Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 602

Promoting Earth Day

So, I got asked by a fancy PR company in NYC to do some promotion of Earth Day and making the home more green and sustainable for Earth Day on 22 April. Of course, I said ‘yes’!

Thus, today I got up at 430am for the 640am slot at WBAL-TV to promote some super smashing items that you can buy to be more eco-friendly. I’m hot on all this, and loved all the items muchly! The ladies at the TV studio totally dug my British accent and naturally had many questions about my thoughts on the impending royal baby. (FYI, my thoughts are: girl, Charlotte or Alice, on Tuesday. ;) )

This is the video of the early morning show, bags under the eyes, and all!

I am so tired now, I can’t tell you! Back to bed for me, and then a shower to make use of those lovely organic cotton towels!

Fearless expat women

I’ve also been busy putting my thoughts down on camera for a website that asked me to share my ‘fearless women’ story.  They liked my expat story about trying to live a life that is passionate and slightly off beat. I wanted to share my story about how I have gained freedom and an ability to say yes to life and how that has changed my attitude as an expat Brit in the USA. Enjoy.

There are many fearless women out there, expat or otherwise, and this is for you. And if you yearn to become fearless, I hope it inspires you :)

My first PB&J

Today I had my first peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

PB&J!

PB&J!

That’s a fact. And I liked it!

Posted in American, British, British American differences, expats, fearlessness, Travel, UK, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 601

The UPS Delivery Man

This is possibly the most Desperate Housewife-y blog post I will ever write :)

This week I’ve been taking delivery at home of several items for a TV slot on WBAL-TV on Sunday to promote Earth Day (22 April fyi) in my ‘lifestyle expert’ guise. (I did not initiate usage of this title, by the way, it was thrust upon me!)

Anyway, he’s been dropping packages off to me all week, and he is, I do declare, the hottest UPS delivery man I’ve ever set eyes on. My gay chum who lives up the road from me said  yes, ‘I know of whom I speak’ when I asked if he’d come across him with his deliveries.

UPS

UPS

Anyway, he’s very friendly and charming, and, as I mentioned, super hot.

So, I got talking to my British friend Georgina last night, about this super hot UPS delivery guy and she told me that she had a UPS delivery guy where she lives near DC who just happens to be from St Albans in the UK.  She didn’t find this out until they actually spoke to one another after a few deliveries had been made and when they realised they were both British, she ‘invited him in for a biscuit’, which, as many Brits know, is just a British thing to do with a cuppa and nothing else! And they had a good old British natter over a cuppa and a biscuit. And, importantly, the biscuit was a Digestive, but next time, she advises, she’s going to get out the HobNobs :)

The classy HobNob

The classy HobNob

Sadly I don’t think I’ll be inviting my UPS man in for a biscuit. He might think I’m offering him something with gravy or grits, such is the American confusion over the word biscuit. And I suspect if I asked him in for a HobNob he’d probably drop his package on the floor…….

And that is the end of the tale of the super hot UPS man in UK Desperate Housewife USA world because I am expecting no more deliveries.

Although, it’s just dawned on me……can’t you arrange pick ups from your home with UPS?! Hoorah, maybe I’ll have a chance to get out my HobNobs after all! ;)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 600

Expat bubble

I recently read this article about the ‘expat bubble’. It’s a weird thing being an expat, between cultures.

My expat life is made up of three social parts: the expat bubble that comes with my husband’s job and a ready-made British community; the Brits whom I have met outside that bubble who live in the USA and who are usually ‘forever expats'; and my American friends, work colleagues and community.

1. The first group I’ve struggled with slightly because I find it to be an unnatural community. I think many forces wives might understand this community. The men (mostly) work together and the women (‘trailing spouses’ – ugh!) are left to their own devices to either be stay-at-home mums, to find some work or volunteer, clean the house, organise stuff, and to ‘get a life’. For some, it’s a struggle, and I get that. It’s not easy. It’s also a small, tight, cliquey community that thrives and feeds on building friendships, gossip and some forced social occasions for that group only. I’ve tried the coffee mornings and the craft nights, but they’re just not my thing. I always feel like there is so much more out there I could be doing and experiencing! For some, though, they are a lifeline to talk about British culture and things in the USA which are happening to them, discuss issues and problems in a supportive home-from-home environment, which is great. However, my problem with this expat bubble, in my humble Desperate Housewife opinion, is that is very much a bubble and it separates out the genders far too much. It also made me realise that just because people are British doesn’t mean you will automatically have a natural affinity to them! And I guess I appreciated through experiencing this bubble I didn’t come all the way to the USA to recreate a Little Britain! The article says that this expat bubble can be ‘the least challenging option’. Like the author of the article, I appreciate the bubble, but I don’t want to be STUCK inside of it. He says, and I agree: ‘To live cross culturally and never genuinely experience (deeply) your host culture is a BIG miss. To be surrounded by people who are SO different and could teach you SO much and never find a friend, is a sad thing.’

This!

This!

2. The second group is a really interesting and diverse group and one that has been a fabulous resource for me. These are Brits (and some Aussies whom I’ve met!) who have been here ages, love America, get the culture, have an affinity still for the UK, and who are getting on with their expat lives with work, integration and adventure. I love these expats of all races, gender and ages. In fact, I try and see at least 4 or 5 of them a week for class, social occasions and fun, and I meet up with them if I’m in any other place in the USA. Boy I’ve networked! I admire and respect them. They have a lot to say and share, have open minds, and are willing to step out of any expat bubble that may exist. I’ll be popping off on my holibobs with one of them in a few weeks. Woohoo!

British expats in the USA

British expats in the USA

3. The third group is my lifeline and the heart and soul of my experience here in the USA. The community in Columbia, MD, has been amazing. Friends and colleagues (co-workers to you Americans!) have given me a richer, more rewarding experience, showing me a real slice of American life. They’ve given me opportunities, allowed me into their homes and their lives, shared experiences with me and taken me on adventures that I never dreamed of. The expat article says this about going cross culture within your host country: ‘….you can’t know [if they really love you] until you stick around and build a real relationship. That’s where the good stuff is. The real stuff.’

It’s the real stuff that has worked for me. I’ve developed real, full, proper relationships with my American friends. That’s the good stuff, the real stuff, and that’s what’s made my expat experience so bloody brilliant. We’ve just connected through blogs, theatre, sports, wine, politics, food, parties and fun. I love them all and I feel very, very fortunate to have found them in my USA life!

Some of my fabulous American friends!

Some of my fabulous American friends!

Hoorah for cross-cultural living!

Posted in American, British, cross culture, culture, expat life, expats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 599

UK houses vs USA houses

I’ve been living in my USA house for nearly three years now. And it’s silly big. I don’t say this in a boastful way, I say it in an incredulous way. The houses in the area we live, most of them are silly big – McMansion type big. Our house is considered normal, but for us Brits it is still big – bigger than many, many houses in the UK. Sure, we live in USA East Coast suburbia, and if we lived in the city we wouldn’t have a big house, but that’s just how it rolls with this style of house in this place.

USA McMansion!

USA McMansion!

Sometimes I don’t go in some of the rooms for days on end. There is no need. And I miss doors. Doors that can shut so there is privacy, that shut out the sound of other stuff, doors that mean you’re not all in the same open plan space all the time. I think the small size of my UK house will shock me when I go back. I’m already thinking how to plan to store stuff in our little house. But I’ll enjoy having doors :)

As the UK Desperate Housewife USA, some people have asked what I miss about my UK home and how I might have gone about integrating the home comforts of UK decor when moving to the US. Well, these are my thoughts/ramblings!

There is something timeless about British interior decor. When you are moving to the US from the UK there’s no reason that you can’t integrate some of these classic design ideas into your new residence.

And it got me to thinking about how we Brits make our houses/homes different from the USA. I’ve not really furnished my home (none of the furniture is ours) and I didn’t have time or the inclination to make our property ‘homely’. I know many homes in the UK that ‘feel’ British and it’s a different feel. My Brit friend here lives in an old house near DC, and it has charm and character and I loved that. It felt more like what I was used to.

cottage

What is generally different about the classic style of country homes in the UK is that they’re not minimalist. There’s nothing wrong with clean, minimalist lines but they won’t do for a quintessentially English feel in the home.

What you’re looking for is a style that’s relaxing and calming, reflecting your personality and creating either casual or formal interiors. Of course, you can mix the two. How Brits feel is this: your living room could be very relaxed and homely, whereas you may want your dining room to be a touch more formal, yet still comfortable. Very formal for eating.

If I had this house as my own I’d probably have looked at the spaces I have and drawn up some ideas for the colours, furniture, fixtures and fittings that I want. Then I’d set to and create my ideal home comforts. But this is not my forever home, and it’s been pretty bare and basic for me. I might just be hankering after my old UK-style stuff which really reflects our personalities.

If Americans are looking to recreate English homes, the experts say: ‘You’re not looking for anything that is jarring on the eyes, so put away ideas of bold colors and consider natural pastels that reflect the classic style. Think about the English countryside for your inspiration – these are colors that are everywhere. Reflect the sky and trees with subtle green and blue tones and mirror the garden with rosy pink and creamy white shades. You can evoke memories of roses and daffodils with gentle yellows and again some pinkish hues.’ Ah, daffodils! I think I spotted a couple the other day here – they evoke much Englishness to me!

daffs

Our colour scheme back in the UK was not so neutral as the homes here. We had a deep red dining room and lots and lots of wood. I think beautiful, solid wood furniture will add that touch of tradition and class to any room, and I miss my big rustic oak table. It’s an oak dining table with ladder-back chairs and we have an old oak writing desk with ornamentation, comfortable armchairs and sofas with floral prints or simple checks. I’d say to any American, if you want to create a UK home – wood will establish your UK decor style.

oak-dining-room-tables-and-chairs-s7qvnmm

I love the old antique stores here in Ellicott City, probably because they remind me of the higgledy-piggledyness of the UK! Antiques adorned our surfaces at home in the UK, along with some ornaments and decorative pillows. I have minimal family photographs here, oddly, especially when they are so far away, but I’ll get them out of storage back in the UK and place them up with our amazing works of art that we have – they all go towards creating our unique decorative environment – HOME.

One thing I really, really miss is flowers. I used to pick them from my own garden – I know, a garden that was not just lawn and mulch – real flowers, growing in the ground!!! Just think! (FYI, we don’t get a lot of that here!) Cut flowers give that relaxed and cozy country and I suspect I will resurrect my striking pot plants when I get home (my mother’s been looking after them!). If any American wanted to make a UK garden, flowers and country garden style is the way forward. I just can’t do that here in this house. If I had been able to it would mean my UK garden would be as much at home in the US as it is back across the Atlantic.

My UK kitchen :)

My UK kitchen :)

Many UK homes use a soft colour palette for their curtains (cream, generally, but we had deep red too!) but a lot of people I know in the UK use wooden shutters now – dead trendy! They add real authenticity to rooms, and if you choose, for example, Premium Elm Full Height Shutters, you’ll be making a style statement that can’t be ignored.

In the end, you need to feel comfortable with how you design your decor. You can easily incorporate a range of classic UK styles into your new home in the US, if that’s what you want to do!

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 598

Cherry Blossom, DC

In three years this is the first time we’ve headed down to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival, which is a big thing.

And the finest Spring day you can imagine with a load of very happy people all digging the fine cherry blossoms blooming along the Mall (fyi, this is the famous National Mall, and not a shopping mall, as my Brit chum thought ;) )

Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, DC. The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries.

IMG_0854 IMG_0856 IMG_0868

As we were walking from the Mall, past the Capitol, we heard a whole bunch of sirens and a load of police. Only later did we find out that a guy had committed suicide by shooting himself in broad daylight on the Capitol steps.

It’s an odd thing about being in the USA, this potential close proximity to guns. No more to say about that. Just that.

Thank goodness for the beauty of the cherry blossoms.

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 597

Orange and purple are the new black in Maryland

The other day I wore an orange top here in the USA. If you wear an orange top in Maryland people immediately assume you’re doing it to support the Orioles baseball team. I was just wearing it cos it enhanced my tan. Fact.

So this young fit dude in the gym says to me: ‘You wearing that top today for the Orioles?’

And I say: ‘Er, nope…..’

And then I ask: ‘Why is it some kind of special day….?’

And he mutters back incredulously something like: ‘It’s only the first day of the season, duh.’

And then we went our separate cultural ways.

Same goes with a purple top. I like my purple top, and I don’t wear it to show support for the Ravens [American] football team. It just like it, that is all, and it happens to be purple ;)

Orange and purple are the new black round these parts!

Orange and purple are the new black round these parts!

Peep Shows

Also, during this time of year apparently ‘Peep Shows’ are a thing – a thing that I did not know about.

So this conversation went like this with a lady whom I teach class to:

‘We took the family to a Peep Show at the weekend.’

‘OMG! Did you! Where was that!?’

“Up by [I actually can’t remember because at this point I was frothing with amazement and excitement that she had taken her grandchildren to a Peep Show]…..’

‘Wow, I didn’t know they had them here!’

‘You know what a Peep Show is right?’

‘Well, er, yes, I’ve been to one in Amsterdam on a hen weekend….’

‘Okay, well this is a show displaying hundreds of marshmallow masterpieces! Like Peeps, the candy…. you know….’

‘Ah, so it’s not porn then?’

“No, it’s marshmallows….’

And I turned my blushing British face away and pressed play on the iPod.

You can mix the two up - see!

You can mix the two up – see!

The benefits of a British accent

I can’t express enough how kind America has been to me. Just yesterday I got a call from a PR agency in NYC asking me to present on a TV show cos they like the way I speak. Am I going to do it? Bloody right I am! Land of opportunity and all that! Bring it on!

Posted in American, American customs, British, British American differences, culture, expat, Maryland, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 596

The Streets of Philadelphia

So, when I think of Philly, my mind immediately turns to 80s movies such as Rocky and Trading Places, where the 80s struggling economy made an impact and the streets were grey and filled with homeless folk. Because that’s what the movie portrayed. If you watch the scene where Rocky does his training montage, this is what you see (along with Sly’s pecs and abs, of course).

But Philly has changed a lot and it was utterly delightful, charismatic and quirky.

What I loved about Philly

1. Reading Market, which is a bustle of noise, people, sights and tastes. And it also asks that no grumpy people come in, which I love!

Totally!

Totally!

We loved it!

We loved it!

2. The streets are made for walking. This is a city you can really walk. It’s just the right size and is a mix of old and new, quirky and historical, bars and museums.

3. It kind of reminded me of London, but at the same time was properly American with the sounds of the trains and the factories and the sirens. That is a good mix in my book.

4. The food is amazing. And I don’t just mean the Philly Cheesesteaks – I mean the fish selection, the meat selection and vege selection. All of it! Oh, and the beer and the wine!

5. The Rocky Steps and Art Museum. The token guy dressed as a very crap, very out of shape Rocky was at the top was naturally amusing, and everyone did that run up the steps, but there were the serious folks too who were actually really running and were probably well pissed off with all the tourists, but that’s how it rolls folks!

Philly art musuem

Philly art musuem

Rockin' the Rocky steps!

Rockin’ the Rocky steps!

6. Yes, we saw the Liberty Bell which proclaimed liberty for the USA and Elfreth Alley (the oldest street in the USA and very quaint) and we saw the LOVE sign, but for me Philly was much more than these tourist sites. It was a city with a heart and soul and character and personality, and I liked it very much.

Feeling the love in Philly

Feeling the love in Philly

Elfreth Alley

Elfreth Alley

Betsy Ross house

Betsy Ross house

So, there we have it – Philly was awesomeballs. And so was super trendy hipster town Manyunk about 2 miles outside of the city, which had more brunch and consignment places than I have ever seen before in one main street. I could defo live there!

Trendy Manyunk

Trendy Manyunk

Coolsome!

Coolsome!

More roadtrips are planned before our four months are up. Still in denial about going home, though, dear reader!

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