Sunday, November 30, 2008


To quote Dora the Explorer "We did it! We did it!" Yes that is correct today marks the 30th post in 30 days - what a ride it's been. This challenge not only resulted in 30 consecutive posts but marked a couple of firsts:

I also introduced the new feature of Photo Friday. Sorry Amy you were wrong the photo on the 21st was of the Alamo.

While I've enjoyed the challenge the chances of my continuing to blog on a daily basis is slim, especially since my schedule this week is chaotic and I'm not 100% sure if I'll have the time or Internet access throughout the week. I'm currently in Stockholm, tomorrow evening I head to Madrid, Wednesday Paris, and then Sunday back to London. Just in case you've forgotten with the travel this week I hit 29 different places - just 1 more city to hit my self-imposed target for the year.

Thanks for putting up with my random ramblings this month and hearing about some of the rather more mundane aspects of Dawn the expat.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Second Thanksgiving

Today I had my second Thanksgiving dinner of the week. This one I prepared myself and hosted for my fellow expats. I'm now exhausted and have a taxi coming at a very early hour tomorrow to take me on my travels and my guests home. Just needed to post as I now only have 1 post left and I have officially succeeded!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Myra's First Blog Post

Here it is the moment you've all been waiting. Myra, my 4 year old neice is going to tell you about what we've done the last 2 days in London during her visit.

Yestreday we went on the train to the palace. We saw the changing of the guards with horses. After we went to the park and the horses showed us where it was but we didn't walk very fast. We misseded them. At the park was a big ferris wheel, at winter wonderland. We went up really high on the ferris wheel. We saw Santa. Here they call him Father Christmas. Santa knew I was four!

My mommy taught me how to fly like a bird to them (Mommy says they're penguins but they're pigeons). I went on a pig and a reindeer by myself. I went on a Thomas train with Aunt Dawn, mommy, Myra. There were no seatbelts on it, but I wanted to sit on the front. That's all.

Today we went to the muffin man, we didn't see him cause he was sleeping. We saw Big Ben and lions in Trafalgar Square. If they were real I was scared. I got a 3 in 1 puppet of Little Red Ridding Hood, Grandma and the wolf. That's all.

Here's some photos from our trip.

Myra on a Reindeer Ride

Myra and Santa (AKA Father Christmas)

Changing of the Guards

Teaching Pigeons (or Penguins) how to fly.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lazy Day

My sister and niece arrived early this morning for a visit. After a slight hiccup at the airport with the taxi we made it safely to my place. Given the jet lag experienced by both we decided to just hang out today, watch movies, and play games. I love playing games with my 4 year old niece rules are completely irrelevant she wants to play her way this means that when playing cards everybody ends up with a different number of cards and it's always her turn. Tomorrow we're off to Buckingham Palace and Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park. Will likely have more to post tomorrow and possibly a special treat.

4 more days to go!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Just Might Make It

I realized yesterday that I had forgotten to add Munich to my list of places I've been this year, so I've already surpassed last years number and it looks like I just might hit 30. Next week includes a trip to Stockholm and Madrid. I just need to squeeze in 1 more trip before Christmas and I'll be at 30 - now that's an achievement to be proud of.

It also looks like I'm going to make the 30 posts in 30 days - only 5 more days!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oops I did it again

Sometimes I simply amaze myself with my co-ordination, grace and elegance. Yesterday as I was walking down the stairs at the tube station I managed to catch the heel of my boot on something and go tumbling. Luckily I was on the second to last stair so I didn't have far to fall. Also since it was a lazy Sunday afternoon there weren't a lot of people around to witness this graceful act. I thought my knees would be quite bruised today but so far it's only my foot that is hurting, I guess when I fell I twisted my foot. The ibuprofen is helping on that front and I'm hoping to take it easy today and tomorrow so I can run around the city this week with my guests.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Two Thanksgivings

I will be starting and ending the week by celebrating Thanksgiving. Today I am off to the Queen Mary to celebrate with a couple of hundred other expats. Then on Saturday I am hosting my very own Thanksgiving dinner. Yesterday I went to the supermarket to pick up some essentials like a turkey. The woman at the checkout commented that I was quite prepared to be buying my turkey so early, then all of a sudden she realized I wasn't buying it for Christmas I was buying it for Thanksgiving.

