Hannah Drake

The Expat Diaries, Vol. 08

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It's been two months since I last checked in with my expat diaries. I'm not sure how much has changed though. I joined a book club! That's new. (It's currently on Easter hiatus, but we'll reconvene to watch Downton Abbey, which I've never seen before!)

We had another snow day from work! We left early on 1 March and then the site was closed on Friday, so we got an extra long weekend. We spent the weekend holed up in the house watching MCU movies, starting with Captain America: The First Avenger. We got all the way through The Avengers, which is called Avengers Assemble here because there was already a movie called The Avengers years ago apparently. (They do seriously change the names of films sometimes over here. Like The Fate of the Furious, which was just called Fast & Furious 8.) We went to the shop after we left work early just in case it got really bad and we didn't have enough food for the weekend and decided to get some baked beans for breakfast. Yes, that's right, for breakfast! Baked beans are a British breakfast staple. Beans and toast. Full English Breakfast. All of the things! We hadn't had beans for breakfast at home, so it made me feel super British sitting down to a breakfast of eggs, sausage, and beans. Honestly, it's better than it sounds. And it's definitely better than black pudding. But you should try both. Get the full British experience.

Oh, speaking of MCU movies, we saw Black Panther in 4DX when it first came out. Is that a thing in the States? I don't think I had ever heard of it until moving here. They always play an advert for 4DX at our cinema (where we have unlimited cards...is that a thing in the States?) and we always say we're gonna try it, but we didn't until Black Panther. It was an interesting experience, if I do say so myself. They spray you with water, release scents (which all smelled the same, to be honest) and of course move your seat around with the action. It needs some smoothing out and getting jerked around during hand-to-hand combat scenes wasn't our favourite, but it was pretty awesome when the camera was soaring. And speaking of movies in general, we finally got all of the Oscar nominated films the week before the ceremony. Lady Bird and I, Tonya came out really late here! We saw Lady Bird the day of the ceremony, which was the second to last Best Picture nominee we needed to see. We only missed Call Me By Your Name since it came out in the early autumn here. I still just can't get used to the differing release dates for movies. Sometimes it's only a week (like we usually get MCU movies a week earlier than the States), but with movies like Lady Bird or The Shape of Water, it can be months!

I know I've said this before, but I'm really getting into cooking over here. We eat at home 99% of the time and I'm loving it! I think what's so special about food is how it can take you back to another time in your life. Most people have very vivid memories around some kind of food, but if you have a family where cooking together and family meals are important and a priority, you're probably blessed with quite a few. As I've said before, I was rubbish about cooking with my mom. I fought it tooth and nail and preferred to show up just in time to eat. Man, I was a brat. But ever since I've moved, I've really cherished my family's recipes and it's such a comfort to have the food that I grew up loving over here. My co-workers asked me what foods I miss from the States and obviously my first answer was Chick-Fil-A, but really it's family dinners with the classic meals we all love. One of those meals is my step mom's chicken pot pie. I made it months ago when we had friends over and honestly it was crap. They don't have tinned cream of potato soup here so I settled for potato and leek, but it was far too runny. I didn't think to cook the chopped carrots a bit before throwing them in the pie, so while the peas and potatoes softened, the carrots didn't really at all. The second time around was so much better, even though it was a bit more work. In the morning, I made a big batch of cream of potato soup. It ended up being exactly the right amount for four pies and it was exactly as thick as I wanted. With the softer carrots, the pie turned out nearly perfect. It almost took me right back to Colorado!

We have exciting news! We have flights booked to visit Colorado in July!! When I first moved, the tentative plan was not to return back to the States until Christmas 2018, but my younger brother's wedding is this summer, so we'll be back for that and then again at Christmas. It feels really good to have a trip home on the books, but I'm honestly a little scared as well. What if I go home and I don't want to leave to come back to England? What if I go home and it doesn't feel the same? What if I feel an emotion I don't even consider I might feel? I just can't even imagine what mix of emotions I'll be feeling as the trip draws closer. It's still a long way off though, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. But it's also really exciting. I can't wait until it gets closer so I can start making plans to see people and tour my old stomping ground. And I'm really excited that because we'll be back for my brother's wedding, we're likely to see quite a few people who won't be able to make our wedding next month.

