Saturday, 10 December 2011

Land of 10,000 Stories

I've been getting into the routine of waking up on Saturday morning and watching the latest episode of Land of 10,000 Stories.

Land of 10,000 Stories are news segments on Kare 11 in Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota. They are presented by Byod Hupert and they are sooo Minnesotan. They are local human interest stories and I usually can't help but tear up during them. The stories are usually about remarkable people in the community. They are great and I love watching them. Matthew is now a stories fan and has gotten used to me crying and despite his stiff up lip I've seen him well up a bit too.

Land of 10,000 Stories: 'High-five Tuesday' pumps up the office

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Form AN has been submitted

I am happy to say that my application for citizenship got sent off on Friday and it's on the way to the Home Office. 

The application itself was pretty straightforward. The only part that was a bit of a pain was having to account for all my time spent outside the UK. That's my fault because I should have been keeping track of that in a spreadsheet as I went. Instead I ended up having to go through my passports and track it that way, which was very time consuming, but I got there in the end. 

I decided to use the National Checking Service so that I wouldn't have to send off my passport and they also go through the application to make sure its filled out properly. 

I had my appointment last Tuesday (it took about 3 weeks to get it and it costs £45) and it didn't last long because they wouldn't accept one of my referees. For the application you need to have two have people to say that they have known you for the past 3 years and they have to fit this criteria.

5.1 One referee should be a person of any nationality who has professional standing, eg
minister of religion, civil servant, or a member of a professional body e.g. accountant or
solicitor (who is not representing you with this application). The other referee must normally be the holder of a British citizen passport and either a professional person or over the age of 25.
Both should declare that:-

• they are not a relative, solicitor or agent of the applicant, or related to the other referee;
• they are not employed by the Home Office;
• they have not been convicted of an imprisonable offence during the last 10 years (unless the conviction has become spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974);

• they have known the applicant personally for more than 3 years;
• they are willing to give full details of their knowledge of the applicant;
• they will advise the Home Office of any reason why the applicant should not be naturalised.

I decided to have my wonderful friend Mary Ivers, who has known me since I first arrived here in London, as one of my referee and then I needed someone else who was a "professional". Matthew's uncle is a police offer so we thought to use him. I was a bit unsure that he would be suitable because I know him through marriage. Matthew's uncle thought that since it was through marriage that it would be ok. However it wasn't and they wouldn't accept him.

Of course I was gutted when they told me at the appointment. Too gutted to feel smug that I was right and that he was going to be considered a relative.

The woman processing my application was really nice about it and said that if I could find someone else to sign the form by Friday they wouldn't charge me again. Which was great, because  if I wasn't able to find someone else by Friday I would have to wait another month for the next appointment. 

Luckily enough I did have another person to sign the form and I was able to return on Friday to submit it.

I returned on Friday and the woman who was helping me again was very nice. The only thing that went wrong was that I forgot one page of the application! Thankfully I live just two minutes away from the office and she let me run home and get it! I guess they won't print anything off for you. 

So, the application was checked and sent off and now the waiting game begins. It could take 2 months it could take 6 months. The next steps after the application is processed and approved is having a citizenship ceremony. There's the possibility that the application isn't accepted, but I can't imagine why it wouldn't be. 

Fingers crossed that I won't be waiting too long. 

Monday, 31 October 2011

I love this vintage Etsy shop

I love this cute cute Etsy shop, Vintage Jane.

Happy Halloween

Belle and Boo
I've seen so many super cute photos of my friend's kids all dressed for Halloween today.
I miss an American Halloween. There are definitely not any trick or treaters on my street in Brixton. I miss seeing all the kids dressed up, all the jack o'lanterns and the candy.

I've made a little jack o'lantern for our flat, so hopefully it will be a little cheerful surprise to people passing by.

Halloween is catching on over here in Britain, but it's just not the same. I also love how American's will dress up at work!  I've seen some pretty funny costumes popping on Facebook today.

To everyone across the pond, hope you're having a very spooky Halloween :)

Monday, 24 October 2011

LBi Social Media Team

Doing Bex faces!
On Friday it was Bex's last day on the LBi social media team. We're all going to miss her, but she'll definitely not be forgotten. Bex pulled some pretty amazing faces during her time on the team and here we all are pulling them with her! Sending her off in style.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Life in the UK: could you pass the citizenship test?

I saw this on the American Expat in London blog today. I took my Life in UK test last year and I remember lots of people wanted to look at the book. People would debate about how many actual British citizens would pass it.

The Guardian posted an online quiz so you can have a go and see how well you'd score!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

My so called British cooking

Cafe Latte original cheesecake and chicken salsa chili. From my trip home 2009.

A few weeks ago I made a pledge to learn how to make some authentic British cuisine. I was going to be making a dish every Sunday and blogging about it. At least that was the plan. I started off strong and made Shepherds Pie, which turned out really good, and after that....well...I just got busy. 

I find that I enjoy cooking on a Sunday, especially when it's a bit chilly outside. I was in the mood for a good chili today and decided to make Cafe Latte's Chicken Salsa Chili. It is so good and one of my favourite things to eat when I go there. My very good friend Cory turned me on to it years ago. It's one of those dishes that's very straightforward to make and you can find all the ingredients here in London.

I remember the first time I made for Matthew and he couldn't believe that I was adding tortilla chips to it. He thought that was crazy, but of course he loves it :) I miss Cafe Latte, especially the cheesecake. 

If you like a spicy chili you will like this recipe. A nice touch of home here in London. If you're ever in Minnesota, please go to Cafe Latte. You will love it!

CafĂ© Latte’s Chicken Salsa Chili 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces 
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions 
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes 
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic 
2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeno chili peppers 
1 1/2 cups chicken stock 
3 tablespoons chili powder 
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, undrained and broken up 
1 can (29 ounces) tomato puree 
2 cans (15 ounces each) dark red kidney beans drained 
1 can (15 ounces) hominy 
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro 
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice 
To make chili:  Warm olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.  SautĂ© chicken 
until cooked.  Add onions and reduce heat.  Cook for 3 minutes or until onions are tender. 
Add pepper flakes, garlic, jalapenos, chicken stock, chili powder, tomatoes and tomato 
puree, kidney beans and hominy.  Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. 
To serve:  Add chopped cilantro and limejuice just prior to serving.  Adjust seasoning to 
taste.  Top with sour cream, chopped red onions, grated cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Craft Fields

My friend Monika has been working super hard to launch a website called Craft Fields and it has just gone live this month. 

Monika is passionate about helping Lithuanian designers/crafters promote themselves and sell their creations so she and team of three other people set up the website/social hub to do just that.

The site also has a blog which you should definitely have a look at. There will be more and more designers/crafters who will be selling on the site, so you should check back often.

It's a really exciting project and I think it's really amazing that Monika and her team want to share what's unique about her country with the world.

I had the chance to go with her to Lithuania, where's she from, at the end of August and I loved it. It was a beautiful country and had a really cool vibe. The countryside reminded me a lot of Minnesota and we managed to visit several places over the long weekend.

This is how she explains what Craft Fields on the site:

We're a social hub and marketplace for Lithuanian craft makers – artists, designers, carpenters, painters, writers, musicians. We started as a startup and are a joint team of passionate social entrepreneurs spread across Europe.

We believe in the ability of communities to nurture creativity and originality.

We'll tell stories about our crafters working hard to create different and unique experiences through their products. You'll have the opportunity to embrace craft work in various ways: sharing, buying, giving opinions, telling your stories.

Here is a sample of what's currently for sale on the website.

Be sure to Like Craft Fields on Facebook and to Tweet with them on Twitter!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Time to apply for naturalisation for British citizenship

So funny that as I typed in that title for the post my spell check wanted to change the s to a z. I really like using the z instead of the s, but I've lived in London long enough now to have to sucumb to the fact that I use the letter s and u where I wouldn't normally before. I think that fact alone should qualify me for citizenship :)

I am coming up on three years here in London on my ILR visa, which means I've lived here long enough to now apply for naturalisation and get a lovely passport with a unicorn and lion on it.

In preparation I've already printed out the AN form and guide book and it seems pretty straightforward. You need to have two references (people of a certain professional standing who have known you for 3 years), a record of every trip you've made out of the country, your proof of passing the Life in the UK test and a fee of £836. At least that's what I can remember off the top of my head. 

You have to prove that you've been with your partner and that you've spent a specified amount of days here in the UK. I am not worried about filling out the actual form, although I don't feel 100% about where I've put my Life in the UK certificate, I am sure it's somewhere.

I am going to have the application reviewed by the nationality checking service. A friend of mine had her application checked and she said it was definitely worth it. 

Needless to say that I am pretty excited and it feels like a long time coming. It will be interesting to see how long the actual process will take from me sending it off to receiving the passport. I am expecting it to take at least three months. We shall see. 

If anyone knows of any good blog posts of other people's experiences or your own, please post them in the comments and I'll add them into a new post.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Birra Moretti

Crafty on a wet London afternoon

I bought this Alice Melvin Cut out and Make Bird Mobile kit last month at the Tate Modern. Today it decided to rain for a bit after lunch so I thought it would be a good time to sit down at the kitchen table with a nice cuppa and make this cute little mobile. 

