Category Archives: Friends

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.

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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.

Now That It’s Over – Happy Holidays!

We are back on UK soil.  It has been great to exchange work and the responsibilities of life for exploring New York, lazing around in my pajamas in my parent’s house, and eating my own weight in takeaways.   SONY DSC

Time away has been good for me.  It’s been good for us.  Parts of the trip stripped me of all of the energy I possessed, but parts restored my spirit and refreshed my soul in just the way I needed.  We’re honestly pretty sad to be back.   Sure, a little bit of it is post holiday blues (both  Christmas and vacation), but these funny and familiar feelings have reminded me, once again, about the challenges of living this weird expat life.   It’s a longing for a home that doesn’t exist anymore because time and living as a foreigner have changed you.    And yet, the questions still linger.  What if I returned and loved it?    What if it’s exactly where I’m meant to be?

It is never easy, but we are certainly glad to have family and friends on both sides of the Atlantic that make the decision so hard.

Hoping that you and yours have had a very merry Christmas and wishing you a great year ahead!

From our jetlagged family to yours.

From our jetlagged family to yours.

When Life Moves Us Along

Having friends is important to anyone, but it’s especially important when you’re an expat.  The social circles and family customs that you once took for granted are thousands of miles across an ocean and you find these things, those relationships that you had once used to define yourself, completely stripped away.  And it.is.hard.  I have many friends who are dear to me, but I have very few friends who know me deeply.  I’m talking the friends who know the silly, gritty, intensely honest side of you and who love you totally in spite of yourself.

It was my 3rd year living in the UK when I moved to the Southwest.  After a relatively uneventful first two years in England, all of the sudden I found that  I was lonely, tearful, and for the first time in a long time, very unsure of myself.  This move had me feeling isolated and I found myself longing to feel known, to be accepted, to have deep friendships.

They came into our lives in Febraury of 2008.  We had just married.  They married a week after us.   He was the most American Brit I had ever met.  She was facing some of the same struggles and issues as me, having just moved to a new part of the country.   And the friendship just was.

But a couple of months ago, our best friends moved away.  I considered writing a post about it as my mind attempted to process what life would be like without them in it so regularly, but the day came and we decided not to say goodbye.

We had arranged to come down to their new place in 9 days and it felt odd to gear up for this emotional farewell only to see each other so soon after.   We popped in on their final night in the cottage, the cottage with walls that held so many significant memories for us, and we helped cleaned, hugged and said, “We’ll see you in a week.”  And it felt easy.  It felt okay.

They are not across the world.  They are not even on the opposite side of the country.  They are just over two hours away, but it felt like a significant change from the lives we had built – Thanksgivings and Christmases together, sadnesses and joys, little getaways, pregnancies and the birth of our children.  We had lived it all right beside one another for years and now there would be this foreign physical distance between us.

A little over a week passed and we made the two hour drive to their new home, in their new neighbourhood, in their new town.  We slept in their new lounge with unpacked boxes staring at us from corners of their new rooms with their unwelcome reminders us of why we were really there.  We stayed up late putting the world to rights, something we had done so many nights before.  And then the weekend ended and we said goodbye.  It felt more final this time as we drove back to our side of the country, but a rushed goodbye meant that we couldn’t spend our time feeling sad.  I questioned whether I needed to make a big deal of it.  Perhaps, this was just  how life was and I needed to accept it as being okay.

I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes you need to face the sadness because if you don’t, it will come to find you.  And it has come to find us.

This weekend, after two months of not seeing one another, they came in for Carnival.  It was so normal to see them.  It was so good to hug their babies and to be with them, but the whole time, we both felt so sad in the midst of our happiness.  Being together reminded us of how different things were and how much we were missing out on in the months between.  It showed us how much we really desperately miss each other.  I finally let in the sadness of saying goodbye to them.   It is not forever.  It is two hours.  But it is still hard….and that is okay.