Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Queen Speech Bingo 2013

Download and Print your Bingo Cards here!

Hey guys!

I know it's been a very long time since I made an appearance in the blogging world. The last few months have been busy (in a good way) and I have a lot of wonderful posts and photos to share with you. I just need to make time to do it. I'm currently in the UK having a very British Christmas (yay!) and it's a bit of a whirlwind tour visiting loved ones.

Anyway - this was one of my most popular blog posts of the past year so of course I had to do it again for 2013. I'm sneaking it in late this year, but here goes: Queen Speech Bingo 2013!

How to Play Queen Speech Bingo

The full rules are available here but really it's very simple:

How it Works

I use a list of the most common words from previous Queen Christmas speeches, and throw in a few extras (wildcards) to reflect recent events. Extra words for 2013 include George, information, internet, and independence.

Let me know if you decide to play, and of course, who wins!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Expat Q & A - Perceptions of Expat Life in the USA

The great thing about the expat Q & A hosted by the lovely Belinda and Bailie is that it makes me realize that my expat life is, well, normal.

This month's expat Q & A is about how others perceive expat life. It's been fascinating to read the other responses because there seems to be some universally shared experiences. No matter where a blogger moved from or to it appears that their friends and family think they're living a fairytale life abroad, a constant vacation.

But really, it's just life.

Everyday, boring, normal, quotidian, mundane life. And sometimes (most of the time) that life is pretty good. So here are my answers to this month's questions, but don't forget to check out the rest too!

Question #1: How does your family and friends back home perceive your new life, and is it accurate?

Actually, I think most of my friends and family have a realistic impression of how life in the USA works now. I talk about ordinary things like my commute to work, buying a car, nights in with my husband, networking, etc.

But when I still lived in Britain and first discussed moving to America, I usually got one of two responses:

  1. Wow! That's so glamorous! America, that's cool!
  2. So, how do you really feel about moving to a country without public healthcare?

I won't go into the second response here (yet) but the first one is interesting, because it's kind of related to what I said in my guest post on A Compass Rose about the UK impression of the US. It's often one-sided, but America has so many sides.

Two very different sides of America
There is a side of America that's fast-moving, cosmopolitan, urban, and exciting. And then there is the side of America that is vast, open, rustic, and fascinating.

And I live slap bang in the middle of both. Yes, I live very close to two of the biggest cities in the country (Philadelphia and New York). But my daily commute involves all aspects of US living: driving past corn fields and cows, along multi-lane suburban pikes past shopping malls, through little towns, and even a stint on a highway for good measure.

So while my friends know that I'm not on a constant vacation, and I don't live on fast food, I'm not sure they get a whole picture of the contrasts of American living.

Murals in Philly
Hot Dogs in New York
Cabela's - the outdoor outfitters
Question #1: Do you find the need to edit your life from friends and family? 

At the beginning, I definitely did, for fear of disappointing them!

I know that's silly, but after my friends and family had been so supportive in the lead-up to my emigrating from the UK to the USA, I didn't want them to think that I wasn't living the American Dream.

The truth is, those first few months of immigration and expattery can be really hard, and after all the hype and expectation, I didn't want people to worry, or to think I'd made a mistake.

But now, now I'm settled and life is normal, and wonderfully so, I'll confide and talk about my daily frustrations. Recently I had an hour long Skype chat with a friend in Scotland because we're both looking at buying used cars, and that's a universal pain!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sunday Supplements (and Sunday Puppy too)

It's been a while since I did a Rustic Weekend feature. Yesterday I had a guest post over on Bonnie's A Compass Rose, titled "Why being a Brit in suburban USA isn't so bad", and writing it reminded me of some of my favorite things about living here in Nowheresville, PA.

Originally, Rustic Weekend was a quiet celebration of being able to enjoy doing nothing with my husband, something I hadn't been able to do at all for our first year of marriage. Then both our schedules filled up, even at weekends, so the feature became Sunday Supplements, a quick round-up of my favorite finds.

