Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Delicious Tasting Menu at The Kitchin ... 7+ courses of yumminess!

Let's talk about food. All this talk about health care is making my blood boil, and that can't be healthy.

I haven't been drinking for the past nine months, but I managed to get a fantabulous buzz a couple of weeks ago -- the kind of buzz only a fine dining experience can offer. David, Danny (the best houseguest ever), and I spent a good four hours at The Kitchin, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Leith.

If you're going to go to a restaurant of that caliber, you might as well go all out and order the full seven-course (plus gorgeous crudités) Tasting Menu and let that be your entertainment as well as your nourishment. Also, I love forward-thinking restaurants that not only offer consistent farm-to-table food, but also understand that vegetarianism doesn't have to be a portobello mushroom sandwich. There was a Chef's Surprise Tasting Menu that was entirely vegetarian and sacrificed none of the quality.

More restaurants should acknowledge the buying-power of the vegetarian -- that a single vegetarian in the party has veto power over group restaurant choices. Don't offer anything good and vegetarian? Well, then you lose the whole group. I'd go back to The Kitchin in a heartbeat.

I guess eating meals like this isn't really something I could handle everyday -- well, maybe someday -- but it's definitely worth saving your pennies and avoiding a month's worth of lattes to enjoy a meal like this on occasion. It's like splurging on a massage, only better, longer, and best savored with good friends.

As each course was served to us -- always with multiple servers explaining the ingredients and preparation in great detail -- we oohed and ahhed and drooled and exclaimed variations of, "Oh my god, this is amazing." David commented that he could never be a food writer because what was there possibly to say besides "delicious/amazing/awesome/so good/divine?" We could babble about umami and stuff, but that's not so fun.

I must say I don't envy my food writer friends the task of writing about every fine dining experience they've had. It's probably akin to English professors attempting pleasure reading or trained music theorists going to concerts (would that I could turn off the theory-ears); sometimes it's best to just experience without trying to analyze -- if you can.

I'm not going to attempt to describe each course in detail, but know that they were all creative, fresh, served with utensils we weren't sure how to use, and absolutely delicious, all in a non-stuffy, modern dining room. Instead, enjoy the photos. Yes, I was that nerdy person taking pictures of food. You're welcome.

Also, the woman in charge of re-filling water glasses deserves a raise. I'm glad it wasn't wine, or I would have been hammered.

Monday, August 27, 2012

More having a baby abroad (part four). Waiting lists, emergency room visits, and a clarification.

I talk about lots of things on this blog, but I don't always like to talk about deeply personal things. Pregnancy health care is about as personal as it gets, and seeing as it took me a long time to even announce my pregnancy on this blog, I feel like I'm over-sharing here when I talk about an emergency room visit. The conversation on health care is too important to be quiet about, however. In America, we've been fed lie after lie about 'national health care,' and, while I'm not at all advocating we institute a carbon copy of the NHS in America, I feel some sort of civic duty to talk about the quality of care I have received over here.

UK friends who have lived with the NHS their whole lives have read my blogs recently and responded with shock and disbelief. Why? Just as most Americans are fed lies about "death" lists, absurdly high taxes (my tax rate here would actually be less than my tax rate in the US, had I been working, thanks to self-employment tax I pay in the US), and lack of proper medical care, it seems as if many Brits accept things such as less flexibility in their appointment times as something only they have to suffer through.*

My midwife was running ten minutes behind schedule at last week's appointment. She apologized profusely when our name was finally called. The last time I went in to see my lady-doctor -- whom I adore -- back in the United States, I waited thirty five minutes past my schedule time and thought that was pretty reasonable.

So, yeah, we are told that national health care means hours of sitting in waiting rooms, but that is not at all what we've experienced. I'm sure there are exceptions, but personally, I've had far more US doctors be late for appointments than UK docs. (I don't blame the US doctors; I blame their over-loaded schedules.)

Even our one and only (I hope) pregnancy freakout emergency room visit back when I was only 8 weeks was incredibly easy. Everything was perfectly fine in the end, but when we called the NHS hotline with our concerns, they decided I should come into the emergency room. We made the frantic phone call at 11:00pm, and they booked us into the emergency room for a 1:10am appointment. I wasn't bleeding or anything -- just having horrible leg cramps, with a family history of DVT. But no fever or shortness of breath or anything. They offered to send someone to pick us up, but opted for a taxi. I mean, we can't take complete advantage of the system, right?

