Monthly Archives: December 2011

Happy New Year!

If travel is in the cards in 2012, check out Taschen’s 4 Cities, a box set of 12 volumes covering hotels, restaurants and shops in London, Paris, New York and Berlin.

In the meantime, have a wonderful New Year’s and I’ll see you back here on Tuesday!


The year of the short story

With each passing year, my attention span wanes and my reading list gets more abbreviated. Thankfully next year is already being dubbed “The Year of the Short Story,” perhaps in response to those like me who are short on time and long on commitments.

Another piece of good news: We don’t have to wait until 2012 to jump feet first into the short fiction fray. Chris Power of the Guardian has compiled a list of the top short stories published this year and he contends that there were some fantastic short reads if you knew where to look. Check it out.

And for those of you who are too time poor to read the article, I feel your pain. Here’s the recommended list:

1. Alice by Judith Hermann (Clerkenwell Press)
2. All the Lights (And Other Stories) by Clemens Meyer
3. The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories by Don DeLillo (Picador)
4. The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall (Faber and Faber)
5. Best European Fiction 2012 edited by Aleksandar Hemon (Dalkey Archive)
6. Best British Short Stories 2011 edited by Nicholas Royle (Salt)
7. The Granta Book of the African Short Story edited by Helon Habila (Granta)
8. It Was Just, Yesterday by Mirja Unge (Comma Press)
9. Long, Last, Happy: New and Selected Stories by Barry Hannah (Atlantic)
10. Saints and Sinners by Edna O’Brien (Faber and Faber)
11. Scenes from Village Life by Amos Oz (Chatto & Windus)
12. The Suitcase by Sergei Dovlatov (One World)
13. We Others: New and Selected Stories by Steven Millhauser (Corsair)

London shower

I’m really loving this London’s Trafalgar Square shower curtain that I spotted on Joanna Goddard’s A Cup of Jo blog. It’s made of durable vinyl with metal grommet reinforced holes for hanging. Even better? It’s only $27 on Amazon.

Watching the English

My mother-in-law kindly bought me “Watching the English” for Christmas, a fantastic little book that actually breaks down the rules of English behavior (er, I mean behaviour). Subjects range from dress codes to driving, office-party rules to Christmas and New Year’s rules.

A must-read for anyone interested in a hilarious and truthful dissection of the English culture!

Wayne Pate

I’m loving the artwork of Brooklyn-based artist Wayne Pate. Particularly his U.K.-inspired prints and totes!


Brighton Beach UK

Brighton Beach UK Tote

Check out his online shop!

Happy Boxing Day!

Zellers Canada: Boxing Day Flyer

Happy Boxing Day!

Boxing Day? Well, yes. It is an honest to goodness holiday in Britain and aside from being one more guaranteed day off from work following the Christmas holiday (Dec. 26th is not a public holiday in the U.S.), it is also the official day of boxing up old toys, belongings and, you know, junk that we no longer use and box it up.

Or maybe that’s just us and how we celebrate the holiday.

In fact, there are a few theories about the origins of Boxing Day. Check out the Time Magazine story.

However you’re celebrating this special sleeper holiday, I hope it finds you smiling!

The Royal Christmas card

Have you seen Prince Charles and Camilla’s Christmas card this year?

The front of the card features the Prince of Wales’ crest and Camilla’s cypher. But inside is this photo jewel of Charles, Camilla and the Camilla’s 3-year-old granddaughter Eliza Lopes on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

The message simply reads: “Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and New Year.”

Personally I was hoping for a Christmas letter.

And on that note, I wish you and yours a very Happy Christmas and New Year!

Mince pie love

It’s nearly Christmas Day and in the frenzied rush up to Christmas, I’ve still not had one mince pie.

I was quite vocal about my dislike for the dried-fruit disaster better known as Christmas pudding, but mince pies takes some of the same elements, pairs them with pie dough and becomes magic.

I’m partial to the “exceedingly good” Mr. Kipling mince pies, available at Cost Plus, heated and eaten a la mode (but that’s an American thing. I don’t believe any self-respecting Brit would put ice cream on pie. Dessert is always served with cream).

Better yet, screw the warm pie crust top off (like a little hat), put a dollop of cream on it and then put the pie hat back on, before biting into the sheer bliss of Christmas. You’re welcome, America.

Here we come a-wassailing

Larry Crowe/AP

Have you ever had wassail?

On NPR’s “Morning Edition” this morning, reporter Kathleen Osborn discusses her search for this very traditional English drink in New England. Have a listen.

I’ve never tried it, but the following are three very different variations on this festive drink.

Randy Baril’s Wassail Recipe

1/2 gallon beer (Preferably a very malty English-style old ale. Mayflower’s Thanksgiving Ale works really well.)

5 sticks of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon whole cloves

5 slices fresh ginger

3 whole allspice

1/2 teaspoon sweet orange peel (optional)

On stovetop or in a slow cooker, add spices to beer. (Can use a tea bag for
the clove, allspice and orange so they can be removed easily. Allow
the cinnamon and ginger to go free-range.)

Warm to just under a simmer and hold for at least 30 minutes.

Adjust spice blend to your taste. For extra sweet wassail, add a bit of brown sugar.

Enjoy on a cold winter night in the company of friends and family while singing to keep the dark at bay.

Clarence Zimmerman Family Wassail Recipe

1 to 2 bottles of champagne

1 pint vodka

1 cup brandy

32 ounces fresh tart juice (cranberry or orange)

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a decorative vessel that the whole family can drink from.

The Prince and The Pauper Wassail Recipe

Fresh apple cider

Little bit of orange juice

A little less lemon juice

Cinnamon stick


Dash of nutmeg

Dash of ginger

Steep all ingredients for a half-hour on a low boil. Add brandy, rum or vodka as desired.

Do they know it’s Christmas (and that it’s not a happy song)?

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid is my second favorite modern Christmas song on the planet (second only to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You,” which is pop perfection).

Last week, the TV show “Glee” brought their own spin to it and they certainly made it their own. How? Well, they smiled through it. It was the most upbeat, inappropriately happy rendition of such a serious song about poverty in Ethiopia.

I’m not sure why anyone thought it would be okay to skip and bop mindlessly while singing lyrics like “And there won’t be snow in Africa this christmas time / The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life / Where nothing ever grows / No rain or rivers flow / Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”

Oh, Glee. I still love you. But next Christmas, stick with “My Only Wish” by Britney Spears.