Saturday, May 24, 2014

A tradition remarketed

Christmas crackers are a thoroughly British tradition that have only just in the last few years made it over to the United States. For many years they were pretty much impossible to find. Nowadays, you may have to look hard, but it is possible to find them. Most Americans are still pretty clueless about them though - the Americans I've met who know about them have all spent a Christmas in the UK or have a British relative. So I was surprised, not to say stunned, to see this in the seasonal aisle at my local supermarket this morning:

Yes, that's a box of crackers! ( Or "6 Celebration Cracker" as the box says!) Yes, they are red, white, and blue - with stars but no stripes! Yes, it's completely the wrong time of year for crackers. Remember though, that most Americans have no idea what crackers are and you have an opportunity to rework the tradition - the box reads:
"Party Surprise Fun!!
Great for birthday parties, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years . . . and more."

I didn't take a closer look at the box to see if there are instructions on what to do with the crackers - after all, if you haven't seen one before, it's not necessarily obvious! I wonder what's in them, and if Americans will wear the paper hats if there are any. I may have to go back tomorrow and buy a box. I wonder, if they sell well, if we'll start to see crackers for every 'occasion' - Halloween, Valentines' Day, Hannukah, weddings, baby showers . . . So much marketing potential that's been missed in the UK!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tea time!

I decided to have a cup of tea instead of a cup of coffee with breakfast this morning. My son was appalled: "Tea this early in the day! Tea isn't for the morning, it's for teatime in the afternoon!" He knows I have an alarm that goes off inside my head sometime midafternoon to remind me to have a cup of tea. We'll be out somewhere and I'll suddenly feel the urge for a cup of tea and know without looking at my watch that it must be sometime between 3 and 4.  The kids and DH know that if I suddenly say "Ding, ding, ding" it means that alarm in my head has just gone off! It hadn't occurred to me though, until this morning, that the kids have never seen me (or anyone) drink tea at any other time of day!
DH bought me a mug like this for Christmas this year

Monday, September 02, 2013

School shopping

The beginning of the school year in the USA must rival Christmas for the amount of money being spent! Last week we got a note from my son's teacher for this year listing the supplies he will need to bring with him. Fortunately, his school provides many of the things he will need - not all public schools in the USA do. He needed a 3 ring binder (I emptied one of mine for him), pencils (we rounded up a dozen from around the house) and 2 notebooks (I picked some up at Staples earlier this summer when they on sale for 1 cent each.) DONE. 

When the kids are old enough to be heading off to college, the shopping list will not be that short of course.  I went to Target last week and had a hard time finding the things I needed. There are women's clothes somewhere behind those boxes. 


Almost all the aisles in the store looked like this - piles of fridges, microwaves, TVs - all the college essentials ;-) 

Monday, August 05, 2013

God Save the Queen!

Hmm - I saw this at the supermarket checkout last week and wondered why if the Queen really is dying and has decide to name William as her successor, no other news agencies other than the Globe have reported this fact? Oh yes, that would be because the REPUTABLE news agencies try to stick to reporting facts!

This was last week's front cover. I didn't take any photos this week, but they're still harping on about the Queen dying! Here's the image of their front page from their website:
For whatever reason, (selling papers?) the Globe has it in for Charles and Camilla (and Obama.) Here are some of their recent headlines:

 DRUNKEN CAMILLA COLLAPSES OVER KATE'S BABY
NEW MOM KATE RISKS LIFE FOR ROYAL BABY
KATE KICKS CAMILLA OUT OF THE DELIVERY ROOM!
CAMILLA'S CRUEL INSULT LEAVES KATE IN TEARS
WORLD EXCLUSIVE: OBAMA BUGGED WILLIAM & KATE
CHARLES & CAMILLA CHEAT DEATH
CAMILLA THREATENS TO REVEAL CHARLES' GAY SECRETS
DYING QUEEN QUITS - EVIL CAMILLA GLOATS
DEFIANT CAMILLA'S SHOCKING VOW TO BE QUEEN
ROYAL BABY SHOWDOWN BETWEEN KATE & EVIL CAMILLA
DYING QUEEN COLLAPSES FOLLOWING CONFESSION TO KATE
PRINCE CHARLES WALKS OUT OVER CAMILLA'S INSULT
QUEEN ELIZABETH HAS JUST MONTHS TO LIVE!
BOOZED-UP CAMILLA INSULTS PREGNANT KATE
KATE'S NEW HOME BUGGED - DID CAMILLA DO IT?
CAMILLA'S EVIL PLOT TO SEIZE THE THRONE
PREGNANT KATE FLEES ROYAL FAMILY & EVIL CAMILLA
QUEEN NAMES WILLIAM NEXT KING!
KATE'S ULTIMATE 'DIANA' REVENGE ON CAMILLA

Good grief! The sad thing is, there are people out there who believe this rubbish! 

