Monthly Archives: November 2008

So, this is Christmas?

Now that Thanksgiving is SO twelve hours ago, can we talk about something?

I would like to know why THIS was my only option for international holiday postage?

m509258_large

Don’t recognize her from your childhood nightmare?

The desciption on the Royal Post’s online shop reads…

…featuring Snow White’s Wicked Queen. With her poison apple Snow White’s wicked Queen is guaranteed to raise a boo and a hiss.

A boo and a hiss? How is this even remotely in keeping with the holly, jolly holiday spirit?

The selection of domestic stamps wasn’t any better. They included such “beloved” Christmas characters as…

m509252_large1… a pie-faced Cap’n Hook…

m509240_large… and a pair of ugly transvestites.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Rantings, Royal Mail

Bringing The Indian to the First Thanksgiving

Wow! SO politically incorrect, except I really am talking about Indian (spices) and this was my very first Thanksgiving to do the cooking.

There’s some irony in the fact that I had to move to England (i.e. the land pilgrims were escaping) to finally roast my first turkey.

I was a little apprehensive, especially when I woke up at 4 am this morning after several dreams in which I blow up the kitchen. Not a good way to start the day.

Fortunately, I’ve spent the better part of this week researching recipes and roasting techniques, combining everything I learned into one massive production.

Along the way, I also learned that there are a LOT of American foods that the British find… well, gross.

For instance, mixing peanut butter and chocolate (a la delicious Reese Peanut Butter Cups) or combining sweet and savoury (a la marshmallows on sweet potatoes).

“No, that IS weird,” my one and only British friend confirmed.

To that I retort, “You eat Marmite…

marmite… and you love it!”

In any case, I opted to try a savoury recipe calling for chili powder and cumin,  both of which I found in the Indian food section of my grocery store. (read: They didn’t carry decent-sized marshmallows)

Okay. So Indian chili powder, even at 1/8th of what the recipe calls for, kicks our pansy-ass American chili powder in the butt fifty time over… and then it eats its shorts.

As for cumin… Yeah. Ground cumin and whole cumin seeds. Not interchangeable in the same quantities.

To put in another way, Mike, who is unfailingly good-natured about my “culinary experiments” (ahem, flops), tasted it before popping it into the oven. He turned to me and said…

(cough, cough) (raspy voice) “I’ll run to the store to get you more sweet potatoes” (gasping for air)

“Are you sure?”

(more coughing… possibly choking)

“NO! Really! (more gasping) I don’t mind”

(struggling out the front door)

So, here is the beginnings of a little dish I’ve dubbed “Sweet Potato Re-do”.

img_1242

By the way, I HAND mashed it with a wooden spoon in the absence of such turn-of-the-NINETEENTH-century appliances like my beloved food processor as a way of penance for turning my back on All-American Thanksgiving.

Oh, and I mixed in some butter and maple syrup. Yeah. That’s right it’s sweet and savoury… HA!

The mac n’ cheese was pretty, but not the same without Velveeta.

img_1252

The green bean casserole with dried onions in lieu of “French Fried Onions” was tasty in it’s own wrong way.

img_1256

The cinnamon-orange cranberry sauce was divine. No canned stuff for me!

img_1215

We were, however, divided on the bread stuffing…

img_1247Mike: Meh.

Me: Yeah.

Avery: Ice Cream now please?

(Shh! not until after you eat more sweet potatoes…)

… and for my crowning achievement of the day.

I did NOT blow up the kitchen.

Oh, and I made this.

img_1272

Happy Thanksgiving, Homies!

3 Comments

Filed under Family, Foodie, Holidays and Merrymaking, Life In The States

So You Want To Be a Colonist

This past weekend, Mike and I put in a DVD for Avery and sat down to cull through the the stacks of international shipping bids we’ve received this week… and all without ever lifting a finger.

I went on a site called www.intlmovers.com, typed in the necessary info, and presto! several bids came by way of e-mail the very next day.

A few days later, I received another email. “Not happy with the results? Do you want more options?”

Uh, I haven’t read through the first batch, but sure!

The next day brought phone calls from a whole new crop of shipping companies who wanted to personally discuss the details, answer questions,  and follow up with contracts by e-mail. LOVE. IT.

You can image why it would require TWO full episodes of “The Backyardigans” (American version, not British) to get through it all…

We’ve decide to go with one that touts itself as bearing the Royal Warrant of Her Majesty the Queen. I say, if it’s good enough for the royal household of the Queen, it is certainly good enough for the peasant household of Duffys.

