Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey Troubles

This isn't exactly a topic I thouhght I'd be blogging about, but here goes..

My flatmate, Sarah & I are hosting folks at our place for Thanksgiving this Friday (Americans and Brits alike), and it's taken weeks of effort to get the turkey sorted out. Apparently, turkey is only consumed at Christmas here, so it's taken a while to find a place that is selling them now. And, finding a bird big enough to feed 12 (we're assuming 10kg), has also been a challenge. Silly Americans and their portion control... :)
Also, 'free range' is quite the rage here-which is fine, if that didn't mean that a 10 kilo turkey wasn't going to cost over £100 (SERIOUSLY), so it's also taken effort to find a place that didn't mind selling a large, hormone filled bird. It was really only yesterday that we finally managed to find a place.

Then there's the cooking of said bird. Our oven isn't big enough to handle anything over 5 kilo, so if we went the pre-cooked route (even non-free range), we were looking at over £80-and we'd have to transport the poor thing back to our place! Yeesh. Luckily, our friend (and fellow American/Amazonian expat) Justyn has an 'American size' oven in his flat, and likes to cook.

Whew. All this effort, and the day to celebrate isn't even here yet. I think next year, I'll just do like everyone else and go out to eat!

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Third Miracle in the Week

They say things happen in threes...

I finally have cable TV! This isn't something I've mentioned on the blog before-I don't think..but, I haven't had cable TV here (even the 5 basic channels that come 'free' once you pay your TV License) since I moved out of corporate housing!

Crazy, I know-and the worst part is that one of the first things I did when we moved into the flat (thinking we'd have cable due to everything I'd read...) was buy a nice, brand new, HD Flat Screen £400 TV. Which, for the past 7 months or so has been nothing more than a glorified DVD player. Grr..

Anyhoo, the TV has 'Freeview' capabiltiy (think, like automatically being able to access basic cable in the US without having to sign up for the service), so it was presumed that minute we plugged in the TV, we'd be sorted. Wrong. Tiscali (our internet/landline service) isn't in the area yet. OK. Get a pair of bunny ears and we'll be sorted. Wrong-the terrestrial signal on our Mews street is so poor, everyone either has satellite or a big, huge aerial on their rooftop. Well, there is a satellite dish on our roof, but we assumed it didn't work-or would have to pay some crazy monthly fee to use. So, after several months of trying, we gave up, and I just figured I'd deal with it in November once the weather turned icky, and I was spending more time inside the flat.

Fast forward to last weekend when the landlord, Dan, comes around to make a few repairs. 'Still no TV?' he asks. Then he says, 'The last thing I can think of is to buy a FreeSat box. If that doesn't work, nothing will.' Part of me wants to laugh in his face-at this stage, I assume nothing will work. But, he says it can easily and cheaply be purchased off of Amazon. Well, in that case, Amazon's return policy is generous-and easy-so, OK.

So, I buy the one he suggests on Monday, get it delivered on Friday, and Friday evening after hooking it up, and punching in my Post Code, it takes about 20 minutes to 'think.' In the process, Sarah & I are sitting in the living room chatting, and wouldn't you know? 20 minutes later, BBC1 pops up on the TV! We're in business! The jaw-dropping, shocked look on our faces was actually comical.

I spent my Friday night watching the news-BBC and Al Jazeera. God, I've missed the news! Sadly-and somewhat gratefully, I forsee many nights on the couch over the upcoming winter months!

I guess it shouldn't be such a big deal that we now have TV, but the reality is, this really was the one last piece of the puzzle to make me feel like I was truly part of London. No news, no pop culture references, nothing...over the past 7 or so months have come my way via any other means but the internet. I've hated listening to my co-workers talk about who's going to win The X-Factor (the UK version of American Idol), and not knowing who they were talking about. I've hated not being able to watch nightly news and keep abreast of what's going on not only here in the UK, but back in the US as well. But, finally! I can!

And let's face it. Sometimes, after a hard day at work-or a long week, there's nothing better than to come home, grab a drink, and sit in front of the TV and veg for a little bit. I look forward to doing that some this week...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Two Miracles in One Week!

First Obama is elected, and now this?!? I don't think I can take many more good things like this happening to me!!!...

I've been provisionally approved for a credit card! WOO! I guess I should explain why this is such a big deal..I already have one UK credit card, but I get nothing from it-no points/cash back/anything. Coming from the US where, not having a card with benefits seems like an aberration, I've been keen on getting one as soon as possible.

Problem: I've only lived here 9 months. I had heard a rumour when I arrived that after 3 months, it was possible. So, I applied. And was quickly rejected-for not having enough credit history/job history/living history in the UK. Alrighty. Though I was anxious to get a card, I also had to be mindful of having my credit report hit too many times (also considered a risk indicator here just like in the US), so I decided I'd give it another go at the 9 month mark-surely two hits in 9 months wouldn't be that bad?

Well, apparently not; I got a letter from Barclays yesterday requesting a few bits of information to verify my address, and hopefully that means that in just a few short weeks, I'll be earning cash back on my purchases! So long NatWest crap card, hello cash back rewards!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Proud to be an American Again

What a night/morning!

I finally got home and to bed at 3a today-basically staying out at the US Expat gathering long enough to feel like Obama was going to win Florida-and thus the election. Last night/this morning was so much fun-it's the first time in a long time that I've felt a sense of pride when recognizing to a large group of people that I'm an American. Sad, I know, but I've made it a point for many years now (say...8...) to try and keep my US Citizenship under wraps (re: one of my first posts on my new passport cover) when I'm out and about.

But, this morning as I was heading in on the train, I didn't feel the need to cover up my interest in the stories about the election that I was reading in the paper and on my Blackberry. Heck, if I had a Stars and Stripes shirt, I would have probably been inclined to wear it today! :)

I hope today really is the start of things turning around for the US-both within the country and how we're perceived abroad. As I was walking to work this morning, I couldn't help but think that for the first time in a very long while, I actually felt a sense of hope for where the US could be headed-and got a little teary eyed. And, Obama's book title, The Audacity of Hope, suddenly seemed incredibly appropriate.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Today is THE DAY

I've been waiting for this day for FOUR YEARS (well, more like 8, but who's counting?!?)...

If everything goes according to plan, this time tomorrow, I should be blogging about the new Democratic President of the United States. Dream of dreams.

I'm going to a MeetUp event this evening in London for US Expats to watch elections returns until the wee hours...http://www.meetup.com/americansabroad/calendar/8875408/

Normally, I avoid mass-US gatherings/celebrations (July 4th, Thanksgiving, Elections...) when I'm out of the country like the plague-it seems like we're just sitting ducks and not the most loved country in the world. But, for tonite, I'll make the exception. Hopefully, there will be safety in numbers-and if anyone has half a brain, they'll realize that probably 90% of the people gathering are pro-Obama (ie anti-Bush)...;)

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Taste of Home

Yesterday for lunch, Simon & I went to this 'American BBQ' place in town called Bodeans. www.bodeansbbq.com

I'll be the first to admit...American BBQ in London? I was totall skeptical. Heck, I was even skeptical of BBQ in Seattle! :)

But, it was actually good. Their Cornbread was fantastic, the pulled pork was yummy, and even though it wasn't as good as in the South, I at least appreciate their effort to serve a glass of sweet, iced tea...

It's kinda making me miss 'home' (aka North Carolina) a little bit-I'll be there for Christmas at the end of December, so in only 6 weeks and some change, I'll be able to get a proper glass of sweet, iced tea!