Luke went back to Colorado last month, though. He went to go on a men's retreat with my Colorado church. (I attended the women's equivalent in June of 2016.) With the wedding and some other trips we have planned, I didn't have enough holiday to take time off to go with him, and three trans-continental trips adds up too. As the trip grew closer, I started to get more and more jealous that he was going and I wasn't. Originally, we hoped that I would be able to tag along and just spend the weekend with friends and family while he was on the retreat, but it just wasn't in the cards. Still, I sent him over with plenty of luggage space to fill up with a list of things I wanted from the States. I asked for things like white popcorn kernels and movie candy (which maybe wasn't the smartest since we're doing no candy/sweets/soda until the wedding) because the candy is different here, even if it's the same. I also asked for a decent Trader Joe's haul and one day spent about an hour texting him links to products from the Hand and Hearth line at Target. You know, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

If you've been following along in my goal setting, you might remember that I've been intending to host some women I know around my house for ages. I finally got around to it a few weeks ago and had some women over for a wine and cheese night. We played some party games (like the bowl game and Cards Against Humanity) and chatted. It was such a lovely night. I had so much fun putting together a charcuterie board full of cheese, meats, fruit, crackers, bread, nuts, the works! I covered the table with some brown wrapping paper and then started with our wood and marble boards (from IKEA and Target respectively) for the cheeses and filled in around it. I got to use our set of cheese knives from Sur La Table for the second time. (Like this hard cheese knife or this soft cheese knife, which they don't appear to have in a set online. We also have a matching spoon, fork, and spreader.) I used some small bowls I have from Anthropologie and Tiger, but also some of our copper measuring cups, which worked well with the hammered copper utensils and I loved.

We celebrated Easter with a four day weekend, at church, and with friends. In the UK, Good Friday and Easter Monday are bank holidays, so mostly everyone gets a four day weekend. (Service industry employees still work, but they usually have shortened hours.) Luke and I met some friends for brunch on Good Friday and then went over to our church for their 12 Hours event. They had put together an incredible event with over two dozen exhibits/installations. (Including the stamp pictured above, which is not a new permanent tattoo.) Check out their Instagram for photos of the exhibits and performances. For Easter, we went to Canvas for a potluck lunch and it was delicious. We were supposed to make roast potatoes, but let them boil a bit too long so turned half into mashed potatoes. Whoops! 

I was hoping the main event in my little life abroad update (which is actually getting quite long since it's been two months since I've updated) would be that I had a new job. I had contacted a place about a job opening completely on a whim, as they didn't have anything posted, and actually went in for an interview and a follow-up interview. It looked like the perfect opportunity for me. Something that would be similar to what I had been doing in Colorado though in a different industry, something that would allow me to be creative, something that would allow me to continue to learn the ins and outs of running a small business. I was really excited about it and even more excited when I got a job offer toward the end of February. However, the first week in March, they emailed me back saying they had jumped the gun on expanding their staff and that they didn't have a position available quite yet. They assured me they would be in touch down the road when they were ready to hire, but didn't give any sort of time frame. I was really disappointed. I think the hope of having something that I could possibly love made me even more bitter toward my job and it was really hard to see beyond that. After I didn't get the other job, I sat down with my boss to talk about my future. I told him I was incredibly under worked. I was scheduled for 40 hours a week and busy fewer than eight. My trainings kept getting pushed back and put on the back burner. It was awful going into work knowing that I probably wouldn't do anything for the entire day. (Truly, I spoke to my boss on a Wednesday and by that point in the week, I had done fewer than 30 minutes of work total.) He was very receptive, very helpful, and very supportive. He immediately set up trainings for me to learn aspects of my job I had no idea how to do. But more importantly, we agreed I would go down to three days a week. Sure, it's not ideal to now be making 60% of what I was making, but the change in my stress, my demeanour, and my happiness is seriously priceless. It's made such a difference to have two free days and only have to worry about filling 24 hours with work each week. So, now I work part time and have four day weekends every week!