We didn't go anywhere or do anything particularly exciting this summer. And that was kind of wonderful. We did however, do plenty of other lovely things… (sorry vegans/vegetarians, close-ups of meat are imminent!)
So roll on Fall and all its tasty rustic bounties! And yes, that's a pumpkin beer right there. If you hold on, I'll be happy to share our recipes for honey glazed BBQ chicken and basil pasta salad later this week!

I don't think I'll manage a whole month of posts just on pumpkins this October. What would you like instead?

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Ad Space Giveaway with A Compass Rose

Hey look at this, I'm part of an ad space giveaway for bloggers! This is being hosted by the wonderful Bonnie from A Compass Rose . She will treat you very well as a blog sponsor, so it's worth it just for that. You'll also get a spot on my blog here, and alongside all these other lovely faces. 

Enter below, or directly on Bonnie's site (if you comment on her post you get an extra entry, and you get to see what landmark I want to visit next). 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A few months back I myself won some ad space on a variety of different blogs. It has been great fun, and I got to connect with some excellent bloggers. But it also made me realize how amazing and hardworking these bloggers are. 

Over the past few months I've been adjusting to a whole new career and work schedule. It's been fantastic so far - I've got some great paying clients and I'm learning a whole array of new skills. But it has meant that I had to step back from personal blogging for a bit. I struggled to keep up with some of the great opportunities that come from blogging - I've ignored PR requests that I'll get back to at some point, I haven't kept up with comment replies and reading other blogs. And I'm just a teeny tiny blog!

So hats off to all my favorite super bloggers. You are truly excellent. And if people have tips and hints for multitasking and project management in this web 2.0 freelance world of ours, you know where to leave the comments!

PS - the ad space I'm offering is 200px wide, however tall you want (within reason, ok?) and it'll probably end up being up for more than 30 days because I'll forget to take it down. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Labor Day, Philadelphia, 2013

Last year for Labor Day, we stayed at home, baked cookies and watched Newsies. This year I had the honor of witnessing Philadelphia's Labor Day parade. Just like July 4th, I thought I'd share some of my photos from the beginning of the parade.

Now the tricky part about this was the rain that hit just as the event got going. It was torrential, but it didn't deter those who marched - which was truly awe-inspiring. People grabbed plastic ponchos and kept on walking. I grabbed one myself, although I used it to cover and protect my camera, while I got drenched from head to toe. My shoes took days to dry. I didn't mind though - it was much warmer than the same kind of rain in Glasgow!

So that's why these photos aren't the best, as most were taken through the armhole of a free plastic poncho.

What did you get up to for the holiday weekend? And what are you looking forward to this fall?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Expat Q & A August: The Basics

I've been an expat for over a year now, and when I think back to my arrival I realize how hard on myself I was. I thought a month would be more than enough time to adjust to life in the New World. In reality, it took almost that whole year for me to feel settled, and well, at home.

But now I know my way around (more or less) so here's my rundown of day-to-day life somewhere on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Be sure to check out the other expat Q & A's over at Belinda's blog too, to see how expat life compares across the world.

1. What is your favorite food store in your city and why? 
Okay, first things first - I don't live in the city.
Shock! If you thought I lived in Philly, I'm sorry. I live very close to Philly, but not quite.
So my favorite food store is hard to choose, because there's an excellent variety of family owned markets and supermarkets. One of the most fun to visit is Wegmans, which I talked about before here.

2. For your answer to number 1 is it ok to buy the store brand items or do you pay extra for a name brand?
Wegmans is a high brand store - a bit like Waitrose or M & S in the UK - and there's so much to choose. You can try their food in their restaurants or their take-out counters, get fresh deli counter produce, name brand goods and imported products (including Jaffa Cakes, Irn Bru, and Ribena for likes of me). They also sell beer which, for a supermarket in PA, is a pretty big deal.

3. What do you think is the best way to get about your city? i.e. bus, bike, car, etc
If you live on the train line, then the rail system isn't too bad. Otherwise, out here, you need to drive. No question about it. One funny observation is that the closer to the city people live, even if they have a car, the less far they're willing to drive. My husband and I are very used to driving all over our county and the neighboring counties to get to where we want. What we save by living away from the city we spend right back in gas, but thems the brakes, and we get to see some great scenery to boot.

