Expat Diaries: The Feelings of Missing Out

While I love my life over here in London, there are times I feel like I am missing out on a lot back home in the US. There are a lot of aspects of expat life that are wonderful and exciting and I am so appreciative for the experiences I have had, but there are times when you really want to be there, for the big occasions, family trips, holidays or just because you miss your family.

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Life Lately | 27th April 2017

Hello blog world! Life lately has been moving pretty fast and I can’t believe that we’re already rolling in to May! The last life update I did was all about wedding planning and whilst that is still very much the case, I have been doing a few other exciting things I thought I’d share with you.

Wedding: Wedding planning is definitely in full swing – 3.5 months until the special day and I can’t wait. All of the invitations are sent and we’re on to picking out the food, cake, and decorations (the fun stuff!) I am going to do a full on post about our wedding invitations and save the dates after the wedding, but below is a little sneak peek of how they turned out ūüôā

Dining Out:¬†I have been out to eat at some amazing restaurants the last month, including BŇćkan, the new sky-high restaurant, bar and terrace in Canary Wharf with stunning views across London, Chakra, an intimate Indian restaurant in Kensington with beautifully presented dishes and Vinoteca – my go to wine-bar/restaurant with various locations across London.

Dining In: I have been trying to cook a little bit more at home the last few weeks. I have been craving all the salmon lately and earlier this week I cooked a delicious soy-glazed salmon that is super easy to make. Recipe here!

Drinking: The Vallechiusa 2015 wine from Tuscany is the best wine I have had in a really long time. You can find it at Enoteca Pomaio, a fabulous Tuscan restaurant in the heart of Brick Lane. This wine is made on the owner’s vineyard back in Tuscany and you can only find it at this restaurant in London- well worth the trip to Brick Lane. You can take a few bottles home for ¬£22 a pop. #Bargain

Exhibiting:¬†Over Easter, Ciaran and I visited the Hockney exhibit at the Tate Britain and I thought it was brilliant. I love his vivid artwork and it was really interesting to see how his style evolved over the decades. If you haven’t seen it yet, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s on until the end of May and you can buy your tickets ahead of time here.

Wearing: I’ve got a thing for yellow this season and I am obsessed with this darling yellow top I bought from Zara a few weeks ago! It’s light weight, bright and the perfect addition to your summer wardrobe.

Watching:¬†We have been binge watching a lot of different shows lately. There have been a few Bank Holidays Weekends and I can’t even tell you how awesome it’s been to lounge in my PJ’s, watch a few new shows and just chill out. We just finished The Thirteen Reasons Why on Netflix. I wouldn’t say it was an enjoyable show to watch by any means, but it was a really deep and emotional show that delves into a lot of important issues that I don’t think are talked about enough. I found it really gripping and highly recommend watching it. Some other light hearted shows we’ve been watching are The Mick, Empire, Master Chef Junior and Last Man on Earth all on Fox, Girl Boss on Netflix and Top Chef on Bravo (my personal favourite).

Listening:¬†A lot of jazz and trying to decide on our wedding song. I have been listening to a lot of Spotify’s “First Dance” playlists that have a lot of classics that I love. One of my favourite playlists is below:

Loving: Last weekend, we attended our best friend’s wedding in Surrey and it was absolutely beautiful. It was such a special day and couldn’t have been more perfect for them. It was amazing to see two of our best friends get married and heartwarming to see how happy they both are. I loved celebrating with them both. Congratulations to Ollie and Gracie!

Expating:¬†We are super busy getting ready to renew my Visa, which is a little bit stressful. It’s a lot of hard work getting all of the paperwork and documents together for it. It is crazy to think we were going through this process almost three years ago and we’re back at it again already. I am planning to do a post about the Visa Process after the wedding, as its quite complicated and a really process. If you’re going through the process now and have any questions at all – feel free to drop me a line and I’ll do my best to answer your questions. Another resource I have found extremely helpful is the Expatforum.com. We have had SO many questions answered on there ¬†and it has been an invaluable resource for us.

Recommending:¬†There are so many awesome events coming up in London, but one that I would recommend booking right now would be VINTwind’s “This is English” four-course wine-led dining experience in Stepney City Farm. English Wine Week is coming up at the end of May and it’s always hugely celebrated each year! English wine has come such a long way over the past ten years and there are some remarkable, award-winning, home-grown wines that should be celebrated!

You may remember when I went to Neil Deacon’s Champanois event with my sister at the beginning of March, which was fantastic. If you love great wine, lovely food and meeting new people – go ahead and book a seat to this special dinner. The food is inspired by the different wines served throughout the night when it’s normally the other way around.

On the evening, you will try four glasses of English wine, both still and sparkling alongside four expertly designed dishes and you’ll get to chat with Neil, as little or as much as you’d like about the wines. These events are perfect for wine lovers of any level and are really laid back. It’s the perfect, unpretentious intro to wine. ¬†I met some really lovely people at the last event I went to and we had a blast.¬†You can read more and pick up tickets to the next one here coming up on the 27th May. It’s the ideal way to celebrate English Wine Week!

