First Snow

First snow of the year hit London today.  Perfect weather for soup, tea and soft duvets.  Hope you are keeping warm wherever you are.


How being an expat changes you

Since my Thanksgiving post, I've been thinking about how exactly being an expat can change a person.  I think its different for everyone but this is how I've changed and what I've learned from living abroad:

- Politics start to matter a lot more particularly how the US treats the rest of the world.....(I became more liberal)
- You gain a wider 'world view' and see the bigger picture of how we're all connected
- You learn flexibility and the meaning of personal strength because of dealing with new and interesting situations.  You grow up rather quickly because of it. 
- You definitely own a passport which is different than a large % of Americans and it opens opportunities for travel.  Travel pushes your boundaries in countless ways.  Pushing boundaries changes you.
- You suddenly have potential for dual citizenship which opens up even more doors.
- You gain an appreciation for the freedoms (cheap shopping and customer service) that America has
-  Your culinary skills get an expanded repertoire with new dishes that you never knew existed
- You gain an appreciation for proper world news that always seems to be broadcast differently  outside the US (hello CNN and BBC)
- You become expert at Skype, Facebook and finding deals for flights and international phone plans
- Being away from your comfort zone and stripping your entire life away, you find out what your core values are.  You realize what's important and the friends and family that truly love you.
- You meet people that you wouldn't normally meet.  I wouldn't have ever had a chance to meet people like Drew Barrymore, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kevin Spacey, Ralph Fiennes and countless others.  You see a side of them that doesn't get publicized in the press and you learn to appreciate them as artists and not treat them as objects. 
- Opportunities to see cultural events, museums and art that you would never see inside the US.  The Arts are a completely different type of world education.
- You become instantly connected to fellow expats who know what its like to live abroad, the challenges...and the joy. 

I could probably list more but these are just a few thoughts that came to mind.  I'd love to hear from any expats out there and how your life has changed from living abroad.



Thoughts on Gratitude

Its just a normal day today here in London.   Off to the post office and to do a few errands, hoping to get a good run in too.  Later on though, I'll be pushing our T.V. trays together dusting off the place-mats and sitting down to our Thanksgiving dinner.  Instead of travelling by car to visit relatives  I'll be catching up the next few days via the great technological blessing that is 'Skype'.  I'm hoping I'll get the pleasure of seeing my niece and nephew again and maybe even a few aunts and uncles in the background moaning and loosening their belts cause they ate too much.  I may even look up Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving special on Youtube to round the day off just right.  Being abroad doesn't take the holiday away, it just means you do it a bit different. 

I think its easy in the midst of pies, mashed potatoes and holiday stress to forget about how blessed we are.   The abundance of food when others don't have it and the sheer simplicity of having health, loved ones and a place to live come to my mind today.  I've been guilty of worrying too much about the future and complaining about my lack of job and comparing myself to those with the picket fence and mini-van.  But the truth of the matter is I'm a very blessed woman and have everything I would ever need.

I'm grateful just as much for the struggles as I am the good things that have come my way this year.  They are all blessings and I'm grateful for every experience, because they've made my life all the more sweeter.  I'm grateful that I've grown so much from everything that's come my way and that I'm still standing.   Being in London has been my biggest blessing thus far.  Its amazing how much this city has taught me about myself and how its pushed me to my limits on completely opposite ends of the spectrum.    I feel blessed to be here and blessed to have met the people I have and have done the things I've done.  It makes it exciting to wonder what will come tomorrow, which is what makes this life so amazingly beautiful.

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving.


**As part of the mortalmuses Thanksgiving bloghop. Check them out here.


Expats and the plight of canned pumpkin

I have to credit Libby's marketing team with making their canned pumpkin THEE most sought after thing round this time of year amongst the US expats.   Just this week I've seen posts on Facebook and blog-land from fellow expats trying to band together to find pumpkin or complaining that when they do how expensive it is.  Sure we could make it from scratch (its not that hard to find real pumpkin) but we don't.  It would probably taste the same, if not better.  I'm guessing that its that search for a piece of home this time of year even if it comes in the form of Pumpkin™.  If its not Libby's that your grandma used to use.....well you risk it not being pumpkin pie!

It used to be horrible here in London every Thanksgiving trying to find canned pumpkin.  I remember way back when...before whole foods came here and before our local Waitrose carried it for £2 a can that I went traipsing round all of London for weeks before I found it at Selfridges food hall for like £6 ($12).  Boy, I'm glad that the price has gone down so much.  So instead of one coveted can, I can buy two and spread the pumpkin joy round till Christmas.

Pumpkin pie isn't very beloved here.  A lot of Europeans cant stand it and think its brutal to make a squash into something sweet (James looked at me in shock horror when I told him about candied yams).  James bless his heart tries it every year and every year he gives me the same look after one bite:  please don't make me do this again.  Its OK, I feel the same way about blood pudding and haggis.  Secretly, I'm glad he hates pumpkin pie though.....more for me---but don't tell him that.

