Monthly Archives: April 2011

Brand New Princess

I’m not sure how I feel about the upcoming royal nuptuals, probably because I’m far enough away that the only news I’m getting about it is… well, a bit odd. Not that UK magazines are any less guilty of dramatising proceedings with secrets, diet tips and general witter, but it’s more distracting when you’re not sure why people are interested in the first place. Mind you, one that I saw on the rack today was busily claiming Princess Di is still alive, crouching in a hole somewhere in Mexico, so perhaps the royal thing is more general interest than I thought.

I’m not sure we’ll get coverage here, which is disappointing, but understandable. However, we also don’t get a day off, which is frankly rude. I’m a self-confessed lover of all things British tradition, no matter how outdated or ridiculous, particularly now I’m half a world away. I never minded paying for the Queen to gallivant about the place because, as far as I’m concerned, she is an ambassador of all that ever made England great (“Look, Philip, I’m a stamp”). And being head of a happy, friendly Commonwealth that includes nearly a third of the world’s population can’t be a bad thing, surely? Either way, I am in a particularly sentimental mood, so bear with me.

It’s not the most exciting royal wedding of my lifetime, I’ll admit. I was just about old enough to be aware of Princess Diana’s pre-Mexico adventures (although, for some reason, I do remember having issues telling the difference between her and my Auntie Lee) and I have a Fergie and Andrew mug somewhere. I even asked Aunt Mary to base my wedding bouquet on the lovely drop one the Mexican fugitive had. But, perhaps due to a lack of proximity, I’m not seeing the requisite amount of pomp and glamour this time. Or perhaps not; I think the above illustration nicely sums up my awareness of the wedding-related mood in the UK, courtesy of Pignut.

Newspaper articles such as this one also do not suggest that people are getting into the spirit of things. Which is a shame, really – they ought to think themselves lucky they’re not too far away to peruse the merchandise shelves. Can I get nice teatowels like these ones here? No I cannot.

Final thought, courtesy of McHappyPants: what is your royal wedding guest name? Start with either Lord or Lady. Your first name is the name of one of your grandparents. Your surname the name of one of your first pets, hyphenated with the name of the street you grew up on.

Mine, rather unfortunately, is Lady Diana Fluff-Durlston.


Happy Easter!

Happy chocolate and bunnies day to all, on every which side of the oceans! I am pleased to report that Easter on this side of the pond did not disappoint, and was as full of face-stuffing and spring cheer as could be wished.

I did note one or two differences, however. Over here, you can buy empty plastic eggs to stuff yourself, and various candies with which to do so. This appears to be the norm, while larger fare tends to come either by itself or with toys. I like this tradition – I chose to fill my eggs with homemade candy and presented a large percentage of the local population with bags filled with white chocolate truffles, milk chocolate truffles, dark chocolate orange truffles, chocolate-covered caramels (which, as previously discussed, is really toffee) and toffee (aka Dime bars).

In England, we seem to have a more rigid idea of what makes a good Easter egg gift. While we do have smaller eggs for hunt purposes, our most popular brands package large hollow eggs with either a small selection of chocolate inside them or, for the larger options, with a few bars of the appropriate candy. Occasionally you’ll get a mug or other random sundry, but toys are limited to the insides of Kinder Eggs (which, for those who’ve never experienced the joy of one, are hollow eggs with a self-assembly toy inside). These eggs are these days shunted onto supermarket shelves as soon the Christmas wrapping paper is packed away.

Hubby, bless him, searched high and low and eventually found an egg-plus-chocolates gift for me. Not only that, it was a Cadbury egg. Not only that, it was full of Mini Eggs, my very favourite Easter treat. And not only that, he topped it off with a dozen mini Creme Eggs, the chocolate I would call my favourite Easter treat had Cadbury not cottoned on to their popularity and made them available for six months of the year, while still fooling us all into thinking they’ll go away soon. My Easter is complete.

Chocolate aside, we had a lovely day in the sunshine with the family, eating delicious roast turkey with all the trimmings and S’Mores by the firepit. This was a novelty for me, as my history of Easter meals is sketchy at best. Mother, who to this day doesn’t quite know what she was thinking, once served rabbit pie. Yes, my mother made me eat the Easter Bunny. And this year, she tells me, she served this:


Candy for Armadillos

It’s that naming thing again – it gets me every time. Hubby bought me a candy-making book for Christmas and I have been dutifully churning out nougat and truffles ever since. Last week I made “caramels”, the end result of which foxed me because they tasted like the chocolate-covered toffees you get in Cadbury’s Roses. Caramel, which, to me, ought to be runny enough to end up on your chin, appears to be the consistency of toffee over here.

Yesterday, I made “toffee”. It’s not, it’s a Dime Bar. Perhaps I’ve been mislabelling my snacks all this time, but I was expecting a chewy delight that stretched out about a metre when I tried to take a bite. This toffee is crunchy and buttery and really very good, but it really isn’t what I was expecting. Fortunately, it’s precisely what Hubby was expecting and I’ve had to hide the tin to stop him eating the whole lot at once.

Oh, and, for those unfamiliar with Dime Bars (“Smooth on the outside, crunchy on the inside” – or, as Pignut so eloquently put it, “Hard toffee… like toffee that just woke up from an erotic dream”), they are a lot like Heath Bars, apparently, or Skor (but without the nasty Hershey’s coating. I’m sorry, but Hershey’s tastes like feet). They were advertised during my formative years by comedian Harry Enfield, who claimed not to like them, instead preferring: “Armadillos! Crunchy on the outside, smooth on the inside”. Genius, but Hubby does have a point when he says UK advertising is a bit mind-boggling.


Puzzled

At risk of outing myself as a nerd, for the purposes of this post I must reveal myself to be a fan of puzzles. Any kind will do – crosswords, logic puzzles, sudoku, they all have the same appeal. My glee was tangible when I discovered bumper puzzle books on sale in Walmart for $1 each… until I got them home.

I suspect my fellow countrymen mostly share my mistaken belief that we have a full understanding of American culture, thanks to our constant exposure to tellybox programmes, movies and other forms of US entertainment. However, I am now discovering how much is left out of our transatlantic education, which makes any type of question-based puzzle problematic.

I have no idea which football teams sport which colours, what the defining feature of any particular state is or what catchphrases to attribute to which of the myriad celebrities I’ve never heard a whisper of. I’m even flummoxed when asked to name a bean that serves as a salad bar staple, because a) we don’t eat many garbanzo beans in England and b) a salad bar where I’m from tends to be resolute in its offering of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and a bit of onion if you’re lucky.

The problems don’t end there. I stared at a fill-in-the-blanks style puzzle for several irritated minutes, before realising that the word I was trying to cram into the box wasn’t fitting because I was adding extra vowels to it. My brain is set up to recognise “colour” as a potential box filler, not “color”. And what is a “Halloween maze box”, for Christ’s sake? It turned out to be “bale”, which I’m still not convinced I understand. I am going to assume they meant “harvest maize cube”, which is what it would have been in an English puzzle book. Sometimes an extra vowel is not a bad thing.

Even the phrasing of most of the clues foxes me. For example: “Non-southpaw”. What? The answer was apparently, “Righty”. Righty then. I have literally no idea what either of those things means; the crossword questions in this slightly parallel dimension are as slightly parallel as everything else. I don’t use the right slang, nor do the same phrases spring to mind, nor do I recognise the same foods, geography and popular culture, nor do words always mean quite the same thing. I think, for now, it’s best I stick with the wordsearches, and the odd bit of sudoku – even I can’t mistranslate a number.