Saturday, 28 February 2009

A day with my husband

I am sitting on my bed while I am writing this and I can see this very window box sitting on the ledge. It's amazing at how much joy this little box of plants brings me. I added a lemon cypress to each side of the box to give the ledge a bit more flair. I've always loved the lime green color of that lemon cypress.

On Saturday Matthew and I started the day by going over to Chiswick for a breakfast at Giraffe. Giraffe is a chain restaurant in London that does a good job with their breakfast menu. I always get the Ranch Style Egg tostada. I miss a good Tex Mex style breakfast platter and this is the closest I've come to finding it. It's always delicious. There are times when I'm just not in the mood for a big greasy English breakfast.

Ranch Style Eggs Tostada, Giraffe

Amy's Breakfast Burrito.
One of my favorite breakfasts from the Bryant Lake Bowl, Minneapolis MN.

After breakfast we just walked around Chiswick. We popped into a couple of books stores and I bought some daffodils. It was nice to just stroll around. We took the car for a wash and then decided to go over to B&Q (Home Depot) to get some kind of plastic storage bin for the trunk/boot of the car.

While we were in B&Q we had a look in the garden center. I have wanted to get some window boxes for our flat for a long time and I thought there was no time like the present. I wanted to get some nice galvanized steel boxes, but they didn't have any. The flower box selection wasn't the best and all that I could find were fake terracotta ones, which were horrible. Matthew came up with a great solution. He would build the boxes and off he went to find some wood.

I will admit that I was a bit dubious. I think I was more worried that they would be horribly ugly. I picked out the plants and he picked out some nails and a saw and away we went. It was fun to be wandering around the B&Q. It's pretty much the same as Home Depot, except they don't have candy or pop at the checkout. To be fair there is a pop machine although I've never been able to get it work. I could have gone for a snickers bar, eating it on the ride home.

So, we get home. Matthew starts building the box and to my surprise he actually knows what he's doing and the box looks good. I really like it. He only bought enough wood for one box so we head back to B&Q to get more wood. Matthew builds another box and there you have it. Two very attractive, rustic looking window boxes.

It makes the flat very cheerful to come home to. A great big well done to Matthew! Being married to him is pretty great.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Loving the design

I was at the big shopping mall (Westfield) near my house the other day and stopped by the Kshocolat store. It's more of a kiosk than a store. It's an open plan shop area, right in the middle of the walkway. I have always liked their packaging design. It's simple and they use great colors.

Just thought I would pass this one along.
cheers x

Dreaming of America

I just woke up from having the best dream. I was dreaming that I was in America with Matthew, not sure exactly where. It was summer time and we were sitting out on lawn chairs in the front yard of our house. I remember looking out at the street and saying to Matthew, "can you believe how wide the streets are here?"

We had a sprinkler going and decided to be silly and run through it. We were racing around on our green lush front lawn. I could feel that my cheeks were getting sunburned. Then I woke up.

I think it's funny that in my dreams I am commenting on how wide American roads are compared to the ones in London. It makes sense since I am learning to drive. It was a nice little dream, kind of like a Country Time lemonade commercial.

Even better to wake up from a pleasant dream like to see that the sun it out. I am off to sit in the sun today and soak up some rays. Have a great Friday!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

A day off on Tuesday

I decided to take a day off on Tuesday. A day off from searching for jobs, cleaning my flat and worrying about the economy. I wanted to get out and do something to take my mind off it all. I sent an email to a girl I met a few months back to see if she wanted to go for a coffee and to a movie. My friend Tracy, the one who was so kind to send out the FB message requesting contacts for me, had put me in touch with her. They used to work with at Yamamoto Moss together.

She said she could met up and we decided to see the 4 o'clock showing of Vicky Christina Barcelona. We went to go see the movie at the Notting Hill Coronet.

I really like that theater. I had been there once before to see Revolutionary Road. The theater has two screens, although I have only been to one. It's an elegant old theater with two balcony levels. It's not very far from my house and on Tuesdays all movies are 3.50. They also serve sweet popcorn, like kettle corn. It's delicious. I am usually a big fan of salted popcorn with peanut M&Ms dropped in, but it's not the same here so I've gone with something else entirely.

We were going to have a coffee before the movie and I got to Notting Hill a little early and had a look in a few of the used bookshops. I was in the market for a good book to read, something fun. I ended up with a copy of Madonna's biography. It was only 3 quid and I love a rags to riches story. There's nothing I like better than the story of a self made person. I picked up the book and went over to the coffee shop to wait.

Sitting there in that coffee shop, drinking a cappuccino and reading that book was pure bliss. My friend showed and we had a chat and then headed over to the movie. I will also add that despite it not being sunny out, surprise, it was very warm. Spring is definitely in the air.

I won't go and on and on with a review of the movie other than I really liked it. In case anyone hasn't seen it. I loved that it was set in Barcelona. I went there for my 30th birthday and loved being there. I sat in the darkness of the theater wondering why in the heck am I living in England, I should be in Spain. Wearing fabulous sunglasses, driving a convertible and drinking wine all day!

The best thing about that afternoon was that it felt normal. To be going out and meeting a friend, buying a book and watching a movie. As I was walking home it struck me that this is where I live. This is really my neighborhood and I felt a part of the city. It was a good feeling.

**Photos are from my birthday trip to Barcelona

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Before I Started Blogging

I didn't start blogging about life in London until October, 2008. That's when I came back with my spouse visa and started looking for a job. As I have mentioned before I came over to London at the end of September 2007 to study abroad and decided to stay and all that jazz. So I have been living in London since then, but I didn't blog because I was having too much fun! I wish I had stopped to blog about all the things I was doing then, but you know the old saying. If wishes and buts were clusters of nuts then we'd all have a bowl of granola. If you haven't heard that old saying it's from Strangers with Candy.

Back then I was going to LCC and running around town. Experiencing my first Kinder Egg, going to gigs and art shows, trapising around Hyde Park and falling asleep on the night bus. Spring semester I was doing my MCAD classes online and working part time as a nanny and still running around. I was a busy gal.