**You might enjoy this hilarious post by a US expat in Paris on pumpkin pie HERE.


Round Leicester Square and Covent Garden

I can't take credit for all these pictures from the weekend.  James stole my digital camera cause I stole his Nikon SLR to play round with some awesome pro black and white film.  I took the bird pic and the Christmas one, the rest are his....I just tweaked them a bit in post-processing.

Can't believe its already the holiday season.  Where has this year gone?

I hope that all of you are well.



Prayers for Gran

I'm going to have to see if I have any pictures here in London of my gran and I.  Anything I do have is at least 10 years old which is the last time I saw her.  The picture above is my gran and grandpa (who passed away over 12 yrs ago) when they got engaged.  I got it off the Internet if you can believe. 

One of the worst things about living abroad is not getting to see family as much as I'd like.  I missed my other Gran's funeral because I didn't have enough money to cancel a trip to Rome scheduled AND fly to the USA.  I chose Rome because it would have been the most financial loss.  I felt horrible but the day of the funeral I went to the Vatican and lit a candle for her.   I know its no consolation prize for being there, but I think my gran would understand (at least I hope so).

Well now my last gran, my last grandparent living is on her last breath.  I'm having a lot of feelings run through my head because I wasn't expecting this to happen as quick as it is especially round the holidays.  I thought at least I'd have till the new year.  Life doesn't work that way I guess. 

I loved all my grandparents dearly...they were more like surrogate parents actually, but this gran I was closest to.  I used to call her every week for 10+ years until it just wasn't possible anymore to carry a phone conversation with her (she has advanced dementia).   She was one of my best friends during times when I never had any friends or family to look to and felt very very alone.  

I feel so helpless being so far away.  I'm angry that I don't have my own money to go to the funeral or to buy the flowers myself that I've sent to her recently.  My parents are paying for my ticket and James has paid for the flowers.  I'm angry that I am not in a position to do this myself. 

I know life is crazy because we all know we HAVE to die, but resist it anyway.  I know that although her mind is gone my gran in her heart is the same.  I know its selfish of me to want her to stay cause I need her in my life......but I still have these feelings.    Loss and grieving are part of life.  What is it about losing grandparents though that is so much harder?

On a very long run yesterday I was thinking about why this has to be round the holidays and then I thought of how some of my favorite memories of my grandparents and of gran were round this time.  Maybe there's a reason for this timing?  Maybe its a way for all of us to be together on her fondest time of the year.

Although I'm filled with anger and sadness that its happening, I also have a huge sense of gratitude.  I feel like I should start this week of Thanksgiving with a prayer of gratitude for what influence she's been in my life.  She saved me in so many ways....she made a very difficult childhood bearable....she was my friend and I am grateful that she is who she is.

I'd be grateful for prayers for my gran at the moment.  Prayers that she will not be in pain anymore and that she'll be surrounded by love when she does finally go and prayers that we'll all be able to cope with the loss of such an important person in our life.


Gift Guide for the Brit Lover

1.  Peter Pan
2 . Emma by Jane Austen
3.  Keep Calm and Carry on 
4. iPhone case
5. Banksy print
6.  Union jack cushion
7. Sea Salt and Lavender soap
8. Emma Bridgewater mini tea set
9. English chutney by toast
10. London tube stops in black
11. Beatles wall decor

I don't think I've ever done a British themed gift guide on here.  I did this the other day on my etsy treasury (my camera lover list got picked for their front page recently) and had so much fun I thought I'd do it here too.  Some of the same stuff made it over from my etsy list, some of its new.  No worries, I'm not turning into a style blog.  I guess its just to bring a bit of change round these parts.  I think I'm entitled to a one off themed gift guide right?  I think its listed somewhere in the 'Big guide to being an expat' when you arrive in the crowded immigrant boat from across the pond.  (just kidding)

Anyway, my mind has been on themed gifts cause apparently the William and Kate engagement is spawning all sorts of Royal memorabilia now.  Why is it that they always have to be so ugly?  I find it interesting how much of it ends up in bric-a-brac shops or on e-bay.  I was just at Greenwich antique market today and low and behold themed china with the royals heads all over them were available for purchase clear back to George V.  Crazy, I tell ya.  That said,  I may just have to buy something and hide it in the cupboards anyway.  Its not very often you get to be in a country for a royal wedding for the future King of England.


