Living Abroad – Preparing for Everyday Life

I get quite a few emails about moving to America and the visa process etc, but a couple of recent queries have been about what to do to prepare for everyday life both before and after you move.

I thought I would share a few things that I found useful throughout my move to America, and I think they can be transferred to other places, not just moving to America.

If you are an expat – what else would you add to the list below to help those people who need advice about how to prepare for everyday life when living abroad?

preparing for everyday american life graphic

The first thing I will say is no matter how much preparing you do, the only way to get used to the everyday is to live it. Get out there and be a part of your new surroundings. If, however, you do want to do some preparation, I found that looking at the following really helped me:

Politics

Getting to know the politics and government of a country helps you figure out a bit about how a place works. Having some knowledge of the cogs and gears that keep a country running is a must!

Living Costs & Healthcare

Before considering an actual move, look realistically (e.g. do some research) about what the everyday living costs are – housing, food, petrol, public transportation (cost and availability) taxes, entertainment, healthcare (how it operates and what it may or will cost) etc. Going on expat forums are a really great way to get information.

For more of my everyday life in America, follow me on Instagram

For more of my everyday life in America, follow me on Instagram

New Surroundings

Explore your surroundings, I find the best way is to just walk around and talk to people, go into stores and be personable with the locals, find out from people who live there where the best places are to go etc. Some of the best chats and information I have gathered are from the amazing girls who work in the place I rent my furniture. Gold mine of information!
Before you move to an area, it is great to find out what is available for you too – food stores, entertainment etc.

Building Credit

Depending on how the country you are moving to operates, credit may not be a priority, but moving to America, it really is. If you want to rent anything, get a loan or get approved for various things (upgrading a phone for example) then you need it. I have been slow about getting on with doing this but I am now well on my way. There are various ways to do it, and if you want further information about it, I wrote an article about it here.

The easiest way is going to your bank provider and getting a credit builder (card). You put the money on it upfront (usually between $200 and $300 – depends on the card – and it acts as your credit, and credit limit). If you make small purchases (petrol or some food) and pay it off in full straightaway, it builds your credit quite steadily. What is available to you is all down to where you live, but this is a good option for most people, if you are responsible and careful with it.

Where are you thinking of moving to? What else do you think would be useful for you to know?

What Americans Think Is Weird About the British

what americans think is weird graphic

Lately I have been having a few discussions with people about what they think is weird about us Brits. I came across some hilarious thoughts/perceptions that were not really based on any kind of firm reality – but, I have recently been told that there are things I have done that have been met with amusement/horror/ridicule/curiosity – whatever you wish to call it – from my Stateside chums.

So, tell me  – what do you think is weird about the British?

Here is my little list …

5  //  No Air-Con

Until recently, I was rather reluctant to have the a/c on as I did not have it back in the UK, so spent 30+ years not using one. I now, of course, greatly appreciate it, but it is still very much the norm to not have air-conditioning in homes in Britain. It does not really get hot enough – we just crack a window open and complain about the heat.

4  //  Full English Breakfast

The concept and content of this wonderful traditional breakfast treat can be lost upon my American friends – especially baked beans. It was the baked beans that completely threw some of them into a ‘baked-beans-are-not-a-breakfast-food’ tailspin.
What can I say? It is a meaty, heart-stopping feast for when you do not plan on eating anything else because you will be out doing something very British all day!

This does not have the beans! Shame on you!

This does not have the beans! Shame on you!

3  //  Cockney Rhyming Slang

I do not speak it, nor do I know that much about it, save for a few phrases I will admit to trotting out every now and then for a joke … but it seems to be met with much, much confusion and amusement when I talk about it with someone because they have brought up the incredibly funny scene from Austin Powers. It is not the most common form of communication in London, but it does make for great comedic moments …

2  //  Mayo with Fries

I do not know if every Brit does this, but I love to dip my fries in mayonnaise. When I first did it out and about with polite company, it was like I had picked my nose to use as burger relish – they thought it was disgusting. Thoughts?

1  //  Egg Cups

Little did I realise that egg cups were not really a thing over here. I love a good boiled egg and have some truly amazing egg cups (you can see them here) and every time I use them, I get laughed at. Apparently, over here you just boil them, peel them and slice them – how do you have yours?

What have people found weird about what you do? I would love to hear all about it!

