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Ever wonder why a slew of bloggers will write about a website or service at once?

You probably know this already but I will state it anyway- it usually starts with a marketing campaign. A PR specialist will contact targeted bloggers and offer them an incentive, usually in the way of free product to write about their client. It’s typically a win-win as the blogger is happy to have something to write about and the PR person is happy to have some publicity. Plus, it’s hard for a blogger to write something negative when they are being comped. I mean who is unhappy about something they got for free?

This is how the relationship between myself and FoodPanda was initiated. A few months ago I got an email from one of their representatives offering me $40 worth of vouchers to write about FoodPanda, a service that delivers food from all sorts of restaurants around town. The only catch was that she didn’t want me to state that I had received any sponsorship from them in the post.

foodpanda

“Sure,” I replied, assuming she meant that she simply didn’t want the post labeled as sponsored.  I explained that the post wouldn’t be sponsored per se, but that I would have to mention the vouchers.

She replied along the lines of sorry, but you can’t mention the vouchers.

I was pretty surprised. What she was asking me to do was unethical, and in some places like the US, it was illegal. I wrote her back and explained this.

She replied with an I’m sorry that’s the deal email full of smiley faces in return.

I told her no deal and she offered me a $10 voucher as a good will gesture. I went to the website and quickly learned there was nothing I could possibly order and have delivered for $10, and that most orders were going to run $40+. I sent her a thanks but no thanks letter back explaining why I would not use the voucher.

She wrote me back saying she hoped she hadn’t offended me. Spoiler alert: she had.

****************************

Fast forward to March and I have a broken leg. It’s been very challenging as someone who is usually active and independent. It’s a lesson in humility and slowing things down. Husband and friends have been kind by bringing food and helping with vital tasks, but there have been many times when left to my own crutch-filled days. It’s definitely been an eye opener to the every day challenges of disabled people.

leg

One afternoon, hungry and without groceries, I remembered the FoodPanda delivery service. If ever a time to splurge on food delivery, now was it. I downloaded the app and perused the menu. I had been eating a lot of takeout brought over by friends, so the smattering of pizzas, Thai and Indian was not appealing to me. That’s when I spotted VeganBurg on the list.

veganburg

I’ve tried VeganBurg before and have been pleased with their food, mostly veggie burgers and fries. I decided to give it a go, but first called VeganBurg as they have their own delivery service and policies.

“It’s a $50 minimum order to deliver in your area,” the woman from VeganBurg said.

Drat, I thought, and went back to FoodPanda. With Foodpanda, it was a $25 minimum, with a $10 delivery fee and a 10% service charge. I really had to stack up my order to hit the minimum. I figured I could order two sandwiches, an order of fries and two drinks to make the requirement. I could save one sandwich and one drink for lunch the next day, as I would likely find myself in a similar unable to cook or shop predicament.

Ugh, after delivery and all, my lunch was totalling over $40. What was I doing? This was ridiculous for one person for a takeout lunch. My stomach grumbled and I reminded myself I would have an extra sandwich for the next day. I also remembered the voucher. I scrambled through my email but could not find it. I concluded that I had deleted it in my annoyance.

I entered my credit card to the FoodPanda app, croseed my fingers that it wasn’t maxed out and hit the send button. I got a confirmation email and noticed that the delivery would take up to 90 minutes but that I would receive a text stating exact approximate waiting time. The text never came.

I waited and waited. Having not received the text, I called the number on the email only to be inserted into one of those automated phone customer service hell loops. I hung up and decided to wait longer. 85 minutes after ordering, my order arrived. I hobbled down my stairs from my home office to my front door while a man stood out front calling my phone and shouting “hello!… hello!…. hello!….”

“I’ve broken my leg! Hold on! I’m coming!” I replied, matching the panic in his hellos.

I opened the door and he tried to hand me a bag. I looked at him and then I looked at my crutches. He wasn’t getting the message.

“Do you mind putting it on the table for me?” I asked. He complied. I checked the contents and thanked him as he went on his way.

I spread the contents on the table. The drinks were warm and the fries were limp and cold. The lettuce on the veggie burger was still fairly OK but I could see already that it was going to be problem on tomorrow’s sandwich. I looked toward the kitchen and sighed as I realized that I was not going to be able to bring a cup of ice to the table for my drink. I resigned myself to a warm ginger ale and began to eat the mushy cold fries.

This is not how I remember my last few VeganBurg experiences.

When I was done, I bagged up the trash, hooked it on my wrist and hobbled to the trashcan. I was full, but the event didn’t seem to fully satisfy. In fact, my stomach felt a bit queasy. I put the remaining burger in the fridge and made my way up the stairs recalling all the pleasant reviews I had seen other bloggers write about FoodPanda.

I rolled my eyes and counted the days until I could walk again.

Verdict: When you have a disability and can’t get out of the house, FoodPanda will deliver you food but it won’t be cheap and it probably won’t be fresh. 

