…And I’m FREEEE!!!

After last week’s ridiculous self-inflicted trauma, many prayers, and what I can only credit to God’s grace, I am so happy to be DONE!!! WOOHOOO!!!

Recap: One giant paper, one giant project, and one giant Thanksgiving celebration to plan and cook.  The paper was knocked out at various coffee shops, bars, and even in the LIBRARY.  Woah.  The project was done the night before while juggling Thanksgiving pre-cooking and turkey defrosting.  Want to know something that was only funny in hindsight?  I didn’t get approval to buy the groceries until Wednesday morning, at which time it was too late to set up a delivery to my building… Which meant I got to walk to the store, buy £100 of food including 15 pounds of turkey, and take it all by taxi to my third floor flat.  Haha funny!  Nope.

Our project for sustainable design went REALLY well!  It was all based around a building remodel, and we proposed building on an atrium to allow natural heating and ventilation to the building.  This would also allow us to plant inside the atrium, with plantings that absorb toxins commonly found in office environments.  Cool stuff!  Our professor liked it and gave us good constructive feedback for the actual submission.  WOOHOO!


A diagram explaining how sunlight will enter our building at different times of the year. Neat stuff 🙂

After presenting, our professor had arranged a champagne toast (no seriously.  Tell me again how cool YOUR professor is? Mine wins 🙂 ) I rushed home to help my AMAZING flat mate Willow, who volunteered to put in the turkey and get things going while I was away on campus most of the day.  Seriously, thanksgiving would not have happened without this gal.  Another flat mate Andrea helped get veggies chopped and cheese grated and dishes done- There is nothing that makes you more thankful than great friends who help you when you are at your most stressed and sleep deprived state.  Thank you ladies!!!

People started trickling in at 7 PM, and we ate around 7:30.  More than 20 people came to our Thanksgiving celebration!! I have to say, I was pretty impressed with our spread 🙂


And this wasn’t even the whole feast!!! It wouldn’t all fit on the table!

Hot spiced apple cider, turkey roasted with sage and garlic, gravy, vegetarian stuffing with spiced butternut squash seeds, cornbread, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with pecans and marshmallows, roasted butternut squash, a Chinese stir fry, scalloped corn (a family favorite) broccoli bacon salad, and pumpkin pie, apple pie, and , and chocolate shortbread bars for dessert.  Charlie Brown Thanksgiving was playing in the background, lots of people gathered around to try all the different dishes (most of them for the first time) and everyone left with full stomachs.


A fair share of our lovely Thanksgiving guests!


Two awesome gents even did all the dishes, thanks Morris and Daniel!! I considered the evening a HUGE success, and left to Skype my family before going to bed.  It was so nice to have a lovely group of people over to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, especially one that makes me miss home like crazy.  I was still homesick, but my heart was happy too 🙂


Thanks for doing my least favorite kitchen chore, guys!!! 🙂

The next day I helped my good friend Moira from church set up her Christmas decorations, since her hip needs a replacement and no one wanted her climbing up and down a ladder to get things down!  We had a wonderful day together and she even lent me some decorations for my own tree.  She is a treasure everyone needs to meet.

Oh… And here’s another cool abbey I visited on Monday ;D This is Dunfermline Abbey.  Also went to Edinburgh Castle yesterday… No big deal, just castle hopping everywhere.


Now, on to VACATION PLANNING!! For my own safety I won’t go into much detail about where I plan to go, but I am super freaking excited.  I WILL say my plans involve backpacking, taking TONS of photos, and seeing lots of old things 😉  I will post about my travels after I meet up with my parents for Christmas!!! Let’s just say it is completely a dream come true, and I get to share it with my two all time favorite people.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it!!

Love and Laughs,



Crunch Time

Every single semester I tell myself I won’t procrastinate.  I say “alright Taylor, this time you will start the work early so you don’t have a meltdown in the last week of school.”  I have these super-student I WILL CONQUER ALL!!! moments, determined to cross the finish line in cool, collected victory.


This is ALWAYS my reality… So much for calm and collected.

