The Brownlees moved to Loughborough so they started a blog. Now they've moved to Stirling but this is still your opportunity to keep up with all their goings on...
Friday, 24 December 2010
Sandy and I have been back in the area since Wednesday, we are staying with my parents for now. The drive was massively uneventful (which we are pleased about) and the snow didn't really slow us down at all, although the cold did as we couldn't get any water out our windscreen washers through freezing and had to stop at every other garage to pour water onto the screen so we could see! Apart from that the only issue is that the baby didn't take kindly to me being sat in essentially the same position for 9 or 10 hours and made this known by beating me up from the inside out!
Today is Christmas Eve and I will catch up with my good friend from school, Alli, and later my parents' next door neighbours are coming over for a wee "party" with their kids, if nothing else it will be good practice for me to have some mayhem to contend with!! We might go to the watchnight service at Howe Trinity later on, I'm not sure Sandy and I are particularly fussed, but this is the last year we will be able to do it without a big fuss, at least for a while!!
Tomorrow, being the big day itself, will see us open our presents with my parents, then after the service at Howe Trinity we will drive over to New Deer and see everyone over there, it will be great to see everyone again, we haven't seen them since we moved, although Sandy is getting a sneak preview today when he stops by on his way home from the dentist!
The rest of our holiday is about ctaching up with as many people as possible, we will spend a few days staying in Aberdeen with our good friend Liz so that we can see more friends more easily, we have missed everyone so much and having left in such a rush we don't feel like we got to say goodbye to everyone properly!
So, let us know if you want to catch up at all, we are around until 3rd January when we will drive back to Loughborough, and I will be praying the baby still hasn't come, I will be a few days short of 37 weeks pregnant at that point!!
Happy Christmas everyone!
Jay (and Sandy and bump!)
Monday, 20 December 2010
The first thing to say is that this group have people have welcomed us in with open arms, and although I am VERY excited to get home and see some of our friends and family this Christmas, I am slightly sad I won't be around for some the church related stuff going on, as I really do feel I am making real friends here. There have been a few "events" on in the last few weeks, and so we thought you might like to see.
On the weekend that we went to the BBC to see a show be filmed we went to the OH1 expression (instead of the usual OH2 one) mainly because it meets in the afternoon and meant we had plenty of time to get back from Bracknell without feeling rushed. We turned up and it turned out it was the "Christmas Event" which is an opportunity for (especially) students to bring their friends along to something, sing some carols and hear some of God's word. The theme was "A Question of Christmas" and was based around the format of the BBC quiz "A Question of Sport". Sandy was incredibly pleased to learn that there were mince pies galore and a cup of tea before we even got started. He was also quite tickled by the number of boxes of mince pies there were, so he took a photo. It was quite dark in there, but we hope you can get the jist!
Not long after this, we went to the Open Heaven Christmas ball, this was a wonderful night, mainly occupied by students (babysitters are hard to come by for church events, because everyone just helps each other out!) but a great night none-the-less! There was a Christmas meal, turkey and all the trimmings, and a dance with a live band (although I much prefer ceilidhing where everyone is doing the same thing at the same time and there are set moves, I am not so up for the turn and slide kind of dancing!). Again it was quite dark but we took some photos so you might be able to pick out a few things!
In the photo of Sandy and I, you might notice that Sandy is holding a certificate. My lovely husband won the award for best dressed male having gone dolled up in his kilt! There was another chap (from Inverurie of all places) who was there in a kilt, but I agree (even if I am biased) that Sandy scrubbed up best!)
The next thing we have done at church is attend our first ever Christingle event. Now I have lots of friends who would be better qualified at explaining what this is about, but as far as I can tell you sing some carols and then you stick some sweets and a candle into an orange with a red band around it. Everything symbolises something, so I shall try to explain!
The orange = the world/earth
The sweets = God's goodness
The cocktail sticks = North, South, East and West (that this is for everyone)
The red band = the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross
The candle = the light that Jesus brought and left in us.
Here is a photo of my Christingle once I had finished it but before I ate the sweets!!
So, that is it for now, we will miss our OH friends over Christmas but will see them all in the New Year when we get back from Scotland (hopefully)!!
