Thursday 17 October 2013

American Candy

This time of year the candy aisle starts bulging even more for Halloween. Halloween seems to be getting bigger and bigger in this country, and although not all Brits are delighted about it, most American expats I know are  happy at the prospect of more decorations, more costumes and definitely more american candy . Tesco and ASDA, now carry a little American candy section both online and in store. Now whether it is permanent or not is uncertain as so many American items that make their way here seem to come and go or be stocked sporadically.   There was even a sighting from an  American Expat Foodie Facebook page, called American Eats, of Hershey’s Peanut Butter Pumpkin Cups at Tesco. Hershey’s peanut butter cups seem to be the 1st American candy that I noticed going mainstream in all the shops in this country followed by Tootsie Rolls.  The usual outlet for American sweets has been a handful of online retailers . There also seem to be ebay retailers and Amazon selling American candy now. A lot of the smaller candy shops are carrying an American Candy section and locally in Oxfordshire, Sugar Rush Sweets; carry a large American section in their Carterton and Banbury shops.  In Witney, there is the Shake Shop that recently added an American section to their other interesting selections of British sweets.  Mark up is generally 100 per cent more than what most Americans are used to but with most airlines only allowing 1 checked bag internationally, gone are the days of filling up a second suitcase full of goodies to last throughout the year. This Halloween treat yourself to some American Candy!

(This post dedicated to my Mom, whose favourite chocolate was Asbach Urlaub -German chocolate!)

Tuesday 20 August 2013

American Football in UK

My British husband enjoys watching American Football games on TV, especially when he was younger and could stay up till 4 in the morning without any consequences the next day. I also have a British Friend whose husband goes every year to the NFL game in Wembley. There is going to be 2 games this year and general admission tickets are already sold out. If you love American football and want to avoid the expense and late nights, The British American league might be for you. Okay, the level of play is nowhere near professional, but having recently attended a game of the Swindon Storm (all 50 teams on their national and premier teams have great names by the way), I can say it’s still definitely worth a look, especially  if you love American Football.  Their season runs April to August and in the Swindon Storms case it was no frills, free admission. This was Swindon Storms first official season back after 15 years and they play at the Supermarine Rugby Club. They played the Cornish Sharks and they looked fairly evenly matched until the second half when The Storm seemed to have found their game. There was about 50 of us their supporting the Storm and it was really neat to be so close to the action of the game and there were some really great plays to watch.  Another interesting aspect of the game was that theplayers come in all shapes, sizes and ages and to see their dedication to the game was really inspiring. I enjoyed the couple of hours we spent in the sunshine watching pure American Football in England. Thanks Swindon for winning 24-10, we especially liked that bit.

Wednesday 31 July 2013

The Latest on American Restaurant Chains in UK

Most international restaurant franchises look to London to open an initial flagship restaurant to test the waters before expanding further.  Like many things American, American Restaurant Chains strive to enter new international markets and become huge global successes.  However for some popular American chains that have entered the UK market, they’ve simply come and gone…… 
Dunkin Donuts- pulled out in the mid 90’s but might be considering a comeback. Sister shop, Baskin Robbins still thriving in the UK and hoping to expand in the near future.
Chili’s Grill and Bar- It’s London and Reading locations went bankrupt in 2009. It’still has successful locations open in Germany and Russia.
Outback Steakhouse- Its 2 Essex locations packed up in 2011.
Hooters  Still hanging in there with its original location in Nottingham that opened in 1998, but it’s Bristol and Cardiff location were only open for 2 years and closed in 2012. Was it the feminist uproar that led to its demise?
Krispy Kreme- has had to close 50 stores with one of them being Oxford. It still has limited shops open and is still sold widely in Tescos and Welcome Breaks/Moto/Road chefs. 

Successful so far, but limited American franchises-

Tony Roma's 2 locations only in Kingston Upon Thames and Glasgow.
Ruby Tuesday's   2 locations only in Cheltenham and Cardiff.

New Chains on the horizon-

Chipotle Mexican Grill has been open in UK since 2010 and has 6 locations in London and also do local online orders.
5 Guys- Just opened summer 2013 in Covent Garden. Huge queues that wrapped around a block were reported.
Shake Shack – Also, just opened summer 2013 with 1 location in Covent Garden.

Chains that have investigated the opportunity to come to UK but no sign, as of yet-

Denny’s and Cheesecake Factory  

I don’t know about you, but my American to UK restaurant dream would be to see a Waffle House open up over here, now that I would queue for!

