Monday, October 27, 2014

This Week in America-land - Sex, Drugs and Funerals

If you watch American TV for any amount of time, you are guaranteed to see at least one commercial for prescription drugs with the tag "Ask your doctor for ...whatever said prescription drug may be".  I always react the same way, with a loud "Eh?" whilst throwing my hands in the air.  The husband who is used to such gestures from me, just shakes his head.  At me, not at the commercial.   I can't get my head around this stuff at all!  Viagra, depression, you name it.  At home, it's the doctor's job to tell you what kind of medication you should take, not the other way around.  After the commercial tells you to ask your doctor for said drug, it usually goes on to list the possible side effects - which sometimes include death.  Yes, death!  The side effects can take up to a minute to be described, all whilst some actors frolic and play with their pets in the background to cheesy music.  It's both hilarious and disturbing at the same time. 

I am guilty of having picked up the phrase "Oh really" from America.  The first time somebody said it to me, I thought they were being rude.  It sounded almost like a challenge, or that they didn't believe what I'd just said.  But the reality is, it just means they like what you said and are showing an interest.  I say it a lot now, hopefully nobody will think I'm being rude and deck me when I'm back in Scotland next time. 

Whilst driving home the other day, I saw a strange sight coming towards me on the other side of the road.  At first I didn't realize what was going on - flashing lights on top of what looked like a small limousine?  Some kind of reality show or publicity stunt perhaps?  Nope, it was actually a funeral procession.  Some hearses over here are so jazzy!  Back home, funeral processions are stately, sedate affairs and the hearses look like, well, hearses.  Over here, they look very similar to what us Brits would call an estate car.  Not only that, but I guess some hearses also have lights similar to police cars flashing away.  The hearse is then followed by the family members' vehicles on the road.  So yes, I know the lights are to warn cars to pull over and not overtake or cut into the funeral procession, but surely just the sight of the hearse alone should be enough?     

When I first moved to America, I loved the amount of restaurants that were everywhere.  But that was back in the day, before I realized they were mostly chains and franchises.  These restaurants are the same wherever you go, and usually offer the same kind of food.   It's hard to find places that are unique, with fresh ingredients and menus that differ from the usual offerings.  But, I recently visited a new restaurant here in town with some friends, called The Curious Kitchen.  It was beyond amazing and so much like being back in the UK!  While the service was understandably slower than in Chili's/Red Lobster/all the usual suspects, it was more than worth the wait.  I would always rather wait for freshly prepared food than have a bunch of cheesy mush with fries rushed out to my table in a couple of minutes.   The service was personal and the food was delicious.  The portion sizes were perfect, so no to-go boxes were needed, which, as you know, is a plus in my book.  I will definitely return here in the future. 

Anyway, I'm getting ready to leave chilly Tennessee behind for a few days, to hook up with some fantastic girls and run the McDowell Mountain Ragnar Trail Race  in Arizona.   So, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, javelinas and scorpions notwithstanding, I hope to return safely and blog about our experiences.  Till next time, friends!   

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This week in America-land...

Spotted at my son's soccer game this week, was this slogan on a shirt.  Each to his own and all that, but really?!

I do enjoy a bit on the side.  No, not the naughty, Benny Hill style, I'm talking condiments, sauces and the like.  I still miss the condiments that I love from back home.  Strangely enough, two of my favorites are dark brown in color and very strongly flavored - just like Marmite really, which I've talked about in previous posts.  First up is Branston Pickle.  Dear God, just mentioning this makes my mouth water.  A pickle in America is green, looks like a small cucumber and is very strange tasting.  Pickle back home is dark brown, crunchy, full of flavor, tangy and goes amazingly well with cheese and crusty bread, on a sandwich or with a Ploughman's Lunch.  Most decent pubs at home will have a Ploughman's on offer, I'd take that any day over the American pub favorites of wings, nachos etc.   Another thing missing on the menu over here is HP Sauce.  Brown, fruity, tangy, spicy, I suppose it's the American equivalent of Barbecue Sauce, but it's so very different.  One of the first things I'm going to eat next time I'm in Scotland will be a huge fried breakfast with bacon, eggs, potato scone, black pudding, fried tomato, beans and a huge dollop of HP Sauce on the side.  Ketchup just doesn't cut it! 

