What Are You Most Proud Of?

Belinda, over at Found Love, Now What?! has been hosting a blog everyday in May challenge and as I love her and her writing, I thought I would join in after meaning to do so all month – I know there is not much of May left, but here goes …

most proud graphic
This is another really great writing prompt as it is making me stop and think about my life and take stock of what I have achieved – something I think a lot of us forget to do and should get in to the habit of doing more often as it is a good exercise in gratitude and being thankful for where we are, even if life is, or can be, a bit rough at times.

Here is what I am proud of, and grateful for …

Finding my mojo when it comes to liking who I am. I take quite a few selfies on Instagram, and while some of you may be doing an epic eye-roll at the idea of sharing these types of photographs, I rarely in my 30+ years liked having my picture taken. I would hide and dodge the camera because I did not like the way I looked. Now, I like the way I look, I am proud of how I look – and frankly, I think I scrub up quite nicely!

most proud graphic 2

from my instagram

The fact I keep on keepin’ on, even when things get rather rubbish and the rough times just keep coming. I know it will end, I know it will get better, I always find reserves to dig deep and get through it. I am not one to endlessly do what is not working, if there is a better way, I find it, bit if a situation requires me to just hang on and get through it – I do.

Moving to America is something I am so proud of, and extremely grateful that I get this opportunity. It has not been easy getting here, or settling in, but I am so proud I did it and think I will always feel blessed.

most proud graphic 3

Flying to America

This is one from my past, but it is to do with getting my teaching degree, and getting a 2:1. I was taken seriously ill a few months before I started university, and battled with my condition throughout my studies. I had surgical procedures, sleepless nights and the rigours of getting through a 3 year course. I did it, and I did it to a standard I can be proud of.

What about you – what are you most proud of? What are you grateful for?

Found Love. Now What?

How Are You Brave?

Belinda, over at Found Love, Now What?! has been hosting a blog everyday in May challenge and as I love her and her writing, I thought I would join in after meaning to do so all month – I know there is not much of May left, but here goes …

being brave graphic
This was a really interesting prompt to think about as it got me looking at what bravery means and if I could apply that definition to myself.

To be brave is to show courage, or to face or endure danger or pain, without showing fear.

I can safely say that I am not always brave. Sometimes I am just plain fearful, sometimes of the silliest or littlest of things that everyone else would not give a second thought to. Then sometimes I have faced things that other people would struggle with or would be unable to cope.

Here is how I am brave …

I have stood up to bullies and have defended myself from several gropings, grabbings and general perverted behaviours when going about my daily life.

I have voiced a difference of opinion and stood up for people whom the tide of ignorance and bigotry was turned against. I will never let obedience or going along with the crowd dictate my morality.

morality quote

I have survived a difficult illness and turned it into a driving force behind going out and succeeding at what I wanted to do.

I have given in to fear, and let it stop me doing things, but only ever for a certain amount of time. I eventually get up and move on.

I have developed an almost unshakable belief that there is always hope, there is always something you can do, and that things will always get better. I am incredibly stubborn, but when I have needed to dig in and get though something, it has really come into its own.

I have left all that is familiar behind, including friends and family, and moved to a different country and continue to make steps forward with experiencing new things and making a new life.

What about you – what makes you brave? When have you been courageous?

Found Love. Now What?

Summer Bucket List

Belinda, over at Found Love, Now What?! has been hosting a blog everyday in May challenge and as I love her and her writing, I thought I would join in after meaning to do so all month – I know there is not much of May left, but here goes …

summer bucket graphic
With the weather getting very sunny and hot here, it already feels like, to my British sensibilities anyway, that summer is well and truly underway. Then I remember that the temperatures will go up by 20 degrees or so from where it currently is and I realise that what feels like summer to me is only just the beginning. I am not one to revel in the sunshine, but I have a bucket list of things I want to do over the next couple of months …

Go to the drive-in to watch a movie

This is dependent on having a car, but I am glad to report that this should be sorted in the next week or so!

