Sunday, December 15, 2013

Top 10 Gifts from The Bee's Knees

  Tyrrell Katz London Icon Mugs
This set of 2 bone china mugs from designer Tyrrell Katz is the perfect gift for your favorite Anglophile!

Victoria Eggs Festive Fun Tea Towel and Mug

In the style of a newspaper this wonderful Christmas design combines classic typography and silhouette imagery to list our favourite things that make up a perfect British Christmas. Featuring Father Christmas, Stockings, Baubles, Brussels Sprouts, Fairy Lights, Party Games and the Queen’s Speech.

       Emma Bridgewater Christmas Town Mugs
Lovely litho mugs handmade in Stoke-on-Trent, England featuring the new Christmas Town pattern. The deep red is perfect for the Christmas season.

  Catherine Colebrook Retro Tea Pots & Mugs
These lovely mugs & teapots are beautiful and they are made in the UK (as always) so the quality is wonderful. They are a size that also holds a decent cuppa’s worth rather than a polite sip or two!

Emma Ball UK Tea Towel
Destination Britain! These lovely cotton tea towels are made in England featuring a montage of area Emma has painted in the UK.

Kenneth Turner Candles
Our gorgeous Kenneth Turner luxury candles have become very popular. The fragrances are delicate yet lovely. The candles in glass have a burn time up to 50 hours. All the candles are hand poured in Britain of fragranced mineral (paraffin) wax that is not hazardous to your health, and our wax does not pose any adverse effects to the environment.

 Emma Bridgewater Flower Mugs
Our ever-popular half pint flower mugs from Emma Bridgewater make the perfect gift. Hand made in Stoke-on-Trent, England of Cornish clay you can bring a piece of England into you home.

Our beautiful blue Burleighware is a timeless classic. This British pottery is made in Stoke-on-Trent by hand as it has always been. Start your collection today. We now have accessories to match!

      I’d Rather . . . Mugs from Stubbs
      You are sure to find the right I’d Rather mug for someone on your list from our large selection. A fun gift for everyone!

Tyrrell Katz Pirates & Princess Range
We can even help with the little ones on your list. These adorable mugs, lunch boxes, snack boxes and water bottles are perfect for the kids. They will be ‘The Bee’s Knees’ at school with these in their backpack! Fill the mugs with treats (not included) for a really fun gift.

Monday, July 1, 2013

July 4th Musings

The cover of this Sunday’s Parade magazine asks, “Could you ace America 101?” and inside you can complete their 4th of July quiz. I took a quick glance through and was able to answer a handful of questions, not great, but still way better than I could have done 17 years ago when we moved here.

The Old North Bridge, Concord, MA.
On top of the magnitude of new things you have to learn and absorb as a new expat anywhere, I realized I had no idea about American history as we adjusted to life in the US! And here we had moved to one of the major US historical destinations. People come to Massachusetts to see the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock to see how the first Pilgrims crossed the pond and where they landed. They visit the Old North Bridge in Concord, very near where I live now, which was the site of the first day of battle in the American War of Independence. This is where the battle that Britain would ultimately lose began! And I knew nothing about it! Who knew that The Boston Tea Party had nothing to do with afternoon tea? So we trekked Boston’s famous Freedom Trail and visited all the historic sites along the way to familiarize ourselves with our new home and try to learn about some of these major events in American history.

I had dropped history in school before O’Levels, so perhaps this is why I was so clueless. My nephew tells me that a third of his history GCSE (the new O'Level) was made up of American history! He even came to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia on a school trip. There was none of that back in my day.

Reenactment at the Old North Bridge
As an expat anywhere, especially a new expat, you hear quotes and references and about traditions in sports, in the media and at social gatherings that can leave you with a blank expression. The first summer we were here we went to a Boston Red Sox game, coincidentally against the Yankees. We had no idea of the significance of this! And when everyone stood up in the 7th inning, we thought the game was over. Who has ever heard of a 7th inning stretch? With cricket everyone goes in for tea. Boy, were we green! When asked in a restaurant if we were “all set” as they cleared our “entrĂ©e” plates (that would be main course) we thought they meant are we finished with that course. Next thing the bill appears and my husband and I are both wondering who asked for it! We now know to say, “We may have coffee or dessert”.  And back to the history, I certainly did not know what “the shot heard ‘round the world” was or who Paul Revere was for that matter. I like to know the details so I started reading guidebooks and the newspaper and paying attention to what people were saying and asking if I didn’t know what someone meant. We have even been to the reenactment of that famous battle at the North Bridge on Patriot’s Day – a special public holiday just in Massachusetts.

I had to learn even more details in 2006 when we took the test to become citizens. There was lots of new information there! So, nowadays, I think I can keep up with most things that people are talking about without being thrown a curve ball too often (see, I know what that means now!)

Have a great 4th of July!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Memories of The Queen's Coronation

2012 was certainly a big year for Queen Elizabeth. When King George VI died on February 6th, 1952 Princess Elizabeth succeeded her father to become Queen Elizabeth II. As only the second British monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee, Britain and The Royal Family celebrated in style last year. And the celebrations continue this year as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Queen's Coronation.