My American Kitchen: Focaccia

I have recently been having the most fun making and baking focaccia! I have had this well loved, flour covered and curly cornered recipe written in my kitchen journal for some years and have made this seriously delicious Italian bread many times for a nice weekend treat.

focaccia recipe graphic

Ingredients:

500g white bread flour, sifted

7g sachet of fast action dried yeast

6 tbsp olive oil

300ml warm water

2 tsp fine salt

2 heaped tsp sea salt flakes (Maldon salt) – can be more/less depending on your taste

2 tbsp dried rosemary – I tend to use a bit less, but again it is up to you how much of it you use

Extras:

flour for kneading

olive oil for brushing & drizzling before baking etc

sifted flour & yeast with oil & water in a well in the middle

sifted flour & yeast with oil, water & salt in a well in the centre

Directions:

In a large bowl, sift the flour then carefully stir in the dried yeast

Create a well in the middle of the sifted flour/yeast and add 3 tbsp of the olive oil, the fine salt and warm water – mix well together with a spoon

flour, yeast, oil, salt & water all mixed in together

flour, yeast, oil, salt & water all mixed in together

Lightly flour a clean surface and knead the mixture together for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic (add flour as necessary if the dough gets very sticky)

Fold and rotate the dough to form a smooth ball then place it in a greased (with olive oil) bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave it to double in size for about an hour in a warm, dry place

dough once kneaded and rounded to a ball

the dough kneaded and rounded to a ball

Grease (with olive oil) a large baking tray and place the dough on it, flattening out the dough to about an inch thick using your fingertips to create dimples

Brush more olive oil over the flattened out dough and return, covered by a layer of greased cling wrap and a tea towel, to rise in a warm, dry place for another 40 minutes

dough before and after rising for about an hour

dough before and after rising for about an hour

Pre-heat oven to 450°F (220°C)

Use fingertips again to put more ‘dimples’ in the dough, drizzle with another 3 tbsp olive oil, then evenly sprinkle on the Maldon salt and dried rosemary to your taste (I use roughly the amount I have stated in the recipe, but just kind of eyeball the right amount)

dimpled dough brushed with olive oil before rising for 40 minutes & drizzled with olive oil, salt & rosemary

dimpled dough brushed with olive oil before rising for 40 minutes  ||  drizzled with olive oil, salt & rosemary before baking

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes until nicely golden brown

Cool on a wire rack so the focaccia does not get moist underneath from sweating

cooling on a wire rack

cooling on a wire rack

Once it has cooled to a warm temperature, enjoy drizzled with some garlic and herb infused olive oil – or however you like!

focaccia recipe 8

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

Weird Things I Do As a Brit in America

We all go through changes as we progress through life, but some I have noticed recently are as a direct result of being a Brit abroad … I am not saying every former Old Blighty dweller will do these, but I think some of them may have common ground with those of you who are far from home.

So tell me, what weird things do you do when living in a new/different country? Or is it just me?

weirg things i do as a brit in america graphic

1 || Religiously watch British TV shows I would never have been interested in before – I would go so far as to say that I actively seek them out.

2 || Talk to every British person I encounter (admittedly there has not been that many) and swap immigration experiences like old war dog stories.

3 || Buy any and all British food I find in my local grocery store, even if it is stuff I hate, and make my American chums try it even though I will not eat it myself!

To be fair, I pretty much love everything in this photo from ym grocery store

To be fair, I pretty much love everything in this photo from my grocery store

4 || Every time I get in a car, I exclaim excitedly that it feels like I am the driver because “you drive on the wrong side”. Every time. Seriously.

5 ||  Use British slang words I never, ever used back on the fair shores of Britannia – I mean, Lord luv a duck, are you having a giraffe?!

6 || Have a minor (or major – depending on the size) flappy insect freak-out when I see a bug. I grew up collecting, handling and being fascinated by all things creepy-crawly (except spiders), but because I do not at first recognise them here, I have a bit of a meltdown.

A mayfly, and a building covered in them - yes it gets that bad around here

A mayfly, and a building covered in them – yes it gets that bad around here

7 || Ask anyone who is not American “how do you find it?” – meaning life here in the US and get in a rather excited discussion when I find that the things that confuse me also confuse others!

8 || Becoming slightly obsessed with having the Union Jack on things. Currently seeking a throw cushion to add to my growing collection.

9 || Answer questions on all things British that I know nothing about, but said with absolute authority just because someone asked.

A little touch on the Union Jack in my home

A little touch of the Union Jack in my home

10 || Make a point of spelling things the British way – cannot quite bring myself to write in American just yet.

11 || Knife and fork my burgers, pizza and any other fast food much to the amusement of those around me.

12 || Develop a strong attraction to Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston and Henry Cavill … ok, maybe that is not so weird – common sense really!

Life Lately | Focaccia, Fire Trucks & Feeling the Heat

life through a lens

Life Lately has involved a spot of baking, and munching on some lovely fresh vegetables thanks to a wonderful farmers market in Michigan that we now frequent, being a bit of a tourist when seeing the local fire truck out and about (I really want to sit in it) and just trying to keep cool as today, the heat index reached a touch over 100° … Oh, and finally finding the coveted Minion Tic Tacs!

What have you been up to lately?

Click on the pictures for a closer look …

Instagram round-up || the focaccia I made  || using Michigan fresh veg  || me keeping cool || the local fire truck || Minion Tic-Tacs ||

OneDad3Girls

Did Donald Trump Get the Memo?

did donald trump get the memo graphic

The 2016 Presidential race has very much begun over here, and those candidates who have thrown their hat in are doing the rounds on social media, news conferences and press junkets etc.

The Gov. of Ohio, John Kasich has yet to say he is running, but that news announcement should be coming soon – and I will admit, if he does run, I will follow his progress with interest, not just because he is from the state I now call home, but because Ohio is notorious for being a swing state.

Listen to me being up on political life over here! I am really just starting to get my head around it all properly since emigrating, so I am not going to give a detailed rundown or critique of the whole process – more a casual expat eye on the proceedings!

One candidate whom I have watched with probably far more amusement than I should is Donald Trump. I watch his press conferences or interviews with an almost rubbernecking enthusiasm – the things he says are just so cringe making.  Maybe that is his political ploy, to say things that really aggravate and upset people in order to get him talked about and relevant.

It is working.

He is all over various media outlets here, especially since he expressed his thoughts on Mexican immigrants …

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best….They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. Donald Trump, June 16th Campaign Launch

Let me be clear on my stance on this – there are undoubtably illegal immigrants who do awful crimes and despicable things whilst being here, but there are also legal immigrants and citizens who do the same, and in greater numbers. If you want to talk about the issues this country faces, then lets talk about them in a mature, fact-based manner with well thought out and intelligent rhetoric – something I fear dear Donald did not get the memo on.

I recently read an article in The Telegraph (you can read it all here) that looked closely at what Trump had said and wrote …

He has also touted data from the US Sentencing Commission which indicates that an outsized proportion of federal criminal offenders are undocumented.
However, the vast majority were arrested for entering the US illegally, not for violent crimes or drug offences.
At the state and local levels, where the overwhelming majority of criminal offenders are held, 5.6 per cent of prisoners were non-citizens in 2009, the last year for which data is available.
That same year, non-citizens comprised 7.1 per cent of the total US population.
This indicates that undocumented immigrants are actually less likely to be incarcerated than US citizens for non-immigration offences. The Telegraph – online

The thing that I have found I am more interested in when reading or finding out about Donald Trump is the responses people have to him. I find I am seeking out this more than paying attention to what the man is gas-bagging about – things like the Mexican artist, Fernando Sosa, who had designed Donald Trump butt plugs.

my facebook status

My response to the news El Chapo, the recent notorious Mexican drug-lord prison escapee, tweeted Donald Trump

I am all for serious and sensible discussions on political issues that candidates wish to run on, the butt plugs were, to me, a stroke of genius – sums up very succinctly what Trump detractors feel about the man! I am sure his supporters are outraged, but I know one thing for sure – this election process is shaping up to be one of the more interesting political times ahead.

America can be frustrating to live in at times, leaving me confused and on my soap box about things, but the way some of the American people have responded to all the Donald Trumpeting has been intelligent, passionate, amusing and just plain entertaining.

What are your thoughts on this Presidential race – or Donald Trump?

Travel Tale: Egypt (Edfu – Kom Ombo – Philae – Abu Simbel)

One of my travel dreams was to go to Egypt – and as a very excited 25 year old, I got to experience it with two amazing friends from university. Here is part three of what we got up to – to read part one, click here and for part two, click here!

Travel Tales Egypt Part 3 Graphic

Edfu Temple – which is also known as the Temple of Horus – is located in Edfu which is between Aswan and Kon Ombo. It is a phenomenally well-preserved temple site dedicated to the falcon headed god Horus and is of great archeological significance because of the wall inscriptions. Some of these inscriptions depict how the temple was built and also the sacred meaning behind some of the myths surrounding Horus.

Front of Edfu Temple

Front of Edfu Temple

Part of the reason for the excellent preservation of this site is due to the fact it was built in the later part of the Egyptian pharaonic era (Ptolemaic 237 to 57 BC – there are lots of documents written in Greek and ancient Egyptian from this time) and the fact it was abandoned as a place of worship when non-Christian religious observance was outlawed by the Romans.

