29 September 2014

Road trips and service stations

I have been absent from this blog for a bit, sorting out kids and school, starting back up in my own schooling, and generally adjusting to new responsibilities and opportunities. Exciting! And draining!

I have several posts written (in my head) and am excited to share with you the fun things we experience as an expat family.

Over the weekend some of us took a ROAD trip! I love road trips. After all, I am an American girl and piling in the car with blankets, pillows, junk food, and lots of things to talk about IS a adventure.

My husband, youngest son, "adopted" Scottish daughter, and I hopped in the car Friday after lunch to head to Preston England. The two older boys had weekend plans of their own in Glasgow and stayed behind to catch a ride with generous friends.

Every part of the United States has different kinds of "rest stops", "rest areas", or toilet break places along the major highways. Where I grew up, in the Northwest, Oregon was known for it's clean rest-stops, Washington for it's rest-stops with lovely places to walk your dog (or let your children run), Idaho for it's rest-stops that give out free fried potatoes to promote their state identity, and other states (who shall remain nameless) for the lack of cleanliness or food at their rest-stops. My kids, who have all had the chance to travel in the mid-west or east-coast tell me rest-stops there sometimes have gas stations. Weird. Ours just had bathrooms and vending machines.

In southern Scotland and England (at least the areas I have travelled) is an amazing creation called a service station, "services", and other various names.

These magical places can be as simple as one petrol station to refuel, one petrol station and one food offering, or a petrol station and an ENTIRE complex with a few food choices, shop for souvenirs, toilets, showers, and more! Delicacies  such as McDonalds, Costa Coffee and Food (good sandwiches), Burger King, little cafes, toilets, and SHOWERS! (Not that we needed one). Similar to bigger rest stops in the US, but somehow different. Charmingly so.

We stopped here:

Availed ourselves of the toilets, skipping the shower and this beauty:

Got some toothbrushes, mints, and headache meds at the shop. Then ordered McDonalds. Please, do not scorn. We eat fast food about 1/10th or less than we did in the US.

Got Crispy Creme (again, not a regular habit):

And enjoyed the beauty of the area:

Then we loaded back up, full of deliciousness, and continued our road trip:

We arrived in the dark and settled in. The trip was about 6 hours, so not a big deal for pros like us. The next morning we went here:

Our youngest son is now old enough to go to the temple with us. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we enjoy the blessing of attending the temple. Here's a little history of why we have temples:

The trip back I slept part of the way in my son's little nest he had built himself in the back seat of the car whilst he rode up front with his dad. Lovely weekend! Thank you Scotland and England for your delightful service stations!

3 September 2014

5 Things I don't miss (as much as I thought I would)

Possibly this post could also be titled, "5 Things I love about living in Scotland as opposed to the United States that I thought I would hate", but that is a bit long for a title!

There are a myriad of differences between living in Scotland and living in the United States. Seriously, tons of things! From little, seemingly insignificant conveniences, to the bigger and seemingly significant things. After living here one year, going back to the States for 5 weeks this summer gave me insight into what I am enjoying about this experience. In no particular order, here are 5 things I don't miss about the States:

Drive Thru Fast Food Restaurants: 
Photo from commons.wikimedia
McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, DQ, Jack in the Box, and all of those guys! Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the convenience of the drive thru while I was visiting this summer. I just don't long for the ease of this like I thought I would. There are plenty of convenient ways to get food here. And, frankly, we are eating healthier. It takes more planning on our part to do without this feature, but we indulge in "fast food" infrequently now.

Drive Thru Pharmacies: 
Photo by commons.wikimedia
More convenient? Yes. Takes a bit more planning to get our medicines? Yes. The pharmacy we use is one mile down the road, and parking is terrible! The best plan is to walk down, hop the bus, or have someone hop out of the car to pick up stuff whilst the driver goes to the end of the village and comes back to pick them up. And all of that is an adventure! 

Late opening hours:
Photo by commons.wikimedia
Everything in the States is open later than here. Except maybe in really small towns. Grocery stores, restaurants, malls, department stores, home improvement stores, gyms, banks, and pharmacies. In Aberdeen, most things close by 6PM. Year round. The big grocery stores are open a bit later. A bit. (There is a 24 hour grocery store nearby for emergency use!) Restaurants are open a bit later than 6. And on Thursdays everything is open "late", which makes for a fun outing. All of this means more planning and patience. And the temptation to shop late and be away from home in the evening is minimized. More time at home in the evenings with my family is a nice trade-off. 

Driving on the right side of the road:

Photo from commons.wikimedia
Seriously not a big deal to drive on the LEFT side here. I thought it would take me ages to adjust. It hasn't. I thought going back to the States and driving on the right would be hard to re-adjust to. It isn't. Gearing up to take lessons and pass the impossibly hard driving test - now that does scare me!

Driving my big van everywhere:

Photo from commons.wikimedia
Sure, I loved the days of piling my van full of kids and stuff! I loved it's roominess and the ability to spread kids across several rows. However, I am enjoying this phase of my life. I love hopping on the bus with some or all of my boys and heading into town for an adventure. No parking to worry about. No traffic to navigate. Just visiting on the bus and using our feet to get us around town. 

There is much I love about our adventure here, and it's not going to last forever. I am finding joy in little things and celebrating this chance to live a slower paced life. For now.