Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Chicken for Thanksgiving

Not long after moving to England, Thanksgiving was upon us.

This wasn't my first Thanksgiving abroad. I'd spent one in Madrid and one in Paris with a friend while living in Madrid. The Paris Thanksgiving was actually one of my most memorable because we somehow stumbled into an Irish pub having an American Thanksgiving party. (An American party in an Irish pub in Paris. Let that sink in.) The American party was serving typical food and we were lucky enough to grab the last piece of pumpkin pie!

But this was different. Not only was this our first Thanksgiving being married, but it was my husband's first Thanksgiving ever. The pressure was on to impress him with our grand feasting tradition. Thanksgiving scenes take place in nearly every American series and countless movies, therefore he was already familiar with the common customs.

Even though we were living abroad and no family would be joining us, I decided to prepare our favorite dishes regardless. My mom mailed us a box of crucial Thanksgiving items: a carved wooden pilgrim statue, a turkey Beanie Baby, an apron, a US engraved glass serving platter (complete with bald eagle), and Georgia napkins. Armed with my recipes, I headed to the grocery store to find the necessary Thanksgiving ingredients.

At the grocery store, several items were quite difficult to find. Locating creamed corn for the corn casserole and the fried onions for the green bean casserole was nearly impossible. Boxed Christmas stuffing was already being sold, so I picked up some of that for good measure. (Sidenote: because obviously Thanksgiving is not celebrated in England, Christmas lights, candy, and food are put up right after Halloween. Talk about an extended holiday season!) The only Thanksgiving staples I was unsuccessful in finding were cranberry sauce, pumpkin/pecan pie, and a turkey. To confess, there were a few Christmas turkeys, but the idea of preparing a massive turkey for two people just was too much for me. I thought about buying smaller cuts of turkey, but decided to buy a whole chicken instead. Yes, I prepared a Thanksgiving chicken. Does that make me a bad American?

With my Thanksgiving chicken in the oven, I encountered another setback. We don't own so many cooking pans the right size for making casseroles. I had to make the corn casserole in muffin trays. The top of the green bean casserole ended up a little too crispy (nice way of saying burnt), however the pineapple casserole came out right. The chicken was delicious I might add.

To not feel so lonely about our small Thanksgiving dinner, we Skyped with my parents who were together with the family at my aunt's house. To end the night, "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" was on TV, which I thought was a little odd, but I'll take it!

All in all our first Thanksgiving was a little unconventional, but my we were full for days after so I guess it was a success!

Skype: every expat's favorite technology.

Our turkey wanna-be and cornbread casserole muffins, the next big Thanksgiving trend.
If you marry a foreigner, you at least have to buy him a t-shirt from your home state to wear on Thanksgiving.
A Charlie Brown classic.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

London and my first NFL game

Two days after our wedding, my husband and I hopped on a plane for England. 

We planned to honeymoon in London before settling into our city in the north end of the country. It'd been 10 years since I'd been to London with our high school senior trip and I was looking forward to going back. A few months earlier, I'd found that my home NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons, would be playing in London the very same weekend we were there. Firstly, I love American football. Secondly, I've never actually been to a Falcons game, or any other NFL game. (Disclaimer: I live in the South and everyone supports their university teams so going to University of Georgia games always trumped the Falcons.) Thirdly, what are the chances that the weekend you go to London your team is playing an NFL game there? 

This was an opportunity too good to miss. Several years back, the NFL recognized the fan potential they had in the UK and decided to partner with London to host a rotation of NFL games every season. It has been quite a success and last year four NFL games were held in London's Wembley Stadium. I figured it might be some time before the Falcons get asked back to play in London. Plus, as I was moving to England, my future chances to see live American football were slim. 

The dilemma: my Spanish husband neither understands nor appreciates American football (oh, the horror). I have tried in vain to teach him the ways of the glorious game we have invented, but it just never caught. To a person raised in the soccer (or should I say fútbol) capital of the world, any game where you pick up the ball in your hands is sacrilege. 

You can only imagine his surprise when I wanted to see a football game during our honeymoon. I think at first he thought I was joking. But he shouldn't have been surprised, I used to get him to stream UGA football games on his computer from some Chinese provider so I could watch my team from Spain. So he agreed and when we arrived in London after the wedding, the whole city was in a hype over the big game. US and NFL flags hung down Regent Street, and we caught just the tail end of the Falcons fan rally in Trafalgar Square. 

Making our way to Wembley Stadium, home to the English national football team and the biggest stadium in the UK, I was getting pretty excited. Falcons gear was everywhere and fans from all over Europe were showing their support. I heard a variety of languages being spoken amongst the crowd, just going to show that the love of American football reaches far beyond our borders. I of course had my Falcons shirt on and picked up a "Rise Up" flag on the way in. The Falcons were the designated 'home team' so all the stadium was decorated in red and black and the rallying cries were always for our team. 

I loved the whole thing. Well, except for the fact that the Detroit Lions managed to come back from behind to beat us by one point. One. My husband observed the game with about the same amount of interest I would show toward a game of cricket. I suppose I did enough cheering for the both of us. Although I failed to convert my husband to American football, and despite the heart-breaking loss, being in Wembley Stadium with Atlanta and foreign fans alike was an unforgettable experience. 

The rest of our days in London we spent doing the usual sightseeing circuit and relaxing from a few crazy days of getting married and moving abroad. 

Other pictures from our trip:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blog Update: International Wedding and Moving to England

I've been needing to revamp my blog for some time now. As most of you know I was previously writing about my daily life and adventures while living in Madrid from 2011-2013. I worked for the Spanish Ministry of Education and was also studying a Master program in Political Analysis. In October 2013, I completed my thesis paper, graduated from the Complutense Universidad de Madrid, moved back to the US, and took a job in marketing for international pharmaceutical companies in Atlanta.

At the same time I took my job in Atlanta, my boyfriend from Spain completed his PhD program in Madrid and accepted a position teaching at a university in England. We had a (very) long-distance relationship for a year, traveling back and forth between countries every few months. On one such visit to England, he proposed and I began planning our Atlanta wedding for fall 2014. 

That was six months ago. In case anyone is curious, we met through a mutual friend who put us in contact to do what's commonly known in Spain as a "language exchange". I was determined to improve my Spanish and he was studying his PhD in English. Luckily my amatuer Spanish level didn't put him off and the rest is history. I always warn people about the hazards of traveling abroad: you might meet your future spouse and never go back home! 

Now we live in a very historic, cobblestone street city in northern England. I haven't adjusted to the lack of sunshine in the UK, but I am getting used to life as a British resident. 

Our wedding had an international theme, reflecting our relationship and both our Spanish and American background. The ceremony was held in my home church in Marietta and the reception was at The Biltmore in Atlanta, a national registered historic site. The bridesmaids had roses with Spanish fans and the guest seating chart at the reception was in the layout of a flight departure screen. Guests signed a framed world map as our guestbook and the passport emblem on the cocktail napkins matched our invitation design. Each table was marked with a vintage travel poster of an international city. Inspiring our guests for travel, we gave out luggage bag tags for gifts. My husband and I made our grand entrance to the epic "España Cañí" pasadoble song, complete with matador's hat and Spanish decorative fan for me. If you feel like listening to this instrumental while reading the blog, it might enhance your Spanish experience!   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hnGe2UeWSs

See some of our wedding pictures below: