Monday, June 30, 2008

Random Thoughts of the Day

1. I really enjoy almonds. Matt bought a bag of them in the Cotswolds, and I'm really appreciating his thoughtful purchase.

2. I think I forgot to mention previously that a few weeks ago my husband helped a little old lady across the street. She took him by the arm and truly appreciated the assistance. I wish I had taken a picture.

3. I'm watching Wimbledon for the first time in the UK. Something seems different about watching it from here.

In Love with England: The Lake District

Drive through the Scottish Borders

Outside Hawkshead-Hill Village (right outside where my friend Beth grew up -- can you even imagine growing up in a place like that?!?!?)

Tarns Hows -- Look at that view!


17th Century Baptismal Pool

Darling Store in Hawkshead-Hill Village

Historic Church in Hawkshead-Hill Village

England is captivating. Absolutely captivating. The change in landscapes and culture from one destination to the next is simply enthralling.

Matt and I headed south early Thursday morning. The Scottish Borders feel like driving through a movie -- I didn't know such beauty existed -- and it exists 45 minutes from my front door. The drive continued to increase in beauty and awe as we entered the Lake District. Rugged and untouched, the Lake District, also known as Cumbria, provides a haven to all those who love hill-walking (hiking). There were footpaths (trailheads) roughly every five minutes along our drive. The terrain there is lush and green and spotted with sheep and rocks.

Our first stop in the Lake District was Ambleside. Ambleside is the kind of village you enter and you get overwhelmed that this place exists and is discoverable. Hill-walkers descend from the footpaths in this bustling village, pubs and tearooms abound, and quaint B&B's and cottages familiar with the Northwest English architectural style are tucked into the folds of the winding streets.

Next, we ventured on to Hawkshead-Hill Village, known as the "Prettiest Village in the Lake District." There's no thru traffic in Hawkshead-Hill, so we left the car on the edge of the village and ventured through on foot. I proceeded to make a small purchase at Hawkshead Relish (so good the Queen herself has gotten in on the action there!) and made a few other purchases at the little quaint stores in the village. We visited the historic church, wandered through the cemetery, and finally ventured on to our self-accommodating flat. This accommodation boasted a 17th century graveyard and outdoor baptismal pool in the back garden. Of special note is that William Wordsworth referenced this baptismal pool in his writings. Wow! Later that evening we ventured back into the heart of the village for dinner at a local pub, and we watched the Eurocup. Everyone in the village that cared about the Eurocup was in this pub. I had brought in Pride and Prejudice to read while Matt watched the game but felt a bit guilty taking up a seat in the pub just to read and not watch the game. Alas, I compromised and did a bit of both!

The next morning we ventured out to the top of Tarn Hows -- it was a breathtaking view and then we hit the road to head south toward the Cotswolds. On our way out of the Lake District, we passed through Windermere and another handful of little villages lining the lakes and peaks of Cumbria. It took a few more hours to get to the Cotswolds than originally anticipated due to all the stopping and starting on the M6. However, there's one redeeming thing about the M6: they don't have normal rest stops. Instead, they're "Moto Stops" consist of a Marks & Spencers Market, a W.H. Smith, an upscale coffee shop, and a fast food restaurant of some sort. The Moto Stop reminded me of an airport terminal. It was also nice being able to pick up a healthy salad on the road from M&S instead of a Whopper. How remarkably different is that! And you're really forced to stop at these Motos because there aren't any other places to stop. The interstates are not dotted with a plethora of exits filled with fast food and gas stations. Your choices are limited; however, who cares about limited choices when the choice is so delightful!

More to come on the Cotswolds ...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

“There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.” Robert Louis Stevenson

“It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.” G. K. Chesterton

"Whoever is happy will make others happy, too." Mark Twain

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

United Kingdom 101

People constantly think I live in England or Ireland and very few seem to know the difference between the UK and Great Britain. It is confusing! So, if you've made the mistake, no worries! It is a bit odd to be able to drive south an hour and be in another country without having to go through a border check, show ID, etc. Here's a brief explanation:

The United Kingdom is a country that consists of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In fact, the official name of the country is "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."
Great Britain is the name of the island northwest of France and east of Ireland that consists of three somewhat autonomous regions: England, Wales and Scotland.

Therefore, England is part of Great Britain, which is part of the United Kingdom. The U.K. includes England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are not countries but the United Kingdom is. The remaining portion of the island of Ireland (that which is not the U.K.'s Northern Ireland) is an independent country called the Republic of Ireland (Eire).


