Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Season's Greeting from The Bee's Knees


Donna & Lucinda

Well, I think we can say that the holiday season is here! It has been a busy year getting The Bee’s Knees off the ground, and we have been having so much fun in the process. We also couldn’t have done it without the amazing support of so many people. Huge thanks to Mark, my husband. Donna and I like to call him “The Big Boss.” To our good friend, Todd, for helping create our cool name. Thanks to my niece, Kate, for our fabulous logo. We love our Bee. And to our friends and family around the country for supporting our new venture. We are also grateful to our new customers for choosing to shop with The Bee’s Knees. We hope you will visit again for all your gift giving needs and homewares in 2012. We welcome your feedback on our website and your shopping experience. We would also like to mention Anglotopia.com, Smittenbybritain.com, The English Pork Pie Company and the The Brits in America Network for kindly helping us promote our business. We truly appreciate your support. 
During the Christmas weekend, we will spend time with friends and celebrate with traditions old and new. I have my crackers (purchased at a local MA gift store), mince pies and sausage rolls and the Christmas pud ready to go.
When my daughter (born in American) was in fourth grade last year, they were given a project on their heritage and the different traditions they celebrate. With many kids in her class with interesting heritages and cultures she was quite put out that she is “all English!” “Nothing else?” she asked. “I think it’s quite cool to be all English,” I told her. She wasn’t convinced. “So what different traditions do we have then,” she continued. I racked my brain – Christmas, Easter . . . Then it came to me “We have Boxing Day!” She was thrilled that we have something special. For years we have celebrated with a group of friends, eating leftovers, and relaxing. Over the years we have looked up the exact meaning of Boxing Day and there is no concrete origin. I did discover that the tradition dates back a long time and was a day for tradesmen to collect “Christmas Boxes” of money or presents for good service through the year. Others believe that Boxing Day was a day off for servants when they received a ‘Christmas Box’ from the master. We don’t have any servants but we’ll still be celebrating on Boxing Day! 

However you celebrate this holiday season, best wishes and a happy New Year from The Bee’s Knees British Imports.

Lucinda & Donna

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's That Mince Pie Time of Year!

I have lived out of England for over 20 years but without fail I still bake batches of mince pies every Christmas. To me they are just one of the most typically English ingredients that make a great Christmas. And biting into that delicious, sweet, juicy mincemeat and flaky pastry can transport me back to my childhood in Cheshire in an instant.

Mince Pies have been part of English Christmas tradition for centuries. As far back as the 11th century mincemeat was developed as a way of preserving meat without salting or smoking. The pie is a remnant of a medieval tradition of spiced meat dishes, usually minced mutton, and the spices, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg brought back from the Holy Land by the Crusaders. Over the years the meat content has been reduced to just suet with spices, fruit and brandy making up the modern day mincemeat.
I have converted many American friends to mince pies, who, at first, hesitantly try one to be polite, I’m sure. Maybe they are put off by the name! Most end up loving them though. My American born son loves them too and begs me to make them at other times of the year, but I still save this treat for December. This way the small round pies with the pastry lids maintain their special place in the Christmas celebrations.



I make my own shortcrust pastry as taught by my mum and grandmother, but must admit that I don’t make my own mincemeat. Robertson’s fabulous mincemeat makes perfect pies and is becoming more available in the US now too. Donna picked up 3 big jars for me at the local supermarket  - I think she sees a mince pie and a cup of tea in her future!

My mum and grandmother seemed to have a never-ending supply of mince pies to offer during the Christmas period. Anyone stopping by would be offered a nice warm mince pie, dusted with icing (confectioner’s) sugar. They go perfectly with a cup of tea or even a glass of sherry! Some people are even known to pour double (heavy) cream over them. My grandmother was insistent though that you should never cut a mince pie. As they are nice and small you just pick it up and take a bite. She was superstitious like that.

We hope you are able to spread the joy this Christmas with whatever your favorite holiday time treat is. 

Happy December,
Lucinda

Monday, November 21, 2011

Introducing Emma Bridgewater


We are thrilled to announce that The Bee’s Knees is now selling a range of Emma Bridgewater Pottery. This beautiful handmade English pottery is made with loving care in much the same way it would have been in Victorian times when the brick factory that is Emma Bridgewater’s home was built. This summer while in England visiting my family I was lucky to see first hand the time and skill that goes into producing these pieces during the fascinating Emma Bridgewater factory tour.

This is Bill throwing plates
Located in The Potteries, the name for the area in Stoke-on-Trent where for years many companies produced renowned china and pottery, Emma
Bridgewater is one of the few remaining companies (as is Burleigh, which we sell) producing their pottery here. The clay they use is from Staffordshire, Wales and Cornwall. From start to finish Emma Bridgewater Pottery is truly handmade. Mugs and jugs are poured into handmade casts, and plates are thrown by hand, by Bill, who has being doing this job for almost half a century.

