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British men try high heels for a day

This I love …

(This video reminds me of a pair of black patent leather heels, which were gorgeous in theory – less so, when I walked around Tin Man-style around the office, not unlike these brave souls. The shoes remain in my closet and that is where they will stay.)

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Hot cross buns – one a penny, two a penny

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but we are in the last week of Hot Cross Bun season — the final stretch.

Well, at least the Brits in the room are probably well aware. For Americans, well, it’s been a season of abominations. I’ve come across all kinds, including sweet dinner rolls studded with red and green fruit, others with lemon curd-like stuff where the dough cross should have been. The devil’s spawn in bread form.

It’s been enough to draw us into the kitchen. My husband has already made two batches of hot cross buns from a Delia Smith recipe (from her “Complete Cookery Course” cookbook) and it really has been a revelation. Is it easy? Not by any stretch of the imagination. But is it worth it? Oh yes!

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London when it’s completely empty

Ever wonder what London would look like if it were completely empty?

Well, wonder no more! Freelance photographer Genaro Bardy has put together a series of photos, captured when London was completely deserted (namely Christmas Day!).

See the full staggering collection for yourself!

St. Paul's Cathedral

Oxford Street

Piccadilly Circus

The British love affair with Cheesecake Factory

When we first moved back to California from the U.K. more than a decade ago, we had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory in Union Square in San Francisco. It kind of epitomized everything that was American – unapologetic, calorie-laden decadence detailed in a really long, laminated menu. It felt like a world-is-your-oyster kind of place. You want pasta? Steak? Omelette? Pizza? Burger? Sandwich? Seafood? Salad? You can get it here. Oh yeah, and of course, there’s over two dozen different types of cheesecake. There is simply nothing like it in the U.K.

Fresh Strawberry CheesecakeBut for me, the Cheesecake Factory ship has sailed. I have nothing against the Cheesecake Factory, but it no longer holds the appeal that it once had. We had no official falling out. It’s just become this kind of American dining experience (like TGI Friday’s, Applebee’s, Sizzler, Outback Steakhouse) that I avoid (not because I am snob, although if the shoe fits …), but because there are so many amazing independently owned restaurants in San Francisco, I couldn’t imagine eschewing them all in favor of a stop at a chain restaurant like the Cheesecake Factory.

And yet, everytime we have friends visiting from the U.K., without fail, they suggest dining there. These are friends that don’t know each other. Relatives that don’t know the friends. No common connection except for their Britishness. But they’re all on the same British Cheesecake Factory bandwagon. They don’t ask about any of the other chains, mind you. They save their love for Cheesecake Factory.

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Gordon Ramsey tries Girl Scout cookies

When I was living in the U.K., I really missed Girl Scout cookies and this general season of Thin Mints, Samoas (now better known as Caramel Delites) and Tagalongs. There was simply nothing like it in the U.K. Sure, they had biscuits, but none delivered via the tradition of Girl Scouts. I think that’s part of the beauty of them – they’re part tasty treat and part walk-down-memory-lane. And as a former Girl Scout, I look back on that time of knocking on doors and confirming cookie orders with such fondness!

And so I found it amusing to see Gordon Ramsey try Girl Scout cookies for the first time on Jimmy Kimmel’s show.

How do you feel about Girl Scout cookies? Yea or nay?

10 best things about being a British woman

Adele

Adele knows it’s awesome to be a British woman.

So maybe the World Health Organization declared that British women had the second lowest life expectancies in Europe … at least they’re not Denmark! Can I get a high five?!

Check out Lauren Laverne’s thoughtful roundup of reasons why it’s still very cool to be a British woman (especially #3, #4 and #5!).

The Ultimate Map of Downton Abbey Locations

Calling all Downton Abbey fans! Want the inside scoop about their filming locations in the U.K.?

Meet “The Ultimate Map of Downton Abbey Locations,” the only online map of its kind from Wayfair.co.uk. With over 70 filming locations across the U.K., you can stalk out every locale! Brilliant!

Out of hibernation

Walking DeadSo … how do you say Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy 2016 all in one post on the last day of January? I’ve been in heavy hibernation the past two months.

Yes, we had a busy holiday season, which included a fun visit from my in-laws from England and New Zealand, and I’m still trying to get back into the swing of the new year and embracing all that 2016 has in store for me. Excuses, excuses …

But, well, “The Walking Dead.” This is the No. 1 reason I’ve been unreachable. Have you seen Andrew Lincoln (better known as Egg from “This Life” and Mark from “Love Actually”) kick some serious zombie butt? If you haven’t, WATCH IT (you can stream the first five seasons on Netflix) or don’t (if you hope to get anything done in your life after you start). It’s been my winter addiction and I’ve only finally finished the first five seasons and need to get started on the sixth season … Which reminds me … 🙂

Giving Public Enemy a lift

When Kevin Wells met Public Enemy

Photographer Kevin Wells drove the members of Public Enemy to their show.
Photo credit: Kevin Wells/Twitter

When rap group Public Enemy had a no-show taxi in Sheffield, England, British photographer Kevin Wells offered to drive the group in his Ford Focus. Hilarity ensues.

I love this story.

(And yes, that is Flava Flav back there with the glasses and hat. Where’s his clock necklace?!)

16 charming bookshops in the U.K. everyone must visit

Armchair Books

Armchair Books in Edinburgh


Armchair Books

Armchair Books

If you are an avid reader, be sure to check out Buzzfeed.com’s “16 Charming Bookshops in the UK Everyone Must Visit.”

We used to live next door to Armchair Books in Edinburgh, a lovely little store which is #3 on the list.

“You could easily lose a weekend while nosing about the dreamy Armchair Books. Delve into stacks and stacks of inviting tomes at this Edinburgh institution. If you’re still on the fence, Armchair Books are also great value on Twitter. Plus their logo is a dinosaur reading!”

See the full list!