Not get sunburnt

I have already failed at this but the sunblock is now being used instead of moisturiser so hopefully the freckles will not take over my face.

from my instagram

Me and my pale skin – from my instagram

Go and play miniature golf

Do not ask me why, but I am fascinated by it even though I know I will be atrocious at it.

Eat dinner on my porch

I have had breakfast sitting on the steps but never had a main meal – I love the idea of this as it seems like a really relaxing and summery way to spend an evening.

from my instagram

Sitting on my porch – from my instagram

Continue to make positive changes to my lifestyle to improve my health

I am doing well but will admit I need to step it up a bit, and the summer is a great time to eat healthily and get out and about more.

What about you, what would be on your summer bucket list?

Found Love. Now What?

A Slice of Americana: Pancakes

Welcome to my food review blog series A Slice of Americana, where I get to try different iconic American foods!

I will be tasting most things for the first time, and will give an honest opinion of all that I consume – it is important to note that I am not receiving any payment or endorsements of any kind.

With that said, on with my review of . . . Pancakes

pancake graphic

The Information

American pancakes are typically enjoyed over here with a knob of butter and drizzled with maple syrup (and served with bacon) for breakfast or for a breakfast style dinner (I am quite partial to a bit of brinner).

They are thick, spongy and fluffy and are usually served hot/warm having just been made – with typical ingredients including flour, eggs, milk and baking powder – the type I tried had buttermilk  and honey in them.

The ones I had were shop bought, but were a very good/posh brand – I chose them as I was not making my own batter this time so wanted a fairly good, albeit purchased, representation of the traditional pancake.

pancakes A

The Taste Test

They were far thicker/spongy than I was expecting and were much more of a substantial variety of pancake than I am used to – and I loved them! They go so well with the maple syrup (I was not so keen on having butter too – just a personal preference) and, let me tell you, the salty bacon with maple syrup is a dream! I have never had bacon with syrup before, but America, you got this food combination completely spot on.

The pancakes were very filling and I only managed one (I ate all the bacon though) and I can see how it would make a great hearty breakfast or equally rib-sticking dinner.

pancake B

The Verdict

Epic win!

Have you tried American pancakes? What do you like to have on/with them?

What would you like to see me try next?

a slice of americana

Life Lately | A Tour of Toledo, Ohio

For a closer look, click on the photographs below.

life through a lens

Life Lately has involved  huge amount of stress. The car is dead, the electrics went out for a bit and there was water coming through my kitchen ceiling. SO I am glad to see the back of this week!

To cheer myself up, I thought I would share some photographs I took when I was out and about in Toledo, Ohio.

What have you been up to lately?

 

OneDad3Girls

Expat Problems: Not Having a Car in America

No car graphic

There is something that I have found to be very, very true over here in America, and that is, if you are going to be living here, you really need a car.

America is known as a driving nation and there may well be many reasons for it that include the vast amount of connecting roadways, social mobility and affordability of vehicles (or the availability of credit/payment options), the industrial capability to build cars, and not to mention the sheer size of the country … but, for me personally, there are a few other reasons.

Where I live, the public transportation can be unreliable, or at least it does not run on such a wide timetable. Often the buses only run every hour, some do not go into the area you need so you have to take multiple buses – all adding to your journey time, and some do not run at a time that would make it easy for you to get to appointments on time.

sidewalk

Pedestrians often walk along these designated areas on the roads – but they can suddenly disappear

There is also the issue of pavements (sidewalks) not being available in all areas. I am used to having pavements to walk on that are pretty much everywhere – not the case in Toledo, Ohio. There are some sidewalks or designated parts of the road to amble along, however, you often find yourself with no option but to walk on the road – which can be really unsafe – because the sidewalk has disappeared.

I mention all this because Bessie, or beloved little car has died. There is nothing we can do to fix her as the problems are numerous and we would be throwing good money into a car that is so much past her prime that it would be foolish. Our alternative at the moment is to see if we can afford to buy a bike (a decent one is not so cheap) to get the Hubby to and from work and try to save up for a newer car.