This semester’s particular evils are a 4,000 word essay in my Scottish Architecture class, due next Thursday.  Current word count? 600.  At this point insidious tendrils of fear begin to clutch my soul.

Next- final project for my Sustainable Methodologies class.  Also due next Thursday.  My brain has started to melt like ice cream on a sidewalk.  Please note: this scenario usually results in tears from the person who USED to have a lovely ice cream cone.  Just a note.

Climbing onward, a 2,500 word essay for my Theories and Contexts class due mid-December, right in the middle of my December travels.  I’m hoping to have this done before I leave for vacation (see opening paragraph to know the reality of this statement)!

And the cherry on top- I have volunteered to host Thanksgiving for my whole housing complex- you guessed it- NEXT THURSDAY.  Cue the maniacal laughter due to complete loss of brain function.

Hey, I haven’t survived 32 semesters thus far only to crumble at #33!  I’ve learned a thing or two over the years, slipped a trick or two up my sleeves along the way.  I can do this.  I can make it happen.  If only my brain can focus long enough!  My motivation is the SIX WEEKS  of travelling Europe once school is done, and meeting MOM AND DAD WHEN I GET THERE!!! It might be the exhaustion talking, but I am freaking excited to see my parents again.  I don’t care if being a 23-year-old mama’s girl/daddy’s girl is lame, I will embrace that lameness til I die 🙂

Oh, and I got to visit a castle this week! St. Michael’s Parish Church and Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots.  AWESOME places to visit, especially if you have an architecture historian going along telling you what it looked like in its glory days!

St James Parish

The main aisle, the beautifully painted window and tracery, and an incredibly rare pre-reformation stone carving. Most of these carvings were destroyed and defaced at that time.


Linlithgow Palace

Alright- it will probably be quiet on the Scottish front until the semester is over next week.  Wish me luck, send good-focus-vibes, and I’ll see you on the other side!!

Love and Laughs,


Hauntings and the Highlands

Happy Halloween/ Samhuinn!

Samhuinn is recorded in Irish history from the 10th century.  It’s truly a fascinating story about Winter overthrowing Summer, and the Beltane Fire Society website can tell you the story much better than I.  Since I refuse to pay $60.00 just for the WordPress video upgrade, you can see video I shot of the parade on Facebook here- Samhuinn 1, Samhuinn 2

My classmates FORCED me (admittedly without much fight) to dress up for Halloween, so I tore up my original sandpaper-esque duvet and went as a mermaid. Not bad for a bed sheet, huh?!  My flat mates and I  headed to High Street and met up with my classmates to watch the parade. So much fun!

Two combined.

Yay for traditional celebrations!  Now on to Highland Adventures!!

Travel tip #17… Learn how to set your freaking alarm clock.  I had grandiose plans of waking up at 5:45, having a nice cup of coffee with breakfast, and taking the early bus so I would make it to the tour bus by 8 AM.  Big fat NOPE!!! I rolled over to read 7:30 on my clock and almost CHOKED- I threw on my clothes in a panic, grabbed whatever food I happened to have in the fridge, and sprinted to the bus stop by 7:40.  Nothing like an early morning panic to get the adrenaline pumping.  But I made it by 7:50, BAM!!  I’m glad I woke up in time, since the tour guide was ADORABLE and wore a kilt to go with his Scottish accent… Just saying, it was a lovely addition 😉


Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument

Our first stop was Stirling to take pictures of the castle and use the loo.  From there we crossed the valley to hike up to the Wallace Monument, dedicated to William Wallace-aka Braveheart.  Our tour guide told us the true story and the movie Braveheart have quite a few differences, but it’s still his favorite haha.


We stopped for a few minutes at Lake Tunnah (or something…) and then on to Glencoe, in the pictures above.  I loved it here. It could have been Hatchers Pass.  I kept thinking how much fun it would be to go hiking in REAL mountains!

Next was Glenfinnan, where the Hogwarts Express goes over the arched bridge!  It has been fondly re-named the Harry Potter Bridge, and a bunch of the filming was done in this area.  The monument at Glenfinnan is of Bonnie Prince Charlie, who lead the Scottish against the British during the Jacobite uprising.  He was the one in charge when the Scots were massacred at the Battle of Culloden. We visited the battlefield too, you’ll see more on that below.

