Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy New Year!

Tomorrow is the ‘big day’ all around the world (at different times, obviously), but woo hoo it’s New Years Eve - the night of massive parties, celebration, lots of drinking and dancing drinking into the early morning.

Unless you are in America, that is…

One thing I have noticed is that American’s don’t really know how to party.  Now, I’ve never been to New York on New Years Eve, so it might be different on the east coast, but here in California it’s a bit of a dud.  In the last 20 years, I’ve been to a few New Years’ parties, but what really surprises me is that as soon as midnight strikes people generally say “Happy New Year” and then GO HOME!! Yes, really, midnight is not the start of the party like it is in England.  It’s most definitely the end. And that is if most people haven’t gone home well before midnight “to avoid the traffic and all the crazy drunk drivers.”  Party poopers!

But there are fireworks if you can get them (although illegal in most parts of California, people still manage to find them).  Then there are the guns.... people with guns who like to shoot into the air! You don't really want to be outside at the stroke of midnight for fear of being hit by a bullet falling from the sky.  

As we know, in England the whole of the country listens to Big Ben chime midnight to bring in the new year, but at least the whole country is in the same time zone.  What amazes me about living on the west coast is that Los Angeles does not have it’s own countdown clock.  Just before midnight the telly is turned on so everyone can watch the countdown and the ‘ball drop' in New York - which was recorded Three Hours earlier! I assume this is repeated a few times across the country in all the different time zones!  Just weird… and nobody cares!
It's a ball on a stick!
These are only my observations - perhaps the party in Vegas is a night long event, but the average Californian party in someone's house is not.

But I must admit, the best bit of living in California is that I get two New Years celebrations.  If I can manage to get to an English pub or bar as everyone gets to celebrate (and drink, of course) at 4:00 p.m. Because obviously, we have to celebrate with home ... Absolutely brilliant!  

So to everyone who reads the blog I would like to say HAPPY NEW YEAR wherever you are and however you celebrate.  


Friday, December 19, 2014

A Good Old English Christmas

There’s nothing better than the run up to Christmas in England…. The weather is cold (usually raining), the lights go up around town and the radio is filled with Christmas songs.  Bliss… and I may be fantasizing a bit about how nice it is, having been here over 20 years, but there are still things I miss.

This on the radio:

Or this

I haven’t actually heard these songs in years.  They are never, ever played in the US.  Instead we get stuff like Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and Frosty the Snowman.  Every now and then, I hear George Michael’s Last Christmas.  But you really only hear them if you are listening to a station that plays continuous Christmas music.

Christmas Specials on the Telly
I used to love to sit down at Christmas and watch the specials.  Only Fools & Horses was always particularly brilliant.  Blimey, even the soaps have a special on Christmas Day – you can always guarantee a shocker in Eastenders.  But here? Not a chance.  There may be a little mention of Christmas and perhaps some snow, but that’s about it.  And most of the programmes shown on Christmas day are repeats.

The Queen’s Speech
Yeah, nobody ever watches it but it’s more than likely on in the background.  I’m not saying I want to watch it, but it’s an English tradition, isn’t it?  I’m sure if I wanted to, I could find it on the internet somewhere, but really, I’m not that fussed.


Cadbury’s Selection Box was always a favourite for Christmas.  Could you imagine opening a present on Christmas morning and finding a bag of six or seven chocolate bars?  It would be a bit disappointing, not to say a bit lazy - but put them in a fancy box with a picture of Father Christmas on the front and they become extra special and the present everyone wants.

And what about Quality Street?  Do they even sell those big tins at any other time of the year?  They are a total necessity at Christmas and who doesn’t argue over the hazelnut in caramel (aka the purple one) or the gold toffee stick or toffee penny?  Nobody ever wanted the orange or strawberry crème and they would always be in the bottom of the tin until Easter when they were finally thrown away.

Mince Pies and Christmas Cake
What would it be like to have no mince pies?  Just ask me – bloody awful, that’s what.  There were a few years there when I couldn’t find them.  They are not a thing here.  Ask someone for a mince pie and the likely response is “Oh that pie with the kidneys you Brits eat? Eew”  (Yes, the eew is always at the end of that sentence.)   Um, nooo, that would be those scrummy fruit pies you eat with custard.  I have actually found a couple of specialist shops that sell them now, and I think last year they sold them at Fresh & Easy.

