Category Archives: Books

“Downton Tabby”

Well, if you’ve ever felt like “Downton Abbey” is missing a bit of feline flair (and who hasn’t?), keep an eye out for “Downton Tabby” by Chris Kelly, which will be released Dec. 3.

If this cover is an indicator of the quality read that awaits, we are all in for a treat!

Downton Tabby

Dinner doodles

Placemart art by Marion Deuchars

I love the idea of this book by the U.K.’s Marion Deuchars. “Let’s Make Some Great Placemat Art” is the perfect antidote for any child who’s bored sitting in a restaurant waiting for dinner to arrive (and a godsend to parents)!

Charles Dickens Book Clutch

A Tale of Two Cities Book Clutch

I cannot help loving Kate Spade’s book clutches. See how she transforms “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens into a stylish clutch, with an interior zip pocket and room for 12 credit cards? It’s priced at $325 and is utterly perfection.

A Tale of Two Cities Book Clutch

And if Charles Dickens isn’t your bag, check out “Emma” by Jane Austen. Same treatment in a pale pink clutch!

Interview with “Americashire” author Jennifer Richardson

Jennifer RichardsonWhat happens when an American woman and her British husband decide to buy a 200-year-old cottage in the heart of the Cotswolds? It’s all in Jennifer Richardson’s travel memoir entitled “Americashire: A Field Guide to Marriage,” which received the 2013 Indie Reader Discovery Award for travel writing.

Richardson spent three years living in the Cotswalds, before moving back to the U.S. She and her husband currently live in Santa Monica, Calif. I caught up with her recently and talked about the expat life, taco salads and the joy of a good pub. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: What brought you to the U.K.? 
A: My British husband and I had been living in Los Angeles, and he had a yen to move back to his homeland for a stint. I was reluctant but told him if he found a job that would move us, then I would go. I didn’t actually expect my condition to be fulfilled so fast, but within three months, we were in London. Of course, once we got there, I loved it.

Q: What prompted your move back to the States? 
A: My grass-is-always-greener husband wanted to get back to America after six years of being away. In parallel, an opportunity came up through my job to move to Boston, so we took it. We loved Boston (our neighborhood, Beacon Hill, was about as British as you can get in the U.S.), but have now made our way back to Santa Monica. My aspiration is that we eventually spend part of the year here in California and part in our cottage in the Cotswolds.

Q: What do you miss most about British life? 
A: The pub, by which I really mean a place where you can strike up a conversation with a stranger without getting a funny look.

Q: What do you love most about American life? 
A: It’s easier to find a salad that isn’t iceberg lettuce with a pale quarter of tomato and, if you’re lucky, a slice of cucumber. I don’t think Cobb salads or Chinese chicken salads even exist in England. Taco salad would blow their minds. Which reminds me about two other great American institutions: Taco Bell and Target. When we lived in England, those were our first stops on any visit back to the states.

Q: Tell me about “Americashire.”
A: It’s a travel memoir, and here’s the pitch: When an American woman and her British husband decide to buy a two-hundred-year-old cottage in the heart of the Cotswolds, they’re hoping for an escape from their London lives. Instead, their decision about whether or not to have a child plays out against a backdrop of village fêtes, rural rambles, and a cast of eccentrics clad in corduroy and tweed.

Q: What inspired you to write the book? 
A: The three years I spent living in the Cotswolds. As a former urbanite/suburbanite, I was utterly charmed, and occasionally mystified, by rural English life. I felt compelled to write it all down, which I initially did in a blog, An American in the Cotswolds. This is where the raw material came from for the travelogue part of the book. In real life there was also this decision about whether or not to have kids going on at the same time, and I thought the moment was right for that story. Something about it felt and still feels zeitgeist-y: child-free celebs from Oprah to Ellen are in the spotlight, and the subject even made a segment of CBS Sunday Morning this past Mother’s Day.

Q: What advice would you give to Anglo-American couples that are trying to make it work? 
A: If you’re the American in the couple, learn to make fun of yourself, a.k.a. “take the piss out of yourself” in Brit-speak. That’s the true mark of character for the British, so it will make things easier not just at home, but at any pub in the U.K. If you’re the Brit in the couple, just try iced tea. It’s not the devil’s drink, I promise (despite what my husband says).

