In my years of being an expat I have been to many 'coffee morning' groups. These have ranged from the official ones hosted by The American Womens Association and the British Association in Hong Kong, to a discussion forum one in Singapore and a 'meet-up' group in Zurich.
They attract a group of (usually) women who have moved half way across the world for their husbands jobs and find themselves without jobs or friends. Going to a coffee morning for a lot of people is an easy way to meet others in a similar situation.
I have met some wonderful people at this type of event, several of whom I am still in contact with years later, however they also attract their share of people I fondly refer to as 'crazies'. The crazies always have issues with their new expat status and these coffee groups appear to be the ideal place for them to discuss these.
Their issues range from the obvious 'I feel so lonely as I have left my friends behind' and 'I don't have any identity now I don't work' to the absurd 'I hate Singapore because it is so hot' or 'I can't believe I can't find tinned pumpkin here in Hong Kong'. The first two are understandable but the second two, well, what can I say. I can only assume that people don't google where they are moving to and that they don't realise that different continents (or even countries for that matter) have different groceries and weather ??
Sadly what happens at this type of group is the everyone bonds over a mutual dislike of their new home country focusing on why its not like at home, and they get together regularly to make each other miserable. Its all very negative.
For someone like me where my new home is going to be home for a long time, this kind of negativity isn't something I want to be around and so I have been thinking about how to avoid this type of group and still meet new people....
After a bit of thought I understand why the coffee mornings can become so negative.... there is no group focus.
So in pursuit of a more positive experience, I joined a German speaking coffee group during the day time in Zurich run by InterNations. It was refreshing to discover that the attitude of (most) of the people who attend is completely different and much more positive.
Generally they have accepted that Switzerland is the new home and things here are different. Food is different, attitudes are different and of course the language is different. The focus of the group is to speak as much german as possible, thus slowly improving. No time to complain about Vegemite/Oreos or crumpets if you are concentrating on your nominatives and accusatives.
These people have committed themselves to learning German as they understand that they need to be able to communicate with the people around them. English isn't always an option here.
So my advice for any new expats is to join a group with a focus. Something you enjoy doing or something that will give you more positive experiences. A photography group will give you to opportunity to look at your new home differently, or a walking group to give you time to appreciate your new environment.
In 2015 I'm going to commit more time to playing at my golf club with the ladies group. Improve my handicap, get some exercise and speaking German all at the same time. No time to complain about not being able to buy back bacon in my local supermarket !!
The drive from London took under 2 hours and it was a beautiful drive, despite the rain. the A roads from London towards the coast are beautiful to drive along. Especially if driving through central London where you rarely get out of 3rd gear is your norm.
We arrived in time to check out our rooms, park the car and walk to our spa appointment. Everything was running smoothly.
The Rye Retreat was the perfect way to start our trip. We had massages, facials, mani-pedi's and ended with a wash and blow dry. We walked in feeling a little stressed and frazzled and floated out feeling fabulous. We organised everything via email and it worked perfectly.
A very good friend of mine from when I first moved to London at the age of 21 recently hit quite a stressful point in her life.
I had also been quite busy recently and so we decided a little break away might be what we both needed. Although we always try to catch up with each other when I am in London we decided that instead of a few hours over dinner it would be nice to drive away and spend a couple of nights in a B&B and have some quality time away from daily life, relax, chatter, drink good wine, eat nice food and not have to worry about making the bed.
After a bit of googling we decided on Rye. Its cute old town and cobbled streets is not so big we couldn't walk everywhere and there were several good restaurants, pubs and hotels we could eat in. We also discovered Jeake's House B&B and managed to make a half day appointment at The Rye Retreat.
Rye has a good mixture of restaurants, coffee shops and antiques shops to occupy most people on a short stay. During the dryer months there are some beautiful walks nearby and the coast at Hastings is a short drive. There are also some great National Trust properties and even some vineyards nearby. What's not to like about Rye ??
The Rye Retreat 36-38 Cinque Ports Street Rye East Sussex 01797 222211
Jeake's House Mermaid Street Rye East Sussex 01797 222828
I chose Jeake's House of our two nights stay after reading some great reviews online and we were not disappointed.
It is a beautiful old building renovated into a B&B. It is right in the centre of town on an old cobbled street, so after abandoning the car we could walk everywhere.
The rooms were all individually renovated, beautifully decorated with very comfy beds. Breakfast was a great mixture of continental style fruit/cereals/yoghurt with additional cooked classics. Full English to Eggs Benedict. cooked to order and using fresh local ingredients.
They have an honesty bar that is a lovely place to wind down after dinner, with a selection of board games.
We were really please with our choice and are seriously thinking of making this an annual trip, including Jeake's House.
During the summer 2014 Selfridges had a 'pop-up' restaurant on their roof, but sadly I missed it. So when I read that for the winter they were having a ski themed restaurant I was straight online and booked a table with one of my fabulous London based friends.
Le Chalet promised exciting things and certainly didn't disappoint.
The lift whisked us straight up to the roof and we were greeted by skis, chopped logs and a tunnel of fairy lights leading the way to the restaurant. Once seated, Frank, our waiter came and introduced himself. He was professional but highly amusing at the same time. He always has a witty answer to our questions. If I went back I would ask for a table in his serving area.
The menu was winter ski food in line with the theme and was delicious. My short rib beef was excellent as were the roasted vegetables. The menu is in the pictures below and they have daily specials too. I won't ramble on about any particular dishes, I'll just say that everything we ate was fabulous.
The hot chocolate cocktails were amazing. If you can't get a spot for lunch I'd recommend one of these as an after shopping treat. They are very alcoholic, very chocolaty and very decadent. What a perfect end to a long wintery lunch....
