1.16.2014

Home Sweet Home

Since we've gotten married, Nick and I have visited the Cayman Islands, Cozumel, Holland, Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, Aruba, CuraƧao, Bolivia, the Faroe Islands, Denmark, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and Scotland...17 countries in 6 years!  I'd say that we are on a good roll!  I have always loved traveling and thought that I would grow up to be an airline hostess or photographer for National Geographic or pretty much anything where I would live overseas or travel (I actually had a lot of my own plans for when I grew up, but God had different plans for me...I'm so thankful!).  We live in Florence, SC now and although it isn't the most interesting or adventurous place to live, we have grown to love it!  We have our family close by, a beautiful home and lots of good friends.  The more I travel, the more I appreciate my own home:). However, we still plan to keep traveling...of course (take a look at our bucket list).  There are so many places around the world that I want to see and so many friends that I want to visit!


So, here we are again...sitting in another airport getting ready to board another plane.  We flew from Edinburgh to Dublin last night and stayed in a Holiday Inn near the airport, since our flight from Dublin all the way back to Florence isn't until today.


Europeans are so economical and live so simply.  Everything is built in a way to save the most resources (we really could do well by copying some of their ideas).  Our hotel room double-bed was the perfect size for two 10-year-old girls.  The TV was a 10 inch from 1987.  Every outlet has little on/off switches to turn the electric on only when in use.  The lights and heating in the hotel room only turn on once you insert your room key and leave it in this little box by your door.  The elevator only works if you insert your room key and then press the up/down button.  The shower is set on a certain heat so you only turn on/off the water and don't waste any as you change the temperatures.  The bathroom door doubles back and also becomes the toilet room door, instead of having two doors.  

I really do love the simplicity.  Most people here live in homes only big enough for their actual needs.  They have enough closet and drawer space for the amount of clothes they need (not near as big as American closets).  Their refrigerators are just big enough for a few days necessities (about 1/3 the size of an American fridge).  Washers hold very small loads and clothes are dried by hanging them over the radiators that heat the homes.  The cars (as I have covered before) are for hobbits, but perfect for the tiny winding roads and parking spaces.  I could go on and on...I'm so impressed!  Nothing in excess.  Nothing is wasted.  Everything has a purpose and a place.  So simple.  I love it.  Nick and I would love to live in Europe one day.

But, let's be honest.  Right now, I can't wait to get picked up by my parents in an SUV or truck at the Florence airport, sleep in our queen sized bed, wash AND dry a huge load of dirty clothes, enjoy our six acres of land and I really really really could use a juicy hamburger and hot fries!!!!

So goodbye Dublin and hello USA!!!

Oh yea...at the end of each of our trips, Nick and I decide where we want to go next.  Then we start planning and saving.  But, for some reason, this is the first time we can't decide where to next!  Nick says somewhere in the Mediterranean to visit friends in Greece.  I say an East Coast road trip or drive the Appalachain trail.  We also have friends in Tazmania and Germany that have invited us to come.  Where should we go?!?!?!?  Any suggestions?

1.15.2014

HOW TO PACK FOR THREE WEEKS IN EUROPE

Sorry guys, this one's for the girls...

Not that I'm that fashionable, but I've heard that every person has their own style.  So I may not have "style", but I do have "a style".

A couple people were wondering how Ironman and I travel so light, so I thought I would open up my suitcase.  I've got a lifetime of knowledge...please say someone recognizes that line from Amanda Bynes in "She's the Man".

packed and ready to head out!
Here we are, in 2013, leaving on Christmas Day for Northern Ireland!  We spent two weeks in Northern Ireland and Ireland and one week in Scotland.  I actually thought that we had brought too much and was worried about weight restrictions because of flying with Ryan Air.  Plus, I had gifts for the bride, Michaela, and mine and Mary Ashley's friend, Jess...

Jess enjoying her American treats!
First things first, our toiletry bag...when we travel, we only pack the basics like shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, chapstick, our favorite essential oils (we share all of these items so that we aren't packing double), each of our toothbrushes (we don't share haha) and I bring mascara for more dressy occasions.

toiletries and other essentials
My favorite shoes in the world...cowgirl boots.  At the last minute I freaked out and threw in the black flats "just in case", but didn't wear them once.  What can I say???...I just really love my cowgirl boots!!!  They are warm and comfortable and go with everything.

my everyday shoes
Next are the scarves, hat and gloves.  The colorful pashmina is a gift from Jess, so I didn't bring it, but I'm going home with it...thank you Jess!  The gloves I actually found on the road somewhere and they are NOT warm (maybe that's why they were left in the road...?).  And the hat I bought in Edinburgh because I forgot to pack one in Florence. Oh well, purple's my favorite color, so it turned out ok!
items to help me stay warm!
Next are for the legs...a pair of black leggings, a pair of black Cuddl Duds and a pair of grey tights.  I actually didn't bring the grey tights, but bought them at TKMaxx (yes TK, not TJ) because one day I wore hose, was freezing and had to buy some tights ASAP!  The Cuddl Duds ended up being my favorite and I want to buy another pair from Sams Club at some point. If you like to wear leggings and don't have Cuddl Duds, buy some...you'll have a new best friend.  No joke.

leggings and tights for layering
Next are the dresses and the cardigans.  A black dress, a grey dress, a hunter green cardigan and a grey cardigan.

dresses and cardigans
So, basically, I started each day with either one of the two dresses, then I would choose leggings or tights, then one of the two cardigans, one of the three scarves and then top everything off with my cowgirl boots, winter coat, hat and gloves!

Of course, I did pack an outfit for the wedding...

wedding outfit
So, that's all I wore (well, I didn't take photos of my underwear...I hope you understand haha).  Well, actually, that's all I wore, but that's not all I packed:).  This is what happens to me every time we travel.

1.  Make a list of what Ironman and I want to pack (Ironman forgets to pack things like underwear when he isn't supervised...true story).
2.  Pack everything on my list, check it twice (or 37 times).
3.  Freak out at the last minute and start shoving things in the nooks and crannies of my poor little suitcase.

So, here are those unfortunate items (I didn't wear them even once):

items I didn't end up wearing!
Two black tank tops and a black turtleneck.  One white tank top and a white turtleneck.  A black Cuddl Duds top and finally the dreaded skinny jeans.  I have a love/hate relationship with skinny jeans. I'll put them on with a super girlie shirt and my cowgirl boots (of course) and think "I love this outfit...look how cute!".  Then I have to do everyday life things like sit down, bend over, ride in the car, etc. and it starts to go downhill really quickly.  I pull them up at the waist since they slide down and around when I move.  But then I have to pull them down at the ankles because they bunch at the knees.  Then, when I sit down, I have to decide whether I want my stomach chunk and love handles to be tucked down and into the sufficating skinniness or if I'll just leave it to all hang out (this is when Ironman will affectionately squeeze these areas and call me "chunky lunky"...his sweet face helps him get away with a lot).  It's these major life crisis' and decisions that make me crazy. When I'm alone I just grin (scowl and clench my teeth) and bare it, but if Ironman is home and he sees me get "the look", he sends me to my room to change.  Yes, this actually happens in our adults only home.  So, all this is to say that each day when I got dressed, my questioning look towards my skinny jeans would quickly turn into "evils" (as Michaela would say) and I would chose the leggings and dresses...I would choose comfort....choose happiness...I choose life.  

So, what's your favorite items to pack for a trip to Europe?  Give me some ideas so that I can store them away for my future trips!


1.14.2014

Last Day in Edinburgh

Our luxury Northern Ireland and Scotland vacation is coming to a close:(. So today was a day of "lasts"...so sad...

We got one last view of a kilt and one last good listen to some bagpipes...


One last monument with the Stewart name...they are everywhere so Nick says we are moving to Scotland...I told him I'm game if he buys me black waterproof boots and some warmer gloves:).  I know I know, I'm high maintenance.  Oh, and he needs a job...minor detail.


One last view of Edinburgh...


Well, maybe a couple more...



One last photo of us (until the next one of course...we do love our photos...actually Nick doesn't, just me!)...