Five Years Later ....

It's been five years since I visited Guadalajra, Mexico. Since my visit, I haven't heard from anyone I met in Guadalajara. Not one -- despite a few attempts on my behalf. Since my college days (4 years ago - wow! - when I took four semesters of Spanish), all I've said in Spanish is:

- Two tickets please (bus to the airport in Barcelona)
- I would like a chocolate croissant and coffee with milk (ordering breakfast)
- Do you need to use my telephone (lady on the side of the road in Nashville)
- You called your husband. Okay. (lady on the side of the road in Nashville)
- Hello. Do you speak English? (Basically everywhere in Barcelona)

Then I receive the following email from Juan:

"hola soy juan!!!! te acuerdas? en guadalajara ja como has estado? yo me acuerdo de ti aun jajajajaj saludos a ti y tu familia bye."

Random? Yes. Am I up for the task of communicating in espanol? Hmmmm..... okay ..... yes. Am I ridiculously out of practice? Yes. Which is why I've pulled out the ole 501 Spanish Verbs --- so I can puedo hablar en espanol once again.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Weekend in Pictures

First thing Saturday morning I had tea with my friend Trudy at the National Gallery of Scotland. She is a doll!

Next, Matt and I headed over to the market for paella and to make a purchase from the olive vendor -- and they are delicious. Check out the variety!

This is the robot performer. He's out pretty much every Saturday on Princes Street and is quite good. However, the crowds he attracts can be a bit annoying when all I want to do is go buy my groceries.

Then Matt and I visited the Craigmiller Castle, which was built in the 14th century and abandoned in the 18th century.

An inside view of the deceptively large castle.

Exploring the Castle.

Proof (even though it's a bit blurry) that I was actual at the Castle.

Dinner at a delicious Polish restaurant named the Krakow Cafe. I had a potato pancake with mushroom sauce and two salads. Our delightful waitress is from Krakow -- after her description of her home country and an amazingly yummy meal, I went home and researched a little trip over to Poland. Poland is now on my wish list!

Friday, June 20, 2008

One Proud Sister

I am one proud sister. Check out Hilary's audition video.

*** Warning: I have no idea how to remove inappropriate content from showing up on YouTube. So, be ye warned that it's a jungle out there. ***

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"We look to Scotland for all our ideas
of civilisation." -- Voltaire

Life Abroad Part 1

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald opines on whether or not lovers of travel should quit their jobs and go abroad for a year at a time. The main argument against traveling is that careers and progression in one's profession suffer if someone takes an extended period of time away from their job. I agree -- taking large periods of time away from one's profession is not the way to climb the colloquial corporate ladder. That quintessentially sums up why I was not jumpin' on the bandwagon with Matt to come out to Edinburgh. However, after living here a bit under ten months, I'm inclined to be all the more enthusiastic about the author's third suggestion: work in London and travel, travel, travel. While I'm not living in London, I'm doing pretty much the same thing except that I have more flexibility as I work for an American company (or two) and telecommute. I feel so grateful for the blessing to live and work abroad.

Life outside America -- perhaps particularly the South -- is so different. Perhaps in the next few posts I'll dissect some of the amazing things about living in Scotland and lessons learned living a non-American life! (Especially in light of the current oil crisis, potential end to suburbia, and the upcoming Presidential election --- but also in light of the small things too like being unable to find red pepper flakes and Splenda at the grocery store). I travel back to the U.S. in several weeks and between now and then have some big work deadlines and am also taking a small vaca down to England ... so we'll see how much dissecting I can do.

I'll leave you with one fabulous thing about the UK. Calories are not called calories. Calories are called "energy" here. How fantastic is that? "Engery" conjurs up in my mind an exponential quality -- not something we should be trying to keep to a minimum. I mean, who wants to keep their energy intake low!?!??!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Loving Life in Edinburgh

Are you ready to smile? Check out this bit of news about the Haymarket Train Station in town. It just so happens to be the closest station to our flat.