I guess I wanted to give this little disclaimer because I know sometimes my blog posts have been a bit gloomy. Despite the fact that I am looking for a job and at times homesick and I am having fun and still doing cool things. From now on I am going to try and capture my entire experience living here and not just the challenges of finding a job!

Cheers to all my friends and loved ones who have been so understanding and who have put up with my crabbiness.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Getting a provisional license

Look at that car. Yes, folks that was our old car and now we have an old Astra! This was the car Matthew had before I came along and talked him into selling because we didn't drive it that often and it was expensive and always breaking down. It's a honey of a car. I wonder what it would be like learning how to drive on TT vs the Astra. At least they are both blue! The Astra was a great value for money 350 pounds and its taken us all over the UK and still going strong. I guess it's for the best. I would have felt really bad if I had crashed the TT!

I was having a look at what I am going to have to do to get a drivers licenses here in the UK. I knew I was going to have to take a theory test, or the written test as we call it in MN. I found out that to take it I have to have a provisional license and it cost 50 pounds to get it! Yikes. I wonder how much it's going to cost in total to get my license? It will be good to have a UK license. A chance to start over with a new driving record. Not that I had a bad record in MN. I never had an accident and only had one speeding ticket from back in 1996. I was going 40 in a 35.

I did like to get parking tickets and never paying them.....Oh the joys of going to the government center and pleading my case. Trying to get my fines lowered, but that's a story for another day.

This is how I drink coffee now

I have been emailing a girl from St.Paul/Minneapolis who is living in a town just outside of Glasgow. She had been talking about missing a good cup of coffee which led me to tell her that instant coffee isn't all that bad. I actually quite addicted to it. I mean come on it's so quick to make a cup, you just get that kettle going and there you have it.

The only thing that's missing from this photo is my Sainsburys home brand chocolate biscuits and milk. My dear flatmate Wayland apparently ate all my biscuits and polished off the milk. At least he didn't put the empty carton back in the fridge. A side note, I don't always eat biscuits when I have a coffee, since I drink about four a day. It's a special afternoon treat to dunk a biscuit into the coffee.

I remember about a year ago running to the Tesco Express with Matthew to pick up some bread and milk and he asked me if I wanted to get some coffee to keep in the flat. He took me over to where the instant coffee was and began suggesting a good brand. I, of course was in stages of shock and horror. Instant coffee? You've got to be kidding! I said no way was I going to drink instant coffee. That's what the elderly drink, it's like brown water not coffee.

I kicked up quite a bit of fuss and Matthew insisted that I at least give it a try. So very reluctantly I tried it and found that it isn't bad at all. It's very strong, not at all what I imagined instant coffee to be like. To be honest I had never even tasted instant coffee back in Minnesota, but then again why would I? It's not an electric kettle culture.

So I am instant coffee convert. I do drink it American style, or says Wayland. He uses a teaspoon of coffee where I use three heaping tablespoons. I don't even measure it out anymore, I just dump it in. He can't believe it, but I like my coffee to taste like coffee...or like instant coffee.

I do recommend adding a bit of cinnamon to the coffee for a bit of bite. My friend Molly Roark turned me on to Penzeys Vietnamese cinnamon and it is really something special. Apparently it's the strongest cinnamon you get in America. I highly suggest it if you can get your hands on it.

There you have it. For all those back in Minneapolis at the Spyhouse having a coffee, enjoy your filter coffee!

Monday, 23 February 2009

What I miss about Minnesota

Number one thing I miss are the people!!! All my friends and loved ones. I miss being a part of their lives. That's what I miss the most.

The rest are in no particular order.

*Tater tot hot dish and all my favorite foods
*Going to happy hour with friends and past co-workers
*Hot fudge sundaes at Snuffys
*Grain Belt Beer
*The Spyhouse
*The Lakes, especially Lake of the Isles
*Jasmine Deli
*Knowing where everything is
*Shopping for books at Half Price Books in Highland Park
*Chilly fall afternoons
*Egg nog lattes
*Winter - except for the freezing weather, but I love doing winter things
*Soap Factory
*Sushi happy hour at Fuji-ya
*The Walker
*Bryant Lake Bowl
*Riverview movie theater
*Minnehaha Falls
*Riding bikes around the lakes at night in the summer
*The Green Way
*Going out for breakfast at the Sunny Side
*Pizza Luce block party
*Movies and music in the Park
*Nordeast Minneapolis Bars
*Downtown Minneapolis and St.Paul public libraries
*The Convention Grill
*Patty Melts from Currans
*Cafe Latte
*Radio K
*Witch hat tower
*Hennipen Avenue bridge
*Summit Avenue
*Aveda Institute for cheap facials
*Going to the lake and up north
*Super hot summers
*Sitting on the dock at Lake Harriet
*How nice people generally are
*City Pages
*The Wedge - cold press shakes at the juice bar
*Red Dragon
*Garage sales
*Going thrifting
*Living in a city where I am surrounded by memories
*The smell of dryer sheets coming from people's houses
*The Grand Old Creamery
*Art a Whirl and the St.Paul art crawl
*The sweet call of our state bird the Loon
*Candy Land sweet shop, St.Paul location
*Roller skating at Roller Garden
*Putting pennies on the railroad track behind Popular Front
*Karaoke at the Otter
*Drive in movies
*The State Fair
*Dairy Queen
*Hot dogs
*Estetica Salon
*Lake Wobegon
*All the great small art galleries
*Road trips
*The farmers market
*Skyway system
*Winter carnival
*Owning at one point 12 coats
*Driving on the right side of the road
*Pantages theater
*Ballet of the dolls
*The Modern Cafe

just to name a few, but really it's all of my friends, loved ones and people that were part of my life that I miss the most.

What I love about living in London

A list of things I love in London, it's a pretty amazing city.

*My husband Matthew first and foremost.

The rest in no particular order.

