Category Archives: product placement

top things i will miss #8

Besides our flat, there is no place in London I have spent more time than

#8 Waitrose and John Lewis.


urlI am a HUGE fan of these two chains and their parent company. And yet, I am never able to satisfactorily articulate why I think they’re special and not replicated in any sense in the US. Yes, Waitrose is a grocery store chain. Or I guess as a British person would say: supermarket? Food shop? I don’t even know. And yes, it sells food on shelves in aisles. I guess it looks sort of ordinary. But then you shop there a few times, and it’s eternal love and I know most people feel the same.

The staff of these chains are also the owners, so it’s no coincidence they come off extremely professional, personable, helpful- from the person stocking shelves to the one at the till. For five years I have seen the same people working the tills. No turnover has to mean something good is going on.

waitrose02And I have a deep, deep, deep and abiding crush on the very clean, fresh and sometimes whimsical store-brand product design.








It makes me want to buy everything Waitrose-brand, which isn’t hard since they seem to make their own brand of everything, even the unexpected.

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And I’ve mentioned that I never have to wait in a queue when I’m done with my shopping.


The true reason Waitrose blows me away is that I can shop for food and never once turn an item over to read the ingredients. They just don’t seem to stock foods made with curious chemicals, partially hydrogenated trans fats, ersatz ingredients, or anything that would give me pause in feeding it to my family. (With one categorical exception: the American food products it sells.) But this fact doesn’t mean Waitrose bears any resemblance to an expensive pretentious granola-fied chain like Whole Foods. I love Whole Foods – it has a place in my life – but it’s not an everyday kinda shop. Waitrose can be an everyday kinda shop. They sell what you know and what you like, but more likely to be made the right and real way. Like cheese puffs: a lifelong favorite of mine. I didn’t know until I moved here that delicious cheese puffs could be made with puffed corn, dried powdered cheese, and salt. I am changed.

And before I am totally done talking about Waitrose, it’s worth mentioning that not everyone pronounces it the same. I have met Americans (albeit, a very small percentage) who have just decided without good reason to call the store “Wait-Rose”, emphasizing the “t” as the end of the first syllable. I hate those Americans because EVERYONE knows it’s “Way-trose”, with the “t” actually leading the second syllable as a blended “tr” sound.

Even the dumb internets can’t agree.

But the smart internets can. Seriously, click on it. It makes me laugh every time!

john-lewis-logo-squareJohn Lewis. Part of the same partnership as Waitrose, it’s a great, solid department store. Again, good service, nice, quality, reliable, well-presented store-brand lines. Everything you need is in this store. Including a food hall. The one on Oxford Street I have been to 3,000 times has a baby & kid products mecca on its 4th floor. Thus answering one of those burning questions some Americans have when they arrive: But wait, you don’t have a Target or Babies R Us nearby? How then can I possibly bring a child into this world? Oh, John Lewis.

John Lewis is kind of what Macy’s would be if Macy’s was consistent and awesome and more John Lewis-like.


Oxford Street is just crazy. (Photo stolen.)


Filed under missing already, product placement


The movers picked up 90% of our stuff on Friday. As I had to decide what things were worthy of a long boat voyage (read: totally not important to our everyday lives), I was reminded yet again that moving six times in 10 years has been a great gift to me. I have shed most of my hoarding tendencies and attach myself very little to objects. That’s not to say when I disassembled the baby cot last night, I didn’t pause for five seconds to think about the years both my kids have slept in it- chubby legged, stuffed-animal clutching, dummy-dropping, sweet slumber they had. But, buh-bye cot/crib. Thanks for the memories.

International moves, international living… it’s a mind f—. We had an Everything Must Go sale since none of the electric cords on anything are compatible and frankly, if I want more plastic toys Made in China for the kids, we’ll just pick them up in the next country we live in where there is no shortage of plastic Made in China toys. In the moving, there is a lot of looking at things and thinking about things that a person could ordinarily go years and years without considering. Do I love this zester enough? What does this framed photograph really mean to me? Why did I ever keep this tank top that has never not made me look like a cast member of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo?

The move also meant we finally had to clean out the deep, secret part of our closet where we had hidden for months and years Toys Which Turn Into Weapons At The Hands Of Our Ill-Bred Children:


To be fair, the sword could only be interpreted as one thing.

That sucked. They totally started beating each other up again as soon as these were revealed.