       

Casts



Creating the Sponges
After an initial firing, each piece is hand sponged (for the Polka Dot, Hearts, Union Jack patterns, for example), or has a litho transfer applied by hand (for the more intricate designs like the Flowers). Every piece is completely unique. It was amazing to watch one lady working with a small soldering tool hand cutting the sponges that would be used by the painters, who train for about 18 months working on the technique.


Decorating a "Joy" Medium Bowl
View of the Factory
I think it must take a huge amount of patience to complete one of the Joy Christmas bowls, for example, as each decorative element is hand stamped with a separate sponge.


    
Union Jack Mugs
            
As we finished the tour I had a true appreciation of the work and skill that goes into making each piece of Emma Bridgewater Pottery. And what better way to end the tour than with a yummy lunch at the EB cafĂ© with jacket potatoes baked in their own personalized Aga cooker! 
The Emma Bridgewater Aga

You can see our Emma Bridgewater collection at http://www.thebeeskneesbritishimports.com/categories/emma-bridgewater/

Cheers,
Lucinda & Donna

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Taste of English Pork Pies


What is more delicious than an English pork pie? On a sunny summer’s day, a slice of pie, with a spoonful of Branston pickle and a chunk of hearty cheddar cheese. Yum! And now, thanks to the English Pork Pie Company in Buffalo, NY, we can enjoy this treat right here in America. Damian and Vicky Parker are from England and with their authentic pies, pasties, sausage rolls and more are satisfying the cravings of many Brits in America – and I’m sure some American’s too – with their delicious wares. Check them out at www.englishporkpiecompany.com. You won’t regret it!



And how wonderful does that pork pie look on our beautiful Burleigh plate? More on the Burleigh story coming soon.

Cheers,
Lucinda & Donna

Friday, October 7, 2011

New Mugs and Nostalgia!



Welcome back to "What's the Buzz?", the Bee's Knees British Imports blog. We are excited to announce that we are introducing a new line of mugs to our selection. If you need your morale boosting, these new Keep Calm Poster Mugs are just the thing.

Keep Calm and Carry On was a poster produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of World War II, intended to raise the morale of the British public in the event of invasion. Seeing only limited distribution, it was little known. The poster was rediscovered in 2000. Our range of Keep Calm mugs includes the original poster and several fun variations on the theme.
Some of our new mugs!


Talking of nostalgia, while we are working on The Bee’s Knees, Donna and I often end up chatting about memories from England. Some images are still so vivid. Over one of our many cups of tea, we were remembering the good old days of milk being delivered to the front door step everyday. The milkman would putter around the neighborhood on the eerily quiet milk float before anyone was up, clinking the chubby milk bottles as he placed them on the on the step. 

The Milk Float



The foil tops had different colors for whole milk, skimmed milk and semi-skim. Although I think in those days we all just drank whole milk, with the thick cream that floated on the top as well. You could easily change your order too; I remember my mum would write a note - 2 extra today please - and pop it in one of the empty, rinsed out bottles that the milkman would pick up the next day. We were recycling without even knowing it! You didn’t even have to pay before they were delivered; it was an honor system. We knew the milkman would deliver the milk everyday, and he knew we would pay every week. On a Friday evening the milkman would make his rounds again, this time with his big leather bag slung around his hips, and collect the money for the week’s milk. Cash only, of course!

So if you’re feeling nostalgic, or would like a morale boost – or to send a friend a morale boost – check out our new collection of Keep Calm Poster mugs at http://www.thebeeskneesbritishimports.com/categories/Keep-Calm-Poster-Mugs/

Enjoy the beautiful fall weather,
Lucinda

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Welcome!


We are excited to welcome you to The Bee's Knees British Imports blog. We hope this blog will be a fun companion to our website and Facebook page bringing you news updates, product recommendations, fun stories, photos and maybe even a recipe here or there.

The Bee's Knees British Imports started with a seed of an idea after I had been to England last summer. I came home with some very cute Stubbs Mugs that I bought while staying in beautiful Abersoch, North Wales with my family. “Wouldn’t it be great to sell these here?” we thought! And so it started. Donna and I were ready for the next challenge having spent a great deal of time volunteering at our kids’ school and around town. We decided we wanted to create an online store that would provide a lovely shopping experience. And even though we too drink our PG Tips (Donna) and Sainsbury’s Red Label (Lucinda) and enjoy many British treats, we thought there were plenty of great sites satisfying those needs for hungry and thirsty Brits abroad. We wanted to create something a little different. So, along with the adorable Stubbs Mugs from Norfolk, we found other product lines that we thought were “The Bee’s Knees” to start our website.

Kate Davidson, my very creative niece, designed our fantastic logo. We love our Bee.  From her design we created the website, chose which items we wanted to sell and launched in July 2011. That was an exciting day.

We hope that you will visit our website and take at a look at all the wonderful products we have to offer.  Check back regularly and like us on Facebook! We will be adding new products soon.

Cheerio for now,
Lucinda