To Surinder Singh or not to Surinder Singh…

How to get a UK Spouse Visa without a lawyer

. . . that is the question!

Renee is still stuck in the hospital so Geoff is here to keep you company again. I’m constantly researching the convoluted ways of moving to different countries. Call it a, “hobby” if you will! I figured that as I’m doing the hard work, I should impart some of my wisdom to you, the lucky readers. Immigration lawyers are expensive and generally not-needed. Some countries are relatively easy, others keep you wrapped up in red tape. Hopefully we’ll be able to save you some of your hard-earned money in the time-honored “Awesome On $20” way. Let’s look at UK immigration first of all.

Our first option is the official UK Government route for coming home with a non-EU spouse.

To qualify for a spouse visa the UK citizen needs to meet the following specifications:

Needs a confirmed job offer for a job in the UK, earning £18,600 or more per year, starting no more than 3 months after your application.

Needs to have been earning the foreign equivalent of £18,600 per year for either 6 months (if you have worked for the same employer for the last six months and are still employed with them at the time of application) or 12 months (averaged out over the last 12 months for multiple jobs).

If you have children that you are also bringing with you, the amount is increased by £3,800 for the first child and then an extra £2,400 per child.

Note: If you have £62,500 or more in savings (and have had that in your account for at least 6 months) then none of this applies to you. You are automatically awarded a visa. Congratulations.

The tricky part is actually getting a job without having a face to face interview. I did manage to get my first job in the US while I was still living in Taiwan, via Skype, but not sure how common this is. If you can afford to fly home for interviews, great, but if you are like the rest of us, this probably isn’t an option. Of course there’s a whole load of paperwork and “evidence” that you need to collect to show that you earn a certain amount. Click HERE to get detailed info straight from the horse’s arse mouth. This visa costs £885.

Renee in London
Tourist-mode back on our last visit

The second option is called the “Surinder Singh” route. So called after a famous court case. Basically, this is a back-door option that circumvents the UK Government’s visa restrictions. If the UK citizen goes to live and work in another EU country, their non-EU spouse can go with them and also work. Once you can prove that the UK citizen’s ‘centre of life’ has moved to the other EU country, you are free to apply for an EEA Family Permit. This permit is as good as a visa and allows you to live and work in the UK indefinitely! The guideline for time spent in the other EU country is 3 months minimum.

When applying for the EEA Family Permit, you’ll need:

Proof of address for the UK citizen in the other EU country (rental agreement or perhaps bank statements).

Proof of ‘integration’ (anything that shows the UK citizen became involved with the local community. Maybe a letter from a club or society).

Proof that the UK citizen was working (wage slips, contracts, tax returns etc).

The best thing about the Surinder Singh route is that there’s no cost for an EEA Family Permit! How’s that for being Awesome on $20?

Other European citizens can move to the UK straight away and work with no hassle! A Polish person could bring an Indian spouse into the UK easier than a Brit bringing in an American! Crazy!

Stay tuned for more free immigration advice. Next time we will look at getting your American Green Card!

Hopefully Renee will be back on her feet and making delicious treats for you fine folks in no time at all. Here’s to a quick recovery!

Even British horses are cool...
Even British horses are cool…
Dragon Fizz | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Dragon Fizz

Dragon Fizz | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

For the past few years, we’ve been in bed well before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Geoff doesn’t really like to go out, and there’s usually not enough action around our house to keep me up that late. We know it’s midnight when we hear fire crackers exploding throughout the neighborhood. We say happy new year to each other, then roll over and go back to sleep. But this year, we’re having friends over, so I guess I better plan on staying up a bit later.

Dragon Fizz | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Champagne is a requirement for New Year’s Eve. My shameful secret is that I don’t actually like plain champagne all that much. I do, however, adore a champagne cocktail, especially of the fruity variety. You can add almost anything fruity to sparkling wine and it will be awesome. Cranberry is a good place to start, but this New Year’s Eve, I wanted to experiment with something a bit more exotic.

A while back, somebody left a bottle of dragon fruit rum at our house, and it was delightful. I combined that with some lychee syrup to make an Oriental champagne cocktail to give your New Year’s Eve a Far Eastern feel. Adorn each glass with a whole lychee and sparkle on.

Dragon Fizz | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

I hope you have someone to kiss and a glass of something sparkly in your hand to ring in the New Year. It’s gonna be awesome!

Dragon Fizz
Serves 1
Dragon Fizz is an exotic champagne cocktail with dragon fruit rum and lychee.
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
  1. 1 ounce dragon fruit rum
  2. 1 tablespoon lychee syrup, from can
  3. 4 ounces sparkling wine
  4. 1 whole lychee, for garnish
  1. Gently stir together rum and syrup in a champagne glass. Top up with sparkling wine and add lychee to the bottom of the glass for garnish. Cheers!
  1. All ingredients should be chilled
How to be Awesome on $20 a day

Mele Kalikimaka

Mele Kalikimaka

Mele Kalikimaka, my friends! I hope you’re able to revel in joy today and that you’re surrounded by people you love. And if you’re also able to eat lots of delicious food, that’s awesome as well. In case you were wondering, here’s what we’re eating.

