Wednesday, 16 November 2011


Before moving to this country, I had never seen a hedgehog before.  There are no hedgehogs native to America, just as there are no porcupines native to U.K.   I also naively thought hedgehogs were related to the porcupines, but there is no connection between the two, besides the fact they both have quills of some sort.  A few weeks ago my kids and their friends saw a hedgehog out front by our house.  The kids ran down and took some photos and were bemused for a while but eventually I had them come in. They were concerned as it had a few ticks on its body.  We didn’t do anything.  I remembered a friend had contacted a local hedgehog rescue centre after finding one wrapped up in sweaters in her garage.  I contacted the centre regarding the hedgehog that we had seen and they said hedgehogs are rarely out in daytime unless they are unwell and if we were to see it again might be worth bringing in. We haven’t seen it again yet, but it did start me on a campaign to learn more about hedgehogs.  There are lots of different breeds of hedgehogs but the European hedgehog is the one that is in decline. This is mainly because of badgers and foxes that like the hedgehog delicacy and also because of their unfortunate encounters with cars.  Combine that with trimmers and slug pellets and you have a species that is on the endangered list.  Hedgehogs are good climbers and swimmers and enjoy snacking on peanuts, raisins, berries, melons and mushrooms.  The end of November is a busy time for hedgehogs as a lot of juvenile hedgehogs come out then to strike out on their own.   To learn even more about hedgehogs or to support the cause please contact: or prickly tales on Facebook (only Oxfordshire rescue centre)  This site also has a wealth of information and good colouring pages for kids!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Made in the U.S.A.

     Poundland just opened a new store in Oxford City Centre in the Westgate Shopping Centre, where the Next Outlet use to be. The thing I love about Poundland and the 99p store is you just never know what you will find. I have found items that are from American shops, some that still show the dollar price tag. There was a Hannah Montana hairpiece from Sears (retail price $9.95) , American candles,  mountain dew soda and recently I found a pedicure machine from Rite aid all for 99p each..not bad when so many American product purchased here are so expensive due to taxes and transport fees. 
      I recently found a website that sells a few American products greatly reduced as well. The only catch is that they are expired products...the mac n cheese and root beer were a year expired but I guess they must still be fit for consumption as they can still legally sell them? Not sure if I am ready to try them just yet.    
     Occasionally I will look on ebay for American food....American candy bars are usually around £2 which is quite steep but if you really wanted a treat..might be justifiable....and American cake and bread mixes are quite commonly sold there as well.   All this blogging about American stuff makes me feel like I might need an American care package very soon. Also when you shop online at tesco you can put in 'American Groceries ' and get a selection of candy bars, sauces, and cereals. 

Monday, 12 September 2011

American History at Sulgrave Manor

Sulgrave Manor, near Banbury, was built by George Washington’s 5x Grandfather during Tudor times.  George’s direct ancestors, who all were influential men in their own right, lived there for less than 100 years, before John Washington, George’s Grandfather, emigrated to America.   They have an exhibition area on George Washington at their Brewhouse, but the emphasis on the house is more Tudor history than Washington history.   It’s a small, gentle place with a manor house and various gardens, and on select days children’s guided tours and Tudor dress up.  We visited a few years ago on Labor Day but it is the kind of place that I would go back to and enjoy again.  Open to the public, until end of October and reopening again in May. The best visiting times, being half term and weekends (11am-4pm), as midweek opening times are currently limited 2-4pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.  They also have a Christmas Market and Yuletide Celebration and it is available for private hire. I would however recommend calling ahead (01295 760205) to make sure the children’s activities you are interested in are available for when you are planning your visit. 

Sunday, 11 September 2011


 As I was walking my youngest daughter from primary school on Friday, I overheard the conversation of a young British schoolgirl telling her mum about the September 11th attacks,  which they had discussed at school that day.  Today, as I remember that day, I am talking to my children about it too.  It has become history for everyone around the world, whether we want it or not.

Living as an ex-pat in England for the last 11 years, my exposure to it has been watered down over the years but today on the 10th anniversary, I will choose again to remember and feel, as much as the day it happened. My greatest connection to the event is that I am American, and I had been to the twin towers some 25 years ago.  They were unbelievable and enthralling and I can only imagine how exciting a place it must have been to work in and see those buildings every day.   Now, for the first time the general public can see the memorial and the partly constructed  ‘One World Trade Center ‘ (freedom tower) which is due to be completed 2013. The dedication ceremony will be today and it will start to be open to the public tomorrow.   Earlier in the week, the mayor of London unveiled a memorial sculpture in London made from wreckage.  66 UK citizens lost their lives in 9/11. Mixed reviews over this so far in the UK, as there isn’t an official memorial to the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London yet.
South Tower, viewing platform
The BBC are offering coverage of the 10th anniversary at the New York Memorial starting at 130pm today going on until 415pm, although the event in America will last until 11pm Eastern Time.  There will be moments of silence, tributes and tears in the new Manhattan skyline that has changed itself, changed the world, and changed us.  My youngest daughter just saw my old photos of the twin tower and said ‘ Wow and was it as tall as the Eiffel tower?’….and I said…’it was taller’. Some will say it is media overload and that they would rather forget. I am glad however that they are helping me and my family remember a little bit more this year.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Costco sells a little bit of America