Also of note, I had my first Scottish salon experience today. Having been warned by a fellow ex-pat American -- before I moved -- that I would be unable to leave a salon without a bit of Brit in my hair, I've been avoiding ... and well, procrastinating ... going to the salon. There are several reasons. Everyone knows the U.S. dollar is about as low as it has been against the Pound since my birth -- so the price of a haircut here has encouraged my avoidance. However, the price has very little to do with it. My main reason for avoiding the salon is the product most salons turn out. You'd really have to be here in person to see it (think: you're sitting in your local salon flipping through their book of all the different hairstyles and you don't see one hairstyle anyone on this side of the Atlantic would don). Since I would feel incredibly rude asking random people on the street if I could take a picture of their hair, I will do my best to describe the "looks" with words. Actually, I'll allow a local hairstylist to describe one particular local look:

"I am a hairdresser at charlie miller in frederick street edinburgh, they are hosting auditions for their young artistic team this week and i am wanting to apply, for this i need to present a cut and colour model in front of a panel of judges. Unfortunatly i haven't found any one yet and am looking for someone who is quite funky and will be willing to have their hair quite short. The colouring will be blonds coppers and pastels preferably but cant be changed, in return the model will have there hair done free of charge for 6 months." - Edinburgh's Gumtree

Hence, my avoidance ........

However, all went well today. My new friend, T , did a fabulous job of keeping my "natural" look. He served me peppermint tea and I flipped through a British fashion mag and he shared with me that he was going on holiday in Miami next year for 24 days. Holiday means vacation. One cultural observation: salons here aren't gossip galas like they are back home. I was literally the only customer in the entire salon talking to my hairdresser. Anyways, Mission Salon is now accomplished. Now on to the bigger and better missions.

Four Seasons Lodge

I must see this movie.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Many Blessings

Matt and I had plans to make a daytrip on Saturday but the weather forecast insisted heavy showers would ruin our day, so we opted to stay in Edinburgh. Which worked out well. We saw a great film! Hor de Prix (Priceless in English) was a witty, captivating French romantic comedy. French romantic comedies are strikingly different than their American counterparts -- they're just not as cheesy. My husband even liked this film. The breathtaking views of the French Riviera weren't sore on the eyes either. Afterwards, we thought French food was in order, so we headed to Maison Bleu for an early dinner.

This week marks the beginning of the famous Edinburgh Film Festival. There are several films we'd like to see but we've narrowed our choices down to the Elite Squad (Brazilin) and Son of a Lion (Afghan). Each showing of the film is accompanied by a talk from the director, producer, and any of the actors or actresses that decided to attend. When we were at the Filmhouse on Saturday, I did my best to find out what actresses would be in attendance. I was particularly curious about Kiera Knightley, Sienna Miller, Penelope Cruz, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. But .... the girl working kept mum. She had a sparkle in her eye like she knew something but couldn't tell. So, I will just have to keep my eyes peeled as I walk the streets of Edinburgh this week!

We're also headed south next week! Matt again will brave driving on the left side of the road as we venture through the Lake District and further south through the Cotswolds. We've been told both areas will provide a lovely and delightful shortbreak. I think it will be most wonderful to spend time in the charming English countryside! I'll make sure to post pictures and share stories when we return.

I hope you have a lovely week!

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Matt made a daytrip to Cambridge this past Wednesday. Not only did he return with these pictures, but he also brought me a pretty cool Cambridge t-shirt. And after a glimpse of the beautiful sites in Cambridge, I've decided I'll be with him next time he returns!

Friday, June 13, 2008

New Flat

Neighborhood Cheesemonger

Botanic Gardens

At the Botanic Gardens. Notice the Edinburgh Castle in the distance.

Luke teaching me to make sushi!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Walk in the Pentlands

Horrible Haggis

Sorry to leave everyone hanging! The haggis was actually not so horrible. My haggis experience took place at the Tempting Tattie. (Smile). Scots love baked potatos with "stuff." I say "stuff" because it's not anything Americans would naturally think of putting on a baked potato. "Stuff" includes cottage cheese, baked beans, tuna salad, pasta salad, derivations of chicken salad, sauteed mushrooms .... and haggis. I had a bite of baked potato with cheddar cheese and a bit of haggis. J. Lo thinks haggis is a bit like meatloaf. I can't say that it reminded me of meatloaf, but it tasted flavorful and I could see how it's a Scottish version of comfort food. I did not spit it out. Nor did I get sick afterwards ... however, I would not say that I have a cast iron stomach (although your confidence in me is much appreciated).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Did It!

