Inchmahome Priory – April 2016

I am just back from a quick solo trip across the pond.  It was a very short trip to check in on family with various health concerns, but still an amazing visit. I never forget how blessed I am. I certainly missed my little family while I was gone, and was certainly glad to be reunited after 10 days away!

While I was in Scotland, my family (parents, siblings, niece and nephew) was able to squeeze in a visit to the 13th century Inchmahome Priory on an island in the Lake of Menteith.  It was established in the 1200s by Augustinian cannons and is now beautifully preserved on the idyllic lake and can only be reached via boat.  I really wish my little girl was able to visit it with us, as I certainly remember a visit out there when I was about her age – it was fun to go back and see it as an adult and actually learn about the history of the priory instead of running around in the woods! It was fun to see my niece and nephew enjoy it though, I certainly have to try and plan a visit back!

A Day Out At New Lanark

New Lanark is a World Heritage site on the River Clyde, about 40 miles South east of Glasgow.  We were lucky enough to visit this place as a family this past summer – I had visited several times growing up as it is a popular destination for school field trips, but certainly appreciated it more this time around.  Founded in 1786, New Lanark is a preserved example of attempted Utopian society and planned settlements.  As a village based the around cotton mills, it became synonymous with welfare, social reform and the burgeoning Industrial Revolution of the 18th century in Great Britain.  The Mills operated commercially until the 1960s, but remain preserved to this day, along with the village and local community.  My husband was happy to get the opportunity to get pictures he could use for his history classes, and we had fun traipsing around the historic village in spite of the rain!

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New Lanark on the banks of the River Clyde

 

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Some examples of the machinery used

 

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The cotton mills and housing

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Robert Owen’s house

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Clay and Erin outside Robert Owens’ house

 

**I had planned to post about this when we actually *visited* last August….but I’m running about 6 months behind 🙂

A Family Day Out

 

It’s finally time to end the blogging hiatus! Of course, I can make no promises about future updates – it has certainly been a much busier year than I first anticipated, but that is life.

Recently, giving in to my Spring Fever, we took a daytrip out to Fort Worth, TX and visited the absolutely beautiful botanical and Japanese Gardens.  There was really no better way to spend an afternoon outside in the glorious sunshine  – our daughter loved getting to run, explore and feed the giant koi fish.  The Fort Worth Botanical Gardens are free and the Japanese Garden has a low cost admission.  Since we couldn’t exactly day trip to Japan, this worked out well as a nice compromise!

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Castles with my husband

The advantage of being married to a fellow nerd is that when we go back to Scotland, I can drag him to historical places and he loves it. One of our favourite things to do as a couple in Scotland (or anywhere else, really) is take in as many castles as we can. Now…please forgive the husband’s star trek/star wars t-shirts that he refuses to retire and seems to be wearing in almost every photo we are in. And for several of these we took plenty of photos, but none with both of us in it! Here are some of our most loved castle visits

Blackness Castle

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In this photo it’s about 5pm and already pitch black. The staff let us in for free since we hardly had any daylight left,but it was fun – it’s shaped like a boat! I used to run around in this castle as a kid and I remember the day my family stumbled upon it by accident when we were out for a drive, so I’m glad hubby could see it too….now we just have to go back when it’s not freezing! *also, husband had travelled with me to Scotland, at Christmas time without a winter coat. Don’t ask me why….so he’s borrowing my father’s ancient jacket, just want to throw that out there

Linlithgow Palace
This shot certainly doesnt take in the beauty of this castle. It’s not too far from my parent’s home in Stirling, so we visit it regularly when we are home. linlithgow

Glamis Castle:
You can’t come to this castle and not think of Macbeth by Shakespeare. This was taken in 2009, on our first visit home as a married couple. I had never been before so it was a fun day trip for all of us.
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Stirling Castle:
The castle from my hometown. I have been to this castle many times in my life, but I enjoyed this visit here the most – it was taken a few days before our wedding at Doune Castle in 2007. This was my husband’s first visit to Scotland so it was great to finally show him the sights in the town where I grew up.
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The Belvedere, Vienna
I know this doesn’t technically count as a castle…per say, but it is a beautiful historic residence that we stumbled upon in Vienna, Austria during our honeymoon.
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There are certainly more I can write about, and I will leave those to future posts. Hopefully I can make it back to all of these places and take some better quality photos…that’s as good an excuse as any, isn’t it?

Throwback Thursday

 Throwback Thursday

This picture was taken in 1993, when I was a mere 7 years old. It was our family’s very first trip to Continental Europe. My parents decided, in the days before no frills airlines, to road trip to Soll, in the Austrian Tirol. It was a 3 day endeavor. The first leg was the journey down from Stirling, Scotland to Dover, a full day of driving in itself. We spent the night in the small, port town and explored a little on those famous white cliffs. The next day, we caught the hovercraft over to Calais in France and spent the next two days driving through scenic Europe until we reached our destination. We spent a fun filled week exploring the small town near the Austrian alps, which included a visit to Salzburg, exploring a glacier and going rafting for the first time. Looking back, I never appreciated the lengths my parents went to give us memories like that…I only hope I can do just as well with my own daughter!

How we save money

People often ask us how we can afford to travel as regularly as we do (at least one overseas trip a year and usually one in the US). The trick, which is pretty obvious, is to live well within your means – or even better, under them. Live on absolutely less than you make. Easier said than done right? It certainly seems that way so much of the time, but it really can be done.

