Category Archives: Competitions

A Big Night In – American Food, Fun and Films

The last time I was pregnant, The Native and I really did sense the change ahead.  A change we were excited to embrace, but one we also knew would mean a more sacrificial stage of life – where adult conversation is a rarity and usually takes place over the bar of a pushchair or in the front of the car once the kiddo has nodded off.  As a result we tried to soak up the final stages of being a two-some by going on as many dates as humanly possible in my final weeks of pregnancy.

And we were right because over two years later, we know firsthand that it’s REALLY hard to go out.  Since we are working parents and because my in-laws provide so much help with childcare in the week, we feel too guilty to ask for anything more when we want a night for grown-ups and often find ourselves in our pyjamas by 8pm on a Saturday.

A Big Night In is just what we need.

So when Little Stuff said they were teaming up with 2 Little Fleas to see what bloggers would classify as a great night in if they had £750 to spend, my mind started to put all of the dates we haven’t gone on since The Duchess’s birth into one night.  And I have to admit that in true Foreigner fashion I went for the extreme opposite of what we’ve been living for the last 27 months.

“A Big Night In.  Red carpet attire.  Catering.  A candelit dinner.  Fine wines (or Schloer for us preggos).  A stringed quartet.  A make-up artist.  Maybe hair too.”

I got a little carried away.

I soon came to my senses and realized that even if I blew 80% of the budget on styling myself like Jennifer Lawrence, I’d likely be the only one to enjoy it.  (Even though I would enjoy it.)

Some of the best nights of our lives have been the most relaxed when we are in the company of people who we absolutely adore.  And as a foreigner, something that has been so significant to me on those nights is when I get to share and enjoy little bits of my culture with those people.  It’s a chance to share a unique part of who I am.

Our annual Thanksgiving meal is one occasion to bring a little bit of America to my beloved Brits.

Our annual Thanksgiving meal is one occasion to bring a little bit of America to my beloved Brits.

So the Big Night In would absolutely have to be an American barbecue.    Because in the Expat Family book, there is always room (and a season) for barbecue food.

Eight of our nearest and dearest would arrive to a cozy backyard layout.  Picture it.  Picnic blankets strewn about with cushions scattered on the ground, a couple of comfy seats, bunting dangling above and fairy lights hung overhead, acting as our British fireflies for the evening.

We’d have a menu solely dedicated to feel good American grub (you guys KNOW how I feel about a good burger).   We’d dip our sweet potato fries in homemade sauce as we sip on fresh lemonade and root beer floats from Kilner glasses.

But the real fun is that when the sun sets.  There was a drive-in movie theatre not far from my house when I was growing up and I remember so clearly going there for the first time as a young child.  It’s an experience I’d LOVE to share with The Native and would love to introduce to some of our friends.

Sure, it’s not quite a drive-in, but a sit-in movie theatre under the stars sounds just as magical.  My in-laws have a projector and screen and so we’d serve up hot apple cider (not the West Country type – but of the spicy, non-alcoholic kind), set up the speakers, light the firepit, cozy up on our blankets, start to toast the S’mores and project a classic American film onto the garden wall.

So what’s in my shopping bag to make our Big Night In happen:

  • £220 for beautiful, adaptable outdoor seating.  And yes, I will be making use of these chairs and cushions after the Big Night In.
  • £40 for fairy lights
  • £40 for Kilner jars for decoration and drinks (You can never have too many!)
  • £169.99 for Leisuregrow Grillstream barbecue
  • £80 for food
  • £59.90 for firepit
  • £129.95 for Yamaha speakers for watching an American classic under the stars

Total: £739.84

That is date-doing, soul-filling, memory-making, life-sharing stuff.

Oh, and if you don’t know what s’mores are – I’m glad you’re here.  I’m about to change your life.


How would you spend a Big Night In?  I would love to hear your ideas.

Check out my Pinterest boards for a complete look at the menu, decor and film selection.


