Ways to Combat Homesickness

ways to combat homesickness graphic

Homesickness can be a cause of great stress, depression and anxiety, and while I have been very fortunate with not being overwhelmed by it, as I feel very at home here, there are things I miss so much about good old Blighty.

To try to ensure you do not get to the point where your homesickness is having a negative affect on your everyday life, as soon as it starts to occur, speak to family and friends and make those all important personal connections, and maintain them well. Knowing you can text, call, FaceTime/Skype or email, and that this contact with home can literally be at your fingertips, and quickly, can make experiencing homesickness easier.

There are some other things you can do too, that can reduce homesickness or even prevent it from happening, especially if you do them as part of your everyday new life – homesickness can happen when living/working/travelling abroad, or just being away from home for the first time but still in your own country.

Food

Food is a big sense of home for most people. It has memories attached to it, is familiar and can be a great source of comfort. I have ordered a box of British goodies from the online store British Corner Shop. I was not experiencing homesickness at this point, but really missing some of my favourite biscuits (cookies) which you cannot get here. It is a small thing, but it certainly makes me happy to know I will be chowing down on a Custard Cream in the not so distant future.

Food is also a great way to be sociable, meaning you can get out there with friends or use it as a way to make new ones – I recently had a British bonding moment over an aubergine (eggplant) in the farmers market I regulary go to.

Curry (homemade by Mum) and a good English breakfast

Curry (homemade by Mum) and a good English breakfast

Some things from home and a plant potting project

Some things from home and a plant potting project

Belongings

Having things around you that are from home, that you have brought with you, or someone has sent you, is such a nice feeling. I made the mistake of selling, passing on, or throwing out too much of my own belongings before my move. I should have brought more with me, but I have been lucky to have been sent some things to enjoy around my home. Make a space for your old belongings but also for new things.

Projects

Having something to do by yourself, or with people (but time alone is also healthy) is a way to keep focussed and have your mind occupied, often with a positive end result. A physical activity, craft, music, cooking, reading etc – just something you will enjoy can make homesickness easier. Plus you get to show/tell your family and friends what you have been doing.
I have potted some plants, reorganised some home decor, baked, cooked, walked, gone to the park, bird watched and been doing my photography – all things that either make me appreciate the community around me and where I live, or something I can do for others and share it with them.

Being away from home is a chance to grow, and gain experiences and new perspectives, so making the most of it is a great way to add something to your life and those lives of the people around you.

What other helpful tips do you have to help beat homesickness? Is there something you do that always helps you?

Top 5 Things to Share With Your Long Distance Love

top 5 things to share with your long distance love graphic

Sometimes long distance relationships (LDR) just suck. There is no pretending, no way around that fact, and no real cure for the LDR blues, other than actually being with your long distance love.

How do you ride out those long distance relationship blues to make the separation a little easier? There are a few things that come to mind, but I am going to stick to one very simple principle for the purposes of this post – share things.

Everyday life can get in the way, and spending time together can become strained, so sharing pictures, memes, music, poems, cute messages, food, films, games etc … anything you can think of, will mean a lot. The only advice I would give about this is to make sure it is not overly one sided, especially during a period of absence from normal contact, you both should make the effort.

To help you on your way, here are my Top 5 Things to Share With Your Long Distance Love

 

5. Memes

Sending a romantic, cute, mischievous or funny meme can be a really good quick pick-me-up for you both. I found these long distance relationship themed memes here

LDR themed memes4. Quotes

A romantic, inspirational or thoughtful quote about LDR love is a nice way to start or end the day. I found this one, and many more really good examples here

LDR quote my love will not falter

 

3. Music

Music can be uplifting, depressing, and also speak feelings that maybe you struggle to put in to words. For a good selection of long distance relationship themed music, visit this compilation on YouTube. If you find one that really resonates with what you or your partner are going through, share it.