There's something nice and relaxing about just having to cut along the lines. I've hung the mobile right above my kitchen sink, where it looks nice and cheerful. I'll post a photo of the finished product tomorrow when the light's a better.

Here's a link to my Spotify playlist that I was listening to while making the mobile :) Rainy London Afternoon

Just call me Mrs Beeton

I've lived in London now for almost 4 years now and it's time that I roll up my sleeves and start learning how to make this country's culinary secrets. I think that the only real British food that I've ever made is the traditional Sunday lunch. The good old roast dinner, although I don't make Yorkshire puddings. 

So I am going to be making something British each Sunday and blogging about it. 
Sounds easy enough :)

To give you a bit of context I thought I'd outline a few things, complete with bullet points! How official is that?

  • I am not what you would call a cook. I can make a few things really well and I usually stick to that.
  • I make a really tasty chicken soup, chocolate chip cookies, brownies and post roast. That's about it. 
  • I am not saying that I don't like to cook, but I rarely have the time or energy after a long day at work to whip an amazing meal. I usually will make a nice piece of fish and some vegetables. I like cooking something like a pot roast or a soup on a Sunday.
  • I love food and eating out, but I am not an uber at home foodie person. 

So, there you have it folks. I've laid down the challenge and it starts tomorrow. Wish me luck and please feel free to give me suggestions as to what I should cook.

Man vs Food

Guest post by Sweary Shmary

Man vs Food

I've recently been introduced to Man vs Food. The first series was shot in 2008 and I cannot quite believe that it has taken three whole years for it to come to my attention.

It is compelling viewing. It is a journey, no, more of a quest, through the United States in search of big, badass food. Every epsiode ends with a challenge where the host, Adam Richman, eats a dish that is inconceivable in either quantity or hotness. 

Adam Richman is hugely likeable. I didn't quite get this on first viewing but when you watch it back-to-back, as is my want, he really does grow on you. You want to be in a diner with him, or maybe a bar but perhaps consuming slightly smaller portions.

Now, America has a reputation for supersized food and this show does nothing to dispute that conception. People associate the USA with obesity, I have heard the term 'fat Americans' on many an occasion. What this show demonstrates however, is that not only can you get massive portions but you can also add all varieties of cheese to your order, before having it deep-fried and dipped in gravy. I exaggerate. A little bit.

The thing is, the food may be very bad for you but it tastes great. Just watching 'Man v. Food' is a mouthwatering experience regardless of how long ago you last ate. There is an art form to how some of these open sandwiches are put together. There is a pride in just how delicious these burgers taste. These diners and restaurants get a reputation. People travel cross-State and they attempt to consume ridiculous amounts to get their fat faces on the wall, declaring themselves as one of life's winners.

My point is, that yes, America has an obesity problem, but they have a fuck-load of fun getting fat. Whereas, in Britain, we also have an obesity problem but we get bootylicious at Greggs.

Our version of the American diner is the greasy spoon. Now, I love a greasy spoon but the quality of the produce is generally shit. The bacon is always undercooked and the sausages taste synthetic, whereas in America (okay, I've only been once but I think I'm right on this) they care a bit more about their meat. To be fair, you will occasionally find a decent greasy spoon but you never go to one with the expectation of good quality food or much choice.

We are a nation getting fat on buy-one-get-one-free deals at Iceland. We don't ask for more and we don't get it. I am not saying great food does not exist here, it does and I've had plenty, but the food that isn't great for you and that gets mass-consumed tends to be the same food we decide is shit half-way through eating. 

My weakness? Scotch Eggs from Sainsburys. Not even 'Taste the Difference'. I recently went to a wedding where there was a Scotch Egg tower, consisting of different varieties and all made fresh with locally sourced ingredients. You would have thought that would have put me off the poor relation but it didn't. What can I say? When it comes to food maybe I, and many of my countrymen, have inadequacy issues. We simply don't appreciate that our fat asses are worth so much more.

I have to finish this with a video of Man v. Food. This really is food porn but not in a lick-the-spoon kind of way. This is much filthier than that. If you like this as much as I do, you may be living in the wrong country.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

What's it like to be American abroad?

 an answer to the question what is it like being an american abroad
This is a great post by expat blogger Nicky Bryce-Sharron. She's from Ohio and now lives in Brighton. Awesomeville is a great blog and if you don't read it already add it to your blog roll! I had to share, because it captures the experience of being an expat so well. I can totally identify with her writing. 

Washing up liquid or dish soap?

