Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Last of the Daytrips?

It was another bittersweet day. While the parents are editing and checking the dissertation, I had the urge to get out into the sunshine and see something awesome. Grabbed a friend and off we went for a picnic at Blackness Castle. It's a little sad thinking that this is probably my last day where I can randomly flit off to a castle. Lunch was fantastic, not really the food (PB&J pita and fruit), but the view.

Blackness is beautiful, not the castle itself, but the view of the Firth of Forth. The castle is fairly cool, and has been featured in lots of movies, both good (Hamlet) and bad (Doomsday). The inside is fairly neat because they haven't leveled the ground, it still is all craggy. The castle is shaped like a boat, and the towers are named accordingly. The back tower is the Stern Tower, and the center is the Mast Tower. The front tower was not the Bow Tower, although it should have been.
The best part however was the firth itself. For some odd reason the Scots of Blackness decided not to take their sailboats out of the water when the tide went out. So the entire bay was full of boats stuck in sand. It was hilarious to see them all perched on their rudders. I like this one the best because they had tied about ten different lines from the boat to the dock. Don't worry boys, I don't think she's going anywhere.
Now its back to the dissertation. I'm completely worn down from all the editing and writing. Luckily I got to back some strawberry shortcake this afternoon and that always helps with the stress!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Random Moments of Fun

Well, this Saturday started off like any other day. Woke up at 5 am because the damn sun was up at 4:30 am. Had a long breakfast, and then worked on the dissertation from 8 to 12. Farmer's market again. Buffalo burgers, the usual. Picked up my last strawberry jam. Honestly, not as impressed this time. Its way to sweet. I think I might just toss it, or use it in a dessert.

Then it was back to work until... the Innis and Gunn beer tasting! The bro is soooo jealous. We got to sample all of their beers in a nice tasting. There were only six of us, so it was really personal and loads of fun. My favorite is either the triple distilled or the classic. Hopefully all of them will be available in the states soon.

Then it was back to the room for another few hours of work (and maybe a wee nap). But when 7:30 rolled around it was time for the World Cup!! USA! USA! USA! My group headed to 3 sisters because they had a huge beer garden, and the weather was nice enough to want to be outside. I couldn't believe how busy it was.
When we scored the whole place went wild. It turns out the Scotland roots for USA more than they do for England, so I didn't end up having mixed feelings about who to root for. Had it been USA vs. Scotland I don't know what I would have done. The game itself wasn't great, sloppy play on both ends. However, being in a huge crowd watching it was a blast.
This week however isn't going to be as much fun as this day was. It's literally my last free week, so I have to spend the time getting ready not only for Champagne and mom visiting, but also have to finish my dissertation! We're on rough draft number two, and it's looking pretty good at the moment. Big thanks to the parents for reading through my 30 page research paper.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Trekking the Highlands!!!

Four straight days of tourist trekking and highland happiness!

Day One, Thursday June 3rd
Edinburgh Castle, Rosslyn Chapel and Portobello BeachDay Two, Friday June 4th
William Wallace Monument, Lochs, Glen Coe, River Coe, Loch Ness and the Clan Show
Day Three, Saturday June 5th
Waterfall at Loch Ness, Eileen Donan Castle, Isle of Skye, and the Monster Boat tour of Loch Ness
Day Four, Sunday June 6th
Urqhardt Castle, Loch Ness Tourism Center, Culloden Battlefield and Dunkeld Cathedral
There are no words...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How to survive dissertation writing...

Writing a dissertation is a challenge. You spend all day every day working on the same topic thinking about the same thing. Don't get me wrong, its a lot of fun to have the chance to focus so much on something I love, but you burn out very quickly. That is why we need weekend diversions and short breaks throughout the day.

Last weekend was the Three Harbors Fest, complete with Seafood Fest at Prestonpans. It was a chilly day, but totally worth the ride out there. The food was amazing and it was fun to experience a community gathering. I finally feel like I am a part of the Midlothian community. We heard some great fiddle music, and saw some bad belly dancing. We also got to try some local beers. The food was amazing, especially the fish pie with huge chunks of salmon, crab and mussels.