Wishing you all a great rest of the week! x

Alumni Interview: Advice for a Soon-to-Be-Graduate

I went to college at the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk) and it was during my summer study abroad trip in 2012 that I fell in love with London. About a year later, I took an International Careers course, which brought me back for a week during my spring break to meet with international companies to learn more about what it’s like to work abroad. Part of my course work was to interview someone who’s career I was interested in and to learn more about how they got to where they are now.

For the past couple years, that class had continued to make the leap across the pond every Spring Break and I meet up with the group of students every March to talk all about international careers. It’s something that I really look forward to every year because it brings back some really great memories and it’s really fun to hear what the students are interested in doing. I’ve been interviewed by journalism students the last couple years but this year’s interview particularly resonated with me as all the questions this student was asking me were questions I wish I had asked when I was that age. They are also questions I frequently get asked by a lot of people I meet so I thought I’d do the Q&A on here in the hope to help (even a tiny bit) other soon-to-be-graduates or kids that want to travel or live in a different country one day.

Q: How did you move to London? Was it through your work?

A: I didn’t move to London for a work placement or sponsorship, I came here to be with my fianc√© who is British. We met through my study abroad trip in 2012 (which is an entirely different story altogether!)

Q: When did you move to London?
A: December 2014.

Q: What do you do for work?

A: I work in PR. I have developed a real passion for food and I am fortunate enough that I get to work with fantastic and interesting restaurants and talented chefs daily. I also blog on the side, where I write all about new restaurant discoveries, life in London and travel experiences.

Q: What’s your favourite part about your job?

A: Getting my clients great exposure in publications, getting them recognized for their passions and talents and seeing them happy!

Q: What’s the least favourite part of your job?

A: There is a great deal of pressure in PR to perform and hit those monthly coverage targets. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do the best job that I can, which probably causes me a lot of unnecessary stress, but that’s just the type of person I am. (I am working on ways to de-stress more at the moment).

Q: What does an average day in your life look like?

A: Every day is a little bit different. I wake up, start my day with a cup of coffee, kick off with answering emails, check for coverage, send out coverage to clients, book journalists in to review, pitch my clients for relevant stories in various publications, send out press releases, plan parties, the list goes on and on. After work, I usually go out to eat or come home and relax with a glass of wine, blog or unwind with my fianc√© and watch a TV show together. (Lately, we are really in to Iron Fist, Riverdale, and I’ve got him watching Top Chef).

Q: What did you do before you moved to London?

A: I worked in restaurant and bar PR in Kansas and loved it. I worked at Page Communications, one of the best PR companies in Kansas City. It’s where I further developed my love and appreciation for food.

Q: What’s the biggest difference between visiting London and living in London?

A: The biggest difference is you don’t have to worry about working and earning a living. When I visited here in 2012, it was PURE fun. I had money, not a lot of it, but I didn’t have to really worry about making money at that point and I just enjoyed myself.¬†When I moved here, the struggle was real. I moved here in December – the depths of winter (Winter isn’t fun here – it feels like there is about 3 hours of sunlight). It took me nearly five months to get a job, which at that point, I had nearly run out of my savings, we didn’t have a place of our own to live (we ¬†lived with my fiance’s parents for over a year). We had to save half of our pay checks every month and the daily grind of getting up, travelling over an hour to get to work (both ways!) and dealing with the daily pressures of work was VERY exhausting. There were times I really wanted to raise the white flag and go back to the US, but I am really glad I stuck it out because it all turned around and clicked in to place. The biggest difference is, there are a lot of responsibilities that come with actually LIVING in a big city like London – you need to really think about money, how it’s going to affect your quality of life and how you’re going to make it.

Q: What’s the biggest difference between working in London and working in the US?

A: Your colleagues will ask you if you’d like a tea or coffee every hour. You will drink a coffee or a tea every hour. There is also much more of a pub culture over here – people will hit the pub for a pint or glass of wine after work to unwind, which is really nice! In my experience, bosses are a lot more understanding of illness or needing days off. The PTO is MUCH better – the legal amount of paid time off is 20 days + 8 bank holidays. At some companies, it’s 25. Much better than in the US.

Q: What advice would you give to a soon-to-be-graduate looking for a job?

A: Don’t get too stressed out. This is the best time of your life – you are in your final semester of your senior year and above all, you should enjoy every last minute because this is one of the only times in your life you can truly be care free. Go to the bars with your friends, watch all the basketball games, be silly – ENJOY! Career advice would be to (and I know you’ve heard this time and time again) but NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK! As much as you probably don’t want to, go ¬†to the career fairs and talk to the companies that you may be interested in working for. You never know, you could end up talking to your future boss if you really hit it off. Spruce up your resume and bring it with you.

