Sunday, 30 June 2013

Sunday Supplements (and Sunday Puppy too)

The Sunday puppy? She knows where it's at. It's dank, muggy and gross outside, and she's lying on the cold tile floor, right where the air conditioning is. This is her business card: If you need a napping consultant, she's the one.

As for me? Well, between work for clients, writing proposals, volunteering at the soup kitchen, here's what I've been up to!


Wendy Davis filibuster the Texas State Senate -  Excellent journalism from the Texas Tribune, and the best piece of political theater since Aaron Sorkin wrote the words "Walk with me…"

I was one of the 150k people around the world who watched it live: US state politics at its most, er, American?


Abandoned Schools in Philadelphia - Sometimes people, photographers included, question the value of urban exploration photography. Why trespass in abandoned and sometimes dangerous places for the sake of photography? These photos are different. They show what's been happening to the Philadelphia public school system, and drive a very strong point.

Dogs dressed as their owners - Slightly surreal, but I'm very tempted to do a mash-up of my husband and the Sunday puppy. Just wait until I brush up my Photoshop skills…!

Mothers' real bodies - This is truly admirable. 

Lazer is short - A really cute booklet a father made as a favor for guests to his daughter's birthday. I can already think of mine: "Sunday Puppy is lazy…"


Candid thoughts on bloggers' "perfect" lives - From blogger Delightfully Tacky.

Let's be clear - blogging has many faces. We all know that right? And one part of that is marketing. It's just like magazines, which have a mixture of promotional material and solid content. The tricky thing in blogging is to get that balance right.

As I said in a comment on this piece - 'perfect' picture are common: Promotion means showing the best of something, plus it's natural to want to capture our best moments. It's the reason we hire professional photographers for weddings and not moments of sickness or sadness.

Don't let it wind you up or bog you down - there's a blog out there you'll enjoy, for sure.


And on that matter, here's a bit of promotion. A dear friend of mine is starting a boutique fashion company. She's really excited to get started, but she needs your help! Please take a moment to complete this Five Question Survey. It's super quick, and your input will be really appreciated! Please feel free to pass it along to any fashion-conscious friends too.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Glad Notes: What does the DOMA repeal mean for immigration?

A few months ago I blogged this photo of one of Philadelphia's murals. This mural was completed in 2002, and the mural arts website states "It's a street party in an idealized Philadelphia".

The issue that the repeal of DOMA brings to the fore is that of equality between all of the residents and citizens that live in this big broad country. The New York Times published an excellent history of the cultural and political movements that led to where we are now.

The DOMA repeal is a step towards equality for all married couples in the eyes of the government. As Michael Barbaro from the New York Times noted:
As far as I understand it, repealing DOMA gives equal benefits access to couples who are married and live where their marriage is recognized. It does not force (or even encourage) other states to recognize all marriages, or give equal benefits access to all couples. Incidentally, gay marriage is banned in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and most of the US states, so the mural in Philadelphia is still an "idealized" street party.

Now, as I'm an immigrant to the US, and an immigrant purely because of my marriage, I'm interested in understanding what this means for US spousal immigration.

There was originally language to cover same-sex marriages in the latest US immigration bill, but it's been removed. However, US spousal immigration requires a marriage to be legal and recognized in the state or country where the marriage took place. Now that DOMA is being repealed, the federal government does not determine the legality of a same-sex marriage, the states do.

Previously, gay binational couples could not settle in the US at all, as reported in a NYT article I linked a while back. Now, it seems, they can.

Can anyone let me know if I've understood this correctly?

Monday, 24 June 2013

Media Monday: A more effective blog design!

If you're a regular visitor you might notice a few changes to my blog today, or perhaps you came by at the weekend and saw the blog during one of its many stages of undress. I put this new header together live, and there were a few ugly moments, including when I realized I'd deleted the entire "Header" widget from Blogger and couldn't get it back…eek!

I hope you like the new style, please let me know if it doesn't work on your browser!

I've been working on building and redesigning this blog template for a while. I had hoped to do a big fantastic "relaunch" but then decided that designing a blog is a little bit like writing one - the process is always a little unfinished, so why not tweak and tinker it live rather than roll out huge changes in one swoop?

And this way, I can talk you through some of the changes as I've made them. It's been really satisfying to get into the anatomy of the blogger platform and exercise my HTML and CSS skills, which as I explained recently, I've been trying to do more and more.

As promised, I'll explain some of the things I've learned, and also how I learned them. This will include:

  • Why I did certain things, and what they mean.
  • What I did to (re)learn how to do everything, and which resources were the most useful.
  • Explaining why I'm sticking with the Blogger platform (for now) and not migrating to Wordpress…even though I'm very tempted.

Today, I'll keep it simple and show you the difference between the old design and the new one.

