4 Classic British Cultural References

I believe, as an expat, that it’s part of my duty to inform and educate my American hosts about many facets of the English language and culture. I feel I’ve already achieved much success in this regard, given many of my friends and co-workers understand and often even use the phrase “and Bob’s your uncle!” I also appreciate the fact that many Americans can amply recite lines and full scenes from Monty Python. That said, it was brought to my attention a few nights back that there is still work to be done, when my husband did not understand an analogy my brother and I used. So pay attention, take notes and you’ll be grateful for the opportunity to enrich your conversations and wittily entertain at cocktail parties with these four classic British cultural references.

TARDIS: something that is bigger on the inside than the outside. As in the blue telephone box in which Doctor Who time travelled. The acronym stands for Time and Relative Dimension iSpace.

“Don’t mention the war. I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it.” A classic line from the absolute classic TV sitcom, Fawlty Towers, starring John Cleese as Basil Fawlty, proprietor of a second-rate seaside hotel. Only 12 episodes were ever made and if you have time and would like a rip-roaring laugh, watch them. Here’s Basil at his finest:

The Two Ronnies, another classic 1970s-1980s comedy sketch show. Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett’s signature line was: “So it’s goodnight from me and it’s goodnight from him.”  Consider it a British SNL only cheesier and rather dated. Here’s one to enjoy:

“Plonker” – a term most frequently used by Del Boy to castigate his brother Rodney and the rest of the characters in Only Fools and Horses, the hilarious sitcom that ran in the 80s and 90s, set in South London. For other south London “Del Boy” terminology, check out this handy site – http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/onlyfools/lingo/  And I’d be utterly remiss, if I didn’t leave with you this classic moment in TV drama. You’re welcome.

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A Month of Gratitude: Part Three

I’m a little behind schedule with this one but better late than never, right? We arrived home last night after four days celebrating Thanksgiving with family in Pennsylvania. The long drive down and back, as well as the refreshing break from the usual hustle and bustle—not to mention the holiday itself—provided a host of reasons for gratitude, including these:

My husband and his patient, skillful driving, especially at night: most of us Brits won’t drive more than two hours without an overnight stay so it’s fantastic that my husband willingly and competently will drive a straight 5-6 hours from the suburbs of Boston to the suburbs of Philadelphia, and then back again. One more reason why he is my rock.

Inspiration, courtesy of TED Talks: to while away the boredom as we sped through New York and New Jersey in the wee hours, we listened to a couple of the most-viewed TED Talks. Take it from me, if you are looking for a fresh perspective, mind-altering inspiration, then dial-up a couple of these wonders. This was the one that is still in my head (see the video below.) Worth your time and introspection, believe me.

My family but especially my sister-in-law: Debbie, sorry to embarrass you here, but I feel compelled to let you know. I’ve always appreciated your down-to-earthness, warmth, generosity and the way you take stuff in your stride, with positivity. I’m even more in awe of your ability to host a large and delicious Thanksgiving meal without fuss or fret. There was so much to enjoy this visit but spending time and laughing with you made it extra special.

Sleep: If I was forced to choose between sleeping and eating, it’d be a really tough call. Catching up on those much-needed zzzzz’s these past four days was a real treat. My batteries are almost recharged.

Hope everyone’s Thanksgiving was equally enjoyable.

Four Time-Savers for the Busy Mom

I am a Mom. I am a working Mom. And I’m exhausted. There is never enough time to do the things I’d really love to do. Like, you know, nap, exercise, do nothing, laze on the couch watching re-runs of Friends. Being a parent means existing in a permanent state of fast-forward in which every scene is a perpetual blur of chores, to-do lists, to and froms, shopping, errands, laundry, cleaning, organizing and so on. In fact, while I’m writing this, there’s a pile of clean clothes screaming to be folded. Can’t you hear them?

