Destination England

Our journey from debt to England…and everything in between!

Archive for the ‘Goals’ Category

Beautiful Blogger Award!

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I recently have been given the Beautiful Blogger award!  Thanks to ‘Cross the Pond for presenting me with the award!  With this award, I must list seven things about myself.

  1. I married to an English woman – Sarah’s born and raised in Hammersmith, London. We’ve been married for over a year legally (we had a handfasting two years ago this past March)
  2. We met on the Web -We met through the fan based community, Tarvalon.net for the fantasy Series Wheel of Time.
  3. I have a baby boy – My son, Connor is just over 7 months old, and some days I don’t know where it all went. He’s growing and learning something new every day.  We’re in the midst of him learning to crawl, and quite frankly it terrifies me! Operation: Baby Proof is a must at the next apartment!
  4. I love College Football – I am a die hard Ohio State fan, but I love the whole sport! I will do my best to keep it to a minimum on this blog! (GO BUCKS!)
  5. I fell in love with England – This happened after I met my wife, but having visited twice, I absolutely love the culture, the landscape, and the history.
  6. I am an only child – I am an only child, and while my childhood was a good one, I do wish I had had that sibling companionship.
  7. I work in Tech Support – Yes, I’m that voice on the other end of the phone when you call because your laptop doesn’t turn on, Outlook somehow deleted that email you spent 3 hours composing, your internet flakes out, or the credit card reader (read floppy drive) declines and confiscates your cards.  It’s sometimes a thankless job, but some of the stories are priceless!

Thanks again to Erin from ‘Cross the Pond!  I’d like to pass this award of to some other folks!  Stephanie @imcountingufoz, and Sarah (my wife) @crookedways and I must return the favor to Erin @’Cross the Pond!

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Written by Jas

May 4, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Posted in articles, blog, Goals

Tagged with , ,

“A Powerful Agent…”

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The past month or so, I have been researching the idea of freelance writing.  I enjoy writing, and having fallen out of it the last few years, have decided it’s time to dive back in as a side hobby and maybe a source for additional income.  The more I’ve thought about it and researched it, the more I’ve been attracted to the idea of making it a full time career.  Lots of others out in the world have done it, why can’t I?

What led me to this point?  Well, there are more reasons than I could post on this article, but here are a few of the big ticket items.

  • Cube Life Isn’t For Me – I currently work for a Company, that in the way of Corporate America, this is one of the best in my opinion.  But, I’m finding more and more that the 95 isn’t for me.  Too many times I wake up, the sun is shining, the air is crisp and fresh, and I am faced with the reality I won’t get to enjoy it.  I don’t like Cube life!
  • Family Matters – This is a huge one. After my son was born, I realized I want to be there for all the small things as well as the big things. I want to spend as much free time as I can with him and my wife.  Freelance writing allows for that flexibility. As I tell my wife “Have laptop, will travel!”
  • Passion – I felt I had lost my passion.  My wife has been finding her way spiritually and it’s reignited her passion.  I looked around and there was nothing I was truly passionate about.  Since starting this blog and researching freelancing, I have felt more energized. 
  • It’s Not About The Benjamins – While I would love to be able to live off freelancing, it isn’t the primary factor in doing it.  I’m finding I would rather be known for what I have given to society (or those around me), than how many pennies are in my bank account.

Mark Twain stated “A powerful agent is the right word. Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words… the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt.” It amazes me how one can read a piece of fiction, and see the author use their words to paint the landscape, the emotions, and the imagery of the story.  How one can read a book or article on a topic they know nothing about and come out retaining even a small portion of that knowledge.  Words can pull at our heart’s strings in ways we can’t imagine.

What To Write About?

This is an area I am struggling with currently.  What direction do I want to go in? What topics should I write about? Originally I started this blog as a place to discuss my family and I’s journey from the US to moving to England.  Now, I wonder what else could be discussed that others would want to read about.  Also, having found renewed vigor in writing, I want to use it as a practice ground for my writing.  I want to write about England, but do so in a way that isn’t recycling the same facts that can be found in a history book or tourist guide.