Just to finish, if you would like an updated bump picture, here is one from the night of the ball (although I think it is bigger than this picture makes it look!)
Sunday, 19 December 2010
One of the perks of being this far south is that we're pretty close to a lot of things, London included. So trips that would have been a couple of flights become a much simpler car drive and tube journey away, especially if we're provided with free accommodation as Jay's sister was kind enough to do. We were able to make the most of this last weekend with a visit to the BBC to watch a new show called Fast and Loose. It's being made by the same people as Whose Line is it Anyway and Mock the Week, is hosted by Hugh Dennis and features comedians doing improv in a variety of different situations.
I've been on the mailing list for Have I Got News for You and Mock the Week audiences for a couple of years - they're always fully booked within a few minutes of the tickets coming out - so when I got the invite to apply for tickets to this show (sent because I guess they think it'll appeal to the same people) I had a go but was rather skeptical about being successful. Hence I was a little excited when I got sent some tickets - on top of which they're free and given our new location it was realistic that that we could manage.
So, last Saturday we spent a nice morning catching up with one of my old friends from Mintlaw Academy, Blake, who is one of the tallest bus enthusiasts you'll ever meet. We then trekked into London and joined the queue at BBC TV Centre. There was a security check at the door - naturally I was the one setting off the alarms and getting frisked - then we made it into the foyer for a quick eat before being ushered into the studio.
The filming lasted from a little after 7pm until just before 10 for what I guess will be a half hour show but there was plenty going on. There were loads of good jokes and routines, and there was an absolutely genius scene filmed from above that had me cracking up completely. Of course there was all the between-filming stuff too, including Hugh's legendary dinosaur walking. It was absolutely superb, I'm looking forward to seeing the full series on from January. Ours was the last one in the series but we may feature in the audiences for other ones as they mix them up a bit to get the right shots so look out for us - we're right in the middle about five rows back :)
I didn't think to get a picture of us at the studios, so instead here is Ming Tea performing BBC:
Tuesday, 14 December 2010
On Friday I was at a training course for both RAs (that's research staff like me) and PhD students. It was telling us what one could expect after getting a job as a lecturer, as well as how to go about applying for positions and what experience is needed. All very useful stuff for my long-term plan. I found myself at a table of all students; I felt a little guilty telling them I'm done with the thesis writing etc which they've all still got to go through. This is odd as it was the complete opposite of the way I've been of late; I've been rather defensive over being not a student. I don't insist on being called "Doc" or anything - this is just good sense in case I ever end up inventing time travel and need to stay hidden from the guys who supplied my plutonium. I do though find myself making it quite clear that I'm an RA and already had a PhD - I'm sure it's quite insufferable.
It has also been quite fun starting to provide input into student projects. It looks like a lowly computer scientist is highly sought after in this department :)
On a vaguely related theme, a student came up to me the other day to talk about something, but soon after arriving had to shoot off for Prayers, which as it happens seem to take place in a communal area not far from my desk. I remarked to Jay later on that I've got a lot of respect for the discipline that Muslims have for regular prayer; there is of course a careful line to tread between spiritual discipline and it becoming "just time to do it" but I wonder if it's something that Christians can learn from.
This is turning in to a longish post so I'll leave talking about our delightful trip to the BBC at the weekend until later. Suffice to say our proximity to London has some major perks :)
Finally, this is in the lift in my building:
The notion that a lift could be much other than civil entertains me - perhaps one day it will cease being civil and I'll be presented with this when I push the "1" button?
Friday, 10 December 2010
Just and update for you
We have pretty much lost our snow now and even the ice that was making the pavements terrible is essentially gone. This makes me in particular happy because having had my centre of gravity changed and being made to deal with the ice was not proving fun!! Today when I went to the shop the car informed me that it was 7C out, so practically an Aberdeen summer's day!!
I am sticking out more than I was before, my bump seems to have come from nowhere, but there is definitely no denying I am pregnant now, I have even had a few people tell me that I "can't have long left, now"! In fact I have a little under 7 weeks, my due date is 6 weeks and 5 days away (not that I am counting) so the baby could be here in anywhere between 5 and 9 weeks and be considered perfectly "healthy". So as soon as Christmas is out of the way we will be all go on the baby front!