*Matthew's family
*Our flatmate Wayland
*Shoreditch nights
*Going for a Brick Lane curry
*My electric kettle and instant coffee
*M&S nibbles at any family get together
*Always being offered a coffee or tea when arriving at someones house
*Fantastic old movie theaters
*The way English people talk
*British slang
*Alan Partridge
*Peep Show
*Going to see live comedy
*Double decker buses
*Heinz beans
*Cream teas
*People doing really outrageous creative things
*Bethnal Green Workings Man Club
*Sunday Up Market
*Museum of Childhood
*Science Museum
*Tate, modern and Britian
*Running around the city
*English tapas, aka crisps
*There is always something to do, always
*Great bands playing all the time
*Mr. Whippy
*Great design
*Primrose Hill Bakery
*The English country side
*Traveling from London to Europe
*Being able to have people stay with us
*Free newspapers, London Lite, Metro
*The tube
*Jacket potatoes
*Wearing wellies on a rainy day
*Amazing cars
*Loads of celebrity gossip magazines
*Food halls, especially Waitrose
*Luxury food hampers
*Radio programs on radio 4
*Sunday roast dinners
*Sweet popcorn when you go and see a film (not a movie)
*All the amazing people I've met through message boards and this blog
*Generic chocolate biscuits from Sainsburys
*Gin and tonics in a can
*British lemonade (here it's like Sprite)
*Hammersmith bridge
*Meeting Adam for lunch at the Diner
*Slowly feeling like I know my way around
*Flowers for sale everywhere
*Neighborhood butcher shops
*Little kids on scooters
*3 for 2 at Boots

Weekend in South Devon

It was a great weekend. Matthew has been into running half marathons lately, bless him. He ran in the Endurance Life South Devon Coastal half marathon on Saturday with his mates Jerome and Pete. I went along to show support, which I did while sipping 7% cider in the very quaint pub at the starting line. I had never been to Devon and thought it would be a perfect excuse to see some more of England.

We drove to Torquay on Friday night and we all were going to stay in a flat that Jerome's friend owned. What I didn't know is that is was a flat that was being worked on and no one lived there. This meant that there was no heat and hot water, which would have been ok had I known. When we were about an hour away Matthew suddenly realized that he forgot that we were supposed to bring our own bedding down. At first I thought it was no big deal and I am sure that we could borrow a blanket and pillow from the people who were living there. Except that no one lived there. All I have to say is that it was freezing and thank goodness we had a sleeping bag in the trunk/boot of the car. It had to be one of the worst nights sleep I had ever had. We slept in all our clothes and I think we both averaged about 2 hours of sleep that night. Oh, Matthew....

On Saturday we had to drive another hour to get to the village of Beesands where the marathon started. We drove through Dartmouth and had to take a ferry across. It was a small ferry that could only hold eight cars and a few pedestrians. From where we were crossing you could see Dartmouth University or Darty if you are a Peep Show fan. Matthew and Pete had their photo taken with Darty in the background doing an El dude brothers pose. Peep Show, by the way is one of my favorite shows.

Beesands is right on the coast and it was absolutely beautiful. The sun was out and it was a bit warm. We were right there on the sea. If you are going to run half marathons this was the place to do it. Matthew ran it in about two and half hours and I spent that time chatting with a very nice woman from Somerset in the pub. Next to us were a group of elderly gentleman who were playing Euchre. Apparently the come in every Saturday to play cards and have a bit of whiskey. They were a fun bunch alright. Feisty!

After the marathon Matthew and I headed back to Torquay to the B&B we booked for the night, at a very competitive rate I might add. We stopped at beach on the way back and sat in the sun for awhile. It was really nice. Kids and dogs running on the beach, people eating ice cream. It was a beautiful day. We ended up getting to the B&B around six and stayed in. Matthew was pretty wore out from the run so we ordered pizza and watched a movie.

On Sunday after our full English, without the meat. I am sure if you don't have the meat it disqualifies it from being a full English, but we are trying to eat healthy so no bacon and greasy sausage for us. I am slowly getting used to rashers, but I miss streaky bacon. As for an English breakfast sausage, no thanks. I just can't get a taste for them. Maybe because they look so disgusting....It's all a matter of opinion. (That's my diplomatic way of saying that I think they are gross and I hate them!)

We left the B&B and our plan was to drive back up to London along the coast. We were very lucky and had amazing weather. It was sunny all day, it was good to see the sun. It doesn't show itself as often as I would like. Matthew and I stopped at several beaches. Our first stop was at Maidencombe beach just as we were leaving Torquay. As we were walking down the stone steps to the beach I stopped and told Matthew that I couldn't believe that this is what we get living in England. This is the country where we live and three hours away from London was this beautiful beach. It's amazing. England is beautiful and I feel so lucky to live here. We sat on the beach, walked on the rocks and skimmed stones into the sea. How lovely is that?

As we were driving off from Maidenhead beach I spotted the tree swing. The tree was on a small patch of land and across the way was an old farm house and a tiny little pub. On the steps of the house there were daffodils and herbs for sale. We bought a small pot of lavender for 50p. You just put your money in the box. It was this magical little spot and I felt happy and at peace. I loved having a go on the swing. It was just fun and delightful.

At another beach we stopped at I found some beach glass. Now I have always wanted to find beach glass and I found three really good pieces. I felt like a carefree kid. Walking along the beach looking for glass and eating ice cream. That's pretty good as Matthew would say. As we continued to drive back we stopped off for a pint at a pub that had a thatched roof. You just can't believe it. Or I can't believe that this is my life now. I love driving along on the tiny country roads, through the little villages.

We got back up into London around 9p.m. It was a great weekend.

Life In England

I found the previous entry on a message board that I frequently visit. The UK Yankee website has been wonderful. I've often gone to the message boards when I've been feeling a bit uncertain with life in London. It's been really helpful to find other people who are going through the same kinds of things. I met up with a woman last week that I met on the board and other people have sent emails. It's been a fantastic way to feel connected to people and to not feel so alone.

I was having a look through the posts and found the post from Mindy and it really got me thinking. I never planned on living in England. I never thought I would be living in another country. I didn't plan it or think about it ahead of time. It was never a dream of mine or a goal to live in England. I thought that I would have my semester in London and then I would go back to Minneapolis, finish my last semester at MCAD, graduate, find a job and build a professional life there.

If I were living in Minneapolis and decided that I wanted to live in England I just couldn't pack up my things, move over and get a job. I wouldn't have been eligible for a highly skilled migrant worker or a tier one highly skilled worker visa. I don't have the professional experience to get that kind of visa. I could have come over on the Bunac program, but you have to pay for that and you are only able to be in England for six months.