I tried haggis today! Unbelievable. For those of you who are not familiar with haggis - let me explain. Merriam-Webster defines haggis as "a traditionally Scottish dish that consists of the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep or a calf minced with suet, onions, oatmeal, and seasonings and boiled in the stomach of the animal." (BTW--- What is suet!?!!?)Honestly, I still can't believe I tried it. We can blame it on my friend J.Lo (Yes - I have a J.Lo, too). I've been avoiding it like the plague since my arrival in Scotland. I scoffed at Customs when we arrived in the US for asking me if I was carrying haggis. As if.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

(Image © Kodak Gallery and Soldiers' Angels Germany)

I know what it's like to come home to America after being gone for quite some time... but my emotion doesn't even compare to the emotion captured in this picture. In the past year, two of my students have been soldiers in Iraq. Both these soldiers have been excellent students. Each has also written their final paper on the Iraq War. The last student, I'll call him C, witnessed numerous atrocities (not that the other student hadn't, C just happened to share a lot of personal experiences). C survived having his tank bombed but had sadly witnessed numerous friends and colleagues die a violent death. What was so fascinating, and also such a good, albeit grave, remdinder is one thing that C wrote: there are those in existence who hate and hate without, arguably, a valid cause -- they hate to such a degree that they willingly die for their hate. Our soldiers are protecting us from this hate and they're allowing the American way of life to continue. I've always been one to thank a soldier ... but with additional experiences and additional knowledge, my heart is even heavier with gratitude for their sacrifice.


Trends and pop culture differ place to place. I'm curious ... have either of the following found their way into average American life?

- Estelle's American Boy. As an ex-pat, this tune is just too fun over here:) If you haven't heard it, visit and take a listen. I'm assuming Welsh Duffy is mainstream by now -- it just seems obvious.

- Keffiyeh scarves. Last fall, I noticed these everywhere -- all young hipsters donned these but it's gone even further. Recently when I was flying on Easyjet I flipped through their airline mag and one writer mentioned how keffiyeh scarves could be seen on all ages in locales from Casablanca to Copenhagen. Anyway, personally I wouldn't wear one -- not that I believe everyone wearing it is supportive or sympathetic to terrorists. For more on the controversy of the keffiyeh read this article and this blurb on wikipedia.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Happy Monday Morning!

The high today is supposed to reach 72 degrees. Which means, this is the second time I've worn short sleeves since living in Scotland. Amazing. Too bad I'm inside slaving away to the ever pressing issue of determining when a private entities' actions qualify as "state action" and can be held liable for violating another parties constitutional rights. Aren't you just dying to find that out??? Me too.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

It's a New Day, It's a New Dawn

... and a new flat! Matt and I are delighted to announce that we will be relocating to the Stockbridge area of Edinburgh come September. Our new flat is on the edge of the Water of Leith amidst the village of Stockbridge. Not only will we no longer need a bus pass, but we will also have all wanted amenities at our fingertips -- including three coffee shops thirty seconds from our front door and a dryer to accompany our washing machine. No more baggy jeans! (Sometimes the European life is not so glamourous ... )

We explored our new neighborhood yesterday and were delighted with all that it holds. It's complete with a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker. (I have pictures to prove the candlestick maker --- because, really --- who has one of those?) Pictures to come soon!

Friday, June 6, 2008


Each year, Mom and I had two special outings -- each of which I loved. Our first special outing was to the Parade of Homes. Local builders, architects, and interior designers hosted an event where several recently-built homes would be open for tour. It was fun! These houses were beautifully designed with no detail left undone. Several times the Parade of Homes would fall around the time of Mom's birthday, and it was always something fun to do on a day of celebration. I remember a good family friend, Cindy, calling from Russia to wish Mom a happy birthday when we were at a Parade in Franklin -- it was the one where you had to take a trolley from the parking area to the actual home sites. Mom and I also would attend the Junior League's Decorator's Show House ... but there was always something about that Parade of Homes.

We also loved attending Christmas Village together. I must have been under the age of 10 the first time I tagged along to Christmas Village. And oh how I was inspired to be Christmas Decorator Extraordinaire! Well, maybe not decorator ... but I sure did make a lot of Christmas cards and stationary that first year.

Most of all, I just loved spending time with my mom and having traditions that were unique to the two of us. As I make plans to come home and visit with my family this summer, I'd love to be able to revive a few of our traditions. When I attended college only a few hours from home, I could still keep our traditions alive. Law school was a bit more difficult but still manageable. Living overseas -- hardly manageable. But I will put forth effort! Obviously, Christmas Village will not be held in July or August. However, I am on the hunt for a Parade of Homes. Thus far I've found one in Utah and another in Wisconsin.