We will soon be heading back North for the Christmas period, loosely we will be in the area from December 22/23 until January 2/3. We have some plans during that time but get in touch if you would like to meet up and we will see what we can do, although remember that we have a lot of friends and family and only limited time for socialising!! We are very excited to see our "homeland" again though, although I am getting nervous that all this snow will mean we will get stuck there with a baby on the way!!
Sandy is still enjoying his job, he is getting stuck into some papers and code just now and is hoping to run some experiments soon so that he can submit a paper to GECCO a conference he has been to before and would like to attend again. He may well get to go regardless of publications but these things are easier to attract funding for if you are having something published. The date for submission is however our due date, so he needs to get working on that, although this is being held up because the project computer's haven't arrived yet (due to the usual university red-tape involved in ordering things!). Everyone would be less stressed if that wasn't hanging over our heads, so pray that all the necessary resources come up!!
We continue to feel welcome and settled in our new church and have settled into a cell group too, this is a great bunch of people who we are grateful to be able to get to know. This Sunday we are going to a welcome meal which will allow us to get to know other new people in the church and also to get a better idea of who the leadership are and what the vision and values of the church are. We are really looking forward to it. I in particular am finding myself very grateful for all the midweek coffees that this bunch of people are providing me with, it is good to get out the house every so often.
Another group I am becoming part of is an NCT-run "Bumps and Babies" group, although normally I am the only "bump" most of the others have babies, but it is good to get to meet people from outside church, to not spend my whole life in a Holy Bubble and to get out into the real world! Opportunities like this should be a bit easier once the baby comes, but for now this group gives me the non-church socialising I need!
In a piece of good news, our Aberdeen house has finally hit the market and we are beginning to see a little interest in it. Still, if you know of anyone who might want to rent a 2-bed house in Aberdeen then they can get all the details here so make sure you spread the word. We received some good news this week in terms of money we can claim back from Sandy's work we hadn't realised about before, but we still need the house to let out soon to keep ourselves from getting into lots of financial stress! God has *always* looked after us in this way before and we know He will again but it does no harm for us to pray and tell people too!!
So, I think that is all our news. I have a cold at the moment so just trying to relax and chill out a bit, keeping healthy is about my only job until the baby comes!
Looking forward to catching up with everyone soon!
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
Teeny Tiny Clothes
If you look hard enough, the "going home" outfit is in there!
Sunday, 5 December 2010
In other news, we have had our chimney swept and during this cold weather are very grateful to be able to warm our feet at the open fire!!
Tuesday, 30 November 2010
I decided to be a big feartie today and walk to work instead of taking the bike. For all my praise of Loughborough's cycle paths, unfortunately they don't get gritted and cycling alongside a load of cars with drivers not used to snow didn't appeal. This did give me the chance to take some pictures though, so for the doubters out there, here is some evidence of the snow in Loughborough this morning...
The view to the south of the university, just round the corner from my building...
Sunday, 28 November 2010
top 10 things I am looking forward to after the birth...
Sandy was concerned people wouldn't know which bit was the bump so here is helpfully pointing towards the bit of me with the bump!!
However the real point of this post is for me to give you my top 10 things I am looking forward to after the birth of our baby!!
1. Meeting the baby and getting to know it
2. Caffeine! More specifically, diet coke but also tea and coffee in general!
3. Sleeping in any old position I like, most of all on my back :-)
4. Walks in the park with the baby
5. Eating proper meals again, getting to stop the grazing all day habit I have had to develop
6. Taking a deep breath without it being inhibited by the baby being where my diaphragm used to be!
7. Cuddles with the baby, I am very excited for cuddles!
8. Throwing away the many bottles of gaviscon I have had to start leaving in strategic places for myself
9. Fitting into spaces that I used to fit in and no longer do (I have a scratch on my bump from where I thought I could fit between a box and a door - I couldn't!)
10. Settling into a new baby routine!
Friday, 26 November 2010
I can't believe it took this many blog posts to have a "randomness" tag.