For breakfast, I’m making way too much Sky High Breakfast Pizza for two people. I imagine that will get the two of us through the majority of the day.

For dinner, I have a small boneless ham to eat along side mashed potatoes, sweet potato gratin, and brussel sprouts. Then I’m taking my new kitchen torch for a spin with some creme brulee.

Merry Christmas all. Don’t forget to be awesome!


25 Days of Awesome Christmas Movies

25 Days of Awesome Christmas Movies

25 Days of Awesome Christmas Movies

Living in Hawaii, it takes a bit of extra effort to get in to the holiday spirit sometimes. The temperatures only drop by about five degrees and unless you’re at the tip top of a volcano, there’s absolutely no chance of snow. If I want to see a winter storm that might prevent Santa from delivering his presents, I have to turn on the TV. Everyone’s favorite Christmas movies and TV specials are a great way to get in the mood, and much cheaper than that bottle of wine advent calendar you wish you had. Here are 25 awesome Christmas movies to make you feel merry and bright. 

P.S. They’re in alphabetical order because, while I have some opinions on ranking, I can’t decide which one is my favorite. I also made sure some of these appeared on a couple of different lists of Christmas movies before adding them to make sure they’re “legit.”

  1. Batman Returns N
  2. Charlie Brown Christmas
  3. A Christmas Story
  4. A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All
  5. Die Hard
  6. Die Hard 2: Die Harder
  7. Elf
  8. Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas YT, HP
  9. Frosty the Snowman YT
  10. Gremlins
  11. Home Alone
  12. Home Alone 2
  13. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated)
  14. It’s a Wonderful Life
  15. The Muppets Christmas Carol N
  16. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  17. Nightmare Before Christmas N
  18. Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (The one with Patricia Barker and designs by Maurice Sendak)
  19. Polar Express
  20. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  21. Santa Claus the Movie
  22. The Santa Clause
  23. Scrooged N
  24. The Snowman YT
  25. White Christmas N

Here’s the code for the easiest ways of viewing. 
HP=Hulu Plus

Of course, you could also just DVR most of these if you have cable and a DVR. I’m probably one of the only weird people that doesn’t have that option.

So, what are your favorite Christmas movies? Leave a comment so I can check them out.

Ridiculously Awesome Mashed Potatoes | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Ridiculously Awesome Mashed Potatoes

Ridiculously Awesome Mashed Potatoes | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

November is here, which means we can start planning for all the amazing holiday parties coming down the road in the next two months. It’s food and parties and food and friends and food and family and food and celebrations and food. It’s my favorite time of year. When turkeys show up on the cover of every magazine, I’m in heaven.


You’re going to need to have mashed potatoes on your table with every celebratory meal. Part of me thinks this should be a no-brainer, but the combination of my intense love for mashed potatoes and the frequency with which I’ve been forced to eat sub-standard versions makes me think it’s worth sharing my point of view. If your mashed potatoes have ever turned out watery or gummy or otherwise awful, I’m here to save the day.

Ridiculously Awesome Mashed Potatoes | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

First off, I always use Yukon Gold potatoes. They have a thin skin, so you don’t need to peel them. This saves time and adds texture. They’re also less starchy than russets and not as starchy as red potatoes, so they give you the perfect combination of smooth and chunky. I don’t like geriatric mashed potatoes.

You also have to go heavy on the seasonings. These mashed potatoes are good enough to eat  without gravy, but only if you have fun with your spice cabinet. And plenty of butter definitely contributes to these mashed potatoes being ridiculously awesome. 

I know people think mashed potatoes are a supporting character on the holiday table, but that’s no reason to not make them as completely awesome as you can. Why cast Miley Cyrus when you can get Jennifer Lawrence? Make your mashed potatoes from scratch, follow a few simple instructions, and put a star on your table next to your turkey.

Ridiculously Awesome Mashed Potatoes | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Mashed Potatoes are ridiculously awesome, and they’re going to get you through the next two months like a champ. 

Ridiculously Awesome Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4
Ridiculously awesome mashed potatoes are made with Yukon Golds, plenty of butter, and mad spices. Get them on your table.
Write a review
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
  1. 5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
  2. 4 tablespoons butter
  3. Up to 1/4 cup milk
  4. 1/4 cup sour cream
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  7. 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  8. 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  9. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1. Chop your clean potatoes in half then quarters (8 pieces in all) and add them to a large pot. Pour cold water over the potatoes, just enough to cover. Add a fat pinch of salt for a bit of flavor, put a lid on your pot, and place it over high heat. Boil your potatoes until they're fork tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot pot, off the heat.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, adding just a splash of milk at a time, and use a masher, the type with the s-shaped curves, to smash your potatoes. Leave a few chunks. They add character. Don't over mix, or your mashed potatoes will get gummy.
  4. Stir and taste for seasonings. If your mixture is too stiff, you can add a bit more milk. Don't be afraid to look through your spices and add whatever strikes your fancy. Get ready for compliments.
How to be Awesome on $20 a day
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