But let's get back to the idea of making appointments at the emergency room. Rather than sit around a waiting room with sick people for a couple of hours, they tell you what time they'll be able to see you. How is it that that idea hasn't caught on? At least for people who aren't bleeding to death or having heart attacks?

Point of clarification/information that someone kindly emailed to me:
- I'd mentioned previously is that we didn't see a midwife until I was 8 weeks along because I was healthy. It turns out (thanks to you folks who told me about it) that they offer an Early Intervention program to women who have had previous miscarriages or are worried about their pregnancies for whatever reason. It includes extra scans for health checks and peace of mind and even counseling, if you like. How's that for taking care of people?

Next time ... I'll start getting more specific about my medical details and doctors (gulp).

Previously on NHS/Baby Abroad blogs:  Part One: Having a Baby Abroad
                                                                      Part Two: Registration, Doctors, Midwives, etc.
                                                                      Part Three: NHS, midwives, home births.

* I've been able to reschedule every appointment time that didn't work for me with absolutely no problem here in the UK. Granted, my schedule is fairly flexible, but even when I needed to reschedule, I was able to.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Having a Baby Abroad (part 3), NHS, midwives, home births.

We had the option to pay for private doctors for this childbirth. To be honest, going that route would still have been far less expensive than having a baby on the Anthem individual policy I had back in America. I never ruled it out, but after our first "booking appointment" with our community midwives, there was no need to consider going private. Even if I'd chosen to pay for private care, I'd still be delivering at the same hospital, with the same doctors as if I'd stayed NHS, as most private doctors also work for the NHS. Besides, I'm healthy and low-risk and, again, pregnant ... not sick.

I mentioned in previous blogs that we were surprised when our first appointment wasn't until I was already 8 weeks along, the reason being that there's nothing they could do for me at that early stage, other than make me take my clothes off and shove an ultrasound machine in places I'd prefer they not shove anything. The waiting-till-8-weeks thing took some getting used to as I'm used to seeing lima-bean ultrasounds from friends on Facebook, but ultimately the waiting made a lot of sense -- and put me in a much better place about the pregnancy. You see, I'd been slightly terrified, and hearing the midwives' calm attitude made me feel better.

Why midwives and not obstetricians? Well, assuming you don't have any major health issues and your pregnancy goes smoothly, you are tended to by midwives over here -- the way pregnant women have been for most of history. If there are any signs of a problem, you are sent to an obstetrician.

I did end up seeing an obstetrician for a bit (more about that in another blog), but the majority of our appointments have been at the neighborhood midwife centre, a short walk from our apartment. The main difference from most US care seems to be a glass half-full approach. Rather than scare you with all that could possibly go wrong, they try to keep you healthy, while watching out for warning signs of potential problems. 

Our first appointment was with the kindest midwife I've ever met. Her name was Ruth, and she spent almost an hour with us.

Let me repeat that: one hour.

When is the last time you ever had a doctor in the US spend more than ten minutes with you? Ruth was in absolutely no hurry, and after taking a urine sample and four vials of blood (see, they do actual medical testing here in these backwoods parts of the world0, she took both mine and David's complete family medical history, discussing how different conditions could play a role in our medical care. For example, when I told her my mother had had a DVT at one point, she explained that the obstetrician might want to see me to further check my bloods, as DVT's are often hereditary and more likely during pregnancy.

To further freak you out, one of the very first questions we were asked was: Do you want a home birth?  I'm pretty sure David and I guffawed mightily with great American disdain. To be honest though, at this point, if we had a few more months of pregnancy, I think we'd both be wanting a home birth. For the sake of keeping our families calm (and the fact that the birthing rooms at the Royal Infirmary resemble a Napa Valley day spa), we'll be going to the hospital to give birth. But the fact that home births are offered to those who want them (and are low risk) is a huge advancement in care, if you ask me.

Has having this baby abroad turned us into crazy hippies? Not any more than usual. Like I said before, it has just made me more comfortable with the basic fact that my body is designed to have babies. It's been a much more relaxing pregnancy than I ever could have imagined, and I'm pretty sure that's all due to the quality of care I've received.

Next time on "Having a Baby Abroad"   : why I get sent to an obstetrician and ... spending time with a few doctors in the Royal Infirmary.

Previously on NHS/Baby Abroad blogs:  Part One: Having a Baby Abroad
                                                          Part Two: Registration, Doctors, Midwives, etc.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Warning: baby update and last weeks of freedom.

According to biology, this baby is coming sometime in the next month.

I've been working on a separate blog for all things baby-related, so I can keep this one focused on travel/food/music. It turns out that graphic design and professional website -- even a blog -- layout is my nemesis, so even though the new blog is up and running, I've yet to share it with anyone. (Try to find it if you can, ha ha! Clue: it's on wordpress, not blogger...)

A few folks suggested just morphing The Red Accordion Diaries into a parenting/craft blog, but I need to have something to preserve my sanity and sense of self. Also, I can't tell you how many friends I've hidden on Facebook once they started posting nothing but baby photos and baby statuses and baby comments and baby questions and baby talk.* I need a little grown-up space, and I also don't want to subject you to my homemade boppy pillow instructions -- at least not regularly.

In the mean time, the goal is to take advantage of my last few weeks of alone time as much as possible. That is what I'll miss most of all. Don't get me wrong, this baby was planned and wanted (amazing how many people have asked me about that...), but I know myself pretty well. I don't need mani/pedis, but I do need my space. I've gone out for breakfast solo twice in the past week, despite the student loan money dwindling away to nothing. Somehow I feel it's worth the price of my sanity.

On that note ... with my last few weeks of freedom, what should I do? I can't leave the country, but that's about my only limitation. (Also, no running, but that's just a general rule.)

* and subsequently unhidden, out of guilt and voyeurism.

Friday, August 17, 2012

That time I interviewed Helen Gurley Brown.

Namedropping alert! Most of you don't know about my sordid past in television, but today's blog is about that time I went to interview Helen Gurley Brown, RIP. (I may have been just assisting on the interview. I can't remember exactly, as it was 10 years ago and my journal is in storage. But anyway...)  We were producing a documentary on Giorgio Armani, and Ms. Brown was one of our talking heads.

I've never been a fashionista, but Ms. Brown's name was a name I'd known for years. You can argue all day long about whether she was a feminist, but you can't argue with her influence on women or her power as a businesswoman. I'd read Ms. Brown's books, magazines, articles, had prepared questions, and was ready for the interview -- except in one respect.

What the hell does one wear to talk with the International Editor-in-Chief of Cosmo about Giorgio Armani?

If you're me, and all your clothes are vintage-before-vintage-was-cool (or rather just "old"), and you make $22,000 a year living in Manhattan, well, you borrow something. Now my job wasn't exactly a The Devil Wears Prada thing where there's a back room full of name-brand samples. I borrowed a dress from a friend because I knew I had shoes that matched the dress perfectly. Both the dress and the shoes were in that strange plaid tan, white, and red plaid I always saw the dashing old men wearing around their necks and under their raincoats.

Here is where you say to yourself, "Oh, Burberry plaid, of course."

Did I mention I've never been a fashionista? Yeah, I had no idea what Burberry was. I'd even acquired an umbrella in that same pattern -- a gift from someone I'd been dogsitting for while they were in London. I thought it was rather weird that they were so excited to present me with a plaid umbrella, but it was well-made and very useful.

So when my friend offered her plaid dress, and I had matching shoes, AND a matching umbrella, I thought, "Right! This'll do."

From the minute I showed up to work that day, it started. "Hey, Burberry girl!" said the receptionist. "Ooooooh, lookin' sharp, Burberry," whistled my cubicle-mate. And a few other comments. I wasn't quite sure I'd heard the words right, until I'm sitting in Helen Gurley Brown's office at Cosmo. After a quick introduction and chit-chat about growing up in the South (she was from Arkansas), she winks at me and says, "Love the Burberry!" I grin and thank her, but still have no idea what the hell she's talking about. Is there some famous movie called Burberry where the main actress dresses how I've accidentally dressed? Is "burberry" just fashion code for having a perfectly coordinated shoes, dress, and umbrella? Is it "Burr Berry" and it's a color?


Anyway, the interview went well; Ms. Brown was sharp, professional, and spoke in soundbytes. My favorite quote was pre-tape when the sassy 78-year-old unbuttoned her shirt, exposing a lacy bra to the soundman who had asked her to clip the microphone to her collar. "Why don't you do it?" she grinned.

As for me, I made it back to the office just in time to ask my cubicle-mate who the hell Burberry was.
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thoughts on Folk Clubs.

I played a fun gig last night (that's right, at 37 weeks pregnant!) a few towns over, at the Dunfermline Folk Club. Folk Clubs have a bad connotation in America conjuring images of old hippies snapping their fingers at Peter, Paul, and Mary covers (what's wrong with that, by the way?).

Over here "folk clubs" seem, to me anyway, more about a culture that listens to music differently. I haven't written a thesis on it or anything, but I think it must nod back to the respected traveling troubadour. The idea of a traveling musician wasn't always skinny jeans -- well, I guess they wore tights back then, maybe the ultimate skinny jeans -- and a trust-fund purchased guitar. It was a way of spreading stories, true and exaggerated, of telling people of faraway cultures and lands, and of providing professional entertainment straight to your hometown. Who wouldn't pay a shilling for that kind of opportunity?

Today people balk at a $5 cover charge (how is it that I was paying $5 in the 1990s for Louisville shows and now $5 will make people turn around and leave), but that's another blog...

Anyway, I love the Folk Club scene in Scotland. Each club is different. Dunfermline's was all about audience participation, in that everyone was welcome to share a song if they wanted. Some were professionals, and some would never desire to be. But they all shared a love of music, stories, and togetherness, things that should always go hand in hand.

It made me wish I could go to Monday night bluegrass at Molly Malone's in Louisville for some Hog Operation fun times. If you're there, you should go and steep yourselves in live folk music.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Two Beauty Secrets: shampoo and socks.

There's a Huffington Post blog today on mismatched socks that has just validated something I've been doing for years -- something that's not really an idiosyncrasy, but a secret to life. My socks rarely match. (Read Patrick's blog for a more comic look at the benefits of wearing mismatched socks)

I, too, dump my socks in a drawer and pull two out. I generally try to make sure they are of the same thickness, but even that doesn't bother me much. Taking the time to make sure your socks not only match, but are folded and put away neatly in pairs, is the biggest waste of time I can imagine. I mean, I never claimed to be a fashionista, but I do know that life is short.

As an obsessive sock-matcher, David finds this quirk of mine both charming and frustrating. He's probably a bit concerned now about the times when I will be dressing our baby because you'd better believe I won't worry about his socks matching. I mean, seriously? Washing and organizing an infant's socks? Not on my time...

Another thing that is a waste of time? Shampoo. I haven't used shampoo in ten years. You are shocked and disgusted, yes? Well, check out that mane to your right! I don't have many beauty secrets, but I do know I've got great hair. Sorry if that's arrogant, but every woman should know her best feature. It got unruly for a bit before I learned better (thanks to Su!), but since I stopped using the shampoo, it's been a happy, curly, and more importantly tame crown of luscious locks. A dab of conditioner to clean it and that's it. I don't even own a comb, if you can believe it (maybe that's why I'm always able to travel light -- no toiletries!).

But back to socks. I know that mismatched socks isn't technically a beauty secret, but letting go of that little bit of order in your life is very freeing -- as is not having to buy a bunch of hair product. So when I say "beauty secret," think of it as a tip on relaxing and enjoying yourself. Nobody's looking at your ankles, especially when you've got those great cowboy boots covering them.

You're welcome.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Edinburgh Floatarium ... birthday adventure!

I specifically told David not to get me anything for my birthday, and I meant it. We have accumulated enough "stuff" during our year abroad, not to mention the fact that whenever we move home, we'll be bringing a brand new PERSON with us. Nonetheless, David was a bit naughty this year and surprised me with an appointment at our neighborhood Floatarium.

What, your neighborhood doesn't have its own Floatarium? (she said, laughing haughtily). Hee hee. I first read about this bizarre spa treatment in the 44 Scotland Street novels by Alexander McCall Smith, and I was excited to find out, when we first moved here, that the Floatarium not only existed, but was right down the street. Living the past year on a student loan, however, meant that we don't exactly have the budget for such luxuries.

Lucky me, however, got to enjoy an hour-long birthday float. Yep, that's it: a float. It's basically a pod in the basement of an old stone building that is filled with about a foot of warm (body-temperature) mineral-enhanced water. It's extra floaty -- not that I would have had trouble floating, especially with this baby weight, but those of you who say you don't float would have no problem in this salt water.

After several minutes of lying in the darkness with yoga music playing, you start to lose touch with your senses. You don't even realize you are wet, and it feels more like floating in space than floating in a pool. I tried to meditate or whatever, but being that it was my birthday and I was extra-excitable, my mind never fully zoned out. At least I don't think. Come to think of it, it definitely didn't seem like I was in there a full hour, so maybe I was all floaty-high after all.

I have to say that it was the perfect thing to do in your third trimester of pregnancy. My joints had been a bit achy, and I felt brand new for about 24 hours after the float. Might have to return before this baby makes his escape...

Anyway, here's the extra funny thing: I'd actually stopped by the Floatarium the day before my birthday and bought a gift card for David for our anniversary (despite the no presents rule). The woman at the counter totally knew that I'd be coming in the following day for a surprise birthday float, but she didn't give away a thing! Nor did she give away to David the next day that he had a similar surprise coming his way.

How cute is that? We got each other the same thing! It's like Gift of the Magi, except without the whole tragedy part or twist ending. Which I guess makes it nothing like Gift of the Magi, but who cares? It's still funny.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Edinburgh Festival shows

The Edinburgh Festival is in full swing, which means walking down the Royal Mile is like walking through Times Square on New Year's Eve. Well, it's less smelly, and the people are nicer. Still, this city is crowded.
Nick Keir -- performing at Valvona & Crolla
today and tomorrow for the Fringe Festival.

We've had a super-fun houseguest for the past week, so that means lots of time spent taking in the sights of Edinburgh. I've been to Portobello Beach, Duddingston's Sheep Heid Inn, Edinburgh Castle (twice!), the Royal Military Tattoo, pub trivia, a restaurant/7-course meal so amazing it needs its own blog, and a few Fringe shows in between wanderings.

I love that the Festival lasts a month, so there's no pressure to see everything. I've also taken to not reading anything about the shows and basing my show choices entirely on how far I feel like walking. Last week, when I was wallowing in my 9th month of pregnancy, I talked the boys into seeing the closest show to our house -- an Australian musical called "Crab House" at Fingers Piano Bar (why did I not seek out a job at this piano bar when I first arrived?? I love playing cabaret nights!).

We also saw a one-woman-show called Folken Britain, featuring an adorable woman, Susan Harrison, who does a fabulous impression of an English Bulldog (at least, that's what I thought it was) and made us giggle lots. She was also kind enough to not involve the extremely pregnant woman in the 3rd row with any of the audience participation moments, and for that, I thank her (if you've got yourself on Google Alert, Susan, then thank you and great show!).

There is one Fringe show I'm really, really excited about, and that is the return of Nick Keir! Nick is my favorite Scottish performer (to call him merely a singer-songwriter is an extreme understatement). He's actually got a show today (3:00pm at Valvona & Crolla, an Italian cafe that will make you drool) as well, if you Edinburgh folks are looking for something to do. I'm not able to go until tomorrow's 5:45 show, but I can't wait to hear him. Nick's been seriously ill for the past several months, and he's powering through these gigs in between treatments. I'm pretty sure that beats playing a show 9-months pregnant (which I'm doing on Wednesday in Dunfermline, if anyone cares to see a vaudeville act of trying to play guitar/accordion with an enormously pregnant belly).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Baby abroad: registration, doctors, midwives, timeline (NHS part two)

A lot of people over here complain about the NHS. A lot of people over here also complain about all kinds of things that aren't really that bad -- like the rain, for example. Edinburgh literally gets half the annual rainfall that my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, gets. Complaining about things is a way of life -- something people even joke about. (Although, truthfully, it seems complaining is really just a form of conversation with friends or with strangers in an elevator. I've not seen anyone complain to authority, in a way that we loud Americans so often do.) When I tell my UK friends here how much I paid for health insurance in the US (a plan that didn't include dental, much less maternity), followed by what percentage of medical bills that "insurance" actually covered, suddenly the NHS is a source of pride.

David and I arrived in the UK on student and dependent visas, and we thought we were supposed to register with the University Health Care. That's how it was in college back home. Your college insurance covered university medical care, not your private doctors. In January, when we found out I was pregnant, we (probably I) complained to a friend about having to trek across town (a whole 2 miles, ha ha) to the University doctor.  She then informed me you could register with any doctor office in town.

So we walked into our neighborhood medical center and said that we lived over here and would like to register with a doctor. Three minutes later, we were in their system -- no calling to see if their practice took my insurance or whatnot, just a simple form.

When you switch doctors (at least at this practice) you must come in to see a doctor or nurse to discuss your medical history. Seeing as scheduling a physical or any other sort of basic wellness checkup can take months back in the States (the last US doctor I saw before I moved was my dermatologist -- an appointment I had to set up four months in advance, despite the fact that I had a strange new asymmetrical mole and a history of precancerous cells), I figured this basic NHS appointment would be a few months out.

Wrong. Both David and I were booked in the following week.*

To schedule a maternity appointment, we needed to call the central midwife office, or something like that. David called (I hate making phone calls) and was told we'd need to wait about a month to come in for our booking appointment. Ahhhhh ... the wait list! There it was! But ... no ... the real reason? Well, that's how they do it here -- wait to see you until you're 8 weeks along.

That is probably shocking to my American readers (it was to us, at first), but think about it for a minute. If something bad was going to happen, it would happen regardless of having an early ultrasound. There's really nothing they can do for a healthy woman at five weeks pregnant. I mean, I'm not sick; I'm pregnant.

They do offer the NHS published book, Ready, Steady, Baby, which is basically a streamlined version of What to Expect, except with Scottish-specific advice, such as "Safety during lambing season." If you're a nerd, like me, and had already read several books about pregnancy, well, just return to normal routine -- minus alcohol and unpasteurized cheese, of course -- and await your 8-week "booking appointment."

After all, you're not sick, you're pregnant.

*Since then, I've had the both the doctor and the dentist offer me a non-emergency appointment the next day.

Next NHS blog: I get red-flagged as high risk and am sent to a multitude of obstetricians and hematologists at two different hospitals. Remember, they do check bloods and things...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Having a Baby Abroad ... thoughts on the NHS (part one)

If there’s one question I’ve gotten since we announced this pregnancy, it’s, “What is the NHS like?” I’ll answer this over a series of blogs, and I’ll attempt to remain as objective as possible. If I had to give a one-word answer, however, it would be: amazing.

More recently, friends have asked me if I’m now to the point now where I’m going to the doctor once a week to be checked out. My response?
1) I don’t go to a doctor; I go to a midwife
2) I haven’t had to take my clothes off for anyone (except for that one time that caused this whole baby thing, but that’s another blog)
3) I had my 36 week appointment today. Before that I had a 32 week appointment. My next one is two weeks from today (38 weeks), and again, I don’t have to get naked.

Tell most Americans you see a midwife rather than a doctor, and they will think you’re in some sort of backwoods country getting unreliable care. To that, I respond that the midwives who’ve been looking after me have checked bloods and all that good stuff, listen to the heartbeat when I come in, palpated my belly to feel where the baby is, and have informed me that I’m a perfectly healthy woman doing something that other women have been doing for thousands of years.

So, yeah, I don’t have an obstetrician, and I love that. No one is worried or panicking or testing for a thousand different things or sticking their hands or other instruments in places they don’t belong. And you know what? I’m no longer terrified of childbirth – and believe me, six months ago I was a worried mess.

That’s enough of a blog today, but I’ve loads more questions to field and more stories to share about various preventative measures they’ve taken here, the “wait-list” you hear so much about, technology, doctors, classes, and the hottest issue: how much this baby has cost us so far.

To be continued...
Actual birth story:

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The cutest thing ever.

On the heels of yesterday's stressed-out-about-life post, I come to you today with a cup of tea and a pitcher of sunshine. It's a balmy 68* in Edinburgh, and I've dragged a table and chairs into the front yard for a bit of writing and catching up.