No cable TV!! There is no way our busy family have enough time to make any sort of cable deal worth it. However, even if we did indulge, we still couldn’t justify it. We do indulge in Netflix and Hulu Plus which we find works very well. Yes, sometimes we have to wait longer for shows we like, but adding a Roku box to our downstairs TV and using our “gaming” console upstairs means that we can enjoy a bunch of shows without being limited to the computer screen. Our old TVs are probably circa 2001 but who cares at the end of the day? We can put the extra money towards our trips and days out, which is in our mind so very worth it!

Utilise your public library. Now, this is maybe much easier for our family for several reasons. The first is that I happen to be a librarian at one of the biggest public library systems in the USA so it’s very easy for me to get the latest items on request. Yes, there are often wait lists for the most recent items, but most people don’t realize that libraries usually buy in the most recent DVD and book releases as soon as they hit the market, and order movies as soon as they are in theaters, so the turn around is never that long. If there’s a show that we are interested in seeing, but it’s not available on our subscriptions, then it gets requested at the library. Some library systems are better than others at what they can offer, but there are obviously benefits with all libraries. I love doing what I do, and it benefits my family immensely. We go to the movies maybe 3 times a year, or do a dollar movie every now and again.

Couponing is pretty much an American phenomeon, it just doesn’t exist in the same way back in Scotland (but I find food is cheaper there). That being said, I take advantage of it regularly, or depending on what we need, do our shopping at our local store which has a fantastic loyalty program. I tend not to use coupons too much for food since its not usually the healthiest, but with careful planning you can score some great deals. There are some great farmer’s markets out our way too, and I’m itching to take advantage of those more (I just wish they had hours that worked for us!) And everything is budgeted – we set a price and never go above it. Sunday newspapers (that I am able to get through work), online sites and blogs can really help with the food budget total. It takes work but our family never goes without, and we save money – win win!

Obviously a no brainer, – If you fly overseas regularly, utilize those airmiles! They have been a huge help in our US based travel. We have never earned enough to use them for our oveseas trips, but all three of us will be flying to Ohio this summer for a mere $15 total! This is the second time we have used airmiles, and we’re so glad we could make it happen.

We take advantage of programs like UPromise to top up our own budgeted savings. Now, unless you are actively spending using a credit card, UPromise rewards will not be huge (and I don’t recommend credit cards at all), but will be handy every once in a while. There are similar cashback reward sites that are definitely worth looking into. I wish this would take off more significantly back in Scotland, but it seems to be slowly creeping in.

None of these methods would make a major impact if you don’t sit down and do a monthly household budget. It is such a great feeling going to the store knowing that you will have plenty money for what you buy, or booking a flight knowing that it will not break the bank. It’s never too late to start

Christmas round-up and new beginnings

Ok so my blogging has not gone as planned lately – due to the busyness of the past few months it is now nice to finally get a chance in this new year to sit and write. I will not be making resolutions that I know I cannot keep about daily, or even weekly blogging, but I will commit to trying to document the happenings of our international family and everything that inevitably comes with that! 2013 was certainly a busy year – 2 trips to back Scotland, family visits for Christmas, changes at work, the birth of a new niece and just the daily grind of day to day life in TX. It also ended on a sad note, with the unexpected death of Clay’s stepfather – a loss that we will always mourn while being grateful for short time we were blessed to know him and have him in our lives. It is still very surreal for us in many ways.

In spite of our loss, we were able to enjoy a nice, family Christmas, with my parents and my sister joining us from Scotland. Over the break we also enjoyed a visit to the Chinese Lantern Festival in Dallas, which was so fun! We had taken Erin last year but I wanted my family to experience the amazing displays – such detail and colour! Here are some pictures of Erin enjoying her night – she especially loved the dinosaur displays, as most 2 year olds would!

Mum and Wee E enjoying the lights

Mum and Wee E enjoying the lights

Erin was enthralled!

Erin was enthralled!

Pandas!

Pandas!

Next to the dragon, what Erin called "the big boat"

Next to the dragon, what Erin called “the big boat”

Enjoying time with Grandma and and Grandad

Enjoying time with Grandma and and Grandad

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We also took Erin for her first authentic train ride, since she adores anything Thomas the Tank Engine. We travelled up to Grapevine and travelled on the “North Pole Express” which was a spirited, festive activity for all of us! We loved getting to see Erin so happy and taking everything in.

This new year brings with it a certain peace, now that the Holidays are over and we try to get back on schedule. As always, it is so hard saying goodbye to family but we know that this year will bring many more dear memories and opportunities for travel and visiting loved ones far away. Focusing on the good times to come and seeing what God has in store for our close-knit, scattered family is truly exciting.

Our aim as a family for this year is to focus more close to home than previous years. For example, we are finally getting around to landscaping our back garden and that will hopefully bring lots of outside time with our family as we get set up. We have a family wedding to attend in Ohio this summer so we look forward to the domestic travel opportunity we can make of that trip. 2015 will be a big year hopefully for international travel.

I am not really one for making resolutions but I do like to give myself aims going into the new year such as:

Connecting with other, local international families.

– feeling connected to a group of people in similar circumstances, even if it is via the internet, will help me not feel so isolated in the sprawling DFW metroplex.

Organizing, organizing, organizing

– taking the time to tackle house projects, one at a time, and get rid of clutter and items we simply do not need or use. This includes finishing our guest room, back garden and exploring the option of adding a fourth bedroom. Even seemingly miniscule tasks of depositing our coin boxes and “piggy banks” into our checking/savings accounts will help in this regard.

Choosing to worry less about things I cannot change and finding happiness in every moment.

Here is to an amazing 2014!