4. Which store do you turn to for basics like toilet paper or cleaning supplies?
I'm not going to lie, it's Walmart. We prefer to go to other stores for most things, but I'd challenge any American resident to truthfully say they don't make several trips to Walmart a year.

5. Where do you think is the best place in your city to get a cup of coffee (or beverage you prefer) and catch up with friends? 
Like I said, we're happy to travel across the counties to see our friends, and there's no one place that we go to on a regular basis. A lot of the small towns and cities have cute independent coffee shops, and Philly has brilliant bars, but the numbers of times we just end up in chain restaurants out in the suburbs… I still haven't visited this place yet. Can you believe it?!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Six Things about Gladley

Did you catch me on HuffPost Live last week? Here it is if you want to take a peek! It was great fun, and who'd have thunk you could be on a live chat show panel in the comfort of your own home, just hours after breaking down in the middle of an expressway? It was a pleasure also to meet the inspiring Kelli and John from The Sustainable Couple.

On Monday the wonderful Bonnie Rose tagged me in a quick Q & A. This little blog meme is springing up all over the place, but I actually like these sweet things because it shows what blogging is all about. So without too much more of a fanfare, here are six (oops, seven) things about me.

1. Who or what inspires you?
The poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. It's universal, and a wonderful guide to living life.

2. One goal you would like to achieve before 2014.
I would like to buy a car. In cash. Regular readers of this blog already know that new immigrants to the US leave their good credit scores behind in their home country, and I've been considering the pros and cons of using a car to build credit.

Will I get a fancy car if I save and pay in cash? Nuh uh. But it'll be mine. Who knows, I might even get a stick so none of my US family and friends can use it ;)

3. What is something you love about yourself?
It's hard to define, but what I truly love about myself is that I'm dynamic and curious. If I don't know something, or don't know how to do something, I'll learn it. I love to learn as much as I can about something so I know what I'm doing.

It's something I always try to pitch to new employers because it makes me a really useful person to have around, especially in marketing and digital roles. I taught myself CSS last year. I'm currently learning some new tools for work purposes.

And then, when I broke my husband's car last week, I read up as much as I could about car maintenance and the model of the car. I didn't fix it myself, but I felt much more confident about talking with the mechanic. Next time, maybe I'll fix it!

4. Who has been your role model?
Pretty much everyone on my Facebook friend list. That's a strange thing to say, but I really admire so many traits in my friends and family. Sam's tough and wise. Judith's bright and adventurous. Jamie's driven and purposeful. They are all great motivators, even if they don't realize it.

5. Which blog are you in love with that you only found out about recently?
Probably SillyGrrl.com - but I need to have an afternoon to myself to catch up on reading my favorite blogs, I've been on the go so much lately!

6. When you struggle in life, what keeps you going?
Blah blah blah, cliche, my husband. We keep each other driven, which is - to me - a great sign that we work well together.

7. What hobby would you love to pick up?
A couple of years ago I learned a few chords on the ukulele, and I'd love to do that again!

Now, I think everyone under the blogging sun has done this feature now, but if you haven't, and you're reading this - consider yourself tagged! And you should comment below to tell me so I can go read it.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Gladley's going live, HuffPost Live!

First things first, I'm going to be live on TV (kinda) … tonight! It's a panel discussion tonight on HuffPost Live, 7.30pm EST. We'll be discussing the many advantages of long distance relationships, so do feel free to tune in online!

You'll also be free to laugh at my accent. It's gotten ridiculous these days, Americans often ask me now "where are you from?" out of genuine confusion. Where am I from? Suburban PA? England-then-Scotland? Whatever works.

I'm looking forward to my HuffPo panel appearance, which is soon to be followed by plenty of other fun things that I have in the pipeline. Life certainly has sped up in the past couple of months, and I have a lot of expattery to tell you about, from my experience so far with US healthcare, the differences between UK and US driving tests, that other time I was kind of an expat (that I forget about), and more.

