Monday, December 31, 2012

Home for the Holidays: Part I

It's the 31st of December, and I can't help but reflect on all of the blessings of this past year. Garrick graduated with his MLitt and began his PhD, I got a job at the University of St Andrews, we moved into our flat on the North Sea, we travelled to places near and far, and we are surrounded by a wonderful community of people. To conclude an adventurous year, our family and friends in the USA have welcomed us home with lots of love, laughs, and generosity.  
Our travel day from St Andrews to Snohomish went off without a hitch and was mostly a pleasant experience. True to form, I was randomly selected for a security check in Iceland, but I'm getting used to being searched at airports. Then, after 18+ hours, two of my favorite people greeted us:

First things first: Chipotle! After arriving at my parents and settling in, these two came for a visit:


Exhausted, we fell asleep before our heads hit the pillow. Wide awake at 4am, we showered and drove down to Starbucks and Fred Meyer. Lattes in hand, we strolled up and down the massive aisles, filled our cart, and then had to leave our items at the check out. We forgot the pins to our US debit cards. Once back in the car, Garrick's number came to mind and he ran back in and purchased our goods. Success! My pin is still a mystery.

 Then? Christmas Eve with the Stevens!

And Christmas Day with the Allens!

Garrick met up with his high school crew on the 26th for their annual gift exchange:

Uncle Don and Aunt Julie came for a visit from Spokane!
My grandparents had us over along with my cousins on Friday afternoon:
Photo: Fun dinner with my grandparents and cousins! :)
We spent the weekend with the Owings! Playing and laughing with our nephews was a major highlight, as was attending Stanwood Foursquare, and shopping with my mom and sister.

Last night, the Muchmores invited us over for food and Settlers. Two games of Settlers. Yes, Garrick won both games. And yes, we are still talking. :) Brian performed our wedding we hope to make time to catch up with them every year. We're trying out our culinary skills on my parents this evening and look forward to seeing our good friends, Andrew, Lauren, and baby Simon to ring in the New Year!
More to come.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Here we go!

After a year and a half, we're making the journey back to Seattle! We've looked forward to and prepared for this trip for a few months now. We're feeling excited, anxious, happy, nervous, and just impatient to walk through Sea-Tac airport and be greeted by our family! Our time will be spent conversing with family and friends, hugging our nephews, eating sushi, shopping, and enjoying the convenience of a Starbucks Drive-Thru.

I've been wondering over the past few weeks if we'll experience elements of culture shock, or if the goodbyes will be more difficult than when we first left, or if we will realise how much we've changed. And, I've wondered if it will hit us that we're there on holiday, not to stay. We're vacationing in a place we once lived.

Above all, we are beyond grateful for everyone's support in getting us home for Christmas. We are humbled by the generosity and love of our family and friends.

So, tomorrow morning at 7am we begin our 18-hour journey! Here's a rundown:

St Andrews - Leuchars: Thanks to Andrew Kaethler for the lift!
Leuchars - Edinburgh: Train
Edinburgh - Glasgow: Train
Glasgow - Glasgow Airport: Taxi
Glasgow Airport - Reykjavik, Iceland: Plane
Reykjavik, Iceland - Sea-Tac Airport: Plane
Sea-Tac Airport - My parents house: THE BEST CAR RIDE EVER!!!!!!!!!!!

See you soon, Seattle!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tis the Season

It's the 15th of December and already we've enjoyed some lovely Christmas celebrations. Our tree was up a week (or two!) before Thanksgiving, so it's been the "Christmas" for quite a while now.

(Please note: The stache was the last remnant of Garrick's winter beard. It was shaved approximately two minutes after this photo.)

Handel's Messiah

Before the Messiah, we gathered at the flat of Jesse and Liana for festive treats and chat, along with the Brewer clan. We entered Holy Trinity Parish Church at 7:15pm and took our seats in the very hard pews. Candles lit, the choir and orchestra shuffled in. Their voices were clear, well-rehearsed, and moving. The "Hallelujah Chorus" was of course a favorite, and Garrick and I will make an effort to go every Christmas season.

