+ The food. You guys, it is the best. I can't get enough of the fresh bread. Citrus tree's everywhere. The lemons are as big as my hand. When you go visit someone they give you a basket of oranges, grapefruit or lemons. Everyday you get visitors and they bring avocados, kiwi and fresh bread. Everyone shares their abundance. It is wonderful!

+ We spent one day in Porto and it is such a great city. We saw traditional epiphany carolers singing and dancing all over the city. Sebastian was dancing right along with them. Nuns were walking outside the Porto Cathedral (Se do Porto) and  we walked all over the city.

+ We spent some time at the beach. Our coats were off, Sebastian and I looked for seashells while Luis sat in the sun with his brother and chatted. We ate some Portuguese gelato and walked along the boardwalk. I can't wait to go back in the summertime and get in the water!

+ We spent an evening in Aviero picking up some hand painted pottery for my birthday present. I have two different styles now. I'm slowly adding to my collection each time we come to Portugal!

+ Sebastian called his grandmother a "scary monster" and I laughed really hard. So glad she doesn't understand English. Then the next day he called his great aunt "a witch."

+ My 35th birthday was spent abroad and the family was there to celebrate. My sister in law played the guitar and they sang to me a traditional Portuguese birthday song, then another in Spanish. Then they surprised me by singing Happy Birthday in English (they don't speak English!) and then I cried. It was really special.

Our trip was really just a few weeks of Portuguese immersion. I love that we get to be a part of this culture. We can't wait to go back! We're are planning for a summer in Portugal!

Now, for pictures::

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

London First

It's been a long (and expensive!) road getting all of our new passports, visa's renewed and British citizenship for Sebastian. After it all we finally were able to go visit my husband's family in Portugal over the holiday's!

Sebastian got the chicken pox during the break, but I was surprised at well he actually did. He was pretty much his normal happy self. I was worried about how Sebastian would do with flying and being abroad. Sebastian has autism spectrum disorder and changes in his routine can upset him. I didn't know what to expect and I tried to plan for anything (just like any other parent). The last thing I wanted was a meltdown that would result in a situation that can quickly get out of control. But my worries were all for naught because Sebastian did amazing! He was so excited to get on the plane and he loved his tray table and getting to order an orange juice. He fell asleep on both flights and we really couldn't have asked for an easier time. He was a rock star!

Aberdeen is a small airport and only has a handful of direct flights into Europe. Porto, Portugal isn't one of them so we needed to fly into London first. We decided on a long layover (8 hrs) in London so we could take in some sights before we went on to Portugal. That proved to be a great decision!

We went downtown to see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. We grabbed some quick food (burritos!!) and walked all over downtown London. It was a quick run through but it was great! Everything was just a quick glimpse so I can't wait to go back for a proper visit.

 We had a great time and rushed back just in time to hop on our flight to Portugal!

Friday, 5 December 2014

How to Have a British Christmas

I found this video a few days ago and I've been laughing ever since. It's all true. And I love it!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

{Ask Mary} What is Council Tax?

After this post and the comments I realized that I should probably clarify exactly what is council tax and why you'll need to pay it when you move to Scotland.

What is council tax?

Council Tax is the system of local taxation used to part fund services provided by local authorities. The rate of tax payable is based on the value of residential property. Meaning, a 3 bedroom house would pay more council tax than a studio flat. The reason being the amount of services used. The amount that each household pays depends on their band (A-H).

Council tax goes partly to fund your water, sewage and rubbish pick up. It is essentially just your utility bill. But it just so happens that everyone in and around your area usually pay about the same amount. It's is paid each month. 

When searching for a property you can ask your letting/estate agent what council tax band the property is in.  You can often find the council tax band listed with the property description online (A-H). Then you can find the amount per band HERE. Council tax is paid by whomever lives in the property--either owner or renter. 

Council tax should be added to your expenses each month. Once you move to Scotland you need to go directly to the council building and get set up for council tax to avoid a fine.

ps. My Sausage Mini Fritatta recipe was on MSN! I was totally surprised to see it. I had completely forgotten it was going to be featured. It is perfect for a Thanksgiving/Christmas brunch. I hope you'll try it.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Visit Scotland: The Falls of Feugh

Saturday was such a gorgeous day that we decided to hit the road and play tourist. It was cold but the sun was shining so it was really perfect. We headed to Banchory and stopped at The Falls of Feugh. Autumn is spawning time and you can watch the salmon swim upstream and actually jump out of the water!

When we were almost to the footbridge I coud see the salmon jumping already and I got really excited! I thought we might have to sit outside and wait for awhile before we saw one but they were jumping like crazy! There was one every couple of minutes. Luis caught them in action for your viewing pleasure.