Random facts about the Royal Family

OK, I've been living a hideously boring mundane existence this last week and there's nothing to write about or pictures to post.  Instead I thought I'd impart a few bits of useless information about the Royal Family you probably never knew before.  I think its timely information given Prince William and Kate's recent engagement don't you think (very exciting stuff)?  I've gathered these from the Internet and listed a few I've heard since living here too:

- It costs each UK taxpayer less than a £1 each to support the monarchy
- Apparently on Christmas Day the Royal Family plays games after Christmas lunch.  I hear the queen plays a mean game of scrabble and pictionary
- The Royal Family open their Christmas presents on Christmas eve after tea and cakes
- The queen earned a gold record from EMI for selling over 100K of the CD 'Party at the Palace'
- When the queen was a little girl she played the part of Prince Florizel in the pantomime Cinderella
- William enjoys blues and jazz
- The queen owns the largest pink diamond in the world
- She used to be a girl guide (like a girl scout) and a sea ranger
- William is not allowed to fly in an airplane with his father.
- William has had a tea named after him and his head on a stamp.
- Charles cant paint with water-colour very well!
- He supports organic farming and set up Duchy originals (which do amazing mince pies round Christmas time might I add)
-The queen sent her first e-mail in 1976
- Prince Charles is a published children's author:  The Old Man of Lochnagar was published in 1980
- Williams godfather is the King of Greece
-The queen is fluent in French
- On his 21st birthday the Queen and Phillip gave Charles a car:  an Aston Martin
- When he was younger Charles went as an exchange student to Australia
-Williams full name is:  Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales.  His family name is Windsor.
-William is left-handed
-Prince Harry volunteered at an orphanage in Africa in his gap year after finishing high school
-The queen has sent about 38k Christmas cards during her reign
- Prince Harry is a distant relative to Vlad the Impaler who Bram Stoker once wrote about in a little book called, 'Dracula'


1- Prince William Trivia
2- Royal.gov.uk
3- A British Royal Christmas
4- Prince Charles 60 facts
5- Prince Harry:  People


Playlist for London

Considering the weather is rubbish today here in the city,  I can't think of a better way to clear the cobwebs than a bit of music inspired by London:


My current kit and wish list

ok, I don't actually own a DSLR but I've started saving in my piggy bank for one (Yes a real piggy bank....its purple with polka dots).  If you're curious this is what I do currently own:

canon powershot G9


Polaroid one600 classic

and I occasionally use James' Nikon SLR film camera (can't remember the make and I'm too lazy to get up and check)

One day I hope to add to this:

Canon 5D Mark II


Polaroid SX-70

Hasselblad 500c


a Diana Mini Toy Camera.

These cameras produce such amazing shots....One day I tell ya....one day. 


Happy Bonfire Night

Yesterday, the Brits celebrated burning Guy Faulkes at the stake last night for his plot against Parliament (although technically the holiday is the 5th).  I'm not sure if I'll ever understand this holiday but at least its an excuse for a bit of fun.    Anyway....went to our usual amazing fireworks display on Blackheath.  My pictures are not too bad considering I didn't have a tripod.

If you want to see one of the best celebrations in all of England for Bonfire Night, check out THIS flickr group.  Lewes is in East Sussex by the way which I think is SW England. 

Some of my favorites from the group are:


So what have you guys been up to this weekend?



Roid Week

Its Polaroid Week.  I have no idea who started it, but its all over blog-land and there's even a Flickr group for it.  Here are my contributions, all with Impossible project silver shade film and my 600 camera.  I converted the last picture from sepia (like the others) to black and white cause I thought it made it pop better.

In other news, I've been working very very hard to try to get serious about getting my etsy shop up and running again.  I am keen to try to get my financial independence because the job front is going much slower than I want and I can't just sit round waiting for a job to come anymore.  I can't believe how many doubts flow through your head especially cause I tried it once before and flopped.  But, I'm 'having another go' as the Brits say.  Here is a link, tell me what you think.  I've got a few more prints to add in the next couple weeks but if you've noticed an awesome photo of mine on my blog that isn't in my shop that you think should be, let me know in the comments section.

Hope you have a happy weekend.  Its bonfire night tomorrow...so lots of fireworks!!


Kitty Comfort

photo by Hilda Grahnat

I saw this photograph this morning on Hilda Grahnat's blog (LOOOOOVE HER PHOTOS) and it really reminded me of our neighborhood kitty.  Round 4/5 years ago, a little cat, that looks an awful lot like this one (although black and white), kept popping out of the bushes, meowing like crazy.  We'd stop and pet her...rub her belly until it looked like her eyes were rolling back in her head with pure bliss.  5 years on she's been just as much of a comfort to us as we have to her.  She recognizes us and comes running from long distances.    We found out her name once, she used to be owned by a Russian immigrant and named her in Russian of course... we can't pronounce it or remember it so we just call her 'Kitty'.  The funny thing is some of the hardest days I've had she's popped out from nowhere.  Crazy how messages of comfort are sent in the oddest of places and now this photo popping up too reminding me of so many wonderful, comforting memories.  I really needed this this week.  Thank You Universe.


St. Paul's Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge

These are from the weekend.  I went to a Gauguin exhibition at the Tate Modern.  In just a short walk to the museum you pass by such history:  London Bridge, Borough Market, Clink Prison and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.  The Millennium Bridge is new but it's symbolic of what you see throughout the city; a connection/contrast between the old and new (in this case St Paul's and the Tate).   I find that fascinating how the city has kept its heritage but also pushed the envelope with architecture with places like The Gherkin and The Shard.  Makes for a rather unique skyline don't you think?