Harry Potter Bridge

Our last stop for Day 1 was Loch Ness- because you can’t come to the Highlands without visiting Loch Ness!! It was truly beautiful, and reminded me a lot of Tangle Lakes back home.  Dad would LOVE to canoe out there. The middle photo is us doing the “Nessie Dance” to coax her to the surface… But alas, we must not have tried hard enough 🙂  On to Inverness, dinner, and bedtime.

Loch Ness

Highlands Trip Day 2

We had breakfast at the hostel, then headed to the Clava Cairns just outside Culloden.  Seriously, check out these amazing rock structures! How the heck did people in prehistoric times do this stuff?!  The structures are made out of foreign stone (aka they had to be hauled here) and they are perfectly aligned to the sun path so the chambers would fill with sunlight at the right time of year.  Can you see the way the standing stones radiate from the central structure, like sun beams?  DUDE…

Clava Cairns

Next, the battlefield of Culloden.  Now I’m usually not one for battle history, but this one is just sad.  The incredibly ill-prepared Scots were out numbered and out-gunned; and while the British casualties numbered in the low hundreds, more than 1500 Scots lost their lives.  In the end, this battle would mark the beginning of the decline of Gaelic culture.  The British outlawed the Gaelic language, the bagpipes, Highland weapons, and the clan system (which was a Highlander’s entire identity and pride- no clan, no identity).  The Highland Clearances were issued to essentially force all those living in the highlands to move to the Lowlands.  An incredibly sad example of cultural cleansing.


Each bumped out stone along this wall represents a Scot who was killed in the battle.

Hermitage and Dunkeld

We stopped for lunch at a little town called Pitlochry.  I LOVED this little town- it was quaint, quiet, and had the best fish and chips I have EVER had.  We went out on the dam to see the water and salmon ladders, then moved on to the Hermitage.  The Hermitage is a great forest walk out towards an awesome waterfall and the biggest redwood tree in Scotland.  It was gorgeous here- I definitely want to go back.  The Hermitage was right across the street from Dunkeld, and the Dunkeld Cathedral.  We stopped to see the cathedral then headed home.  A minor traffic jam, then finally HOME!  And homework. And bed.

All in all, a fantastic weekend- definitely one for the books.  I have to say the scenery made me quite homesick, but it was so nice to see that landscape again.  I don’t know if the mountain girl in me will ever adjust to the city life.  I don’t think it’s an adjustment I want, anyway 🙂

Thanks for reading, I know it was a lot of information this week!

Love and Laughs,



All The Way to 1124- A Hermit and an Abbey

Last Wednesday, my Scottish Architecture Before 1650 class went on a trip to Inchcolm Abbey.  Check out this awesome 12th Century ruin!


Inchcolm Abbey- Built in 1125 as tribute to David 1’s brother Alexander.

Yes, I get to go visit ancient abbeys and castles for class credit 🙂  I love Scotland!

Last Wednesday I hopped on a train at Waverly Station headed for Dalmeny.  The train stopped just before the famous Firth of Forth (or as my mom and I jokingly say, the Forth of Firth… I still can’t get it right).

Forth of Firth


From the train station it was a short walk through the trees to the waterfront.  Inchcolm Abbey is located on Inchcolm Island in the Firth of Forth.  The ferry dock is right at the base of the bridge, you can just see a blue smudge of a ferry in the middle image above.  My teacher arrived with his two adorable dogs, who accompanied us all day!

Let's Get Married on a Boat!

Good to know if you have the urge to get married on a boat!

The ride was COLD (Yes this Alaskan can admit being COLD) and we got splashed a few times on the hour long ride to Inchcolm Island.  Besides the wind, this place was amazing!

