Travel Tuesday: Holidays Begin in Duty-Free

Wednesday, 31 July 2013
One of the many perks about living in Europe is the availability of low-cost flights to a wide variety of destinations across the continent. The downside of these flights is the timings are usually out of your control and often are first thing in the morning. Luke and I benefited from one such flight on our recent trip to the south of France (which I’ll be taking about in a series of blog posts over the coming weeks).

On this occasion our flight left London Luton Airport for Bordeaux at 8:00am, which means we had to wake up pretty early to get to the airport on time. Anyone who knows me will know how much I love my sleep, so the idea of waking up even earlier to put on make-up before a flight is not something I'm prepared to do. The only problem is a make-up free face can sometimes make for some pretty horrendous first photos of the holiday. Never fear there is a solution that allows you to get the best of both worlds – sleep and make-up and here it is:

Put your make-up on at the airport!

I don’t mean just putting your make-up in your carry on and putting it on once you get past security. In most international airports there is this wonderful section called Duty-Free where you can purchase a wide variety of things from gifts to alcohol. You can mostly get these same items at home but somehow they seem like must buys in the two hours you have to wait between security and boarding.

London Luton Airport Duty Free

One of the things you can get in most, if not all, duty-free sections is make-up, thus making it the perfect solution! The duty-free gives you the opportunity to go make-up free to the airport and arrive with a made-up face at the destination.

I’m always on the lookout for a new foundation or mascara but I usually end up disappointed after I buy. Putting my make-up in the duty-free gives me the chance to test new items I’ve previously been interested in without having to purchase. The products I tried were;

  • No7 Triple Protection Tinted Moisturiser
  • Dior Rose Petale Blusher
  • Rimmel Scandaleyes Mascara
  • Burberry Body Perfume

At first I felt a bit guilty walking around the different stalls and doing my make-up but I soon noticed there were actually several other women doing the exact same thing. I did end up making a purchase of mascara because I liked it, surely the exact reason for testers in the first place!

I feel no shame in putting my make-up on in duty-free and next time I travel I’ll do it again! Yes ladies and gentlemen, from no one the holiday begins at duty-free!

First photo of the holiday at La Co(o)rniche in Pyla-sur-Mer

Q: Do you have any silly travel tips to share? Have you ever used the duty-free section to put on your make-up?

Erin x

Found Love. Now What?

Our Love Story

Monday, 15 July 2013
Tomorrow Luke and I will be returning to Pau, France to attend a friend's wedding, after nearly four years of being away. Pau holds special significance for us as it is the place our relationship began and I thought I'd take this opportunity to share our love story.

In January 2009 I left Las Vegas to study abroad at the Université de Pau in France. Whilst there I lived with a French woman named Domi and her son, Yann. It was Domi who told me about an English stagiaire who worked for her that she wanted introduce to me. Sure enough, when I checked my Facebook that first night I found a message waiting in my inbox.

Hi Erin,

I stumbled across you on the Pau study abroad group. My boss has just taken in an American called Erin and I put two and two together.

Hope you're settling in and getting on with Domi.

If you want to be shown around or need any advice I'm happy to help. I've been here 4 months and my flatmate is French so we could be useful. Lol.


PS Domi has my number
Luke and I met that Friday and while I wouldn't call it love at first sight (I don't believe in it) there was a definite connection from the moment we met. We began seeing each other soon after and it was just casual. I was going back home to America and Luke was returning to England after our time together in France after all.

L'Esprit in Pau
The first night we met at L'Esprit in Pau. Paul-Etienne (L) is our friend getting married.

I don't think either of us ever thought it would turn in to anything serious but much to our surprise it did. We're not sure exactly when, perhaps it was when we went to San Sebastián together, you can read more about that here. Next thing we knew I was going on holiday with him to meet his family and my parents were flying over to France to meet him! As my host mother often teases, meeting Luke certainly didn't improve my French.

Park Güell or Gaudi Gardens in Barcelona 
Meeting Luke's family at Park Güell (Gaudi Gardens) in Barcelona

Place Clémenceau in Pau
Meeting my parents at Place Clémenceau in Pau

After my time in France, I spent a month in England with Luke before I returned to America to finish my university degree. Leaving Luke in England was one if not the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. I sobbed from the moment I walked through security at London-Heathrow and didn't stop until I landed in Las Vegas.

Having a long-distance relationship was hard, anyone who has ever had one can tell you that. We missed each other a lot and it's difficult to be apart for special occasions. Even when I was enjoying myself I always knew one thing that would make any occasion better - his presence. I never felt like we weren't going to survive the distance. I think a lot of people are sceptics when it comes to long-distance relationships, I myself used to be, but for the right person anything is possible.

In June 2010 I graduated from university (with a BA Honors in Film Studies and French might I add) and after what seemed like an eternity, made the move across the pond to England. You know the story from there.

...and they lived happily ever after at Disney's California Adventure
Luke and I at Disney's California Adventure (December 2012)

Q: What is your love story? Do you have a place that has a special meaning to you?