Watching your favourite TV shows abroad – UnoTelly

At one stage in my childhood my Dad was a sports broadcaster.  I grew up being the +1 on my Dad’s press pass as I tagged along to college basketball games, professional football games, baseball games, and ice hockey matches.  I know sports and I love them, but I don’t love them equally.  There is a time of year I love more than any other.  It is a time of unpredictability of Cinderella stories and game winning buzzer beaters.  It is college basketball.  It is March Madness.

I remember participating in my Mom’s work brackets when I was only 12 years old.  I remember falling on my knees and covering my eyes in front of the TV in university in the final seconds of another exhilarating game.  For a few weeks every year, my TV was on throughout the day as 64 became 32 became 16, then 8, then 4, and the final 2.

Being an expat has meant that 8 years have passed  since I’ve seen The Madness in its fullness and every year I really, really miss it, but I can’t justify buying into Sky solely for this reason and then, on top of that, paying the additional charge of £9/month for access to ESPN America.  I felt like I just had to learn to let go of the idea that I’d ever fully get to participate in the rollercoaster of March Madness while I lived abroad.

But then I heard about UnoTelly.  UnoTelly gives you access to your favourite programmes, no matter where you live, at a fraction of the cost of digital packages.  That’s right, my friends – I can now access The Madness along with so many of my favourite American television programmes.   You don’t have to be an expat to benefit from UnoTelly. The Native and I love great television and it can give us access to shows like Modern Family, Parks & Recreation, *Homeland and Game of Thrones.   And for Brits abroad, you get access to the likes of BBC iPlayer and Channel 4 OD.  No more waiting for months on end for the programme to reach your distant shores, but you can instead watch them the week they air.  

What we love and what we’ve learnt: 

  • Have you ever gone to a channel’s website to try to watch a show only to find out that you are blocked from viewing it due to living abroad?  This is where UnoTelly comes in.  Signing up doesn’t give you access to the channels directly, but to their websites.  Registering with UnoTelly opens up access to all of the programming offered on each of these channels’ sites.
  • You can use your PC, Tablet, Mobile, or games console to watch your favourite programmes.  You will have to set it up on each of your devices, but we did that without any extra support thanks to their helpful set-up instructions.  If you’re technologically tentative,  they do have customer service reps at the ready.
  • While it’s useful to set it up on all of your devices, we found that using your laptop or PC seems to give you easiest access to the biggest selection of programmes.
  • The price.  It ranges from $4.95-$7.95 (apprx £3.20-£5.15) a month, depending on whether you go for their Premium or Gold package ( by comparison Sky digital is £19.50 – £52/month depending on your price package and that doesn’t include the initial installation fee).
  • *You’ll need to bear in mind that while ABC’s and NBC’s websites are free to watch, if you are looking for a programme that can only be accessed in America with cable, you would need to pay for access in the same way that you would if you were state-side.
  • It provides you access to an existing American Netflix account.  If you do have access to an account, it offers you 5x the selection of your foreign account.
  • We found it streams pretty smoothly.  Some channels seem to stream a bit better than others, but none are as stilted as what you’ll find with other providers.

Do you want to give UnoTelly a go?  Well, I’ve got a discount to give away that will give one reader 6 months free access to a Gold account.

To be in with a chance of winning 6 months free access to UnoTelly, leave a comment below telling me what TV programme you’ll be watching when you use UnoTelly.

If you don’t win, not to worry, “like” my facebook page: Life of an Expat Parent – and in the weeks to come, I’ll give 5 readers a chance to pick up a 25% discount.

Competition Rules for 6 months free access:

1 entry per reader.  

Entries are counted when a comment is left.  If more than one comment is left by a reader, those additional comments will be removed.  

The competition is open until midnight 4th June 2012.

After the competition closes, a winner will be selected.  The winner will be notified via e-mail.  If you do not respond within 3 days, another winner will be selected.  


UnoTelly has provided this service, free of charge, for the purpose of review.  All opinions are my own.