So what I am thankful for - I am thankful that there are only 7 days left in this 30 posts in 30 days challenge.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Luxury in Luxembourg

With all the travel I do I'm still surprised when I have firsts. The trip to Luxembourg on Thursday was not only the first time I went to Luxembourg but the first time I flew out of London City Airport. I think at this point the only London airport I haven't flown out of is Stansted. London City airport is conveniently located in the center of London or it's convenient if you live or work in the city. I figured taking a taxi into the city would be a hassle so I decided to take public transportation there. The way there wasn't too bad only about an hour. The way back took much longer as the trains weren't running quite as frequently or maybe it just seemed longer as all I wanted to do was get home.

The Luxembourg airport is rather small, so small that I had nobody in front of me at security and nobody behind me either. I can't remember that ever happening to me before, there's always at least 1 or 2 people somewhere nearby.

And the final and most important first is this is the first time I stayed in a hotel that was right next door to two adult entertainment centres - before you ask no I did not go in. As I was leaving to go to dinner I looked around the hotel to get my bearings to make sure I could find my way back and had to chuckle as I saw the big neon signs advertising the clubs.

Unfortunately I had less than 24 hours in Luxembourg and wasn't able to get around town and see anything all that means is that I'll have to go back sometime.

Finally I would like to sincerely thank my outsourcer for helping me post and keep the 30 posts in 30 days going. When I found out the wifi was down in the hotel I figured I would try and access blogger from my blackberry - no luck. I then remembered that there is a mobile blogging option where you can send posts in via email or mms - that however wasn't supported with the mobile carrier I was on. When all technology failed I had to enlist help.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Photo Friday

The second installment of photo Friday. This one from the archives can you guess where

this is?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Just made it!

Trying to post every day presents a lot of challenges.  One encountered today is travelling to a hotel that doesn't offer internet service.  To resolve this issue, today's post has been outsourced.  

Other things that present challenges is trying to complete home renovations from abroad.  Now normally in the course of these things you should expect to have some previously unforeseen obstacles come up.   This picture is an example of such unforeseen obstacles.  

This is a picture of termite damage that was discovered after the bathtub and walls were removed.  Hopefully, the work will be finished before Christmas.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Now That's What I Call Service

I'm sitting on a Virgin train right now headed back to London after a day spent up north, no the train doesn't have wifi I'll post when I return home. I just figured if I have 90 minutes to kill I might as well make myself useful and write my post for the day. Too bad I don't get air miles on my Virgin Atlantic Flying Club account for trips on Virgin trains.

Before you get confused the title of this post doesn't refer to the service on Virgin although I have no complaints there, the service was at the customer I was visiting today. There's a woman (possibly more than one I'm not entirely sure) that regularly goes around the office picking up empty coffee cups and taking orders for tea and coffee. Not sure if this is seen as a perk or a way to stop people from gossiping around the coffee machine and be more productive. It was new to me although I hate to say I didn't actually take advantage of the service, I'm trying to limit myself to one cup of tea a day and I had a cup when I first arrived - oh well maybe next time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quality Versus Quantity

This blogging every day is certainly a challenge. I find that even though I am managing a post a day the quality of the posts may be suffering a bit. It's relatively easy to post something every day even if it is only a sentence or two but is it more important to post frequently with more interesting and thought provoking content or to write every day.

What makes this challenge even harder is that I also maintain a blog for work. I try to post there on work days only so between the two blogs I've written 27 posts this month. To make matters just a little more interesting my schedule is about to get hectic. I was telling a coworker this week that I am out of the office until the second week of December between customer meetings and holiday at the end of the month, it's about to get crazy. Maybe to offload some of this blogging I'll have my guests write some posts when they're here next week. It may just be the first time a 4 year old blogs.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas Comes Early

It's always shocking to go into the shops and see the Christmas displays. It always seems that it comes earlier and earlier. Back in October they started putting the Christmas displays in the stores and they've already started doing the Christmas lighting ceremonies on the various streets of London. I guess I'm just used to waiting until after Thanksgiving to start seeing all the lights on and the massive Christmas advertisements but here there is no Thanksgiving to mark when the start of the Christmas season actually is.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


This year I'm hosting a Thanksgiving open house in London, since Thursday won't be a holiday here we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving on Saturday. I went down to the supermarket today to order a Turkey as they aren't normally stocked. When I asked about ordering, I was surprised to be told "Oh are you looking for turkey for Thanksgiving we'll be ordering loads that week no need to pre-order." I guess I'm not the only crazy expat American that wants a little taste of home. I'm wondering if they'll also be stocking all the other traditional items like pumpkin pie, pecan pie and cranberry sauce. I guess I'll be surprised when I go and do my shopping.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lease Renewal

Earlier this month I received the paperwork to renew the lease on my flat, I thought about moving into a smaller place but I can't be bothered with packing and moving so I renewed. Instead of moving I decided to rearrange the furniture in my bedroom and am contemplating the purchase of a new sofa. For those of you who have been to my flat know that the sofa is the most uncomfortable thing in the world. Tomorrow I will go out and see how much a new sofa will cost, the one thing that is good about the sofa is the fact that it's a sofa bed so there is a place for visitors to sleep. Of course I am graciously giving up my bed at the end of the month when my next round of visitors come since one of the guests goes to bed at a very early hour (Can you guess who?). The problem with a new sofa is that I have to call the property management company to remove the existing one and I'm not sure if that will actually happen. I probably should call them first before I actually go out and look for a replacement but that would be logical. I wonder if I tell them that I am happy to leave the new sofa when I depart if that would make a difference?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Photo Friday

I've decided to start a new tradition and post a new photo every Friday. It may be a photo I've taken during the week or it may be from the archives. For this week a shot I took last Friday at the Air Force Memorial in Runnymede

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Surreal Experience

I'm sure security guards have heard it all when people try to explain that they didn't understand the rules or how what they have in their bag doesn't apply. Yesterday when I was going through security they took my bags aside, this happens periodically so I didn't think anything of it. As the agent was going through my coat he took out a bottle of water. I didn't even know it was in there as the heavy winter coat had just come out of the closet for the first time that morning. The conversation went something like this:

Agent: "Liquids aren't allowed"
Me: "I know, I wasn't aware it was in my coat as this is the first time I've worn it since last winter."
Agent: "I have to throw it out."
Me: "That's fine."
Agent: "Would you like to take a sip before I throw it out."
Me: "No - it's at least 6 months old!"

It was almost as if he was reading from a script and wasn't listening at all to what the answer was instead was just moving on to the next line in the script.

As I related this story to my coworkers over dinner we were laughing about people trying to sneak things through security or not realizing that the rules applied to them. I honestly had no idea this bottle was in my coat. However at the Dublin airport today a couple of gentlemen ahead of us were a trying to take through a full bottle of champagne and whiskey and were arguing with the security staff over their inability to do so.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Twelve days into this posting every day and I'm still going strong. I don't know about you but I'm impressed with myself so far. I even ran upstairs at the hotel to write this post as I'm not sure when I'll be back from dinner and didn't want to miss a day. Am in Dublin today and tomorrow, had an interesting lunch talking about all sorts of American politics - not surprising as there were 2 Americans there and the US politics is still on everyone's minds. Both of my taxi drivers today asked me almost immediately what I thought of the new president-elect. I wonder how long it's going to take for people to stop being interested?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Queen Elizabeth II Retires

