Officially a Brit!

Happy Fourth of July! But as of last week, I am officially a Brit!

It’s been a long and expensive process and I am so happy to be free of UKBA/Home Office/whatever they’re calling themselves these days. I sent my application in though the Nationality Checking Service on May 10 and received my letter of invitation to the citizenship ceremony on June 12. My ILR took four months, so this was such a relief.

The morning after receiving my invitation I phoned up Glasgow City Council to book my ceremony. The June 18th date was all booked, but I was able to get in for June 25th with strict instructions to be on time and bring my invitation letter.

Leading up to the ceremony people I had no idea what to expect, how many people would be there, how long it would be, where it would be. I finally received all the location details in the mail and the rest I found out on the day.

My ceremony was at 11:30 but they asked us to arrive at 11. We were allowed to bring two guests, but I only brought Danny along as I don’t know that many people who’d be free at 11:30 on a Tuesday morning. Even I had to take a long lunch as I currently I can’t take any holidays at work.

We arrived at Glasgow City Chambers at 11 and waited around in reception for them to call us in and get checked in. There were 20 other new citizens that day and most people had brought one or two guests. I overheard another American, and other people seems to be from Eastern Europe/Russia, China and Pakistan/India. Very vague guesses as I’m obviously not 100% sure where everyone was from! There were a couple of other young couples, a father and son, a whole family and one girl who was there all by herself. Quite a mix.

On the way in the handed us a card with the oath on it and we sat and waited for the ceremony to begin.

citizenshipoath

The ceremony started promptly at 11 and was led by the superintendent registrar. After a quick word about what it means to be a British citizen, we were invited to stand up and repeat the oath/pledge of allegiance. There was another American in the room and you could hear him above all the others. I made sure to use my quiet British voice!

We were then called up one by one to get our certificate and the ceremony ended with the national anthem, God Save the Queen. I had read somewhere that Scottish ceremonies also play Flower of Scotland (considered by many to be Scotland’s unofficial anthem) but perhaps they were asked to stop, as we’re not independent yet!

photo-1

After a quick tea and coffee reception filled with huge chunks of millionaire’s shortbread, Bakewell tarts and coconut cake, Danny and I went across the road to have lunch at Pinto’s. A very un-British choice but I couldn’t exactly go back to work stuffed with fish and chips and a pint (I should probably lay off the stereotypes now that I am one).

Interesting fact – the UK only started doing ceremonies in 2004. Before that they just posted your citizenship certificate in the mail. I’d always assumed I’d be doing a ceremony and even though it was a hassle to leave work in the middle of the day, I’m glad they do it this way now. It does make it more meaningful and I was especially struck when I remembered that it’s been exactly 10 years since I set foot on British soil. I’d have to check my trip dates again, but I went to the UK for the first time in June 2003 and I’m pretty sure my trip into Scotland was around June 25th.

britishcitizenship

When I was 17 it was fair to assume that I would be a college graduate, in a relationship, working in a job, etc by 27. But in a completely different country? In which I can now vote, hold that little red passport and feel as if I know so intricately even after only four years here? I never would have imagined.

Advertisements

Late May Bank Holiday

Bank holiday weekends are a wonderful thing. Lucky me, we get two in May right after a four day Easter weekend. In 2011 and 2012 we got an extra added on because of the Royal Wedding and the Diamond Jubilee. No extras this year, but Britain is still a wonderful bank holiday filled country in the spring. In comparison, this weekend is only a two day and I’m coming up to that fear time on a Sunday evening. Need to distract myself with pictures of last weekend.

I wanted to take a last minute trip for this bank holiday but flight prices were higher than normal due to well, the holiday! Scotland always seems to have good weather during the last weekend in May so it wasn’t too bad to stay home. Last year I was in a bathing suit at Ayr beach! No bathing suit this time, but the sun was out and temperatures reached 20 degrees celsius.

On Saturday Danny and I walked into town for some shopping. He wandered into H&M for some work shirts and we ended up walking out with some work shirts and a new bikini for me. No beach holidays booked yet but this is good motivation!

pineapple bikini

We continued our walk to the West End with BrewDog in mind as our destination for lunch. On the way we stopped at McPhabb’s for a Pimm’s and beer, but left after one drink because we couldn’t get a seat in the sun.

