Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The News

So, before I begin this week's rant/whine/observation, I must start by saying that I have a news anchor friend who is both lovely and professional on air.  I enjoyed watching her on the news when we lived in the same town and I'm sure that I would still enjoy watching her at her new station.  She was always herself when reading the news, but still managed to be professional at the same time - which to me, is the perfect combination.  Plus, she is hot and wears fabulous clothes :)  You know who you are KKF!  However...

American news programs drive me NUTS.  As in throw things, and scream at the TV nuts.  I can hardly bring myself to watch the news over here!  Most local programs look like they were filmed in the 70's, complete with grainy pictures and bad outfits.  The American national icon of news, Barbara Walters, is never shown without 'fuzz' - they make her all blurry and golden looking.  It hurts my eyes just trying to focus on her!  Why do they do this?  Don't get me started on the Fox Clones - they're all so highly made up and you really can't tell them apart. Were they cloned especially to work on Fox News?  

The Permanently Fuzzy Barbara

The other channels are not much better.  Robin Meade for example.  Perky, pretty, and a very nice person I'm sure, but OMG, her dramatic facial expressions and chummy banter are wooden and embarassing.  Stop!!  I'm not going to go into the politics of the main news channels here - we all know who is right wing, who is left wing and all that goes with it.  But what makes me scream the loudest is when Fox News constantly proclaims itself to be "fair and balanced".  It's as fair and balanced as I'm tall and big boobed.  If you don't know me, believe me, I'm anything but. 

Thankfully, we do get BBC America news.  It's a haven of peace, tranquility and normalcy for me.  No judging expressions when reading news stories (Megyn Kelly on Fox News is the queen of dramatic faces) and no dramatic pauses between words when the story is something that the newsreader disagrees with (Megyn Kelly again).  I know the BBC has come under a lot of criticism for its news programs back home recently, but I miss the BBC news immensely.  They read the stories plain, simple, impartial and without embellishment.  Isn't that how the news should be read?  I miss the deadpan Moira Stuart and her like (I know, she doesn't work for the BBC any more).  Serious with a bit of polite banter at the end.  Perfect!

The lovely Moira :)

At home, we have half an hour of world and national news, followed by half an hour of local news.  Simple, no drama.  The weather isn't drawn out like it is on the local channels here.  At the beginning of the hour of local news, they tell you that they will tell you (confused?) what's coming up weather-wise in 10 minutes.  At the 10 minute point, they tease you with a small piece of weather information and then announce that they will tell you more in a further 10 minutes.  This continues all the way through the program.  All I want to see is the bloody weather forecast!!!!!  Want some international news?  Forget it.  The international news is usually the shortest part of most programs.

Anyway, so ends my wee rant about the American news.   I guess I'm getting old because when I was younger, I hated watching the news.  But shouldn't news be just that, NEWS?  Not judging, drama and criticism?  So today, I leave you with a cute video of some random puppy - this is actually normal on news channels here.  To fill in gaps?  Who knows.  I just know that I don't watch the news to see cute animals!!!!  Have a good week peeps!

Monday, January 19, 2015

First World Problems

Eating out is one of my favorite things to do, mostly because I'm not exactly Martha Stewart in the kitchen.  One thing that always surprises me here in America though, is that even in some of the fancier restaurants, you are mostly expected to use the same cutlery for each course.  When I finish my appetizer, I always put my knife and fork together, vertically on the plate for the server to take away before the next course is served.  So I really hate when they pick up these utensils and place them back on the table when removing the plate, either that, or they gesture for you to do so.  Yuck!!!  Why can't I have clean cutlery for my next course without having to ask for it specially?  I personally think it's pretty gross to have your used cutlery sitting on the table between courses, I don't remember this happening in the UK!

One thing I have become used to, however, is the practice of being given your bill promptly - sometimes before you've even finished eating.  I hated this when we first moved here, but I guess some things are easier to get used to than others.  Nowadays, if I don't get the bill promptly, I start looking for the waiter and get all twitchy.  If we ever move back to the UK, I wonder if I'd find it difficult getting back to having to ask for the bill again.  Ah, first world problems...!