Inchcolm Details

We wandered through the abbey, up tiny spiral staircases and up the tower.  Oh, correction… The rest of the class went up.  After the first tiny claustrophobic spiral staircase, and in the memory of the never-ending staircase at St. Andrews, I opted to skip the tower this time.  I think I can sleep soundly without being haunted by that decision 🙂

Hermit's Cell

The last place we visited at Inchcolm before we left was the Hermit’s Cell.  This was the original building on the island back when Alexander I and his crew were rescued here, and before the abbey was built.  There is enough room for a pallet and a place to kneel to pray.  I really liked this little place- It was peaceful, set back in nice foliage, and had a sacred feel to it.  I would love to go back just to sit in this little alcove.

After Inchcolm and the ferry ride back, we visited Dalmeny Church.  I don’t know much about this church, but the details were beautiful!



This weekend… Halloween Shenanigans (Scottish, of course) and a trip to the Highlands!  Stay tuned for more photos!

Halloween Preview

Halloween Preview 🙂

Have a great week!

Love and Laughs,




Settling In, Branching Out

Alright, I KNEW I would be horrible at keeping up on posts!! Sorry for the month-long gap, guys…

I have been in Scotland for a month and a half now, loving the crap out of most of this adventure and yelling expletives at the rest of it.  These are a few of my favorite things…

These are a few of m favorite things

My 9 flatmates are AMAZING (Say hello to Celine!) My Scottish Architecture professor is fantastic (he even brought his dogs on our class trip) And these amazing old buildings still leave me breathless.

Oh, and you should SERIOUSLY go listen to this clip on Soundcloud.  Celine and I found this guy when we were exploring one day and we were both hooked 🙂

Super boring picture that means I am FINALLY able to sleep :')

Super boring picture that means I am FINALLY able to sleep :’)

The whole adjusting to a foreign country thing isn’t always hunky dory, I’ll admit.  For the first month I couldn’t sleep AT. ALL.  I had forgotten the perils of dorm beds and their complete lack of padding.  I would seriously wake up in the morning with pressure bruises on my elbows.  I resorted to sleeping on top of my duvet for a little bit of cushion, just hoping to get a few hours rest.  I had pretty much given up hope of sleeping this year, BUT THEN, when my dividend check arrived, I decided the best dividend gift to me would be a lovely MATTRESS TOPPER!! Now my bed is like being wrapped in clouds and marshmallow fluff and unicorn hugs.

The other fairly annoying point was our completely empty kitchen.  The University Accommodation website advertised the flat as “equipped with necessary items.”  That meant a microwave and refrigerators.  Every other university accommodation I have been in at least offers utensils and a few baking pans!  Nope, we split our money and slowly built up our kitchen so we could actually cook.

Collage 2- Food

We’re still missing a few things, but I think we manage, don’t you?

Food, Check.  Sleep, check.  Lots of random city adventures between classes, check!

I try to take as much time between classes to wander the city.  So far my meanderings have found me an independent bookshop that loathes Amazon.com, where I found a book of horror stories by comedians. Let’s just say they have truly tortured minds… I also found an amazing art shop full of prints, and they offer a student discount!  I finally found something to put on my last plain white wall!  Two Art Nouveau portraits and an oil painting of a bowl of flowers.  I’ve also found a stationary shop, a plethora of charity (thrift) shops, an awesome pizza joint and of course, plenty of coffee shops.

Collage 3- Adventures

A bagpiper playing lovely hymns, the view from Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, and my favorite giraffe statue 🙂

Oh, SCHOOL you say?  I guess that’s worth mentioning 😉

I love my classes!  I have two core classes for my degree program, and one optional course to reach my credit requirement.  Sustainable Context and Theories and Sustainable Methodologies are the two cores, and they are both fascinating.  We went to a small village and a seaside town as part of our first class project, which was a blast.  The village was literally a block of houses and a train station- the project was to focus on implementing infrastructure that could accommodate the town if it grew to be an outer suburb of Edinburgh, so we were starting from the ground up.  The seaside town is called North Berwick (pronounced Berrick) and my whole class wandered the town before beach-combing and getting coffee at the Seabird Institute down the beach.  All this for class credit!

My optional course is Scottish Architecture Before 1650.  I kid you not… This class is entirely learning about castles, cathedrals, and abbeys in Scotland!  Best class EVER.  Well, best elective ever, haha. We went on a trip in this class too, out to an abbey on an island that was built in 1126!!! On the way back we also stopped at a church uphill.  Post on that trip coming soon.