In the mean time. I lied a bit when I said that our Sunday puppy wouldn't pose for us. Behold, our awkward family photos, 2013.
These were taken the same day, and were the best of the lot, believe me.

Oh, and the George Washington quotation - that was on one of our table settings at our wedding.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The new burger joint Brits should get to NOW (and it's not Shake Shack)

There's a quiet revolution happening, and Brits might not be aware.

The old rivalry, McDonalds versus Burger King, is over. There are two new pretenders to the throne. Wimpy is crying in the corner (Brits: Remember Wimpy? I love Wimpy).

This month two American hamburger joints opened their new flagship stores in London. The first is Shake Shack, wonderfully modern Americana hailing from the center of Manhattan, dishing out fine fast food and delectable milkshakes.

I've already seen Facebook chatter and instagram pics of this tasty place. But I'm not impressed. You see, to me, there is another. And it's right around the corner…

It's Five Guys: Less fancy, more basic, and dare I say, more American. And they proved that by opening the day before the London Shake Shack, on July 4th. What a statement to make to those pesky Brits, eh? Happy Independence day, have a burger!

The thing is, Shake Shack UK is currently beating Five Guys UK in Facebook likes. And I'm not happy about that. So here are some reasons you need to get yourself up, out and around the corner…

Oh, and just to let you know: This is NOT a sponsored post. The true story is this: I have driven past Five Guys almost every day for the past six months and have never been in. As soon as I heard that it opened in London, I had to get my burger-loving butt down to my own local branch to try it before all of my UK friends. Hence, a new love affair began.

1. Free freakin' peanuts!

Okay, let me just say first that if you're allergic to peanuts, you're going to have a bad time in this place. Stay away. If not, you'll love this. Free peanuts while you wait for your burger. Why? Because their food is cooked in peanut oil, and also, why not?

2. Big and Little Burgers!

I know Burger King's "Have it your way" was too much for us Brits to deal with, but you've got to make some choices. Five Guys happily provides different sizes of burger for different appetites. I'll choose the little bacon burger for a princely meal of 560 calories, whereas my husband may plump for (pun intended) the 920 calorie big bacon cheeseburger.

3. Free Toppings!

Yes, I know, more choices. But go for it, they're all free. You can have a pile of healthy stuff as big as you like. Oh, and the pickles/gherkins? Sweet and crunchy. Not the slimy token gesture other fast foodies try to get away with.


 Five Guys fries are a big deal for me. They are the only American 'fry' that comes anywhere close to a British 'chip', and that's including those paltry 'steak fries' offered in some restaurants. 

If you live in the UK you can pop down to your local chippy and they will almost always serve a better chip, but these are the best effort I've tasted in a US burger joint. 

Watch out though: A regular is for two people, and I swear the servers just free pour these fries into the bottom of your bag. That's a good thing - you get loads of them, and they're great.

If a regular fries is for two people, these must be the large.
And that's all I have to say really. I know I must sound a bit 'nuts' (sorry). Especially when I try so hard to convince you that American cuisine isn't always just burgers and fries. It's just that sometimes, just sometimes, American cuisine is just burgers and fries. And they do it so darned well.

Okay Brits, Americans, and everyone else, where's your favorite burger? And have you ever been to Wimpys?

Monday, 8 July 2013

Sunday Supplements (and Sunday Puppy too)

Here's a lesson in the stubbornness of English Bulldogs: They are very stubborn.

You want them to turn and face the camera? Well, that's going to take a bit of cajoling sometimes…
There's no treat here. We were just fooling her. She wasn't fooled. Anyway, here's what we've been up to this week…


How to make money without a job - For the first time in my life, I'm self-employed, and it's a whole new exciting world for me! This Forbes article is like a quick guide to earning money on your own terms. I'd love to hear from and meet other young professionals doing similar things.

How Philadelphia out-Portlands Portland - Haven't I been telling you for months that Philly is on the brink of becoming too cool for school? How can we compare?

Well now Yelp will do that for us! Here's Philadelphia's hipster heat map, and here's Portland's. Do you think they're accurate?