That and they offered the most comprehensive details, including a “Guide to Relocating to the US”… you know, to help us fit in…

Here are a few of the lines that gave us a much needed laugh:

Language
American English is spoken throughout the States, although you will find it very different from any other forms of English used in other countries.

Is that a nice British way of saying we talk funny?

Health
There is no free health care provided by the Government and most Americans take out a private health insurance..

I would hardly call National Healthcare FREE.

Eating Out
It is customary to leave a tip (service charge) of at least 15% when eating out in restaurants.

I was once told it was rude to leave anything less than 20%, period. I, on the other hand, think it’s rude to expect anything for doing a lousy job. In fact wish there was such a thing as a “no tip” token for exceptionally BAD service. Just a little something that says, “No I didn’t forget. You just offer terrible service”.

Unless specially invited to eat out at a host’s expense, Americans pay for their own meals when dining with friends. If you are invited out, but your host does not offer to pay for your meal, you should be prepared to pay for it or decline the invitation.

I’ve had some first dates that have gone this way, and it’s a surefire way to ensure there isn’t going to be a second.

The drive-in or fast food restaurants are very popular providing an inexpensive hot meal in less than five minutes.

Heck yeah! We didn’t get to be the fattest country in the world by waiting patiently for shallots to brown in a pan and making polite conversation over finger sandwiches.

We like to eat alone… with big bites… and in our cars… while listening to talk radio.

Measurements
The Americans have not yet succumbed to the metric system of weights and measurements and still use the imperial system.

Succumbed? I do believe it was called the “English System” once and, furthermore, were not YOU the ones that imposed it on us…

So what? Now that you’re all metric along with “the continent” (Europe), you’re suddenly too good to walk a MILE in our shoes?

3 Comments

Filed under Life In The States

The Trappings of An Expat Life

I hate the words “economy” and “credit crunch” so much that I practically foam that the mouth when I have to say it aloud…

“Well, with the economy being the way it is…”

“The credit crunch is hitting us all…”

Ahhh! So aggravating, to say the least, but there’s no better way to explain our situation.

There’s still no word on Mike’s contract and it seems there isn’t going to be.

The projects that the company had banked on never came. Lack of funding, poor planning, politics, the ECONOMY… the exact reason hardly matters any more. Mike’s last day will be this coming Friday and our visas expire the same day.

The frustrating part is that had this been a company in the US, or dare I say, one of us was a British citizen, he wouldn’t necessarily be out of a job so abruptly.

Since his work visa has to be sponsored by the company, billed to a specific project, and legitimized, he simply cannot be paid for another second of his time without a new contract…

Apparently, the British are VERY strict about that… or so I’ve been told. I don’t really care to find out on my own.

We are still able to remain in the country, albeit temporarily, provided we leave and come back through immigration, thereby reestablishing ourselves on tourist visas. This is no different than coming here on a vacation and staying on our passports.

As tourists, we absolutely cannot apply for jobs in the UK. Although, I have no idea how that would play out since we were originally here on a work visa and Mike’s already well within the interview process at a few other London studios…

I mean, I’m sure there’s a way to work around it. I just don’t know what that would entail.

Either way, it’s an extra level of stress to the already tenuous situation of looking for a job in a bad economy. I know this because, I’ve been very casually, ever so slowly inquiring, if only to allow us more time in the UK.

The first question I’m always asked is, “Are you legal to work here?”

“Umm, I’m on a dependent visa, so yes except…  You see, my husband’s work visa… Okay, it’s complicated.”

…and I’ve lost them entirely.

We are absolutely gutted to leave London, especially so soon after arriving, but quite honestly, the feelings haven’t sunk in yet. There’s just so much to do.

A few weeks ago, I e-mailed our landlords in Australia to apprise them of the situation. They were very understanding, and then mentioned that they are expecting a new baby in NINE DAYS TIME…

(Read: This is SO not what we need to be dealing with right now. Go away and leave us alone.)

This past week, our house went back in the lettings market and I started accepting bids on shipping companies. Avery has to watch yet another train table that we can’t take with us be sold and we have to shed all trappings that have finally made our little rental property into a home.

Yeah, gutted is a very good British English word for it indeed.

6 Comments

Filed under Family, Packing Up and Moving, Production Widow

Insert Mandatory Joke About The Brits and Their Dental Hygiene (Pause for Polite Laughter)

Avery is at the height of toddlerness where everything, whether it’s time for a bath or suggesting chocolate cake for breakfast, is received with a fervent “No, Mommy. NO!”

Except, with Avery it’s not just “no”. It follows with a vigorous head shake and an unyielding “anymore”.