Brewdog only had indoor seating but the view, beer and good food more than made up for it.

glasgow brewdog

I didn’t think I liked beer but trying some from a small brewery makes a world of difference. I got the ‘Punk IPA’ which I would definitely drink again! Their food is also really good. We got a meat lovers pizza which sounds quite down market and pub-y but it had fennel and fancy meats and was delicious. Went too fast for a picture.

As we were eating Danny saw that a few of his friends were on the train into town so we headed over to Ashton Lane to meet up. It was packed. At first it was really weird because it felt like a total dude-fest but then I realized that all the groups of guys were out early for the Champions League game later that night.

brel

After a few drinks I left my guy to do the same and headed home happy with a Taco Mazama burrito.

Since it was still alright weather on Sunday we headed out for a proper day trip. The weather was kinda overcast as we picked up picnic supplies but it was a gorgeous day in our destination, Oban.

We stumbled upon Dunollie Castle and hearing it was open day, we eagerly went in. The views from the crumbling, old tower were amazing. I need to live in a castle by the sea!

Oban

dunollie castle2

dunollie

dunollie

DSC_0536

inside dunollie castle

dunollie castle

DSC_0550

After our bit of historical time we drove to the opposite side of town for our picnic.

oban picnic

In heaven!

On our drive home it started raining and continued to rain for the actual bank holiday Monday. Tis to be expected! I had a brilliant weekend anyway and who can argue with a four day work week?

Scottish Steak Pie

Had a lovely weekend. Met up with a fellow American for Sunday lunch at Citation and afterwards we found the rumoured bubble tea stall in the Savoy Centre. The Savoy Centre is exactly as it sounds. Totally 70’s and made up of tiny little storefronts selling DVDs, random household stuff and a wig shop. There’s also a growing Asian population so there’s now a Chinese medicinal herbs office and most importantly, a bubble tea stall!

bubbleteasavoycentre

I am addicted to sucking up those bubbles!

Our lunch at Citation was a brilliant two course and a glass of wine for a tenner deal. We both started with chicken liver parfait and I got the pork roast while my friend got the butternut squash risotto. The roast was amazing and such a big portion for the price. Even so, I woke up this morning craving even more comfort food. I don’t make a lot of traditional Scottish food but I do make – and absolutely love – Scottish steak pie.

Now, this isn’t a British steak and ale pie. There’s no ale or beer in it. No vegetables other than one large yellow onion. No herbs or spices other than salt and pepper. It’s not even pie shaped. This is the traditional Scottish New Year’s/Hogmanay dish that can be enjoyed year round and it is absolutely delicious.

Every New Year’s Day my mother-in-law has the family over for steak pie. Most people I know go over to their ‘wee maw’s’ for their New Year’s steak pie. It’s tradition, it’s yummy and it happens to be the perfect hangover food. A lot of people will pick up a pie at their local butcher’s but it’s so easy to make yourself. After my first time tasting it, I immediately asked for the recipe. My MIL rattled off a few ingredients to throw in the slow cooker – an onion, stewing beef, an Oxo cube (beef stock) and some water. Sometimes she’ll throw in some mini beef sausages toward the end but it really is that simple.

Scottish Steak Pie

Serves 3 to 4

500g stewing/casserole/slow cook beef
one medium yellow onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp and 1 tbsp black pepper
1 Oxo cube or any beef stock cube
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp cornflour/cornstarch
200g puff pastry

1. Cut the onion into slices and drop into the slow cooker
2. Trim the beef and cut into bite sized pieces if not already pre-diced.
3. Mix the flour, salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a large bowl and then add the beef, coating each piece in the seasoned flour.
4. Heat the olive oil in a pan until very hot and then brown the beef in small batches. As always, don’t crowd the pan and allow each piece to get browned on all sides. Transfer the beef to the slow cooker once done.
6. Crumble the Oxo cube in, add the remaining 1 tbsp black pepper and enough water to barely cover the mixture. The top pieces should still be a bit above water.
6. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. An hour before done, mix 1 tsp cornflour with 2 tsp water and add to the mixture to thicken it up.

