Monthly Archives: August 2011

The cute-ification of things

Aww ... look at the little bitty pressie!

Brits like to cute-ify their words. Cute-ify, you ask? Well, you know, make cuter. Cuten them up. I know, I know, “cute” is a distinctly American word. But it’s the only word that seems appropriate for the random act of adding an “i-e” to words – not in the presence of babies or small children but in everyday life amongst grown-ups. Americans don’t do this. If we’re talking about a present, we call it a present. We don’t call it a “pressie.”

Here are some other examples:

Cardigan = Cardi
Lipstick = Lippie
Chocolate = Choccie (pronounced chock-ie)
Biscuit = Biccie (pronounced bick-ie)
Sweets = Sweetie
Postman = Postie
Swimming costume = Cozzie (I just learned this one, thanks to Tori and Marti – hey, even you both cute-ified your names …)

And there are dozens more like this. Can you think of any others?

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The Wally vs. Waldo debate

Grandma recently sent our son a book that brought back happy memories from my childhood:

Where's Wally
But it prompted an obvious question from this American: Who’s Wally and what have you done with Waldo?

Is he part of a witness relocation program and if so, why didn’t they ditch that red and white striped shirt, woolly hat and glasses? Dead giveaway.

Just asking.

Well, after doing a bit of online research, I’ve discovered that Where’s Waldo was actually created by a British illustrator Martin Handford. So let it be known that Where’s Waldo‘s real name is Wally, he is British and he went missing in the UK long before he ever was stateside.

In my research, I’ve also discovered that he has other alter egos. He is Charlie in France, Walter in Germany, Holger in Denmark, Valli in Iceland, Willy in Norway and Hetti in Sri Lanka & Goa. He’s also better known as Waldo in Canada and Japan, if you were wondering.

Yeah, I think we will all sleep better tonight.

Getting stoned

"One stone" by Daniel Eatock

If you thought you’d never see the day when your weight was back in the single or double digits, weigh yourself the British way: in stone.

I still can’t help giggling when I hear people say they are whatever stone and however many pounds. It just seems like the right way to weigh a sack of potatoes, some oxen or well, stones, and the wrong way to weigh a person (and indeed stone was originally used for weighing agricultural products, so says Wikipedia).

Still, it is the standard in the UK and during the five-plus years that I lived there, I had to get used to doing the the maths (translation: math). Each stone is 14 pounds so you just need to divide your weight by 14 and voila, that’s your weight in stone. Better yet, use this handy-dandy converter.

Just don’t stone yourself if you don’t like the results. (Apologies, I couldn’t help myself.)

When your swimsuit is a costume …

I have quite a few favorite British words and expressions. Quite. A. Few. But one of my all-time favorites is “swimming costume.”

Particularly when my husband (or any man) speaks of wearing their swimming costume.

Because although they might be thinking of this:

I’m thinking this:

As a side note to my British readers: In the US, costumes are only used when preceded by the word “Halloween.” Swimming costumes are called swimsuits or bathing suits or The Worst Torture Known to Womankind, depending on who you speak to. But never “costume,” unless you are trying to be funny (in which case, just strut down the beach wearing Borat’s mankini and call it a day).

And so, as this week comes to a close and the glorious weekend begins, throw on your swimsuit (or costume) and enjoy the last weekend of August. Dive in …. I’ll see you back here on Monday!

"Diving Board" by Jena Ardell

Wear what you read

In light of the earth-shattering news this week that J. Crew will now ship to the UK (what? You didn’t get the memo?), I wanted to share these kids’ litera-tees available at JCrew.com.

Now your child (or one you know) can wear a British classic like Sherlock Holmes or Treasure Island. Their shirt will be like an open book.

Even better, for every tee shirt sold, they will donate a book to a community in need. It’s part of the mission of Out of Print Clothing, the awesome company that produces the book shirts.

Wear what you read. It’s a great concept! If you could put your favorite book title on a shirt, what would yours be?

I’m pretty sure I’d get a Great Gatsby tee. Or The World According to Garp tee. Well, actually, maybe something by Ray Bradbury or Kurt Vonnegut. Hmm … I might have enough favorites here to create a wardrobe.