The High School in our neighborhood has a massive parking lot which is always full of cars belonging to students and teachers.  It got me wondering what happens at lunch time.  Do hundreds of students get in their cars to go out for lunch?  That would be total chaos!  In Scotland, we have an hour for lunch.  You can opt to stay in school and eat, or you can leave to go and have your lunch elsewhere - at home, the local chippy, or wherever you like.  We would walk down the High Street and grab a tomato soup and iced bun from the bakery before walking slowly back up to school.   Even when we lived in Glasgow where the school was a lot bigger, we would leave school and walk downtown for lunch.  You're not allowed to do so here, lunch must be eaten in the cafeteria and either brought from home or purchased there.  I don't know if students here even have a full hour for lunch, but I'm glad I experienced being able to leave school in the middle of the day for a wee break. 

It would appear that they have changed the chocolate used for Cadbury's Creme Eggs in the UK.  There has been a major outcry and no bleedin' wonder!  Sorry America, but I always describe your chocolate as being dumbed down.  It just doesn't compare with the creamy, melt in your mouth chocolate we get back home.  Don't get me wrong, it does fine and I have been known to eat copious quantities on occasion, but it just isn't as good as British chocolate - especially the legendary Cadbury's Dairy Milk.  Cadbury's was bought by Kraft however, and they have decided to change the chocolate used in the British eggs to a standard Cadbury's chocolate.  I'm sure it will be good, but for goodness sake, why change something that isn't broken?!  And as if that's not bad enough, they've also reduced the number of eggs sold in multi-packs, without reducing the price!  Sort it out Cadbury's/Kraft.  The Creme Egg is an icon and should remain the same.  Imagine if they changed the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup over here?  Outrage would ensue!  Yep, another first world problem!

On that note, I'm off for a brew.  I'm craving a Creme Egg now, so it's probably just as well that there are none in the house.  Happy eating y'all!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thoughts on moving so far...

Thankfully I'm used to moving every couple of years from our time in the military.  It's actually enjoyable for me to declutter and dejunk the house.  Seattle is going to be a lot more expensive than here, and our new house will be half the size of our Tennessee McMansion, so Goodwill and the dump have had several visits already on my quest to have a minimal amount of 'stuff'.  Our family of 5 fit into a 3 bedroom apartment when we lived in Korea, we managed fine and it was actually very liberating living in a smaller space than we were used to.  Less crap means less cleaning and less stuff to tidy up which is never a bad thing!

Some places we've lived, it took several months before we truly settled.  It was different here.  It was so easy to settle down, get in a routine, make friends and get on with life.  It could have been so much worse - this was the first place we lived when the husband retired from the military, so it was definitely a leap into the unknown, but it was totally painless, mostly thanks to the lovely people of Murfreesboro!  

Seattle is a huge distance from here.  Huge, as in it might as well be an international move (we've done a few of those too!)  Plus, seeing as I'm not from America, it might as well be an international move because it will be very different from Middle Tennessee!  So far in the US, we've lived in North Dakota (yes, it was freezing in the winter, but the people were lovely), South Dakota (one of my favorite places in the world), and Virginia (not one of my favorite places in the world) and here in Tennessee.  The Pacific North West will be a complete change of scenery and pace from Murfreesboro for sure.

We were really worried about how the kids would react to moving, so we made them a power point presentation about Seattle (which most of you have probably already seen on Facebook), talking about beautiful scenery, wildlife, crab legs and camping in teepees!  They watched it, were silent for a few seconds and then started screaming with excitement.  Now the hard thing will be to live up to the hype we created!

Things are happening very quickly.  The realtor has already taken the photos and put the "Coming Soon" sign up in the yard, the house has been inspected, the moving company have been to see how much crap we have and we've told pretty much everybody we know that we are moving.  I'm not really looking forward to the day that the house goes on the market because it's not fun trying to hide all evidence of family life - 3 kids and a dog, at a moment's notice to make the house look good for showings.  It's also going to be heartbreaking saying "see you later" to all of our friends here, but I'm not going to think about that until the day comes.  And anyway, I do believe it will be "see you later" and not "goodbye"!

