Anatomy of Thanksgiving dinner

For my first Thanksgiving in Britain, my family conspired to surprise me with a Thanksgiving dinner! My wonderful sister-in-law, mother-in-law, mother, sisters and husband were all in on the job – making the exact recipes, and even sending over American ingredients to make sure it tasted just like home.

My home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner away from home, with the comments I heard from the British:

Salad Starter:

“Why is there fruit in the salad? What are these hunks of bread for?”


“Well, the strawberries are alright, but I’m not convinced about the oranges.”

We started right away with some confusion. Croutons are not commonly added to side salads in the UK; they’re mostly for salads as a main dish. And fruit? MADNESS.

Corn Bread:

“This is bread?  This is a cake.”  “They really haven’t changed the package since 1950, have they?” 


If American bread already tastes sweet to the British, Corn Bread would certainly be considered a cake. In fact, our corn ‘bread’ is sweeter than many cakes the British would have for dessert.

Green Bean Casserole:

“What a strange recipe..” “That’s actually alright!”  “I’ll have more of that bean soup.”


They started off skeptical, and didn’t agree that heating beans and canned soup could be considered a ‘casserole’. This recipe also comes from the 50’s, created by Campbell’s.

It was pointed out that the French’s onions claim of authenticity was… suspicious.”Why do they have to point out that the onions are actually onions?”


Jellied Cranberry Sauce:

“Uggghhhh”  Most refrained to comment.
jellied out of can

If you serve it right, you can count all the ridges from the can! Fun family party game – can you count all the ridges?!


Waaaay too sweet. The sentiment was that it was unnatural, and didn’t actually complement anything on the plate, while REAL cranberry sauce actually does. This also isn’t ‘sauce’; it’s jellied cranberry juice, with extra sugar.

Sweet Potatoes:

“Marshmallows?!” “Too Sweet.”

marshmallow pecans

Of course we’ll take a sweet thing and then add sugar! For this dinner, there were three versions: with marshmallow, with pecans and brown sugar, and with brown sugar only. The pecans were accepted, but the marshmallow not as much.

 Pumpkin Pie:

pumpkin pie

Pumpkins seem to have been introduced to the UK mostly in conjunction with the importation of Halloween. Most had either never had pumpkin pie, or already knew they did not like pumpkin. That’s OK – More for me!

Do you see the pattern here? (sugar, sugar, more sugar and then some high fructose corn syrup!)

What do you think of these American Thanksgiving classics?


Spring in Fairyland

The climate is gentler in the northwest of Britain than it is in the Midwest of the US. Since it’s Spring, which is a mythical season where I’m from, it seems like I’m living in a fairyland.

In fairyland, the blades of grass are thin and delicate. It’s as if nature had golf courses in mind when she created grass in the UK.

The grass used in many lawns is Fescue. It’s cultivated by fairies.

It is soft – not like the thick blades of grass I’m used to. As my husband put it,

“If you sit down for a picnic, that grass will stab you, steal your kidney and nic your wallet.”

Kiss your watch goodbye if you sit on kentucky bluegrass; watch your kidneys if you sit on crabgrass.

In fairyland, a daffodil can be in bloom for 8 weeks. They grow in yards, ditches, sidewalks, and in the medians. It’s ridiculous.





random everywheres!

random everywheres!

In fairyland, the Eency Weensy spider (presumably Isty Bitsy’s British cousin) actually gets a chance to climb up the waterspout a second time, because it’s actually possible for the sun to come dry up rain that fell that very morning. Incredible! More proof that this is a fairytale land where the impossible happens daily!



Spring – The Myth, the Legend – Part Meh

I always sensed that “suddenly” and “out of nowhere” were in the true nature of the word “spring”. Allow me to illustrate, with words.

Spring (on): v. to surprise someone suddenly, such as “We’re enjoying dinner, then she sprung it on me that she was pregnant.”

Spring (up): v. to suddenly appear, as in “When it rains, worms just spring up onto the sidewalk out of nowhere.”

Springtime in the Midwest:

Some Sunday in March or April or sometimes May: After 5+ months of being indoors due to cold weather, Adults want to murder their children, and vice versa.

Monday: FLASH FLOODS! It’s above freezing and the sun is out. The snow melts into puddles on the frozen ground.

Tuesday: Where the water receded, there is only MUD in its place. Every child under 12 looks like the Swamp Thing.

Wednesday: The whole town looks like a monster truck arena. Mudballs 5 feet high on the sides of buildings and splashed on every car.  The town crawls with swamp monsters.  