So in some respects adjusting to life here is difficult, but I do love it. I love my husband and I feel very lucky to be able to live here. I am fortunate that I will be able to travel through Europe and see things that I would have most likely never have seen if I had not been living here. I also feel like I am really finding out what I am made of. There have been so many changes this past year and a half and I faced things that I never thought I would. Has it been easy? No, but definitely worth it.

The biggest challenge that I have been facing is looking for a job. I feel like I don't know what in the heck I am doing with my life and it's not a good feeling. I was so excited to get my first "real" job after college and although I can't say with complete certainty I was pretty sure that I could have found one. It's not a good feeling to not be able to get a job. I've gone on interviews and networked and sent out my CV and nothing has come through.

I can't tell if it's the economy, or if it's because I am American, or people don't understand my experience and it makes me crazy. The interviews I have been on have been interesting and I have the feeling that I am not coming across very well. The longer I look the less qualified I feel to do anything. I just graduated from MCAD, so I am a recent graduate, but I also have had some significant work experience. I am also older than the typical recent graduates so I come across as more mature. I have also been told that it's hard to put my American experience into a London context. That means I have to sell myself that much more.

I was also thinking that maybe I won't be able to find a job given the recent conditions and that I will have to get a job working as a nanny or in a shop. I don't want to give up on the hopes of finding a job that I want, although maybe it's just not going to work out that way. Do I want to work in a shop or as a nanny? No, to be honest I don't. I want a job where I can put the skills that I gained during four years of college. I am willing to do whatever it takes to get working. I have applied to work in shops and at grocery stores, but have been rejected from those as well.

I am at the point where I feel like I might have to accept that I won't be able to find a professional job, but I just don't know. I have been officially looking for work since October 11th, 2008. I took some time off during Christmas and for a short trip back to Minneapolis, so I have been looking for about three months. Before that I had been working part time as a nanny while finishing my MCAD degree online. That ended in August and it just feels like it's been ages since I've been working. I hate it.

I think I hate feeling like I don't know what's going on. I am not sure if I am applying for jobs at the appropriate experience level or where to look anymore. I have asked people for help and they have been wonderful with giving me feedback. I am just not sure what I should expect. If I knew that I would mostly not be able to find a job than I could accept that and get on with it, but at some level I think that I should able to get a job here in London. I don't know, maybe it's very hard for an American to find a job here? The not knowing is the hardest part and I am taking steps to get help trying to figure it out.

I am working on shifting my expectations and trying to seek out answers from people. I will never give up.

Before you move, things to consider

++From Mindy, posted on the UK-Yankee message board.

"This is a topic that I've been thinking about for awhile now. I haven't posted it as a response to anyone, and I don't want anyone to think it's aimed at them. It isn't. It's just some honest advice that I think people should take into consideration before making the move. I think that at times people get a bit carried away with being in love and don't think about the reality of moving to a different country. And I also think that because our two cultures are similar and we speak the same language they think that it's going to be easier than it actually is.
I also don't want to be too negative or scare people off. You can move here and make a life and be happy, but there are some things that I think would be a good idea to ask yourself." Mindy

*Are you open minded?

Moving to a new country is remarkable experience, but you need to be able to look at things from a different viewpoint than the one you were raised with. You're going to meet people with different backgrounds, opinions and ways of doing things. You need to accept that the American way is not the only way.

*Are you set in your ways?

Things are different here. Schools, hospitals, banking and work practices are just a few of the many things that you're going to run up against that are 'not the way we do it'. You have to be willing to learn how things work if you are going function in a country that is totally not like your own

*Are you diplomatic?

You're going to come across people who are critical of your country and its government. You are going to need to keep your cool and talk yourself out of some situations where you feel uncomfortable. You're also going to have learn when someone's only joking and when someone's serious about this.

*Are you good at watching and listening?

You need to learn everything. The best way to do this is to watch other people, see how they do things without telling them how you think it should be done.

*Are you a homebody?

If you've never left the place where you were born, if you're very close to your family, then it's going to be difficult. Really difficult. You need to be prepared to have years between visits home, you need to be prepared to not see parents, siblings and nieces and nephews. The most difficult part of being an expat is having bad things-death, illness, accidents-happen and not being able to be there. You're going to miss good things too-weddings, births, family parties. And not all family and friends are good about keeping in touch. A lot of expats feel abandoned by their families when they move.

*Do you have family support?

You need your family to be behind you in a supportive non-judgemental way. It's not impossible without this, but it sure makes it easier.

*Are you determined?

It's not easy making friends here. British people tend to make friends young and hang onto them for life. You can make friends but it will take determination and a thick skin on your part. You need to be outgoing and proactive.

*Are you adventurous?

You'll have to take buses and trains, and go to unfamiliar places. Everyone will be a stranger to you. You have got to be brave or you'll never leave the house.

*Is your career everything to you?

Because it's not always easy to find a job in your field and a lot of people have had to take jobs that they were vastly overqualified for. And not all degrees and qualifications automatically transfer. It takes a lot of perseverance to find the right job for you.

Email from Matthew

++I love the Nissan Figaro. They are so cool. There is one just like this that is parked around the corner from where I live. I would love to have one. It's a good incentive to pass my test. To think that I could someday drive one!++

Since I have been feeling more confident behind the wheel I thought it would be nice to drive Matthew to the tube station this morning since he was running late. He then sent me this lovely email!

Thank you for the lift this morning –I enjoyed it a lot! But you didn’t indicate out of the petrol station... naughty!!!!!! xx

It made me laugh. In other news I did buy a copy of the Highway Code so I could finally learn the rules of the road. I also had a look through a study guide for taking the the driving theory test. I couldn't believe how thick it was! I have decided to try and take my drivers test before I go back to Minneapolis in May, but it's going to take some serious studying. I just ordered the theory study guide that comes with a dvd and an interactive cd rom.

I met a woman from Somerset this weekend who told me her sister had taken the test seven times and never passed it! If anyone has any tips for me please pass them along, thanks!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

I am crabby and homesick, so it's off to John Lewis.

