One is Silver & the Other’s Gold

Im sure most of you are familiar with the friendship song – the one you sang in girl scouts when you were little – make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold. A circle goes round, it has no end, thats how long I want to be your friend.

I doubt any adult will tell you differently – making friends as an adult is hard. like H A R D hard. Add being in a different, new country & a lack of hobbies – making friends as an adult might as well be impossible.

For some reason its not socially acceptable to go up to someone in the grocery store and say “You like that cheese? me too! Lets go for drinks on Friday”. Wouldn’t that be awesome? A friendship formed on the mutual basis of loving cheese? Sign me up! But in all seriousness – I’ve tried to make small talk in all the normal places – book stores, pharmacy, check out lines at the grocery store, with the table next to be at Starbucks and even at the bar when ordering drinks. Almost every time I get weird looks (brits do not like small talk!) So whats a girl to do?

Unfortunately after 2 years here I can count my local friends on 1 hand. It used to be two, but thats a long story I don’t want to get into.

What makes making friends even harder is a lack of “fun money” as Steve and I call it. Between saving for the wedding, saving for travel plans and the gym membership (hello wedding diet that isn’t working) I find myself with not much extra cash to spend on nights out or trying new hobbies.

I tried meetup.com – it was going really well, met some fab people, but every events was a £20 spend minimum, between food and a few drinks. Thats got pricy quick and I didn’t really find anyone I connected with beyond meeting up as part of the group.

I’ve tried coworkers, but my old office was small (9 employees) and the fact that 6 of them hated Americans and made that a known fact didnt lead to friendships. My current office is bigger and much more friendly – so Im working on building a friendships there. Not as easy as I’d like. Ive also signed up to take a photoshop class at the local technical college – so hopefully Ill meet some fellow photography nerds there and build some bonds.

 

Shop Till I Drop

As a women I feel it is my duty to love shopping. The fresh oxygen the stores pump in, the feel of the shopping cart in your hands, going straight to the sale rack in the back scanning for your size…

If you can’t tell I miss Target a lot. I mean I even miss the smell of the bathrooms!

Can we take a second and talk about this – Target bathrooms smell so darn good! This isn’t something I realized once I moved away, I always thought so. And they all smell the same no matter what store you visit. Maybe I just have a heightened sense of smell but I love it! Next time you visit facetime me take a moment to visit the restroom and take a whiff of the amazing smell!

Enough about how awesome Target bathrooms smell – let’s talk about my newest obsession.

Ali Express

If you’re anything like me you like a bargain. I mean a super, reduced twice and 20% employee discount bargain. That’s what I live for. Unfortunately the UK isn’t with me on this kinda thing. TK Maxx (our version of TJ Maxx) has cute stuff, but imagine they take away the $ on the price and put a £. Not good for the wallet. So after many hours of moping through stores here, missing the dollar section, and all the cute knick-knacks and tchotchkes I used to get super cheap at World Market I turned to the interwebs and discovered Ali Express.

It’s a bit like EBay and the dollar store had a Chinese baby in the least racist way possible. You can buy everything on Ali – from sneakers to pricey knock off designer bags, from seeds to alarm systems. And everything in between of course.

To date I have placed 155 orders – eek! I hope Steve isn’t reading this!

Here are some of my weird buys:

The Best Little Sheet Cake In Texas

Everyone knows Texas

Almost everyone loved Texas

And we all know everything’s bigger in Texas

So it comes as no surprise that the most decadent, chocolaty, gooey dessert I make is from Texas. Its called the Texas Sheet Cake.

It’s a crowd pleaser, it’s pretty cheap to make, doesn’t require any fancy ingredients and it’s easy to serve and clean up after. I whipped one up in under an hour on Saturday before we had some friends over for the first BBQ of the year.

sheet cakeI may be chefy – but I know where to turn for some of my favorite dessert recipes- a woman who knows her way around a ranch and a kitchen – Ree. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “don’t mess with perfection” – this is one of those times. I follow her recipe to the letter. I’m sure you could elevate it with fancier ingredients or some wow display – but I don’t think it’s necessary. This is a gooey, chocolate mess and should be enjoyed that way!

IMG_0537[1]Since this weekend was a 4 day weekend (hello UK bank holidays!) we hosted our first BBQ at the new house. Unfortunately it wasn’t nearly as warm as it’s been the last few weekends but then again – bank holidays are notorious for so so weather. We invited Steve’s friend from his D&D group Ed and his lady Jess as well as our neighbors at our favorite cafe Richfields – Dan & Suzie and their chefs Jeff and Quiey. Dan was nice enough to be grillmaster so I could hang out and chat (you read that right – in our house I’m the head chef and grill master).

 

Oh The Beer Of It All

Steve and I like beer.

A more accurate statement would be that we love beer. Good beer. No more Natty Light or BudLite for us. We appreciate beer like people appreciate wine. We collect it, we drink it and we brew it. So it makes sense our holidays often revolve around beer.

Here in the UK there is something called a Booze Cruise where folks in the UK go over to mainland europe to stock up on good alcohol (buy from the source saves money). We take this concept a little further – we make a holiday out of it.

This last trip we did some shopping in Germany & Belgium for our favorite liquid gold.

In Aachen we hit our favorite liquor store to stock up on the basics, with a few fun mixed crates of samples. This last trip we filled 2 shopping carts with beer!

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Steve with our first cart of beer in Germany

We also go to a discounted grocery store in Belgium to get some every day beer and well as some specialty items – along with some snacks for me because I love belgian food!

After all this shopping our car looks and drives more like a van then an SUV, but it’s so worth it.

