A few weeks ago, the German and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary (even though we’ve legally been married for 2 years!) and decided to head back to Florida where married life for us technically began, although Ma Cook refused to believe it until she saw me walk down the aisle a year later in Germany!
It’s been so cold around here lately, I thought we could head back to a time when there was bright blue skies, very warm temperatures and a need to cool down with 32 oz of frozen cocktail! Yep, we’re heading back to my birthday trip to New Orleans back in June of last year.
We maybe didn’t pick the best time of day to take a stroll around the Garden District of the city. If you were playing spot the Europeans heading out into the midday sun you would have hit the jackpot with us two! Yep, despite having a guide book that suggested you miss the midday sun, we strolled straight into it!
This area of the city is just beautiful and definitely a spot not to be missed. The Garden District is the area of New Orleans where wealthy newcomers built their majestic homes in the 19th century. It’s the perfect area fir architecture buffs and gardeners with some extremely grand, beautiful and pretty homes, including a lot of Greek Revival mansions.
As you all know, the German celebrated his birthday the other week and we spent the weekend in Savannah. Lucky that we did because his birthday present was a little heavy to take on a plane.
The German’s favourite food in the whole, entire world is pizza. He could eat it every single day and not get bored. In fact, before he met me I think he really did eat it every single day and, if I go back to the UK and leave him home alone without any pre-cooked dinners in the freezer he definitely would eat pizza every single day. So, with this in mind, I bought him his very own pizza recipe book, a pizza stone and a pizza peel so that he could make his own pizzas from scratch. Turns out it was a blummin good present and he was a happy birthday boy so, last weekend, we decided to try it out.
The adventure started with the dough. Turns out this baby needs 18 hours to prove – 18 hours? I knew it would take a while but I wasn’t thinking 18 hours! Anyway, we made it the night before and waited for the yeast to do its stuff and make the little ball of dough double in size…and it did!
It was pizza time. The German had chosen a sausage and fennel pizza (fennel seems to be a favourite of his lately) so we started with a basic tomato sauce by literally squishing some tomatoes and made the ground pork into sausage meat by adding some ginger, fennel seeds, garlic and chilli flakes. This thing was looking good.
We chopped up the rest of our ingredients (well I did, chopping isn’t really the German’s forte) and we were ready to go:
First we needed to shape our bases. The German wanted to do the Italian thing and shape them in the air on his hands – he tried, but he needs a little more practice, so after a little bit of air shaping he continued on the counter top and managed to make some good circles! We put the toppings on and these things were ready to go…the only thing we were about to struggle with was getting them from the counter top to the oven…disasters.
We have a pizza peel but, once half of the pizza was on the peel the other half didn’t want to move. We ended up having to squish the pizza a little to get it on the peel and then onto the pizza stone that had been heating up in the oven but we made it and 12 minutes later our first pizza was ready – success! This thing looked good!
We then had another struggle to get the second pizza off the counter top and into the oven – does anybody have any tips on how to do this? It seems we really need them. We did use a lot of flour – probably too much if I’m honest – but it still didn’t work! Help is greatly appreciated. Eventually we did it but sadly, whilst the pizza was in the oven the pizza stone broke! It literally cracked into 2 pieces. We managed to patch it together and use it for the pizza but, it’s safe to say, it will be heading back to the store this week.
Next came the taste test, after one bite we realised we did bloody well! They were amazing! Very tasty indeed. The German was pleased with his efforts – I think pizza making will be happening a lot more often in the Richter house. He’s already eyed up another couple of pizzas in his book he wants to try.
Have you ever made your own pizza? What’s your favourite topping?
And every other college football team out there. Yep, that’s right people, college football season kicked off again last night and America has gone mad for it as usual, well, at least here in the South anyway! Here it’s like a religion and fans get more excited for the college football season than the NFL. It’s just unbelievable!
So, I thought I’d go on a trip down memory lane to celebrate and tell you all about the time we headed to Athens (the one in Georgia, not in Greece people) to take in a University of Georgia football game.
Now, I knew that I’d be blown away when I went to the Sanford Stadium to see my first ever college football game but I definitely didn’t realize just how much! As you all know I’m a Brit and back in the UK university sports teams are watched by a handful of people, all of which are usually students enrolled at the university, but things couldn’t be any further from that here in America and I was about to find out just how far away they actually are.