I have been feeling a bit rubbish the past few days. Homesick and whatnot so today I am going to drag myself down to the John Lewis on Oxford Street and do a bit of shopping. Matthew and I have some wedding gift vouchers left and I am going to go spend them.

I need to get out of the house and take a break from the job hunting and feeling sorry for myself and see some other humans. I will report back later.


Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Learning to Jive

Matthew and I started a Jive dance class on Monday. After the Lindy Hop "class" we went to on Sunday night I wasn't sure I'd ever get Matthew back out on the dance floor. Matthew's friend Woody told us about the Jive classes and I went and had a look. They were starting the next day, which I thought was really good. Usually I find something I am interested in and discover that it's not going to start for a month or longer. Also the classes are very close to our flat.

The classes are run by a couple who have dancing together for years. I even gave them a call to make absolutely sure that it was a beginners class. Colette assured me that it was and that they structure the first class so the men don't actually do any steps. Just moving the arms and the ladies do the dancing. Matthew, being the good sport that he is, agreed to go along.

The class was great. The instructors Colette and Robin were super and it was a lot of fun. We learned how to move our arms and I learned a step and a turn. We both enjoyed ourselves and I am looking forward to going again next week. I love being able to do this kind of thing with my husband. It's a great feeling to be in the class with Matthew and just having a good time. It will be fun when we've learned enough to go out dancing in London.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009


I thought I would put off doing the laundry by writing about it. I don't like doing laundry in London. Matthew and I have a washing machine in our flat, but there is no tumble dryer. What that means is that you have to hang all the laundry up on a drying rack or on hangers. The worst is the socks! I can't stand hanging hanging socks up to dry. It seems like there is an endless stream of laundry and I guess it seems that way because there is!

Doing laundry also takes a long time for a cycle to wash, over an hour. Then you have to get it out and up to dry pretty soon or else it starts to stink and then you have to wash it again. Matthew assures me that most family homes have dryers, but I really miss having one. I miss doing laundry on a Sunday afternoon. Sitting on the couch folding hot laundry while watching the Simpsons. I miss getting burned by the buttons on my jeans, how funny is that. I even miss finding a dryer sheet stuck in the leg of my pants.

American laundry also smells so amazing. For whatever reason I can't seem to get the clothes clean enough or fresh smelling enough. Maybe they don't need to smell that fresh, but I am used to it.
I have taken the laundry to the Laundrette so I can use the dryer, although the clothes never seem to get absolutely dry. They are always a bit damp. Call me an energy hog if you must, but I like being able to get all the laundry done in an afternoon. Even if it's five loads. I always have clothes in the hamper here. I can't escape it! The sad part is that Matthew and I don't even have that many clothes.

The photo of the Japanese guy drying a sock with a hair dryer is my old flatmate. While I was going to school here or going to uni ( 1. Shortening of the word "University" (=College). "I'm going to classes at uni this afternoon" ) this was a popular way of drying your socks. We had a washing/dryer machine, but the dryer was absolutely useless. It didn't have a vent so all it did was heat up the wet clothes.

Those were the days.
We gave it a good go and tried to use it. We'd have laundry drying for hours and it would never get dry. I can say that as time has gone on I have at least gotten used to it, but I still prefer American style laundry over English style any day! Well I guess I can't put it off any longer, it's time to do the laundry. Maybe I will just make a coffee first....

Monday, 16 February 2009

A real road warrior!

Alright, I am going to toot my own horn here. I mentioned in a previous post that I am slowly learning to drive and how frightening it is for me. So I am pleased to say that I have some good news.

Last Friday I had to run to the store and pick up some stuff and I was going to drive down to the Tesco which is on the way to the gym. It's only about a half a mile away so I felt good about going down there. I stopped for a second and thought about driving a bit further to a bigger grocery store in Chiswick (Sainsburys) where I could do a bigger shop. Before I walked out the door I talked myself out of it. It was a lot farther away and I would have to face two big round abouts.

I got in the car and once I started driving I decided that I would just go for it and go to the Sainsburys. This was a big deal! Not only was it further away, but I had just decided to run out to the store and I wasn't really dressed. I was wearing a glorified pyjamas outfit with sandals and I hadn't done my hair, I didn't look exactly presentable. Which I guess isn't a big deal, but it's a big deal for me because I always worry that I might break down or get into an accident. I wouldn't like be stranded somewhere in my pyjamas and sandals. I also didn't bring my mobile phone with me, which was also a concern. I wouldn't be able to call for help! I know, it sounds crazy but you want to be prepared in a strange city.

Despite all that I drove all the way to the Sainsburys and did the shopping! Victory!

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A few of the streets were so narrow that I swear my heart stopped when a car was coming to pass me. I kept cool and made it there and back. I was very proud of myself. I drove with Matthew on Sunday and I am starting to feel less afraid and more confident. All it takes is practice. It's really something to feel like you are learning something new and to overcome a fear. Way to go me!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

We have a visitor

Matthew and I have a house guest and I am very happy about it. Vance McDermott is a friend of a friend who is traveling the world for the next six months. How cool is that? Like a good lad he's keeping a blog of his travels. He's from a suburb outside of San Francisco. Vance is a nice guy and a very good house guest. If anyone out there is interested in hosting him for a night or two on their couch let me know.

We picked him on Friday night from the Marble Arch bus station and then took him for a night drive around London. Driving around London at two in the morning is wonderful. We went by Big Ben and Buckingham palace and over to Camden, just a nice drive around. On Saturday we took him with us to Stratford upon Avon for the day. I had always wanted to go there and have a look where Shakespeare used to kick around. We went to the Holy Trinity Church to see where Shakespeare was buried, it was a beautiful church with a nice old graveyard. After our sightseeing walk we found a couple of good pubs to stop and have some pints. When we got back to London we took Vance to a few pubs in our neighborhood including the infamous Walkabout, which is an Aussie bar. Vance is an Aussie/American so we thought he should check it out and see the mayhem for himself. We saw a fight break out and a girl who got a drink poured over her.

It's really nice to be able to help another person out. I am happy to have him stay with us and make him feel comfortable. It's good karma. I would have liked it when I was traveling around so I am more than happy to do it for others. I think it's pretty inspiring that this 21 year old has decided to go and travel for six months and see the world.