Monday, July 01, 2013

Fireworks!

You can tell it's getting close to the 4th of July when signs start appearing at the side of the interstate highways warning that fireworks are illegal in this state. They're not illegal in most neighboring states, so people go there to buy them and bring them back here for their celebrations. Of course, the fact that fireworks are not legal in this state doesn't prevent anyone from marketing to us - we even get cards in the mail advertising a big firework store just across the border. The cards do warn (in teeny-tiny print) that fireworks are not legal in all states, but they'll still sell to us anyway!
Warning fireworks illegal

Penalty jail or fines
Cities and towns can have firework displays of course, and there's always plenty of choice since the 4th of July celebration is often not held ON July 4th! Within a half hour of here, you could see fireworks on:
  • June 22
  • June 28
  • June 29
  • July 3 (in 3 different towns)
  • July 4 (in 3 different towns)
  • July 6 (in 3 different towns)
A friend commented recently that he thought the fireworks we were watching weren't as loud as they had been in the past and I suddenly remembered going to the 4th of July fireworks when I was in graduate school (26 years ago!) and thinking they weren't very impressive - more noise than flash. The best firework show I'd ever seen before that was on Bastille Day in the French Pyrenees. We were sitting on a hillside above a football (soccer) field, and not only got to see the fireworks that were being set off from that field, but also the ones going off in two towns in the valley below us. I didn't bother going to any firework shows in the US for many years after that first, disappointing, one!
Most years now we go to two shows - an official town one, and an unofficial one.  This one is held at a lake that has a lot of summer cabins around it. Several of the cabin owners set fireworks off after a day of canoeing, barbecuing and just generally relaxing at the lake. Everyone there chips in some money towards the cost of the next year's fireworks and there's some unofficial rivalry between the 2 ends of the lake as to who has the best show. They are always set off very safely from a metal boat moored in the middle of the lake. These are pictures from a couple of years ago.


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

So nice to know that the Post Office cares!

The US Post Office is in financial trouble and in an attempt to save money is hoping to end certain Saturday deliveries. I have had my issues with them - letters from the other side of the state taking 10 days or more to arrive here for example. (Yet small packages marked 'Surface Mail' regularly arrive from the UK in under a week!) It seems they are trying hard to keep our business though. Today we received a damaged piece of mail that was wrapped in a plastic bag:


Can you see through the plastic bag and tell what this precious piece of mail was?



Yes, it was junk mail - an L.L.Bean catalog that no longer had a cover. You see they aren't planning on stopping all Saturday deliveries - only first class mail. The junk mail will still get delivered - though of course it seems to be the only kind of mail we get nowadays anyway. So how is not delivering Saturday mail going to save them money exactly?


Saturday, March 02, 2013

Stay Dench!

I was watching the Graham Norton show last night and heard the phrase "Stay Dench!" for the first . . . no . . . second time. The first time I heard it was on the same show last week when someone in The Red Chair was wearing a Stay Dench shirt. Graham asked him what it meant, and the bloke wearing it didn't know. This week, Graham started by saying that his entire couch this week was 'Dench.'

I love that a 78 year-old lady has become synonymous with cool! She said she's going to buy her family 'Dench Gang' shirts. I'd like this one - though at 30 pounds it's not cheap!


Friday, December 14, 2012

Lockdown

I don't think school children in the UK practice 'lockdowns' the way they do over here. Just like we practice evacuating the building in case of a fire, we practice what we would do in case some loony with a gun came into the building. Of course, in the case of a real fire things are never so organized as they are when we drill. And I always imagined that in the case of a loony with a gun, things wouldn't go so smoothly either.

Every time we do a practice lockdown at school I wonder how useful what we're doing might actually be. We have to close the blinds, get the kids to huddle in a corner and pretend no one is in the room. We are to ignore anyone knocking on the door and not to answer the phone in case it's someone trying to find out if there are actually people in the room - as if they couldn't tell! I wonder how we would even know to go into lockdown if the first place the loony with the gun goes is to the office where the public address system is and kills the people who could make that announcement. We do have a backup system of making phone calls to individual classrooms, but I wonder if it would be fast enough.