The five most clever redesigns of the Stars n Stripes - I enjoyed that good dose of American patriotism this holiday weekend. Here are some smart re-interpretations of the most famous piece of sewing the haberdasher Betsy Ross probably ever did.

My own handiwork! Here's a little known fact: As a student I was President (and founder) of the Glasgow University Stitch n' Bitch group. I was also Vice President of the Student Union, which had just launched a new coffee shop, and it was a great way to combine the two. The group helped drive traffic to the new meeting place, plus I like to think that I helped to make knitting cool on campus.

It'd been a long while since I brought out my knitting needles, but I recently made a pair of booties for a family friend's little cutie:
The pattern is based on Babystovler, a Danish bootie pattern from the 1940s. You know what I want to do now? I want to make an adult version. Hello friends, you're all getting slippers for Christmas. I just need the patience to make them all.

And speaking of patience, eventually this was the best our pooch was going to give the camera this week. "You want me to face the camera? Here you go. One shot. Where's my cookie for being so cute?"

Friday, 5 July 2013

Just a small town parade…

Last year we went to a teeny tiny parade in rural PA and then headed to Valley Forge, but this year I walked (yes! walked!) in a parade closer to the city. I was technically working though, taking photos of the parade, and of course I had to share some with you! These are from the warm-up just before all of these colorful characters marched through Smalltown USA, handing out candy and warm feelings to local onlookers.

July 4th is quickly becoming one of my favorite holidays, and I mean that in earnest, even as a UK expat! American patriotrism itself is so wonderfully earnest, it's hard not to appreciate.

In the evening we stayed home, ate wings and watched fireworks. We live on a hill and had a spectacular view of fireworks all across the county and beyond. The horizon was ablaze with large and tiny specks of light, and we had fun guessing which displays we could spot. We reckon saw fireworks from Philadelphia to Allentown, and even as far as New Jersey.

At the Philadelphia fireworks along the Parkway last night there seems to have been a gunfire hoax (mirroring a similar incident two years ago). If you headed to Penn's Landing, you would have missed that, but you would have also missed the fireworks.

By the way I have no idea who the dog is, but it sums up the day, don't you think? 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Happy July 4th, er July 2nd, wait… August 2nd, or 30th?

 John Adams wrote, and I quote:
 “the Second of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”
Okay America, what's going on here? This time last year it was 90F and sunny. Last year I sat in the sun and watched the local July 4th parade go by, and  cultivated a nice tan in my first few weeks adjusting to my new home country.

Today it's almost 90F, cloudy and muggy as hell (is hell muggy? I'd guess so).

But wait a minute, now you're telling me that July 4th isn't actually Independence Day? What mockery is this? John Adams reckons it should be celebrated on the 2nd (actual vote of independence) but those pesky Brits didn't even know about US independence for another six weeks!

Philadelphia, where it all happened, didn't celebrate until July 8th, and that was just with a parade and some gun fire, not a whole boat load of fireworks.

Incidentally, I also found out from Emma at Philly Love Notes that every July 4th in Philadelphia thousands of people head down to the waterfront at Penn's Landing and wait for fireworks. And wait. And wait some more. Because there are none. They're on the other side of the city.

The mental image of hoards of people bemoaning a lack of firecrackers cracks me up almost as much as when fireworks prematurely explode.

I tested this out on my US family and asked when the last time they saw July 4th fireworks on the waterfront.

Them: Hmm, several years ago at least.
Me: At least thirteen.
Them: No, not that long.
Me: No, I'm telling you, they haven't had fireworks there for at least thirteen years.
Them: Really? No. They happen there every year. Do you want to go this year?
Me: Uuuhh…

Philadelphia seems to have this collective false memory about the location of their fireworks. Is this the plot of M Night Shyamalan's next movie? As Emma later tweeted:  How do you convince 1000s of people not to show up to a fireworks show that doesn't exist?

If you're planning to head down to Penn's Landing tomorrow and take photos/video of disappointed patriots, please share the photos with me. I'd love to see them. As for me? I'll be at another parade this year. I promise to share some photos with you.

What are you doing for this most red, white and blue of holidays?