I love my computer and iPad. In fact I really love technology and gadgets.
My MacBook or my iPad mini are the first things on my packing list wherever I go.
I have music and movies on my MacBook to keep me entertained if I'm spending the night in a hotel alone. I have books on the iBook app on my iPad that entertain me on a flight or when I'm waiting in the airport lounge. I have a card reader that downloads my photos straight from my camera to my iPad and straight to my iCloud (If I ever loose my camera all the photos are not lost). My diary is synced with all my devices so I never miss a flight or dinner date, even my fitbit uploads my daily step count to my iPhone keeping track of my daily activity.
As much as I love them, all of these things are completely overshadowed by my love of SKYPE and, Facebook.
I admit I am a Facebook addict.
I do have strict rules about who my 'friends' are. Not anyone is allowed in. If I have or would have dinner/drinks with them when we are in the same city then they are friends. If I wouldn't want to meet with them in real life - why would I want them seeing my latest holiday photos or hearing that I've got an ear infection ??
The thing I love most about Facebook is that with a small time commitment I always know where my friends are, what they are doing and a quick comment or 'like' here and there really does make me feel like I am a part of their lives. If they are friends I only see occasionally we never need to spend time 'catching-up' we can go straight to discussing their new job/latest holiday/new boyfriend or whatever I have learnt from FB.
Another reason I love Facebook is the way it enables me to meet up with people. I have friends literally all over the world and last year after I posted a photo of me and hubby in New York City after we arrived in on a late flight. By the time I had woken up I had emails from 2 friends who I managed to meet up with during the following 10 days. One friend from Singapore was in Boston for a conference and he came down to NYC to meet me for lunch, the other friend from Hong Kong (who now lives in the UK) was also in NYC for a week shopping so we managed to meet for dinner.
How cool is that !?
My second love - SKYPE developed when we moved to Hong Kong. Of course I wanted to keep in touch by phone with family and friends in the UK and SKYPE was the perfect way to do this.
I bought a 'World Unlimited' package where I could call almost all landlines in the world without any extra change. Its under 100GBP per year and saved me a fortune over the 10 years I've been using it. I could also call many mobile numbers too which became very useful when we moved to Singapore and I wanted to call my Hong Kong friends.
I also bought a UK phone number from SKYPE. This allows anyone from the UK to call a 'landline' number at their standard rates (usually free) and the call comes through to my computer via SKYPE wherever I am in the world. BRILLIANT. If I wasn't online and people left a message I immediately got an email to tell me. Now I have the app on my iPhone so I can just go off and find a wifi location and hear my messages.
Of course a lot of my calls are SKYPE to SKYPE with the camera bringing friends right into the same room. I regularly have chats with friends over a glass of wine despite us being in completely different countries, and all for FREE !!
This tart has a wonderful sweet shortcrust base. It can be made with whatever fruits are in season, but the cooking times for bigger fruit such at plums or apricots will be longer.
Its REALLY easy - apart from the pastry bit. I personally make my own as it has a much lighter finish and taste, but you can also buy it and roll it out !!
Ingredients for the filling
half a cup creme fraiche
1 large egg beaten
half a tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons honey (pref gritty)
1 tablespoon flour.
Once you have the pastry case blind baked then you literally just throw the filling in and arrange the fruit on top. In a bowl mix the honey, creme fraiche, egg and vanilla. Mix it well with a whisk until smooth, then whisk in the flour. That is literally it !! How easy is that one !!??
I would suggest putting the fruit in the base and pouring the mixture on while the pie is on the oven shelf. That way you won't get any spillage.
Your choice of fruit will dictate how long the tart needs to bake. I baked the apricot one for about 50-60 mins at 175 C. The smaller raspberry one above they only took about 20mins. This will be a bit trial and error, and also depend on your oven. The bigger and more dense the fruit the longer it will take to cook. You may also want to put a crust protector on the sides to stop the edges burning.
NYY or New York Yankees is a shrine to the Baseball Team. It is owned by the Yankees and is full of memorabilia. I'm guessing its the ideal destination for a fan... I know nothing about baseball but still had a fabulous experience.
We came here for steak on our last evening in NYC and we were certainly not disappointed. they have a room in the basement where they age the beef and you can see the meat hanging there just waiting to be ordered.
From the moment we walked in the door service was amazing. Everyone asks your name and then continues to uses it which is a little bit strange.. but I guess some people like to feel 'special'.
We requested a 'quiet' table which is quite a rarity in New York City due to the volume of its residents but they did their best to accommodate us and we got a table on the second floor, which was substantially quieter than the ground floor where a loud group were gathered at the bar.
Our waiter was charming, and everything about the evening was super efficient.
The only thing I would criticise would be the bread choice. There wasn't any. It was pretzel roll or pretzel roll. It was OK, but as it's not even close to my fave bread I would of liked a choice.
We decided not to have a starter as we really wanted to enjoy the steaks and so i ordered a filet mignon with lobster tail and my husband ordered the strip steak. We had a side of onion rings and steak fries. The onion rings were served as a tower and were visually quite impressive. They probably could of fed a family of five and so needless to say we didn't finish them... They were excellent though. Fresh, hot and crispy. No complaints.
We managed to finish our steaks and in a moment of madness my husband ordered a dessert. I can't remember the name but it was almost as big as my head. It was two enormous (very sweet) biscuits with ice-cream in between. Like a monster ice-cream sandwich. We probably ate about a 10th of that. It was so incredibly sweet and a few spoonfuls were as much as I could manage.
All in all a great experience - even if you aren't a Yankees fan.
NYY Steak 7 West 51st Street new York City.
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