Category Archives: Parties and social gatherings

Not strictly outdoor adventures, but sometimes parties take place outside! Or near a window! Thus: it counts.

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Exploring Aberdeen – Castles, grocery stores, and tea houses.

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Exploring Aberdeen – Castles, grocery stores, and tea houses.

Exploring Aberdeen – Castles, grocery stores, and tea houses.

Monday & Tuesday, 26-Dec & 27 Dec.

Monday, 26-Dec-2016

One of the things that I’ve picked up from Sarah, in regards to adventuring, is checking out grocery stores and gas stations.

Probably not what you expected. But it’s neat – you can see what items are important to a culture, what they have in stock, what they don’t, and what variety is available. It’s cool, and you can learn a lot about where you are. Also – get great ideas for food and snacks!

But Monday didn’t start with a grocery store. It started with a snowball fight. It was thick and fluffy snow; not particularly good for packing, but very fun to run around in. And once us kids saw how much there was (a solid 3 inches or so) we suited up and ran outside to play!

Sarah and I formed one team, of course, battling against Henry & Leah on the other team. Since Sarah and I were the first ones out, we prepared a few stockpiles around the yard, giving one of them to Leah and Henry when they came out. But it pretty quickly devolved into a “grab an armful of snow from the car and chuck it” sort of battle. None of us played baseball, so none were particularly good at throwing the few snowballs we were able to make from the fluffy stuff.

The rest of the day was spent having an excellent lunch at a cafe in the grocery store, exploring said grocery store, and also exploring a pharmacy nearby. Turns out, the UK doesn’t have nearly the selection of burn medication that the US does… or maybe Sarah and I have gotten spoiled by always having first aid gear around the house (thanks to blisters being a major part of hiking… yay!).

But it was fun! Hanging out, exploring, learning that the Scots love their Indian takeaway and their venison, and having some traditional bangers and mash at the shop. We even got to see an artificial ski hill in town!



Tuesday, 27-Dec-2016

Tuesday? Adventure day. Breakfast was quick, because we had places to be! Adventures to have! Stone circles to photograph, hill forts to hike, and old ruined castles to run around and play hide and seek in.

First stop: The Eastern Aquhorthies stone circle. A small neolithic stone circle, in a beautiful bit of the Scottish countryside. We explored and took awesome pictures – one bonus of the short days, is that the sun traverses lower than we’re used to… which leads to sunrise / sunset light all day long. Excellent for cool landscape photos!

We got back on the road after exploring a bit of the forest behind the stone circle – It was also very pretty, Super dark though; I can totally see why people feel like Scotland is enchanted.

On to Dunnideer (pronounces Dun-ee-deer) castle!

    • Our first attempt resolves with us driving up to a locked gate that involves calling a dispatch center to open – they make sure that no train is coming before we drive across. The lady that owns the land is (luckily) driving out when we arrive – she tells us that there’s actually a real place to walk up, but that we’re more than welcome to walk on her land, and just hop a barbed wire fence. So polite, it’s painful.
    • Drive to the real place… this makes a lot more sense.
    • Park, and instead of waiting for everyone, Sarah and I walk in ahead. We take the extra time to do some climbing, stealth makeouts, and enjoy ourselves before everyone arrives
    • Ruins up top… are amazing. The main ruin is, surprisingly, the whole hill – it’s an ancient pictish hill fort. The bumps and hedgerows on the way up are the remains of ancient earth works. The castle ruins up top (barely anything) are a 13th century addition.
    • Continue on, finding some really picturesque views and neat standing stones.

Lunch at a cool tea house… Fish and Chips finally!

Drive down to Cruden Bay; a place that Greta and Bill have been to once or twice before.