Westminster Abbey
The Queen was crowned in Westminster Abbey on June 2nd, 1953. Coronations have taken place at Westminster Abbey since 1066. At the Queen’s request, the entire Coronation ceremony was televised for the very first time so the entire nation could appreciate the importance of this event. My Mum was 16 in 1953 and clearly remembers only one friend’s family at that time owned a television set so many friends and neighbors all convened at that friend’s house to witness history in the making, albeit on a very small black and white TV screen! Mum says her clearest memory is thinking how incredibly heavy the St. Edward’s crown looked on the Queen’s head! My mother-in-law was a little older and working at the Post Office telephone exchange in Southend-on-Sea in Essex on the day of the Coronation. They didn’t get a day off, “After all, we were working for the Queen,” she says, and they listened to it broadcast over the radio. She remembers a festive atmosphere and parties afterwards. Southend (where my husband grew up) is located on the Thames estuary and my mother-in-law does remember seeing many ships and boats moored at the famous Southend Pier from all the dignitaries that would be sailing up to London for the ceremony. Streets were decorated with patriotic bunting where parties were held throughout the country. And so Queen Elizabeth’s reign officially began. 

A Coronation Street Party in 1953

Original Queen's
Coronation Programme
Inside the Programme
I’m sure there were many mementoes of that day and I was thrilled when I recently found an original souvenir programme from The Coronation among some Royal Family books my Mum brought over for me from England. I couldn’t believe I had found such a treasure. The front cover is emblazoned with The Queen’s crest and the inside is filled with black and white photos, details of The Coronation Procession and all who would be taking part, a short history, and the order of ceremony for the Coronation. The programme had cost 2 and 6, or 2 shillings and 6 pence, which I think is about 12 pence in new money or about 18 cents! I wonder what that would cost nowadays.

Souvenir Programmes

Together with the programme from The Queen’s Coronation, I also found an album to commemorate
Original Programme from
King George VI's Coronation 
her father, King George VI’s Coronation from 1937! This one only cost three pence!  It was, however, an album to collect Players cigarette cards. Can you believe it? And I am pleased to say that the album is complete with all the cards still neatly glued in place. I certainly remember celebrating The Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 with street parties, bunting, the works. And I have the souvenir programme from The Silver Jubilee too. I love these wonderful souvenirs and hope to add to the collection this year with a souvenir of The Diamond Coronation celebration. Mum, if you’re reading this, can you get your hands on a souvenir for me? Thanks!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wherever I Lay my Hat . . .

Donna and I were recently talking about what it is like to have lived in different places from where you were born. Donna was born in England and lived in various places – including another stint in England from age 10-12 – as her father was in the US Air Force. Her family finally settled in Texas, where her English-born mother still lives. I was born and raised in England, but left when I was 20 to go to college in Germany before moving to the States in ’96, where I have been ever since. 
Donna and her mum.

All this moving about is fun and character building and gives you a wonderful broad view of the world, not to mention all the experiences that you encounter along the way. You also end up with friends in lots of places, which, if you can find the time and money to visit, is a great advantage to all this moving about too. Sometimes it’s even fun being the foreigner: We always laugh when we’re traveling in the US telling people we meet that we are from Boston using our best English accents. We are usually then met with a look of confusion! However, Donna and I both agreed that sometimes you do end up wondering where you belong!

Me and Mum.
I definitely try to have that “Wherever I lay my hat . . .” kind of approach but sometimes it’s hard to keep the stiff upper lip. Case in point: My mum returned back to England this weekend after visiting for just over two weeks. We have such a great time when she is here and considering my kids have always lived 3,000 miles away from her they have a wonderful relationship. We are very lucky that she is able to come over twice a year, and she tries to coordinate her visits with special events and birthdays if possible. We do try and do some new things when she comes but it is also nice that she gets to be part of our (hectic) day-to-day life. We are truly able to appreciate the time we have together. A friend said to Mum while she was here that she thinks Mum spends more time with her grandkids than the friend’s mother does who only lives an hour away. My mum was the brave one who got on a plane three weeks after 9/11 for a visit that was already planned. I was never so pleased to see her. I do see all the benefits of these visits and the “quality time” we have, rather than just popping in and out if you live close by. But then, the day always comes when she has to leave and it is very hard to say goodbye knowing that usually it will be at least three months before we see her again. 
With Mum in NYC.

The question then arises in my mind as to whether we should be living in England. If you live abroad people constantly ask, “Do you think you will ever go back?” The answer is, “Who knows.” 17 years ago when my husband and I moved to Boston we came on a three-year visa and we just assumed we would head back to Europe when the visa expired. But one thing I have realized is that you never know how things will turn out. We got a dog, then a Green Card, had a baby, my husband changed jobs, we had another baby, moved house, made lots of wonderful friends and have been fortunate to have lots of regular visits from family and friends from across the pond. We have made a life here in Massachusetts and it certainly feel likes home.

We are very lucky that we usually get back to England to visit once a year. And when we are in England all the family gets together and we celebrate like it’s Christmas in August. The key is to focus on the being together, not whether it is a specific day of the year. Donna also gets back to Texas whenever she can, and her mum recently surprised Donna with a visit for her birthday. I helped
Donna’s daughter plan the surprise, was there to witness it and it was fantastic! So it’s a trade off. And for the most part it’s all great – right up until I have to say goodbye. Thank Goodness for Facetime and Skype! It makes the distance seem so much closer until the next visit . . .