So it’s entirely natural to fall madly in love with whatever products or services save me some precious time and simplify my life. Four of these delightful things have become regular fixtures in my life and hallelujah—not that this means I’m now swanning around at the spa and meeting girlfriends for frappuccinos every day or taking pottery lessons. But they have taken the edge off the nuttiness of it all, especially since I returned to work full-time:

  • Dream Dinners: Every month I head on over to my local Dream Dinners and assemble a month’s worth of meals for my family. Knowing my freezer is stocked with a variety of interesting meals means I don’t have to fret about meal planning or recipes and ingredients. In fact, since I started with Dream Dinners over a year ago, chicken nuggets and fish sticks are a thing of the past. I am exposing my kids to a variety of new foods and tastes. Some have been winners, some have bombed. But I’m happy they are trying new dishes, new flavors and textures along the way. Plus, thanks to Dream Dinners, we are eating together as a family most nights whereas, before, there’d be one meal for the kids and my husband and I would eat later after they were in bed. So I’m grateful for less heartburn from eating late, less stress figuring out what’s for dinner every night, and more quality time together spent around the dinner table. And leftovers for lunch.
  • iRobot Roomba: Pure genius! This clever device waltzes around the rooms, sucking up dust and crumbs and legos and pet fur and then takes itself back to its dock when it’s done! Bye bye to sweeping and vacuuming (not that I really did that much of it before!) The Roomba seems to enjoy itself most under the couch, for some strange reason ….. And while I can’t say that my dog loves this bizarre creature whizzing around, she is now accustomed to it and no longer barks or tries to round it up like a sheepdog. (The cat just keeps her distance.) Given that the Roomba is so small and sleek, it does need emptying quite often but I’ll forgive it that. Now, if I could only teach it to bring me coffee in bed …..
  • TalkTo: In full transparency, TalkTo is a client of mine. But I would not write about it here, if I didn’t really find value in it. And I do, I do! This nifty, free app lets you send a text message to any business in the USA from your computer or your phone—and get a text message back. Meaning you don’t need to find a phone number and make a call, get stuck on hold, or speaking to someone snotty or who doesn’t understand my British accent. For me, it helps most when I remember that I need to get something done and if I wait, I know it’ll disappear from my brain in a nanosecond. I’ve used the app in recent weeks to make (and then change the time of) a hair appointment, book my kids into an activity, find out what time AAA is open to, book a table for lunch, ask several stores if they had Ben & Jerry’s pumpkin cheesecake ice cream in-stock, find out what’s on sale and so much more. Give it a go.
  • Peapod: Now that I’m working full-time, weekends are precious and I do not want to waste time at the grocery store, especially if I have the kids in tow. Yes, they claim to want to be helpful, to want to push the cart (trolley) and all that, but after a while they are running down old women and secretly stashing chocolate. So thank heavens for Peapod, Stop & Shop’s online grocery ordering and delivery service. I was skeptical at first but it’s working out great as long as I manage to get my order in before 3pm on a Friday to ensure Saturday delivery. If I don’t, then we are inevitably down to the last drop of milk, fighting over the last egg and rationing Cheerios. I call it “just in time” grocery shopping! The cool benefit, other than, you know, having someone else do my shopping for me and delivering it to my front door, is that I’m actually spending less money on groceries as I’m not tempted to throw the extra this or that in. Plus I reclaim an extra 90 mins for the laundry, which I love. No really, I do.

What time-savers do you rely on to save time, effort, your marbles? Please share.

P.S. Fellow PR and marketing people please note: the fact that I have “reviewed” some products does not mean I am now open to be pitched. I wrote these voluntarily and genuinely.

How I Blog

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A Month of Gratitude: Part Two

Last week, I started the process of taking stock of everything for which I am grateful. It’s an important exercise, stepping back from the daily grind and considering all that is good in your life. We should all do this much more often. It’s both sobering and uplifting.

