Monthly Archives: August 2011

A weekend in Edinburgh

If I could be anywhere in the world this weekend, I would kilt up and head to Edinburgh (ed-in-bur-uh).

Not for the haggis, the corner street pipers or the cozy fireside pubs (although those would be nice …). No, I’m thinking specifically about Edinburgh festival season – the mad, vibrant, sensory feast of a party that takes place nearly every day and night in August.

What festival? Well, take your pick. Scotland’s capitol city is currently hosting the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the International Festival and the Art Festival. There really is something for everyone. Find more information at

But wherever you are spending this weekend, have a fabulous one. I’ll see you back here Monday!

Lucky Black Cats

Our black cat Poppy, who was named after Jamie Oliver's daughter Poppy Honey, has not been bad luck. Well, except for those who visit us. She hates visitors.

A happy belated Black Cat Appreciation Day, which was Wednesday. As usual, I’m a day late and a dollar short on the greeting, but better late than never.

And here’s one for the Bizarro World files: Black cats, which are traditionally bad luck in the US, are good luck in the UK. People actually seek them out and want to adopt them. It’s actually the white cats that are bad luck in the UK. Welcome to reverso-world.

Affectionate Anglos

If you’ve watched too many episodes of Masterpiece Theatre, you might get the impression that the British are all standoffish and Mr. Darcyish, with their top hats and stiff upper lips.

Not so.

Actually, I’m routinely taken aback by how very affectionate Brits are. They’re always greeting people with a kiss on the cheek, even those they might meet for the first time. That doesn’t happen in America.

And they’re always ending letters and emails with kisses (x = kiss, if you didn’t know). Sometimes two = xx. Oftentimes three = xxx. And even as much as four = xxxx. I’m not talking about schoolchildren. I’m talking about full-fledged adults. This is the way they sign off every letter. It’s downright romantic!

But what about hugs, I hear you asking … Well, what about them?! Brits can hug as well as the next Yank. Check out the new Hug London Facebook page that’s formed post-riots to heal the city. Hosted by Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centers, the community page invites anyone to send in photos of themselves hugging London landmarks. They will be gathering at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow to hug City Hall in London. So much for the stiff upper lip …

Mini Boden is big on style

The Brits have a knack for making lovely, high-quality children’s clothes and Mini Boden is proof of that. I’ve purchased a few items through their catalogue in previous years, but recently Nordstrom started carrying their line in its stores – not in its entirety but the highlights, which is good enough for me. Their fall collection can be pre-ordered now.

Pictured above: Layered Sleeve Tee in Blackcurrant Apple; ‘Bold Print’ Dress in Indigo Giant Flower; Heart Patch Pants (Toddler) in Raspberry Mouse; and ‘Fun Pocket’ Jumper in Aqua

Magnum arrives in the U.S.

I laughed out loud the first time I saw this Magnum commercial starring The OC‘s Rachel Bilson. For so many reasons. Let me count the ways.

  1. I love that “Do Not Attempt” pops up on the screen when she’s stepping over cars barefoot through traffic.
  2. I love the campy cop and ice cream truck driver and all of that magician’s fog that streams out of the truck when he opens the back.
  3. And of course, I love that Magnum Ice Cream is arriving in the US market, competing for an audience that already associates Magnum with a brand of extra-large condoms, a firearm and, of course, Tom Selleck of yesteryear.

The combination is just YouTube gold.

P.S. I should add that we did buy a box — okay, two boxes, oink, oink — of Magnum Ice Cream when we saw it at the grocery store and Rachel Bilson is not acting. The Double Caramel is well worth climbing cars in a sundress for.

A slice of Toast

Last week, the latest Toast catalogue winged its way from their headquarters in Wales to my home in California and like a giddy schoolgirl, I squirreled it away until I could leaf through it and enjoy it in complete peace (yes, I did have to wait until after bedtime for the kids …).

Toast pretty much puts every American catalogue (well, perhaps with the exception of Anthropologie … mmm, Anthropologie) to shame. I love the high-quality photography as much as their delicious collection of knitwear, structured jackets, capes, scarves, menswear and gorgeous, understated pieces for the home. Take a gander

Fork and Knife Fare

Ever see the Seinfeld episode where Elaine watches her boss eating a candy bar with a fork and knife?

The first time I ate pizza in the UK, I was reminded of this as I watched everyone eat their pizza with a fork and knife. It doesn’t matter if you’re eating pizza from a Michelin-starred restaurant or Pizza Hut, you don’t use your hands. It’s not a thin-crust issue. It’s not a this-pizza-is-too-flipping-hot issue. I believe it’s an issue of manners.

Speaking of manners, Matthew is frequently horrified when he eats with Americans and finds them doing the familiar dance of cutting up their food — steak, for example — into pieces (knife in right hand, fork in left), only to put their knife down, swap their fork from their left hand to their right and then stab the little pieces with their right. The process is exhausting and inefficient. By contrast, he keeps his knife in his right, fork in his left and cuts each piece, stabs and then eats with his left. No silverware shuffle. It’s the essence of simplicity and actually the way I prefer to eat now. Even when I’m enjoying a Snickers bar.

Speed Cameras & Kodak Moments

In the past two weeks, I’ve had the misfortune of receiving two red-light camera tickets in the post (translation: mail) My offense? Rolling right-hand turns (translation: braking as I approach a lighted intersection and turning right without coming to a full stop), which carries with it the particularly steep price tag of $470 in California. Yes, per ticket. More on that next week.

But my red-light camera story actually reminds me of the first time I encountered this sign in England:

What does this look like to you? Photo opportunity, right?

In the US, we actually have a similar street  sign I like to call a Kodak Moment sign.

And it’s a simple way to let drivers know that something beautiful is approaching. Get your cameras ready, folks. Behold the majesty on the side of the road! It’s …

Or maybe ..

And so when I spotted that sign followed by … well, pavement (translation: asphalt) and some overgrown shrubbery, I wondered just what I was missing. I started to debate that particular location’s merits and question how Brits assessed beauty in general …

Turns out, it was simply a UK sign, warning of a speed camera ahead …

When Incy Wincy Met Itsy Bitsy

The name's Wincy. Incy Wincy. Photo credit:

This morning, I sang to my daughter “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

Both versions.

What? You didn’t know there were two versions? Ah, well there are! There’s the American version (“The Itsy Bitsy Spider” that you know and love) and the British version (“Incy Wincy Spider” – same melody except Incy Wincy is the spider’s name).

For the record, there are also British versions of …

* “Ring around the Rosie” (same as the American version except for the genius “A-tissue, A-tissue” line where the more solemn “Ashes, Ashes” would normally go)

* “If You’re Happy and You Know It” (same as the American version except for the line “If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it” is subbed for the “If you’re happy and you know it then your face will surely show it” that I grew up with)

* “The Wheels on the Bus” (again, same as the American version except for the ending “All day long” instead of “All through the town”)

I love that there are two versions of these songs and I love that my kids will know them both. Sure, they’ll probably get teased mercilessly when they unfortunately whip out the “Incy Wincy” version in company that is decidedly “Itsy Bitsy”-centric, but hey, that’s part of being dual nationality. It’s character building and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Sir Clement Freud and the funniest joke ever told

A little brevity is way overdue so I humbly submit Sir Clement Freud‘s classic British delivery of what has been hailed as the funniest joke ever told. Most Brits have probably heard this one by now but for Americans, I invite you to curl up with a cup of tea and have a listen.