It was left unused and eventually became buried under the drifting desert sands – not to be rediscovered until 1798 by the French and then finally dug out of the sand and nile silt in 1860.

Beautifully clear temple carving/inscriptions at Edfu

Beautifully clear temple carving/inscriptions at Edfu

Next stop on the adventure was a visit to the temple of Kom Ombo. This temple is somewhat unusual amongst the others to be found in Egypt, and that is because it is dedicated to two sets of gods, and therefore has duplicates of each area.

One area is dedicated to Sobek (the crocodile headed god – there is a mummified crocodile that you can admire) and the other area is dedicated to Haroeris (also a falcon headed god like Horus).

Part of Kom Ombo temple lit up at night

Part of Kom Ombo temple lit up at night

Kom Ombo has suffered at the hands of earthquakes and repeated Nile flooding over the years, so much has crumbled or been destroyed. We did, however, find one amazing example of painted/coloured hieroglyphs/wall reliefs. I could not believe it when I saw it, and felt so amazed that I was looking at the artwork of someone from  thousands of years ago.

Amazing colours at Kom Ombo Temple

Amazing colours at Kom Ombo Temple

There is also a nileometer you can look down into – it was used by the ancient Egyptians to measure the Nile water levels during the annual floods. So much to see here at the double temple site of Kom Ombo!

For now though, it was back on the riverboat and a pleasant journey to Aswan.

On our Nile riverboat

On our Nile riverboat

We stopped off to unpack and get comfortable in our room at the Kalabsha Hotel, and admire the views from our window, and then to prepare for a trip to Philae Temple.

View from the Kalabsha Hotel

View from the Kalabsha Hotel

Philae Temple is on an island in the surrounding Nile waters and was another temple complex site, this one dedicated to the worship of Isis. It has some very impressive standing buildings with various carvings and inscriptions, plus its island location make it one of the more intriguing places to spend the day looking out on to the Nile waters.

Philae (the island) and the temple

Philae (the island) and the temple

The next stop was a quick visit to Aswan High Dam – the 1960s constructed embankment dam that controls the annual flooding waters of the Nile enabling regulation of water for irrigation.

Aswan High Dam

Aswan High Dam

The construction and use of the dam has also been the cause of some of the 20th centuries greatest engineering feats – one such feat being the meticulous deconstruction of the temple at Abu Simbel – our next stop on our Egyptian journey – which was then rebuilt, in its entirety, on a higher location so it would not be lost to the redirected flow of the Nile.

Abu Simbel statues of Ramses II

Abu Simbel statues of Ramses II

Abu Simbel consists of two huge temples, one dedicated to my favourite, naturally redheaded pharaoh, Ramses II, and one to that of his first, and principal wife, Nefertari. It is also a monumental dedication to Ramses’ reign and his politically advantageous win during the Battle of Kadesh.

The main man - Ramses II statue up close at Abu Simbel

The main man – Ramses II statue up close at Abu Simbel

It is an amazing place to visit, and probably the favourite part of the trip for me – I am such a nerd, I felt so excited to be in a place that was built in the reign of, and for, Ramses the Great. I think he had a particularly good eye for creating something that is uniquely striking and iconic (much like the pyramids).

Nefertari's temple at Abu Simbel

Nefertari’s temple at Abu Simbel

He was the master of creating his own narrative and how he wanted to be remembered – which was not difficult, as he lived until the incredibly ripe old age of 90 or 91 which, at the time, must have seemed like he was going to live forever as it was considerably longer than the average lifespan of an ancient Egyptian!

This was beyond magical for me – and was the perfect way to bring an end to my Egyptian adventure.

Have you ever been to Egypt? Where did you go and what did you think? Is Egypt on your travel list for the future?

Sex, Cheese & Stationery: Interesting Search Term Referrals

search term referral graphic

I have written a few times about the unusual, funny or just plain weird search term referrals that send people to my blog (for those of you who do not know, a search term referral is what someone wrote in a search engine, and then got my blog as the possible place to find what they were looking for).

Now, I am not making fun of what people type into the webbage when searching for answers, but more an amused giggle at why the almighty search engine gremlins think my blog would be the most useful option.

Getting a little lighthearted amusement will soon be a thing of the past as more and more search terms get encrypted, but for now, I have my top 5 favourite search term referrals that not only put a quizzical confusion in my mind, but a smile on my face.