LDR themed music

 

2. Letters

Or more specifically, to add a bit of old-style romance, send a telegram. You can send a romantic note as a surprise to your long distance love and it will be sure to make them smile, and create a keepsake. To find out more about sending a telegram go to Telegram Stop

TelegramStop-DeliveredTelegram-Envelope

 

1. Gifts

LDR themed gifts can be so touching and a great way to celebrate your love. From keychains, mugs, cushions, t-shirts, stationery and jewellery, there are many possibilities. For some ideas, you can visit here

All gifts included in this picture available in the above link

All gifts included in this picture available in the above link

Have you been in a long distance relationship? What would you recommend to ease those tougher moments when apart?

America and the Right to Vote

voter supression in us primaries 2016

A friend drew my attention to a news story about Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream guys, getting arrested at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and it had me intrigued.

It was all part of the Democracy Awakening organised protests through April 16-18 2016 which describes itself as …

… a broad coalition of organizations representing the labor, peace, environmental, student, racial justice, civil rights and money in politics reform movements. We share a firm belief that we will not win on the full range of policy issues we all care about until we combat attacks on voting rights and the integrity of the vote by big money.

Ben & Jerry stated on their website that they joined in with the protests because of ..

the flood of unregulated cash flowing into campaigns and elections. And the second is the wave of attacks in many states on citizens’ right to vote. | via benjerry.com

Both points are extremely valid, but it was the second one, in particular, that sent a shiver down my spine. The one about voters having their right to vote, or the the ease with which they can do so, restricted or managed in some way.

I did some quick research and found something that impacted on my state of Ohio, and others, which made me feel really uneasy. Voter Suppression laws were passed by various states, including Ohio, that restricted the ease with which people could cast a vote – from reducing the number of voting stations available, to reducing the number or types of ID accepted (something that disproportionately impacts women), to the reduction of early voting hours, and disallowing same-day registration.

Both Democratic candidates Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have filed lawsuits in various states that could, or already have, restricted a staggering number of people from voting with ease.

Whatever the reasons that are given, other than the obvious one of trying to manoeuvre votes to favour one party or Presidential Race 2016 candidate, why, or maybe more importantly, how were voter suppression laws ever allowed to happen in this country? America a democracy? It does not seem so.

Is this really how the voting people of America should be treated? Have you protested or encountered any issues while trying to vote? Do you think the voter suppression laws are fair and a good idea?

Please share your thoughts.

Life Lately | A British Bake Off!

life through a lens

Life Lately has been moaning about the April snow – lots of it. So, the only way forward is to bake various things.

What have you been up to lately?

All pictures are of my baking and working adventures, which I shared on my Instagram page

OneDad3Girls

Expat Perspective: Republican Contested National Convention A Reality?

contested republican national convention graphic

I am not saying I get all my American political understanding or information from binge watching a Netflix show (hello, season 3 of House of Cards), but it certainly went some way to explain what a contested convention is to this moderately exasperated and confused English expat. I am exasperated and confused because the American political systems and structures seem to perplex me just when I think I have grasped what is going on.

One key aspect of expat life is most definitely to understand the political culture and composition of the country you are living in or moving to – and as I have never been in America for an actual forthcoming election – this is all a steep learning curve, but one I am enjoying very much.

The whole Donald Trump/Republican GOP love/hate political tussle has been worrying, confusing, shocking and all too compelling to watch – a train wreck, if you will. I focus in on the Republican side of this 2016 campaign because I have learned, as an immigrant to the United States, the most about this countries political functions and ideologies from their campaign race and reactions to it.

Trump has kept making momentum and leading in various polls and primaries, winning the most delegates so far out of the remaining runners (Ted Cruz and John Kasich). The magic number to get the GOP nomination is 1,237 – but political machinations seem to be afoot to make sure that number is not so easily obtainable as it once looked.