I've also been working on a blog specific to baby-related posts (still private, but will post a link soon), as I don't feel like they belong on The Red Accordion Diaries. Y'all come for tales of travel, adventures, and music, not anecdotes about homemade nursing pillows and poop.

But, just because it's sunny enough to do laundry and hanging tiny clothes in the front yard might be the cutest thing ever (besides a pile of beagle puppies), I thought I'd share this.

Have a wonderful sunshiney day, wherever you are!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Baby update: No nesting, just stressing.

Less than five weeks until my due date, and I have seen no signs of "nesting." Unless you count that time I dusted off the whisky shelf a few weeks ago. Also, I still think that puppies are way cuter than babies and that Babies R Us is more terrifying than enlightening. Fortunately, David is not freaking out at my lack of baby talk and fear of pram shopping. He seems to think I'll still be a great mother, even if I don't have my newborn's "going home outfit" laid out and ironed.

Maybe it's because we are living in a one-bedroom flat, and there's no nursery for which we need to choose paint colors and hang mobiles. Maybe it's because I'm annoyed that I won't finish be completing that novel before baby arrives.

Mostly, it's because we've got a lot bigger things to be stressing out about than a clean house and freshly crocheted booties.

Everyone wants to know what our plans are. I don't know. I can tell you that D hands in his dissertation a week before the baby is due, and we're free to move home once this kid gets a passport.

Trouble is, there's no way I'm moving back to America without health insurance. And because of the screwed-up nature of America's health system (or lack of), that means we can't move back until D has a job. (For various reasons, buying a family individual policy is pretty much not an option.) Do you know how hard it is to find a job from four thousand miles away? Talk about pressure on the poor man. A dissertation and a job ... and all because his wife is self-employed.

Fun times, eh? Kind of makes "nesting" low-priority. Also, it reminds me that I'd better request our absentee ballots ASAP ... and get that whisky collection ready for re-entry into the household in T-minus five weeks.

By the way, anyone wanna hire a freshly-minted MBA? I'll brag on him and all the awards he got this year in another post, but mostly for now, I'll tell you he's hard-working and adorable (and currently washing about fifty onesies because his wife hasn't started nesting).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Edinburgh luxury: Afternoon Tea at the Balmoral.

I feel a bit guilty that I'm creating far too many distractions for David and his, no big deal, dissertation, but we have been having all kinds of adventures lately. I would blame these supposed 'last few weeks of child-free freedom,' but I'm pretty sure even without that time limit, I'd still be a distraction. I mean, we live in Scotland! There are afternoon teas to take! Castles to storm! Tattoos to attend!

Here are a few pics from Afternoon Tea at the Balmoral Hotel, where D & I had a late lunch  for our anniversary. It was a gift from my parents and was something we'd wanted to do for a long time. It was posh, but not too posh, in that most of the people there were clearly tourists tired from a long morning of balancing on cobblestones. We actually felt like locals and spent a luxurious hour-plus daydreaming about what it would be like to have a tea like this everyday, served by our "staff" in our estate. It's nice to pretend you're upstairs at Downton Abbey for an hour.  Kudos to the excellent staff of the Balmoral, who didn't bat an eye at serving two vegetarian teas with no unpasteurized cheese (a wheel of camembert will be my first postpartum indulgence).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Edinburgh Festival time!

I come to you today from a coffeeshop on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, where the cobblestoned streets are packed with tourists and street performers. It's Festival (and the more famous Fringe Festival) time, and various roads are appropriately closed for ... the arts! Can you imagine? It's not a horse race, NASCAR race, or drunken quasi-religious event. It's a month-long celebration of music, theatre, and other artsy things. What are these wacky Europeans thinking?

I'm pretty excited about it, and I'm looking forward to catching a few shows this month, even if I have to waddle there in a moo-moo. If I can stay awake until 10:00 (and then awake through the set), I'm playing accordion and singing with Adam Holmes tonight at the Voodoo Rooms. Tomorrow night, we're going to the preview performance of the Edinburgh Tattoo.

Anyone have any show suggestions? This blogger is raring to watch and write about all kinds of fun stuff.