Christmas cake, to an American, is a dry, fruit concoction that gets passed around family and friends for years and nobody will eat it.  I’m not surprised, I wouldn’t eat a cake that’s years old either.  But when I tell them “our” Christmas cake is soft, moist and fruity with lots and lots of alcohol it gets a good reaction, especially when I tell them it stays in the cupboard for months after baking and Brandy is added every week or so.  What’s not to like about that?
American Fruitcake - Nope!
Boxing Day
Oh dear me.  This one is a killer.  Every year for the last 20 years I have had to beg and plead for the day off. Nobody cares [*sad face*].  Boxing Day (or as its known here, the day after Christmas) is when everyone says “well, that’s Christmas done and dusted, lets throw out the tree.”  (When they come home from work, that is).  A pretty sorry state of affairs.  Oh how I miss that day.  Even though I have actually managed to never work on the day, it’s just not the same.  You don’t get any more presents and you certainly don’t have cold turkey and piccalilli, mainly because you can’t get piccalilli anywhere. (Isn’t that a wonderful word… piccalilli – mainly pronounced here as Piccadilly by anyone with the slightest idea of what I’m talking about).

Oh and then there's the footie.  What would Boxing Day be like without a football match to go to, or at least watch on the telly?

If you don’t sit around the table, pulling crackers, wearing a paper crown and telling silly jokes, you are not doing Christmas right.  And there’s an unwritten rule (in my family anyway) that you don’t pull the crackers until after the turkey, but before pudding.  That’s just how it is.

Not like the first time I cooked Christmas dinner for only my American friends.  I was devastated to realize nobody knew what a cracker was or what to do with them.  Can you imagine the look on my face when I realized people were shaking them, trying to look inside and actually pulling them on their own!  I’ve got to say, it wasn’t the best Christmas I’ve ever had and there may have been a moment when I lost my temper and I “might” have actually slapped someone for doing it wrong. Christmas officially ruined!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

California at Christmas

It is certainly different in California at Christmas and sometimes a little bit weird.

Hot Weather
I never really thought about it, but California is hot, or at least a bit lot warmer than England at Christmas.  I always knew Australia has Christmas in the summer, but it had never occurred to me that December in California is just as sunny as any other day of the year.  Obviously there are parts where it gets cold and it snows, but down by Los Angeles, it’s pretty much warm all year.  It’s so strange to open presents and have the sun shining and to possibly eat your dinner on the patio [how fancy am I?]

Not quite this hot, but close - Happy Christmas!
Christmas Shopping
I’m sure everyone’s heard of the crazy Black Friday panic buying.  Well, I wasn’t prepared for it that first year (nor every year since actually).  It’s a crazy game nearly everyone plays.  And every year it’s getting earlier and earlier.  I tried it once…. I got up at what I thought was an unearthly hour of the morning, went to the shop where I had seen a laptop and when I arrived,  found there were about 300 people in line already!  I turned around, went home and got back into bed.  Needless to say, my daughter did not get a laptop that year and apparently, 6:00 a.m. is not too early, in fact, it’s quite positively late.

Christmas Eve
It seems to me that this is the day most people celebrate Christmas.  The family get together for a meal and…. to open presents!!  And I don’t understand what that’s all about.  Why would you open your presents the day before Christmas?  This may not be true about everyone, but I have heard from many, many people that they open at least one or two presents on Christmas eve.  How terrible - that would be like opening presents, well, before Christmas!  What happens on Christmas morning when you’ve got nothing to open?  Talk about spoiling the surprise and taking the fun out of Christmas morning.  Bah Humbug!

Christmas lights on palm trees
The first time I saw this, it was amazing.  California had been so very hot since we had arrived in August and in about November the lights started to go up.  It was quite a surprise and also quite nice. I don’t know what I thought would happen, but Christmas lights on palm trees was a nice touch.

Christmas Lights on houses
And then there’s this…..


That first year we were here was so eye opening.  Everything was different and strange and sometimes down right weird.  The whole Christmas light phenomenon was crazy.  At the end of November our neighbours began putting lights up.  Nothing wrong with that, we thought.  It will look nice and christmassy, we thought. Oh, that’s quite a few lights, we thought.  When are they going to stop putting lights up?, we thought.  Oh bloody hell, what have they done, we thought!!! [*sigh*]

Every day we would come home from work and there would be more lights – not just on the house, but on the trees, the bushes, around the windows, on the door – you name it, it was covered in lights. Even blow up animals, snowmen, father Christmases, etc, etc., etc…. on the front lawn.  On and on, it was endless.  But it was definitely a talking point!  

I have not joined the over-the-top house decoration contest, but I will admit occasionally we have a Father Christmas on a Harley Davidson in our front garden.  And why not??

Monday, December 1, 2014

An Unfortunate Innuendo

When my son progressed into a "big boy's" bed, he had this duvet cover, which was handed down to my daughter and subsequently was brought to the US with us.  [Obviously his was blue, not pink].

The dog's name was Snatch and he had a cat friend called Hatch.  Emblazoned across the side and bottom of the cover were the words "Snatch & Company."

I really quickly found out that in America snatch has an entirely different meaning - needless to say, I made sure those covers were not on the bed if my daughter invited friends for a sleepover!

I'm just glad Snatch was the dog and not the cat.... that would have been a whole other kind of unfortunate innuendo.

Did anyone else have these sheets??