The best time to see the salmon leaping is from February-March and September-November. The footbridge is easily seen from the road and there is a free car park by the Falls of Feugh Restaurant and Tea Room. The town centre of Banchory is just a small walk and it looked like there were several other walking routes close by.

Once we were frozen to the bone and ready to head back to the car we decided to check out two castles (Crathes Castle and Drum Castle) that we saw on the drive up. One thing I love about living in Aberdeenshire is that we can just get in the car and go in one direction and there will be several interesting things to see. We don't even need to really plan anything and we'll see something awesome.

Check out the pictures from our day!

Crathes Castle         

Drum Castle

Drum Castle (backside)

Friday, 10 October 2014

Lets Talk About Jobs in Scotland

The number one email I receive on a consistent basis has always been about where and how to find jobs in Scotland. I also get a lot of people asking if I could assist them with their search. I've been thinking for a long time about how I could possibly help you. I hope this gets your wheels turning.

Let me tell you a little bit about S1 Jobs. They are a site that specializes in jobs in Scotland. Not the whole United Kingdom. They are just focused on Scotland. They have a great blog and their site is full of helpful information. They also have thousand's of job listings!

S1 Jobs and I have teamed up to hopefully answer some of your questions about working in Scotland. We each asked and answered 3 questions. I really hope this helps some of you know where to start your job search in Scotland!

S1 Jobs: What was the reason for choosing Aberdeen for your profession?

Me: While my husband had a good job in Glasgow, he wasn't growing and getting where he wanted. It was one of those jobs that you could stay in for the next 20 years but also never grow and learn more. We wanted an opportunity to better our family and my husband wanted an opportunity to learn and grow in his chosen field. So the hunt for a new job began.

Aberdeen is a thriving oil and gas city that has so much to offer this country in terms of financial gain and a standard of living that isn't just about money either. There is so much happening in Aberdeen! Aberdeenshire has so much beauty and fun to offer a family. We wanted to be a part of that.

S1 Jobs: What were the factors you had to consider when choosing a location for work?

Me: We lived outside Glasgow for over 5 years. While we did enjoy  it, my husband's communte to and from work was very long. We didn't have much in the way of entertainment and shopping where we lived so we wanted a place we could get everything we wanted in a smaller, cleaner city than Glasgow--without the commute. We also wanted to be quite close to the country without feeling so far away from the world. Aberdeen could give us all those things. The sea view didn't hurt either!

S1 Jobs: What were the challenges you encountered whilst finding work in Aberdeen?

Me: Aberdeen is a competitive place. The people are very educated and experienced in the oil and gas industry. It can be a difficult market to break in to when you don't have any prior experience. But, we felt like the companies we interviewed with were very open to the idea of what my husband had to offer and we secured a job with a great company! We've been living here just over a year now and couldn't be happier!

Now, I got a chance to ask S1 Jobs some questions too. I had YOU in mind.

Me: I get a lot of emails asking about how to find jobs in Scotland from people all over the world. Does S1 Jobs have any options to filter sponsored job listings for foreign applicants?

S1 Jobs: Not exactly, but we don't necessarily need to have that option. The application process is open to anyone who wants to work in Scotland. There is no preferential treatment to anyone currently living there. The decision lies with the employer on who they would like to hire. If you are looking to work in Scotland, regardless of where you are searching, the results will be the same. 

Me: What differentiates S1 Jobs from other job seeking competitors like LinkedIn, Monster UK, Total Jobs and others?

S1 Jobs: S1 Jobs is a site that specializes in job located in Scotland. For those who are looking for work in Scotland, we are able to funnel their search to the location they desire and focus only on Scottish jobs. We don't see sites like LinkedIn as competitors but more as another tool for users to utilize to further their job hunt.

Me: What is your number one piece of advice for job seekers that makes the most difference to their CV or cover letter?

S1 Jobs: It depends on the employer and what they require from you. One number one tip would be make sure you show the  best examples of your skills in the cover letter or CV that match what the employer requires from their desired employee. Don't exaggerate but make sure your examples are:
  • True
  • Accurate
  • Displays the skills that they are asking for
And ....there you have it. S1 Jobs is THE place to find jobs in Scotland. You are welcome to apply no matter your country. Take a look, get yourself registered and start applying! I really do hope you find what you're looking for.

There will be a few more posts in this series on Finding Jobs in Scotland so stay tuned. Good luck on the job hunt!

S1 Jobs also asked me what my dream job would be. I said a novelist. I would love to write fiction someday. They had an illustrator come up with this little picture to inspire me. Which I find...hilarious.

ps. This post is NOT sponsored. Unless you count that little illustration up there. It is purely a collaboration to help all of you looking for jobs in Scotland. Good luck!