A lot of people can't believe we're still moving around after leaving the military, but we're not ready  just yet to put down roots anywhere and we're fortunate that the husband's job has many opportunities for us in different locations.  It's an adventure and we're very lucky we get to still do this in the civilian world.  Without going into too much detail, it's been a lot easier to move as a civilian so far.   Way less paperwork and chasing around after signatures!

So for now, we're house hunting in and around Seattle, trying to suss out good schools, karate clubs, soccer clubs and all that you need to know when you move with young children.  I'd be lying if I said I haven't been looking at all the Hot Yoga studios for myself too :)  We actually don't have too much time before we leave, so it's all a bit of a whirlwind, but I'm hopeful it will all turn out fine.  I'll keep you posted!  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bits and Bobs

Wow, it sure has been a while since I blogged.  Happy New Year y'all!   Although I really must stop saying y'all because WE'RE MOVING TO SEATTLE IN MARCH!!!!  What words will I pick up there?  Happy New Year dude?  Happy New Year man?  Who knows, but I'm excited to find out.  The next few weeks will probably be pretty busy, but it's not like we haven't moved before so it'll all work out fine.  It's been interesting receiving different reactions to our news.  Most of our friends are excited for our new adventure, but I've actually had a few people react in horror and tell me how awful it is!  We have loved living here for sure, and have made many wonderful friends that we will be sad to leave, but we feel pretty lucky that we have this opportunity to move to the North West and live near the mountains and ocean again.  

We had a lovely holiday with my parents who came over for Christmas and New Year.  Lots of food and drink was consumed, and many walks taken to walk off the aforementioned calories.   We visited Nashville, Franklin and went to the movies. My "lucky" Mum had the experience of seeing people shopping in their pajamas at 3pm in Walmart, an experience not to be missed I tell you! 

Speaking of Walmart, I had yet another adventure in their parking lot.  There I was, innocently packing away the weekly grocery haul when some bloke came up and asked if that was a German flag on the front of my van.  I explained that it was actually a Scottish flag, but I guess he didn't believe me.  I then  had to listen to him talking nonsense about flags of the world while I hastily chucked the dog food in as fast as I could, before jumping in my van and driving off at top speed.  I really must check the van to see if there is actually some kind of sign on there that attracts weirdos...

Driving here at night really freaks me out.  There are no cat's eyes on the roads AT ALL!  Is it the same all over America or is this just a Tennessee phenomenon?  Please enlighten me!  It's so hard to see where the road is in the dark, especially when it's raining, so I drive like an old lady peering over my steering wheel trying to see the edge of the road.  You need to see the edge of the road here because sometimes it's a sheer drop, I kid you not!  Cat's eyes America, google them, and more importantly, put them on the bloody roads!

So that's all I've got for y'all you dudes this week.  I'm off to swot up on Seattle and the surrounding area and do a wee bit of house hunting while I'm at it.   All whilst listening to some Nirvana, Pearl Jam etc, trying to get a feel for the Pacific North West.  Ha, stereotyping at its finest...!  Till next time!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas In The UK

I have always enjoyed Christmas no matter where we've been living at the time.   Every country celebrates differently, but of course, because I'm from the UK, the traditions from there are the ones I hold dearest.  I do enjoy how America does Christmas, but there are several things from home that I really miss.  I do get asked this question often, so without further ado, here are a few differences between the UK and the US.

No build up to Christmas in the UK is complete without attending your local pantomime.  If you live in or near a major city, then chances are there may be a celebrity (even some Americans) in the cast.  In 2013, Henry Winkler and Pamela Anderson were just two US panto stars in the UK.    It's basically a stage show of a Fairy Tale - Aladdin, Peter Pan etc with lots of laughs and innuendos.  One of the main characters is always a dame who is a man dressed as a woman, plastered in make up.  Pantomimes are supposed to be for children, but there are always smutty jokes aimed at the grown ups that a kid probably wouldn't and shouldn't understand.  They are always cheesy, loud and slightly inappropriate, but usually hilarious.  America should totally embrace the pantomime - it's a lot of fun and I really miss going to one before Christmas!  