I'm a big fan of clean design - simple but a little bit fun. The original heading did that, with just the name, headings…

…and a play on the Philadelphia Love Park statue to tie in my theme! Here it is:

But it was a cheat. Okay, it wasn't really a cheat. But it was just one large graphic made into an image map. I didn't even create the image map myself, I used a free website to do it for me.

What was great about it was that I could create the exact design I wanted for my header really simply and quickly, and just plug it into the Blogger template. To do that I had to delete Blogger's Header widget and replace it with an HTML widget, but otherwise it was very easy to do. If anyone would like to know how to create an image map header for their blog, let me know, and I'll be happy to make a tutorial.

However, it was just a quick fix for me. It has some serious downsides, including absolutely killing SEO, and meaning that if I wanted to change any wording in the header, I'd have to change the whole image and re-do the image map. 

So what I really wanted was a fully functional text-based header that looked as much like the image map as possible. And this is the result:

The only image in this header is the design on the right (and its border) - you can test it by highlighting all the text in the real thing up above.

Now I have fully customizable text and headings, along with a clean, simple design. The design on the right is supposed to be a slightly art deco motif inspired by Philadelphia's Art Institutes building, including a keystone, to represent the Keystone State. My husband says it also looks a bit like an Amish/Mennonite quilt, which is no bad thing seeing as we live somewhere in that space between Philadelphia and Amish country!

On my image map design, I had used two beautiful typefaces, Pistilli and Balham. But for the text-based version I've used two of Google's free web fonts, Abril Fat Face and Antic. 

You might also noticed I dropped "glad blog" - there are a few other blogs with that name, and I'd never realized before I moved to the States that I'd be comparing myself to trash bags: 
Life as an expat. It's a cultural minefield, every day.

So that's that, and I hope you like it! Next week I'll talk about how I went about re(learning) web design so I could get this header pulled together. As always, any comments and suggestions are forever welcome!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Glad Notes: Report on UK immigration

Remember when I found out the day before I moved to the USA that I probably won't be able to move back? If not, you can read my run down of the changes to the UK immigration system, which I wrote and posted last year.

In that time, a cross-party investigation looked into the impact of these changes, and the final report was published last week. I made a contribution to their investigation, and I believe some other expat bloggers did the same, expressing our concerns about families potentially being split in the event of having children, or needing to attend to elderly parents or sick family members.

The report agrees that the measures implemented by the UK government last year seem overtly harsh, and are prohibitive to many families. If the UK citizen is not the chief breadwinner in a family, or if a couple doesn't have six figure savings, then living in the UK is not an easily achievable option for transatlantic families. The report even goes to far as to say that almost half of all Brits currently living in the UK would not qualify to sponsor a foreign family member to move to the UK.

You can read the full report online, but if reading government reports doesn't turn you on (I guess you didn't study politics like I did!), then I thought I'd include a some of the personal evidence they included. I think you'll agree that they are very powerful:

“I served in the British Army for 9 and a half years, have a First Class Honours degree and my husband is also degree educated and currently earning more than I do [overseas]...I am antagonised by the fact that citizens of the EEA face none of these obstacles when bringing their non - EEA spouse to the UK, yet I, a British citizen and former member of the British Army, am not entitled to the same rights in my own country.” (Individual submission, Yorkshire)” page 21
“If £18,600 is considered a minimum income for an adult to survive on, why as a clinically skilled NHS Aux. Nurse am I only earning £14,153 p.a. in my full time post? ... I am paying my taxes/rent without help/public funds.” (Individual submission, West Midlands) page 22
“a British sponsor living on a UK state pension, or a small company pension, can never bring his wife to the UK” … "casework suggests that this limit is preventing elderly couples from being able to live together in the UK." page 23
"My parents are elderly but not completely dependent, with my father hospitalised with Alzheimers. They are in the UK, I am in Australia. I am British and have been considering a return to the UK with my Australian husband to be nearer them and to provide more support and be part of the load sharing my other siblings currently undertake... [But a] return is currently not possible as my spouse and I do not meet the minimum financial requirements.” (Individual submission, Australia) page 27
 "The mother is a non-EU citizen who is currently abroad and her husband and two sons, aged just five months and 18 months, all British citizens, are in the UK. The separation means that the mother has had to stop breastfeeding her five - month - old baby” page 28
 I'll stop there, but there are more in the report. I think you'll agree that these stories are heartbreaking, especially if you're navigating a long-distance relationship, or have traveled the visa journey route yourself.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Life as an expat - one year on!

It's my one year anniversary of being a US Resident!  I'm shocked and frightened by how quickly that year went by, but also very excited about the coming year and the opportunities it'll bring for team Gladley. 

Looking back on the past twelve months, here's what I've been up to in my first year as a British expat living in the United States…


My first July 4th parade - and I'm looking forward to this again! As silly as it sounds, this was one of my highlights of moving here, seeing a local piece of rural Americana.