Where did the last week go? Somehow, among the hustle and bustle, I was able to stop each day, if only for a few minutes, and mentally note the moment or moments that resounded in my heart and head. During the last seven days, these were the things for which I am truly grateful:

  • The teachers who taught my son to read. We spent five hours this weekend at Boston’s Museum of Science and my son’s new-found skill opened the experience up to him like I’d never imagined. It was fantastic to watch.
  • My husband. Because he’s away on business and of course, it’s when he’s gone, I truly appreciate all that he does for me. Warms my cold feet in bed. Brings me coffee in the morning. Puts the trash out. Cooks dinner. Makes me laugh. Most of all, I love to step back and watch him interact with our kids in his unique, special way and miss that most when he’s away.
  • My Mom friends. Thank heavens for other Moms. They just get it. Once a month, I get to hang out with a bunch of them and it’s like the best medicine for the soul.
  • Humor: I was sent this video this week and it actually made me cry with laughter. Everyone needs a tear-inducing laugh every so often. Watch this and you’ll get yours for the week.
  • Charity: This week I read about all the good works being done by so many to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy. When the rest of the world and news media had moved on, these people were still knee-deep in the collections and clean-ups. We should all be grateful for the work they are doing and the compassion in their hearts.
  • Words and writing: this blog started out as an experiment, a fancy and has turned into a much more powerful vehicle for me. Somewhere I can write for me (as opposed to my writing for clients) and share my thoughts and words with you. This week I published my 100th blog post and crossed the threshold of 11,000 views, just shy of my one year blogging anniversary. Wow! Thank you all for indulging me.

There are Two Kinds of People …

Those that like anchovies and those that don’t. Which are you?

And while we are talking anchovies, I have to tell you that they are on my top ten of foods I love. What are the other nine, I hear you clamor? Well OK then, I’ll tell you.

  1. Anchovies
  2. Bacon
  3. Cheese (any cheese, I mean it…. well, actually maybe not smoked cheeses.)
  4. Avocado
  5. Olives
  6. Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut
  7. Pumpkin anything
  8. Cheesecake
  9. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  10. My Mum’s trifle

Truth is, though, I’ll eat pretty much anything. I love to eat. I cannot understand those people who don’t enjoy their food, who think of eating as a necessary duty. In fact, there are only 5 foods I won’t eat. What are they, you ask? A rather strange and eclectic list that includes:

  1. Licorice
  2. Watermelon
  3. Borscht
  4. Aubergine (that’s eggplant for you American folks)
  5. Goulash

Bon appetit!

J’ai Envie

J’ai envie d’entendre les voix de mes ami(e)s francais(es)

J’ai envie de voir, promener dans, et respirer les montaignes

J’ai envie de cueillir et sentir l’aroma des chanterelles

J’ai envie de gouter les croissants, recemment cuits au four

J’ai envie de boire du bon vin rouge dans un bistro ou bien dehors

J’ai envie de manger que du Saint Marcellin avec une baguette pour le diner

J’ai envie de voir les champs pleins de tournesols ou lavendres

J’ai envie de promener les grandes avenues de Paris, ainsi que les petites vieilles rues de la Marais

J’ai envie de faire les achats au marche, le dimanche matin

J’en ai marre de rever en francais; je veux y etre.

A Month of Gratitude: Part 1

November is here and with it, Thanksgiving, my very favorite US holiday. And not just because of the ample pumpkin pie to be enjoyed, but because it shines a spotlight on gratitude, a sentiment we rarely get the opportunity to dwell on, during the crazy pace of the every day. Last year, someone I know posted a daily gratitude post on her Facebook wall and she has inspired me to stop and spend some time every day during the month of November to consider how very fortunate I am and to catalog all for which I am grateful.

So here we go:

Thursday November 1: Today marks my second anniversary working with InkHouse. When I took the position, I knew I was going to be in a for a wild ride of deadlines, creativity, challenges and successes. Naturally, there are days that are better than others but overall, I am intensely grateful for 1) having a job, 2) being able to practice my passion – communicating, 3) having a job that pays well, 4) working with a group of talented, entertaining, creative and warm people.