One last Haggis Tatties and Neeps and Fish and Chips...this is going to be a hard one to say goodbye to!!!  I'm very attached to my Fish and Chips.  A man next to us ordered the same meal and left all his chips.  What?!?!?!?!  I don't know if it was my missionary side that kicked in, but I was deeply troubled by his leftover uneaten chips and seriously considered taking his plate after he walked away and before the server returned.  Let me assure you...I thought this but didn't do this.  I stayed in my seat and only allowed myself to look over at his plate and imagine eating those perfectly fried chips.  It was hard.  I stayed strong.  I did not pass GO.  I did not collect $200.  When I voiced all of these thoughts/concerns to Nick, he looked at me with this somewhat freaked out "are you serious?!" type face (this happens pretty often).  Poor husband.  Sometimes when I'm acting crazy, I'll ask him "what if I was really like this?!" And he'll say, "you are really like that!".  But now that I'm thinking over all this again (while I'm writing), I think my dad would have thought the same thing, but he probably would have eaten the chips off of the strangers plate and asked the waitress to bring him ketchup.  So, yet again, I can't be held responsible for my actions. Here is my public apology to the public...we Jackson's are crazy...and we drag Nick along with us.  See him below with that sweet innocent face?...poor husband...he didn't even realize what he or himself into 6 years ago!!!


So we did one last ATM withdrawal, begged for change for bus fare one last time, visited ASDA (grocery store) one last time...

Tomorrow morning we will fly to Dublin and stay the night in a hotel and then fly home on Thursday!!!  I know you're all dying to see us:)

1.13.2014

THE LAND OF IRONMAN'S FOREFATHERS

Ironman's great great grandfather, Alexander Stewart, was born around 1865 near or in Stirling, Scotland and was in agricultural supply or equipment business.  So today's trip was special for him, since we visited Stirling!

We left the house with Malcolm, Andrew and Belinda at 8:30am and all took a bus to the train station on Princes Street.  When we got to the train station and got our tickets we were in such a hurry that we didn't say goodbye to Andrew and Belinda!  Oh well...thank goodness for Facebook!  Malcolm got us on the right train and we took off for Stirling, Scotland:)

When we arrived around 11am, Stirling seriously seemed dead.  There were barely any cars or people and all of the shops were closed.  We kept wondering what was going on, but by early afternoon it started to pick up and look normal.



We followed our handy dandy tourist map and found our way to the Stirling Castle.




People told us that the Edinburgh Castle was better, but we actually enjoyed this one more and it was cheaper!  We had a free guided tour, no crowds and there was a lot more areas of the Caslte open to the public.  It also meant a lot more to Ironman since his great great grandfather lived here and saw the same castle every day.  He is hoping that he is actually from the royal bloodline, but since his family might have been in agriculture supply or equipment business, I'm thinking probably not:(.  But just in case, here we are:


Actually, though, see the crest above Ironman's head?  There is a lion?  Well, his family crest has three lions together...same lion.  So maybe that's a sign that he is royal?  We will certainly let everyone know if we inherit a significant amount of money or half or Scotland, etc.  


So, here is Ironman in the Great Hall...in front of our thrones!  Not only was the Castle amazing, but so were the views!


Above is a chapel and graveyard beside the Castle.


Stirling was known as the gateway to the Highlands and the Guardian of Scotland because of its strategic location and views to every direction!


So we said goodbye to Ironman's long lost home :) and started our loonnnngggg hike to the William Wallace Monument.


Some guy and his girlfriend picked us up and gave us a ride to the Monument since they were also going (he stopped and offered...we didn't plan on hitchhiking).  He said that he had heard us asking for directions.  He was a Scottish guy that had taught English in China and she was a girl from Israel who spent time in Alaska.  Then they both ended up in Australia and met there:). She came here to visit him and see Scotland and next, they will go to Israel for him to see where she is from:).  So, it was GREAT to have a ride, but after we got in the back of yet another two door hobbit car, I hoped that we hadn't volunteered ourselves for CNN's breaking news.  Two Americans Missing, Found Dead, Murdered, etc!!!  Anyway...the guy was smaller than Ironman and the girl had a hurt foot, so I figured we had the upper hand and could take them if we had too. You're laughing.  I'm serious.  I had it all planned out in my head.

So, since I am writing this post you already have confirmation that we are alive and well!  No need to worry!


The William Wallace Monument!!!...looks like something out of The Lord of the Rings:)

So there were t-shirts that you could buy saying, "I survived the 246 steps of the Wallace Monument", but after walking up thousands of steps to get to El Cristo and then the 1,399 steps inside El Cristo while growing up in Bolivia, I thought it would be nothing!  As we walked up though, the wind was blowing through the peep holes and I got so dizzy, thinking that the monument was swaying...Ironman didn't feel anything!  It was pretty claustrophobic, though, and I don't love heights either.  Was I experiencing vertigo?  Who knows?!?!?!?  Ironman always thinks I'm losing my mind or going crazy or something. I actually KNOW that both of those things are true since I was born to Wick Jackson...I can't be held responsible for myself!  At least I'm entertaining, right?!


