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!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Around here lately

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope everyone is full of pumpkin pie. I personally have been enjoying all the pictures of food on instagram and facebook over the weekend. Saturday we got together with our American friends here in Scotland and had a proper Thanksgiving meal! It was amazing. To say the least. There was so much food and I'm still dreaming about it all. We all went around the room (all 40+ of us!) and said what we were thankful for. This year I'm grateful for my husband's job. He works so hard with a great company to make sure that I can stay home with Sebastian and take care of his many needs. We are very grateful for that.

Our new friends came to Aberdeen to spend Thanksgiving with us and it was so fun to meet them. Becki has been asking questions about moving to Scotland for over a year. She and her husband and their 3 girls moved to Edinburgh 3 months ago and they were able to come up to Aberdeen for the holiday. Sebastian was in heaven and upset to see them leave. It was so great to have them here and we're already making plans to get together soon.

Here's what we've been up to::

+ I decorated for Christmas early. Like, two weeks ago. I couldn't help it. Getting the decorations out and the tree up always lifts my spirits. Christmas has always been my favourite holiday. Sebastian was more excited than I was to tell you the truth! He promptly broke 8 of the ornaments he took out but we just let him keep playing. He likes to play with them and set them up in different arrangements with the Nativity. Every day the ornaments are in a different spot. I love it!

Check out a recap of our first Christmas in Scotland!
(ps. we still have that tree. it now belongs to Sebastian!)

+ I finally got my hair trimmed up! I've been letting it grow for the last year and it desperately needed a good trim. While Sebastian was at school on Friday I went and had it done. She even gave me a head massage. This was basically as good as a trip to the Bahamas. I fell asleep while she was cutting it. It was amazing. I also got my eye brows threaded. They hadn't looked that bad since...6th grade. But, now I'm feeling much more put together! Christmas family photo shoot coming soon.

+ Sebastian's passport came! We are officially ready to get traveling again! Each one of us has a passport from a different country. Haha! We are one strange family.

+ Luis had the whole week off and we had a great time. We went out to eat, started our Christmas shopping, watched loads of movies and chilled by the Christmas tree. It was nice to have him home. Can't wait for a few more week until he'll be home again with us. Then off to Portugal!

+ I had two meetings this week at Sebastian's school. He's just doing awesome. I couldn't ask for a better school or better teachers. He's cruising right along. Of course we have bumps in the road and things we are working on but things are so much better than when he started. He's so happy and he's making friends. It makes me want to cry I'm so thankful for it all. Well, I actually did break into tears in one of the meetings. I'm a crier OK! I can't help it. I feel deeply. Sebastian is doing well and we are all very thankful.

+ I'm officially obsessed with the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I'm halfway through book 2. They are slow but so good. They're all around 1,000 pgs. I'm listening to them on audiobook and whoa you guys! The narrator is bloody fantastic! I'm trying to find chores or places to walk to just so I can listen to more. I love the character's and the history alone has me hooked. I love that I live in Scotland! It's bringing these stories alive for me. I feel an Outlander tour coming on! What do you think?

+ I'm singing in a Christmas Carol Concert in a few weeks and had practice last night with my group. You guys, we sound so good! I don't want to boast, but we do! I will try and take a video for you next week so you can hear us. After practice we all just hung out and sang more Christmas songs and ate yummy food. I can't wait for practice this week.

+ We went to the Christmas kickoff parade last weekend down Union Street. It is basically just Santa coming down the street and a few weird floats like Star Wars storm troopers and a floating Nativity. When Santa passed Sebastian said, "Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Wait!!"

What have you been up to lately?

Monday, 24 November 2014

St. Andrew's Day: the history and traditons

Every St. Patrick's Day I get a lot of questions asking if it the day big here in Scotland. The answer is a resounding, NO. Why? Because St. Patrick is the patron saint of IRELAND. Did you know Scotland has a patron saint too? His name is St. Andrew and we'll be celebrating on November 30th!

No one really knows how St. Andrew came to be Scotland's patron saint but there are a few theories. One states that relics belonging to St. Andrew were brought to Scotland in the fourth century. These relics were then kept at St. Andrew's Cathedral in Kinrymount, Fife. Another possible explanation is that in the 800s, Pictish king Angus MacFergus saw a saltire cross in the sky immediately before a battle, and took Saint Andrew as his patron from then on. 

St. Andrew was first made the official patron saint of Scotland  at the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. By 1390 he appeared on coinage for the first time. His relics were destroyed in the Scottish Reformation in the 1500s. 

St. Andrew was crucified on a diagonal cross by the Roman's apparently taking place on November 30th, hence the date we mark his life. 

St. Andrew's Day is marked with a celebration of Scottish culture with traditional Scottish food, music and dance. School's across Scotland will hold traditional St. Andrew's Day activities such as art shows,  Scottish dance shows, lunchtime ceilidhs, storytelling, reciting and writing poems, writing tall tales, cooking traditional Scottish meals and bagpipe playing. It is also seen as the start of the Winter Festival's in Scotland!

If you live here in Scotland you can find activities in your area right {HERE}

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.