No not THE queen the QE2 the flagship of the Cunard cruise line has officially retired today. She has decided to spend her retirement in a warm location as many people do and is going to be permanently docked in Dubai and turned into a luxury hotel. Of course she had to go out in style running aground before docking and having a million poppies dropped on her.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My New Keyboard

Over the summer I got a new laptop for work, mine was 3 years old so it was time for an upgrade. The problem with the new laptop is it is a UK keyboard, I asked if the keyboard from my old laptop could be put in the new laptop but unfortunately they were different sizes. You might think there aren't that many differences as we do have the same alphabet but you would be wrong. The letters are all in the same spot the problem is the symbols are in different locations. The new keyboard requires me to think a little bit longer when typing. I've been using the same type of keyboard for over 20 years so trying to learn the new position of keys isn't all that easy.

I could go on and tell you about the differences but I figured it's time for a game of "Spot The Difference." There's only 1 rule to the game - how many differences can you see in the screenshots below.

US Keyboard

UK Keyboard

Sunday, November 9, 2008

American to English Translation

There are many words and sayings that are different, not knowing the right word can sometimes get you into trouble. I mostly just get laughed at or corrected when I use the "wrong" word. Here are just a few of the differences:

Wallet (ladies)Purse
Knock on woodTouch wood
Take a napHave a lie down

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Invisible Kangaroo Update

I realize I've been rather lax in providing updates on Ike's travels. Back in September Ike took his first flight across the pond to meet my family. While there he had many typical American experiences.
Ike's 1st Road Trip (don't worry I wasn't driving)

Ike's 1st Football Game

And what football game isn't complete without a tailgate party.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Word of Advice

Doing home remodels is never an easy thing, try adding to that living in another country while the remodel is occurring and things get even more complicated. When my tenants moved out over the summer I decided it would be a good time to remodel the bathroom in my house as it was sorely in need of a makeover since I moved in. I spent a couple of days of my vacation this summer running around meeting with contractors and trying to get everything decided in 2 days.

Once all the decisions were made now came all the paperwork, I was emailed 50 or so pages of drawings and plans that I needed to sign and/or initial and then email back. So far so good. The next hurdle was the signing of the permit. It took the designer and contractor about a week to determine that this was a document that was a carbon copy and needed to be signed in person. My dear sweet sister drove to the store to sign the permit only to find that it wasn't filled out. I don't know about you but I would never sign a blank document. I think the contractor has since brought her a new version to sign and hopefully work will begin next week. I was originally hoping everything would be completed by Thanksgiving now it looks like it will be closer to Christmas. I hope all the delays will be worth it when it is completed.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

American's Abroad

Last night I went to a post-election party for Americans at the Texas Embassy in Trafalgar Square. I haven't see so many fellow expats in one place since I moved. I found myself faced with a couple of questions that I didn't have the answer to. While I do follow politics I guess I don't follow them as closely as some.

The questions I was not prepared for were:
  1. What percentage of the vote did Obama get in MA? According to CNN it's 63% I guessed it was around 60 so I wasn't too far off.
  2. How many votes does MA have? I honestly had no idea but I thought it was the low double digits and in fact it is 12.

I was also in the minority as most of the people had stayed up all night watching the results come in. Not me I went to bed and just caught the news first thing in the morning. After staying up to the wee hours of the morning the last 2 elections and not having a clear winner determined I decided I didn't need to see the state by state announcements.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Beggars Can't be Choosers

I got the details this morning on my flight home for Christmas and it's not pretty and yes I know I shouldn't complain as the entire flight is only costing me $239 the rest is paid by work. There are lots of direct flights from London to Boston but since I am doing a multi-city trip I'm stuck making connections (either that or I pay for it which I would rather not do). Only Star Alliance carriers serve all the cities I am flying to/from Boston, Vancouver and London so this means I have the following itinerary:

25 December depart London 12 pm arrive Toronto 3 pm. Spend 3 hours at the Toronto airport before a 6 pm flight to Boston arriving at 7:35. It appears that coach was sold out so I'm in first class for this short flight - if coach is sold out why can't it be on the long haul flight not the short one.