A typical pantomime dame

In America, stockings are usually hung on the fireplace and the children come downstairs to find them filled on Christmas morning.  Not so back home.  On Christmas Eve, children put their stockings on the bottom of the bed so they can wake up and immediately get stuck in.  All the big gifts are downstairs under the tree, but I remember how exciting it was to wake up and see a stocking full of gifts on your bed.  It doesn't get better than that when you're a kiddo!  American Santa gets cookies and milk left out for him, in the UK, it's more likely to be a mince pie and a glass of sherry.  If I was Santa, I'd appreciate both offerings for sure.

Christmas Dinner in both countries is based around the turkey, but sides and desserts differ.  A staple in the UK is the chipolata - a tasty wee pork sausage, usually wrapped in bacon.  What's not to love about that!  Sausages over here are pretty tasteless in comparison (sorry America)!  In addition to the obligatory gravy, we also have bread sauce.  I love bread sauce, even though it's appearance isn't overly inspiring.  It's a thick, slightly lumpy, white sauce, seasoned and made with bread.  It looks like the American gravy that is served with biscuits, but tastes so much better with the roast potatoes and brussel sprouts that us Brits also love with our Christmas Dinner!  Yep, brussel sprouts - love them or hate them, we put them on our plate because our families have always done so over the years, so it's what we do too.

Which leads me onto Christmas dessert.  In America, the pie is king.  Pecan, pumpkin or sweet potato.  Not so in the UK.  We usually have trifle, Christmas pudding and mince pies.  Luckily for me, I can buy proper custard at Publix so I can make a decent trifle.  World Market also stocks mince pies and Christmas pudding for a ridiculous price, so I can thankfully obtain the goods, and my lovely Mum also brings over a pile of Mr Kipling's mince pies in her suitcase.  You can never have enough mince pies!   Christmas pudding is a dense, moist, dark, heavy cake full of fruit, nuts and booze.  When smothered in warm brandy butter, it's beyond heavenly.  When made properly, you start prepping the pudding months in advance, slowly adding the alcohol throughout the months until it's fully loaded.  A proper British Christmas cake is made similarly, but it isn't boiled like the pudding.  It's coated in marzipan and then iced to perfection.  To be honest, most British kids hate the pudding and cake, but as we grow up, we seem to embrace it more. Possibly because of the high alcohol content?!

On every British table on Christmas Day, you'll find crackers.  Not cheese crackers, Christmas crackers.  These are cardboard tubes, nicely decorated, containing a plastic toy, paper crown and a bad joke to be read out around the table.  Two people pull the cracker - it cracks loudly and the contents fall out.  If you don't immediately don your paper hat, you will be subjected to a barrage of abuse, so it really is in your best interest to suck it up and wear it, even though it will inevitably fall down around your eyes and make your head itch.  Ah, tradition!

The day after Christmas in the UK is called Boxing Day.  In the US, the day after Christmas is just a normal work day.  Our Boxing day is loosely the equivalent of Black Friday minus the crowds fighting in stores.  It's unknown exactly why the day is called Boxing Day, some people say it is because it's the day that presents are boxed back up to put away, others say it used to be a day when servants in big houses were given boxes by the families they worked for.  Regardless, it's a day to mostly chill out, eat leftovers, watch more crap TV and maybe visit a sale or two.

So that's it for now, I'm off to have a warm mince pie and reminisce about Christmases past.  I'll be taking a wee blogging break over the festive period, so Merry Christmas to you all and a Very Happy New Year!   Ooh, New Year in Scotland - that's a whole other blog post...!

Monday, December 8, 2014

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

I went to the Post Office the other day to mail some Christmas gifts to the UK.  After waiting in line for a long time, which is normal for most Post Offices around the world, I handed over my packages along with the customs forms that I'd filled out in advance to save time.  Imagine my surprise when I was told that even though it was indeed a Post Office, they couldn't actually mail my international packages.  I thought the man was taking the piss, so I politely laughed, but then I realized he was being serious.  Apparently his Post Office is too small to do international packages!  C'mon America, even the smallest Post Office in the Highlands of Scotland can mail things overseas without blinking an eyelid.  Anyway, after wasting a good half hour, I then had to get back in my car to drive across town to the big Post Office that could handle my mail.  "Have a nice day" the man told me as I childishly stomped out of his too small Post Office!