So, friends, family, and readers, if you have a suggestion as to a Parade of Homes or anything somewhat like it, please send the info my way. While Utah and Wisconsin aren't the most desirable of areas to visit, I am still open to traveling -- but I'm primarily looking for somewhere in the South and preferably a somewhat easy drive.

That's enough reminiscing and planning for now .... signing off and back to work.

~ Ashli ~

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I'm so Proud!

Hilary's opening night of Into the Woods is this evening. I'm so proud of her! Break a leg Hil!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Highlights from Scotland

I dearly, dearly love my precious parents. I am so blessed to be their daughter. They recently returned to the states after a 10 day visit with Matthew and me. After returning from London, our week in Scotland included:

Lunch at Marche Noir. A tour of Morningside. Shopping at small boutiques and charity shops. Tea and coffee at Peter's Yard. Dinner at home -- gourmet fare by M&S.

High street shopping with my mom! To me, there's nothing like shopping with mom ... I accomplish so much more with her by my side. It's amazing. Plus, she totally talks me into worthy splurges.

We rented a car and went driving! First stop was charming Stirling. After views of the castle and a light lunch, we headed east toward Loch Lomond. We drove through the Troussachs and it was beautiful! This is the part of Scotland that is good for the soul. We also made a stop in Perth and found a TKMaxx -- yes, you read that right. Not TJ but TK. But it's the same thing, and this particular TK was huge! We then headed back to Edinburgh and decided to dine on the absolute other end of Edinburgh at Fishers in Leith. Mom and I shared some yummy dishes -- the best of which was a hot trout salad, consisting of salad leaves, trout, and pan-fried potatos - and it was d-i-v-i-n-e. Matt was such a great driver, too. We only had to remind him to drive on the left side the road about three times. Go Matt!

We went to an Italian street festival. Watched Indiana Jones. Lunched at Always Sunday. And I made dinner!

Attended Edinburgh's famous Farmers' Market. Ate pork sandwiches and angus beef burgers. Mom and dad met some of our friends at the market. Matt and dad headed to bookstores and mom and I headed toward High Street for more shopping. We all met for coffee at the Elephant House. Best way to end a fabulous week with family: Petit Paris. Topped off with a chocolate crepe.

Simple Truth

God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

Matthew 5:11-12

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Weekend Review and Current Musings

Friday evening Matt and I enjoyed the Michelin starred culinary skills of some of Edinburgh's local chefs -- and it was delish! We also rubbed shoulders with a few locals that we don't seem to run into on the bus. Ha! With entry at $25 a ticket and samples beginning at $12 a pop, it's no wonder most of these folks aren't taking public transportation. It was enjoyable seeing another side of Edinburgh and also quite enjoyable sampling gourmet fare.

Yesterday we ventured to the village of Balerno and attempted to hike the Pentland Hills. These Hills are large! We ended up taking a 6 mile walk and barely brushed the beginning of some of the trails. To my surprise (and chagrin), I also got a bit of sun .... the first time since moving to Scotland. The shock! Matt was quite pleased to discover all the Pentland trails ... I'm a bit put off with these hikes becaue the trail heads start a good 30-45 minutes away from where the bus drops you. I'm just not a fan of walking 30-45 minutes up a desolate, paved street to begin a hike.

I'm also making slow, slow process through Crime and Punishment. It is pathetic how long it is taking me to get through this book - as I started it at the beginning of April. Today marks June 1. Wow. It's a classic and even though I'm towards the end of the book, I'm still waiting for the hope. I'm hoping for the hope found in Crime and Punishment. But honestly, it's a bit depressing and I've started avoiding reading it. So instead of making progress in Crime, I'm researching all the other books I plan on reading soon. I've decided I'm going to order a load of interesting, fun reads and have them shipped to my parents home in the US. Something to look forward to .... If you have any suggestions, leave a comment or email me. I want to read the kind of book that once I begin reading, I have to finish within 24 hours.

Also of noteworthy mention is that our church moved to a new location: The Dominion Theater. Quite untraditional and almost an hour journey, it seems like it might still work. We will see. We really do enjoy the people there. And the people are what really matter -- a community of people with character is huge.

Well, I'm off ...... hope you have a lovely start to your week!
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