As far as writing professionally, I honestly don’t know where I would like to go with that yet.  Right now, I’m in the planning and researching stage.  I’ve been reading blogs on freelance and ordered a few books that have some positive reviews about explaining on how to get started, and how to succeed in freelance writing.  I’m sure as the months progress, this blog will transform, and begin to take a proper shape.  This is uncharted territory for me, and its both exciting and scary at the same time!  I’m looking forward to finding my voice, and finding my niche in the world of writing.

What Now?

RESEARCH. MORE RESEARCH. AND STILL MORE RESEARCH!    Knowledge is power, and there is a profusion of information out there.  Also, I am hoping to reach out to others in the blogosphere with similar interests with moving to England, or English related blogs.

In the upcoming weeks I plan to post some articles outlining our experience with the US Visa process, as well as some posts relating to our time in England this June.  We’ve got a jammed packed three and a half weeks, and I’m sure there will be many stories to tell, and experiences to share!  If you have any ideas or thoughts on what you’d like to read about please leave a comment or send an email.  Feedback is always welcome!

Written by Jas

April 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm

4 Things We’re Doing to Save on Food

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1. Cutting out Fast Food

This I have to admit is a hard one for me.  I fail, time and time again. The reason is strictly laziness and poor time management.  I usually eat at these places for breakfast and lunch.  This is due to the fact of not getting up early enough to cook, or packing a lunch beforehand.  We have been more prone to eating out since Connor’s been born, but now I think it’s more out of habit than actual convenience.  This is one area in the budget we are hemorrhaging money.  Lately, we’ve been doing well with eating dinner at home, even if it’s just hot dogs and chips.

2. Food Inventory

With our move fast approaching, we’re starting to see real progress on the packing front.  I hope to get even more done this weekend, as we have this weekend and next really to spend packing, and then after that we move!  This past weekend we spend boxing up the kitchen utensils and dishes.  Since our room mate’s stuff is still there, and she’s not currently living there we’ve been using her things.  As we went through our cupboards, we noticed a lot of food just sitting there.  At first I thought, well let’s box up what we’re not using.  Then my wife suggested, let’s make an inventory and use what we have.

The plan is to use most of the food in our pantry and refrigerator and only buy the bare minimum that we need before the move.  This will lower the amount we have to pack, as well as helping out the pocket book.  Plus we’ve truly wasted a lot of food.  Laziness is a big culprit (and I’m not exactly the poster child for strong willed determination), and with a seven month old, sometimes it is just easier to order out.  Because of that, we forget about things we’ve purchased and they stay locked in the cupboard or in the fridge until they have expired or gone bad.  This is something we’ve both committed to change, and creating a food inventory will certainly help!

3. Meal Planning

A few weeks ago I was listening to the morning radio show and they were talking about a story involving a family where the child forgot to take his lunch to school, and the school called to ask if it was ok to give him a hot meal lunch, and the mother said no, as she wanted to teach her child a lesson.  Now, this conversation delved into the fact that the mother was quite OCD.  One thing she did was meal plan for the entire month.  This was promptly the subject of many jokes and quips from the radio station, but really it is good advice. Meal Planning serves two purposes in my mind. 1. You know what you’re eating and when allowing you to shop for specific items and reducing impulse buys at the grocery store. 2. It saves time.  Knowing, what you’re eating and when allows you to plan ahead and have those items ready to go.  I do think planning the entire month is a bit extreme, but doing a weekly meal plan is definitely a win/win situation!

4. Buying Fresher Ingredients

For St. George’s Day my wife, being the English woman she is, wanted to cook a traditional English dinner.  We went to Whole Foods Market and purchased most of the ingredients.  The difference in quality was amazing from what we’ve been buying the last few months.  We have been buying more for cost value.  I couldn’t believe the difference.  The cheaper meat that we had purchased did not hold a candle to these sausages.  The same with the produce, the potatoes my wife purchased, and then mashed had such a nicer flavor than the instant we’ve been using to save time/money.  Truth be told, they didn’t take that long to prepare either. Ok, this one may not save you money up front, but in the long run, it most likely will.

