Feeling Stuffed… in a Good Way

Last week was Thanksgiving and that was the first time that I have felt homesick abroad.  The day started out like every normal Thursday, but pretty soon I was bombarded with Thanksgiving texts, snapchats, and social media posts, reminding me how far away I was from the long table in Maine that fit my family.

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Luckily, my friends and I had already planned a Friendsgiving.  One of our British friends wanted to host an American Thanksgiving, and he cooked us a wonderful meal.  We all pitched in and brought miscellaneous items, and had a wonderful night filled with many laughs.

It got me thinking about how grateful I am to have been given such a wonderful semester away from home.  I have been so HAPPY for the past few months.  I will never forget St Andrews or Scotland, and will hold every day here close to my heart.

However, I realise that every good thing has to come to an end, and my abroad end is swiftly approaching.  Throughout the semester I’ve made a mental checklist of all of the things I am “taking” back with me when I return home.  The things that have changed me, and made me happier.

Sarah’s Return Pack List 

  • Spend more time in nature.  Hikes, walking by the beach, etc. have been moments of absolute contentedness at St Andrews.  I already made a list of local hikes I want to do at home!
  • Walk more.  Similarly speaking, in St Andrews I walk everywhere and the fresh air and added exercise has definitely given me a better state of mind.  Instead of taking a bus to a place 30 min. away, I will walk!
  • Wine and cheese nights. One of my cousins told me that the best way to get to know a place is to literally break bread and share it with people.  And she was 100% right.  The wine and cheese nights I have had at St Andrews have been so wonderful to take a moment out of my day to stop and be with the people that I care about.
  • Quality over quantity. Back at home, I constantly pressured myself to do the MOST in order to be the best.  I prided myself on being busy, on having so many friends, etc.  But I am honestly happiest when I am not that busy, only see the people I really care about, and have time to smell the roses.
  • Keep travelling! If anything, study abroad has only made the travel bug grow.  I really would love to return to the States and travel within them.  See what my own backyard has to offer.
  • Eventually come back🙂 I am leaving a piece of my heart in Scotland. But I will come back to retrieve it.

 

H.O.L.Y Lifestyles

Today my day was made when I walked up to my flat and saw a package from a lovely friend living back in the States.  She sent me a National Geographic Magazine titled the Blue Zones: The Science of Living Longer, and a cook book that was modelled after themes found in the magazine.

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The general idea behind the two sources, is teaching people new “food ideas and eating practices, plus easy ways to change their environment” that are modelled after the Blue Zones.

What are the Blue Zones?  The Blue Zones are places where people live the healthiest and longest lives, according to researchers.  They called them blue because the researchers circled them in blue ink… not as creative as I thought!

Five places were highlighted.

  1. Ikaria, Greece
  2. Okinawa, Japan
  3. Ogliastra region, Sardinia
  4. Loma Linda, California
  5. Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rice

Now, before you hop on a plane and jet off to one of these places, I am going to give you the major lifestyle practices and environmental factors that supposedly contribute to the overall healthfulness of the Blue Zones.  Assuming my readers are currently living out stereotypical American lifestyles I will also add ways these factors can be applied so you can make your life more Blue🙂

The Power Nine

  1. Move naturally.  Walk more and drive less.  Since being abroad I realised how little Americans walk.  I will drive a mile to my yoga studio to work out at home.  While in Scotland my walk to class is a mile back and forth everyday. This is important especially if work entails sitting at a desk all day.  Try fitting in a walk after dinner or walking anywhere within a 1-2 mile radius of your house.
  2. Purpose. Find something worth waking up to in the morning.  “Research shows that a sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of life expectancy.”
  3. Downshift.  Aka find something to relieve stress.  For me, exercise is a key component.  Or reading a book by myself.
  4. 80 Percent Rule. Stop eating when you are 80 percent full… trust me. I know this is much harder than it sounds.  My advice is to eat more slowly.  When I inhale a meal, often times I realise I really did not need those extra four cookies.  Put your fork down between bites, talk to people while eating, and drink water throughout the meal.
  5. Plant slant. Beans are quite popular in centenarian diets.  Make hummus, roasted chickpeas, and bean chilli!
  6. Wine @ 5.  Drink alcohol moderately and every day.  But stay away from sugar loaded drinks.  One to two glasses of wine should do it!
  7. Right tribe. Surround yourself with like minded people that make you happy!
  8. Community. “Research shows that attending faith based services four times a month adds 4-14 years of life expectancy.”
  9. Loved ones first.  Invest in your family.  Enough said.