Thursday, 25 November 2010
We're getting there
If all else fails the baby can sleep in this beautiful moses basket (which was gifted to us by the Gregorys) for the first wee while, it is already set up in our bedroom ready for the baby to arrive!
We thought though, that it would probably be best to get a cot for the baby, this was very kindly bought for us by Edna and Alasdair (Sandy's Mum and Dad, for those who don't know). Sandy was very excited to build it (I think more to do with the building something than it necessarily being because it was a cot). You can see him busy at work here!)
You'll notice Sandy is very proud of his workmanship!
Here it is in all its glory!
And once Jay got to put some "things" in it! All this bedding is from Karen and we are very grateful for it, much of it can't be used when the baby is newborn but I really couldn't bare to leave the cot empty!!
There will be more photos of the room soon, but it is still a bit of a box dumping ground so it is hard to photograph anything other than boxes!!
In other news, we will be back in Aberdeen in less than 4 weeks, looking forward to catching up with as many folks as possible!
Monday, 22 November 2010
Because the baby wasn't coming imminently we started with all the other rooms, they are not necessarily quite finished, but they are quite livable in, as you can see, poor wee baby doesn't have anywhere to go right now!! In the midst of trying to get on top it however, I have made a list (because that is what I do) of all the things we have.
Now, I am going to share with you all some "holes" in our inventory, things we still need. I want you to know though that this is not me asking for stuff, it is definitely not me telling people to buy stuff. I know though, that there are certain people out there who will want to buy the baby some things and I thought I would try and guide them towards the things we need. So the general rule is, if you weren't going to buy anything then read on but don't go and buy anything, if you were going to buy something we would appreciate (but don't demand) if it was something off the list. If you have already bought something, we will love it, don't take it back under any circumstances!!
The baby already has lots of toys, certainly enough to occupy a newborn, it has baby gyms and things to hold although it does not have too many soft toy type things, if you want to get something like that, I'm sure it will become well snuggled in time!
We have all the baby paraphernalia we could imagine needing, however we do still need a couple of dummies (just in case!) a couple of bottles (I want to breastfeed but I might express some so Sandy can help with those night feeds, if you want to get these can you get in touch, I have a strong preference for a particular type/brand that I have on good authority and have seen in practice are good for babies that are both breast and bottle fed)
The main thing our baby needs is (are?) clothes, we have only a few things that are newborn/0-3 months at the moment. I'll a list a few things that are high on my priority list but all of you are able to use common sense!!
at least 1 more 0-6 month winter grade (2.5 tog) "grobag" (link only provided for those who might not know what I am talking about!)
Socks! Baby currently only has 3 pairs!
A few more 0-3 month vests would be good, although we have a fair few 3-6 month ones!
Also, a few "normal" clothes - like jeans/trousers/jumpers etc, I know they pretty much only sleep for the first long while but I like to think the baby won't need to only wear pyjamas to get it through that phase!
Some mittens (poor wee thing is being born in winter after all!)
The last couple of things are really things that I (Jay) would like so they are being listed separately, I will happily receive these as Christmas presents as I don't see them as essential for baby at all!!
a Hooter Hider
an device for expressing, I have one (thanks Joe and Trina) but it has an American plug on it and I have heard mixed reports on it's ability to work, I'd love to have one I know is working from the word go! (A hand pumper is fine!)
So please refer back to the beginning of this post, I am not expecting anyone to buy us anything, but if you would, then these are the things we most need!
Saturday, 20 November 2010
gluten free dairy free baking
Last week I made a chocolate and pistachio cake, it used courgette as it's base and was absolutely delicious. This week I thought I would make myself some chocolate and peanut butter cupcakes - yum! I thought, as mundane as it seems, I would blog about it, so here are some pictures and thoughts. I'm not going to post the recipe in case Harry Eastwood comes and shouts at me for publishing her recipes but there is still plenty to be said. At various points I got so carried away with cooking I forgot I wanted to blog, so sorry if there are holes in the photo story!
The recipe in question, one great thing about this book are there are loads of pictures which help you get a grasp for the end product.
My cupcake tray doesn't see much use, here it is patiently waiting for me to actually cook something!!
whisking the sugar and eggs (the one "standard" cake ingredient still used in this book, not sure if you happen to be vegan how easy that is to deal with...)