Friday, 13 February 2009

That's right, we're going to learn the Lindy Hop

For Valentines Day Matthew gave me a trip to Madrid, what a wonderful husband. My gift to Matthew was taking him to a Lindy Hop dance class. I have always wanted to learn how to do this dance and I thought that it would be something fun to do together. One of things that I love about Matthew is that he loves to dance (usually after many pints and Sambucas) and that he is always open to trying something new. I thought that we could learn how to Lindy hop together and it would be something fun to do as a couple and we would meet some new people in London.

I have a friend back in Minneapolis who is the queen of Lindy hop so I sent her a FB message to see if she knew anyone who danced in London. I was looking for a recommendation of a good place to go for some lessons. It turned out that she knew a guy called Jamie Cameron, who lives in London and he was nice enough to send me an email and recommend a good dance night. He sent me a very nice email and even recommended a good Japanese restaurant near one of the dance venues. We are looking forward to meeting him and going to that restaurant. I haven't had any Japanese food in a long time.

Tonight we went out to a dance night, called the Swing Cellar at the Brooks Green Hotel not far from our house. It was a beginners dance class followed by dancing. Matthew and I thought it would a good idea to go to something like this first where we could have a little lesson and then watch other people. Matthew wanted to see if it was something that he would like and I am happy to say that he did.

It was an hour long class and it was hard. They taught us a Charleston kick step and a few other moves. I think the class was more for people who had a basic level understand of Lindy hop and wanted to learn a few new steps every week. We were a bit out of our league, but it was fun and we made the effort to give it a go. We are going to start going to a series of lessons, which start tomorrow. We'd like to go to a class with all beginners and learn the basics. It was a lot of fun and I always love doing something new with Matthew.

I was telling him on the way home that the nice thing about being at the class is that you kind of forget about everything else that's going on in your life and you can just focus on the music and dancing. I forgot that I was in London. It's sometimes nice just to lose yourself in the moment.

I am excited about learning how to dance with Matthew. There are a lot of cool events all around London to go to and surprisingly one of Matthew's friends Woody is thinking of learning as well. It gives me something to look forward and a good reason to keep going to the gym. To get in shape for the dancing. It was a fun first attempt and I look forward to our lesson tomorrow night. Soon we'll be known around London as the hep cat and swing chick. Nice.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Waiting to hear back about Grand Union

It's hard to be patient. I had an interview for a jr experience strategist role on January 27th and they way that it was left was that Robert was going to send me a brief to respond to. I don't have my portfolio of work here in London. It is in a box in West. St. Paul, Minnesota. Since I didn't have any work to show they were going to give me a brief to respond to with a week deadline. I was and am looking forward to working on that brief.

I had just about given up hope that things were going to work out, since I hadn't had any news from the recruiter at Zebra People. Although today I got an email from Nick telling me that a brief was in the works and once it passes through Grand Union's HR it will be on its way to me.
This is good news, we will just have to see when it gets here. I am looking forward to seeing what kind of brief it will be and what I will have to do.

I have been trying to motivate myself to create a portfolio, but I honestly haven't wanted to do it. I am going to have to recreate it from scratch. I thought about doing just a "lite" version, more of a visual CV thing. I need to get going on that soon, if not today.

Other than that I haven't heard back from any other jobs yet. I have some internships I am going to apply for this afternoon, gotta keep that ball rolling.

Exactly how I've been feeling.

Why am I living in London. part 4

We set a date and got married on August 31st, 2008 in Las Vegas. We decided to have an Elvis wedding and it was so much fun. A lot of Matthew's family came, some of my good friends came and coincidentally some of Matthew's friends were there on holiday anyway. It worked out great. It was a whirlwind that's for sure, but a lot fun. We got married at the Graceland Wedding Chapel and had our reception at a beautiful restaurant called Mix in The Hotel at Mandaly Bay. It was absolutely fantastic. The reception was held up in the little round part up the stairs, it was perfect.

We got married and were in Vegas for about nine days. We then went back to Minneapolis to see family and friends and apply for my visa. Matthew went back to London and I stayed behind. I had to make an appointment to get my biometrics taken (finger prints) before I could send my application in for the visa. You have no idea how long it might take to get an appointment. Luckily I only had to wait five days. The thing that held us the most was getting a copy of the wedding certificate. I had requested that it be sent to an address in Minnesota, but instead it got sent it to London!

I also had to wait two weeks before they could even send it out. The county clerk's office in Vegas has a two week processing time for marriage certificates. So then Matthew had to fed ex it to Minneapolis and of course what should have been an overnight delivery turned into a week.

In the end after I sent the application to Chicago it was returned to me within three days. I was so relieved. I wasn't sure how long I was going to have be in Minneapolis and if I should get a job or what I should do. I did enjoy hanging out and visiting with everyone, but I wanted to get to work. I did go and apply and get a job working at Target in case I was going to there for a few months. I ended up flying back to London with my visa on October 11, 2008.

That brings me somewhat up to date. I did go back to Minnesota from November 25-December 7th for my friend's brother's wedding. Since I returned from that I have been living life and looking for work. That's the story in a nutshell to give a bit of context to why I am in London and how I got here.

Why am I living in London. part 3

When Matthew and I got back to London after being in Minneapolis we had only two days before we left for Barcelona. Matthew took me there for my 30th birthday and it was an amazing holiday. When we got back from that trip we started planning what we were going to do for our wedding. Getting married in England wasn't going to be possible. Well, it could have been possible, but very expensive. I would have had to get a fiance visa to be married in England and that would have meant going back to Minneapolis to wait for it, not to mention it costing around 1,000.00 US dollars. I then also needed to have a spouse visa and that was going to be 1,000.00 dollars too. Since we needed to get married relatively quickly we just didn't want the extra expense.

I will also say that although it was very exciting to be planning on getting married it was also extremely stressful. I was worried that I might not get a visa and you don't know how long it takes to get one and what if we got married and I couldn't get the visa and I had to stay in the US. Plus you make yourself crazy reading all these message boards trying to figure out how to go about it. We ended up going to see a visa lawyer to get some questions answered, which made me feel so much better.

