Today’s Ramblings #15

It’s been a while but once again it’s time for some ramblings from your friendly expat Brit! So grab a brew, sit back and let me fill you in on what’s been happening lately!

We’ve had a kick up the butt lately and realised that Wedding Number 2 is literally just around the corner. Oh dear lord. Last weekend we were transported into wedding hell. We spent all of Saturday afternoon and evening along with Sunday afternoon and evening sorting. By sorting I mean invitations, menus, table plans, translations (that was the German’s job of course!) and place cards. By the end of Sunday evening I’d had enough. I’d written our name and address on around 80 RSVP card envelopes, written the addresses of our guests on the invitation envelopes and licked and sticked around 80 of them. My mouth felt like Ghandi’s flip flop and I was over sorting out wedding things…well for now at least. I can’t ditch it all together! We achieved a lot though – the German was happy with that! We have a list of things we HAVE to do before we head back to Germany next weekend and there’s still some things that need ticking off. I’m guessing that will be this weekend’s job. Ugh.

Before wedding stuff on Sunday though we did take time out for some brunch:

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Going out for brunch is a big thing here in the States, I mean like massive! Having a brunch date is as popular as having a dinner date. There are certain cafe’s that open specifically for breakfast and brunch, just about everywhere has a brunch menu and believe me, the stuff they do is so good! We’ve joined the brunch band wagon before but it had been awhile so we jumped in with both feet on Sunday and tried somewhere new! So off we went to West Egg Café. It was my choice, simply because the place the German found was closed! This place had good ratings and when arrived there was a HUGE queue. We ended up waiting for an hour for a table (thankfully though it was the warmest day of the year so far so we waited outside with a coffee!) and we weren’t disappointed:

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One happy German right there! By this point we were starving but every mouthful was delicious, even if we weren’t about to eat each other in an act of cannibalism! (not really but we were very hungry!) The German went for the Chicken Chilaquiles and I opted for the Salmon Cakes Benedict:

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I think we’ll definitely be heading back there again soon, even if we have to wait for an hour! After brunch we went for a little stroll before entering wedding hell again! This time we opted for the Big Trees trail – unsurprisingly it’s full of, yep, you guessed it, big trees!

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Yes, I am an idiot and yes, the German often looks on in despair like that! I was excited, the sun was out, it was hot and it seemed like spring was finally on the way…until today, when it turned cold again. Boooo. Come on spring…

Also…can you believe it’s March tomorrow? Me neither! Where is this year going? It will be Christmas before we know it!

Food: 5 of the Best Atlanta Restaurants

Eating out is big here in the States and since moving to Atlanta we’ve done it LOTS! After trying out a good selection of restaurants in this fab city I thought I would share some of my favourites with you…there’s a long this so here are the first 5! What can I say? This girl likes her food!! There will definitely be more of these lists making a blog appearance as we carry on eating our way around Atlanta!!

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1. Table & Main – Roswell
If you’re looking for authentic Southern food then this is the place to go! We first tried this place out when my brother and sister-in-law were visiting for Becky’s birthday and it was beautiful! The cute traditional building complete with a porch (you know how I want a house with a porch, rocking chairs and a swing!) had already won my heart and that was before we tasted the food! The German and I opted for the Preservation Plate full of seasonal goodies which I then followed with the fried chicken. I have 3 words to describe it ‘Oh My Lord!’ It was just amazing! I’m talking half a chicken piled on your plate coated in some amazing seasoned breadcrumbs – just divine! I obviously had it with a side of mac n’ cheese – it had to be done! If you go there you HAVE to try it! They do good desserts too as well as cocktails – we can’t forget those!

2. 6 Feet Under – Grant Park

Catfish, calamari and hush puppies with zucchini fries!

Catfish, calamari and hush puppies with zucchini fries!