Not to mention the extremes of weather make it hard to drive AND be a pedestrian

Not to mention the extremes of weather make it hard to drive AND be a pedestrian during some parts of the year

My advice to anyone thinking of living, working or studying here is to make sure you have a good enough vehicle for your needs, as you may find the area you are moving to does not have such great pedestrian walkways or transportation to use. Take it as vital from someone who has had to learn the hard way!

What is public transportation like where you live (US or otherwise)? If you are a non-driver, how are you catered for in your area? What would you do if you suddenly found yourself without a car?

Seychelles Mama
Expat Life with a Double Buggy

FAQ About Becoming an Expat: The Medical Exam

expat faq graphic

Since my last post a few days ago where I answered some frequently asked questions about becoming an expat, I have been busy looking through a load of new questions that flooded in which were specifically about the visa medical examination you have to undertake, and pass, before you have your embassy interview.

My answers are specific to moving to the United States, so I hope they are of some use.

Why do you need to have a medical examination?

You have to have the medical examination in order to determine if you have any communicable diseases, physical/mental disorders or abuse of/addiction to drugs that are inadmissible (not accepted) under immigration law. For example, you will be tested for tuberculosis amongst other things.

Do I have to undress for the exam?

In short, yes – but you are asked to strip down to your underwear (behind a screen) and are given a gown to wear. You will not be sitting in front of the doctor completely naked, so no worries there!

How much does it cost?

At the time of my medical exam in the UK (back in 2013) it had a fee of £235 (around $360). This does not include the extra costs of any vaccinations you may have to have, which you probably will, as I had to have two shots at an added cost of £73 or about $112.

Can my doctor do the exam?

No, you have to have the medical examination carried out by a designated immigration physician. A list of the approved places you can go will be supplied to you by the consulat or embassy. If you use your own doctor it will not be accepted.

Got any other questions?

Feel free to contact me with anything specific you wish to know about.

If you have been through the whole expatriate/immigration experience, what do you commonly get asked? Feel free to share it in a comment for anyone who is looking into making a move abroad.

A Slice of Americana: Root Beer

Welcome to my food review blog series A Slice of Americana, where I get to try different iconic American foods!

I will be tasting most things for the first time, and will give an honest opinion of all that I consume – it is important to note that I am not receiving any payment or endorsements of any kind.

With that said, on with my review of . . . Root Beer

root beer graphic

The Information

Root beer is a carbonated drink traditionally made from the root/bark of either the sarsaparilla or sassafras tree – most available products these days use an artificial substitute – which contributes to the distinctive flavour.

It can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic (the variety that I tried was non-alcoholic) and is made commercially in every  state in the U.S. – reflecting the fact that it is almost exclusively a North American beverage.

root beer collage
The Taste Test

This drink is where the difference between American and European tastes becomes very clear – to me it tasted overpoweringly of mouthwash and/or a muscle rub cream.

I have spoken to a few people about it to gauge a range of thoughts, and interestingly enough, all the Europeans spoken to agreed that it tasted of toothpaste/mouthwash whilst the Americans did not detect the dental care product overtones the rest of us picked up on.

root beer 5

The Verdict

Root beer is thirst quenching and sweet, and I can see how, on a hot day, it would be a nice refreshing treat, but  I feel like I should gargle with it instead of drink it. Not for me!

Have you tried root beer? Do you get the mouthwash/toothpaste taste?

What would you like to see me try next?

a slice of americana

FAQ About Becoming an Expat

expat faq graphic

I get many queries about what it is like to move to America, so I thought I would dedicate a post to some of the frequently asked questions I receive.

What exactly is an expat?

I get asked this quite a few times a month, and I will do my best to clarify – as I have seen some very angry responses to the term being defined incorrectly on other sites – I will do my best.

An expat, or expatriate, is someone who lives outside of their home/native country. This, in its strictest sense of the word, refers to someone living temporarily in their host country (usually for work reasons etc) BUT it has evolved over time, as words often do, to encompass a new meaning that also covers people who have permanently moved abroad – also referred to as immigrants.