My early morning run was rudely interrupted the other day by some JACKASS who obviously thought I needed a drink, so he threw his huge soda cup out of his truck at me!  What the heck?!  I was mad and started gesturing and yelling, but quickly reeled myself back in just in case he turned around and came back with something worse, like a gun or something.  His truck was old and battered and he was obviously kinda redneck.  Oh the joys of road running in Tennessee :)   One thing I have noticed on my road runs is that the preferred drink of choice for drivers or their passengers is Natural Light Beer.  The roadside is usually littered with empty cans of Natty Light, obviously the choice of the discerning drink driver who then chucks it out the window when he's done!  Further adventures in running this week include watching a very obviously drunk/high guy staggering down the road with his butt visible over the top of his pants.  Something I can't erase from my memory unfortunately!  And finally, some character felt the need to stick his arm out his window as he drove by and actually took my photo - this totally freaked me out!  But, another day, another adventure I guess!

Does anybody else enter the competitions on HGTV?  The prizes are just too good not to - homes plus cash or thousands of dollars for home improvements.   I enter each and every one of them to no avail - apart from the fact that I get bleedin' carpal tunnel syndrome from all the keyboard action filling out the entry forms!  C'mon HGTV, give a girl a break (or a prize)!

Anyway, that's it for this week, not too much to report.  I'm going to start taking my phone with me when I run so that I can record some of these incidents that seem to happen on a regular basis!   Stay safe out there my friends! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monday Musings

There are many reasons why I love living in America.  One of my favorite things of all time (because I do it every day) is being able to turn right on a red light.  Funny thing is, it took me years until I was confident enough to do so.  I knew it was legal unless there was a sign saying otherwise, but couldn't process in my mind that it was really okay to drive through a red light - such a rule follower.  During my first few years of driving over here, I'd regularly get honked at for sitting at a red light because I was too scared to turn right, even if the road was totally clear.  So, I'd like to issue a thousand apologies if you were one of those frustrated people who had to wait behind me until the light changed to green!

The American "to go box" has always fascinated me, and to be honest, made my stomach churn slightly.  Germs, germs, germs, people!  Think about it.  You get your large portion of dinner at the restaurant.  It then sits on your plate at room temperature until you finish the rest of your food, eat desert, pay your bill, visit the bathroom or whatever else, before requesting your styrofoam "to go box" for what was left over.  Said leftovers are duly placed in this white box of doom as I like to call it, then transported home (spending more time at room temperature) before finally being placed in the refrigerator.  Now I'm neither a germophobe nor a food hygiene expert, but I know this is NOT a hygienic way to handle food.  Thankfully, nobody I know has died or become ill from leftovers poisoning, but I do know several people who eat their restaurant leftovers up to 2 or 3 days after the original meal, which always amazes me.  American friends, I'm not judging or criticizing you.  Honestly, it's just my own personal opinion.  Perhaps because portion sizes in the UK are so much smaller and therefore we never have the need for a "to go box", I'm just unused to this practice.  But needless to say, there has never been one found in the LeBlanc family refrigerator, and there never will be.  Okay, so maybe I am a germophobe after all...! 

Never will these pass my threshold!

Me, to the white box of doom

Much confusion at a school event the other day.  I had to make a list of all my son's classmates' names as they were standing in line.  I knew most of their first names which was great, but then began the confusion.  When I asked what their last names were, I drew several blank stares.  I asked again, nothing.  I then asked what their surnames were - yep, the same response.  Thankfully, another Mum realized my dilemma and jumped in by telling me the proper term over here is actually "last name" so now I know.  I suppose it makes more sense, first name then last name, so that should be easy enough for me to remember.  My poor children though, I'm sure I will embarrass them a lot more in the future :) 

My favorite TV show The Walking Dead is finally back on Sunday nights!   Yippee!  I've been waiting for what seems like forever for it to return.  Anyway, this means that the kiddos will be rushed to bed early every Sunday night so that the husband and I can watch Rick, Daryl and Michonne do their thing.  We then have to watch Talking Dead for what could only be described as therapy to analyze what just happened.  (Total TWD junkies).  Afterwards, I lay awake for the rest of night with my wheels turning, worrying about what is going to happen next week, so I get absolutely no sleep.  Anyway, here I am, Monday morning, yawning my head off, but it was totally worth it :)  Have a great week folks! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

It's Fall Y'all!

Fall, Autumn, whatever you call it, is my favorite season in America.  Come September, pumpkin flavored food and drink items are everywhere.  On offer are pumpkin lattes, teas, cookies, cakes, breads, nuts, pies, cereal, coffee creamer, chocolates, beer, wine, desserts and pop tarts.  You can even find pumpkin air fresheners for your car or for your house.  

Ugh, no thanks!

Oooh, yes please!