The realization was starting to set in even before we got to Athens for the University of Georgia Bulldogs game against the Missouri Tigers. Cars were passing us on the highway covered in flags and bumper stickers with the Bulldogs logo on – everyone was heading in the same direction – to cheer on their ‘Dawgs!’ As soon as we parked up I spotted the infamous tailgaters – hundreds were hanging out behind their cars with beers and football snacks – some even had their RV’s parked up and the BBQ burning away! To me it was just like what I’d seen on the big screen in films.
As we walked towards the Sanford Stadium the only thing you could see was a sea of red as thousands and thousands of people made their way to the game –you could tell some of them made the same journey for every home game without a doubt, and what amazed me the most is that the majority of them weren’t even students. Families have season tickets and go week upon week and support them religiously, just like an NFL football team, that’s something you would never see back in the UK. I remember a trip to see my university rugby team play a rival university an hour away, about 5 buses left the university and the stands were mostly empty, it couldn’t be further away on the scale from the sheer volume of fans at college football games here in the states.
I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the moment we walked into the stadium and all we could see all around us was red – just unbelievable:
There were more people in this stadium than at a Premier League soccer game in the UK and that’s our biggest sport. The stadium is bigger than our national stadium, Wembley, and it was full to bursting. I just couldn’t get my head around the sheer amount of people all cheering on a college football team. I constantly looked around the stadium and shook my head in disbelief, not in a negative way though, I love the fact that everyone is so passionate about it and so behind the team.
The noise and the atmosphere was just incredible. The stadium was alive and when everyone cheered together before a kick off, it was so loud they could probably hear it all the way in Atlanta! Then came the ‘barking’ and ‘GO DAWGS!’
Now I’m not going to lie, despite the German trying on many occasions to explain the rules of American football I had no idea what was happening throughout the game but that definitely didn’t stop me enjoying myself. Just being in the stadium and among the supporters was incredible, never mind when there was a touchdown! (Yes I do know what one is!)
And then came the very, very exciting part of the game for me – the marching band, oh how I love a marching band! These are something we don’t get in the UK and I’ve always wanted to see one, again because of the movies! During the game the Red Coat Band was entertainment enough playing in the stand but when they took to the field at half time I was mesmerized! It’s just amazing how they play their instruments and somehow make their way around a football field in time and in a certain sequence!
Sadly the Dawgs weren’t victorious this time and they lost the game but that didn’t put a dampener on the day at all. The sun was shining, it was a perfect football afternoon and I thoroughly enjoyed my first college football game. However, even after visiting the stadium, taking in the atmosphere and the amount of people around I still can’t get to grips with the amount of support for a college team. Unbelievable, but definitely something to be proud of.
I’m sure all those fans and more will be out in force this weekend, the tailgating parties will be kicking off and thousands upon thousands will be screaming ‘Go Dawgs’ as the Bulldogs kick off their new season. Like I said, it’s like a religion around here, the excitement is already building and will be here to stay throughout the season. I think we’ll be heading to another college game this season, maybe this time we’ll try out Georgia Tech and its yellow jackets – Pa Cook’s already a fan, we bought him a yellow jacket golf club head cover for Christmas! Enjoy the season people!
Are you a football fan? Who do you support?
So, we’ve had the third installment of 5 Things I Love about being an Expat in America, so now it’s time for 5 things I hate. Remember I don’t necessarily hate these things, it’s more things that annoy me or things that I miss from good old Blighty. Here goes:
1. Errands taking 3 hours
In America, and especially in Atlanta, running a couple of little errands like popping to the supermarket and the post office, can take a LOT longer than you expect. I usually estimate an hour for things like this then when I’ve finished, realise that about 3 hours have passed since I started and my plans for the day are ruined. I think this is because everything is a drive away even if they’re close together. You get caught in traffic, you’re on a strip mall and spot somewhere else you just have to bob into (ok, that’s an added extra that I don’t really need), the stores are so huge they take ages to make your way around, something you think is around the corner is actually about 5 miles away and takes longer to get to than you think. I’m still shocked by the amount of time it takes me and annoyed when I don’t get everything done that I wanted to!