The London Olympics - Some of my most-read posts are my rundowns of watching the Olympics as my motherland was on show for the world to see. I got the chance to see the Games both on TV here in the USA, and in-person, as I flew back to London in August and saw the US pick up some gold medals.

Infomercials a-plenty - I get a lot of hits to this post due to funny keyword searches.



Life in the country and also Life in the City - it's no secret now that I'm in love with Philadelphia. Where we live, we get the best of both worlds. It's also amusing to discover people who live in either region and never visit the other. Try it sometime - you might just like it.



I have eaten a lot since I moved here. It's been fantastic. Here's what I have been eating, and also what I haven't.

I've tried very hard to convince you that America has some brilliant cuisine and I hope I've encouraged you to seek out some good US eating. One of my favorite times was devoting a whole month of posts to America's favorite harvest fruit, the humble pumpkin.

You know what happens when you get married and move to America? You put on weight. Come on, that's a double whammy of excuse right there. I don't mind admitting that I've put on 6lbs in the past year…

…and it's totally been worth it.

Trust me, I have so many ideas for the next year of this humble little blog, I hope you continue to read and comment and connect with me. Let me know what you'd like to read next - more FOOD FIGHT posts? More photos of Philadelphia? More guides to life as an expat? Some of my favorite posts have been inspired by comments from my readers so don't be shy - comment or email me today!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Media Monday - When coding became more cool, but less popular

What the NYT site would look like as a Geocities page, according to the Geocitiesizer.
I wanted to do my blog, but it didn't actually look too different, which is, er, worrying?

1996. My family had just gotten dial-up.

I was amazed that I could download pictures from the Lion King to put on my wall. Sure, I had to wait for hours as each picture appeared line by line, but I was 11 years old and couldn't think of anything else I'd ever need the internet for.

But in no time at all I was creating my own Geocities page, learning basic HTML and making my own 1990s web atrocities. I asked a friend what I should name my first website. She said Dynamite Pants… so I did. Oh dear.

To my dismay though, this was not considered a cool thing for a kid to be doing. When our class was asked what we did at the weekend, and my 11 or 12 year old self proudly announced that I'd created a website, kids laughed. Even the teacher said "Oookay" and changed the conversation.

But I loved it. I began to make complex websites with multiple frames and tables, and designs based on my favorite CD covers (notably Savage Garden, ahem). I wrote all my pages in notepad and uploaded them using FTP in DOS. Eventually I left my Geocities page to die a sad, Comic Sans encrusted death, and moved onto bigger and better platforms: xoom,,,, and probably a whole bunch more I can't remember.

Eventually I hit the big time and got a 'hosted' website. I felt like I'd struck internet gold.

If you remember, and way2kewl, you were probably a part of this teen domain scene. There's a whole thread on the GOMI forums devoted to these teen domains (you have to register to see it). 

You see, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, blogging wasn't what it is now. Buying a web domain was prohibitively expensive for a lot of young teenage girls. But those who had convinced their daddies to shell out for a dotcom were often more than happy to 'host' other teen sites. Hosts would give their friends a subdomain where they could create their own beautiful, deep and meaningful pages.

Being hosted meant you were part of your own special web clique. If your website had a one word name, tiny font sizes, clean design and a page of poetry, you might have been considered special enough to get hosted. And being hosted meant you were kinda cool, and you had rockstar HTML skills.

When I left high school I finally got my own domain. I set up a site and a message board so all my school friends could keep in touch as we went off to different universities. Then Myspace and Facebook happened.

My parents actually wondered why I never studied computing or web design. But I was stubborn and didn't want to have to go back to the beginning and learn the basics of setting up a website or using PaintShop Pro/PhotoShop when of course, I already knew it all, duh.

The sad thing is I didn't really do much more web design until I left university, and now I'm playing catch-up, learning HTML5 and CSS, and trying to pick up PHP and XML. I've been using a lot of cool tools to pick up skills that didn't exist when I was teenage girl, such as Codecademy and Lynda.

Coding is cool these days and there are loads of groups, meetups and hackathons to help you get started. I thought that with all of these cool sites to encourage people to pick up coding, there would be a huge rise in the popularity of learning to code. So I was really surprised to learn that's not the case:

Google Trends since 2004, showing searches for "HTML" has declined.
Since 2004, learning to code has become much more cool, yet far less popular.

I found this really interesting, and wonder if MySpace and Facebook are partly responsible. There are so many tools to help people create websites (hello Blogger/Blogspot) that even knowing the basics isn't really necessary.