Besides that… We pretty much just buckle down and work… No fun to be had at all…

Yahia's Photo

Photo from my classmate Yahia. He was attempting a nice portrait…


Three of the lovely ladies from my classes! Nehaa, myself, Cristina, and Delia 🙂


My next post will be from the lovely Inchcolm Abbey!  I’ll try to have it up in the next few days 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Love and Laughs,





Fore!! Day Trip to St. Andrews

Happy Monday!

Saturday was my first trip in Scotland visiting attractions outside Edinburgh.  This is only a SLIGHT stretch… Mom and I went to Rosslyn Chapel just outside Edinburgh when we were here in 2012.  But it’s BARELY outside the city, so I’m stretching it 🙂

St. Andrews is around 45 minutes from campus.  Three giant tour buses dropped us off outside the fog-wrapped cathedral.  I had a small twinge of disappointment that I wouldn’t be able to get clear photos, but the longer I looked at the crumbled facade the more it looked like a beautiful old woman wrapped in a lace shawl.

Edit IMG_0176

This would have been the sanctuary.

My flat mate Ave came on the trip too, and we spent the day walking down the pier (well, old stone walkway into the ocean) watching golfers on the old links, and wandering the city.  The trip included admission to the castle and the abbey tower on the cathedral grounds.  The castle was attacked by French galleys and destroyed, and the cathedral fell into disrepair during the Scottish Reformation and eventually crumbled.  (Click on the picture strip to see bigger versions of the photos)


It was a fantastic day, and we both really had fun learning about the town’s history.  It’s so crazy to see buildings from 1128 and earlier, and stone walls built during the Plague.  Things that seemed like distant, imaginary entities in history class literally come alive and breath in places like this.  I can’t wait to explore more places 🙂


Had to finish the day with honeycomb pecan gelato!

A Trip in a Time Machine

Hello there!  Life is good across the pond 🙂


This is where my classes will be. Dude- seriously.

I’ve been here for just over a week, and I’m already in love with this city.  It truly feels like I’ve stepped back in time, like I’ve been sucked into a time warp and I’m living in the Renaissance.  Except I don’t think everyone wore stilettos, maxi skirts or had green hair back then… We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto!!!

Room Evolve

Yay flats!  No not the shoes- apartments!  Despite being tiny my room is really cozy, and I’ve finally gotten things where I want them.  Campus poster sale, IKEA, and a borrowed airline blanket make for a not-so-dorm-like living space 🙂 My seven flat mates are all fantastic as well, hopefully you’ll get to see them in later posts!

There is a HUGE lovely kitchen, with lots of cabinet space, two ovens, and three refrigerators.  Even though we live in university accommodation, we have to provide most of our kitchen tools, any room enhancements, and toilet paper.  TOILET PAPER.  Seriously?!?  Of all the things to include you people give us electric kettles, but NOT TOILET PAPER?!? Apparently the UK has weird priorities…

Arthurs Seat

This being Fresher’s Week, there have been tons of events put on by the university to welcome new students to Edinburgh.  I attended a few new student seminars (Meh) Met with my program coordinator (AWESOME!!) Got a ton of great free stuff at a student free shop, joined nine student organizations, went on a coffee crawl to learn the cool local haunts, climbed Arthur’s Seat (the adjacent mountain) and went out to a pub with my flat mates.  It has been a crazy roller coaster ride of getting used to a new city/new school/foreign country, but I’m truly loving it so far.  I miss my mountains and trees though.  Daily family Skypes have made my homesickness MUCH lower than was expected 🙂

Tomorrow, Sunday, I have a job interview for a nanny position that would REALLY help me with finances.  Prayers and happy vibes would be much appreciated!  Tomorrow’s agenda also includes researching churches, finalizing my classes, and getting notebooks.

Haggis isn't as scary as it sounds!!!

Haggis isn’t as scary as it sounds!!!

I’m living each day as it comes and finding new blessings wrapped up in each one.  If the start is any indicator for the rest of the year, I’m going to have a hard time leaving this place 🙂

Love and Laughs,