The events in Newtown, Connecticut, today reminded me that lockdown practice isn't just about making the disaster preparedness committee feel like they've done something. It's not about trying to completely prevent a tragedy because, honestly, there's no way we can do that - it's about minimizing it. I have no doubt that the person in the office who managed to call a lockdown today saved lives. I heard kids describing hiding in closets, huddling in the corner of a room and waiting while they heard gunshots until the police arrived to tell them to evacuate. They did exactly what they had practiced, except this time it was real :-(

I can't even begin to imagine how the children and staff go back to school after a tragedy like this. Despite all the loss it is clear that there were some very brave people there, both adults and children, who helped save lives. I'm not sure if this is a genuine quotation from Mr Rogers, but I like it anyway:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” ― Fred Rogers

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving survivors

I see this flock of wild turkeys regularly on my drive to work. I'm often halfway past before I even notice them. Occasionally I have to slow down or even stop to let them cross the road. This morning they caught my attention a little sooner because the one nearest the camera was up in that small tree - small tree, big bird! By the time I hopped out of my car to take the photo, s/he was back on the ground.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Frankenstorm

About this time last year we were looking at this map:
We ended up losing power for 'only' two days - we had friends who lost power for over a week!

Today we have this:


Here's hoping they're scaremongering, but knowledgeable people are taking it very seriously! I'm sure if we wanted to buy a generator we're too late already, but I'm heading out now to gas the car up, get some cash and do some (non-perishable) food shopping. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Masked bandits at night

I blogged recently about how DH and DD have been handfeeding the chipmunks in our yard. Not surprisingly, the local wildlife seems to have decided that our property is restaurant central. We came home the other day and found a chipmunk inside the bird feeder that hangs in the tree outside the front door! The squirrels have claimed the feeders hanging from the back deck. They get very frustrated with the thistle seed feeder because the openings are so small, but it doesn't stop them from repeatedly trying to get seed out of it. The birds hang around waiting for the squirrels to get tired or full (they eventually do!) so they can have their turn.

Soooo . . . we had been blaming the squirrels for the speed at which the bird feeders were emptying, but the other night DH happened to look out of the kitchen window and saw not one but THREE raccoons on the deck, two of them up on the railing stuffing themselves silly with sunflower seeds. They didn't even turn around when we knocked on the window. They barely seemed to notice when we switched the outside light on. One of them even came right up to the glass door and looked in - with the kids' faces pressed right up to the glass on the inside! Fortunately,  even DH agreed that there is no way THESE animals are going to be hand-fed. They are too big, and potentially too dangerous. We were all tempted to open the door though because it was really difficult to get a good photo in such poor light from the other side of a window or glass door. This was the best of a bunch of photos:


Monday, October 08, 2012

27 years

I just realized tonight that I forgot to change the header for this blog back in August - the anniversary of my arrival in the USA. It's been 27 years now. I've lived here more than half my life. Most of my life. I'm still not sure that I can really grasp that. And last week, someone I had just met randomly asked me to say "schedule". When I asked why, she commented that she had noticed my accent.  More than half my life in the USA and I still don't sound American!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Olympics opening ceremony

I didn't get to see the opening ceremony on Friday (but I've heard lots about it and read about it) because I spent most of the evening driving my daughter to an event 70 miles away, waiting for her, and then driving her back. Of course, by the time we set off, the ceremony had already been underway for almost an hour, but we hadn't been able to watch any of it because the American broadcaster, NBC, was making everyone wait until prime time in the evening to see it (and BBC's iPlayer won't work from outside the country without some jiggery-pokery I can't be bothered to get involved in.) 

Apparently their explanation of why NBC couldn't show it live, or even just stream it online was:
"They [the opening ceremonies] are complex entertainment spectacles that do not translate well online because they require context, which our award-winning production team will provide for the large primetime audiences that gather together to watch them."
Context? Hmm - they meant translation or interpretation  I suppose  - apparently the cultural divide between the UK and the US is now so large that the opening ceremony would be incomprehensible unless it were explained. Hmmph! I think not. But if any explanations WERE needed, the NBC presenters didn't appear to be the people to do it. OK, so a lot of people don't know who Tim Berners-Lee is but the point of having facilitators "give context" to the production should have been for them to sound knowledgeable! Meredith Vieira made it sound as though the ceremony was honoring someone of no consequence outside the British Isles! And after choosing not to broadcast an entire segment of the event, NBC condescendingly commented that it was "a credit to (ceremony director) Danny Boyle that it required so little editing."