If you really miss the nice metal teeth, watch this video and you can see them tearing off a piece of foil! Heaven :)

The other day I was on the American Expats in London Facebook page and saw a question asking if it was possible to buy Dawn dish soap (washing up liquid). I thought it was an interesting thing to want to buy over here, because in my opinion the dish soap you can get here is just as good. 

Further into the thread someone asked what was up with "What's up with the lousy 'zip' lock bags?" and then this of course led into a bit of back and forth about the superiority of Ziploc baggies and our tin foil (Renyolds Wrap) that comes in a box with nice sharp teeth so you can easily tear it. 

I was of coursed lured into the thread because I too stand behind the quality of American Ziploc baggies and whenever I go home I always buy a few boxes to bring back with me. 

Naturally the thread turned to helpful people mentioning you can get American things at Costco and then of course someone mentioned that they missed Girl Scout cookies.

I digress......

The point is after adding my comment about the baggies, I took a moment to reflect on the original post about wanting to know where you can buy Dawn dish soap. 

I thought to myself that of all the things to miss product wise a person feels that they need to have American dish soap? I also thought that it was pretty ridiculous and that they needed to toughen up and just get on with it. I thought this person isn't going to make it if they can't are so set in their ways about dish soap. I mean if Fairy liquid is good enough for the Queen, surely an expat can use it. 

There are of course things that I miss, food and product wise. Food especially. Things like Spaghettio's with meatballs (Hoops just aren't the same), Velveeta mac and cheese, frozen pizza, certain kinds of canned soup. I do agree that the foil here is rubbish. However, I've had to face facts and the make the best of it. 

After reading the thread I thought what an absolute waste of time to even be posting that question. Then 30 seconds later I felt that I had been a bit heartless and judgmental. Perhaps that dish soap had a special meaning to that person, or they just love washing dishes. I don't know and it doesn't matter. Although the fact that I felt so heartless and flippant about it signaled to me, that I was becoming more like a local and less like an expat. 

The point is this, all us expats go through adjusting to life in our new country in our own ways. 

The things I missed during my first two years here seem like a long time ago. You definitely get to the point where things just kind of click. You go to the grocery store and you don't wish you could buy certain America products. You'll find that one day you don't even notice everyone's accent and you find yourself getting the first round in. I'll bet there even comes a day when you don't even care what washing up liquid you use anymore....

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Can Brits work in America?

This is Matthew, he is English!

//My good American friend Taylor Baldry  sent my English husband this email. He was giving him some ideas for employment when we move to Minnesota.///

Dear Matthew,

I do miss a karaoke-ing-a-go-go. But it sounds like, from what I hear, that it won't be too long until we once again will be able to share a mic but this time in the Land of the Free.
Speaking of Cash, have you seen this video? It is a crowd-sourced animation where anyone can contribute a frame to the project: 
Also speaking of cash, here are some ideas for your new job in America:
1. Fake tour guide. This is something that I always wanted to do - give people tours based that are based on make-believe. There actually is a business in Chicago that does this.  
2. Hire an Englishmen. In China, a White man can make a fine living being rented out for parties, business openings and such as their presence supposedly adds a sense of sophistication, hipness and diversity. So in Minnesota, offer yourself up so people can hire you for various events to make them seem more witty or perhaps glum.
3. Start wind farms in the middle of one of Minnesota's many lakes. It's windy.
4. Become a street map seller. You know how in LA there are people that sell "Maps of the Stars" to tourists? Sure you do. Well team up with your wife, Rhea, to pinpoint interesting (or perhaps very uninteresting) places in Minneapolis. The maps could also be very personal - for example "this is where I threw-up on myself, this is where I found $5, this is where I was when my doctor called me to let me know that my gonorrhea results came back negative." etc.
5. Train conductor.
6. Become a butler. Check out this site on how to become, as the name suggests, a modern butler. They have some very educational videos on packing a suitcase.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Minnesota summer at the cabin

We haven't had much of a summer here in London, so I've been looking at lovely photos of other people's summers.There's nothing like going up north to the cabin during the summer in Minnesota. These photos, taken by Allison Vallant, really capture what it's like to go to the cabin. Allison and I went to MCAD together and she's a very talented lady. She majored in photography surprise surprise :) Her blog and Flickr site are gorgeous. Make sure to take a look. You will love it.
Add c

Summer in Minneapolis

I love Sharyn Morrow's photography and I will readily admit to living vicariously through her pictures. I was missing the summer in Minneapolis today, especially as it's cold, gray and rainy here in London. I found these pictures on her Flickr and thought they did a good job of summing up summer in Minnesota. Sharyn's blog Weapons of Massdistraction is one of my favourites, it's a good read!
Sharyn Marrow Photography

Summer in England

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