You can follow Jennifer Richardson on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest.

London Style Guide

London Style Guide

On a trip to Anthropologie last weekend, I spotted this London Style Guide by Saska Graville and had to check it out.

I realize that it’s one of those books that are almost instantly out of date from the moment they are published (better as a blog, perhaps), but in this case, it makes for a nice coffee book for $24.95. Great photos and good recommendations of places to eat, sleep and shop, broken down by neighborhood.

London Style Guide

We also got The Stylist’s Guide to NYC by Sibella Court. I love the book selection at Anthropologie.

BTW, did you know that Anthropologie has a shop in London on Regent Street? We walked by it on our trip to London a couple of months ago (mental note: must post London photos from our trip next week!)

Interview with author Pauline Wiles

Pauline Wiles

Pauline Wiles

I’ve had the privilege of meeting some delightful anglophiles and expats online through my blog – like Pauline Wiles. Pauline is a Brit by birth, but has since settled in the San Francisco Bay Area. Last week, she released her first published novel – “Saving Saffron Sweeting,” which is a quarter finalist in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

I asked her a few questions about her British homeland, her love of writing and this American life. Here’s what she had to say:

Q: What prompted your move to the States?
A: My husband was working for a U.S. tech company in the U.K. They re-organized his area and an opportunity at head office came up. I was miserable in my job at the time, so moving to the San Francisco area was an easy decision!

Q: What do you miss most about British life?
A: Apart from friends and family, silly things like National Trust houses and their tearooms, John Lewis, the BBC and bonfire night. And many unhealthy foodie items, of course. It’s no coincidence that most of those found their way into my book.

Q: What do you love most about American life?
A: We’re lucky to live near the San Francisco Bay where the climate is wonderful and being outdoors is a joy. Since moving here I’ve definitely become more active and healthy. San Francisco is a great city to have on our doorstep: whenever I’m there, I have to pinch myself to believe I’m a local.

Q: Tell me about “Saving Saffron Sweeting.”
A: The very short description would be: Leaving her cheating husband in California and fleeing home to England seemed like the obvious choice for Grace, but putting her life back together in the charming village of Saffron Sweeting isn’t as simple as she’d assumed.

Read the rest of this entry

The Gruffalo now at Target

I was at Target this weekend and ran into a couple of old friends!

Gruffalo
Gruffalo's Child

Yes! The Gruffalo and the Gruffalo’s Child on DVD, based on the books by Julia Donaldson! If you haven’t seen these, they’re definitely worth watching and keeping! They feature the voices of Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, John Hurt, James Cordon and Tom Wilkinson. I’d venture to say they are modern classics. Check them out – now on sale at Target for $7.50!

Edgar Allan Pooh

I’m not sure how A.A. Milne would feel about this one, but it made me smile!

Edgar Allan Pooh

Dressing the Queen

Queen Elizabeth

Have you ever wondered what it takes to dress Queen Elizabeth? Here are just a few details I discovered via this weekend’s very informative Wall Street Journal article:

1. The Queen prefers a two-inch heel.
2. Striking colors are a must.
3. Umbrellas are a necessity (she likes transparent ones the most).
4. She has quite a collection of hats.

More details like these can be found in the book, “Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe” written by royal couturier Angela Kelly, who manages the queen’s public and private wardrobe.

Celebrations

Poems on the UndergroundToday, there’s much to celebrate as the world’s oldest underground transportation network, the London Underground, celebrates 150 years today on the same day that the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton turns 31.

When I studied abroad in the U.K., one of my flatmates had an anthology of poetry that had been posted on the London Underground (where the advertisements usually ran). The book, Poems on the Underground (Fifth Edition), became one of my favorites to just dip into now and again, and ranged from Percy Shelley to Maya Angelou, Brits and non-Brits as well as some anonymous authors.

I eventually bought my own copy  that year and have been revisiting those old poems this week. I found one which might be appropriate for today’s celebrations. Let’s raise a glass and have a read! Cheers.

A Birthday

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a watered shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

– Christina Rossetti (1830-94)