Since we wouldn't be getting married in England we decided to host an engagement party for the family. We had it a 400 year old pub called The Fox Goes Free and it was lovely, I am so glad we did it. That party was in June and I loved it. I really love Matthew's family, it was so much fun. The setting was amazing, the food excellent and the cake was gorgeous. It was a very happy day.

Why am I living in London. part 2

After being in London for a bit and meeting Matthew I started thinking about what it would be like if I just stayed in London and didn't go back to Minneapolis. I was really inspired by the city and its creative energy. I only had one semester left at MCAD and I was up for the challenge of trying to figure out a way to make it work. I thought about finding an internship in London and sent emails to everyone I knew to see if they had any connections. MCAD's wonderful career counselor Christine Daves let me know that a MCAD alum, Tom Elsinger, was looking for an intern at Saatchi and Saatchi. I got in contact with him and just kind of made my mind up to go for it. In the end the internship didn't pan out, but those things happen.

My semester at LCC ended on December 10th. I ended up moving in with Matthew and his flatmate Wayland. At the time they were living in Chiswick, which is a very beautiful and relaxed part of London. It kind of reminds me of a Linden Hills type area. I signed up for my MCAD classes and took them online, which was great. I also got two part time jobs working as a nanny. I had done that for about five years in Minneapolis while I was going to school. It was the only work I could do since I wasn't allowed to legally work in the UK. I didn't need to have a visa to stay in London. I could be in the UK for up to six months at a time as a visitor and every time I left and came back into England it started over. I had been doing some traveling so it was never an issue. I worked for an English family two days a week and an American family one day a week and it worked out very well.

My graduation from MCAD was on May 9th, 2008 and Matthew was going to come over with me to see where I was from and meet my friends and family. We had been talking about our future a lot. I loved Matthew and wanted to be with him and we were going to have think about getting married. At the time I was 29 and Matthew was 28 and we knew it was just meant to be. I wasn't very keen on the idea of coming back to England and just being his girlfriend. I had just done a degree and wanted to start working. I couldn't just come and hang in out in London so we talked about getting married. The immigration issues did speed up our decision to get married, but it was for the right reason. Matthew proposed to me while we were in Minnesota and it was the happiest day of my life.

Thinking back that was a crazy trip. The day before we were supposed to leave Matthew found out that his grandmother had passed away. It was very sad. I had the chance to meet his Oma and she was a lovely woman. Matthew came with me to Minneapolis for a week and then went back to England for the funeral. He then came back for another week. The original plan was for me to stay for a month so I could see everybody and he was going to be with me for two weeks. I was really happy that he was able to come back out and then we could fly home together. I loved showing him around and introducing him to everyone. It's hard to believe that it was only nine months ago.

Why am I living in London. part 1

It dawned on me that I haven't written a post about why I ended up in London so I thought that I would write one.

I came to London in September 2007 for a study abroad semester at the London College of Communication. I was a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) and my program BS:Visualization requires students either do a study abroad semester or an externship semester. I had done a few internships and thought that it might be a good experience to study abroad. My original plan was to do a semester at Parsons studying Design Management. In the end it turned out to be more expensive than going to MCAD and going abroad became a very attractive idea.

MCAD sent students to LCC for graphic design so I thought that I might go there too, for a different program. Sarah Kissell, a graphic design student, was going over to study typography. I ended doing the Marketing and Advertising program and another BS student Jesse Gadola went too. I was really excited about it. I had been to London once before in 2001 for a trip and had always wanted to go back. So I went to London.

Before arriving in London I stopped in Ireland for nine days. Two other BS students, Katy Smith and Zoe Peterson, were studying in Dublin. I wanted to travel around Ireland for a bit before starting school in October. I loved Ireland and it was great to see Katy and Zoe over there. I remember thinking, BS students are seriously taking over the world.

My course started on October 4th and that day after classes I went out with Sarah and Jesse to see a play in a basement of a pub. We were also supposed to go see some live jazz, but we decided to call it an early night. Sarah and Jesse were living in student housing near LCC and I was in a different dorm across town. When I got back to my dorm a bunch of people were going out to hear some music at a place called the Ain't Nothing But The Blues Bar. I decided at the last minute to join them.

It was at the place that I met the man that I am now married to. The Blues bar isn't very big and I remember seeing this one guy who was wearing a suit and a backpack standing near the front of the room. He was the only person who looked liked he was enjoying himself. He was kind of moving to the music and he just looked like a fun person. I went to go stand next to him and we started taking and then one thing lead to another and he had given me his phone number.

I didn't have a cell phone in London yet and I remember going out and getting one the next day so I could call him. We went on an official first date that weekend and have been together ever since. That was a really fun time, going to school and going out in London while getting to Matthew.

I was over the moon.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Baby you can drive my car

I should start by saying that Matthew and I don't have one of these lovely Minis....yet. Perhaps driving or motoring would be a bit better if I was cruising around in one. For the record we have a lovely blue manual Astra that has been very good to us.

It is very strange not be able to do something that you used to be able to do without thinking. Driving in London is certainally an experience. I have been thinking about getting my license over here. We don't really do too much driving in London, but we go out of town and around England. It would be nice if I knew how to drive so Matthew wouldn't have to do all of it.
I have driven a bit in the UK. I drove down to the gym twice now and I did a bit of driving on the motorway up to Scotland.

The experience so far has been stressful and a bit frightening. I am not very good at judging the distance between the car and the curb, or other cars on the left. The times I have been out in the car I tend to over correct and drive in the middle of the road. In case Matthew is reading, I only do that on residential streets not on the Uxbridge Road.

It's a very strange feeling to feel unfamiliar behind the wheel of a car. I've been driving since I was 17 years old. Getting oriented, working the shifter with my left hand, trying to make sure I don't scrape any parked cars, not being sure the rules of the road, fearing the other crazy drivers. It's a lot to think about.

Let's also not forget the CCTV traffic cameras. I was driving with Matthew one day and we were coming back from the gym. The gym by the way is only about a mile away. Here's the route I take to get there. The main Uxbridge Road is a pretty busy main road.

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So I was driving us back and I accidentally went into the bus lane for a second and it was caught on the camera and a ticket showed up in the mail a few days later. That's a bit unnerving! I could make a slight mistake and it would mean an instant ticket without being pulled over.

I took two driving lessons a few months back. That was ok. I just drove around and the kindly old man told me where to turn and this and that. What I really need to do is get a handbook and learn the rules of the road. Most of the traffic markings are on the road instead of signs. You have to know first where to look and what you are looking for.

I drove myself down to the gym yesterday and it's so funny. I sit in the car and drive, slowly, and give myself positive reinforcement. I say things like, Rhea you are a good driver, You know how to control the car, You have never been in an accident. I do it to calm myself and it works to some extent. It will just take practice. It would be nice to have an automatic so I would have to think about all the shifting. I think when our Astra gives out we'll get an automatic.

Slowly, but surely I am learning and mastering my fear. I also thought that driving on the motorway would be easy, but that is very different than driving on the freeway in the US. On the way up to Scotland there are three lanes and you constantly changing lanes with the flow of traffic. It's not like cruising along on 94 and maybe passing one or two slow people.

I guess I can only take it one drive at a time.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Interview with Source

I had an interview yesterday with a recruitment company called I really want to write about what happened? Do I want to share all they gory details?

Alright.... I will again mention that I am sharing the good bad and the ugly as a way to perhaps help others and so I can look back when I am rich and successful and be able to say I remember when I was struggling to find a job and no one would hire me. I can't wait for that day.

In other news, before I write up this latest interview, I also found out that another person got the work experience that I didn't thanks to my posts and supportive emails to them. Don't get me wrong, I am very happy that I am able to help....anyway.

It was raining pretty hard yesterday and I set off for my 4 p.m. interview with Oliver in good spirits. On my way to the tube a small truck sped past and splashed water all over my trousers ( I was originally going to write that it was splashed all over my pants, but in England pants are underwear. It appears that my lexicon is changing. )

I was standing in the road with muddy water all over my trousers and I didn't know what to do. I didn't have time to go home and change so I carried on. I felt a bit like Will Smith in Pursuit of Happiness, except that I hadn't been in jail. I got off the tube and tried to find my way to the office and I manage to get there on time. I made myself comfortable in the reception area while the receptionist mades copies of my passport. I try to ignore the fact that my trousers are muddy and that it so hot in there that I have begun to perspire.

Oliver comes out and we shake hands and go for the interview. So, how did it go you ask? Well to be honest I don't think it went very well at all. Then again I am not sure, I feel as though I don't know how to read people as well as I used to. He had me talk my way through the CV, questioning me along the way. He wanted to know exactly what it was that I wanted to do. He asked me a few questions that I wasn't prepared to answer, so I've got do some research. He wanted to know the size of the budgets for the websites that I worked on at Popular Front. He wanted to know what design methodologies I had studied at university. He mentioned a few that I had never heard of before.

I had the sense that I wasn't selling it to him. Oliver also wanted to know what I had been up to after graduation from high school until I went to college. I wasn't sure what he wanted me to tell him so I asked him if he wanted to know how old I was. I graduated from high school in 1996 and didn't start going to school again until 2001. He advised me that I should put on my CV a brief summary of what I did during that time. I don't know about that..... we shall see.

I was talking to Matthew about it and he said that in England there are benchmarks in place so that employers can easily make assessments. For example, you have your GCSE scores, then your A level scores and then your University scores. Most people go right from "high school" to university here, because it used to be free or now it's very low cost. Matthew suggested that since I don't have the score that it's difficult to make a determination on what my experience has been and what kind of person I am. I see his point.

I've said before that I am having a hard time feeling like I am not presenting myself well during interviews and even with more preparation I don't know if I am improving. I think I am going to have to seek out a coach or something to help me improve.

There were also some other points that came up, but I will write about those in a separate post.
I did learn something from the experience so that's a positive. I also got locked in the toilet after the interview and almost had to break down the door to get out. Thankfully all it took was one good kick....
good times....

Weekend with family

I had a really nice weekend. Matthew and I drove down to Bognor Regis with his sister Charlotte and her boyfriend Jake. Matthew grew up in Bognor, a little town next to the sea. I like going there for the weekend. Matthew's mum, brothers Thomas (27) and William (16) and nanny live there. As well as some of Matthew's friends from school. We got in on Saturday afternoon and Matthew, Thomas, Wills, and myself went for a lunch in Chichester. I also like Chichester, it's an old Cathedral city and it's very quaint. It was nice having lunch with the boys, it was good to see them and hear what they've been getting up to.

Later that evening Matthew and I went round to Nanny's for a visit. We ended up having a bit of Southern Comfort with Nanny and watching Mama Mia, I know a wild Saturday night.
On Sunday we went with Nanny and Matthew's mum over to a pub called the Cricketers in Bignor a village just about 20 minutes away for lunch. That was nice too. I really like the English tradition of a good Sunday lunch. The pub had a nice fire and there were plenty of people eating and drinking with their dogs by their sides. I love seeing dogs in old country pubs. I like the idea of going for a walk through the fields with your dog and then sitting in a warm pub all afternoon. Call me crazy!

After lunch we went on a little drive through the country and stopped off in the small village of Bury. The photo posted is of the Aran river and we drove our car until we couldn't go anymore and then got out and walked toward this rive. If you looked over your shoulder from the river you saw the church behind you. It was so picturesque. I had forgotten my camera and thankfully I found these photos up on Flickr. After lunch and stopping in Bury I wanted to go by the sea before we went back to the house. I love the seaside and it looked amazing. It was a grey drizzly day and the it was low tide, the water still had the pale aqua color to it. You can walk to the sea front from Matthew's mum's house. It's just a nice place to be. After the short walk on the beach we sat around in the lounge next to a fire.

It was just a nice relaxed weekend with family.
I feel very fortunate that I really love Matthew's family and that I honestly like them. I enjoy spending time with them and I feel very lucky to have them in my life. They are a great group of people and I always have fun when they are around. They have always made me feel welcome and that has always meant a lot to me. Cheers to family!

**photo credit goes to PhillipC on Flickr
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