Q: What interview advice do you have?

A: Always bring your resume/CV with you (extra copies) along with a notebook and pen. Put it all in a nice portfolio (I got mine from Etsy, but Staples/Office Max have some really nice ones too). Do your research on the company – look at their clients, have some general knowledge abut the campaigns they are currently working on, etc. Come with a few questions to ask as the end of the interview. Smile and be confident and enthusiastic. Have some strengths and weaknesses in mind and have a reason as to why you think you’d be a good fit for the company. ALWAYS send a follow up note or email after the interview, thanking the interviewers for their time, what you enjoyed about the interview and why you think you’d be a good fit for the role. A handwritten note is always nice, but email is absolutely fine too.

Q: What would you look for if you were hiring someone?

A: I’ve never had to hire anybody, but if I did, I would look for enthusiasm, a willingness to learn, ambition and a positive attitude.

Q: What advice would you give someone who wants an international career?

A: Depends on what country you want to live in. Do some research on visas and sponsorships in the country you want to work in.¬†In some countries, you can go work on a two year visa. You could also look into going back to school at an international university. You can also try to get a job at a global company with offices in cities that you’d like to live in and ask about international opportunities and sponsorship. One of my close friends from London got sent to New York City after a few years working in the head office in London. Just remember, nothing is impossible. If you want something badly enough, you’ll make it happen. Have patience. It won’t come overnight.

Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to work in PR?

A: Have a tough skin, cultivate good relationships with the media, always go into work with a positive attitude (just general advice for any job there), and have a willingness to learn. It’s a really tough industry and there’s a lot of nasty people in it who will not be nice to you. With that said, the company I work at now is phenomenal. I have fun every day at work and love everyone I work with. I have great mentors and people I look up to. Another piece of advice is to always have a mentor – someone you can learn from and confide in.

Q: Other general career advice?

A: Make sure the company culture is right. Don’t be afraid to ask what the work environment is like on an interview. Figure out what’s important to you before you go into the job i.e. Will you care if you have to work from 6am to 8pm? Will it bother you having to go to evening events every night of the week? Do you want to be friends with your colleagues? Is it important to you to only work a 9am-5pm job? Do you care if you work in a cut throat environment or would you prefer a slower pace way of working? Do you care if you get thrown in at the deep end? Take all these things into consideration when you are researching a company and don’t be scared to ask. The worst thing is ending up at a company where the culture is horrendous. It’s happened to me in the past and it’s happened to a lot of my friends and believe me, it’s not pleasant so just make sure it’s right for YOU! And if you take a job and realise it’s not for you – start looking again and leave. Life is too short. There’s a lot of really fun companies out there where you will be much happier!

Good luck! For any other general career advice, feel free to drop me a line at colleen@blondeacrossthepond.com.

Life Update

Hello blog world! It’s been a while. I have been putting things on pause for a little while to focus on WEDDING PLANNING! When we started planning our wedding last Easter, I didn’t realise how much work goes into organising the most special day of your life. Between work and coming home to design invitations, pick out flowers, think about menus and and working out logistics, it is hard to find any more time in the day to write. It has been a lot of hard work and dedication, but I am so happy with everything up to this point and especially with our our invitations turned out. We designed them ourselves (soon to be revealed on the blog along with how we did it) and it was 100% worth it in the end. Now that we have got through some of the more stressful aspects of planning, it’s on to the fun stuff – picking out food, decorations and favours and thankfully I will have more time now to share it all with you. I have learned tons about wedding planning and will be sharing more on here! More to come next week…

Enjoy your weekends x

5 Things I’ve Learned During Wedding Planning

 

Our wedding is only 6 months away and I can’t wait for the special day to come. We started planning our wedding around Easter time last year and there have definitely been ups and downs. I wish I could say that I have absolutely loved the whole wedding planning process but truth be told, I never realised how much work goes in to planning a wedding and ¬†stressful it can be. Planning a wedding on top of having a full time job is very demanding, but I keep telling myself it’ll all be worth it in the end. A lot of my newly engaged friends have asked if I have any tips or advice to give them about planning a wedding and while I consider myself to be no expert, I have learned a thing or two throughout this crazy process.

WEDDING DRESS SHOPPING 

Shopping for my wedding dress has been the absolute best part of planning my wedding. When I said yes to the dress, I was with my mom and it was one of the most special memories I’ll hold near and dear to my heart forever. We had gone shopping at a few different stores back in Kansas and the first time, I was with my best friend and my mom. I tried LOADS of dresses on, I highly recommend it. Even if you think you know what style you want, you may be taken by surprise. Bring a bottle of bubbly and just relax and enjoy the day. It is a day that is all about YOU and how beautiful you look.

The second time we went shopping, I was just with my mom and we walked into this little bridal shop and from the moment I walked in, I felt like I was in a winter wonderland of bridesmaids dresses.  I tried on a few more dresses and my consultant had suggested I try on a dress we had actually thought would look amazing on my older sister. I reluctantly tried it on and ended up falling in love with it. It is classic, timeless and beautiful and from the moment I put it on, I knew it was the one. 

My best advice is to relish the days you go wedding dress shopping and surround yourself with supportive people – whether it be your bridesmaids, best friends, your sisters, relatives or just your mum. Try on all different styles – you never know what will look good – you could be taken by surprise like I was. Soak it all in – if you are unsure about a dress or don’t feel that it’s right, just say no and keep on looking. Don’t get discouraged, you will find your perfect dress, it’s inevitable.

BRIDESMAIDS DRESS SHOPPING

I am going to preface this by saying to get a thick skin when it comes to shopping for bridesmaids dresses. If you have a lot of bridesmaids in your wedding, lay down the law from the get-go that your bridesmaids are going to wear what you want them to wear, even if that is a paper sack. Girls can be very opinionated and it will be very hard to please everyone, but at the end of the day, the only person’s opinion that matters is yours.

I am a total people pleaser, I hate letting people down, even if it costs me my own happiness. The time will come where you need to narrow down the dresses and make a decision based on what looks good on everybody. The one you choose will never be everyone’s cup of tea, but as long as you are happy with the decision and how they look, that’s all that matters. Your bridesmaids are there to make your life easier and if this is an aspect that is stressing you out, don’t be afraid to have a kind word about it with them.

Another tip for bridesmaids dresses – decide on a budget ahead of time. Make sure that if you are paying for all of your bridesmaids dresses, you have a budget that you can manage. If your bridesmaids are buying the dresses, make sure that they can afford them. Give yourself plenty of time to go shopping and look at different options. If you opt for custom-made gowns, order them 6-8 months in advance to give yourself time for alterations.

OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS

Planning a wedding comes with a lot of politics – who to invite, who not to invite, who’s paying for the wedding, should kids come to the wedding, what should the colour scheme be, and so forth. It can get very overwhelming and it can be really hard, again, to let people down. Sometimes you will feel the need to say yes, even though in your head you are saying NO. Everybody is going to have an opinion, but at the end of the day, what you need to remember is that it is YOUR wedding, not anybody else’s. Do what makes you happy – if you want a lime green colour scheme (of which I am not condoning) go for it. Hopefully you’ll only have one wedding, so make it count and don’t worry too much about what everybody else thinks.

DELEGATE, DELEGATE, DELEGATE

Don’t be afraid to delegate jobs to family members and friends. Ciaran and I both have full time jobs and it takes a lot of discipline to come home every night and work on wedding stuff. Both of our¬†families have been a huge help to us and for that, I am forever grateful because it really is too much for two people to plan and do everything. I have found that a lot of time, family and friends do really like to get involved, so go ahead and give jobs to them – whether that is booking out a block of hotel rooms for some of your guests, arranging a meeting with the florist, ordering decorations or just being on hand to help as and when help is needed. It’s good to feel supported throughout the wedding planning process – it makes a world of difference.

STAY POSITIVE

I never used to understand why brides would turn into Bridezillas, but there are admittedly certain points where I actually understand now. Planning a wedding is one of the most stressful jobs – from the logistics, the budget, the invitations, the band, flowers, seating arrangements, etc. All of these thoughts and to-do’s will swirl around in your head until the minute you say ‘I do’ and that alone is enough to make anybody go a bit mad. Take it from someone who gets overwhelmed very easily, when you are feeling stressed out, stop planning. Your wedding won’t be destroyed because you took a night off from planning to go out with your friends or went away for the weekend with your fianc√©¬†because you needed a break from it all. Don’t let it overcome your life – it’s not worth it. Keep a sense of humour about it all – and stay positive. Your day is going to be fantastic – you’ve put too much work into it not to be. Take a step back and just breathe. When all else fails, just think of how great it’ll feel when you’re on your honeymoon, kicking back and relaxing because you won’t have any more planning to do – now that’s the thought of pure bliss! 6 months and counting…

2016 Highlights

2016 was, without a doubt, one of the best years I have had in a long time. While there are always ups and downs to any year, I have a lot of wonderful memories that I will carry with me from last year. Filled with many “firsts,” and a few travels, ¬†I’d like to share my highlights with you as we move in to 2017!

WE ARE HOMEOWNERS! 

When I moved to London in 2014, there was a lot of ¬†to dos – one of which was to find a home to live in. After I got a job in 2015, we started the search for our perfect flat. We looked into both renting and buying and in the end, buying made the most sense for us. But it wasn’t without many a struggle – we really grappled with finding a lender that would give us a mortgage because I am American. I hadn’t lived in the country long enough and was a liability to the banks. After almost a year-long process, a lot of heartache and stress, we were about to give up and rent, when low and behold we miraculously found a lender that would help us with our mortgage. In January 2016, we officially became homeowners and it was the best way to start the year off! We celebrated with a bottle of champagne and pizza in OUR flat the first day we picked up the keys and it’s a memory I’ll cherish forever.

FINDING OUR DREAM WEDDING VENUE 

We had decided pretty early on in our engagement that we weren’t in a rush to have our wedding straight away. We wanted to take our time, get settled in London and then begin planning for our wedding. We had started looking for wedding venues in 2015 and looked all over London, but didn’t find anything that we really fell in love with. When we were visiting family on the Isle of Wight during Easter, I wanted to have a look at Osborne House, formerly Queen Victoria’s summer retreat, as we had driven past it every time we were on the island. From the moment we stepped forth inside, I knew it was the one.¬†Beauty, history, grandeur, an impeccable view of the ocean, gardens, etc – it truly has it all. I was relieved that the search for the perfect venue was over and we could begin slowly planning. Roll on August!

J’AIME PARIS

One of my highlights of 2016 was travelling to Paris for the very first time over my birthday in August. Ciaran surprised me with a trip to this beautiful city I had always dreamed of going to. I didn’t think I could fall in love with a city as much as I love London, until I went to Paris. It is the most beautiful city in the world and every area is more picturesque than the next. We were blessed with fantastic weather and enjoyed a lot of crepes, wines and beers next to the river. We were only there for a short weekend, but we packed a lot in. You can have a read about all that we got up to in my American Gal’s Guide to Paris.¬†I already can’t wait to go back – hopefully this year we can make a trip!

MY MOM AND SISTER VISITING LONDON FOR THE FIRST TIME 

My mom and sister jumped across the pond for the first time in August 2016 and it was the best trip. I loved having them in London and playing tourist for the week. We went all over the place Рfrom all the tourist spots in London like Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London Р to Cambridge, Windsor, Hampton Court Palace and the Isle of Wight Рthere was never a dull moment and they got to see tons of England whilst they were visiting. It was so special having them here and sharing parts of my new life with them. It was really exciting to show them my flat and take them to a few of our favourite restaurants too.

FARMER, BUTCHER, CHEF – A TRIP TO THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE

In November, we escaped crazy London and spent a weekend in the countryside at the Good Wood Hotel. While we were there, we were invited to try the incredible Farmer, Butcher, Chef restaurant. It was one of the best restaurants I went to in 2016. Farmer, Butcher Chef was inspired by the relationship between farmer Tim Hassell, butcher John Hearn and chef Darron Bunn, The trio work together to create a diverse menu that showcases the best meat in terms of flavour and quality. Goodwood has been farmed by the family for more than three hundred years and is one of the only self-sustaining organic farms in Europe, which enables the farmer to produce the best tasting beef, pork and lamb. Everything from the farmhouse interior decor to the food itself was impeccable. I would gladly go back in a heartbeat.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS 

I am from Kansas, USA, in the heartland of America, right in the middle – for those of you that are curious. It was my first time back since I moved more than 2 years ago and to be honest it was a mix of emotions being back! I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel once I got there – would I want to stay there permanently or be ready to come back to London? Lots of questions and uncertainty swirled in my head before I left. When I finally got there (it’s not as easy as clicking your red heels together), I was genuinely happy to just see my mom and sister.

It was so comforting being back at my mom’s house for a week, see some great friends, eat some amazing food, drink my favourite beer, visit my college town, and relax.¬†What I discovered during my trip there was that while I love Kansas and the comforts of being back in the US, I am truly content with my life in London. I am the¬†happiest I have been in a really long time and wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was an amazing trip and while it was hard to leave my mom (that never gets easier), it was wonderful coming back home to London to my fianc√© and friends.

GROWING MY BLOG 

I have been writing Blonde Across the Pond for a few years now, but I really worked hard to post some great content and make it grow in 2016. I am no expert in the blogosphere by any means, but I learned a lot in 2016 and I fell in love with writing this blog. It became a really great stress reliever for me and a welcome distraction from the pressures of my day job. I am so grateful for the opportunities that have come along from this labor of love and I want to continue to apply what I learned last year to grow Blonde Across the Pond more in 2017. A big thank you to everyone who follows along and supports me! I hope that it’s a helpful guide to anybody visiting London, expats and Londoners alike. If there is something you wish to see more of on my blog, I’d really appreciate the feedback.

HERE’S TO 2017¬†

Wishing everyone a very happy and healthy 2017! I hope it’s the best year yet. We are kicking off our year with a trip to Prague next weekend for Ciaran’s birthday and it’s our wedding year – lots to look forward to. The best is yet to come! What are you most looking forward to in 2017? Cheers!

GUEST POST: Surviving the Festive Season as an Expat

As part of the Expat Series I have started on my blog, I am proud to present you with the first guest post by Emma of The Adventures of a London Kiwi, a popular lifestyle and travel blog. Emma is originally from New Zealand and now lives in London. 

Having lived in our (both mine and Colleen’s) adoptive home of London for nearly a decade now, the festive season can be bittersweet. I can find myself simultaneously in love with Christmas festivities and also sad at not being able to celebrate with my family back home as often as I would like to (one of the problems with being born on the other side of the world).

I’ve developed a few different ways to survive the sad days of Christmas. homesickness doesn’t bloom too often now but occasionally it can creep up at the most unexpected of times.

Create new traditions

Each year I‚Äôve trialled something new to celebrate the season with my adoptive family ‚Äď from throwing an indulgent ladies afternoon tea (the boys were only allowed to nibble on the sandwich crusts before being banished) to baking a time-honoured Christmas cake in honour of the Stir Up Sunday tradition (baked in November, the cakes/puddings are drizzled with brandy until the week before Christmas.)

Last year was no exception when my husband and I both travelled home to New Zealand for his first properly summer Christmas. In the sunshine we went to the beach and swam in the Pacific Ocean, managed to discard our shoes for an entire fortnight and ate honey-glazed Christmas Ham followed by steamed fruit pudding replete with coins for the lucky recipients.

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Having a slice of home

Over the years my lovely family have sent us Christmas care boxes that contain both tidings of joy and local ornaments (including Santa wearing shorts and jandals) to decorate our home, but most importantly they have sent over classic recipe books containing my favourite flavours of Christmas. Whilst (usually due to my cooking) the dishes aren’t always up to scratch with my childhood memories, they often come close enough to dispel any gossamer strands of homesickness.

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Celebrating old traditions

These include arranging the family Christmas lunch to coincide with toasting the Queen’s speech (quickly followed by the alternative speech), spending Christmas eve listening to soaring carols by candlelight, dodging the shopping crowds under Oxford Street lights and hauling a Christmas Tree on the train (#londonproblems) for decoration whilst we nibble on Mince Pies dabbed with brandy butter. All the deliciousness of winter festivities basically.

Oh, and not to mention the beautifully spicy scent of mulled wine that trickles out of historic pubs with roaring fires which definitely help with being able to cope away from pouring sunshine…

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Communicating

How on earth did travellers cope before the advent of video calling? We usually start our Christmas day opening presents sent from abroad live on camera, cheers cups of libations (usually alcoholic with their evening, and tea or mimosas for our morning) and giggle at the family members who drift past the camera at home only to turn around and see us in Christmas jumpers and festive pyjamas.

The most memorable year was when London last had snow and I raced out with joy, only to slip over whilst showing my Dad through our genuinely frosty windows. From his lounge bathed in sunshine, he bent over doubled with laughter almost Ho Ho Ho-ing in true Santa style.

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Embrace friends

Both literally and figuratively. Most expats are in the same boat so I always try utilise the excuse for catching up both at Christmas and past the New Year ‚Äď and one of the joys of being adopted by a plethora of Americans here in the UK, has been rediscovering the simple joy of Thanksgiving feasts

My first year here in the UK, I even went to an orphans Christmas where as a group of expats we all gathered around an international feast of steaming dishes, glasses of bubbly in hand and thoughts of home banished with the laughter of good friends.

And, when all else fails, glitter.

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If you are an expat and would like to contribute an article, please get in touch by emailing: colleen@blondeacrossthepond.com.

Happy Thanksgiving from London!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Wishing all my American friends a lovely day filled with great food, great drinks and even better company. This is my first year celebrating Thanksgiving in London, which does feel a bit strange but we will be cooking, watching NFL and enjoying the day with my other family. I like to take Thanksgiving as an opportunity to reflect on the past year and there truly is so much to be thankful for.

I am incredibly thankful that my mom and sisters flew out to visit me earlier this year for my birthday – it was a real highlight and those memories I’ll hold on to forever. I’m even more thankful that my older sister got to visit twice and was here last weekend!

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familyI am thankful to my future in-laws, who are the best I could ever have. They are always so supportive to Ciaran and I. It means a lot to me that they wanted to get so involved in Thanksgiving today.

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I am very thankful to have some great friends out here – the past two years of living here have been a whirlwind and I feel really fortunate to have such wonderful friends to laugh and have a great time with.

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I am thankful to live in this amazing and inspiring city – there are so many opportunities here and I still have those “pinch me” moments.

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I am thankful for my job – I am loving what I am doing and learning so much. I feel very lucky to be surrounded by super supportive people to learn and grow from.

And finally, I am thankful for my wonderful and loving fiancé Ciaran for always being supportive, thoughtful and kind.  I am very excited for our wedding next year and for what is to come! I am so happy to have the best life partner.

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I am thankful for lots this Thanksgiving and really excited to be spending it here in London. We have just finished our Thanksgiving shopping and are going to see a film and then come back here, start cooking and drinking.

What are you most thankful for this year?