2. Friends and family being so far away.
This is obviously a given when you’re an expat but some days they feel further away and you miss them more. Yes, there are things like Facetime, Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook and good old text messages to keep you up to date but they can also highlight the fact you’re not with them and you are actually 4,000 miles away. Life goes on without you back home, people’s lives don’t go on hold just because you’re not there. I hate the fact I don’t get to see my friends as much as I’d like, don’t get to see their babies and bond with them like I would if I was living close by but it’s something I have to deal with. I chose to come here, I have to deal with the consequences. It makes you appreciate the time you actually do spend with them a lot more.
Atlanta is the city of traffic and it is hell on earth. Rush hour doesn’t last an hour, it lasts 3 hours in both the morning and the evening. I try to avoid leaving the house before 10am and making sure I’m home by 4pm at the latest, if not my journey time is about to double and I’ll probably spend most of it bumper to bumper with the car in front, my foot constantly poised over the brake…not fun at all. Add to that the bad drivers in Atlanta, squeezing in front of you when there really isn’t room, switching lanes at the last minute without using their indicator (turn signal if you’re American) and there are car wrecks everywhere. Not a day goes by without a huge wreck on one of the main roads in this city and, when that does happen, you may aswell go ahead and triple your journey time! In fact, I probably need to get a wriggle on and get back home soon or I’ll be bumper to bumper and in a foul mood when I walk through the door!
4. Ready Meals
Ok, so I don’t and never have eaten that many ready meals, I like to whip up my own concoctions in the kitchen, but, there are some days when you really can’t be bothered and a ready meal works just fine…unless you live in America. The only ready meals available in this country and frozen ones. Now, I have nothing against frozen food (the German’s cakes are frozen, frozen food makes us pennies) but these meals are just not nice, or at least the one I’ve tried didn’t cut it. I miss the fresh ready meals you can get from the fridge in the mecca that is Marks & Spencer, the nutritious, fresh meals that taste delicious and not like they’ve been hanging around somewhere for months and have freezer burn. They were also pretty good when the German was working away, now I actually have to plan what to eat and cook it…cooking for 1 is not my forte!
5. Nightly news that actually gives you the days news.
Unless you watch CNN (and that’s pretty repetitive), the only news you’re going to learn about is the latest shooting, murder, deal at Krispy Kreme or car wreck in Atlanta. Seriously. The news here is local to the core which, is definitely acceptable, I used to work in local news back home and being truly local is definitely important, but not when it lasts for 2 hours in the evening, an hour and a half at night, containing just about 2 minutes of national news and literally no international news what-so-ever. It’s as if nothing goes on outside of Atlanta. Back in the UK we would have 30 minutes of national and international news followed by 30 minutes of local news – the perfect balance if you ask me. You need to know what’s going on in the rest of the world as well as around the corner, it’s ultimately going to have an impact on your life in some way, probably more than the latest shooting. Give me the BBC news anyday!
Is exactly what the German and I had a couple of weeks ago before I headed back to the UK for a couple of weeks and it was bliss!
My aunty and uncle were flying out to Florida and staying in an apartment there so they suggested that we jumped in our car and drove down to stay with them for the weekend as they wouldn’t be able to make it to Atlanta this year. Do you really think we were going to say no? Erm…I don’t think so!
So, we did exactly that:
Early on Friday morning, we hopped in the car and started the 7 hour drive to St. Pete Beach on the gulf coast of Florida. Now, back in the day when we lived in the UK, driving 7 hours for a weekend away would have been deemed ridiculous but in America-land this is normal.
At just after 7am we were on the road, and, after a quick stop for some brunch, by 4pm we had arrived here:
Beautiful, right? You can’t go wrong with white sand, clear water and blue skies! We are so lucky to have this, in American terms, on our doorstep. Spending a weekend in Florida is something I could only dream of a few years ago, I could only dream of flying to America on holiday, and now, here I am, having a weekend break in the Sunshine State. One very lucky lady indeed.
Back to the story, we jumped out of the carsaid a big fat excited hello to my aunty and uncle who we hadn’t seen since the wedding and literally within minutes we were changed and by the pool – you get pretty hot and sweaty in the German’s car and we were in serious need of a cool down! After a few hours chilling out and catching up, we went back to the apartment, got changed and went out for dinner where we stuffed ourselves with some amazing seafood (when at the beach!) before having a stroll to a local home-made ice cream parlour – just delicious!
The following morning we got up, had breakfast and drove to Fort Desoto in search of some dolphins and, after never seeing a dolphin in real life before, the German and I ticked something else off our bucket list and spotted some! Just amazing!