Butternut squash was the base of this recipe
All the ingredients mixed up and ready to go, including the pulverised peanuts
Peanut butter frosting - yum!
Straight out the oven...
The finished article, having been cooled and iced.
Sandy and I can vouch for these also being delicious, this cookbook is already a firm favourite!!
Friday, 19 November 2010
So, for the fourth time in my life I'm working for a person named Jon (okay, the spelling's different this time, but that doesn't spoil it). Not that this is somethings to worry about, they've all been very nice people... I've now been at Loughborough University for nearly three weeks and have started settling in pretty well now. I've even got a permanent desk! Just waiting for the computers I'm going to be using to arrive now - until then I'm on a temporary but perfectly good laptop. I'm slowly getting back into the habit of reading academic papers; this took longer than I thought but it's coming along nicely now. It's quite nice to be able to spot interesting things and know I'm going to have the time (probably) to read about them properly instead of a quick skim at best. There's no experiments running yet, though we're pretty close - I've implemented an algorithm and a few test problems, and there's a screenshot of it running below - each one of those dots is part of the population that's evolving, and the blue ones are the best ones.
One of the cool things about being in an engineering department is that there are lots of cool machines to look at - I got a little tour and they have loads of stuff. There's a cube-shaped machine about 10m in size that can make 3D models of buildings (they likened it to a 3D inkjet printer). There's a laser lab, and a sun-machine which puts out extreme light levels for testing solar panels. There's a room completely filled with a model valley that has water jets for simulating flood plains. Plus there's this collection of water pumps outside - I saw these on the day of my interview.
Yesterday Jay drove down to have lunch with me at the university (that's something we didn't really get the chance to to in Aberdeen). She brought the large box of research stuff from my old desk at RGU that's been gathering dust for the past couple of years. It's been quite odd going through my old notes and waking up some of those ideas again. There's also a few things which cheered me up greatly - my executive toys for restful moments of distraction and a bunch of memory items like the poster advertising the seminar I gave at Stirling Uni. There's been a lot of digging up old memories as part of the move and it's a shame the rest of the experience is so expensive and stressful because that bit is quite nice!
Finally, here's some pictures of the University. Well, actually some pictures of the Civil & building Engineering Dept, as that's where I am. There's also a picture of my desk before I did much personalising of it (it's getting untidy at an exponential rate...)
Thursday, 18 November 2010
The past few days have been fairly mundane. It's a little strange being in an every-day routine again, being as it is in a completely different place. The past month has been all-go, up until the move there was just a wall at the end of the month, then the past couple of weeks have been unpacking and settling down. Finally the weekly routine is almost back, albeit a little more laid-back for both of us.
I'm now cycling to work again as I've been doing for the past five years - instead of walking / bussing as I did for the first week or so. I don't know if it's because of all the students or what but one of the really good things about Loughborough is that it's very cycle-friendly. Driver still seem oblivious to cyclists, but instead of Aberdeen's vague hint at cycle paths which are entirely optional, double up as parking spaces and stop without warning just where you need them, there are fully dedicated paths and crossings where I can go. This is brilliant!
Jay's been doing a good job of making the house feel like our own while I've been out during the day times, and last night I ventured loft-wise (not on the bicycle) to hide away all our empty boxes. It almost looks like we have somewhere to put the baby now when it comes.
It's also strange to hear about NESYFC's goings on from outside. I've spent so long carrying all the find details of the ministry in my head and it's a little hard to adjust to not doing that any more. That doesn't mean I can't pray for it though and I gather God's still doing great things through this team of wonderful hard-working people. Go them.
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Sunday, 14 November 2010
Anyone who knows either of us even a little bit will almost certainly know we are Christians and that one of our priorities on moving was to find a Church family to be part of. Back home we had many happy years as part of Oldmachar and we knew just how important Church is. We have been supported through many highs and lows and almost all of our best friends are people we know only because of Church or Youth For Christ.