Now, I don’t know if we’ll buy from Whole Foods for all our meat, and produce, but a couple local super markets have a butcher counter, and the actual fresh produce is better, so we will likely use them as well.  However, I am more inclined to spend more on better quality food now.  It was a real eye opening moment.  We also bought a couple stuffed beef steaks (one with cheese and spinach, and one with pepperoni and cheese) for dinner on Friday. Me being the extremely fussy eater (I loathe most veggies) tried some of my wife’s spinach and cheese steak.  I actually enjoyed it!

Written by Jas

April 26, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Family, Finance, Goals, Moving, Random

Tagged with , , ,

Long Term Goals

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This past weekend I had a bit of an eye opener.  Sarah had a really bad home sick moment.  It is times like this those five years seem like an eternity, and no matter how you spin it, five years is a long time.  I think I had lost focus a little.  While my desire for this is no less, the every day day-to-day seems to be more pressing, than something that is five years from fruition. So what can one do when you are staring down the barrel of a long term goal?  How can you keep motivated?

Keep your eyes on the prize

This might seem like common sense, but it is harder than you’d think.  With everything that happens in the day to day, sometimes it is hard to keep your focus on your ultimate goals.  We put lesser more immediate priorities before the more important long term priorities.  Is this wrong?  I would say in moderation probably not.  Some things have to be addressed.  A car breaking down or a medical bill that needs to be paid should definitely take priority.  Buying a new TV or eating out a lot probably isn’t.

Celebrate the Victories (even the small ones)

One of the biggest things that can help with “shortening the gap” is to focus on milestones or small victories that put you that much closer to your long term goal.  For me, it’s getting out of debt. I have a spread sheet with all the debt I currently have.  Every time one of those debts is paid off it is crossed out.  For me that is a victory because that’s one step closer to our goal!  Whether it’s an old $50 medical bill, or a car loan (eventually it’ll be paid off!) it’s still a win!

A long term goal is something that can be difficult to obtain due to the gap between start and finish.   You will run into times when it seems hopeless and further away than you can believe.  Just remember to keep your eyes on the prize and celebrate the small victories along the way to your ultimate goal. You will look back with a great sense of accomplishment when you can say “I did it! I’ve made it!”

Written by Jas

April 12, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Reducing the Extras

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So part of the issue we are running into with our move is that we need to reduce the items we currently have in order to make space in the new apartment.  Currently, we have a ton of clothes, books, and DVDs that we can get rid of, and I would venture to say, wouldn’t miss.  So we’re taking the plunge!

Clothes

This are actually amazed me the amount of clothes I have, and to be honest I am no longer wearing.  There is a mountain (at the very least large hill) of clothes in our bedroom, and we simply do not have the storage space for it.  A lot of my clothes came from “losing” them, and buying replacements.  I want reduce my clothes down to a bare minimum, evaluate the excess and then get rid of the rest. Due to my work schedule, I would need three business casual outfits, four casual outfits, two dress outfits, and my work out clothes.  I may keep a few extra t-shirts for working around the house.

DVDs

I didn’t think I had a lot of DVDs until I began boxing them up.  There are quite a bit there.  And I while some of my all time favorite DVDs are in those boxes, I’d say a good percentage are ones I probably wouldn’t miss if they were gone. There are even a few that I know are unopened that I haven’t watched. Now that we have Connor, watching a movie can be a stop and start event.

Books

The same is true with books.  I was recently privileged enough to get a Kindle for my birthday from my wife and in-laws.  Slowly, I’ve been purchasing all my all time favorite books in Kindle format. It will hold on average a thousand or more books. There are a few books and series of books I absolutely love and enjoy which I wish to keep, but other than that and a few specific series and books, the rest are just taking up space and dust.

So the goal is before the move to sort through these books and DVDs and take those we do not wish to keep in and get some cash for them.  This I hope to throw into our emergency fund, or into a household fund for purchases for our new apartment.  This would be for things like décor, any items we may need to buy, or anything related to the apartment.

I’m trying to look at this as good practice for when we move to England.  While we want to take with us our most prized possessions, most of what we’d need can be repurchased on the other side.

Written by Jas

April 6, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Debt, Finance, Goals, Moving

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Meanwhile, back on Earth…

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There’s about two other parts to our trip to London I want to post about, but I decided to take an intermission and talk about what’s happening in our household right now.  There’s only just over two months until we leave for England, but in that time we’re preparing to move into a new place.