I am then in town until 6 January when I head to Whistler. I will do my best to see everybody while I'm stateside.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Happy Election Day

Watching the events of this years presidential election from abroad has been great. It's wonderful to be able to watch television at night without being bombarded by thousands of ads. The news is able to sum up the main highlights in about 2 minutes and then move on to other stories.

What is the most interesting is that everybody seems interested in the outcome of the election and can tell you exactly who is running - I doubt many Americans could tell you who ran in the 2007 French election or the 2008 Zimbabwean election. Of course depending on what country I'm in I can't always tell what the news is saying but just seeing the faces of John McCain and Barack Obama on the television in France or England or Germany or wherever I am shows the global interest and concern over the next US president. I even had somebody tell me that the right to vote should be opened to non-US citizens given the impact it will have on the whole world.

By far my favorite quote from the election this year didn't even come from the presidential candidates or vice-presidential candidates instead it came from Mike Huckabee during the Republican National Convention:
'Barack Obama's excellent adventure to Europe took his campaign for change to
hundreds of thousands of people who don't even vote or pay taxes here.'
It seems the former governor is unaware that there are millions of Americans that live outside the US and still maintain the right to vote and pay taxes. Trying to find the actual number of Americans living in Europe though isn't the easiest thing. Turns out Americans living abroad are not counted in the census as it would not be cost-effective. The only Americans that are counted during the census are members of the military or government employees which are likely only a small fraction of all expats. The only metrics I could find are from 1999.

I'll end today with the following public service announcement: For those of you in the US please go out and vote after reading this if you haven't already done so.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Self Assessment

I struggle to figure out the tax filing system here in the UK. The tax year runs until April 5th, if you file a paper return the deadline is October 31st, if you file a self assessment on-line the deadline is January 31st. To further complicate matters not everybody needs to file a tax return, if your taxes are deducted directly from your paycheck (PAYE - pay as you earn) then you don't need to file, if you want to claim tax relief or credit you can ask to file a tax return. Typically the only people filing taxes are those with complicated tax affairs or those that have credits to claim. Lucky me I have complicated taxes. I am currently in the process of deciding whether I want to attempt and file on my own or use an agency. I signed up for the online self assessment and will be getting access to the site later this week I'll have a look and see how difficult it seems. If I can't figure it out I'll send the info off to the agency I used last year.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cooped Up

I've spent the entire weekend indoors and am starting to go stir crazy. For those of you that don't know I had an allergic reaction to something (no idea what) and broke out in hives on Thursday night. The doctor has me on steroids and it seems to be doing the trick the itchiness has subsided but I am still get random break outs may need to extend the steroid treatment another couple of days.

I've learned the NHS has advantages and disadvantages. I called the doctor on Thursday night to make an appointment for Friday but I wasn't able to. The only appointments that can be made in advance are for physicals or check-ups if you are sick you have to call the day of to get an appointment. Calling Friday morning I was able to get an appointment for a few hours later. I barely had to wait once I arrived and a few moments later I was handed a prescription. I walked out without having to make any co-payment and was on my way to the pharmacy where I paid £7.10 for the prescription. this is a flat rate all prescriptions are the same price doesn't matter what the type or quantity - 60 days worth of generic allergy tablets £7.10, 3 days of steroids £7.10. Of course it looks like I may have to go back on Monday to get more steroids as I still keep getting a few breakouts which means paying £7.10 again. Overall it is still cheaper than in the US - no monthly premium and no office visit copay.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

National Blog Posting Month

I'm always up for a challenge so when I heard about National Blog Posting Month I decided to go for it. This entails making a post every day during the month of November. It may be difficult to come up with something to say every day but I'll do my best.