Back to the Homelands!

It’s official! Tickets have been booked, family and friends have been informed and we’re already making dinner/lunch reservations for all our favorite spots. Danny and I are headed back to California in January for his 30th birthday.

Our last trip to the States was in November 2011. That was the big trip. We booked months in advance, saved up like crazy, planned a detailed, busy itinerary and by the time I arrived on American soil, it had been almost two years since I left. The anticipation for that trip was huge. I had left the States in December 2009 as a new bride and I was arriving back, two years later, full of expectation for what I left behind and excitement for everything new in my life. I’m sure I totally did Danny’s head in talking about what to wear and what to do and what would have changed and what wouldn’t have changed, etc.

When I finally did make it back all my nerves and worrying were for nothing. It was a perfect trip. Strangely, I felt no different than when I left in 2009. I fitted seamlessly back into my old life and it was great to catch up with old friends to reconnect. I had an amazing time with my family and got to eat all the American food I could ever want in my wardrobe full of new J.Crew, Banana Republic and Forever 21 clothes.

I know this trip will be just as amazing. The countdown is on and I can’t wait for 2 weeks of everything I love.

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Care Package

Although I graduated college a few years ago, I still get care packages as an expat. It’s great! And sometimes essential as I get sent products that don’t exist in the UK but that I couldn’t live without.

This time I needed new contacts from my optometrist and had placed an order at J.Crew to be sent to my parents’ house. I told my mom to just send the contacts and J.Crew blazer in a padded envelope, but she insisted on a full box and really, who am I to argue?

American junk food! The caramel apple pops remind me so, so much of my mom. We would easily go through a bag a week when I was in high school. I’m saving the Red Vines for the new Bond flick and Danny’s under the impression that the Flaming Hot Cheetos are all his (he’s incorrect).

Two of the things I miss the most from the US start with a T. I’ve mentioned Target on this blog before but Trader Joe’s is the other big one. I’m not sure if the fruit leathers are from TJ’s but they’re definitely in the same category.  Danny had no idea what they were. I’m sending one in his lunch tomorrow so his co-workers can get a laugh out of all the healthy, hippie food his Californian wife packs for him. I’m pretty sure they’ve all learned what quinoa, sprouts and blacks beans are because of me.

Not pictured – amazing chocolate pumpkin pie bark that was quickly devoured while watching Friday night TV, magazines and deodorant. Yes, deodorant! I love the UK’s drug store beauty products  but I cannot get on board with aerosol deodorant or their version of the stick. I never feel like I get enough coverage with aerosol (plus spraying it absolutely freaks the cat out) and the UK stick deodorant always feels wet and gloopy as soon as it’s on.

I really wish it was possible to send sourdough bread, frozen yogurt, and In’n’Out but you can’t have everything! Makes it all that much sweeter when you do!

My mecca, my Target

I uploaded all my vacation photos to Facebook a few weeks ago, labeling nearly every picture with food as ‘Reason #93834 I miss America”. Only one non-food picture got that  caption and that was the below.

TARGET.

There’s nothing in the UK that compares to Target. Maybe a mix of Tesco/Matalan with the quality of Next but cheaper prices. It’s one of those stores that you visit intending to only buy a bottle of lotion and then you walk out an hour later and $100 poorer. I love it.

When I was in school the nearest Target was 30 minutes away and in the same town as the nearest Costco. As a normal 90’s family, we shopped at Costco for TP, paper towels and all the free samples. A trip to Costco every few months meant a trip to Target. A pilgrimage to Target in my mind. I think all the makeup and CDs of my teenage years came from these trips. And most of my cardigan wardrobe.

Target was there for me when I moved out for dorm life. Closet shoe organizers, shower caddy, umbrella for my new rainy life in Portland, notebooks. And more cardigans for my new college student wardrobe.

Cardign

So collegiate!

A couple of years later I moved out of the dorms and into a house with three other girls. Now I could get into the Target homeware! We had thrift store/Craigslist furniture but I could go to Target and buy laundry detergent, a new lamp, pens, potato chips, mascara and the new issue of Cosmo! Brilliant. Danny will protest that Tesco serves the same purpose but personally I think there’s too much food at Tesco.

We finally got a Target in my home town a year ago. The slow growth enthusiasts voted against it for all those years. When I went back in November I went at least 4 times and bought a lot of clothes and toiletries. And some new cardigans for work! I didn’t have any luggage space to take stuff back for the flat but it was nice to look at everything and be jealous of what my American friends could buy for their apartments. At the end I got a soft pretzel. That part is definitely better than Tesco, Matalan and Next combined.

Craving Coffee

I’m craving coffee. Black please. I think my last cup was one month ago on my last day of work. Tea is just too easy to make in the morning when neither Danny nor my dad are here to make me a cup of coffee.

Even though I loved to moan about the vile tasting coffee from the office kitchen, I had a cup everyday without fail. Our canteen had a Starbucks/deli station but the 2.80 latte didn’t taste that much different than the free stuff from the machine.

I’ve not found a great coffee shop here in Glasgow. I still rely on the occasional Starbucks when I’m out in town but my coffee consumption is nothing like what it was in the States. I don’t start my Saturday mornings with a latte and I never grab an iced latte for a mid afternoon pick-me-up. Oh how I miss Blackhorse.

I remember the first time Danny picked up instant coffee at the supermarket I was absolutely aghast. That kind of stuff does not belong in our house! But it belongs in a British household and we didn’t have a coffee machine yet, so I relented. And sometimes when making tea Danny would ask for a cup of coffee and I had to learn how to make the instant stuff.  I get it, it’s really easy. It’s also devoid of any real coffee taste. When I was in high school one of my best friends was a big fan of the sci-fi/modern romance novels written by J.D. Robb. The books were set in the mid-21st century where coffee and butter were scarce and considered the ultimate luxury. The affordable stuff was fake coffee made of vegetable oils and other substitutes. I had never had instant coffee in high school but I now know what sort of dystopian reality the author was talking about.

We eventually got a coffee machine and grinder for our flat. The next hurdle in this quest was procuring quality coffee beans. In the States, getting coffee means a trip to your local coffee shop or grocery store where you can get whole beans or your choice of espresso or regular grind. If you’re already in the coffee shop for your daily cappuccino, perfect, no effort necessary!

In the UK I don’t think I know anyone else with a proper coffee maker. The love of the kettle (to be discussed in the future) has probably prevented the coffee machine from gaining in popularity here. It would also explain the half aisle of tea selection and the half shelf selection of whole coffee beans. Danny and I have bought a couple of different types of beans and our favorite has to be the purple bag of Fairtrade Colombian beans from Asda.  The best for nice, simple, black cup of drip coffee, grinded and brewed by my husband on a Sunday morning with the papers.