This giveaway is now closed.  

World Book Day Competition….and the winner is……

Thanks to all those who subscribed, shared, and participated in the World Book Day competition for the bundle of books provided by Harper Collins (RRP £20/$30), which includes the beautifully illustrated story of friendship, Up and Down.

As promised, each entrant was assigned a number which correlated to the comment they left. I used to choose a winner fairly.

And the winner is MsXpat!  

Congratulations!  Ms Xpat, please send your delivery details to so that I can send you your prize.


If you have time this weekend, why not hop over to HSBC’s Expat Explorer blog?  I’ve written a guest post about trying to find a sense of home when you live so far away from the home you’ve always known.

Whether it’s a move across town or across the world, what’s important to you when trying to establish a sense of home?  

A British Person Did That – On the Bus

In the Summer of 2005 I was back in America for a few weeks visiting family and friends.  I remember my Dad coming to wake me up one morning.  “London has been bombed.”  I leapt out of bed, not really being sure what level of catastrophe would meet my eyes when I turned them to the TV.  Watching the commuters stumble from the Underground and across the streets, dazed, was certainly a harrowing sight, but I can clearly remember that what struck the news anchors and the American populace most of all was that one by one, they watched the uninjured commuters get back on public transport that day.  When questioned about this response one Brit replied, “We just have to get on with, don’t we?”  It was admirable.  It seemed fearless.  It was Keep Calm and Carry On epitomized.

The story I am about to tell holds in tension the disquieting behaviour of the minority and the completely calm response that seems to be the understood M.O. of the British.

I’ve mentioned before that in the days before and after Halloween and Guy Fawkes Day there are all sorts of criminal offences practical jokes that take place in England that have, in the past, left me a little bit on edge.  That Keep Calm and Carry On attitude of the Brits, while admirable, certainly does carry with it a surprising immovability.  So, here it is…

A British Person Did That (People, in this case):

A few weeks after the bombings I was back in the United Kingdom.  I don’t particularly remembering worrying about public transport, although whether I was at risk may have entered my mind a time or two.  Then, one day in October an American colleague popped by the house flustered and with a bemused look on his face he recounted…..

Colleague:  I was just on a bus on the way home and these kids in the back set off firecrackers ON THE BUS, opened the emergency exit door and ran off.

Me: WHAT?!  That’s crazy!  Must’ve scared the poo out of people.  Did anyone run after them?

Colleague:  No!  Everyone just sat there.  Even the driver.

Me:  What do you mean they just sat there?

Colleague:  No one moved.  The bus filled with smoke.  The driver didn’t even get out to see if everyone was okay.

Me:  What did you do?

Colleague: I sat there for a minute and then the smoke was really bothering me so I got up and went through the whole bus and opened every single window.  (He then raises his hands to his ears and gesticulates, pushing both hands firmly out and away from him over and over again.)

The mental image of my somewhat incensed American friend leaning over these passengers to open their windows while they avoided any form of eye contact or acknowledgement of the incident still makes me crack a smile .

Maybe it’s that they really are that calm.  Maybe the tea really is laced with sedatives.  Or maybe it’s that they had all cacked themselves and didn’t want to move for fear of revealing their soiled bottoms to the whole of the Number 75.  We may never know.

British People Did That.




Don’t forget to enter the competition to win 3 new books worth £20/$30 courtesy of Harper Collins. 

The books range from baby/toddler (one book) to Ages 3-6+ (2 books).  This includes the book and audio CD of the beautifully illustrated, Up and Down, by award-winning author Oliver Jeffers. Image


 The Competition closes on March 7th

My Very First Competition – World Book Day

Today, March 1st, is World Book Day.

Pssssst!  Hey, you.  Other countries out there.   Is today actually World Book Day?   I need to know and I don’t want to wikipedia it up at this hour.  I just need you to tell me.  Is the UK lying about the “World” part?