Erin x

Things I Miss About America

Thursday, 4 July 2013
In honour of the Fourth of July, or Independence Day if you prefer, I thought I'd share a list of the things I miss about America. Don't get me wrong I love living in England but any expat will tell you there are things they miss about their home country. Here are my top 5 things I miss about living in America and to all my American readers...

 5. Radio. If you listen to the radio in England, your choices seem to be Top 40, Top 40 or Classic FM. I miss having a choice on the radio and I especially miss my classic rock stations!

BBC Radio 1

4. American Food. You may laugh and think "what's that?" but I'm serious. Besides the abundance of sushi (read my post 'I Love Sushi') I miss frozen yogurt or froyo, Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing, In-N-Out Burger and good Mexican food. Just to name a few!

In-N-Out Burger
Luke and me at In-N-Out Burger on our last trip to Las Vegas.

3. Driving. As practical and useful as public transportation is and as good as Luke is as my chauffeur, not driving can be a pain in the bum sometimes. Now I realise this is something I can control as I do have the ability to drive. However I have no idea how to drive manual (which most cars in the UK are) or drive on the left. There is also a cost issue involved, putting me on the insurance is going to be a bloody fortune!

Luke driving in America.

2. Customer Service. 'The customer is always right' is not a phrase the English understand and 'service with a smile' you can forget about that! I remember when I first moved to England I used to say hello to the shopkeepers whenever I entered because I felt so awkward at not being greeted.

Customer Feedback
Ingimage | Royalty Free

And the number 1 thing I miss about America...

1. My family and friends. This goes without saying really. The hardest part about being an expat is being a part from your loved ones. I don't think any expat would disagree with me on that one. The problem now is when I move back to America, and it will happen at one point, I will miss my family and friends here. 

A few of my friends and me at my surprise 'Bon Voyage' party!

I'm linking up for the first time with for The Expat Diaries 
with Chelsea (Lost in Travels) and Rachel (Postcards from Rachel).

Q: What do you miss about your home or what would you miss if you left?

Erin x

The White Queen Review 3 | Witches & Revolts

Tuesday, 2 July 2013
Sunday was a perfect English summer's day spent laying out in the back garden with a gin and tonic, listening to the roar coming from Silverstone race track where the British Grand Prix was taking place. Of course a warm Sunday in June wouldn't be complete without a BBQ with venison sausages and bacon-wrapped chicken. After such a glorious end to the weekend I usually get a spot of the "Sunday blues". However I believe I've discovered the cure and that is the third episode of BBC's The White Queen, based on Philippa Gregory's novel series The Cousins' War.

Jacquetta Woodville (Janet McTeer) and Elizabeth (Rebecca Ferguson)

The year is 1469 and Queen Elizabeth (Rebecca Ferguson) has taken refuge in the Tower of London with the rest of the Rivers family. King Edward IV (Max Irons) is being kept prisoner by Lord Warwick and his brother, George, at Warwick's home. Their plan is to discredit Edward IV in parliament and put George on the throne. Unfortunately things don't go their way and parliament stays loyal to Edward IV. Edward  thus released and returns to his good lady wife in London.

What was already a strained relationship between Elizabeth and the two plotters has now completely disintegrated. She sees Lord Warwick and George as traitors and seeks revenge for their actions towards her beloved Edward and of course the deaths of her father and brother which occurred in the previous episode. Edward IV, on the other hand, is willing to forgive and forget. He believes the two are sorry and will not attempt to revolt again, besides he is looking to bring peace to his kingdom.

So eager is Edward to ease tensions that he even invites Warwick and family (which includes George who is married to Warwick's eldest daughter Isabel) to London for Christmas. Family at Christmas can be awkward even at the best of times, but this is too much. While Edward IV may be willing to forgive his kinsmen, Elizabeth makes it clear that she has not and never will. Case in point, the awkward conversation with Countess Warwick and her two daughters.

Warwick has not given up his plots against Edward IV so easily and he is starting a rebellion again not even half-way through the episode. This time, desperate to further her son's claim to the throne, Lady Margaret Beaufort joins Warwick's rebellion with Jasper Tudor, Henry's guardian. The rebellion fails and the traitors must run for their lives.

You can watch the episode 3 of The White Queen on BBC iPlayer here. Here are my 5 unmissable things we learned from The White Queen this week:

5. Crimping was not just popular in the 1980s. Newsflash crimping became trendy in the 1400s, or at least The White Queen's version of the 1400s. And I'm not the only one to have noticed, even Glamour Magazine remarked on The White Queen hair dresser's love of crimping!

It's not just the crimping that has people talking about The White Queen, it's also Rebecca Ferguson's incredibly long wig! Apparently it was even the longest real hair wig that the wig studio had ever made. And do I really have to mention the Princess Leia hair buns we witnessed in episode 2? Please see my episode 2 review for more detail.

4. Warwick should give up this king-making malarkey. It seems every time we see Warwick (James Frain) and George (David Oakes) they are plotting some rebellion or other. It's just a shame they appear to be so bad at it. They'll rub their hands together and smirk like comic villains and say the revolt will work this time. Next thing we know they're riding back with their tails between their legs saying "We've failed". Even the involvement of the House of Lancaster can't help them win. Then again, had they not involved Lancaster they might not have failed, but more on that later. The episode ends with them running away to France. Just give up boys and let Edward IV continue to be king!

3. Lady Margaret is a master schemer. When it comes to schemers Lady Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale) has proved herself to be one the best. This week she took Jasper Tudor's advice and asked her husband to send an army to join Warwick to overthrow Edward IV. When he refused, she then manipulated her husband to take her to see her mother. There she tells her brother that the Lord needs him to build an army for the rebellion. Poor boy, he ends up being killed by Edward IV when he goes to confess the revolt. I mean really Edward, there was no need for that! When the rebellion goes pear-shaped, as all of Warwick's rebellions do, all parties involved must flee. But not before Lady Margaret and Jasper share a passionate kiss. What happened to "thou shall not commit adultery" Margaret? Did you forget about that commandment in all your scheming?

2. I would not like to be a king-maker's daughter. Isabel Neville (Eleanor Tomlinson) is Warwick's eldest daughter and married to George. Really she's just a pawn in her father's political game. Her father is determined to have her Queen, if only so he can rule through them. So confident is he in his victory that he goes as far as sending the coronation robes to Isabel. Of course these are quickly whisked away again when he fails, as he does. I don't think Isabel is sorry to see the coronation robes go, she's cottoned on to her father's games and doesn't want to be Queen. She doesn't just have her father's scheming to deal with, did I mention she's pregnant? "

Unfortunately, she's not able to have her baby in the safety of her own home. Thanks to her father's failed revolt the entire family must flee to France, forcing a very heavily pregnant Isabel on to a ship. She could barely handle the carriage ride, let alone a ride across the channel. The crossing of the English channel is rocky at the best of times but they have a storm to contend with. In the saddest moment of the entire series, Isabel loses the baby but it's okay, George says, they can have others. And who said romance was dead?

1. The Woodville women should have attended Hogwarts. In the previous episodes it appears that Elizabeth and her mother Jacquetta (Janet McTeer) might have some magical powers. For example, Elizabeth pulls the crown ring out of the river, a premonition of her marriage to King Edward IV in episode one. However the Woodville women go from being seers to full-on conjurers of the elements in episode three! Did you know that blowing near a bowl of water could cause such a storm?

I thought these powers were just a bit of artistic license taken by Philippa Gregory but apparently not. It seems that Jacquetta was put on trial for witchcraft in 1470. In 1484 Richard III revived the allegations of witchcraft against Jacquetta, claiming that she and Elizabeth had procured Elizabeth's marriage to Edward IV through witchcraft.

Q: What was your favourite scene in this week's episode of The White Queen? Who do you think is the better schemer - Warwick or Lady Margaret?

Erin x

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I Love Sushi

Monday, 1 July 2013
Where I grew up in Las Vegas, or to be more specific Henderson, there were two things that were guaranteed to be on every corner - a Starbucks and a sushi restaurant. Most of the sushi restaurants have their pros but the best all-around is in my opinion I Love Sushi. It was right around the corner from my old high school and we used to eat there 3 times a week. Yes 3 times a week, I had a sushi addiction.

Some of my favourites were Baked Green Mussels, Screaming Orgasm, Crunchy Roll, oh the list could go on and on. It doesn't matter what roll or sushi you chose, it was all delicious but there was one thing that remained constant. I would start every meal with a miso soup and boiled rice with spicy ponzu sauce. This became a sort of comfort food for me. Whenever I was feeling ill my mom would be dispatched to I Love Sushi to bring me back some miso soup and boiled rice with spicy ponzu sauce.

Screaming Orgasm from I Love Sushi

YO! Sushi
Now that I'm an expat in England, sushi restaurants are rather hard to come by. Sure there is a chain of YO! Sushi restaurants that I head to whenever the craving becomes too much. They have this thing called Blue Mondays where they serve their most popular dishes for £2.30 which I enjoy. However they are nothing compared to I Love Sushi and cannot provide me the thing which I crave most - boiled rice with spicy ponzu sauce. Trust me, I've asked.

Therefore it was up to my own devices and some help from my sushi partner in crime, Amy, to create my own version of spicy ponzu sauce. Amy used to live in Las Vegas but has since moved to California, and while she has plenty of sushi restaurants to choose from she still misses the spicy ponzu sauce from I Love Sushi. Between the two of us we have been able to create a version of the sauce we love.

Ponzu is a Japanese citrus sauce served with sashimi, tempura, and rice, among other things.

'I Love Sushi' Ponzu Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sesame Seed Oil
  • Lemon Juice
  • Rice Vinegar
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce

Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce

Tip: Keep fresh ginger in the freezer, it stays fresh longer and is easy to grate into dishes. It grates so finely that you don't even need to peel it.

Mix the ingredients. For every part soy sauce, have nearly an equal part lemon juice. You will only need a drop of sesame seed oil and one clove of garlic. Add rice vinegar, ginger, and Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce to taste.

The recipe isn't perfect but on nights when I don't feel well or are feeling a little homesick this does the trick.

Q: What do you have when you're not feeling well or homesick?

Erin x

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