This place serves up a heart attack on a plate but it’s probably the best heart attack on a plate you’ll ever have! It’s located across the road from Oakland Cemetery – the oldest cemetery in Atlanta, and if you sit on the patio upstairs you can literally look straight into it and at the huge gravestones! It sounds pretty creepy but I can assure you it isn’t! It’s described as a pub and fish house and, as well as serving up a good selection of draft beers (something that always makes the German happy!) it also serves up some of the best deep-fried fish in the city of Atlanta! I’m talking catfish (a southern classic!) oysters, shrimp (or prawns if you’re a Brit like me!) calamari, scallops, cod – the list is endless and each and every one of them is amazing! (Alright, I haven’t tasted them all but I’ve had a good chunk of them and they were all very tasty!!) The baskets are the best! They come with hush puppies (another southern classic I’ve discovered!) and a side of your choice – I went for the zucchini fries and they were delish!!! It’s no good for your waistline but it’s sooooo good for your taste buds!

3. Noche – Virginia Highlands
This tapas restaurant has 4 locations – Virginia Highlands, Brookhaven, Johns Creek and Vinings, we visited the restaurant in Virginia Highlands and we weren’t disappointed! Inside it was a cosy, modern hide out that was pretty busy that’s for sure! We had a table reserved so we were ok – I reckon it needs to be done if you don’t want to be waiting for ages! So, obviously this is tapas which means lots of little dishes – something I love! I really enjoy trying different things (this stems from Pa Cook when I was little!) and often get food envy if the German has something that is nicer than mine! Sharing everything means I get the best of both worlds and no food envy – result! I think we may have sampled the goats cheese fritters, the meatballs (always got to be done at a tapas restaurant!) some paella, probably some sort of potato dish along with some other tasty morsels and each and every one was delicious!! If you’re after tapas – this is the place to go! We really need to go back there sometime soon…

4. 5 Seasons Brewing – Sandy Springs
This is another restaurant with a few locations – the one we tested out though is in Sandy Springs. It’s a firm favourite with the German, simply because it brews its own beer! Yep, this place has its own brewery and produces, among others, German style beers, another reason why it’s a winner with that German of mine! Along side that beer is the food – any place that does good beer and good food is a keeper! We’re talking typical pub food, including good old fish and chips from England and a ploughman’s with a German twist including bratwurst and potato salad along with pizzas, sandwiches, or course burgers and fried chicken! I’ve had a pizza before (very tasty!) and last time I had one of the specials – Georgia trout – and it was cooked to perfection! When my brother came over he had the crispy alligator (it tasted like chicken, like every ‘different’ meat does!) and it got full marks – I think the gulf shrimp and cheddar grit cake sounds tasty too! I know what I’ll be trying next time…

5. One Star Ranch – Buckhead

Ribs, coleslaw and fries!

Ribs, coleslaw and fries!

And last, but by no means least on my list so far is the One Star Ranch in Buckhead. From the outside, this place doesn’t look very special  but believe me, it is not to be overlooked!! Inside there are licence plates stuck all over the walls along with dollar bill notes that people have signed – it definitely gives it an atmosphere and makes the place look loved! Add to that the fact that the BBQ that comes out of this place is out of this world and we’ve got a winning combination!! We’re talking juicy ribs, chicken, pulled pork, brisket, turkey, beef ribs and sausage along with some amazing sides like coleslaw, baked beans, Brunswick stew, cornbread and of course fries! It’s not the cleanest meal you’ll go out to eat (you’ll use a lot of the roll of napkins on the table!) but it’s definitely one of the tastiest! The best BBQ in ATL if you ask me and it’s won awards to prove it! It’s all served on plastic plates with separate sections for the BBQ and sides – I think it’s very authentic! Oh and you can’t forget the margaritas that come in pint glasses! Oh yes, nobody can look at a pint of margarita and say no! And, as luck would have it I’m heading here later…BBQ incoming!! Sorry wedding diet!!

* This is an unsponsored blog. I did not receive any payments for any of these reviews – all thoughts are my own and from the pit of my very grateful stomach!

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Expat Life: How I miss the NHS

So, I went for an eye test yesterday after realising that my prescription had run out (well, for a start I didn’t realise it actually had a date on it!) and I couldn’t get anymore contact lenses without a test.