Sadly, we didn’t spot a manatee – hopefully next time!
The rest of the weekend was pretty much spent relaxing on the beach, perfect right? We spent Saturday on Fort Desoto beach and Sunday at St Pete Beach just across the road from the apartment. The German and I went for a walk along the beach and spotted some baby birds and turtle nests, we drank a couple of beers, caught some sunshine and had a few dips in the sea – amazing.
Then there was the food. We were on the gulf coast where there is some amazing seafood so, obviously, that was just about all we ate, well, apart from the very tasty Italian we had in St Petersburg! We tucked into snapper, tuna, salmon and grouper and everything was just delicious!
But sadly, Monday morning came around and we had to say our goodbyes once again (the part I hate the most about being an expat) and head back to the ATL. Sad, sad, sad times. Driving 7 hours for a weekend at the beach was definitely worth it though. We got to spend some time with my aunty and uncle, even if it is just for a couple of days, when you live so far away just a couple of days makes all the difference. Thanks for a great weekend Team Lodge! We had an amazing time!
Before I go though, I can’t forget to show you the stunning sunset we managed to catch a glimpse of in St Petersburg:
When you think of New Orleans, you instantly think of jazz music, crawfish and the French Quarter right? When we headed to NoLa last month I was excited to check out what it was all about, I’ve heard and read loads about the place and it was always on my bucket list. New Orleans is in the state of Louisiana, known as the deep south. It’s located on the Mississippi River, is surrounded by swamp land and believe me, it is VERY hot! Hotlanta has nothing on this place!
Our first stop was the French Quarter. This place is just beautiful, the French influence can be seen on just about every building in this part of the city, from the detailed, extremely pretty balconies and small, narrow streets to the intricate iron work and colours, the French colonists who founded the city certainly left their mark. I could look at those buildings again and again and would still find something new to see on them.
Bourbon Street is at the heart of the French Quarter and it’s definitely an experience! This is where the party is at, it’s where Mardi Gras takes place, it’s where you can stroll down the street with a hand grenade (a famous type of cocktail in NoLa, not the actual weapon) in your hand, or in my case, a 32oz frozen cocktail, it’s where, if you’re there at the right time, a naked bike ride passes through (more on that one later!) and it’s where a million different smells culminate together to make some pretty disgusting ones! As the German put it, ‘there are many different smells in New Orleans, most of them are horrible!’ The heat mixes with things like stagnant water from thunderstorms, disinfectant from bars, alcohol, rubbish, half eaten food and let’s face it, probably human sick (this is the party street after all) and turns pretty nasty. There are areas where you actually have to stop breathing until the smell passes! Don’t let that put you off going though…this place is amazing! Nearly every bar has live music of some sort, there are drinks offers everywhere (including Huge Ass Beers!) and the party goes on until the wee small hours of course! You simply have to visit Bourbon Street, even if you only walk up and down it once during your stay, at least you can say you’ve been!
Strolling around there’s music playing on just about every single corner – this was the birthplace of jazz. There’s just about every street performer you can imagine from traditional jazz and blues singers to those people statues that don’t move (I seriously have no idea how they do that, especially in the NoLa heat!) and some very inventive young children who literally crushed empty Coke cans and stuck them into their shoes with something like a drawing pin, effectively turning their trainers into tap shoes, and they were pretty darn good at the tapping too!
You also can’t hit the French Quarter, or New Orleans in general, without taking a ride on a streetcar. These things are famous in these parts, even if you don’t need one to get to your destination, you should just take a ride on one to say you’ve done it. We took one from the French Quarter to the Garden District, they cost a couple of bucks each and are definitely worth it, even if it’s just to save your legs or get you to that next cocktail quicker!
And, you just have to check out the Cathedral. St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest in North America and sits in Jackson Square. It’s one of those places you have to check out, it’s beautiful both inside and out. The outside isn’t anything out of this world but it fits its surroundings perfectly. The cathedral was damaged during Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, it’s organ bore the brunt of the damage after water flooded through the roof. But, it’s all been fixed now and it’s looking pretty darn lovely!
Oh, and I can’t let you go without telling you more about THAT naked bike ride…turns out we were in the city and our Bourbon Street at just the right time! This naked bike ride thing is happening all over the world (I’ve heard of one taking place in London), people literally get on their bikes and ride them through the streets naked, simple as. It’s definitely a sight to see…