Partly through Jay's DNA connections and partly through Mr Google, we had come across the website for Open Heaven. We liked what we saw, and although we experienced it in slightly different ways, we both felt drawn to this congregation, it felt like God was calling us there for something or for some reason. We had spoken a lot about what we would want a Church to be like, what would be the signs that it was a congregation we wanted to be part of and although we had come up with very few concrete answers it seemed from before we even arrived here in Loughborough that Open Heaven seemed a likely candidate for being where we ended up.
Last week was the first time we attended an OH service and it certainly wasn't what we were used to. Open Heaven has two "expressions" - one (OH1) is aimed at students and the 18-30 age group and is held in the afternoon in the student union of Loughborough University (which is where Sandy works, in case you hadn't put that altogether!). The other service (OH2) was set up a few years later, they noticed that all their students were growing up and having children and that a service more designed for families might be on the cards. Last week when we attended there was a joined service of the two expressions (they do this once each term), we both found it very odd going to Church in the afternoon but both enjoyed the freedom of the worship and the space that was given to all who needed it (children and students alike). There was an area for those who were creative but not very musical to draw out their worship for God and a big area where people could dance or sing or bang on a drum!! Afterwards (coincidently) there were fireworks and hot dogs (for their current DNA trainees to raise money) so it was great to be able to meet lots of new people that way too, the fireworks were great too!
We felt like we needed to see what a more "normal" OH2 service looked like before we could make a decision but we felt very included, people spoke to us lots, many people even took a risk and worked out we were new!! We began to get a sense of how much the people from Open Heaven cared about each other and how they were deeply invested in each other's lives but thought we would leave it another week to see what God stirred in us and what the next service looked like.
So today we went to a straight up OH2 service, someone we met last week gave us a lift which was nice as it was in a different place (a primary school) and so we were less likely to get lost this way!! We turned up to be told by one of the Church leaders that this wouldn't be a normal service either! We have since decided this is because there is no such thing and is one of the things that appeals to us about such a congregation. Today we re-enacted the passover meal looking at what all the different bits mean, taking part by eating the various foods and drinks and thinking about the way they ultimately pointed to Jesus. It was certainly a novel way to work through Exodus 12 and the children seemed to have lots of fun and even as an adult there were things for us to notice and take heed of.
We broke for tea and coffee before the end of the service (which does mean it was onto a winner with particularly Sandy) to deal with the now restless children before praying for a couple in the church who are moving to France to church plant there.
On top of all that, OH seems very mission focused, both in terms of the team going to France and also in terms of how they see the local community. They are currently fund-raising to buy a building with another local church and see that as a place the whole community (not just the Open Heaven community) can connect with each other and have their needs met in really practical ways. When we get excited about church it tends to be because time has been spent listening to God's call and then going after that regardless of what human barriers stand in the way, when we hear Open Heaven talk about mission this is the impression we get and as such, we are excited.
This has all been a very long-winded way of saying, that we have decided to stay at Open Heaven. If we are completely honest their services are not quite what we would want, perhaps a little too child focused (maybe our opinion on this will change in the not-too-distant future) but we already feel cared about by the people there and we love the way Church seems to go on through the week, it isn't just a Sunday thing. We see the potential for lots of friends there and having moved to a completely strange place, that is important to us. So, that is that decision made, we are sticking at Open Heaven, for at least the foreseeable future and probably for all our time here in Loughborough!
Sandy and Jay
Saturday, 13 November 2010
photos of the house
Here is our dining room
And the kitchen
This will eventually be the baby's room (it is currently full of boxes!)
These are the stairs upstairs (obviously) they come out of the kitchen and we are told by the removal men this is the smallest door they have ever had to contend with!!
This is our bedroom before we put anything in it
This is the removal van as it parked to unload all our stuff, it was there for about 3 hours in total, on yellow lines the whole while: how do they get away with it?
During the unpacking we found this lovely note hidden under the flaps on one of the boxes Sandy's Mum packed for us :-)
these last two are of the living room now it has our furniture in it
The house is still a bit of a work in progress, although it is "getting there" - the next plan is to get our bedroom sorted before tackling the baby's room - we figure in many ways it is less vital as the baby will be in with us for the first wee while anyway, but it would be nice to think it was even a room we could walk into!!