I love, love, love the weeks leading up to Christmas, and because we have 3 smallish kiddos, it's an excuse to go all out.  Yep, the 7 trees are up, the Christmas music playlists are on the computers and the Christmas CDs are in the van despite the protests of my poor husband.  One of our traditions each year is to drive to the Chick Fil A drive thru, order peppermint chocolate shakes for us (so tasty but no doubt full of horrible chemicals) and then pay for the order of the car behind us.  We did it at the weekend.  The kids loved scoping out the people in the car as we drove away, watching them smile when they were told their food was already paid for.  A small gesture, yes, but also a part of the spirit of the Christmas season for our family.

Speaking of Christmas, it's just over 2 weeks away!  My parents arrive soon and we're all very excited to see them.  We are so thankful that they are happy to travel halfway across the world to see us.  No matter where we've lived, even in South Korea, they always visit at least twice a year, spending at least 3 weeks each trip, which really is quality time - making memories and just hanging out doing everyday things.  My parents have an amazing relationship with the kids.  It's always so hard for us all when they leave, but as soon as they get home, they are planning their next trip.  The kids are always getting wee parcels in the mail from them and they talk on the phone regularly which is awesome.  While I love our life and all the traveling that we've done, the hardest part is definitely being away from my family.

So on that sentimental note, I'm off to begin a busy week.  It's time to bake some Christmas crack, make some Christmas cocktails, and no doubt gain a few pounds.  I'll also be finding time to watch my favorite Christmas movie, Love Actually.  I know, it's over the top cheesy, but it reminds me of all things British and I LOVE it.  The tears start flowing as soon as Hugh Grant begins talking about the people at the airport, and it's funny seeing Rick from The Walking Dead all fresh faced and beardless.  I'm sure there's a suitable medication out there to help me with that crying...! 


Monday, December 1, 2014

Chives And Things

At the same time every year, the grass in our yard is suddenly full of patches of chives that grow ferociously throughout the winter.  It must be a Tennessee thing because I never noticed any in our yards anywhere else we've lived in the States.  The only chives in Scotland are in your herb garden (pronounced HERB in the UK, not URB), and every now and then you go snip some off to use in your soup or such.  I don't think I'd want to snip some from my yard here - dog pee and all that, but I do find it strange that chives are so rampant at this time of year.  Not even weedkiller seems to work.  The smell in the air after you cut your grass just now definitely isn't the most pleasant of aromas.

St Patricks Day is celebrated here in the States with much gusto.  But did you know that St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and that we celebrate St Andrews Day on the 30th of November each year as our official national day?   St Andrew is also the patron saint of Poland, Greece, Romania and Ukraine.  The saltire (St Andrews cross), the flag of Scotland is hung from all Scottish flagpoles on this day - the exception being Edinburgh Castle where the Union Jack is flown because of the presence of the British Army.  While we don't normally do too much to celebrate St Andrews Day, there are usually parades and ceilidhs, and Scottish food is eaten just to celebrate being Scottish - which is, of course, the best nationality in the world ;)  

I was surprised to see that the UK seems to have adopted the American Black Friday sales shopping frenzy.  I do embrace most things American, but have never EVER gone Black Friday shopping.  I'm not a fan of shopping on a normal day,  never mind having to fight my way into a store and then fight with someone over some deal on something I don't need.  I did, however, get some good deals online whilst sipping on a mimosa, which was rather more enjoyable, although mimosas do make most things enjoyable :) 

Going to the doctor here in the States is so different from back home.  When I was in recently for my annual physical, I joked that the change of season was making me permanently hungry for junk food.  While I do like my doctor, I was shocked that she immediately asked me if I wanted medication for that!  What??!!  I was just kidding, and anyway who knew there was medication for plain old lack of willpower?   

So, today is the 1st of December, and it's actually nice and warm here in Tennessee.  Long may this last, although I know the chances are pretty minimal.  Wishing you all a good week with temperatures as pleasant as they are here.  Perhaps there's a medication for that...!