I’ve seen little hints of it here and there.  Special events highlighted in the local bookshop window, parents franctically begging and pleading for tips from others about how they can create that crucial favourite character costume for school.  Personally, I’d like to see a six year old dressed as Voldemort.  Perhaps one could use some Scotch tape to secure their nose to a flattened position.  How creepy would that be?

World Book Day is a great idea.  You may not know this about the Old Foreigner, but I’m a trained teacher and I especially loved learning about how to help children engage with books.  I honestly believe that it’s always a great idea to get children (and adults!) excited about reading, and with the events and activities surrounding World Book Day, I’m sure it will be exciting for many children across the country to think about their favourite characters, authors and books throughout today.

But here’s the thing – World Book Day doesn’t create lifelong readers.  And I’d argue that even with the most enthusiastic educators in the world, it is quite unusual for teachers to achieve that mammoth task of fostering a love for books in the 270 odd days they spend with your child either.  If you want your child to have any chance to be a lifelong reader – an attribute that will fuel their imagination, widen their horizons, and build within them solid foundations for their future in education, then that responsibility lies firmly in your hands.

Read to your child.  Put that iPad down.  Take your eyes off of the TV.  Stop checking facebook.  Stop scrolling through Tweets.  Divert your attention away from the household chores.  Pick up a book and teach your child how to get lost in it.   Get lost together.

Fill your house with books.  Instead of buying yourself another Caramel Macchi-Frappe-Latte, use those few pounds to go down to the local bookshop to see what’s on offer.  Don’t just tell your children reading is important, show them it is.  Show them that it’s worth spending a pound (or dollar) or two on them.

Tonight, we read When It’s Time for Bed by Nick Butterworth, the creator of the Percy the Park Keeper books.  This simplistic, lovely book is one of four board books in this new series.  In it Sam goes through the routine of preparing for bed, with his six stuffed animal friends in tow.  They are all things we do with The Duchess.  They are every day simple things, but it is in these simple things that we find the most joy in being with her – her huge splashes in the bath while she grins in a self-satisfied kind of way, giggling as I hold her and we brush our teeth together as we look in the mirror, and sitting on her Daddy’s knee as they share 1, 2 …(ahem) 5 bedtime stories.  Stories, like When It’s Time for Bed, are ways of engaging with her parents and her tiny world now, but in a year’s time I can imagine us giggling and talking about the expressive faces of the characters.   These little stories are small building blocks; they are blocks that are a part of turning our little girl into one who celebrates World Book Day with gusto because, each and every day,  she really does love books.

“You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." - The Duchess when her books end. No, seriously.

When It’s Time for Bed is out on the 5th July. You can get the first two board books in the series When There’s Work To Do and When We Go Shopping from the 26th April.

Disclosure: When It’s Time for Bed was provided by Harper Collins for the purpose of review.  However, all opinions are my own.  We love books and hope you do, too!


Competition–  And thanks to Harper Collins, I have a bundle of books to give away (RRP £20/$30) which includes a book and CD of Up and Down by award-winning author Oliver Jeffers.  There is a chance of two entries per reader.  Here is what you have to do to enter:

1. Leave a comment telling me that you have subscribed to Life of an Expat Parent  via e-mail (to see where to subscribe scroll to the bottom of the page) or that you read it using a blog reader (ie Google Reader).

You can earn another entry by:

2. Tweeting: I want to help make lifelong readers for #WorldBookDay with @expatparent and @HarperCollinsCh – and leaving a comment on this post that you have done so. 


3. Sharing the link to this post on your own facebook page – and leaving a comment on this post that you have done so. 

Leaving a comment PER entry on this post is important as it will ensure you are registered.  The competition will end the 7th March at midnight (GMT).  I’ll then use True Random Number Generator at to select a winner.  And don’t worry where you are,  I will post the books to the competition winner regardless of your location in the world.  (That’s commitment, people!)

Good luck and get reading! 

This competition is now closed.