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Hat Trick Boredom Buster

It's officially the beginning of the summer boredom in our house, so I decided to use a little hat trick to keep things fun this year. We had these cute mini post-it labels and put all the things in them that either the kids wanted to do or I wanted them to do and put them in a hat.. There were things like Computer time, TV, Arts and Crafts, Maths and Spellings and even simply, play outside.  We even put some 'wild card' ones so they do whatever they wanted with those ones. When we pick one, out we set a time limit of about 30 minutes. I hoping to put some structure into their day without too much nagging and to keep from hearing 'I'm bored', every 5 minutes. I won't use it every day but so far it's been working well.   My 7 year old is really been into it and instead of saying 'she is bored', says' Is it my turn to pick something out of the hat yet?' 

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Homemade Corn dogs

  • There are a few American food items that I had almost given up finding in England...Corn dogs, jimmy dean sausage, ice cream sandwiches and caffeine free regular coke...
  • Finally after 14 years of living away from America (and corn dogs), I bought a deep fat fryer fit for purpose.  I have managed to make corn dogs twice now and thought I would share my recipe for any others out there wanting to take the homemade corn dog plunge. 
  • Depending on the size of your fryer you need at least 4 or more litres of vegetable oil. I put the dogs in 2 at a time and they take less than 5 minutes each. I used the highest setting and that seemed to work best.
  • This was the mixture I made..
  • 150g cornmeal ( Asda and Tesco usually carry this)
  • 125g plain flour
  • 50gz granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 225ml milk
  • 10 hot dogs ( frankfurters ) 
  • 10 kebab skewers
To serve
  • French's American Mustard 

    Second time around I made gluten-free ones...they were crispier than the 1st batch but still tasty. 

Friday 5 July 2013

The Lowdown on American Shopping in the UK

I usually pop into the Oxford GAP store whenever I’m in the city. It feels like going to a familiar friend and its sales and quality usually mean I leave the shop with a little something.  GAP, despite its past troubles, is an American to UK success story.  In 1987, it opened its first store here and currently has 148 stores and 8 Banana Republic stores.  Another California company that ventured into the UK market was Gymboree clothing.  As lovely as the Gymboree clothes are, Gymboree isn’t still selling happily ever after here anymore and pulled out in 2006. All that remains are its original concept play centres, of which there are 45 dotted around the country. There were a lot of mums that have had to resort to paying the ever increasing international shipping costs to keep their children’s lovely coordinating Gymboree fashion wardrobe up to date. 

Forever 21 came on the local UK scene, a little less than 3 years ago and now has 7 locations in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Kent and Glasgow. I’ve only been in Forever 21 once, but it seemed like a good place for teen and young fashion and is sometimes likened to Primark. It’s done well in establishing online shopping in the UK, that includes men’s and plus sizes.  Forever 21 is hoping to establish itself like GAP and is aiming to eventually have 100 stores over here.
Arriving alongside the London Olympics in summer 2012 was the much anticipated Victoria’s Secret.  It started with two locations, one next to the Olympic park in the Westfield Stratford Shopping Mall and its other being its flagship Bond Street location. Three more are set to open by the end of this year in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield. Unfortunately, their UK online service hasn’t been established yet, like Forever 21 and GAP, but for now you can get a few things on Amazon UK.  

The latest US store looking to make an entry internationally is American Eagle.  According to several news articles, one in 2011 and one just last month, they are scouting for locations in London.  Other trendy new American shops to have travelled over the here of late, are Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie.  Both have the added convenience of online shopping in the UK.  

Despite all these new American stores opening over here, a lot of my favourite clothing stores are still British, like NEXT, Boden, Joules and Fat Face. Combined together with all the new American shops that have entered the arena, shopping in UK (especially London) offers something for everyone. Now if we could only get the high street shops to stay open until 9pm.......

Thursday 27 June 2013

Night Sky Delights

Super moon June 23, 2013, Oxfordshire England  
If you or your kids are science or space mad, worth a look to sign up to NASA's spot the station e-alert ( We signed up for it at the beginning of the year and have managed to see it  orbit around our area twice. They email you the the time and the length of sighting. It's a small window of opportunity,  anywhere from 1 to 4 minutes, so it took us a couple of goes to actually see it.  They also tell
you what direction you will start and finish seeing it in. Quite exciting to see something moving in the night sky and actually know what it is your looking at.

A good time to wish upon a star, is during this summers meteor showers, scheduled for July 27 & 28 and August 11 &12. Also look out for the new moon coming up July 8th, in which it is the best time to see stars and galaxies, if of course, you are fortunate enough for a clear night.  (