American Gal’s Guide to Thanksgiving in London

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday – even more so than Christmas. For the most part, it is one of those holidays that brings back a lot of great memories growing up. Every family has their own traditions, but the universal commonality is that friends and family come together over the dinner table and bond over an incredible feast. We give thanks for the people in our lives and things we are fortunate for.

Thanksgiving has made its way over to the UK and there are more and more restaurants celebrating it each year with special menus and fun events. For those of you who are American expats living in London and want to celebrate with an evening out or if you’re a Londoner and simply want to jump on the Turkey-Day bandwagon before Christmas hits, I’ve rounded up London’s top places to celebrate.

BBQ Thanksgiving at Bodean’s

Make the pilgrimage over to your local Bodean’s BBQ this Thanksgiving, London’s premiere KC BBQ joint, to try out The Pilgrim Burger. Grab the family and give thanks while chowing down on a chargrilled turkey patty with cornbread stuffing, home-cured BBQ turkey ham, fresh cranberry and orange sauce, watercress and a drizzle of turkey gravy.

OR, eat your heart out with a three course feast – featuring BBQ pulled pork, chicken or veggies, followed by turkey with all the trimmings.

A Very Texan Thanksgiving at TX Joe’s

Garrison¬†Brothers bourbon has partnered with Texas Joe‚Äôs in Bermondsey to showcase¬†¬†‘the Texan way‚Äô of slow-smoking turkey, chipotle glazing vegetables, adding jalape√Īos to¬†cornbread and Texan-measures of bourbon. Celebrate the Lone Star way with a feast the size of Texas, including smoked turkey, bone marrow mash, smoked creamed corn, chipotle-glazed sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, poblano chorizo cornbread and good old fashioned Pumpkin Pie. Wash it all down with two Texas-sized shots of Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Bourbon.

True to the tradition of celebrating ‘fall bounty’ the single priced menu of ¬£40 per person is ‚Äėall-you-can-eat‚Äô including two Texas-sized shots of¬†Garrison Brothers.

TX Joe’s | 8-9 Snowsfields | London | SE1 3SU

Thanksgiving the Absurd Bird Way

The folks at Absurd Bird are embracing the American way of life with a Thanksgiving feast inspired by the Deep South. Give thanks this year with family-style sharing dishes of spicy chilli and butternut squash soup or Mississippi Sin Di served with whole grain tortillas. Tuck into a twisted take on the classic bird with stuffed turkey crown rubbed in Southern spices, or go for something a bit more absurd with Mama’s favourite Southern style smoked whole chicken. Top it all off with Pumpkin Pie and Peanut Butter & Crack Brownies. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the libations – wash all the Southern goodness down with Hill Billy Iced Teas, laced with Absurd Bird’s home-brewed Moonshine, sweet peach tea and lemon juice.

The menu is £18.95 for two courses or £22.95 for three courses. The menu is available from 21st November Р27th November.

Absurd Bird | Delish Cafe | 25 Peter St, Soho | London | W1F 0AH

Bea’s of Bloomsbury

Bea’s of Bloomsbury, the masters of scrumptious cakes, are putting on a Thanksgiving dinner with lots of delicious pies (we know where we are getting ours from this year!) Kick off your dinner with Glorious Pumpkin Soup or Spinach, Avocado Pomegranate Walnut Salad, followed by Roasted Turkey with all the trimmings – gravy, onion stuffing, cranberry sauce. Sides include buttery mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and oven roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary (yum). Top it all off with Classic American pie, pumpkin spiced macaroons and berry passion fruit cheesecake.

The special menu is available on 24th November and is £35.50 per person.

Bea’s of Bloomsbury | 44 Theobalds Roa | London | WC1X 8NW

Thanksgiving at Home with Rhug Estate

There is nothing better than enjoying a family Thanksgiving in the comfort of your own home. Impress your guests this Thanksgiving with a luxury plump turkey from Rhug Estates. The free-range, Great Taste Award-winning Dee Valley bronze turkeys are available to order online to be delivered direct to your door. These famed feathered fowl are supplied to some of the UK’s best restaurants, so you can take solace in knowing you’ve got the most incredible turkey as your Thanksgiving centre piece! Order here:¬†https://www.rhug.co.uk/

Eat Pumpkin Pie at Dominique Ansel Bakery

¬†Following the highly anticipated launch of the famed Dominique Ansel Bakery London last month,¬†¬†Chef Dominique is bringing Thanksgiving tradition across the pond with an assortment of sweet signature pies. Fan-favourites served at Dominique‚Äôs famed Pie Nights in New York will be making their British debut, as the London bakery gears up to celebrate the holiday. From Wednesday 16th until Sunday 27th November, individual slices of Extra-Silky Pumpkin, Salted Caramel Apple and Bourbon Pecan Pies will be available in-store (¬£6 per slice). To accompany the pies, Blossoming Hot Chocolate ‚Äď Chef‚Äôs homemade hot chocolate, served with a marshmallow flower bud that blooms to reveal a chocolate Bon Bon inside (¬£5.50) – will also be available to order. Guests can now also pre-order whole pies¬†online¬†(¬£35) for pick up in store between the same time period.