I finally made it to Costco recently, as my mother-in-law has a membership.  There was a buzz about it on a facebook site, I frequent, called American Ex-pats in UK.  I needed to see how much of America they really stock here in UK.  There were some nice surprises like finding Carters Clothing, pajamas and playwear for young children and infants. Other American items I noticed were Poppycock, Paul Newman's grape juice, various hershey chocolates, skippy peanut butter, chicken of the sea tuna and everything bagels. I was most impressed with the lunch cafe'.  Probably the cheapest place I've ever eaten in the U.K.---baked (jacket) potato with tuna for £1.25 and hot dog with unlimited soda for about the same.  Worth a scooch if someone you know is already a member.  

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Tesco Sells American Beef

While British Farmers are outraged that Tesco is selling American beef, I am overjoyed.  I have lived in Europe for 12 years now and find eating continental and UK beef a challenge.  I find it is tougher and less flavourful than American Beef.  The reason is that American beef is grain (corn) feed and British beef is grass fed. Supposedly the Americans also use hormones and tenderizing agents, although the Tesco imports are supposedly free of these. I ordered my American (branded Black Angus Sirloin or Ribeye) beef online.( Only some of the bigger Tescos carry it in store).  It is about $18 a pound (£24.99 per kilo) for the rib eye and a little less for the sirloin.  Definitely a bit dearer than buying a British ribeye which is around $11.50 per pound (£15.99 per kilo) and a whole lot dearer than American supermarket prices that range from $6-10 a pound.  Mind you, I won't be eating American steak every week but now prefer the every once in a while treat of a steak, at home with a baked potato and Caesar salad.  

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Lands End Outlet

Finally months of gentle persuasion (nagging) paid off with hubby taking me to a day out to the Lands' End outlet this past weekend. Truth be know, I've never shopped at Lands' End before but had looked on it's online catalogue.  It had a feel of a sportier Gap.  In the end, we spent 2 hours in Lands' End and didn't make it to any of the other shops. We had hoped to find some winter coats for the girls but their coat stock seemed low. Most of the tags said they were catalogue returns but we were pleased with the quality. My husband got 2 jeans for £20 and the kids still got some reasonably priced jeans, t-shirts and shoes. Nothing for me this time, except the experience and unexpectedly an A & W root beer from an oriental cafe' across the way.   
May 2013 Update- as Land's End no longer in Maidenhead, Check out this website to see the location nearest to you..,en_GB,pg.htm
Also, have a look at Debenhams next time you are in, as they are starting to carry Lands' End merchandise.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Whoopie pies

Just a little bloggie about a whoopie pie I found the other day.  It was at our local Co op. made by the cutely named United Cakes of America.  It is the first whoopie pie I've ever tried, so I don't have much to go on but I thought it was pretty nice.  It wasn't too sweet (which is usually my complaint when it comes to buying store bought) and had a nice caramel flavor.

Country Markets

Country markets are a much smaller version (think church hall) of a farmers market but sell a lot of the same things.  It took me over 5 years to discover the one in my town ,so it is almost a word of mouth kind of place.  It was originally started by the W.I. and some have been around for 25+ years. There are over 250 country markets throughout the U.K. with 10 markets in Oxfordshire.  Some of the slightly bigger ones in Oxfordshire are Wallingford, Abingdon and Eynsham. I started baking for the country markets this past spring. A friend of a friend was already doing it, so that helped to get me going.  I had visions of having a little homebaking business and also selling American kitchen products. Fastforward to now and I bake once a week for our local market.  I cover my costs and make a little but it is really just a hobby for now. I do mostly brownies and recently started doing pies.  I've done apple and pear, summer fruits, wild plum and apple and hoping to do wild blackberry and apple this week.   I've had some weeks where it has been slow and not much has sold and then other weeks where I sell out.  My kids think its great because they know at least once a week the house will smell gorgeous with baking and have deemed themselves the official tasters!  I can recommend country markets as either joining as a baker or trying it out as a consumer. For even more info go to  

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Rah Rah to Cheerleading!

I have decided to try my youngest daughter in a cheerleading club in the fall.  They cheer for a local rugby club.  I have had her on the waitlist for gymnastics at the local leisure center for some time and thought this might be a good second option.  Supposedly, cheerleading is one of the fastest growing 'sports' in the U.K.  We have a handful of university squads in our area and a few dance schools offer it up as well.  There however seems to be some controversy on whether cheerleading is actually considered a sport though.  It's unique combination of dance, gymnastics and drama doesn't equate to sport in
some peoples mind. I look forward to my daughter learning the positive cheers,
 tumbles, splits and dance routines.    

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Happy 4th of July

Most 4th of July's I've spent away from the U.S. have been quiet. We might frequent a KFC and call it a day. This year we decided to have a little 4th of July celebration.  On the menu was chicken wings, hot dogs and pulled pork, with some mac n cheese and potato salad.  For desserts, brownie cake and key lime pie.
The Key Lime Pie was the star.  I can't remember the last time I made it, but the Joy of Baking recipe I used this time was simple and fool proof......digestive cracker crust (instead of graham cracker) , topped with a mix of 3 egg yolks, 1 can sweetened condensed milk and 150ml fresh lime juice. (I opted out of the whipped cream topping this time).  I did have to bake it a bit longer than the 15 minutes it said, but I find that quite common with my oven over here for some reason.  Both the kids had 2 helpings so no leftovers, I'm afraid. 
                                       Happy 4th of July!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Polony Bologna

My favorite sandwich as a kid was bologna with mayo and pickle.  I had a revelation this morning when I opened a small sausage like package of Pologny Slicing Sausage and found out it is just like a good American Bologna. Evidently, the Brits have been eating it since about the 16th Century.  It was the Tesco Value Brand (I love Supermarket value brands)....150g for 54p.  My bologna has a 'new' first name.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Cornbread in UK

My family and friends always like it when I make cornbread. It's just one of those things that you can't really get here unless you make it homemade. That and corndogs! But that is a whole other post.   It took me a while to source the right kind of cornmeal for my cornbread. I initially tried some polenta that was partially cooked and that really didn't work.  Finally, I came across Natco brand cornmeal (sold in ASDA & Tesco). They sell both yellow and white cornmeal and it is quite reasonable.  I started doing a little baking for the Country markets in my area.  I mostly make brownies but I have sold some of my cornbread as well. I have had to rebrand it here as Polenta, though when I do sell it, to get the British to even try it! 

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Snowshill Lavender Farm

Tucked a bit out of Oxfordshire but nearby popular tourist stops, Stow on the Wold and Bourton on the Water.  The Farm is worth going to for great photographic opportunities and to try their special Lavender teas, Lavender Scones and shortbread. It's not a huge place and can probably be done in 1-2 hours or less depending on how far you want to walk around the fields. A good place to bring a picnic lunch.   It was interesting to see all the different varieties of lavender some of which they sell at the giftshop. I bought some lavender essential oil (great to put on bruises) and culinary lavender oil.  This year the fields are suppose to be at their finest the first couple of weeks in July.  They also have a small field where sunflowers grow in August. 

Saturday, 25 June 2011

TKMaxx and Homesense

I recently discovered TkMaxx does online and has a sister store called Homesense.  It has been around for 3 years and only has about 24 stores in the U.K.  None in Oxfordshire yet. Our closest ones are Gloucester and Reading. It is just like the home section of TKMaxx, only bigger.   I recently went to one at the Trafford Centre and found myself a bit delighted coming away with American Laundry Detergent and a ice cream sandwich mold.  

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Updates on American Food Chains

I seem to have a common theme of food going on here. Subway keeps growing and growing and I heard there are more subway chains in the world now than McDonalds! There are over 1399 subway restaurants alone in UK.  We have 10 of them now in Oxfordshire.  I am in West Oxfordshire and we just recently had one open here in the Carterton/Brize Norton area, inside a BP petrol (gas) station. I really love their salads. I also noticed that Papa John's Pizza has arrived in the area and there is now one in Rose Hill, Oxford.   Outside of Oxfordshire area,  in the Milton Keynes Shopping Center, they have Quiznos Subs and Annies Pretzels. Also, heard there is a couple of Outback steak houses just outside of London.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Aldi special American product week starts June 23

Aldi likes to help us celebrate 4th of July with American Food Specials.  Some of these products are bad imitations of what we know and love but it is still worth taking a look if there is an Aldi near you. 
You can follow this link to see what they have on offer-

Sunday, 19 June 2011

American Food news

ASDA has started carrying Pepperidge Farm Cookies and Goldfish crackers (called Finz). My kids love them.  There is one ASDA in Birmingham off the M6, that carries Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, but haven't seen it in any others. Shame we have Kraft up in Banbury and they can't stock it more. ASDA also has Carters Root beer which is bliss to me, although it something my kids and husband can't stand. TESCO in Abingdon and Cowley, stocking USDA beef, although not all Tescos in the area seem to carry it.

My Dad is retired military and he recently came to visit.  We decided to go to the Air Force Base in Croughton, near Brackley for a shop.  I could get on the base as his guest and could even go into the Commissary/Exchange but retired military not allowed to shop here, unless they are resident and have registered  to do so.

New Social networking site for Americans living in Oxfordshire England

I have been wanting to start an Americans Womens Club in Oxfordshire, for a while now.   Before living in Oxfordshire for 6 years, I lived in The Hague, Netherlands for 6 years.  I belonged and worked at the Americans Womens Club of the Hague.  It was wonderful to have a little piece of America in a foreign country.  We had a clubhouse with all the bells and whistles (reception, library,giftshop) and I worked   part-time as the office manager there.  I hope this blog can be a forum for American Women in the Oxfordshire Area to get together either online or in person socially to support and guide each other.  I love a lot of things in the U.K.  My husband is British and my children have British accents but I do still love most things American and am always seeking out American food, shops and especially American Friends.