How to eat like a millionaire

Wanna feel like a million bucks (or pounds, depending on your currency)? Then get in the kitchen and bake this:

* Enter carol of angels *

Okay, so maybe the photo doesn’t show it for the general awesomeness that it is and it looks a lot like an ordinary peanut butter square, but make no mistake. This is Millionaire’s Shortbread, a rich confection that layers dark chocolate atop gooey caramel spread over buttery shortbread. A Twix Bar-like dessert done on a big scale. I’m not sure where this gorgeous creature got its name but it is a British classic and rightly so.

Matthew made a batch last night (I am NOT the baker in our house and would never attempt such a complex dessert), based on Roxanne’s Millionaire’s Shortbread recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess cookbook. It tastes like a million calories but in a good way.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 2/3 cups unsalted butter
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
4 tablespoons light corn syrup
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate

1 9-inch square pan or similar, greased and the bottom lined with parchment or wax paper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl and rub in 12 tablespoons of the butter, clumping the dough together to form a ball. Press this sandy shortbread mixture into the tin and smooth it either with you hands or a spatula. Prick it with a fork and cook for 5 minutes, then lower the oven to 300 degrees F, and cook it for a further 30-40 minutes until it is pale golden and no longer doughy. Let it cool in the tin.

Melt the remaining butter in the microwave (in a large microwavable bowl) for 2-3 minutes, then add the condensed milk and golden syrup. Whisk the mixture well until the butter is thoroughly incorporated. Heat for 6-7 minutes until it is boiling, stirring thoroughly every minute. As a microwave novice, I found this bit difficult and had to watch that I didn’t burn the toffee mixture (I did once), which is why I caution you to check and stir every minute. It’s ready when it’s thickened and turned a light golden brown. Pour this molten toffee evenly over the cooled shortbread and leave it to set.

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it in a bowl in a microwave. Pour and spread evenly over the fudge mixture (the less you touch it, the shinier it will be) and leave it to cool. Once set, cut the caramel shortbread into pieces. The squares can be stored in the fridge to keep them firm, though if it’s winter that shouldn’t be necessary.

Makes about 24.

Withnail and I

I first saw Withnail and I my third year of uni (translation: university), while studying abroad in Stirling, Scotland. Released in 1987 about two struggling actors in London in 1969, Withnail and I is one of those movies that never made it big in the US, despite its brilliance.

It remains one of my favorite British films and I share it today simply to urge you to see it, if you haven’t yet. It’s available on instant queue on Netflix.

And while we’re on the topic of lesser-known British movies, do you have any good ones to recommend?

Keep Calm etc.

By now, you’ve seen the “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters everywhere. But did you know that there is a London-based husband-and-wife company called Keep Calm Gallery that sells timeless British prints (as well as designs from up-and-coming designers). Here are just a few pieces from their very British collection.

Popcorn wars


Sweet or salted? That’s the question.

Go to any cinema (translation: movie theater) in the UK and you’ll inevitably encounter the two opposing popcorn types: Sweet (which is similar to Kettle Corn) and salted (which is like our regular popcorn, minus the butter). Butter, at least the last time I went to the cinema in the UK, was not a big factor in the popcorn wars and maybe things have changed since then.

Personally, I’m all about the sweet. It’s quite refreshing these days when I spot a theater in the US that serves Kettle Corn as an alternative to the hot buttered sodium fest (not that that’s a bad thing). It’s still too few and far between.

So are you on Team Sweet or Team Salted?

When life hands you lemons …

The first time I saw this print, I was watching the ever-lovely Emily Henderson makeover the living room of the equally-lovely Joy Cho on Secrets from a Stylist. Watch the episode here!

Joy had a wall full of pictures and prints that she wanted to continue to display in an engaging way and Emily was on the case. This charming print was just one of over a dozen on the wall, but its sunny yellow disposition caught my eye.

After a little online digging, I discovered the print was from the Etsy shop of New Zealand-based designer dearcolleen and I’ve since sent the tea towel version to one sister-in-law in New Zealand and another sister-in-law in England. Gin and tonic is the cocktail of choice in most UK households and we love that tradition. It just seemed like a fitting tribute to our favorite elixir.

As a side note, if you’ve never watched Secrets from a Stylist, you don’t know what you’re missing! Full episodes are available online so you can have your own mini marathon any time you like. With or without gin and tonic.