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I checked with our health insurance and found an eye doctor to sort it all out – of course, I had to choose one that was covered by my insurance and after checking a few reviews found one that looked decent enough. Appointment made I turned up and checked in.

Here’s the first problem whenever I go for something medical over here, the fact my insurance card is issued by a British company – it confuses the hell out of the people on reception because it’s not one of the usual plans they see. Cue Rachel waiting 30 minutes for them to sort it out, usually by calling the insurers to see what the deal is before saying ‘yes, Ms Richter (just about always pronounced wrong!) everything is fine.’ Phew because I really have no clue what I am doing and anything about US healthcare, or my insurance plan for that matter to try to help them out! I often look at them with a blank look on my face – especially when they mention things like co-pays and the like! I have no idea what they’re talking about – they could tell me I needed to pay $1 million and I’d probably believe them!

Drama one over, off I went to take my contact lenses out and get these blind eyes of mine checked. The optician came in, nice fella, did the test with all the which looks better, read the bottom line, blah, blah, blah and came to the conclusion that my eyes have stayed the same. That’s good, at least they haven’t got any worse – they’re bad enough!

Then came the checking out…turns out I have a $300 allowance with my insurance – sounds good right? Yeah, until they tell you the actual eye test costs $245!!!!! I nearly passed out with shock! 245 dollars!!! I still can’t believe it now! Especially when I saw an advert in Costco for a contact lens check and that cost just $99! I thought that was bad enough but 245 bucks is just unbelievable! I have no idea how they can charge that much for about 20 minutes with the actual optician! And he didn’t put any of the yellow drops I usually have in my eyes at an eye test or blow air into them, I’m sure what he did was perfectly fine, in fact it was, he’s a professional, he knows what he’s doing, I just don’t think it warranted a $245 price tag!

Back in the UK I used to trot into the doctors, opticians, anywhere medical and get something done without having to pay a penny (well apart from the National Insurance tax from my pay check but still, that is nothing compared to the $245 for an eye test!) and now we get bills for months if we take a trip to the doctors and I’m not just talking about a bill for the appointment…nope. You get that one, followed by a bill for the urine test you had, another for the blood tests, another for the tests that took place in a lab, not forgetting the bill to get rid of the rubbish (yes, they actually charge you for that!) – they seem to be never-ending and they all come with a good price tag! There is one bonus though – you know exactly how much things cost!

Oh and we can’t forget the pre-existing conditions, yep, if you’ve already had problems when signing up for an insurance plan, the insurers don’t cover you for that problem because it’s a pre-existing condition. Well that’s helpful isn’t it? Cue the millions of bills through the letterbox! Also, when we signed up for our insurance plan we decided to put maternity cover on there, not because we are planning a baby anytime soon (don’t get excited Ma Cook, you won’t be a grandma just yet!) but for ‘just in case’ knowing that if something did happen it would of course come with a nice big price tag in the thousands of dollars range. But, when the insurance policy arrived, it turned out the maternity cover didn’t kick in for a year anyway! Useful.

The system here in America is fine if you’re rich and can afford a top of the range healthcare package that covers your every need, but if you’re poor you’re basically screwed. Millions of American’s don’t even have insurance because they can’t afford the monthly premiums. In some cases, even those that do have health insurance are hit with huge bills because their plan doesn’t cover the treatments, you often see stories in the news about fundraisers to help pay for healthcare for a child who had a bad accident, or hear of people who are in danger of losing their house because their healthcare bills are so high. You shouldn’t have to live in fear like that – healthcare should be a human right, everybody should be entitled to it, no matter what it’s cost. Can you tell I’m all for Obama Care?!

Basically, what I’m saying here is I miss the NHS. People moan about it back home in the UK, about the fact you have to wait for weeks for an appointment, some reckon the level of care isn’t good enough but I for one think it is amazing. We should be proud of the fact that everybody, no matter how much money they earn or don’t earn, what social standing they have or the state of health they’re already in, gets access to high quality medical care without having to shell out thousands of pounds. It’s a service that is the envy of countries around the world and we’re the ones lucky enough to be able to use it, we shouldn’t moan, we should embrace it and not take it for granted, because if it was suddenly ripped from under our feet, believe me, we’d know about it.

Exploring: Baby Pandas at Atlanta Zoo.

How was your Valentine’s weekend people? My treat (aside from queso and wings at Taco Mac – the German knows how to treat a lady!) was a trip to Zoo Atlanta!!!!

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Now, I’ve already been to the zoo with my brother and sister-in-law but that was before these little creatures were allowed out for the world to see:

TOO CUTE!!

TOO CUTE!!

Yep the baby panda cubs! Aren’t they just the cutest things ever!! They’re also known as Mei Hunn and Mei Huan and are the latest cubs born to Lun Lun. The cubs were born on July, 15, 2013 – they were the first giant pandas to be born in the US in 2013 and the first twin cubs to be born in the US since 1987!Wow!

Right, that’s enough of the boring stuff – time for those all important cutest pictures ever!! We were lucky – these guys were very active when we were there and getting into all sorts of cute trouble! They loved playing with the Valentine’s garland the zoo keepers had made for them and of course, like all siblings, liked to bully each other and push each other about!

Seriously, how cute are they? I could have literally watched them for hours! In fact, I think we spent at least an hour with them! I failed to tell you that pandas are the German’s favourite animals. He LOVES them! I think it’s because he is a little bit like them, likes to just hang around and chill, be a lazy bum and eat! Well he doesn’t tuck into bamboo, that’s for sure, but the boy does like his food! So you can imagine how excited he was heading to the pandas – he made us go straight there, skipping all the other animals along the way! They could wait until later – the pandas were the most important!

The little panda cubs were hanging out with their mum who picked one of them off the climbing frame and tried to stop her getting back up! Cheeky! But she made it and they all hung out together for a while before momma panda bear went to get some food:

I seriously wanted to take these little babies home (and that’s coming from the girl who doesn’t like animals) because they were just so cute! There little bums, the way the moved around and hung out on the climbing frame, stretching and nearly falling off! Did I mention that they’re cute? However, the German said that one day they would get too big so taking them home probably wasn’t a good idea. Spoil sport.

I did, however, take a little video for your perusal too as one of the little panda cubs attempted to get back on the climbing frame – check this out for a cuteness overload:

Fancy some more random panda facts? Well, word on the street (well from the zoo people!) is that pandas can poop up to 100 times in 24 hours creating up to 45 pounds of poop a day! Now that is a whole lotta poop! Sorry for the poop content but I think that had to be shared! You can go and wow your work colleagues and friends with a random panda fact! You can thank me later!

Now, where were we before the  poop diversion…oh yeah, just next to the baby pandas was another giant panda who was also very active – I think it was Yang Yang – the father of the cubs and partner of Lun Lun. Running around with his bamboo, climbing on his frame, falling off his rope, ripping apart his garland – he definitely knew how to entertain!

Here’s a clip of the big guy in action:

But, after a hard day entertaining the crowds and looking after your baby panda cubs, there’s only one thing for it…a good stick of bamboo:

Of course, these weren’t the only animals we saw during out trip to the zoo but I think the pandas needed a post of their own – don’t ya think? Don’t worry though – the other animals will get some blog time – just in another post! Stay tuned for that one guys!

Serioulsy though…you can’t deny that there isn’t a whole lot of cuteness in this post and this could actually be the cutest blog post you’ve ever read in your life, ever?!

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The great ice storm of 2014…

Another winter storm hit Atlanta this week – I decided to blog my way through it for you guys (without leaving the house this time – we all know what happened last time I ventured out!) and work out whether all the hype was justified or not.

Monday:

So, just 2 weeks ago Atlanta was left crippled when Snowmageddon hit. Thousands were stranded, either in their vehicles, with friends, at school and even in grocery stores overnight as the city struggled to deal with just 2 inches of snow.

And now, 2 weeks on, another winter storm is on the horizon and all eyes are on Atlanta and it’s authorities to see if the same happens again. Today is Monday, the storm is expected to hit on Tuesday, with the worst of it on Wednesday, when the streets are expected to be covered in ice.

Already, the authorities have declared a State of Emergency in over 40 counties, and after school activities were cancelled first thing this morning, Atlanta Public Schools have already said schools will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. A State of emergency operations center opened at 3pm. People have been asked to leave work as early as they can today so snow ploughs can start treating the roads from 6pm. Extra trucks have also been brought in from southern Georgia, an area that’s not expected to be hit by the bad weather.The Mayor, Kasim Reed, has already said that shelters will be available for people who get stranded. Oh and we can’t forget the panic buying at the supermarket! This one always surprises me – do people really not have enough food in their homes for 2 days?

But, is it all an over exaggeration? Will the weather be as bad as it was 2 weeks ago or are authorities jumping the gun to save their butts from more embarrassment?

Tuesday:

The storm is apparently hitting us right now, but, as I look out of the window it looks pretty normal, it’s raining with a little bit of sleet mixed in. So far, so good. But, according to the news, tomorrow will be the worst day – that’s when icepocalypse hits! Yep, we’re expecting an ice storm. It will rain and immediately turn to ice, this could mean power lines go out and we’re literally stranded in our homes as roads turn into ice. Fine by me, I’m not leaving this time!

But, you would think the world is going to end! This time, the whole city has shut down, already, in preparation for the storm. Supermarkets were, last night, rammed and shelves were emptied of bread and milk:

Oh and not forgetting the looooong queues at gas stations because we all need a full tank of petrol when we’re being told to stay at home!

One news station described it as a ‘catastrophic event.’ Now, I’m not being funny, but I don’t class some bad weather as a ‘catastrophic event!’ To me, a catastrophic event is more like a tsunami or an earthquake, a terrorist attack or a mass shooting, not an ice storm! The advice is to make sure you have batteries for flashlights (I don’t think we even possess a flashlight but we do have candles!) to keep your cell phones and electrical devices charged (mine are both charging right now but that’s more because they were dying!) to have food that you can eat from a can without heating it up (I think I could manage that!) and to keep your taps dripping so pipes don’t freeze.

The German escaped the weather this morning and caught a flight to Chicago – he’s supposed to be back on Wednesday but we’ll see about that! With the ice storm expected to hit tomorrow I told him to take extra undies with him just in case!! And it seems I was right – seconds after writing this he sent me a text to say his flight has already been cancelled and he’s coming back on Thursday, via Detroit! Excellent. I don’t think we’ll ever have snow days where both of us are at home!

Anyway, I’ve just been to the local supermarket to get some supplies – everything is still a-ok out there boys and girls! Sadly, I didn’t see scenes of queues a mile long (I was actually hoping for it for blog pictures!) but there wasn’t much bread left:

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And they’re all out of firewood:

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Good job I stocked up on that one at the weekend even though I’ve never actually started a fire in my life and have no idea how to do so! Ah well, I’m sure if it came to it I’d get through it! I did, however, stock up on some essential supplies:

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Pizza, a sub, salad and sushi – all the essentials! Ice storm…I’m ready for you!

Wednesday

Now this is more like an ice storm! I woke up this morning, looked out of the window and saw this:

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Yep, the street, cars, everything is covered in a layer of ice and as the day continues, this thing is getting worse! At the moment it’s raining – freezing rain it’s called. It looks like the really fine stuff that gets you really wet but as soon as it hits the ground it freezes over and leaves another layer of ice. I really want to venture outside and take some pictures for you guys but I don’t want to get wet/iced up and with the German in Chicago I’m here on my own! I’d only end up falling arse over tit as we say back in England (imagine this little Brit doing some bad attempt at figure skating before her legs fly in the air and she lands on her butt with a great big thump!) and that’s not the best way to spend an ice storm day! So, instead I’m having one of these:

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Yep, it’s a pyjama day in this Brits house! Yay! Maybe I’ll venture out in the morning to snap some pictures before it all melts away! Things are supposed to get better tomorrow – they better do, that German of mine is supposed to be coming home and I haven’t had any face to face human contact for nearly 2 days now!! He had better be prepared for a very excitable wife when he gets back!

So, right now I’m hoping the power doesn’t go out. Things are looking pretty bad over the rest of Atlanta – I’ve found some pics on Twitter for you guys and snapped some pics of the TV – I may not be venturing out but you still need to see these things!

By 11:30am this morning more than 100,000 people in Atlanta were without power. That rose to nearly 200,000 by 1:30pm. Things are still looking good here although the big trees outside our apartment are swaying pretty well today! Eeeek!

The rain’s just got a little heavier here in Sandy Springs…it’s mad watching it fall as rain but the ground is solid ice that just keeps getting thicker! I can only imagine what it will be like by the end of the day!

Thursday

Yaaaay! I survived the great ice storm of 2014! Phew!! The power stayed on and everything! Cabin fever well and truly set in last night though – jeez I was so fed up of seeing the same 4 walls! I even got fed up ofwatching Gossip Girl and I’m only on season 1! I figured I had to start something new – the constant coverage of the storm on nearly every channel was really starting to annoy me! But I woke up this morning to a layer of snow on top of the ice making the place look really beautiful!

Thankfully it’s not sticking around though and the great thaw of 2014 is now underway! But I have been out and taken some pictures for you, just before things really start to melt away!! Plus, I NEEDED to get out of this apartment!

The sun is out now and the ice and snow is slowly disappearing! All you can hear is water trickling as it thaws out from the roofs! If you walk under a tree it’s like being in a rain shower as the ice melts from the branches and when the wind blew the ice flew off the trees! It’s pretty but I’m soooooo glad it’s disappearing! I need to get out of the house and get a sense of normality back!! This ice storm has done nothing for my wedding diet and trips to the gym! The German is supposed to be coming home today – he’s about to leave Chicago for Detroit and then land in Atlanta this evening! Fingers crossed he makes it ok! Things should be a lot better by this evening as temperatures rise and more of the ice melts away so he should get back safely and in one piece! I need some face to face human contact!!! There’s gonna be one excited wife when he arrives home!

So that was the great ice storm of 2014 and it seems this storm was a pretty bad one. I think authorities were right to make sure everyone was home! Personally though, I think they did over-react a little bit on Tuesday – there wasn’t any ice on the roads and things were just like any other day. Forecasters were even telling you that it was safe to be on the roads until midnight! But, Wednesday was a completely different story – if anybody woke up that morning and attempted to venture out in their cars they were idiots who were asking for trouble if you ask me! It was treacherous out there but thankfully this time we didn’t see pictures of gridlocked roads with people sleeping in their cars overnight, people seemed to listen to the warnings and stayed indoors! That, I am not surprised about after Snowmageddon! Big up to the authorities for that one! I think they gave everybody enough warning that this beast was coming so people were prepared.

And the good news – according to my friend I am now a true Atlantan – I’ve survived my first ice storm!!

Happy Blog-niversary!

Get the cake and candles ready because this blog is celebrating! Me, Myself and Atlanta! is officially 1-year-old today! Yep, this time last year I was stepping into the unknown and writing my first ever blog post…eeek! I had no idea what to expect when I entered the world of blogging, I kind of just wanted something to do in those first few months of being a lonely expat in a brand new country! I wanted to use it as a way to keep in touch with people back home and to keep them updated with our new adventures and what we were getting up to, but since then it’s turned into a whole lot more and I love it!

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I’ve always enjoyed writing – hey, I’m a journalist, it kind of goes with the territory! But I’ve never really written things like this, I was a broadcast journalist – I wrote and read the news on the radio, therefore stories had to be clear, concise and in as fewer lines as possible! Nothing like the essays I write here so this was a new challenge for me! I literally had no idea what I was doing when I wrote that first post, I was completely clueless about this whole blogging world!