So what is a contested Republican National Convention? According to my general research, it occurs when no nominee has the majority number of delegates on the first ballot (with 1,237 being a majority) then it goes to a contested convention where meetings are held and votes are cast in rounds – and these rounds keep going until there is a clear majority winner. In theory, the voters can vote for whomever they like, which will make the televised spectacle more … well … spectacular.

It does seem that Donald Trump was initially assumed to maybe not be a serious contender, but he has tapped into something – a fact that I am worried by as there seems to be so much anger and hateful rhetoric from/around him – not something I expected to see as part of an election here. Nothing he says, even when disparaging about women, muslims and immigrants, or ill-informed and misguided ideas on nuclear weapon armament, seem to halt his momentum. I always thought freedom of speech was such that you can believe and adhere to whatever belief or ideas you have as long as you do not use them to incite hatred, aggression or acts of violence? All of which seem to have happened around him at his rallies.

So as a relative newcomer to this country, who has a slowly increasing understanding of what underpins life here in America, a July contested Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio will be something to watch – in fact, I think the world will be watching.

What are your thoughts on Republican and Democratic campaigns so far? Do you think there will be a contested convention for one or both parties? Do you think Donald Trump will win the GOP nomination?

Pea, Peanut and Bacon Salad

This Pea, Peanut and Bacon Salad is a quick and easy recipe ideal for the coming Spring and Summer – the great thing about it is you can leave out the bacon or add cheese or any other tasty item you think will go nicely. It is ideal served with some cold, cooked chicken and a glass of crisp white wine, but serve it with whatever takes your fancy.

pea-peanut-bacon-salad-recipe-title

Ingredients (6-8 servings):

16oz bag frozen peas

2 cups of lightly salted peanuts

3oz bag of real bacon bits or about 4 slices of bacon cooked and cut up in to pieces

(if adding cheese, as in the title picture, add about 1 cup of grated cheddar)

Dressing:

½ cup sour cream

4 tbsp mayonaise

1 tsp white fine grain sugar

salt and pepper to taste

pea-peanut-bacon-salad-dressing

Directions:

In a large bowl, put the peas, peanuts, bacon and cheese (if adding)

In a small bowl or jug mix together all the ingredients for the dressing, add salt and pepper to taste

Pour dressing on top of the pea mixure and stir to combine really well

Leave until the peas have defrosted and then serve or put in an air-tight container in the fridge until needed

pea-peanut-bacon-salad-with-creamy-dressing

What do you think? If you have a go at this recipe, let me know how it turns out!

U.S. Family Visa: What You Need To Know

family visa info graphic

Here is a little bit of information about the Family Visa category for applying for a Green Card to live in the U.S. It is by no means a comprehensive guide, but rather a starting point to hopefully help get through the mountain of information that there is out there about emigrating to America. If you have any further questions, then feel free to contact me.

What You Need to Know

A U.S. citizen can petition (file the relevant paperwork and evidence) for a family member to come and live in America permanently. Which petition is filed depends on the category the family member qualifies under.

The U.S. citizen (petitioner) must begin the process of filing the relevant forms through the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Family Visa/Petition Categories

To qualify under the Family Visa category, you must be one of the following to a U.S. citizen:
✓    spouse – can include the children of the spouse who are unmarried and under 21
✓    fiancé(e) – this can also include the children of the fiancé(e) who are under 21
✓    child – a child is considered to be aged under 21 and unmarried
✓    son or daughter – they must be aged 21 or older, and/or married
✓    sibling  – the petitioner filing must be at least 21
✓    parents – the petitioner filing must be at least 21

Permanent residence (green card) is issued to/for (as outlined above):
✓    spouse
✓    child
✓    son or daughter
✓    sibling
✓    parents

Permanent residence (green card) is not granted to a fiancé(e), but once the marriage has occurred, an adjustment of visa (becoming a permanent resident/green card holder) is applied for.

visa prep paperwork

Filing a Petition

Filing a petition starts with filling out the relevant forms which can be found here. There will be requests for various pieces of evidence with the initial petition (proving the family connection etc) and the guidelines for what evidence is required and accepted can be found in the instructions that come with the forms you have to complete.