Friday November 2: Grateful today for a job that allows me to work from home on Fridays. Grateful that, unlike the poor souls in New York and New Jersey suffering from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, I have a roof over my head, heat and power, food and gas. This could have been a very different story.

Saturday November 3: I’m grateful today for music and dancing. On Saturdays, I try and get to a Zumba class and, once I drag myself there, I emerge energized and invigorated. Today I’m also in awe of, and thankful for, the amazing people and organizations that have come together to help Sandy’s victims. Everyone talks, these people actually do. I should do more.

Sunday November 4: Today, I’m grateful for a day to spend with my family. A walk in the park where the colors are still breathtaking, watching my kids skip and play, my dog delirious with the thrill of running free. My husband at my side. I’m also grateful for great screenwriting, random I know, but have been enjoying watching Homeland and tonight, concluded season 1, complete with nail-biting and racing adrenalin.

Monday November 5: For almost 13 years, I’ve been living in the US but have not yet taken the steps to become a citizen so that I can vote. Today I realized that’s it’s time. I’m grateful that I live in a country where democracy  is the norm and aware that, compared to the  many frightful situations in so many other parts of the world, this is not something I should take for granted. Also, I’m grateful for leftover Halloween candy. And pumpkin cheesecake. Both of which I have consumed today! I’m also grateful for hot water because I am cold at night now and sleep better clutching my hot water bottle. Yes I am an old lady already.

Tuesday November 6: My day started with my almost 8-year old climbing into bed for a snuggle. I cherish every single  snuggle and hug with my kids, the chance to both physically and emotional connect, if only for a few minutes. Today I’m also thankful for Twitter. Strange though it make seem, Twitter augments my world, connecting with me valuable new resources and some of the cleverest, nicest people.

Wednesday November 7: So grateful to be waking up to the news that Obama remains President for another four years. For many, many reasons but, mostly, to quote his acceptance speech:  “… if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.”

Check back next week for another week of gratitude.

15 Mommy Super Powers

Like so many of us, it wasn’t until I became a mother that I realized how very special my own Mum/Mom is. I mean I already knew she was the best Mom on Earth, but until it was my turn, I did not appreciate the incredible super powers that (magically?) come with the role.

For example:

  1. She has eyes in the back of her head. (Well of course I was going to start with that one!)
  2. Tooth fairy.
  3. She can heal an ouchie with her kiss.
  4. Instant lie detection capability.
  5. She has the uncanny ability to know where almost any lost item can be found.
  6. She can see a meltdown coming and immediately activate diversionary tactics.
  7. She is primed and ready for all potential eventualities and is equipped with wipes, band aids, snacks, motrin, books, toys, bibs, play dough, markers, more snacks, sparkles, glue sticks, more snacks, tiara, scrunchies – and not forgetting spare undies and socks.
  8. She can scare off anything that goes bump in the night.
  9. She has lightening speed reactions – can catch a cup before it spills, protect a little head before it bumps something.
  10. She can tune out the whining, or incessantly repetitive book reading/song playing …. most of the time (my daughter calls this my “ray shield force.”)
  11. Through creativity and sheer survival instinct, she has the power to convert a no into a yes. (Or, at best, a “fine!” delivered with crossed arms and a pout.)
  12. She can detect her own child’s cry from among hundreds of other kids and from a 10,000-meter range.
  13. Similarly, within nanoseconds, she can determine from a single cry, whether her child is hurt, sick, hungry, tired or just faking.
  14. And, with just one look or touch, she can tell if her kid has a fever or is about to puke.
  15. She sends them off to the land of nod knowing they are safe and loved – every single night until they leave for colleage.

To those of you who say they did not get memo (that’d be you @ChantalSaville) I don’t believe it for a moment. With motherhood comes the instant super power to love something more than you’ve ever imagined possible. As well as a deeper, more infinite appreciation for wine, alone time, the spa, ice cream, other Moms … and so on.

Happy Friday, to all my fellow Moms with Super Powers!

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