Song for the Weekend: More homesickness

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post that described a bit of my current homesickness. Well, time has not helped. Nor have the many photos of baseball games that friends have been posting on facebook. The good news is that I’ll be in Chicago two weeks from today! In the meantime, I’m listing to stuff like this:

Further Thoughts on Long Distance Friendship

Earlier this week Triddles published an incredible piece on maintaining long distance friendships. Unlike, Triddles, I do not live across an ocean from the majority of my friends and family. However, I do live across the country, and even that can be incredibly challenging. I personally have benefited from several of the strategies Triddles uses to maintain her long distrance friendships. I love a good Skype date and I agree that gChat is an invaluable tool for keeping up on your long distance friends’ every day minutia.

Having spent the last 9 years in a different time-zone than most of my closest friends and family I have a few additional long distance friendship survival tips.

  • Pretend Like You’re Local Friends: The year after I graduated from college my best-girlfriend Lou and I were inseparable. If we weren’t hanging out, we were on the phone. We would call each other for the silliest reasons. Think, “Lou! I just saw a cute boy!! I should have asked him out!” “Cole! I found a new sweater, it’s awesome AND cheap!” For some reason, when I moved to NYC, we stopped having those types of conversations. We would wait to talk for days or even weeks and then feel overwhelmed because we had so much to tell each other and we needed to block out a whole chunk of time. About a year into living in separate cities we decided to pretend we were local friends again, we started our silly conversations back up. Several years later we’re still at it and we’re closer than ever. Sometimes we still have long chats, but often we will call just to touch base for a few minutes. I have since implemented this trick with several other long distance friends and the result is always positive. It means we talk more often and feel less pressure to make catching up a big to-do.
  • FaceTime: Like Triddles, I love Skype. I think it is an incredibly useful tool for keeping in contact with far-away loved ones. I also love FaceTime. If you and your friends are iPhone users FaceTime is an incredible option for keeping in touch. I feel so much closer to someone when I can see their face, their emotional reactions to our conversations, and even their surroundings. What I love about FaceTime is it’s portable. My Mom and I will often chat for just a few minutes to show each other our jewelry, our pets, or the new shirt we bought. It makes me feel ALMOST like we live in the same state.
  • Don’t Be Lame: Triddles covered this in her post, but I think it bears repeating. It is incredibly easy to be a lame, lazy friend when you live far away.  Maintaining long distance friendships requires time and effort. So if you’re friend wants to chat? Try to chat. If your friend comes to town for one night and they want to meet across town, in the middle of a snowstorm and you would rather sit on your couch? Get off your butt and get out the door. Within reason, make every effort to say yes to your friends. It will make you a better friend and you will be surprised by what you will get in return.
  • Invite, Invite, Invite: I spend a fair amount of time and money making sure that I see my far away friends and family as often as possible. I make several trips to the midwest each year. That being said, I also think it is incredible to share my current world with my friends and family. I have the benefit of living in a cool city that people love to visit, but I also make an effort to invite my friends and family to make the trip. Often they don’t accept on the first offer. The trick is to not let that deter you and to not take it personally. Everybody is balancing their own finances and schedule. If someone says no the first time or fails to follow up, I invite them again. Some people never come, but lots of people do. Having visitors is the best. I get to have fun playing hostess and get to introduce people to the life I have created for myself in New York. They get a great vacation. It’s a win-win.

Expat Living: Long-Distance Friends

Recently, I read this and this, both discussing the trials and tribulations of making new friends as an adult.  Two years ago, I moved from New York (lots of friends!) to London (only a few!) and then last year, I moved again, to Edinburgh (again, a few established friendships at the start).  And I’ve gotta agree, making new friends is hard.  That said, I don’t regret the moves and I think the challenges that went with them were all good for me.  In the process of acclimating to life in Britain, I’ve learned some things about friendship but the most critical, by far, is the importance of staying in as close touch as possible with my family and friends in the U.S.

AnnaMaria is absolutely right, there’s nothing better to fight loneliness than hearing from an old friend.  With that in mind, I thought I’d lay out some of the things I do to make sure I don’t lose touch with my friends and family.  Honestly, it’s not easy.  I’m busy and they’re busy, but technology helps a lot.

  • Skype: Seriously, Skype (or whatever free video chat service you prefer) is amazing.  My parents, both of whom are of the age where they approach all new Internet things with fear and disdain, are now its biggest fans. Skype is so easy.  And, with a little bit of creativity, it can be used to create the next best thing to being home.  This past Christmas, my mom and I continued or longstanding tradition of decorating sugar cookies together by setting up decorating stations next to each of our iMacs.  We decorated and chatted for hours.  And no, it wasn’t the same as being home but it was a lot better than abandoning the tradition.  Similarly, on Christmas Eve, I called my parents and brother on Skype just as they were arriving home from midnight mass and we opened presents together.  Again, not the same, but better than any other available option this year.
  • Gchat: Even with the time difference, my friends on the East Coat and I are generally online for at least a few of the same hours each day.  Chatting gives us the chance to do the little catch-ups (Look at this new dress I bought!  My boss is driving me crazy!  I’m going on a blind date tomorrow!).  And those little things are key to never feeling super far away.
  • Budget for travel in advance:  I’m currently back in grad school and when I was calculating a budget for the year I made sure to include multiple flights back to the States.  I knew that at least a few close friends would be getting married this year and I decided before I committed to living in Scotland that missing those kinds of events just wasn’t an option.  I used to work in a job that made it difficult to guarantee showing up somewhere at a definite time and place, so I’m now especially persnickety about not missing out on the big events.  And, even if there weren’t weddings, my U.S. travel budget would’ve probably been about the same.  My general rule is if you want to visit your family or friends and you can afford the cost (both in terms of money and time), you should GO.
  • Make it fun:  I have a couple of good friends in New York who know that when we schedule a Skype date, they should show up with a bottle of wine.  We treat it like happy hour and I always look forward to those nights.
  • Make the effort: If a friend or family member pops up online and asks for a few minutes of Skype time, take their call.  If you have a call scheduled and are feeling tired or lazy, fight it.  In my experience, not seeing people day-to-day and face-to-face makes it easier to be selfish.  However, making the effort when people reach out to you not only makes you a good friend (or daughter or son or sister or brother), it makes it much more likely that whoever is calling will make themselves available the next time you’re feeling lonely.

Travel Finds: The Lake District

Over the long Easter weekend, the boyfriend and I packed up a rental car and drove to the Lake District in northern England. We met up with friends who live in London and rented a cute Airbnb flat near Keswick.

The weekend was great. The lakes and mountains of the region are stunning and we spent two great afternoons hiking and enjoying views like this one.

Crummock Water near Buttermere

Our group only had one real complaint: the food. Like many heavily touristed areas, we ended up wandering into a number of not-cheap places offering not-great food. Luckily, we also found a couple of really great spots and, in the interest of helping future hikers, these were the best.

Grange Cafe — Grange Cafe is located just down the road from Keswick on the River Derwent. We stopped in after a hike with great views of Derwent Water. Sadly, we found a parking spot around the corner from the cafe and had lunch at its main competition, a truly lackluster cafe called Grange Brigde Cottage Tea Shop. We then walked over to Grange Cafe and found a cozy cafe featuring the best gingerbread cake I’ve ever had (Grandma’s recipe, according to the owner). The homemade soups and other cafe fare being served around us also looked delightful.

Bridge Hotel – Midway through a hike around Crummock Water, we stopped for lunch at the Bridge Hotel in the village of Buttermere. The hotel’s pub served the best food we found all weekend. Highlights included a savory steak and ale pie, handcut and expertly fried chips, and a delicious sticky toffee pudding.

pub2

Well-Heeled Wednesday: Sparkly Toes

In years past, it seemed like heels had all the fun. Living in NYC where walking is often my primary mode of transportation, I was very excited when pretty flats started to make a comeback. I love how a sassy pair can spice up any outfit, even something as simple as jeans and a t-shirt. I adore these sparkly flats from J.Crew. Often I find J.Crew’s shoes a little hard to break in, but these are comfortable on day 1. Combine glitter and comfort and you have pretty much created my perfect shoe.

jcrew-metallic-silver-lula-glitter-ballet-flats

For more Well-Heeled Wednesday fun check out our friend at Cashmere & Wit!

Happy April Fools!

This is one of my favorite days of the year. In fact, I love April Fools Day SO much that my friends have decided that if I ever rule my own country April Fools Day will be the official national holiday. I am naturally naughty, or ornery as my Grandpa used to say, and I can’t resist a day all about tricking people, all in good fun of course!

I have to say, I’ve played some pretty good tricks over the years, but one of my favorites was leaving my husband a message that he needed to immediately call a Michael Lion about our car insurance. The number that I gave him was actually the number for the Bronx zoo. Run of the mill tricks don’t generally work with him, so I was happy that I was able to pull off a sneakier stunt. That same year I was able to trick my incredibly suspicious good friend with a similar prank. I had her secretary call her and tell her there was a problem with her apartment and that she needed to immediately call Mr. Fox. As soon as the Central Park Zoo picked up she hung up and called me laughing hysterically. I still smile thinking about her reaction.

What about you? Do you like April Fools Day? Are you easily fooled? What are your favorite tricks?