Evidence will also include a financial threshold that the petitioner (U.S. citizen) must meet to prove that they can financially provide for their relative who is joining them in America.

Once the USCIS has approved the initial petition, the case is moved on to the National Visa Center (NVC). An approval by the USCIS does not mean you have your visa – there will be more forms and evidence to provide for the NVC, and once they are satisfied with what the petitioner has filed, a medical examination and an interview at the nearest U.S. Embassy to the family member wishing to move to America is scheduled. It will be at the embassy interview that the final stage/issuance of a visa will be finally approved.

I have tried my best to provide enough information to get anyone started, but as with all things like this, there is much more to it, so if you have any particular questions, you can head to the USCIS website, or contact me and I will do my best to advise.

Good luck!

Honey Cake Recipe

This is a well loved recipe that was passed on to me, and one I am very happy I got my hands on as it goes really well with a good cup of coffee or tea. A nice afternoon tea-time treat. The cake is moist and tasty and easy to make … so why not put on a brew and enjoy a break!

honey cake recipe graphic

Ingredients (for a 8 inch Square cake tin):

10.5oz self-raising flour, sieved

½ tsp ground cinnamon

4.5oz soft, light brown sugar

7.5oz butter, room temperature

3 eggs

9oz honey

½ tsp vanilla extract

8 inch square cake tin

For the Icing:

2oz confectioner’s (icing) sugar

2 tbsp honey

2 tsp hot water

honey cake recipe 1

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F

Combine the flour and cinnamon, then seive into the bowl of an electric mixer

Add the sugar and stir through

honey cake recipe 1

Add the eggs and butter (cut into small pieces) and start to mix together using the electric mixer on low

Pour in the honey slowly as the mixer is on (still on low) then add the vanilla extract

Mix on low until the cake batter is smooth and creamy looking

honey cake recipe 2

Pour the batter into a greased and lined 8 inch square cake tin

Smooth the top down a bit

Place in the heated oven for 30-45 mins (I checked at regular intervals after 25 mins) and bake until nicely golden brown and a screwer comes out clean when placed in the middle of the cake

honey cake recipe 3

Leave to cool for 10 mins in the tin the turn out on to a wire cooling rack

When the cake is completely cooled, mix together the icing ingredients and pour on to the cake (if using)

Then enjoy with a cuppa!

honey cake recipe 4

What do you think? If you have a go at this recipe, let me know how it turns out!

5 Things I Still Have Not Got Used To As An Expat in America

Life here in America is very much a work in progress, and much has been made, but … there are just a few things I cannot seem to stop shaking my head at, either in confusion, amazement or astonishment.

I am sure we have all encountered things on our travels like this where you just get caught out every time you come across them. Below is my list, by no means comprehensive, but rather a quirky look at some of the things that get this English girl wondering …

can't get used to graphic

1. Cheese in a Can & Parmesan with Wood Shavings

Cheese Spray is available in the UK too – it just seems to be a big thing over here. There is quite a selection to choose from in the spray-on-food aisle, and to be brutally honest – it is truly awful. The taste does not resemble cheese in any way and it leaves me wondering why … just why?

cheese spray usa
The other cheese related thing that has me rather perturbed is the recent discovery via Bloomberg News that many store bought ‘100% real Parmesan Cheese’ actually contain wood shavings. Or more specifically a wood byproduct (cellulose) in percentages that are rather shocking (some were 9% wood byproduct) – so not 100% real Parmesan at all. Sometimes I do wonder what the food industry is all about over here and what its justifications are for these types of practises – but then again, this is the land of the mighty pizza crust wrapped in 3.5 feet of bacon …

2. TV Medical Adverts

Never before had I seen medicines advertised on television. These are possibly the strangest adverts because they have to list all possible side effects and seem to go on for an inordinate amount of time. I can go off and make a cuppa, and the announcer is still excitedly telling me how amazing this new drug is, while informing about the possibility of going bald etc etc. It is not just the odd painkiller or flu/cold advert but serious medications for serious conditions which they advise you ask your doctor to try – like I know which drugs would be good!