So, once the opening ceremony was over, I thought I would at least be able to use the handy-dandy NBC Live Olympics app I'd downloaded to be able to watch live events on my iPod. Despite subscribing to a digital cable package and internet service from Comcast (who owns NBC, or vice versa, I forget which) I keep getting the message that my subscription needs to be upgraded (to a more expensive one of course) in order to watch this free streaming service. Grrrrrr . . . .

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ice cream flavors

I've blogged in the past about an unusual icecream flavor available locally. Here's the board listing the flavors available at an icecream parlor in downtown Bar Harbor. Do you see any unusual ones?



Thursday, July 19, 2012

Warm beer

I always thought of warm beer as being an English thing. Well, that's the stereotype anyway, isn't it? So I laughed out loud when I saw this sign in a supermarket in Maine:

And yes, they did have another aisle with a sign that said 'Cold Beer'.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Birthday cake candles

Expat Mum just blogged about the kind of candle holders you put on a birthday cake and said that they don't seem to be an American thing. Well, I know they don't sell the holders with the candles, but I definitely have some in my kitchen drawer and they didn't come from the UK. As MsCaroline, one of her commenters, suggested, maybe they are an east coast thing in the US?





Come to think of it, the ones in my kitchen drawer aren't exactly in wonderful condition - they do look a little chewed . . .  And they don't always stop the cake from ending up covered in candle wax  - the way some kids huff and puff at the candles, the wax ends up spraying over the cake anyway! I only appear to have eight of them. I'm pretty sure they don't sell them in packages of eight. I wonder where the others went and where I can buy any more? Maybe I'll just keep buying the tall skinny candles the kids insisted on for their father's birthday a couple of years ago. Better yet, we'll just use the regular candles the way most other people over here seem to and just shove them in the cake. After all, we've got plenty of candles because every time you buy a birthday cake here they automatically include a packet of 20 candles. I don't remember the last time I bought a birthday cake as opposed to making one, and we still have enough candles in the kitchen drawer to see us through several more birthdays! Well, so long as they're kids' birthdays :-)


Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Jubilee celebrations

It was interesting to see the differing reactions in our house last weekend to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. As we settled down to watch the Thames flotilla, DS was completely dismissive. I don't think he saw anything particularly interesting in watching a lot of boats travelling down a river. (Like his father, he'd rather be in a boat than watching one.) He didn't understand what it was all about, and said, "It'll be on again next year anyway - I'll watch it then!"

DH, of course, is interested in most things that involve small boats and seemed at least mildly interested. DD, however, was glued to the screen and fascinated. She didn't get all the cultural references, but did ask about the ones she knew she didn't get: "Mommy, what's an MP?" I was gobsmacked to discover however that, although she knows the British national anthem is God Save the Queen, it took her forever to come up with the name of the US anthem! "Umm . . . something about rockets and a battle" was the best she could manage until I gave her some hints!

The Jubilee Barge carrying The Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

Seen from Chelsea Embankment, looking towards Albert Bridge.

  © Copyright Oast House Archive and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

BBC America update

Back in January, I blogged about how Comcast was changing our channel lineup and we were going to lose BBC America if we didn't pay significantly more each month, which I didn't want to do. I mentioned at the time that we had had the experience with Comcast that they don't always follow through right away with their threatened changes. True to form, four and a half months later there have been no changes as far as Comcast is concerned. BBC America, however, has moved Graham Norton an hour later on a Saturday night - too late for me to bothered staying up anyway :-(


Monday, May 21, 2012

Feeding the (rabid?) vermin

Deprived of a pet since both the gerbils died within the last few months, DH and DD have taken to feeding the local vermin. Not content with leaving food out for them, they have been determined to make friends with them.  Much patience last weekend led to Mamma Chipmunk actually coming up on the front porch and eating out of their hands. (DH swears that chipmunks and squirrels don't carry rabies, though the CDC says that any mammal is susceptible.)

This afternoon when DH came home from work, Mamma Chipmunk was waiting for him - she raced over and stood on his foot, looking up as if to say: "Where's my dinner?" A lot like me really, except I don't stand on DH's foot ;-)







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