Now, are any of these ideas revolutionary? No.  Will I wake up tomorrow screaming I know the secret to a long life?  No.

Why?  Because most of these factors we all already know.  It is not really a secret.  However, our environment and lifestyles impede on our ability and will to follow through with them.

What is my conclusion?  Pick one of these nine factors for each of the next nine months, and work on it.  Take a walk to visit your neighbour. Eat hummus for a snack instead of a candy bar. Invite your friends over for a wine night.  And maybe travel to one of the Blue Zones!

 

 

 

Going Ham

This post is far overdue. In October, my study abroad program and I went up north to Inverness, Glen Coe, Loch Ness, etc. We stayed at the Inverness Youth Hostel, which provided us a quick breakfast each morning. Lunch was on our own during bus stops in between each of the attractions. We toured Dunrobin Castle, the battle site of Culloden, a whisky distillery and a sheep dog farm! Everyday we were greeted with even more beautiful Scottish scenery and I would definitely recommend making the trek.

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On one of our breaks, a few friends and I went to One Up Restaurant. I ordered the cheese and ham toastie.  My choice reminded me a lot of my little brother.  He LOVES ham, and especially likes it when my mum roasts it for Christmas or Easter.  The cheese was perfectly melted and the ham was better than your typical grocery store variety.  The sandwiches in Scotland have been a staple of mine, since people do not really eat salads for lunch… or anytime for that matter🙂

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This is Dunrobin Castle which is situated directly on the coast.

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I took this picture on my way to Loch Ness.  It reminded me a lot of New England.

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And this is Glen Coe.  A few minutes before this picture I saw where Hagrid’s hut was filmed!

 

My New Reali-TEA

I started drinking coffee at the young age of 16 and continued having it every day since.  My mum had always been a fierce coffee addict, I mean drinker, and it seemed like a right of passage.  Dunkin’ Donuts is the famed chain up north, where only the best people get their coffee.  I would drink it black or add a dash of milk if I wanted to treat myself.  However, since arriving to Scotland, I have betrayed Boston and switched over to drinking tea!  Breakfast tea is a must in the morning since it has the most caffeine, but throughout the day I’ll love having green tea, herbal fruit tea, etc.  The list is endless.  My favourite one that I have tried so far was a black tea with chocolate in it.  It was so warm and comforting!

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This cute little tea shop, Hettie’s Teas, is located in Pitlochry.  Pitlochry became a spa and tourist destination after Queen Victoria declared the waters surrounding the town had medicinal qualities.  The tea arrived in a pot with a timer to let you know when it was drinkable.  I also ordered a smoked salmon sandwich alongside it.  In Scotland, butter is used as a sandwich spread instead of mayo, and it actually tastes really good!

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Before lunch, I had visited the beautiful Black Linn Falls at the Hermitage, Dunkeld.  This was one of my weekend trips up into Northern Scotland.  It seems like wherever I go, I am constantly greeted with different, yet still beautiful scenery.

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It’s Getting Toastie in Here

In Scotland, you will see the word “toastie” as an option for your sandwich.  What this means is that it will be toasted, or griddled like a grilled cheese.  At St Andrews Brewing Company, I ordered their cheese toastie alongside a mug of their tomato basil soup, and it felt like a taste from home.  The soup was really thick and creamy, and the grilled cheese reminded me of my mum, who would make that for the four of us kids growing up.  Dipping the toastie in the soup was definitely the way to go.img_5769

I really liked the vibes of the Brewing Company.  Their menu is stacked with stick to your rib favourites like mac and cheese, burgers, and nachos.  The bar is the central focus of the restaurant where you can order their homemade beer.  The dark wood and slightly narrow layout makes it feel really cozy and intimate, especially as more people saunter in throughout the night.

Definitely give it a go! And check out their merchandise and beer bottles as well.  Their logo is a really cool design.

Pizza Express

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A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my little brother about the food options in Scotland, and he was horrified that there were not that many good pizza places. Before speaking to him, I had only eaten from the local St Andrews Dominos to fill my Italian cravings.

So, I rounded up a friend and we headed to try Pizza Express, an Italian chain in the UK.

I ordered the Fiorentina, which consisted of spinach, free-range egg, mozzarella, tomato, garlic oil and black olives, and finished with Gran Milano cheese.

This was obviously much better than Dominos, and the salty olives reminded me of Bertucci’s back at home.  However, the dough was quite thick, and next time I think I will get their Romana style, which is stretched thinner.  The atmosphere was family friendly, and it was nice seeing kids running around with their parents.