What is even more worrying is usually after a few minutes of a medicine being extolled as the new cure for x, y and alarmingly itchy, it is followed by a law firm ad looking to sue on your behalf if you took the previously advertised drug that had brought on dangerous health issues. Medicine is big money here, so buyer beware.

3. Drive-Thru Banks & ATMs

When I first came across a drive-thru bank, I just about lost my mind with futuristic excitement. It felt like I was in some kind of episode from The Jetsons, with pneumatic tubes whisking off deposit slips in little containers to return with your receipt or cash. I really enjoy using these, just because it is not something I personally ever saw in the UK and I feel like I have travelled into the year 2150.

4. Tax Refunds

When the time comes for tax refund season, you fill out your information from your tax papers that are sent to you and you get a rebate after it is calculated what you over/unnecessarily paid. This happens every year. You do get a nice lump sum to pay off bills or buy something new, if you get one, but it confuses me as basically everyone who works and pays taxes is being over taxed. The government then send out enormous amounts of money to all who need to get what they overpaid back. Why not just get the tax code/bracket accurate so this does not have to be done every year? I am sure there is a reason, if you know, please enlighten me … but there is no denying, getting a rebate every year as opposed to the once-in-a-blue-moon one you would get in the UK is rather nice.

5. Biscuits and Gravy

Tried it again a few times, and I am sorry America, but I just cannot get behind it as a tasty meal. I recently saw the video clip below, and was not surprised that everyone who tried it was less than delighted with it too. I gave it a good try, I really did, but this has me shaking my head with ‘no thank you, I will pass’.

What things do you find you just cannot get used to where you live (expat or not) or on your travels?

Tuesday Translations: Bits & Bobs and Bollards – British vs. American English

tuesday translation bits and bobs graphic

Being the resident Brit in my area, I am holding the fort for British English and using the terms I am used to because I refuse to say a-loo-min-um (more on that here) and a few other things like egg plant (I always say aubergine), mainly because it makes the American (hubby) laugh or fondly frustrated.

Most recent amusements were all centred around a trip to a grocery store. It all started when I excitedly exclaimed that a bollard I nearly walked into was almost as tall as me … the American fell into fits of giggles as he had no idea what I had just said, and indeed thought I had referred to something very, very different … I am sure you can imagine!

As I was embarrassed I told him to sod off which only made the laughter worse and it all then descended into a very silly shopping trip not becoming of two grown-ups. Adulting was difficult that day, as the American spent most of it mocking my accent and asking if I would like a cup of tay – how he thinks I say tea.

Here is a quick round up of the lost in translation moments …

bollards | as in ‘those bollards are huge’ are not man parts as thought by the America, but the posts to stop vehicles from crashing into the store front

trolley | a shopping trolley to me but a shopping cart to everyone else

sod off | is the equivalent to ‘get lost’ but clearly, not as effective, as the American had no idea what I was saying

bits and bobs | often used by me when I say we need a few random things from the store which is not to be confused with ‘odds and sods’ (see below)

odds and sods | a phrase used by my father to name the box/drawer he used to put that junk nobody knows what it is or where it came from or if it has any use – commonly called the junk drawer here or, more amusingly … the man drawer (very funny clip about that below)

And the final hilarity was more to do with my accent and when I said the tulips in store smelled lovely, the American said it sounded like I was saying two lips. Oh, what fun!

Do you know or use some words or phrases that are lost in translation when you use them? Do you know any more British or American words that just do not make any sense to you or cause some amusement? Leave a comment if you do!