Another great diversion is cooking. Here is our memorial day fest! Crispy spicy breaded shrimp, homemade mango-radish salsa, homemade guacamole, and chips and tortillas. A nice little Tex Mex feast to celebrate the day and get away from studies.

Dissertation update: Rough Draft #1 completed!!!! Now I'm formatting and changing everything to the Harvard system. Ugh. Not going to look at the actual essay again until next week. Brain needs a break.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Getaway to Guinness!

Here's a run down of my trip to Dublin with the ladies!

Day 1: Arrive at 10 am, drop off bags and do a walking tour the entire city with Garvan our fantastic tour guide. We lounged a little in the park afterward. For dinner we went to Porterhouse and had an amazing meal with microbrews from Dublin. I know, city of Guinness and our first beers are microbrews. We tried the porter, the oyster stout (amazing!), the temple brau ale and the red ale. All were fantastic and very refreshing after the long walk.
Day 2: Immediately get out and head to the kilmainham gaol, the Dublin jail for the historical tour. Then a walk through some gardens and then.... GUINNESS!!! We definitely got our money's worth. We did the tour, drank the fresh beer in the tasting room and learned to do the perfect pour (with attempted shamrock). After this was lunch outside of Christchurch cathedral. Then we did the Dublinia viking museum and Christchurch cathedral, which had the cat and rat mummies. Then St. Patrick's cathedral. The day was ended with the Jameson Distillery where we tried three type of whiskey, comparing flavors, had a tour, and a complimentary mixed drink with Jameson. The night ended with dinner at a small italian place (we shared pizzas) and then drinks at Grogan's in a busy area.
Oh, I mapped out this day on and not counting the fact that every building we went into we walked in and did countless stairs (Guinness is 7 stories), we walked over 8 miles. Ouch! No wonder my feet hurt.

I guess the night didn't end there. Our fire alarm in the hotel room started leaking and went off. Yes- you are reading that right, leaking. So we had to move to another room for the night. But nevermind the drama.

Day 3: Woke up early to fix the room problems and headed off to the Archaeology museum for the bog bodies!! Amazing!! So well preserved and so much fun to look at. This was followed by the Natural history and national gallery museums. Both were fantastic. Then it was off to lunch at the same place as yesterday (because we loved it so much). Also got the chance to get real soda bread! Then we were back on our feet and headed to the wax museum, dublin castle, the chester beatty library, and the dublin city hall. To end our day off right... back to GUINNESS, for round two of tasters and free guinness pints. Dinner was at a fun pub where they had taps at the table. We did an irish tapas, trying out all the classic dishes, complete with another Guinness round. Then off on the town to the No Name bar (literally has no name).

Day 4: Woke up at 3:30 am to catch our flight at 6:30 am. Back in Edinburgh in my apartment at 8:15 am. Now I'm going to spend the day doing a little reading, watching a little tv, and not moving.

More pictures:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spring/Summer is here!

Edinburgh is finally experiencing a little bit of spring and summer! We have trees in bloom, sunshine and every park is full of people. While this has definitely done wonders for my spirit, I can't say the same for my dissertation. Sure- it's nice to eschew work for a day and head to the beach (yes, there are beaches in Scotland). It does wonders for my mood! However, the dissertation does need to be completed at some point. Must avoid giving into the sunshine every time I see it.

The last couple days have actually been pretty busy. I spend the mornings plowing through the dissertation (8,000 words so far!), and then in the afternoons take care of necessary errands, such as baking shortbread cookies or going to the beach. Okay, not so necessary, but still worth it!
First off, lovely blooming trees out by West Mains. Photo taken happily after baking cookies before heading out on 2 mile walk back home. Luckily I had tons of sugar in my system to keep me going.
Tuesday was beach day! We set off around noon, grabbed the bus, and walked along the beach until we found a spot to nosh. We ate at the Beach House, a cute little place that seemed straight out of Cape Cod. I had a wonderful ham sandwich with veg chutney and a salad. Desserts looked fantastic, but lunch was too filling!
The beach is wonderful, and a return trip will be necessary.

Now back to the dissertation. Working away on the climate section.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Some days you wake up here and its just what you expect from Scotland, like this morning. Brown-gray clouds, the crag hidden by fog, stone buildings coated in dew, etc. Other mornings, like yesterday, you wake up at 5:30 am to a bright yellow sun and pale blue sky unadulterated by clouds. It's these sunny mornings that inspire action!

On a whim I decided to head out with a friend to Linlithgow, a neighboring town. We hopped the train, and 20 minutes later we were there. The castle was fantastic. It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries, and expanded until the 17th century. In the 18th century it had a fire which removed all the wooden parts of the castle. The whole castle was beautiful, and the sunshine made it so much fun. It had about four different levels, and was a maze of rooms. We felt like little kids running around, trying to get to every room on every level.
Also, its located right on a loch, where kids were learning to kayak. An unexpected diversion from studies that was amazing.
We were back in Edinburgh by 12:30, perfect timing to head to the farmer's market for a nice buffalo burger and walk through the meadows. Dinner was at Brown's (I had the aubergine ratatouille special with a chenin blanc, and camembert to start), and then we hit up the Pear Tree for a final drink.

Overall, I'd say it was a pretty good saturday. Now if today's weather perks up a bit we may be able to go to Rosslyn Chapel and Sheep's Heid. If not, I may have to convince myself to do some dissertation work... 6,000 words down, about 7,000 left!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Back in Edinburgh

Ahh, to be back in Edinburgh again. After being away for a month (three weeks in NY, one week in London), it feels nice to be a little bit settled. It's the first time I've arrived and really felt like I was coming home.

Home was amazing. I had a fantastic birthday, spent a good amount of time at the cabin, and didn't do any work. Just how a vacation should be!

Revel in the beauty of the lobster cake!!!

I was only in Edinburgh one day after break, and then I headed down to London! It was very different going without the family. I felt like I was a real Londoner, going by tube into the cty at 8 am, getting back around 6 pm. It was tons of fun working at the Museum. It was like living someone else's life for a week! Below is a picture of the park that I ate lunch in most days.

After spending my week there, a couple of the girls took the train down to meet me for the weekend. We had a great time doing the tourist part of London, which I haven't done in ages. It was fun getting to see all the attractions again. I had a blast playing tour guide! The weather was fairly nice in the morning, but as you can see from the picture below- a storm was imminent!

For some reason we got ... lucky? and got to see two different rallies. One at Parliament and one at Trafalgar square. It was pretty cool, especially with the way the weather was acting! Very foreboding! I feel like I should have something really metaphorical to say about the picture. But I'm not that deep.

Overall it was a really amazing trip. Glad to be home, but loved getting the chance to wander around London. Below is us, victorious after a nice long weekend of walking, wine and overall awesomeness. (We won't discuss the Newcastle fiasco!)
Now that I'm back its down to business. Time to put my head down and really focus on my studies. I have a dissertation of 15,000 words to write. This week has been spent mainly working on the methods and writing up my London research. I'm 16% done with the paper, and not slowing down at all!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Last post before crossing the Atlantic

The Final Countdown to Home!!!

I've only got three days left, and I'm finding it really hard to focus on work. I've completed all of my essays, and even printed them out. They just need to be handed in. At this point I'm just trying to occupy myself with possible work. Hoping to make the last push so that I can take all of next week off without feeling guilty. What I should be doing now is continuing my dissertation research, at least for the historical background part, since it will be easier to study here than at home. Instead I find myself reading fictional books and hanging out way too much at Starbucks. Considering we've got a nice sunny day outside, I will probably take a long walk today and ignore my assignments completely.

I can't wait to be home! I'm already making a list of must-do's during the April.
1. Visit RSMC and see the dinosaur exhibit
2. Visit Strong Museum and see the Lego exhibit (yes, we notice the pattern, I'm a 5 year old boy at heart)
3. Wine Tour of Seneca or Cayuga
4. Beer Tour of Seneca
5. One weekend trip somewhere, maybe Cooperstown or Philly?
6. Run a 5k (Look's like it'll be the one on April 11th, if I don't end up making b-day weekend plans)
7. Work on dissertation (okay, not fun- but necessary)
8. Paint Easter eggs (seriously, I'm not missing out on this one)
9. Have Nana teach me to make that brown bread she does at Christmas (its like crack, only healthier)
10. Spend way too much time at the cabin... the dock better be in!

Alright, now it's time to pretend to do work so that I can goof off all night and not feel guilty about it. See you all in a few days!

Monday, March 22, 2010

What an amazing weekend! One of my friends hosted a dinner of Mussels on Friday night. It was paired with amazing french bread, homemade mayonnaise, white wine sauce, and a buttery rich Macon Chardonnay. Incredible! I brought Grampa's famous NY cheesecake, and as you can see below it was quickly decimated.

Saturday was spent trying to recover from both Thursday and Friday. Did the normal farmer's market thing, got a little bit of homework done, but mainly laid around! Oh, right, I also made 48 cheddar meatballs for another food and wine party.

We had this idea to do a night of finger nibbles and favorite wines. It was like a wine tasting, only we got to eat! I brought the meatballs and a Spanish Albarino. Delicious. Everyone brought really amazing foods. It's fun hanging out with a group of foodies. Everyone really puts the effort into their food and is really proud of it. We all just made really simple delicious dishes. It doesn't hurt that everyone also brought amazing wines. We got to try wines from almost all of the big wine countries (France, Spain, Italy, Australia) and even began the night with a nice fizz.

Now I'm done with the parties and on to my last week of this semester. Only four days until I'm home! I'm actually pretty hectic with school work until then. Monday through thursday I have 9 am lectures. I also have a staff/student meeting on Wednesday and tons of little things to get done before I can head home. Also have to hand in my massive final essays (we're talking like 70 pages here for two essays).

Hopefully I will find some time to say good bye to people and enjoy myself a little. Although I think I'm going to avoid drinking wine for a little. My liver must look like a raisin at this point.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Nous Allons au Champagne!!!

That's right! The University of Edinburgh Wine Tasting Team won our competition against St. Andrew's University. We won in every category: reds, whites and reserve. Huzzah! Our grand prize is a trip to Champagne, France to visit the Pol Roger vineyards.

For lunch we were lucky enough to go to The Kitchen, a Michelin starred restaurant. Honestly, the best food I've ever had. I had the amuse-bouche of a leek and fennel soup with creme fraiche and crab, ox tongue with chorizo and beans for starters, hake with gratin macaroni and veg for the main, and a cheesecake like pudding of rhubarb and goat's milk with raspberry sorbet. The whole thing was paired with an Alsatian Riesling and a Chianti Classico.

Following lunch we had a quick pint at the Bow Bar, and then headed off for more champagne. We ended the night eating takeaway Malaysian and drinking martinis and more wine and even more champagne!

For the complete story you will have to chat with me when I'm home next week. For the photos visit

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Quickie Update!

First off, only 8 days to go!
Here's a quickie run down of whats going on:
-Pol Roger Blind Wine Tasting competition tomorrow morning
-Handed in 1 out of 3 essays. 2 out of 3 is printed and ready, and 3 out of 3 needs some retouching and a little more research
-Loads of exciting plans for the weekend, more updates on those will follow
-Weather is fantastic! in general we're getting loads of sun with a little bit of grayness and light spit like rain in between, but warming up quite well
-Still have way to much candy.... must find way to pawn it off on others so we can all be fat together

Hopefully this weekend I will have a better update. Damn these finals taking up my precious time.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Another week down and only two left in the semester. My how time flies when you have essays due. Luckily for me I'm a very proactive person when it comes to writing papers, and I know it takes me forever. So right now I actually only have one of three papers left to complete (and its mostly done). That means that the next two weeks can be devoted to wine and soaking up the sun.

Its a beautiful sunny day here, about 50 degrees outside, and since its Saturday I am heading off to the Farmer's Market with a group of friends. Another market, another angus burger... but wait! Not this week. Sadly there was only one burger left, so I willingly let my friend have it. I ended up having the angus sausage. Just as good as the burger, although a little bit harder to eat while walking around.

After the market, we did our normal walk around the Grassmarket. Today they were having a peace rally! It was kind of fun. They were singing and cheering on a strange woman wrapped in a blanket, and even handing out sandwiches and puddings. Very odd. We couldn't even figure out what kind of peace they were hoping for.

So not only was the street full of hippies, but tonight is the six nations rugby game of Scotland versus England. So the streets are full of guys and girls in the red and blue colors. Pubs were packed already. It will be interesting to see how the game turns out. Regardless its going to be an awesome night to be out and about.

It's finally spring in Edinburgh, so we are seeing crocuses everywhere. It makes me so happy to see the purple and yellow all over the ground. We took a big walk through the Meadows since it was so sunny, and the flowers were amazing.

On the way back to our building we stopped into Starbucks to take the Via Challenge. You get a mini cup of filtered Colombian and Via instant Colombian and have to figure out which is which. They actually tasted almost the same so it was tough.... but I guessed it correctly! Yay! For taking the challenge we got a free tall coffee and a coupon for Via. To reward myself I bought myself a nice latte and picked up a pack of Via for the next couple weeks.

Tonight we're doing a big birthday party in New Town, so it's back to essay writing until then.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Candy Calories Don't Count.... right?

First off, a big THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH, to Meeps. I received my first non-parent package from him today. What a wonderful surprise. It's been a rough week, and now I can deal with everything because I have about ten pounds of candy to much on. And all my favorites too! Sour patch, sour gummy worms, reeses... and the world's most amazing white chocolate craisins. I'm trying to hold back... back everytime I look at the pile I'm forced to sample. I've already had about half of one bag of the craisin chocolate crack nuggets and a couple handfuls of gummy bears.

To add to this amazingness, mom topped up my Starbucks card so I also treated myself to a latte, and its brilliantly sunny outside.

Right now I'm only about a quarter through my last final exam- the practical exam. It's going to be a rough next couple of weeks finishing this up, but at least I'm making headway on it. Only about 16 days left before I come home, which means I just gotta put my head down and push through this.

There's no stress like good stress! Wait... I think I got that wrong.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Anatomy of the Living Pod

Currently my life has been consumed by two things: my stupid laptop and my final essays. I've been attempting to continue being social- but hey, with 3 weeks left I am just going to put my head down an focus on these essays.

So I figured I'd update on what life is like in my living pod. I often feel like I'm in some science fiction book, where space is maximized by people being forced to live in identical personality restricting pods.

In the first picture you'll see my desk, bookshelf, bulletin board and trash bin. Note the awesome Lonely planet calendar flanked by x-rays of skeletons, family photos, various cards I've received from the family, important dates and other stuff. I've also got the big stack of library books, and various papers strewn about. But that's what essay writing is all about. Also have to have the two nalgenes, blue for water and green for tea.

On the opposite side of the pod is the sleeping area. Wet towels hung on the closet, wet shirts hung on the chair. Scotty #2 sprawled on the bed. Horrible Holiday Inn type curtains. Since I don't have room I leave my alarm clock and current books on the radiator. Also, you can't see it, but the window sill has two bottles of wine and various fruit (I think kiwi and grapefruit right now). The sill is actually cold enough to function as a fridge.

And just because I felt like it... here was Friday's lunch. In honor of it being Friday, I treat myself to something Scotlandy and yum: Smoked Salmon and cream cheese on toast, with a big salad, and giant glass of V8 from my Kronenbourg glass (yes- the bro is super jealous of the glass, and no he can't have it). Note the computer screen showing an episode of "Always Sunny in Philly".

Well, now it's back to work. I have a lot to do before the weekend is over, and time is running out quick.

Oh- saw Alice in Wonderland yesterday. Brilliant. Totally Mint. Must check it out. Loved every second.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

No pictures... Just a quickie update!

Since nothing really picture worthy has happened yet... I'm just going to give the straight up text update.