But what an experience my first 12 months in it has been! I definitely didn’t realise I was making my way into a huge community of people who all look out for and support each other! There’s definitely a whole lotta love in blogland and I am so glad that I’ve been welcomed into the community with open arms! Fellow bloggers are always willing to help you out with hints and tips on how to make your little piece of the internet even better and for that I am so grateful! Really, I have no idea what I’m doing on my little piece of the internet – yeah, I can do the writing side of things but when it comes to the technical stuff I’m LOST! So THANK YOU sooooo much for all your help, whether it’s a post I’ve read, a comment you’ve left me or some words of encouragement – you’re ace!

Over the year I’ve seen my numbers steadily grow but, like all bloggers, I want them to grow even more! I don’t think they’ll ever be high enough! When it comes to the blog views I’ve turned into the German – he seems to have some sort of obsession/addiction to numbers and watching them grow! I think he checks my stats more than I do and don’t even get him started on Delta Skymiles – seriously, he’s addicted to that thing! Anyway, I digress!

I feel like I have achieved a lot in my first year of blogging, but there’s still a lot to do to make it even better! So, I’ve come up with some goals to help me get there over the next 12 months:

1. Share the blog love more
Sure, I read other blogs, but more often that not I quickly move onto the next post, usually because I don’t have much time and I’m fitting the blog reading around something else. This is not going to get me more blog love! I need to make time to read blogs properly and comment on them in every way, shape and form! Big people up if I’ve enjoyed their posts (which I do a lot, I just never get around to the commenting part!) and discover new blogs to share the love with!

2. Spend more time working on the content of my blog
Often, I just write about things that  have happened or where we’ve been exploring – simples. Lately though, I’ve done a couple of posts about the things I love and hate (that’s a strong word, I don’t mean hate!) about my life as an expat in America. I really want to do more of this stuff, but, they take more time and, like most of us, I’m usually trying to fit too much into my day (being a temporary lady of leisure can be busy you know!) and never seem to have time to sit down and brainstorm things, put all the ideas that are whizzing around my head onto paper and eventually into a blog post! I need to designate time to blogging, and blogging is all I will do during that time!

3. Improve the look of my piece of blog land
I’m not one for technical things – just ask the German! Usually I have no idea how to change simple things on a computer, that can be a bit problematic when trying to create a kick ass blog! So, I’ve purchased this:

Blogniversary 2
Yep, I’m planning to get to grips with my fear of HTML, confusing codes and, lets face it, computers in general, to give the little piece of the internet I call my blog a makeover! Argh! We’ll see how all this works out! I’m hoping to do it without the help of the German but we’ll see about that!! Keep visiting to see if it works!

4. Network with other bloggers
The word ‘network’ strikes fear deep inside me. I hate it. I’m not the best at making conversation (despite the fact I used to walk up to random people in the street back in my journalist days) and making new contacts. But, to get on in the blogging world (and in life!), I’ve realised that this has to be done so network I will. You want a guest post? I’m your woman! You want a shout out for some blog love? Me again! You want the view of a British expat on something? You guessed it, I’m here!

So there we have it – I can’t quite believe a year has passed in blog land, but I’m ready and raring to go for the next 12 months!

But there’s one thing I still need to do and that is to say a big fat THANK YOU to you, my lovely blog readers! Without you this piece of the internet wouldn’t be what it is now! I appreciate every visit you make to read a post, check out a picture, see what adventures we’ve been on and how expat life is treating this little (well, I’m 5ft 9″) British girl in Atlanta! So, grab a cup of tea or a glass of wine, depending on what time it is, and prepare yourselves for another year of slightly random blog posts that I hope will entertain you as much as the last 12 months!

Exploring: SweetWater Brewery, Atlanta, GA

OK, so this adventure dates back to summer, when my brother and sister-in-law were visiting us! I’ve been meaning to blog about this beauty for a while but other things seem to have got there first! Ah well, better late than never hey?