Apartment Hunting

Sarah’s journey to find a job has been agonizingly slow, and with June fast approaching we had to look at the possibility that we could not move to the apartment that we had our hearts set on.  It just would be impossible to afford on my wage.  So we decided to go look for somewhere else that might meet our needs.  We were out driving and I had her go on to a place I had seen a while back called Glenchester Lakes.  They had a two bedroom, 1.5 bathrooms, approx 1064 sq ft town home for $739 a month.  It’s a bit smaller than what we had hoped for, and doesn’t have a basement, but the layout is nice, and the area is nice (and quiet!).  So we did the numbers and determined it is doable on my wage.  So we applied for it, and should be able to get the keys on May 12th!  Moving Day is scheduled for May 13th!

A Gym?!

We stopped by a local gym here that our friends had talked about.  We took the grand tour and were very impressed.  Both of us want to get back into shape. My goal is to lose about 40lbs and tone up a bit.  Plus, with Sarah not working this gives her something to do during the day and also gives us both something we can do together that’s good for us.  We go Thursday to have a consultation and workout with a personal trainer (it was a free deal we got for signing up).  I am a bit nervous to be honest, but as they say – no pain, no gain!

All the Rest

Sarah still marches on to find a job, however at this point it is more for extra money for June.  Once we’re back from England she plans to dive back into finding a job. Connor is growing bigger and bigger.  His new favorite thing is screeching (which can either be “talking” or “singing”).  We are hoping this weekend will see us packing up some things and then spend the next six weeks packing and boxing for the big move.  Also, we’re trying to plan out our itinerary for England, and Connor’s birthday party and naming/blessing ceremony.

So that’s what’s happening in our neck of the woods.  A whirlwind of things, but we’re moving in a forward direction.  That makes me feel good!

Written by Jas

March 30, 2010 at 7:36 am

Trip to England (Part 2)

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As I mentioned in my last post, we’re headed off to England in June. We’ll be there for three and a half weeks, and are going to try to cram as much in as we possibly can!  This also includes meeting up with friends and family, which haven’t seen Sarah for quite a while, and also haven’t met Connor (or me for that matter).  So what do we have on the itinerary?

  • Revisit London – it’ll be over a year and a half since I was there and over a year for Sarah.  We need to become reacquainted with a place that both of us love. 
  • Explore new sites in London – there are quite a few other places I would like to see and that Sarah would love to show me.
  • Connor’s ¾ Birthday – Since most of our family and friends are in England and cannot make it for Connor’s 1st birthday, we are doing a ¾ birthday party for him
  • Cornwall – We’re planning a two day trip down to see some areas of Cornwall with Sarah’s brother and his girlfriend
  • Glastonbury – We’re taking a family trip to Glastonbury to perform a naming/blessing ceremony for Connor.
  • Cambridge – Well this one isn’t set in stone, but I really, really want to go to Cambridge.  We went to Oxford last time, and I loved it! Time to go see their rival!

London Pass

A great way to save money if you’re going to be in London for a few days is the London Pass.  This pass allows you access to over 55 attractions in London.  Some of which can have a hefty price tag. The passes can be given out in one to six day increments, and essentially the more you see the more you save.  This also can be purchased with travel cards to help cut back on the cost of transportation in London.  It also allows you to skip the lines.  A six day pass will set you back £80 (roughly $120), but it boasts saving up to £122 based on visiting three sites per day.

London Museums and Parks

A great way to save money and still see the sites is take in a museum or royal park.  Admission is free to most museums (though they appreciate donations!) or a small fee.  I absolutely love the parks there. The Royal Parks are absolutely beautiful.  The museums are full of art, culture, and history.  You can definitely lose yourself in these fantastic places.

Transportation

I’ve been to New York City, but London transportation seems to be some of the most efficient I have been on.  The “tube” (subway) can get you practically anywhere.  The buses run every 15 minutes during peak times, and if you can’t find a taxi, you’re blind.  If you have internet access Transport for London will help you plan your route, list to you of any closures for your tube lines, and a whole host of other features.  You can even find cycling guides.  Be prepared to walk!  As an American, my first time over was a bit of culture shock.  My recommendation is to invest in a good pair of walking shoes!

Written by Jas

March 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm