Monthly Archives: December 2012

The right time to buy a Christmas tree

Santa Big Ben ornament

We put up our tree last weekend. It was, perhaps, a little premature by British standards (it’s not unheard of for Brits to put up their Christmas tree on Christmas Eve!) but a little last minute by American standards and I did want to make sure that we didn’t get the last Charlie Brown Christmas tree on the lot.

I remember one year we waited until nearly the 18th of Dec. and it was serious slim pickings (particularly since many tree lots get their big delivery right after Thanksgiving and sell off what they get. No daily shipments of fresh trees.) Anyway, it’s also just nice to have a little extra time to enjoy the tree, particularly now that our kids are getting older and the run up to Christmas feels more like a sprint than a marathon.

Decorating the tree is always one of my favorite things to do. I love the collection of old and new ornaments, the mix-match patchwork quilt of memories collected over the years. We bought this Santa ornament a couple of years ago in remembrance of our years living in London. (It’s actually from Cost Plus! They still sell this little glass Santa with Big Ben).

When do you usually buy your Christmas tree?

British panto season

keepcalmandpantoLast weekend, we took the kids to their first play in the theater – and their first British panto.

For the uninitiated, British panto is a rich holiday tradition that goes back for centuries. It’s a family-friendly musical theater extravaganza, always during the holidays, with lots of audience participation. There are some constants: The shows are always based on a fairytale. Pantos always include a dame (the story’s narrator) played by a man dressed in drag, a horse or cow, and a leading man, played by a woman wearing boots and shorts. I’ve been to a panto years ago when we were living in the U.K. but haven’t seen one in recent years and never here in the states. When we heard there was playing here in Sacramento (City Theatre), we had to check it out.

The panto was “Alice in Wonderland” and we loved it. They threw some characters from “The Nutcracker” into the mix, along with heavy pop culture references and some familiar pop songs. Candy was tossed into the audience at regular intervals, we had a great time shouting at the actors (“She’s behind you!”) and we were all given balls to pelt the Queen of Hearts. It was amazing, manic and joyful and will certainly be part of our holiday tradition going forward.

Now I am just hoping the kids aren’t really disappointed when they go to a regular play for the first time!

The Hobbit

As the parent of two little ones, it is rare that we get a chance to go to the movies. I still haven’t seen the new Bond movie. I think our last trip to the cinema was “Moonrise Kingdom.” First world problems, people!

But with my parents visiting in a couple of weeks, we are looking forward to heading out to the movie theater and hunkering down with a small bag of popcorn that will cost more than it should. On the top of our list of things to see is “The Hobbit.” We recently spent a good week rewatching “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and are back in the old Peter Jackson state of mind once again.

This just looks fun and it premieres in the US this Friday!

Call it a good cuppa

London Calling Tea-for-One Set

I spotted this in the December issue of Matchbook Magazine and fell in love! If you’re shopping for an anglophile, I’m sure they’d love this London Calling Tea-for-One Set as much as I do! This little teapot-and-cup set is on sale at Urban Outfitters for $20.

ASDA’s Christmas advert

I’m sorry. I’m borderline obsessed with British adverts during the holidays. They just feel so festive. Case in point: this year’s ASDA advert:

Thanks to Sarah from Newbie Science for this!

Cheerio, Fresh & Easy

Wow! After a short but financially unsuccessful run in the U.S., British-owned Fresh & Easy grocery stores are calling it quits. At the time of this posting, Tesco, the parent company, hasn’t announced plans for their 200 Fresh & Easy stores, but are looking into selling.

It’s a shame but I always wished that Fresh & Easy had imported the Tesco line of products (particularly Tesco Finest!). Instead, it ended up being another characterless market in an already crowded marketplace. Cheerio, Fresh & Easy!

Thanks to Ally from A Girl and Her Fork for the tip!

Holiday deadline for international mail


Every year, we do the mad scramble to get our Christmas cards and presents to Britain in the mail by the U.S. Post Office deadline. It’s usually around the 6th Dec. and I’ll admit we’re usually right under the wire.

On Monday, I took a look at the U.S. Post Office website to check what that holiday international deadline is this year and there it was: Dec. 3. Alarm bells rang. My husband was out of town and I had to get everything wrapped, tagged, and packaged to make that deadline. I put “Love Actually” on and stayed up until the job was done.

As it turned out, in the bright light of day the next morning, I visited the website again and realized I completely misread the deadline. Dec. 3 is actually the deadline for shipping to Africa, not England.

This year’s deadline for shipping to Europe? Dec. 10! Yes, I could’ve had an extra week to procrastinate! 🙂

Secret Cinema in London


“I didn’t ever imagine it would be like this so I was both shocked and surprised at the same time. I thought we were coming to watch a film!” – one Secret Cinema attendee interviewed by BBC Newshour

I, too, had heard bits and pieces about Secret Cinema and thought it was merely a pop-up shop-style movie theater. Oh how wrong I was!

If you want to get the real scoop, listen to BBC Newshour from yesterday. One of their reporters participated in this mystery night out in London and finds herself on trial, convicted and then sent off to a prison yard a la “Shawshank Redemption.”

I was only able to source yesterday’s Newshour podcast in its entirety (if you haven’t listened to Newshour, it’s a great listen anyway!) but you can scroll to 35:46 to hear about Secret Cinema! Also, check out some of the photos taken at this recent one. Talk about experiencing a movie!

Have you gone to Secret Cinema? What did you think?

Alternate London tube maps


I love these alternate tube maps, as offered by There’s the realistic geographical tube map, as well as maps detailing the distance and travel times between stations. But my favorite is the “It’s quicker to walk” map, which will inevitably save me some time and trouble the next time we’re in London!

Thanks to I know this great little place in London… which led me to this site!