Dominique Ansel | 17-21 Elizabeth Street | London SW1W 9RP

Thanksgiving The Cure + Cut Way

You don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving leftovers to get your Turkey sandwich fix this year. Head to Cure + Cut during the week of Thanksgiving for hickory and honey smoked turkey sandwiched together with smoked bacon, celeriac slaw, cranberry sauce between slices of crusty ciabatta. I love a good sandwich.

Available from Monday 21st – Friday 27th November.

Cure + Cut | 36 Monmouth Street, Seven Dials | London WC2H 9HB

Dance Off Your Thanksgiving at Blue’s Kitchen

 The Blues Kitchen’s legendary Thanksgiving feasts are taking place on Thursday 24 November at Shoreditch, Camden and Brixton. An epic menu includes a New Orleans Gumbo: Smoked sausage, chicken, okra, peppers & long grain rice, served with corn bread. Followed by Slow-Roast Turkey & Ham served with all the USA trimmings: chestnut stuffing; candied yams; cornbread; carrots; greens; red onion gravy; cranberry sauce. And a Sweet Potato Pie with bourbon and orange cream for dessert.

Priced at £29.95 per person and including a welcome Brooklyn Pumpkin Ale. After the feast, it’ll turn wild as it does every year as people give thanks on the dance floor with live New Orleans brass & piano, rhythm & blues and soul. 

 The Blues Kitchen | Shoreditch | 134-146 Curtain Rd | London EC2A 3AR

Brixton | 40 Acre Ln, Brixton | London | SW2 5SP

Camden | 111-113 Camden High St | London |  NW1 7JN 

Thanksgiving at The Riding House Café

Celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday 24th November, Fitzrovia-based modern brasserie The Riding House Café is serving up a special feast perfect for sharing. Kicking off with a warming welcome cocktail made with Applejack brandy, Scrumpy reduction, roasted pumpkin and autumn spice puree and candied waffle, followed by the main event with Roasted Norfolk Bronze Turkey with all the trimmings. Sides are always a focal point at any Thanksgiving dinner and you can look forward to cornbread and sausage stuffing, maple-butter sweet poatoes, truffled mac & cheese, creamed corn casserole, sprouts and bacon, green beans, and of course, cranberry sauce. 

Dessert will comprise of a choice of two classic American pies – Pumpkin Br√Ľl√©e Pie and Chocolate Pecan Pie, each served with whipped vanilla cream.

 The Riding House Café | 43-51 Great Titchfield St | London W1W 7PQ

Christopher’s Covent Garden

Come Thursday 24th November, the capital‚Äôs original American restaurant, Christopher’s Covent Garden, has more than one reason to raise a toast, as it celebrates its landmark 25th Anniversary year too. A one-off menu of innovative twists on US classics by Head Chef Francis Agyepong, who has been at the helm twenty-three years. It be served all day from 12pm to 11.30pm, in Christopher‚Äôs glamorous dining room, within the Grade II-listed building which was once London‚Äôs first casino.

 Priced at £58 per person for a choice of three courses, highlights include Maryland Crab Cake with Red Pepper Mayo & Rocket Salad; Caramelised Orkney Scallops with Celeriac & Truffle Cream, Apple Crisps, Cobnut Praline; Slow-cooked Ballotine of Organic Turkey with Corn bread, Hazelnut & Michigan Cherry Stuffing, Cranberry Relish, Buttered Beans & Creamed Potatoes; and Pear & Almond Cobbler, Blackberry Compote & Salted Caramel Ice Cream.

 To accompany the menu, Christopher’s Covent Garden has introduced a series of three dedicated Thanksgiving cocktails РPumpkin Pie Martini, Providence and Orange Blossom (non-alcoholic) Рavailable throughout the day both in the restaurant and in the Martini Bar. Expect a Christopher’s Thanksgiving feast even greater than the many gone before at this special venue. The Martini Bar will be in full swing too. So, make sure to book a table and join the festivities with one of London dining’s iconic institutions.

 Christopher’s | 18 Wellington Street | London WC2E7DD  

Thanksgiving Cupcakes at Hummingbird Bakery

Hummingbird Bakery has my all-time favourite cupcakes in London and this year, they have created a selection of very special Thanksgiving-themed delights that are perfect desserts to bring along to your Thanksgiving feast. Available from Monday 21st – Sunday 27th November, the adorable cupcakes are Chocolate and Pumpkin flavoured as well as Candied Yam flavoured (which I am really excited to try)! They are decorated with turkeys and pumpkins, making them the perfect festive treat!

Happy Thanksgiving, ya’ll!

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