Thank you people of the internet. Keep being you, keep being weird and keep stopping by my blog. I hope you find what you were looking for!

search term referral 5

No, why?

search term referral 4

Because if you are going to have goals, they may as well be cheese related.

search term referral 3

If sex really is moving to America, good luck with the visa process!

search term referral 2

Well you go on with your bad self!

search term referral 1

Sorry, I am taken – but good luck with that!

Go on, what strange things have you typed into, or seen, on a search engine? Have you got a site with some interesting referrals – what were they?

Expat Experience: Rose-Tinted Britain

expat experience rose tinted britain

I have not been living away from Britain for a very long time (it will be 2 years in October) so I still find myself settling in to my new American life. I am enjoying most of the process, and getting to make sense of where I fit in, but it is during this process that I most often find myself doing the inevitable – I compare life in America with life in Britain.

I more often than not can be heard telling those who ask what this-or-that is like in old Blighty, that ‘Britain does it better’. I have a moment where I think back to life in the UK and suddenly this rose-tinted memory springs forth – all cucumber sandwiches, cricket in the park, stiff upper lip and Pimm’s – which could not be further from reality.

I mean really?

A New Expat Experience

Britain is a big part of who I am, but what the goodness gracious me is with all this sentimental fluff? I even seem to remember people, places and things that I disliked intensely about life in Britain and refer to them as being ‘not that bad’ when at the time it maddened me to a red rage.

Not that bad?

We are in the midst of the presidential candidates here throwing their hats in to the ring and telling us about what issues they will be running on (do not get me started on Donald Trump and his comments about Mexican immigrants) and I make comparisons with the key players in the British government.  I seem to try and make myself remember it as a rather wonderful system made up entirely of groups of people who always speak honestly and with clear heart and intent about all the issues … … and it is then I start to listen to the words coming out of my mouth!

There are so many wonderful things I miss about the UK, but the rose-tinted thoughts are a new expat experience I had not considered.

Familiarity Feels Cosy

I often think about the beautiful places I used to live in and conveniently forget that the seaside chocolate box images I have in my mind blur out the social issues that plague parts of where I grew up – these are just some of the topics I make overly positive comparisons against America with.

So what causes this strange, rose-tinted thought process about the country of my birth? Do I really believe all the sugar-coated things I think or say? In a word, no.

I am aware I am doing it, and think I may be developing this train of thought as a simple reaction to getting to grips with the two distinct parts of my life – the UK part and the USA part. I am very happy here, there are things, of course, that frustrate me and get me to reach for my soapbox, but this is where my life is right now. I want to make the best of it that I can, and if I am honest, as life commonly is, it does not always go so well. It is in these times that I think I look to what was familiar, what was natural to me without having to give it any thought. I think that is why I remember life in Britain in that way – it feels cosy because it was familiar. Cosy produces a fuzzy feeling in your stomach, and produces the warm, filtered memories of where home once was.

I am curious though – has anyone else encountered this? I would, as ever, really like to hear your thoughts!

Slice of Americana: Funnel Cake

Welcome to my food review blog series 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, unless stated,  I am not receiving any payment or endorsements of any kind.

With that said, on with my review of . . . Funnel Cake

funnel cake review graphic

The Information

Funnel cake is a popular summer fair/carnival food in North America and is made by deep frying a batter that is poured into the cooking oil in a circular motion using a jug/funnel contraption!

It is usually served with a decent dusting of powdered sugar, but can be served with a fruit based sauce, chocolate or other similar sweet topping.

food review funnel cake 1

The Taste Test

I had my funnel cake topped with a dusting of powdered sugar and cherry sauce – which was packed full of the succulent fruit – that pleasantly complimented the crunchiness of the crispy parts of the batter.

food review funnel cake 2
The cake itself was a textural mix of a softer dough-like middle and squiggly, curly, crunchy parts on the outside. The batter/dough itself has flavour much like a plain doughnut, and is boosted by the sugar or toppings that can be added.

food review funnel cake 3

The Verdict

My funnel cake was freshly made and was therefore hot, sugary and the size of my face! It was huge! Far too big for me to eat all of it, but I gave it a good ole’ British try! I managed to get through about a third of it, as the batter is quite filling.

My favourite part of it was the curly, crispy ends that give a really wonderful crunch. It was sweet, and tasted like a carnival on a plate. I enjoyed the experience and if I get the chance to try another one, I will have a different topping.  Overall, it gets a thumbs up!

Have you tried Funnel Cake? What is your favourite topping? If you have not had one before, do you think you would like it?

What would you like to see me try next?

a slice of americana