By the time we made it to the top, it was so windy and began raining...so we didn't stay up there too long.  It was freaking me out a little.  I know...typical.  Isn't it in The Lord of the Rings that one of the wizards jumps or falls off of something that looks like this?  I just kept wondering "why don't they have taller rails?" and "isn't this dangerous, even for adults?".  It's weird...the adventurer side of me is pretty much always on, unless something looks too high or too tight or too dangerous or too uncomfortable...once it gets to that point I normally whine and cry and then Ironman feels sorry for me.  We really do make good traveling companions:)




We were hoping to get a ride with the random couple, back to the train station, but we were done before they even left the first level out of four.  So we went on alone...

This photo below is around 3:07pm...we are having fun, saying things like "Isn't this so cute" and " Don't you want to live here"...well, Ironman didn't use the word "cute":)...it was me.


This photo below is about 3:17pm...we still think that the bus is coming and we are saying things like "I wish Florence had good public transportation like this" and "Isn't this fun?!" and "Smiling's my favorite"...


See the monument behind Ironman?

The bus didn't come, so we took matters into our own hands.  We pretty much made a mutual (dumb) decision that asking directions was too hard and we would walk back to the train station by following our map. 

This is the Old Stirling Bridge, where William Wallace defeated the English!  It is basically in between the Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle.


This is around 4pm when I took the photo of the bridge.  We are now wet and numb and only speaking when necessary...no more comments about fun things or happy ideas.  It's a miracle that I even took this photo.  We both have lost feeling in our hands and toes and raindrops were dropping in our eyes from our tobagons.  I kept hoping the strangers would drive by and pick us up. I guess hitchhiking twice in one day is too good to be true!

And this is when I quit taking photos.  At this point, it was survival of the fittest.  We finally made it to the train station...at this point, Ironman said I looked like a soaking wet little ragamuffin.  We waited for our train which left at 4:37pm (this is after we walked fast for an hour through the rain).  When we finally got back to Edinburgh I really wanted to lie down, curl up and become a street beggar at the train station entrance.  I kept dreaming of my Volvo wagon and the McLeod sauna...I wanted both.  Now.  I told Ironman I couldn't walk anymore, so he bought us some coffee, told me I had to walk and trudged on, holding my arm so I would sink into the sidewalk.  We got our Bus 10 and finally walked Into the McGregors door at 6:36pm.

I'm so tired, I seriously considered not writing today, but I figured someone would read this and our families would like to know we are alive...so I did it!  Yay me:)

Now I'm going to stare at the wall and drool until an the McGregors get back home:)



1.12.2014

It's A Small World After All

This should be a travelers life motto...the more you travel, the more you believe this is true!

So, at Jonny and Michaela's wedding, we saw Steve Packwood.  Steve served onboard the Logos Hope with all of us and now is back home in Scotland.  We found out he knows our hosts, the McGregors because they attend the same church.  So, when we went to church today at Cannubus Christian Centre in Scotland, we saw Steve after just seeing him in Ireland.  Then his wife Heather snuck up and gave us a big hug...we haven't seen her since 2010 onboard the ship in Jamaica!  

Then after church the McGregors had three college girls over for lunch.  They all just arrived from Greenville, SC where they are attending Furman...crazy! 
Nick's from Greenville, if you didn't know.   The McGregors are also hosting (at the same time as us) a couple from Singapore, Andrew and Belinda Ng, who lived in Fort Mill, SC.  And of course the McGregors just left Fort Mill, SC last year to return to Scotland.  So today, while in Scotland, we had lunch with 9 South Carolinians!  And the world gets smaller...after lunch, all of us girls looked each other up on Facebook and found that we have mutual friends.  And now it gets smaller.  One of the girls has mutual friends with Alex Streett from Florence, SC who worked with Nick for a short time.  And it gets smaller.  One of the girls has mutual friends with Maggie Jackson, my SISTER!!!

And it gets crazier!  At dinner tonight, the couple from Singapore who lived in Fort Mill, attended something where my mom, Cindy Jackson, spoke about her burn ministry recently...so they know my mom!  And one more even crazier...then they continued talking and I heard Andrew say "Greg Bryce" and I said, "Are you talking about Greg and Patti Bryce?".  Of course he was.  So, all six of us sitting at the table, one couple from the USA, one from Scotland, one from Singapore...we all know the Bryces from Canada who lived with my family in Bolivia and I went to school with their kids!  Yep, true story! The world is so small, but once you get involved in missions, it gets even smaller!!!


So, here is a photo of our crazy lunch!  Liz is taking the photo and isn't in it.  The girl on the front right is Maggie from Kenya and we didn't find a connection with her:(. I guess the connection is my sisters name is Maggie and my family went on vacation to Kenya when we lived in Ethiopia?  :).  And while in Ethiopia is when we met McGregors from Scotland:).  Love it!  Y'all may think I'm crazy, but I just can't get over how amazing it is!!!  Never ceases to amaze me:)

And can y'all imagine the accents at lunch?  The Kenyan accent, Scottish accents, Singapore accents and finally us...the redneck accents!!!

So we are off to bed and tomorrow we are hopping on a train to Stirling, Scotland!!!


More Translations

Apparently it's not just the Irish that are hard to understand:)

Throw away trash-Bin your Litter
Elevator-lift
Run in (to the store)-pop in
Pharmacy-Chemist

1.11.2014

Hello Edinburgh


Well, we said goodbye to all of our friends in Northern Ireland and hopped on Ryan Air to Edinburgh.  Talk about cheap flights...It felt like all of us passengers were being herded like cattle.  They had us line up to board before the plane even arrived!  Once it pulled in, they herded out the old cattle in record time and probably within 20 minutes, we were in the air!  Also, there were no reserved seats.  So, Nick and I kept wondering why everyone was freakin out to be the first in the plane.  But once we figured out there is only so much bag storage and you choose your own seat, we understood.  Survival of the fittest.  Of course...we were some of the fittest and without even realizing it, got ourselves great seats beside each other and great overhead storage:)  I've never seen anything like it in my 20 years of flying!  You seriously couldn't even get a cup of water unless you paid for it!!!

Our Scottish friend, Malcolm McGregor picked us up and brought us to his home where his wife Liz was already getting dinner ready...


Scottish Meat Pie...yum.

We were shown to our luxurious guest room and couldn't get over what good hosts the McGregors are!  There were little snacks, teas, coffee, cups, bottled water, fruit and a hot water heater in our room!  



Even the bathroom had a little basket of goodies:)


Also, the room is decorated with photos and paintings from all over the world.  There is even a drawing from this artist in Florence SC...you've probably never heard of him...Wick Jackson?


It's crazy to be in Scotland and see a drawing from my own daddy!  

I don't know if I explained this, but the McGregors lived in Ethiopia at the same time as us when I was a little girl.  So they have Ethiopian decorations all over their house...even a drawing of the church and seminary that my daddy built while we lived there!

So we had a good sleep, then woke up to this:


Yea...this is their view...

We had breakfast and headed out for a day in Edinburgh.  We got off the bus on Princess Street and walked up the Royal Mile to the Edinburgh Castle.








And we confirmed that we are royalty...



We had Haggis Tatties and Neeps for lunch:). I don't even know what the neeps were.  The tatties are mashed potatoes.  And the haggis is supposed to be lamb mixed with spices and oats and stuffed back into its own stomach...who knows?...it was good!


The most interested parts of the castle were the outside, the Crown Jewels and the prisoners barracks.  The Crown Jewels had been buried and hidden under a toilet for over a hundred years until they were found again!  And the prisoners were rationed 2 pints of beer and a pound of a half a bread per day, among other things!  I thought that was weird to give them beer and not water!  And that was a lot of bread!

We finished up touring the castle and walked down the Royal Mile to the Queens Palace.




We think the lady who volunteered to take this photo of us was very high...let's just say, it was interesting.


Here are some things that have stuck out to me:

The public buses have free wifi!
Everyone over 60 has free public transportation throughout the entire country!
There are lots of homeless people!  And they all were sitting on the ground, covered in a blanket and cuddling a dog while begging!
The "new city" area of Edinburgh is older than the USA!
The entire city is completely stone and cement!
There are lots of handicapped people in wheelchairs...I've never seen so many in one day!  Nick and I decided that you see them more here because they are using public transportation and city sidewalks...?
It's colder than Northern Ireland!
The buildings have beautiful architecture!
There is whiskey everywhere!!!!!!!!  Seriously!!! And wool clothes:)



So we are wiped out and heading to bed...