IMG_0523[1]Now that we’re home all our beer is in our dining room (hello crate decor) while we sort out the house, get some in the fridge and move the rest out to the shed.

We don’t really buy souvenirs, because all we need is good beer!

Prost to all of you – raise a glass of the good stuff tonight!

 

 

Cadbury Egg Blondies

Since next weekend is Easter I decided I would bake something yummy for the office this weekend. I found this recipe for Cadbury Mini Egg Blondies online but I decided to alter the recipe a little bit. I know I wanted to use Cadbury Creme Eggs because they’re my favorite easter treat but I also wanted to make something that was easy to grab since it was going to be an office treat.

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This is the recipie I used, adapted from the one above

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
4 frozen cadbury creme eggs – chopped up

Put your cream eggs in the freezer for a few hours.

Cream the melted butter and sugar together till it’s a sticky paste. Mix in eggs and vanilla.

Mix flour, baking soda and salt together and mix into sugar mixture.

Chop up the cadbury eggs and fold them into the batter.

Grease and flour a 9×9 pan (or any smallish pan you have. I wanted mine to be thick, but small)

Pop into the oven at 325 / 180 for 50 min – check at 40 min, depending on how thick yours are.

Voila – yummy treats for work, or your family!

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Air BnB Tips

Steve and I just recently got back from Aachen, Germany. It was a super awesome trip as always but there were a few things had I been better prepared I would have done differently.

As an american I think we take some things for granted – like what the term 3rd floor means. In the US it means 2 flights of stairs. 3rd floor. In Europe some evil (super fit person) decided the floor where the main door is is called the ground floor and the next one up is the 1st.

So when your airbnb listing says 3rd floor, it means 4th. It also means don’t bother going us unless you bring your bags. Trust me, after being in the car for 4 hours & getting up at 5am, an extra 4 flights of stairs is killer.

Also – check and see what kind of bed the room/apartment has. If they don’t have photos – ask! Steve and I spent 4 nights sleeping on a double/full size mattress on a pallet on the floor. To say it was a rough sleeping holiday is an understatement.

In hindsight I should have

  • Ask for pictures of the bed
  • Verified 3rd vs 4th floor
  • Packed an air mattress
  • Brought less clothes / packed more strategically

It was still a fab trip but I’ll know better for next time!

If you’re curious here’s the airbnb we stayed in.

Here Comes The Sun…

Living in the UK means a real lack of sunshine and vitamin D. Living in Atlanta means you get plenty of the above even if you work 60+ hours a week and aren’t super active.

I spent the last 2 years here in England wearing sweaters in the summer yet keeping my summer clothes at the ready in case the sun poked through (it rarely happens). So when I get the opportunity to be somewhere where the sun shines a lot and it’s warm enough to not to need a scarf – I get pretty excited.

That’s what happened to me this past weekend. Steve and I were on an extended beer run to Aachen, Germany. My iphone weather app told me it was going to be 65 and sunny – aka the warmest I have been since August last year. So to say I was excited was an understatement.

We spent Thursday at our favorite spot in Aachen, aside from the beer store. I packed sunscreen and even put it on in the morning before leaving our airbnb. I was prepared for this sunshine! The entire time we were there I would swim to the sunny spots, I laid out in the sun for a bit, I even insisted we eat outside to catch the last few rays.

The next few days we spent the day tooling around – eating and drinking and shopping. All in the sunshine, all with my arms and face towards the sun any time they could be. Heck I even stuck my arms out the window of the car. I was a full fledged sunflower the entire time we were there.

Fast forward to sunday night – we drove 6 hours back to Reading (including 2 on the ferry) and by the time we got home I was so itchy. My arms, hands and tops of my feet were covered in little blister like bumps. Not cool.

After 3 days of itching like a chicken-pox victim I headed to the pharmacy for some relief to be told I have heat rash. HEAT RASH?! I wore sunscreen in the partly cloudy weather of northern Germany on a day where the high was 70! How can I, an Atlanta girl, have heat rash?!

Well I do – I’m using an antihistamine cream to keep the discomfort at bay, but I think it’s time for me to admit that I can no longer handle sunshine like I used to. Hello 45 spf, long sleeves and a sun hat. I guess this is what the english call “english rose skin” – pale. Thank goodness for irish freckles.

 

 

Welcome

I’ve told myself multiple times I need to get back into blogging – not because I’m good at it or I think people will read it – but because I need someone to talk to. And Steve is sick of listening.

I’m Bridget – I live in Reading, England and I hate cloudy days, I can’t drive on the left side of the road & my favorite store to shop at is Target. You might be getting the picture that England isn’t the ideal place for me. But for better or for worse I am here for the foreseeable future so I had better make the best of it.

Steve and I moved here 2 years ago for Steve’s job, thinking how close we would be to London and how cheap travel would be. We had big dreams of traveling through Europe for $10 a day, seeing shows in London every weekend and living the high life of expat existence.

Reality check – 20% VAT (value added tax) on EVERYTHING, trains to London costing $65 for the both of us for a day, and those cheap european flights – they depart from tiny airports at 3am and don’t allow you any luggage. Lets just say the rose colored glasses came off pretty fast and the reality of living away from our friends, our family and everything we know set in.

I don’t want you to think we’ve only had bad time here thus far, we’ve had some amazing ones. Unfortunately the not so good times have been very prevalent.

This blog is going to be the truth about our lives – not just the instagram worthy meals and the blue sky days we get – but the everyday life stuff, like what I cook for dinner, when we miss our friends & the long holiday weekends we are stuck in town because we can’t afford to travel abroad.