I don't think I'd ever even tasted pumpkin before I came to the States.  Recently, an online rumor started, saying that Durex had produced a pumpkin flavored condom, but it turned out to be untrue.  Had it been real, I'm sure those condoms would have flown off the shelves.  Americans (and me) are crazy for pumpkin!
A hoax, but funny nonetheless :)
Craft Stores are full of Fall themed decorations from wreaths to yard decor and cute scarecrows to stick in your garden.  Places like Hobby Lobby are a sensory overload right now.  If you happen to venture in during this season, you will not leave empty handed unless you have a will of steel.  Yes of course you needed to buy those cute pumpkin decorations...! 

In most neighborhoods, homes, entryways and yards are adorned with colorful Fall decorations.  Some people turn their front yards into huge Fall displays complete with hay bales.  Orange and yellow chrysanthemums are everywhere and piles of pumpkins arrive in the supermarkets.  Even Halloween costumes, candy and decorations start to appear in the stores at the beginning of September. 

Farms offer hayrides, pumpkin patches, Fall activities, playgrounds made out of hay and Fall food. Corn field mazes abound and while the kids love these, I'm not a fan and would rather sit on my butt drinking a pumpkin beer with a slice of pumpkin pie in my hand.  

All this Fall enthusiasm sure is contagious.  Autumn at home is so much simpler.  The leaves start to turn and quickly fall, the air is chilly and damp, and the winter coats come out of hibernation.  We do like to complain about the weather in the UK, so Autumn is the perfect time for us to do so.  I don't think I've ever seen any Fall decorations in the UK bar the odd scarecrow.  I know some Brits will read this and think "What a lot of fuss over a season", but I disagree.  Why the heck not?!  I love that Americans embrace and celebrate the change of season - Fall here is fun!

Obviously both countries are beautiful as the leaves change color and start to fall.  My favorite Fall destination in the USA is the spectacular Spearfish Canyon in South Dakota:

And in Scotland, I miss walking or driving through the countryside on a bright, Autumn day enjoying views like this:

Believe it or not, South Dakota and Scotland have many similarities scenery wise. 

Anyway, in true American fashion, I'd like to finish up by wishing you all a Happy Fall!  This year, I intend to perfect my gluhwein recipe and to take my dog for many walks in the woods without having to worry about her dying of heat exhaustion.  I also intend to consume as many pumpkin food and drink items as is humanly possible and to then run these off on trails covered with crisp and crunchy leaves :)  Till next time folks!


Monday, September 29, 2014

This week in America-land...

As time goes by, I seem to be becoming more and more Americanized.  Not that this is a bad thing though, and I guess after all this time being married to the Californian husband, not very surprising.  I posted my ice bucket challenge on Facebook a while back, and a couple of my friends commented on how American I sounded.  I listened to it and realized (with an American z) how true that actually is.  I always thought I still had a strong Scottish accent, but I guess I was very wrong.  I now spell color without a u, use z instead of s (see realized as used previously), say "awesome" several times a day, and routinely ask for the check instead of the bill at restaurants.  One thing I cannot, however, bring myself to do is say aluminum the American way.  Don't know why, just can't do it.  I will always pronounce and spell it AL-U-MIN-IUM.       

There are so many churches here in Tennessee, they seem to compete with each other as to what they write on their huge roadside signs.  Some of them are hilarious.  One of the most recent ones I spotted was "Don't run with the Devil if you want to walk with God".  I love how creative and in your face some of these signs are.  Only in America would you see "Go to Church or the Devil will get you" on a huge sign next to the road, or some of these beauties:


It was another quiet week at Walmart, but I did get panhandled by a lady in a car in the Target parking lot.  This is the second time I've had this experience, but last time, my daughter was there, so I had to politely tell the person that I had nothing for them and usher my daughter quickly inside the car in case they got angry.  This time, I realized that I was being followed, so when she stopped and told me pretty much the same story as the last lady, I was ready to tell her to get lost and that she shouldn't follow people to their cars.  I then shakily jumped into the safety of my own car and drove off.  Ugh.  Not a fun experience at all and it seems to happen way more often than it should.   

My blog overview shows what countries look at what I've written.  While I do have lots of friends overseas, I've been been very surprised recently by some of the more unusual places I've been viewed from - Moldova, Tunisia, Micronesia, Ukraine, Israel, Romania and Croatia being but a few.  I also get a lot of hits from Russia and China which to me, is quite surprising.  Anyway, if you are reading this from one of those places, "Hi, and thanks for reading!"

