Category Archives: Life In The States

The Next Chapter

Umm, I don’t think we’re in London anymore…

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Our first day in California, we woke up to bright blue skies and the SUN… and it was 70 degrees the entire time!

Such a contrast to the dark, dank, and dreary winter we left behind, huh?

The overdose on Vitamin D clearly made me gitty as I kept asking Mike, “Do we really get to live here? Really? Really?”

We’ve breathed in the sweet, plastic-y aroma of Target and gorged ourselves on Tex-Mex, but there’s a part of me that still wishes we could have continued our adventures in London.

I still  have so many stories to tell. The sightseeing we did, the people we encountered,  the nuances of  daily life that we still haven’t made any sense of….

(Will we ever?)

From California, we flew to Texas to visit family and friends before Mike starts his new job. It was parties and play dates the whole time, each another opportunity to laugh about our experiences and poke fun at our life in England.

That is to say poke fun of ourselves living in England…

Things may not have turned out the way that we had planned, but not for one minute do I regret throwing ourselves whole-heartly into our new life. As much as I complained about things like our leaky roof and  NHS, there is no denying that living in London was a fantastic experience, both culturally and personally.

We are still tying up loose ends in the UK,  but it’s fair to say that this chapter in our life has officially come to a close. I no longer have any claim to being the “American Mom In London”, but as with most titles in the UK, I plan to keep it forever and ever. Ha-ha!

(Who knows? Maybe one day, I’ll come back to reclaim it.)

This is only one of many, many sad farewells and promises to “keep in touch” for me lately. I’m usually pretty terrible about the “promising to keep in touch” part, but this time I plan to follow through..

I’ve made the leap to my own URL and  a new blog called FormerlyGracie.com, so please readjust your readers.

It’s still in the development stage.  I’m working on the “Blogroll”  and tweaking the design. The “About Me” page needs a lot of help, but there are a few posts up and more to come.

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By the way, my first purchase upon arriving  in the USA…

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… an electric kettle just like the one I had in London. I sort of developed a tea  and scone addiction while living in the UK. (Surprise. Surprise.)

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House Hunting

Okay. So, I lied on Facebook.

We didn’t actually go house hunting in San Francisco after all. Being completely unfamiliar with the Bay Area, I had no concept of how much of it was considered “San Francisco”.

(i.e. We used to live in Flower Mound, Texas, but no one knows where that heck that is so, just said we lived in “Dallas”)

Turns out we’ll be a bit further south… as in Silicon Valley. (a.k.a. the geek heartland)

Does this make me less fabulous? Absolutely not!

Not only did we end up in one of best school districts in the country, we also found an incredible house.

Not a shack. Not a bungalow. A gorgeous, better-than-I-deserve-in-fifty-lifetimes HOUSE!!!

Of course, we will have to sell our first born in order to afford it, thereby making the great school district aspect of it kind of pointless, but oh well…

Did I tell you I’m going to have granite countertops?

I don’t mean to be Ms. Braggity McBraggy Bee. I’m just so EXCITED and rightfully so, considering where we recently lived…

Remember? Leaking roof, broken oven, minimal hot water,  no dryer, no heat

Fortunately, one of the many perks of Mike’s new job is use of an excellent relocation company. They offer services such as accompanying new employees to get their California driver’s licenses and finding their families places to live.

This is also in sharp contrast to London, where we had no clue and did all of the research and footwork (literally) on our own. Within my first twenty minutes with the estate agent, he…

A. Set off a very obnoxious security alarm at one house

B. Locked us INSIDE of it and alluded to having me shimmy out a window to open the door from the outside…

C. Spotted a traffic cop from the second story window of the next house, at which point he leapt to the first floor and took off in his car…

D. …leaving me stranded holding the house keys*.

House hunting was much less drama this time. I called ahead with our “like to haves” and “need to haves” and when we met with the agent on Monday morning, he had eight homes that presumably met ALL of our criteria, with the option of two or three more if we were up for it. LOVE. IT.

Now, that’s not to say that every single one was dream…. far from it, in fact. The very first house we saw had all of the warmth and charm of a semi-converted garage.

I would have been put off had it not been on par with most of the dwellings Mike and I looked at in London.

One house had the biggest backyard I ever expected to see in Northern California, including an extended patio and dilapidated metal swing set (lead paint included).

You could have fit two more (sizable) houses on the lawn alone. Only problem? The house hasn’t been updated since the Brady Bunch lived in it.

All nine of them. Circa first season.

The kind, but bewildered elderly owner appeared a bit run down himself. Weary, watery eyed, and shuffling around with pants completely undone and falling off, he gave me the grand tour recalling how his daughter loved, loved, LOVED ”pale baby girl pink” and just have to have an entire bedroom done in it.

It broke my heart to lie to him and say, “We’re considering it” when what I really wanted to do was buy it on the spot and flip it.

Com’on. Don’t smirk. I’ve watched enough reality TV to know everything I need to know, right? I so could have done it too.

Oh, if only we had an extra $1.3 er, $1.6 million lying around, it would have been awesome. Sigh!

The next house smelled like curry, which was only slightly less disgusting than the  filthy carpets. Another had a super secluded entrance, hot tub, and yelled “Key party, anyone?”

The rest were oh-kay, but when we walked into our house we knew it was meant to be. Avery even told me which room is for him and which is for little brother or sister. Guess which one is bigger?

(Photos to come)

I think I’m going to like living here… a LOT!

*Parking is VERY strict in London. The fines are outrageous and officers ticket you immediately. However, if you can move your vehicle before the officer can place the ticket on the windshield; it doesn’t count, hence the leaping and abandoning, but still…

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Clicking Our Heels Together Three Times

After 18 hours of flying (+ layover) across an ocean and then across the country, we’ve made it to San Francisco safe and sound for the next part of our crazy adventure.

Just like on the flights to London,  Avery was a total champ,  completely content to stay in his seat, play with cars, and watch DVDs.  He also didn’t doze off until the last 10 minutes of the flight, just as the plane made its decent into JFK.

Going through airport security for the second time that day, I was forced to wake up  my sleeping bear and remove him from his stroller…. of course.

As I held Avery with one hand and used the other to collapse, then lift the stroller onto the belt (while five TSA officers simply stood there and WATCHED, by the way), I overheard another one telling  an elderly lady she had to get out of her wheelchair.

Do you think really she and/or my child are  a threat to national security? REALLY?!

Ah yes, America… the land where senseless airport hysteria runs rampant.

Other than that, our trip was blissfully uneventful, so I actually shouldn’t complain about it… much. As Mike reminded me, “I’m just so happy to be somewhere familiar that I don’t care what it takes to get here.”

True and true.

It was rather surreal to look out at the twinkling lights of the bay as our plane landed, only to realize that we’re home. We are really and truly and finally home.

For now, at least.

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A Reason for Everything

I’m a big believer that there’s a reason for everything. God has a larger plan for all of us and the like, but I just could not understand the reason for sending us back to the States so soon.

I mean, the “bigger” reason… beyond visas and global economic collapses.

Sure, Mike has a great job waiting for him in the US, but he already had a great job… in London.

Yes, we’re moving back the States, but it’s not as if we’re going “home” to our family and friends in Texas. California may be closer, but it’s still going to be miles and miles away. What difference did it make?

We just got settled in London. Our expat life may entail a LOT of compromises, but we have friends, daily routines, bank accounts…

Avery is finally sleeping at night again! Do you know how long it took  him to recover from the “time change”? Do you know how much I’m dreading going through that AGAIN?

Why, God, why would you send us back now?

Well, a few days ago, I got my answer.

Life just got 150% more crazy and we couldn’t be happier!

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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”.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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Happy Thanksgiving, Homies!

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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?

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Woot! Woot!

I stayed up way too late watching the BBC’s election coverage…

WAY TOO LATE!

I woke up today suffering from what I can only call an “Election Hangover”, but unlike past hangovers, there was no morning-after walk of shame…

So, was I shocked that Texas when to McCain? Uh, NO!!

However, I like to think that two little absentee ballots from the UK bolstered that 43%…

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