Thursday: Plants attack! Weeds get a jump on reclaiming their turf. Evidence of sudden allergy attacks can be found among the weedy mud piles.

Friday: Gentler plants, such as daffodils and tulips, begin to sprout, having noticed that it’s been above freezing for a whole 4 days. People dig lighter clothes out of bags and boxes for weekend wear.

Saturday & Sunday: Freezing rain, more mud. Adults sadly put their lighter clothes back in the closet. Teen girls insist on going out dressed like summer tourist clowns.

Monday: Craigslist is inundated with ads of snowblowers for sale. Every child “forgets” their gloves, hat, coat and shoes at school.

Tuesday: Sun and warmth! The daffodils and tulips have bloomed! Anyone with sense skips school and/or work. Those who attempt to fill their obligations get nothing done because everyone spends the day looking out the window.

Wednsday: Craigslist is inundated with people looking for lawnmowers on the cheap. Kids go out to play and trample anything resembling landscaping.

Thursday: Freezing temperatures. Almost all children have picked up some germs as a result of the temperature swings, but no one will realize this for another two days.

Friday: Freezing rain collects into rainwater lakes on top of frozen mud. A ridiculous number of cars make their way into ditches for seemingly no reason other than – it rained?

Saturday & Sunday: Warm and Sunny! Most the children are sick – the rest go to play in the springtime mudworld. Adults realize the lawnmower they got was a piece of junk.


Thus goes a typical Spring. The March-April-May pictures in the botanical garden’s wall calendar is obviously from some foreign fairyland – it has nothing to do with the cruel joke that Mother Nature makes of this season in the Midwest.

Tomorrow, we’ll explore the fairyland notion of Spring.

My 4am to noon weekday schedule

I’ll start this out by apologizing if anyone read into the initial post that I’m hiding in an attic a la Anne Frank. I’m not hiding. Actually, I think of it more like lurking in the attic… like an old creepy doll.

If that makes you feel more at ease, we might be friends.

If creepy lurking makes you feel more at ease, we might be friends.

Rest assured, I’m safe, I frequently get natural light and converse with people who are not imaginary. (Or so I think – can one ever really be sure?)

I talk to myself

I’m in the attic because that is where my remote office is set up. In fact, in addition to a spot with electricity and an internet connection, free from distractions, it also has two skylights. In effect, by working from home, I’ve been upgraded from a cubicle to an executive-sized office with a door and two windows. So thank you to my wonderful new parents in-law and my niece, who set up the desk and cleared some space for me.

And, I have all the amenities, because all the relevant electronics and office supplies were shipped to the house before I even got here. So, I’m all wired up.

I’m working my dream shift, especially since I only have to commute up the stairs. 10am to 6pm in the UK is 4am-noon Central time. Here’s a Map that totally overcomplicates that point by using too many colors. I live in UTC(0) and the US office is located in UTC-6.

It took some convincing to get the bosses in the US office comfortable with me logging off at noon, but the early start already turned out to be an advantage twice in the first week of work, so there you go.

Another benefit from working from home is that I get to take wardrobe tips from people of Wal-mart. If I hesitate to answer your video call, trust me that it’s for your own protection.

This turns out to be a necessity since I filled my luggage with souvenirs instead of clothes. In another week, when our shipping container arrives, I’ll finally be able to improve my attire to Ron Burgundy level, which I understand is perfectly appropriate for video chats which only include your head and shoulders.

So, yes, I’m working for the same company, with similar responsibilities, a couple hours ahead of them. From the attic.

it is not always this sunny

So…Where are you?

I’m in my in-laws’ attic.  I know, it doesn’t sound glamourous*, but actually, they’ve done a very nice job of making me feel comfortable and at home.

I’m in England. No, not in London.

One of these places which exist outside of London is Southport, where I am.

it is not always this sunny

marshes and sandy beaches – Welcome to sunny Southport!

Allow me to explain where that is by referencing Chicagoland, my home:

Pretend that the Beatles are from Chicago instead of Liverpool.



If that were the case, I’d be in Waukegan, and the London suburbs would start somewhere around Peoria. Picture that road trip on a map – Waukegan, down the lake to Chicago, then southwest out to Peoria.

Now, try to visualize that mental map, turn it into a mirror image, and slap it on the map of the UK, along the West coast of the country, instead of the East coast of Lake Michigan. There you go! There I am, in Waukegan, err, Southport.

Why Southport? Refer to the opening line – living at the in-laws. While temporary, yes, this is part of the plan.

*I added an extra ‘U’. I think that’s the custom around here; I’m trying to get used to it.