So that's this week's round up of happenings in America-land folks, have a good week and watch out for those bloody panhandlers!  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fish 'n' Chips & Ice Cream

We went to Puckett's Boathouse in Franklin for dinner the other weekend.   I'd been craving proper fish 'n' chips for a while and had read good reviews about this place so we had to try it out.  Total success!  I can definitely say that Puckett's served the tastiest fish 'n' chips I've had in the States.  Thick, battered cod and tasty chips, doused in malt vinegar and salt.  Finger lickin' good!  It tasted like the real thing, even though the fries were a wee bit on the thin side, but I could almost have been eating at the local chippie back home.  The husband said he was surprised I could taste anything due to the large amount of salt and vinegar I piled on, but pffft, what does he know...   My all American daughter had the fried catfish - I'll pass on that thank you.

Puckett's Boathouse

Britain is famed for fish 'n' chips and rightly so.  We have fish 'n' chip shops on every High Street, the queue is always out the door at dinner time.  We just do it right!  Of course, it wouldn't be a good idea to eat here regularly but it's always good for a treat.  You really can't beat a hot fish supper with lashings of salt and vinegar.  A fish supper (or a sausage or any other type of supper) just means it comes with chips (fries).  This is called a combo in America.   Anyway, craving satisfied, I left with a happy smile on my face.

The local chippie back home in Nairn :)

On another food note, ice cream in America is pretty awesome.  The whole experience.  The add-ins, the countless flavors and of course the sizes which are way bigger than back home.  The choices are sometimes confusing because there are so many.  But in an old fashioned British ice cream shop, an American could also be understandably confused.  Like In 'n' Out Burger in the States with it's 'secret' menu of double doubles and animal style, us Brits have our own 'secret' ice cream menu.  You don't get Cadbury's Flakes over here, so there is no possibility of ordering a 99.  Nougats and wafers don't exist in the States either and if I asked for an oyster, chances are I'd get laughed out of the ice cream shop.

This, my American friends is a Cadbury's Flake. 

Fantastic when eaten on its own, but even better in an ice cream cone!

The flake is a fantastic addition to an ice cream cone.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the single 99 which can also be ordered as a double.

Sheer perfection

And this, is a double nougat which is the British equivalent of an American ice cream sandwich, but in my opinion, so much better :)

Filled with mallow.   Chocolatey and crunchy at the same time. 

You can either have a double nougat or just a single, where the bottom of your sandwich would be a plain rectangular wafer.  Pure heaven.  Or you could get really fancy and go for an oyster!  I always felt very grow up when I was a kid and ordered an oyster.

This oyster doesn't smell of fish ;) 

Why I write about food sometimes, I'll never know.  It just makes me hungry and homesick.  But hey, at least now I know where to get decent fish 'n' chips in Tennessee :)


Monday, September 15, 2014

This Week In America-land...

I've lived here for a while, but I only just realized that you can't buy colored toilet paper in the US.  Or at least, I haven't seen it anywhere.  Does anybody know why?  If so, please enlighten me!  In the UK, we can adorn our bathrooms with many pastel shades of loo roll.  We have pink, peach, blue, green, yellow,  you name it, readily available at the supermarket.  The only color I've seen here is boring old white.  While I realize it's not exactly a matter of high importance or anything to complain about, I do find it interesting :)

3 lovely shades of Andrex :)

Two out of three kiddos have gotten sick recently, so we've been regulars at the doctor's office.  While it's never fun to visit the doctor, it's so convenient over here.  They have walk in appointments, people!  Yep, you just show up between the hours of 7.30 and 9.00am, wait for a short while, and walk right in to see your doctor.  When you have three children, it doesn't get better than that.  If you take one child in who needs medicine for something and the other child catches the same thing the next day, you don't need to take the second child back.  You can call the office and they'll simply put in a new prescription.  I LOVE THIS!!  Thank you for making this Mum's life so much easier, America!

I'm starting to see proper cider in the stores now, which is great, although it's usually described as 'hard' cider.   Ha, ain't nothing 'hard' about cider over here unless it happens to be a Diamond White (responsible for a few memory losses in the past...!)  I believe Diamond White is around 7.5% vol, so although it tastes delicious, it has more than a kick.  Most of the ciders I've tried here have been a bit too sweet, but better than nothing I guess.  I would kill for a Magners though, either apple or pear.  Please feel free to buy me one when I'm back in Scotland next summer :) 

This is the definition of 'hard'!

The best cider!

I know y'all wait with bated breath to see what happened on my weekly trip to Walmart, but this week, I actually have nothing to report.  Of course, I saw the usual visible ass cracks and sprinkling of Tweety Bird T shirts, but otherwise, nada.  That was indeed, a very good day!  So I bid you farewell for now.  See y'all next time in America-land :)