How do I get to move to America?

This is a hard one to answer succinctly, as it depends on so many individual factors, but my quick answer would be by obtaining a visa to do so.

If you want to move to America, there are different options (work, study, permanent residency etc) so which one is right for you depends on your circumstances and what you are looking for.

If it is a permanent move you are looking for, you will need an immigrant visa, which also has many variants – if you want further information, visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website. This is where the process to move to America begins.

How long will it take for my visa to be approved?

I get asked this very often, and the answer also depends on your individual circumstances.

Generally, when referring to an immigrant visa, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services site (USCIS) will let you know the average processing time for your case (when I did mine it stated 5 months, but took 7 months for my initial approval). Once initial approval is given by the USCIS, it is referred on to the National Visa Centre (NVC) who have some further steps that can take another few months.

These timings I mentioned above refer to a process that does not encounter any delays – which almost always happen at some stage – I encountered many, many delays which stretched the whole process out interminably.

Got any other questions?

These are just some of the FAQ I get, so I will look into doing another post like this soon to answer some more of the queries I get in my inbox. If you have any other questions you want me to answer, feel free to contact me.

If you have been through the whole expatriate/immigration experience, what do you commonly get asked? Feel free to share it in a comment for anyone who is looking into making a move abroad.

My American Kitchen: Victoria Sponge Cake

victoria sponge graphic

Today I am sharing a family recipe that has been handed down to me by my mother – she has been making this cake for over 50 years and is an expert at it. I grew up eating this cake, and it has the type of memories attached to it that can transport you right back to a person, place or time in one single bite.

I can make this Victoria sponge cake quite well, but it does not really compare with my Mum’s … I bow down to her in all her cake making abilities, but thought I would share it so that you can give it a try and taste the happiness and love too!

Part of the inspiration for this generational/family post came from Patience Brewster (an artist and designer of handmade and handcrafted unique gifts and ornaments – they shared their family owned company and philosophy which got me thinking about those family traditions that get passed down, one of those often being food. So, while I share my Mum’s recipe, do take a look at the Patience Brewster unique gift page, I personally am so drawn to the beautiful stationery. Enjoy!

victoria sponge 1

All ingredients weighed out and ready to go – remember you need to weigh the eggs first!

 

Ingredients:

large eggs (2 if using 6 inch tins or 3 for 8 inch tins)

soft margerine – same weight as the eggs

self-raising flour, sifted – same weight as the eggs

caster sugar – same weight as the eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp baking soda

jam for filling

icing/confectioner sugar for dusting

x2 round cake tins (either 6in or 8in)

the sugar, margarine & vanilla essence

The sugar, margarine & vanilla essence creamed together until fluffy

Directions:

Heat oven to 325 F

Weigh the eggs

Grease and flour, or grease and line the bottom of the tins with baking parchment

Weigh out the sugar, margarine and flour to the same weight as the eggs

Flour and baking powder sifted - egg & 1 tbsp of flour being added to creamed sugar misture

Adding 1 egg & 1 tbsp of flour at a time to the creamed sugar mixture

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside

In another bowl, using a electric whisk/mixer, cream together the sugar, margarine and vanilla essence until fluffy

Add one egg at a time with one tablespoon of the flour to the electirc mixer and combine – keep doing this for each egg

Add the rest of the flour but do not use the electirc mixer – instead fold it in very gently until it is all mixed in

Flour has been folded into the mixture and divided between two tins

Flour has been folded into the mixture and divided between two tins

Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and level the top

Place in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until firm to the touch

Remove from oven and let cool in the tins for a few minutes, then turn out on to a cooling rack (you may need to ease round the edges of the cake to get them out)

Leave to cool – you can cover with a tea towel to keep the cakes moist – then cover one cake with jam (do not be shy about how much you use) then sandwich the other cake on top

Dust with icing sugar and then devour!

Cooling from the oven - on the rack - being jammed!

Cooling from the oven – – on the rack – – being jammed!

A taste of home

A taste of home

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