1. I was awarded money to attend my field school this summer, so yay! Don't have to pay for tuition.
2. Working hard on my 2nd final essay. I've finished one, and it's under review (a.k.a. Mumsy and Daddums are reading it for mistakes)
3. Just finished my powerpoint presentation for archaeology, which means I have nothing due until the final essays (yay!)
4. Computer was sick, but now it's better. Thank you to the nerds for all their help!

That's about it. It's been a pretty average week. Back to the essay!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Loch Lomond Trip (Pronounced LaCCCK Low-mon)

This last weekend we went on a trip to Loch Lomond, the biggest loch in Scotland. We went with the international student center, so it was pretty cheap and really easy! This is a picture of our very sexy tour bus.

I'm not usually a fan of buses, but this one wasn't bad at all and they always made sure that we took frequent photo and coffee stops.

Our guide also chatted the entire time, telling jokes and stories about Scotland. I love hearing the history of the area, and its fun to see all the places that I've been reading about! We heard about William Wallace, Rob Roy, and other general historical facts.
The next photo is me with the very sexy and very Scottish- Hamish. He's a highland cow, and he's so fluffy! He also drools, a lot.

The next is a photo of the Loch itself. It was so pretty and was shockingly huge. Luckily when we took a hike around it the weather was nice and we even got a little sun. As you can see, in some of the areas we had a ton of snow- so it was pretty chilly for most of the trip. The next photo was my obligatory leg out while standing on a rock (sadly the rock didn't make the photo). The castle in the background was struck by lightning in the 18th century and abandoned. Sad.

At night we had a ceilidh (scottish square dance) and a fun talk about history and kilts and weapons. We also got to try some local beers. It was really fun to get out of Edinburgh and do some travelling.
I think my favorite part was taking a hike in the Trossachs. The sun came out and we got to wander in the woods for a bit. It was so peaceful! I love getting away and getting some time to NOT think.
For more of the photos check out my photo page on facebook

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Slushy Day

No, not the drink- the snow. The morning started off with proper snow. It was big, fluffy and brilliant. But by mid-morning it had degraded into slush, and now it's pretty much rain. Too bad.

This is a picture of the street outside of my academic building. The beautiful morning snow.

However, the rain is less bothersome when you're inside in your new hoodie and pajama pants. Check out the official Edinburgh Wine Tasting Team hoodie. That's right!

I love that new hoodie feel!!!!

Good news for today, I have gotten permission to do my dissertation study at the museum! Yay! This means I will actually get the bones I need. And I get to go to London. Always a bonus.

And now it's back to work. Sadly this week is going to be super busy. I think I have something every day. Tomorrow I have a presentation on Diet and Bioarchaeology- so no slacking today. I also have an archaeology presentation next week, which means I need to finish that up before this weekend (because I'm going away to Loch Lomond and won't be able to work).

Alright- back to the teeth and what not.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


First off, thanks to Mom for the awesome Philly Hard Rock shirt. I do love me a bright pink shirt! Too bad it arrived after valentine's day.

This week has been super busy for me. I'm trying to work away on an essay for my archaeology class, so I've had my head buried in books about the post-medieval era in London.

Luckily I'm through the research so now I just have to write the darn thing.

The weekend was pretty laid back, went for a nice walk to the farmer's market, ate good food and watched good movies.

On friday we went to an awesome restaurant, Ti Amo. I had the "Sofia Loren" pizza: mozz, asparagus, black olives, and parma ham. Yum!

Saturday we did the normal routine. Lunch at the farmer's market! It was fun, but cold. After having the jam from there last week, I decided to grab another one. This week its gooseberry (which tastes like a cross between a grape and a green apple). We also picked up the fixings for tonight's amazing feast.

These were burgers made from fresh Scottish venison and herbs. It was amazing, and suprisingly cheap!

We had them with some roasted sweet tatties and dessert was the last of the pumpkin cookies.

The weather was fairly nice these last couple days- bitter cold, but sunny. I'm hoping that we're going to start getting warmer weather soon.

It's going to be a really busy week for me, so I'm glad I rested up this weekend!