For example, it’s not just “no trousers today”… or even “right now”.  For Avery, it’s “no trousers ANYMORE, Mommy!”

I know I should be frustrated, but the finality in his serious little voice is so cute that sometimes I have to stifle laughs.

Besides, I can usually slip on his trousers once he’s moved on to screaming about not wanting to wear socks or the shirt I picked out… “No, Mommy. Thomas shirt. Thomas shirt.

I was careful to NOT discuss his first dentist appointment until the morning of, for fear of it becoming a bigger deal (read: tantrum) than it needed to be. As it turns out, Avery’s biggest complaint was having to put on shoes to leave the house.

Seeing the dentist… Pah!

s63013671

He was a pro. All smiles and no cavities.

The dentist was quite amused by him as well. He mentioned that Avery’s last baby tooth recently spouted. (That explains the extra dose of unhappy last week).

He also commented on, but was not alarmed by the thumb sucking. (So unlike the States where everyone seemed alarmed by the thumb sucking and freely offered their unsolicited opinions on the matter…)

img_0891

“Oh that can be fixed, but his diet… Diet is 90% of maintaining healthy teeth and gums” the dentist reassured.

“You mean, like getting enough calcium?”

“No, I mean… well, how much Ribena does he drink a day?”

“I don’t not even sure what Ribena is.”

“Good! Ribena is terrible! Simply terrible. Just be sure you limit his sugar intake.”

Hmm, I guess I shouldn’t mention that cake for breakfast… even if it was the ONLY way I could get him wear the shoes and stop yelling about the Thomas shirt already.

2 Comments

Filed under Daily Life, Family

Playing Tea Party with Grown-ups

As soon as we announced our move to London, the threats requests to stay with us poured in immediately.

I tended to ignore the ones who framed their request as “Oh wow, a FREE place to stay in London” (Not quite. Get a hotel, freeloaders) versus the ones who said, “Oh, how we will miss you SO much. We just have to see you as soon as possible”…

It’s all in how you spin it, people.

So far, the only ones to make good on their promise will be my family, plus my sister’s boyfriend who might as well be family. The last time we talked, he said that he wanted to do the touristy stuff, but mainly wanted to experience what REAL Londoners do– where they go, where they drink, and peek in their tiny fridges.

I’m not sure if we qualify as “real Londoners” (or that we have any clue what the cool kids are doing). As much as we try to keep a low profile, there are just some things that are so ridiculously touristy that they BEG to be done…

Like leaving the kidlets at home with the Hubby for the afternoon and having a proper English tea…

… in the beautiful lobby…

… of The Landmark of London…

…with your girls…

… who are also Americans.

tea I did NOT take the foodie photo on the right and therefore deserve ZERO credit for it.

In fact, I yanked it from The Landmark’s site.

The lousy photo I took… the one with the bad lighting, boring composition, and strange angle simply did NOT do it justice.

I think we should have a do-over.

You’re welcome to join me, provided you’re not too embarrassed to be seen with the dorky girl toting the large camera?

I mean, doesn’t that just scream “tourist”…

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

6 Comments

Filed under Foodie, PhotoStory Friday, Sightseeing

So, Two Bloggers Walk Into a Bar…

untitled-1-copyAt last night’s London Bloggers Meetup, Melanie Seasons of Fake Plastic Noodles fame (and fellow American expat) gave a fabulous chat about US vs. UK blogging, how she got started in blogging, and other useful topics.

(You can read her takeaway points here.)

I met Melanie about five minutes before her talk… where else? At the bar. She said she was nervous, so I offered to heckle her to ease some of the tension. (Aren’t I considerate?)

I don’t even remember how it began– some mention of “mommy bloggers” to which I feigned offense, I think.

Oh no, the Americans are heckling one another. What are all the polite British to do?

Why join in, of course!

It was all in good fun, but it wasn’t as if Melanie needed any “help” from us. In fact, she did great!

The evening was tons of fun and… yes, there were far more than just two bloggers there, as the title may misleads you to belief. We weren’t even the only American expats.

I made some new friends, put faces to blogs that I’ve adored from afar, and even ran into a few familiar faces, which is always reassuring when you’re the “new mom in town”. My blogroll (and Google Reader) should be expanding quite soon.

I learned the secret to Cockney Rhyming Slang. I still can’t DO it, but I can at least recognize it now.

I was asked by Sarah, founder of one of my favorite London resources Mini-et-Moi, to help organize a get together for London Mommy Bloggers.

Oh and I finally got a Twitter account. (I know… Blimey! ‘ello, where ‘ave yew been, Love. Nuff said, yeah?)

1 Comment

Filed under Blogging