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So, back in August when my beer guzzling big brother was visiting us, we decided to take a tour of the SweetWater Brewery here in Atlanta. I was pretty excited about this too, and the German definitely was (he’s a fellow beer guzzler!) after drinking SweetWater’s offerings for the past 8 months!My sister-in-law was a little less excited, being a certified wine drinker, but she was willing to give it a try! This was our second attempt at visiting the brewery – we tried to go one rainy Saturday afternoon, but if you don’t get there at the time it opens it turns out there’s a massive queue! So we tried again during the week and yay…success!

Beer guzzlers ready?

Beer guzzlers ready?

The brewery’s located at the side of Highway 85 in Atlanta, so I’ve passed this place LOTS but obviously never been in! Despite being an Atlanta brewery, its roots began in Boulder, Colorado in the early 90s, where 2 roommates, Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney realised they loved beer more than the books! After college they went off to Brewing School and when Freddy came to Atlanta for the Olympics in 1996 he realised this place needed some beer love! So, with the help of family and friends, the pair scraped together enough money and in 1997, SweetWater Brewery was born! Yay to that!!

A second location and thousands and thousands of barrels of beer later and we were about to sample the SweetWater goodness! After paying our 10 bucks and collecting our (American sized) pint glass (that we were allowed to take home!) we ventured into the great unknown that is SweetWater Brewery! Our job from here on in was to taste the beer – who could complain? We each had a certain amount of tokens and we’d been let loose!! Hurrah!

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The boys were at that bar within seconds and very excitable, particularly my brother, he can get a little hyper sometimes, especially when beer is involved!! Drink number 1 was soon in our hands, I think I opted for the SweetWater Blue! Sample number one…a definite success! Very tasty indeed!

A beer lovers dream!

A beer lovers dream!

Now, SweetWater has a selection of year round brews, seasonal or ‘catch n release’ brews and the so-called Dank Tank collection! The year round brews are obviously the most popular – 420, Blue, IPA, Georgia Brown and Lowryeder IPA. All of these were available for us to try and try them we did! My favourite was definitely the Blue, closely followed by the 420!

Happy beer samplers!

Happy beer samplers!

After tasting a few of the brews we spotted one of the ‘Follow me for a Tour’ signs and did just that! Time to go behind the scenes of a brewery! Wooo! Off we trotted, through the doors and into where the magic happens! Sadly though, there was some building work in progress which meant we couldn’t go far, but we still got to see some of the machinery and found out how it all works, along with that little history lesson I gave you earlier!

Tour over and it was time to test out some more beers, this time the seasonal, or catch n release brews! This is one thing I LOVE about America – the seasonal beer! So SweetWater has a good selection – Happy Ending, Road Trip, Motor Boat, Festival Ale, Waterkeeper Hefeweizen and Whiplash. Back in August, the season on offer for us was the Motor Boat, at the moment it’s Whiplash (we have some in our fridge!) and that is definitely my favourite! By this point, designated driver Rachel had given up with the beer tasting and handed her tokens to the boys who were happy to oblige when it came to using them! I had a sip of the beers to taste them though! The Dank Tank was last on their list before using the rest of the tokens to go back to their favourites!

After that was the schwag shop! My brother was definitely excited about this one! He loves logo t-shirts from his travels so he made a beeline for the merchandise! There was literally everything – t-shirts, hoodies, beer coozies, keyrings, coffee holders, coasters, signs for the wall, you name it, they had it including this beast:

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Now that is a cooler! (And sadly, yes, those are my legs! I’m guessing the German took this pic!) My brother was in heaven! I think he walked away with a t-shirt and possible some other treats (I can’t actually remember, it’s quite a while ago now!) and, of course, a big smile on his face!

Eventually, the boys were out of tokens and full of beer! My sister-in-law was looking forward to a glass of wine and I was looking forward to joining the happy beer train everyone else was already on, so, with our souvenir glasses in our hands, we jumped in the car and headed home!

Marks out of 10 for the SweetWater Brewery experience…10!! I think we’ll definitely be heading back for another visit!!

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Please Note: This is an unsponsored blog, I did not receive any payments or endorsements for this review, all views are from the happy beer guzzlers!