You can make reservations online, to make sure that you get a table.

Up next on my list of restaurants to try is Little Italy, the last Italian restaurant left in St Andrews!

 

 

 

Soup bro?

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I have never been able to complete work in a completely silent environment.  At home I will play music as I study, and I need some sort of background sound.  When it is deathly silent, I hear a pin drop and become distracted.

At the Union, St Andrews’ student centre, there is Rector’s Cafe, my favourite place to do homework.  Rector’s plays pop and oldies music, and is open in the early morning when I bike into town.

Every Monday I have lunch at Rector’s with one of my friends, and either bring a sandwich from home, or order their soup of the day.

It is a great hang out spot because it has wifi, outlets for laptops, and huge windows which let a lot of natural sunlight in.

They also have a fine selection of sandwiches, snacks, tea, and pastries.  If you are a student and frequently buy hot drinks, ask for a stamp card.  They will stamp it every time you order a hot drink from Rector’s or the Old Union Coffee Shop, until you receive a free hot drink (around the 8th buy).

Lox of Love

As I have already previously stated, smoked salmon is one of the fine delicacies of Scotland that I have fallen in love with.  It is better than the variety I have back in the States, and tastes more fresh and less “fishy.”   I have three different plates around St Andrews that offer this local favourite.

North Point 

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My absolute favourite smoked salmon dish I have yet to date.  North Point is an adorable cafe on the end of North St. that claims Kate and William would get their coffee there together!  I ordered their peppermint tea, toast, scrambled eggs, and smoked salmon.  It was HEAVEN.  The sandwich bread over here is also better, it tastes less like card board, and is more fresh.  Huge dollops of butter were added on top of the toast to slowly melt on top.  The eggs were perfectly well done, and were not too runny.  And the smoked salmon was the star of the show.  Perfectly salty and it melted in my mouth!

Bibi’s 

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I have already posted about Bibi’s, one of my first finds in St Andrews.  It is located on the opposite end of North St as North Point.  This salad was a delicious medley of vegetables topped with potato salad, avocado, smoked salmon, and a lemony vinaigrette.  The richness of the salmon and avocado, was well balanced with the crisp vegetables, and the tang of the dressing.

Gorgeous 

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What better way to eat smoked salmon than on a bagel?  Gorgeous tops their toasted bagel with smoked salmon, greens, cream cheese, and a balsamic drizzle, which puts this sandwich on another level.

We Are Family

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Moving into October, I find myself amazed at how quickly this semester is moving.  In less than two weeks I will be reunited with my mum, which marks the midway point of my time abroad.

I have officially fallen in love with Scotland’s lifestyle.  As I have said before, there is an appreciation for the smaller things in life, and the slower lifestyle results in less anxiety.  I live better here.  And I am truly content.

But part of this is also attributed to the people I have surrounded myself with.  And my experience would have been much different if I did not have such strong support from newfound friends.

I have been blessed with a core group of friends who ground my everyday.  We are from different regions of the US and world, but we are linked by common ideals, activities, etc.

These are the people that I go hiking with.  The ones I eat gelato with.  The ones I live with.

Abroad would be much different if I did not have buoys holding me down somewhat.  These friends will float alongside with me on adventures, but they also are markers that I can always return to.

These friends are my “family” away from home.  They are the people I wake up to eat breakfast with.  And the ones that wish me good night on my way home from socializing.  I can’t tell them thank you enough.  Because their presence allows me to truly let myself enjoy being abroad, take advantage of as many opportunities as possible, and know that at the end of the day, I can feel loved no matter what continent I am living on.

 

 

When the Saints Go Marching In

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This past weekend I was able to somewhat fulfil my craving for American sports, by attending the World’s Oldest Varsity Rugby Match at BT Murrayfield in Edinburgh.  The University of St Andrews played against the University of Edinburgh in a rivalled battle.  We ended up winning 24-12!  My high school had a good club rugby team, so I knew the general gist of the game.

It was so much fun cheering on my school and feeling the energy of the crowd.  Sports have a way of uniting people that never gets old!

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I tried ginger beer for the first time at the game, and it had a flavour similar to that of beer and ginger ale.  The lasting flavour on your tongue definitely was from the ginger, and was a spicy kick.

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The snack choice was a plate of nachos.  Since arriving in Scotland I have been craving Mexican and Italian food, probably because I can’t quite find anything to rival restaurants back in the States!  These nachos were basically Doritos covered in shredded cheese and toppings.  Albeit not traditional per my standards, it did the trick to satisfy my hunger cravings!