    • Park, and Sarah and I take a jog in – stretching our legs is pretty good.
    • The castle… this is a serious castle. Ruins, beautiful. It’s called New Slains Castle, and was built sometime in the 17th century. It was then expanded in the 19th century, and was actually where Brahm Stoker wrote Dracula.
    • We’re just around Sunset… but thanks to the elevation, Sunset lasts ~1 hour +
    • Sarah and I play hide and seek, amateur archeologist, and do some light bouldering around as well. Holy crap this place is amazing. Just… so cool!
    • Take lots of pictures, hang out with Henry and Leah, and even get to talk to an old Scotsman for a while. Fun & pleasant adventures!

Then, we’ve got to get back to the house. The next day was planned as our travel day, taking a train down to Edinburgh. But that meant returning the rental car that they’d got from the airport (Bill & Greta only have one car normally, and fitting six people in it wouldn’t have been pleasant). That return entails a bit of adventure, but it does leave us close to a Chinese market, where we stop in to get ingredients for Henry to make us Ramen! Which is like… triple awesome. So that’s nice 🙂

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Christmas in Aberdeen

Christmas and New Years break, 2016 into 2017: Christmas in Aberdeen

Christmas in Aberdeen

Saturday and Sunday, 24-Dec-2016 and 25-Dec-2016

This is Sarah and my’s second Christmas together; and our second Christmas celebrating in a different country than we usually live in. Go us, right?  Let the new traditions begin…



Christmas day was our travel day from London, so we spent most of the day just relaxing and catching up with Sarah’s family – I finally got to meet her Brother Henry and his girlfriend Leah, and Sarah got a chance to catch up with everyone (the birds included!). But since our train did get into town pretty early, we had most of Christmas Eve to burn…

Drum Castle and the Falls of Feugh was our adventure for the day – a manor / castle nearby, and a small tea house near the town of Banchory. Drum castle was an amazing intro to Scotland – it was basically a fortified manor house; a defended tower surrounded by low walls, gardens, and neat little buildings. But it also has an amazing playground… which Sarah and I proved wasn’t just for kids. Feugh Falls afterward was a system shock, since we’d only been looking for a small place to have lunch. But instead, we found the tea house, which had been honored by Parliment as one of the best places in the area, and was far fancier than we’d expected. But we stepped up, Sarah coached me with her charm-school knowledge (I’m learning which forks to use when), and had a great time.

Christmas Eve was full of food and cheer, starting out after a nap to keep Sarah and my’s jet lag at bay.

We went to the early services at St. Machar’s Cathedral, where we enjoyed an excellent service and some neat cultural knowledge – a tradition there is the “christingle”… an orange with a candle (a glowstick, in our case) in the center, with four spears around it. It represents the light of Christmas, surrounded by the four seasons, with a ribbon around it representing the blood of the sacrifice.

Definitely interesting, and I loved getting the chance to see the full service in a cathedral that was first founded in 580… as in, over a thousand years before my home country was even founded. Of course, that original church (Kirk, technically, since it’s in Scotland) no longer exists, but the cross from the doorway is still around, and has a place of honor in the new cathedral. “New” being a relative term, since the new building was raised sometime in the 13th century.

Other trivia fact: St. Machar’s cathedral is the burial site of part of William Wallace. ¼ of Wallaces corpse (remember, he was drawn and quartered) was sent to St. Machar’s as a warning to other dissenters. Macabre.

The rest of Christmas eve was full of Hannukah lights, a great lamb-leg dinner (including tons of awesome scotchs that I’d never tried before), and celebration that everyone had made it into Aberdeen safely.



Christmas day! The day we open presents! Woo!

It was fun! This was the first full Christmas morning that I’ve had in a while, so us kids made the most of it… having a nice breakfast, getting all excited, opening presents, etc…

The rest of the day was pretty low-key, after the insanity of running downstairs and eating massive quantities of chocolate from our stockings. Henry and Leah brought a ton of candy for everyone… which is exactly what Sarah and I also did, as well as Bill and Greta. So, there was a lot of candy.