So maybe once again I'm going against the grain, but that's okay! Over the next several weeks I'm going to show you what I've been doing and learning in web design and social media. If you're just learning too, or if you used to code your teen angst back in the 1990s, let me know, I'd love to see what you're doing.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Expat Diaries - Three things I say incorrectly

When I moved from the UK to the USA one of the things I made sure to do was change my default language on my computer from English (UK) to English (USA). It's helped a lot with writing: cover letters, resumes, blog posts, and all the copy I write now as part of my job.

It's rare that I slip up and put organisation instead of organization, or defence instead of defense, but if I do then the red dotted lines warn me that I've gone all continental.

However, I do still slip up all the time when I speak. And sometimes, after trying to maintain my British identity, I have to give in and use an American phrase because people genuinely don't seem to know what I'm talking about. That bewilders me, as an English speaking person in an English speaking country!

So for the most part, my Americanisms are deliberate and considered efforts to make myself understood in this brash and assertive country. However, sometimes I doubly slip up, and accidentally use Americanisms with my British friends. Then I get accused of forgetting my Britishness, so I can't win in either instance!

Here are a few simple, unassuming phrases that I've caught myself saying, that make me think "Wow, I really am American now…"

"We got this in the mail"

Brits use the word "mail" for sure, usually in the context of it being "Royal" and constantly in danger of getting privatized (or privatised, depending where you are). But Brits don't generally say "I'll get the mail" or "Give this to the mailman" - it's post, and postman. There's even a popular kids' cartoon in the UK, Postman Pat.

Strangely enough though, Americans do use "Post Office" and "Postal Service". But if I try to say "I'll get the post" here in the USA, I think Americans expect me to return with a large wooden stake instead.

"Can you put this in the trash for me?"

Again, this is such an innocuous phrase,  it shouldn't be a big deal. But nobody in the UK genuinely says trash. It's rubbish, or garbage. I love the word rubbish especially. It's a great insult because it's also a bit pathetic. Next time you're having an argument, slip in the phrase "You're a rubbish person!" and you'll probably have to stop yourself from giggling afterwards.  Call somebody trashy and you're in a world of trouble.

See also trash can v rubbish bin. I find the phrase rubbish bin kind of quaint now - if that doesn't mean I'm Americanized I don't what does.

Brits don't quite get the "Supersize" thing either

"Can I get…?"

This one happened to me a long time ago actually, even before I moved over. It's an affectation used by many Brits who want to appear assertive when ordering their coffee and Subway sandwiches.

Being able to customize something so simple as coffee and fast food goes against everything a Brit knows. 

It's why Burger King's "have it your way" slogan was a flop in the UK. Brits don't want to have to request extra cheese or no lettuce, they want what's given to them. If they don't like cheese, they'll take it out themselves instead of appearing rude or fussy. 

When Subway arrived in the UK Brits were practically having meltdowns when barraged with a bunch of questions even just about their bread. "I'll have j-just w-whatever it comes with…" customers would panic. The server would have to explain that the poor Brit was actually in command of their own lunch, and they would have to review choices under pressure of holding up the line (queue). Due to the stress and confusion they'd end up with some bizarre combination of tuna, ham, raw onion and salt on their Subway.

In the world of fast food and fast coffee, courtesies such as "Please may I have…" or "Would it be possible if…" or "Do you think you could possibly, if it's not too much trouble, please…" are about five seconds too long to cut it. So "Can I get" becomes the go-to "I know exactly what I want on my cold lunch and in my hot drink and I'm important so get it for me" power phrase. 

Whenever I hear myself loudly proclaim "Can I get an untoasted six-inch BMT?" I know I've made it as a self-assured American…until I follow it up with "on just whatever bread you have to hand, what's ever easiest for you, I don't want to cause too much trouble, sorry, if that's not too much to ask…"

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

(Tuesday) puppy and (Tuesday) currently!

I was going to name this post the usual Sunday Puppy, but that'd be such a blatant lie and you'd all call me out on it, and that would just be embarrasing.

So, moving on swiftly, here's a quick rundown of what the Gladley household have been up to, with some bonus puppy pictures to distract you.


My sister in law graduate. I filmed the exact moment, repeated it on a loop, and uploaded it to Facebook. We watch her walking from one end of the stage to the other and graduate over and over again. Hey, it makes me laugh!


The Philly Mural Arts tour. I was recently featured on the Philly Love Notes blog exclaiming my love for the Philadelphia murals. You should check it out - the photos are mine too, and you can tell I took them last Thanksgiving.

Historic photographs as social media style #selfies. I guess that's one way to get the attention of the yoof generation.


A heartwarming tale about an American hero fighting against the odds in one of Britain's oddest annual traditions. I have to say that Buzzfeed is very clever in the way it tells its stories. For instance, check out their run down of Eurovision compared to mine. It's everything I wanted to say but couldn't.

Anyway, I will get back into reading all of your blogs too in due course. I took another social media break because ironically, working in social media cuts into my social media for pleasure time!