 Photo: About to enjoy Handel's Messiah!
An American Christmas Classic!
We cooked an entire Thanksgiving meal from beginning to end. Neither Garrick or I enjoyed reaching our hand into the turkey to retrieve the "bits." We invited some of my Scottish (and one English!) coworkers over for a night of Thanksgiving food, Elf, and a White Elephant gift exchange. Fun was had by all and every plate was clean. As we are always taking in Scottish culture, sharing some our our American traditions was a welcome change.
 Bible Study Christmas Party
What a blessing these women are! We gathered at our usual time of 7:30pm on Tuesday night, everyone bearing a gift and treat to share. We discussed our Christmas plans and hopes. I also participated in my second White Elephant exchange, and may have re-gifted a gift from the first one...
St Mary's Postgrad and Staff Party
What do you get when you combine wine, minced pies, and a room full of academics? A hilariously stimulating and awkward party. Thankfully, I spotted a comfortable yellow char in the corner of the room and was joined by some of my lovely friends. The gathering took place in the St Mary's Senior Common Room, which is quite impressive with blue walls, beautiful draperies, and baby grand piano in the corner.
German Christmas Market

We and the Toomans (Bill, Tricia, Liam, and Cole) caught an early Saturday morning train to Edinburgh. As we walked toward the market along Princes Street, I felt that carnival rides and history were colliding:

We made our way through several outdoor stands selling German goodies of all kinds: fresh sugared donuts, mulled wine, bratwurst, pork sandwiches, candied almonds, apple strudel, pretzels - hungry yet? Along with the amazing food, many hand-made gifts make the market a Christmas shoppers paradise! After a day taking in all the sights and filling our hungry bellies, we napped on the train home to St Andrews. Thanks to the Toomans for a wonderful day!

Merry 15th of December!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Location, Location, Location.

I know I've mentioned that we live in town and on the North Sea, but I thought I should dedicate a post to our "we can't believe we actually live here" location. We live car-free* and about a 5 minute walk to everything we need to survive. Our orange carpet and lack of dishwasher and clothes dryer remind us that we're in student housing, but I think it's a fair trade.

We live on the upper left portion of the map on E Scores. My commute to work is along The Scores and takes approximately 7 minutes. Garrick? He walks about 30 seconds to the Roundel. No more can we depend on our long walk into town to keep in shape!

Although we don't have a private front or back yard, the St Andrews Cathedral ruins and North Sea views suffice just fine:

When living in a place that's as far North as Anchorage, AK, it's nice to be close to local amenities during the frigid winter months. Another bonus of our new place is that it's cheaper than our previous flat! Why? I'll never know. But I'm not going to ask questions. :)
I'm no fortune-teller, but I highly doubt that we'll ever again live in a location such as this. So, hurry up and plan your trip to Scotland!

*Please note: Although I love living car-free, driving a car when home for Christmas is going to be heavenly. :)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Master's Degree on St Andrews Day!

We got what we came for: a Master of Letters in Scripture and Theology! Yes, we're now staying a few more years for a PhD, but this past year is worth celebrating.

The fall graduation ceremony always takes place on St Andrews Day, the 30th of November. This day is dedicated to honor St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.

After two days of intensive You-Tube "How to tie a Bow Tie" tutorials, Garrick finally got it down:

At noon, I met our good friend, Chris Brewer, in Younger Hall and we scored second row seats. I snuck up to the snap a few photos before the ceremony:

The organ played and the processional began. Academic dress and Latin combined to make a wonderfully historic ceremony.

The perk of having Allen as a surname? You get to go first. Garrick walked across the stage, knelt in front of the Chancellor, and was touched on the forehead with a piece of John Knox's trousers. Yes, you read that correctly. That's actually just a myth; it's the 300 year-old hat of some other guy, but I'd like to think the first story is true.

I brought the iPad to graduation. I was that person. Thanks to Chris for videoing so I could take photos!


Amazing. After the ceremony, we processed out to St Salvators Quad to take photos and congratulate the graduands! It was zero degrees Celsius.
That evening, we all headed out to join the St Andrews Day festivities! We marched through the town led by pipers and ended at the Old Course Hotel for a fireworks display!

Finally, after dancing the night away in the largest outdoor Ceilidh in Scotland, we headed back home to celebrate with friends. This day will definitely be a favorite of our time in St Andrews. Way to go Master Allen!