We did get energized enough to go for a short walk afterward though, before it got dark – one danger of Scotland is that the winter days are super short, thanks to the high latitude. So we jumped into some warm clothes, and explored the park near the house: a place called HazelHead park.

And we were, once again, reminded that we’re not in the States anymore. Scotland is old… and they love their monuments. Hazelhead had everything from this one fountain that was donated by a lord a few hundred years ago, to a huge memorial garden for the dead from an oil platform accident a few years back called Piper Alpha. It was really cool seeing such a wealth of history, even so far outside of a major city like London or Edinburgh.

Once we got home, it was already pretty much dark… but only 4:30 or so in the afternoon. So Sarah and I napped, then stepped up and helped make an amazing fusion dinner of turkey, cranberries, stuffing, and latkes! Combining Christmas dinner with Hannukah tradition? Yes please!

03-June-2016, A game of archery tag!

03-June-2016, A game of archery tag!

Friday, 03-June-2016


So my work does this thing where, instead of doing 40 hours every week, we do 80 hours every two weeks – it’s called a 9/80 schedule, and gives us a Friday off every other week by working 9 hour days Monday – Thursday, and then either 8 hours or 0 hours on Fridays.  It’s awesome.  Took me a month or so to get used to it though… that one extra hour each day doesn’t seem like a lot, but you’d be surprised how much I’m used to getting done in that hour, that I had to cut or condense.

Anyways, this Friday was off, and there was a company event planned – Archery Tag!


I’d seen the planned events a few times before… “learn to cook with the CEO”, “Bike around the Gorge”, that sort of stuff that I honestly wasn’t super interested in.  But archery tag…


I signed up, showed up, and set up a team.  Yep, that’s me.  Team Captain material, up in here.

And then, we played.  And I’m going to be honest here, we played WELL.  I mean, we were one of the two undefeated teams, coming into the finals.  Out of… eight?  Twelve?  I’m not a bookie, I don’t keep track of that stuff.  Basically, we cleaned house, and won all kinds of bragging rights.

But then the finals happened, and we choked.  Or more accurately, they changed the rules, and we didn’t adapt quickly enough.  Rules went from “hit people and targets to get points” to “hit the targets to get points and ignore people”… which we didn’t really adapt to.  Instead, we tried to suppress the people with cover fire while our sharp-shooters hit the targets… instead of everyone basically just barraging the targets with random shots.

I’m not bitter, I swear.


But it was fun, and that’s what matters.  And I got BBQ chicken and a cool yellow bandanna out of it, so… win win?


After the tag, I finally rented a Standup Paddleboard setup, and coasted around the Colombia for a bit.  It was fun.  I didn’t bring sunscreen though… which was probably a bad decision, since I spent the rest of the weekend in pain, applying as much aloe to myself as I possibly could.


Ohh, also there were explosions and fires.  Like… literal.  Boom.  Fwoosh.  “Ahhh everything’s on fire” sort of stuff.

Yeah… I maybe should had led with that?  Two instances, specifically…

First, an unexpected demolition.  As we were playing (not my team, thankfully), there was a roadside demolition – one of those where they blow a cliffside apart, so that it won’t fall down on the roadway unexpectedly.  Not a bad thing… just not what any of us were expecting, especially since there was no warning.  No sirens.  No nothing.  Just… “cracka-cracka-boom“!  And then a dozen or two explosions, and a cliff wasn’t there anymore.

Second, a train fire.  This one was bigger… we’re talking news station big.  What we saw as a small plume of smoke, that slowly got bigger on the horizon, was actually a cargo train that had overturned, spilling twelve tanker cars worth of fuel oil onto the tracks and into the river.  Which, of course, was ignited somehow… causing a fire that didn’t get put out for nearly 36 hours, if I recall correctly.  Kind of made the day strange… since there were tons of gawkers coming by the little patch of grass that we’d claimed for a battleground.  They all wanted pictures of the fire, but we were in the way… so I guess I was in a few pictures?