Now as for the puff pastry topping, I prefer to cook the pastry separately and then add it to the individual servings. I see from a quick perusal on the internet that this is sacrilege for some people, but this is how my Glaswegian MIL taught me so I’m sticking to it! Plus, I’m not a fan of ‘soggy bottom’ pastry.

I usually use store bought puff pastry but today I tried making my own and it turned out pretty well! I followed this recipe (to a freaking T by the way – I even watched the video) and used a little less than half for tonight’s dinner. I just rolled it out and cut long strips to bake. I love this way because you get little flaky batons to dip into the gravy.

scottishsteakpie

We usually eat ours over boiled potatoes but anything goes. My MIL serves hers with mashed potatoes and boiled carrots or green beans. I get chips with mine if I’m eating out at a pub or cafe. We had a big portion for dinner tonight and Danny proclaimed it the best steak pie I’ve made and that I’m to try and make mince and tatties next!

Festive Season

My grand plans to work out from December 14 to Jan 19 got sidetracked big time by the holidays. I was doing pretty well until my Christmas day out on the 22nd, and then the next two weeks were full of food, drinks, celebrations and sleeping in. With 10 days to go until we depart and no work I have been spending all my time with Jillian. Two weeks isn’t much to lose some weight but right now I just need to tone up and keep active in preparation for all the food I’m going to eat in California. Sushi, burritos, In’n’Out, French dip, frozen yogurt, tostadas, tri-tip, ribs, burgers, ah, I can’t wait!

Christmas and New Year’s were both spent in Danny’s hometown with family. We woke up on Christmas morning in our own flat and enjoyed opening a few presents, an Eggs Benedict breakfast and a viewing of Gone With the Wind with mimosas.

xmasmorning

xmasmorning2

I got Danny a kettlebell for Christmas which was a workout in itself to drag into the flat and wrap. It was delivered to our door but I had to hide it in our closet myself and then wrangle with wrapping 18kgs! We stuck to a budget because of our upcoming trip so this was his main present with a couple of little things. I put a couple of ideas on to my Pinterest wishlist and ended up getting my two favorites.

I have a cover for my iPad but since I’ll be taking it on my upcoming trip I needed a case as well. I also got some lovely Lush bath bombs and Marc Jacobs’ Daisy fragrance set.

After getting ready we drove over to Danny’s mom’s and then took a taxi to his brother’s house for our dinner. I was in charges of the starters and made stuffed mushrooms, crab crostini, herb foccacia with Italian cured meats and orange jello shots in orange slices. We had a great big meal of traditional turkey with all the trimmings, mashed potatoes, veg, etc. To finish we had Christmas cake and then on to the karaoke! At around 11 or so, Danny’s other brother invited us all over to his house and we continued the party there with more singing and dancing. We had such a good time we didn’t get back home until 5:30 in the morning.

DSC_0037

Surrounded by my favorite things - wine and cheese.

Surrounded by my favorite things – wine and cheese.


DSC_0040
The end of the night, most likely.

The end of the night, most likely.

New Year’s was more of the same. Drink, dance and some yummy food at Danny’s mom’s house. I got to participate in the Scottish tradition of First Foot. I got sent out at 11:57pm and ‘invited’ in shortly after midnight, bringing with me Scotch eggs and a glass of champagne.

DSC_0073

It was nice to have a low-key NYE. In years past we’ve thrown parties or gone out in the town, but with a need to save money and family to spend time with, staying in was an easy choice this year.

Goodbye 2012

2012 has been a great year. I started and ended 2012 without a job but this was also the year that I learned to not depend on work so much. I had a job that paid the bills, allowed me to enjoy time outside of work and I kept my friends from my previous role. The best of both worlds! Danny and I also had the chance to travel loads, book a trip back home, get new jobs and get really fit (Danny).

I started this blog in January but had sporadic posts during the first half of the year. Thought I would take a chance to focus on the (iPhone) highlights of 2012 and I look forward to continuing this in 2013 with more pictures and more posts!

January

1. Steak dinner at Grill on the Corner for Danny's birthday. 2. Birthday boy 3. Flowers from my colleagues after I got laid off 4. Did a lot of cooking in Jan, including cemitas

1. Steak dinner at Grill on the Corner for Danny’s birthday. 2. Birthday boy 3. Flowers from my colleagues after I got laid off 4. Homemade cemitas for dinner

February

1. Light dinner at The Bungo 2. A stop on our neighborhood pub crawl 3. Passed my Life in the UK test and sent away my ILR application 4. My local library

1. Light dinner at The Bungo 2. A stop on our neighborhood pub crawl 3. Passed my Life in the UK test and sent away my ILR application 4. My local library

March

1. 40th anniversary party for Danny's aunt and uncle 2. Mother's Day diner at Guidi's 3. Got Fernando a leash and he hated it 4. Day out at the races with some friends

1. 40th anniversary party for Danny’s aunt and uncle 2. Mother’s Day dinner at Guidi’s 3. Got Fernando a leash and he hated it 4. Day out at the races with some friends

April

1. Looked after Lucy 2. Easter dinner in Londonderry after a day of driving through N.Ireland 3. Night out at the Garage 4. Homemade burgers and chips

1. Looked after Lucy 2. Easter dinner in Londonderry after a day of driving through N.Ireland 3. Night out at the Garage 4. Homemade burgers and chips

May

 1. Spent the night at a castle for my 26th birthday 2. Tequila shot sampler for Cinco de Mayo 3. View from our castle room 4. Finally got my ILR 5. Sangria tour in town for my birthday 6. Beer garden for the amazing weather we had the last weekend in May

1. Spent the night at a castle for my 26th birthday 2. Tequila shot sampler for Cinco de Mayo 3. View from our castle room 4. Finally got my ILR 5. Sangria tour in town for my birthday 6. Beer garden for the amazing weather we had the last weekend in May

June

1. Rome 2. Ate Italian food for most of June 3. Sunset at 11 pm on the solstice 4. Had to evacuate the airport due to a fire drill

1. Rome 2. Ate Italian food for most of June 3. Sunset at 11 pm on the solstice 4. Had to evacuate the airport due to a fire drill

July

1. Orange walk 2. Olympic women's football match 3. Tried the new Brazilian steakhouse 4. Betting on the final game of the Euros

1. Orange walk 2. Olympic women’s football match 3. Tried the new Brazilian steakhouse 4. Betting on the final game of the Euros

August

1. Our B&B in Spain 2. Sangria in Seville 3. About to leave for Portugal 4. The beach in Nerja

1. Our B&B in Spain 2. Sangria in Seville 3. About to leave for Portugal 4. The beach in Nerja

September

1. Sunday roast 2. Drinks at T.G.I. Friday's 3. Library books 4. Homemade prosciutto and arugula pizza

1. Sunday roast 2. Drinks at T.G.I. Friday’s 3. Library books 4. Homemade prosciutto and arugula pizza

October

1. 3rd wedding anniversary flowers and cards 2. Beef bourguignon 3. Looked after Lucy again 4. Alumni reunion drinks

1. 3rd wedding anniversary flowers and cards 2. Beef bourguignon 3. Looked after Lucy again 4. Alumni reunion drinks

November

1. Thanksgiving dinner 2. Poppadoms and dipping sauces at Dakhin 3. First snowfall of the season 4. Lentil soup prep

1. Thanksgiving dinner 2. Poppadoms and dipping sauces at Dakhin 3. First snowfall of the season 4. Lentil soup prep

December

1. Christmas Eve 2. Family night out at the Christmas fair in Glasgow 3. Christmas day 4. NYE's curry

1. Christmas Eve 2. Family night out at Christmas fair in Glasgow 3. Christmas day 4. NYE’s curry

Freezing in Glasgow

Winter is here. We had a light snowfall on Sunday night and the general ice/slush has stuck around. It’s also FREEZING. Even with the high duty central heating at work, I’m wearing boots and wool or cashmere sweaters all day long. It’s so cold I need to upgrade my tights. It’s so cold I’m wearing slippers around the house. It’s so cold that not even my 100% goose down duvet is keeping me warm at night. It’s so cold, etc, etc.

I don’t know if this winter is colder than the last couple or if I just can’t hack it anymore. Last year around this time I had already got my winter sun in from the November trip, but this time I have a bit longer to wait. However, anticipation doesn’t keep you warm and there’s no guarantee of good weather in January, even in California. I could pine for sunny skies and warm temps but end up with a typical SoCal January rainstorm.

Everyone else complains about the weather as well but I suppose you get used to it or are used to it if you’re born here. I was delighted by the snow when I first got here but that delight turned to annoyance once I had to get out and get to work. Train delays, wet shoes, cold nose, bad traffic, nightfall at 3:30. Not really what I imagined when I dreamed of a white Christmas or a proper winter season.

The upsides are the warm winter delights that I can finally truly enjoy in a cold climate.

I might have had Nutcracker Spice tea in California but coming in from the freezing rain (and yes this is an actual thing, not just really cold rain or snow) and making a cup never tasted so good.

Wearing boots to work.

I get to turn on our Christmas lights at 3:00 and enjoy them all evening.

Snow days! Although yesterday I told my manager that I could walk into work if needed so I have struck down any chance of a snow day for myself.

Mulled wine is the ultimate winter warmer.

I still like to watch snow fall. When it sticks and turns to ice? That’s the annoying bit that I understand now.

Christmas! After spending 20 plus years in sunny California for the holiday, a white Christmas feels really special.

Go raffle a donut

After being here for 2.5 years I consider myself pretty fluent in Scottish. I’m able to understand everyone and I can even explain Scotttish words or phrases to my English colleague.

Sometimes though, I hear an all new saying that makes me doubt whether a foreigner will ever be proficient in Scottish. Danny’s mom phoned him while we were in the car tonight so the call went to Bluetooth speaker. We talked about weekend plans, etc and she invited us over for dinner tomorrow. I have a BBQ with some friends so only Danny accepted her invitation for dinner. (He’s not coming to the BBQ as these are my friends and I’m very proud of having friends that I made all by myself in a brand new country.) We talked for a bit more and then ended the conversation with her wishing me good weather for the BBQ.

My husband then interjects, “I don’t! I hope it pisses down.”

“Och*, away to raffle your donut. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

After she hung up I had to have Danny repeat what she said. Raffle? Rattle? Did she say donut? I can’t figure this one out at all. After he stopped laughing he explained it’s a very Glaswegian phrase and the best translation is ‘oh stop being so silly’ but implying that you should bug off and go do something’s more useful, like raffle off a baked good.

*Och is a Scottish way of saying oh.

I’m up, now where’s my medal?

Danny and I woke up at 6:30 this morning to go to a car boot sale. A swap meet/flea market for the Americans. This was sort of a silly idea as we have plans to go out later tonight and now we’re both shattered.

I’ve been reading DIY blogs all this week and Danny’s been getting into home brewing (more on that later) so we went bright and early to see what we could find. Not so bright actually, as even though I’ve been off work for a whole month, I discovered that it’s still dark at 7 am.

Car boot sales in Scotland have the same sort of people just trying to offload their junk but there’s also quite a few stalls with stuff that ‘just fell off the back of a lorry’. There’s also still some pubs in Glasgow where you can place an order with the dodgy guy in the back for a certain iPod or mobile phone, etc and then have it delivered before your next round of drinks. Danny says that this happens in the rough pubs in the east end. I think it sounds like an episode of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ and only reinforces the idea that living in the UK is as much fun as it seems on TV.

david-jason-as-del-boy-from-only-fools-and-horses-875975561

Source

Not so interested in the cutlery set, but I’ll take the coat!

No new MP3 players for us though. I ended up buying a mirror for 5 pounds that I plan to spray paint dark purple to give it that DIY edge.

To continue our morning we decided to get breakfast in a greasy spoon cafe. The problem here was that nothing was open before 9 am. I was miffed. If I’m going be up and at ’em by 7, I expect other people to be as well! Where are all the morning people that everyone is always going on about? I did see a few people, a lone dog walker and the random weirdos that roam around and talk to themselves no matter what time it is.

I fully expected there to be loads of people out and about, being motivated, successful and happy. All the things that are promised if you’re an early riser! My dad gets up every morning at 5 to go swimming and has a bunch of buddies, but I suspect that this is an American thing. Scottish people do it differently. The only thing you get if you wake up early on a Saturday in Scotland is darkness, freezing rain and the possibility of bumping into people who haven’t even finished the night before. Which really is the proper Glaswegian way to meet the early morning and perhaps I’ll try that tonight.