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badge_Singapore The wonderful people at Internations got in contact with me a few weeks ago to let me know that they would like to feature Texas On Thames as a Singapore Recommended Expat Blog. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are a global organization that hosts tons of great events to help expats connect with one another. I am super honored to be interviewed and listed among such talented Singapore writers. Here’s a link to my interview, go have a look and tell me what you think. 🙂

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Last month, Petroleum Wife nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

very-inspiring-blogger-award

My thoughts went in this order:

  • OH MY GOSH That is so cool and so sweet!
  • Oh wait, you mean I have to do something? What is this, a chain letter?
  • Oh, OK, this is actually pretty cool.  Petroleum Wife’s list of other nominees is a gold mine of talented authors and a really great way to build online community. Some of these blogs I just can’t stop reading.
  • I like this. Who can I nominate?

There are some rules that go with the award. I’m not good at rules, but I’ll try my best to follow.

The Rules

1.Display the award logo on your blog.
2.Link back to the person who nominated you.
3.State 7 things about yourself.
4.Nominate 15 bloggers for this blog and link to their pages.
5.Notify these bloggers of the nomination and the awards’ requirements.

7 Things about myself

1.) I started blogging in 2007 with an Austin, Texas based food blog. I loved it! I met so many friends and learned so much about food and cuisine.

2.) I have a degree in aerospace engineering but currently work as a freelance writer and yoga teacher. Writing and yoga are two major passions of mine.

3.) I’ve lived in 3 different countries: The U.S., the UK and Singapore. I’m defining living as spending 6 months or more somewhere. I’m still trying to come up with a new blog name after my last move!

4.) A flight “home” to Texas takes 24 hours.

5.) I put the word home in quotes because I struggle with the concept. Where is home? Home is where you hang your hat. Home is whenever I am with you. I try to live by the concept that home is underneath your feet.

6.) I believe in authenticity and vulnerability

7.) When I exhibit such qualities in #6 online, I start to have dreams that I am showering in public naked. Quite a variation of the showing up to school naked dream! For some reason, it doesn’t really stop me.

Whew! I got through all 7. I hope I don’t start having those dreams again. Now for the important part, the nominees! These are in no particular order other than categories. Some of the blogs cross over into multiple categories, but eh, I tried.

15 nominees for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Expat and travel blogs

1.) Petroleum Wife, of course!

2.) Look See London

3.) Continental Drift

4.) Sifting Through… Expat Edition

5.) New Mexico to Italy

6.) Tale of a Trailing Spouse

7.) Sherbert and Sparkles

8.) Running Obsessive

Singapore-based blogs

9.) Simple and Gay Forward

Food-ish blogs

10.) Trans-Planted

11.) The Feminist Kitchen

12.) The Particular Kitchen

13.) Kristen Loves Wine

14.) Boots in the Oven

15.) Zao Body

Music and technology

16.) Martin Cahill

OK, so I listed 16. I told you I wasn’t good at rules. Seriously though, I could have gone on forever.

Anyway, there they are. Go check them out.

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When I came to London last May, I left friends,  a city I loved, and a very dear project and blog behind. I learned so much and had more fun than I ever imagined with Dining In Austin Blog. I met good friends and amazing acquaintances through it.  It was a project made out of love for life, food and community in the ATX. Best of all, I got to share it with my amazing friend, Mariah. This creative outlet designed to complement our rigid science-y careers told the stories of our lives as lived through our food. We included irreverent and offhand tales of life as a 20-something (and then 30-something) Austinite.  People started reading it and before we knew it, we were involved in the Austin food scene in a way that we’d never expected but that made us really happy.

This was a good lesson for me. Do the things you love. Success will come.

I consider Austin, Texas a home. The people and culture are unique. The city is a blend of urban cowboy, artist spirit and burgeoning eclectic beautiful city. A huge chunk of my heart will always be there, but I have wanted to experience another country and culture and the time and opportunity was right. My intuition said to go.

I have such a desire to love London with the same passion and tenacity. I’ve wanted to devour every bit of it and live it completely. I get frustrated and homesick when the impossibility of experiencing it all becomes obvious. I have had to dramatically adjust my mode of thinking.

…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.

– Samuel Johnson

The two cities are distinctively different. I found it difficult to experience all of Austin. I find it downright impossible to experience all of London. I can’t afford to. I don’t have the money. There will never be enough time. I don’t have the social network and close friends I had in Texas. My approach has to be entirely different. Friendships have to be developed. Places and experiences have to be explored for the first time. I feel less on top of everything and more like I’m swimming about, tasting life along the way. I’ve come to realize that this isn’t better or worse. It is just different.

Consequently, I can’t write about London like I wrote about Austin. I struggled with this at first. Should I create another dining blog? I couldn’t afford all the dining out and I definitely couldn’t write about London like an expert. I also wanted to expand. I wanted to write about events, art, community, food, yoga, life, travel, philosophy – the things that I love. Or just whatever happened. I didn’t want to be tied to a particular subject even though I knew successful blogs were more often singularly focused.

To hell with success. It’s ok for things to be about the process instead of the outcome.

So what did I do? I just wrote. I picked a name and I got on with it.

After a bike ride around town early on in this blog’s life, I arrived back at home and turned to then-Boyfriend “so… that’s London.” Thus a temporary name was formed.

And I wrote more. I let the blog take on it’s own personality. I let it develop organically and become what it was going to be – a reflection on life in London as told the only way I could tell it. The honest account of a Texas girl hanging out on this city along the Thames. Not quite the same Texas girl anymore. Definitely not British.

Now that I’ve found a voice, this blog has been appropriately renamed. You can now find me directly at www.TexasOnThames.com

I hope you enjoy.

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