Dec 8, 2014

A Tale of Thanksgiving Abroad

So initially, the plan was to get a turkey breast, throw it in the crock pot, and maybe try to track down some cranberry sauce for a lonely Thanksgiving dinner with my little family of three.  But a few days beforehand, the winds of changed determined that no, I wanted it big, and I wanted every single dish we would normally have on Turkey day.  We have four sets of full-time missionaries in our ward (so 8 missionaries total), so we invited them to meet us at the church for a Thanksgiving lunch.  I regretted it right away...I mean, I have never even thought about roasting a turkey in my life, and certainly have never cooked for more than six people before, but we were committed and had the building reserved. We had also asked around, and some of our American friends agreed to join us for the feast (thank heavens, because Becki brought a ton of food and was a huge help).

We shopped on Tuesday, prepped on Wednesday and woke up bright and early to follow the strict oven schedule on Thursday.  The grueling labor of chopping, seasoning and baking became enjoyable as we listened to the fascinating and addictive podcast Serial while we worked...six hours of Serial to be exact.  That's a lot of prep, peeps.  And a lot of Serial.

The problem with my oven is: the temperatures on the dial have either worn off or were never there in the first place.  So my landlord, bless her heart, just wrote in sharpie "min" and "max" without any hint of what the temps are.  So for the last three months I've just been guessing where I should set the dial. They also use Celsius here. When you're just heating up a casserole it's not a big deal, but baking only happens when I'm feeling exceptionally brave.  So I was a little terrified to cook my turkey.  I watched an obscene amount of YouTube videos days in advance on basting and brining and dressing and roasting, and the more I watched the more stressed out I became.  Martha Stewart's voice may seem deceptively calm and soothing, but I honestly wanted to cry after watching her demo.  Actually, I think I did cry.

 In the end, Becki hooked me up with a meat thermometer and I just babysat that turkey like it was my firstborn child (I love you Eleanor).  And it turned out great! It was done just in time.  The zone leaders have a car (so envious) so they picked up all the food from Becki and I's, we walked to the church, Neal carved the bird, all sixteen of us partook of the wonderful meal (Becki made cranberry salsa.  I'm still thinking about that cranberry salsa!), and then we cleaned up the church.  It was fun, so much fun. Definitely worth the work.  But we were exhausted.  I told Neal that I felt like preparing a Thanksgiving meal was more physically and emotionally draining than giving birth (you think I'm joking).  We walked home, crawled into bed just after 7 PM, and caught ourselves all the way up on Serial.  It was glorious.

The only pic we took, the rest of the day was just too darn busy.  Thankful we have such lovely friends when we can't be with family for holidays.

Visitors in Edinburgh: The Colorado Lutzes

Well, we had our first visitors!  The first week of November, Neal's eldest brother Scott and his wife Connie flew in from Colorado Springs for a ten-day vacay.  Neal has three brothers and five sisters, so the Lutz men and their families are distinguished by their locale.  I guess we are now the Edinburgh Lutzes, though I still think of us as the Kansas Lutzes.  Also: after two point five years of marriage, I still can't figure out the plural use of Lutz...Lutzes? Lutz's? Lutzs? Lutz'? Someone help me.

 We showed them around Edinburgh, the free parts (the only parts we know, obv).  They did buy a Historic Scotland pass, which allows free or discounted entry to hundreds of historic sites across the country.  We already have an annual membership, so we used them to tour a few castles, including one Neal and I hadn't visited yet, Craigmillar Castle.  It was totally different than Edinburgh or Stirling Castle in that it was just more...raw.  Most of the rooms were missing roofs and it wasn't all refurbished.  It was a little easier for me to accept that this is an actually castle from centuries ago.

We took a rental car to England for a couple days, and were able to attend the Preston Temple.  We stayed at a beautiful Marriott, thanks to Jeff, Scott/Connie's son, who hooked us up with a lovely room at this joint:

The Brits know how to do hotels. We're getting gypped back home.
 We also visited several quaint and adorable English towns where Connie had some family history sites to visit.  We walked through numerous old churches and cemeteries where her ancestors had been christened and buried.  Honestly amazing stuff.

Absolutely massive cathedral in Durham. My phone died immediately after this pic. But the inside was amazing, trust me.
Our drive through the English countryside was one of the most beautiful I think I've ever taken.  Endless rolling green hills, roaming sheep, old and beautiful bridges.  We had the lovely accompanying background music of Eleanor Arden Lutz crying her lungs out for the majority of the drive (first time in carseat in three months + cutting two teeth = nightmare. Girl was not having it.) My ears burn at the memory. Baby Einstein was used and abused.  I know, we're awful. But desperate times call for desperate measures, I mean, poor Scott and Connie were having to yell their commentary on the scenery over Elle's dramatic screams.   Thankfully, they are well-seasoned parents/grandparents and were totally cool about it. 

After we returned to Edinburgh, Scott and Connie took a few days to visit other cities and towns in Scotland.  They made it up to Inverness, which is very close to Loch Ness.  It was so fun having them stay with us for part of their trip.  Because Neal's family is so huge, it's difficult for me to get to know everyone very well on an individual family reunions and weddings and stuff, it's hard enough to just say 'hello' and 'goodbye' to everyone.  His family is really good about writing each other regularly, so we do know what's going on in each other's lives, but it was nice to sit down and visit so much with the Colorado Lutzes. They're wonderful people and great examples to both of us.  I totally married Neal for his family ;).

Snail Mail

Happy (very) Belated Halloween, from the fastest snail you'll ever meet:

you know, for posterity

Oct 24, 2014

A walk through Princes Street Gardens

Today around 4:00PM I experienced a minor episode of cabin fever.  Neal was busy working on term papers, I was busy working on job apps, Eleanor was busy working on gnawing her way through my backpack, and our flat was starting to feel stuffy and cramped.  I told Neal that no matter what we were up to at 4:30, we were leaving the house for a walk.  So we did.  We went to Princes Street Gardens, a beautiful park right on a busy street full of clothing stores and boutiques, just below the castle.  It was a bit chilly, but E was snug in her bundle bag (one of my top five most useful baby purchases) and we took our time.  Breaks are important.  It's just a matter of re-motivating yourself after the break is over ;)

'Tis the season for lots and lots of pictures of trees :)

Oct 20, 2014

October, I love you

What a glorious month.  It's cliche' and everyone's favorite, but I think October is a young adult's Christmas.  Yesterday as we were relaxing after church with a light rain drizzling outside our window, pulled pork simmering in the crock pot, and E conked out in her crib, I felt absolutely giddy for no reason other than 'fall'!

Neal is reeeaally busy with school.  He has three papers due by the end of the month and has been lamenting about how hard it is to stay inside and study when there is so much to do out there.  But we are here for school, so instead of playing, we've been cooped up in our flat as he works on projects.  Neal's brother and his wife are coming to visit the first week of November so we know there will be plenty of time for fun while they're here.

I have been working on a job opportunity that will allow me to work from home.  I'm in the final stage of my application (it has several tests, hard ones!) and am crossing all my fingers and toes that it will work out.  Wish me luck!

Neal had a weekend retreat with his program at the Marriot on the edge of Edinburgh, and Eleanor and I were able to tag along.  She and I didn't do much aside from eat fancy food and watch two hours of the X Factor (we haven't had a TV our entire marriage! it was amazing.) but we had a wonderful time.  What is about staying in a hotel that is so exciting and makes you feel like you're on vacation even if you haven't left town? This one was pretty darn beautiful.  We explored the grounds just before sunset.

And now a bit about my baby girl.  This Saturday Eleanor will be eight months old.  Eight!!  When strangers ask her age, I often start to say 'four months,' because it seems like she was just there.  The first six months of her life we watched her age physically before our eyes; growing out of clothes every other week, the plumping up of her already chubby thighs and cheeks, and the grand appearance of eyebrows (a massive relief).  I never tired of the repetitive newborn wake-eat-sleep cycle, because it was so fun to watch her grow and to observe the world through her big blue eyes.

We've been in Scotland almost two months, and in the time that we've been here, this kid has gone from refusing baby food, sleeping through the night and sometimes-rolling-over to eating everything in sight, waking up every few hours, and gained an obsession with crawling and cruising.  It's like living with the Tasmanian Devil.

Eleanor never really liked processed baby food, and I really didn't like feeding it to her.  It smelled weird, was incredibly messy and every bite seemed to make her gag.  So I've started giving her pieces of almost whatever we're eating and she's taken to that so much better.  She prefers to feed herself with her determined pincer grasp. When I lift her into the high chair she gets soo excited and starts pounding on the tray until I give her some food. It's really cute, in a savage-y kind of way.

They say most babies go through a sleep regression around this age.  It's supposedly a "phase".  We really lucked out when E was a newborn because she slept 7-7 with one midnight feeding from just a few weeks old.  She always slept in her crib without a fight.  But recently the tables have turned.  She goes down fine, but wakes up every few hours, screaming at the top of her lungs.  We'll walk into her room to find her standing up, hands clenched on the crib rail, head back, wailing at the ceiling. As soon as she sees us she starts flapping her arms, the tears halt, and she squeals like a monkey.  So I'm pretty sure she wakes up, realizes we aren't with her, and freaks out.  We've definitely been dealing with separation anxiety during the day. She panics if I leave the room for two seconds.  She gets so frustrated if I'm doing laundry and walk from room to room while she's trying to crawl after me but can't keep up.  If I'm in the kitchen cooking or doing dishes, she's wrapped around my leg 80% of the time.  If I head to the bathroom, it's about 20 seconds before Eleanor zooms around the corner and barges in on me.  In a way, it makes me feel great that my kid likes me so much, but it's also difficult to function!  By the second or third time she wakes at night I just bring her into bed with us and and am woken in the morning by my wide-eyed daughter squeezing my face.  She insists on sleeping on top of me instead of between us, so I have to sleep on my back, which I hate.  I never wanted to co-sleep.  Our bed is supposed to be our bed.  But it's getting to the point that neither Neal or I even remember getting up in the night at all.  When we wake up we try to figure out which one of us brought her in and seldom can.  I mean, it's hard to correct a bad habit if you're doing it subconsciously.  So I'm hoping she grows out of this soon.  And I know I'm making it worse by letting her sleep with us.  Anybody have advice for our dilemma?

The more interactive Eleanor becomes, the more I enjoy being a parent.  She loves being read to; it's the only time she completely relaxes in my lap. I try to read to her between every nap and she's finally started paying attention to the pictures instead of trying to eat the book the whole time. We only packed eight or so board books from the dozens we had at home, so I have them all memorized and am honestly sick of them.  Eleanor has no idea of course, so I can't justify buying new books.  Kate suggested I find a library and I really need to, it would be a good way to get out of the house and spice up our reading material.

She also melts when we sing to her.  Part of her bedtime routine is "You Are My Sunshine" and she turns to jello, raises her arms above her head as I rock her, and starts 'singing' along.  She gets a sleepy smile and looks like she's in complete bliss.  Adorable enough that I strongly consider keeping her up with us for another hour.

Now for a photo dump:

The Blosser women sent us a package with some cold weather essentials! Looking out for E <3
Two seconds before she tried to eat the whole thing
We're proud of these thighs.

I think I'm done rambling.  Off to ponder crucially important things, like whether Eleanor should be a strawberry or a duck for Halloween.