Yesterday was “Mothering Sunday” in the UK. And so I want to say Happy Early Mother’s Day to my own mom, she of renowned blogging, socializing, smiling, house-selling, shopping and returning fame. If we’re lucky, we get all the best parts of our moms when we become moms. Mom, for five years you never let me go too long without feeling far away and too long without letting me know you were thinking of us. I hope I turn out like you. (At least 99%.)


The last two weeks have been some of the busiest for us. It was a little crazy, but a good problem to have.

Two weeks ago Monday we had Erin over, an American who just transferred to the London office where Bryan works. She asked me if there was a Crate & Barrel-like equivalent in the UK and it was like nostalgic deja vu. Every day Americans move to this great city, and every day Americans leave. And so we reinvent the wheel each and every time, asking into the big, gray abyss of a sky: “But where do I buy home accents?!” Oh it will come. It will come. Tuesday Faye and I watched our second to last Bachelor together. We’ll always have the blog at least. Wednesday I had a great lunch with Christina where our kids were being super crazy but we didn’t care. Thursday I had a “last” lunch with Mike who is my former office mate and still-friend. His absolute favorite thing full stop about the U.S. are the billboard ads of personal injury lawyers. Also, I like to ask questions about the menu and request substitutions in front of Mike, because I know it stresses him out. Rachel sent me this revelatory BBC America blog about Brits adjusting to life in America and this entry is for you, MikeFriday Lauren came over for playdate and she didn’t mind when I made frozen chicken nuggets for the kids’ dinner and that night Bryan and I went to MeatLiquor with Melissa, Nick, Duncan and Tessa. It was really fun and nice to actually go out with the person who has been looking after our kids for years and the parents of Jonah’s best friend who Melissa also watches. We have always all been friends and it helps that MeatLiquor is so ridiculously fun, plays awesome music and they even added a photo booth.

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I never expected I would miss the hamburgers and steaks in London. Maybe I won’t. But wow have things changed in five years. Saturday we had brunch in Hammersmith at the home of one of Bryan’s colleagues. I may or may not have eaten my fruit salad incorrectly (I used my breakfast plate and a fork.), I will have to check Debrett’s. That night we hosted six friends over for dinner. I hate cooking for people but there was a long-running joke with our friends Andrea and Sarah about whether chicken parm and fettuccine alfredo could be classified as “Italian” food. So that’s what I made and it wasn’t horrible and now I can move back to Brooklyn having done my ambassadorial work for this genre of food.

Oh and then this past week. Sunday we met baby Mysha, the second born to Faisal and Habiba. Faisal said something very lovely about both of us becoming families of four during our time in London. Sigh. While we were there, Jonah’s Uncle from Another Mother, Matt, took him to see Wreck-It Ralph. And then proceeded to play in his room with him for hours more because, well, they’re in love.

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Monday Nandini sweetly organised a dinner for a few of us at NOPI. It’s always so miraculous when a bunch of moms can go out on a school night and I do always cherish the conversations we have on work/life balance and families with moms coming from international perspectives. Tuesday we saved just for Bryan and me. We had a drink at Paramount Bar at the top of Centre Point with incredible 360 degree views of London at night. I don’t really know how to use our camera but anyway, I loved this short time we carved out to just look at this city we love and feel okay about leaving. It was sort of like, “Oh look! There is the gorgeous roof of the British Museum! We’re moving and we won’t see it anymore and we’ll survive!”

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We followed with dinner at Pollen Street Social, a new very it place and the food was incredible. They even have special chairs for your handbag/purse. I know. Wednesday Bryan’s office hosted all the spouses and kids to lunch to say goodbye to us and it was as thoughtful and fun as ever. The NY office has big shoes to fill for our family. Thursday Matt and Trish got last-minute tickets to see Of Monsters and Men in Shepherd’s Bush. Even though I always accidentally call the band Of Mice and Men, the album is a current favorite of mine and I loved the show.


And I got to see Westfield (my favorite mall ever) one last time and the part of my heart that loves Pho and British chain stores went pitter patter. Friday the movers came. There were three movers and each wanted three cups of tea throughout the day and so I had to prepare nine cups total. I was sweating hard. I have mentioned I hate making tea for the English, right? Apparently I didn’t add enough milk. Whatever. We all had last haircuts with Hiroko. We will miss her, we really will.


(I know I look pregnant, but I’m not, so jam it.)

At night we went out w/ Sara & Nick and it was really fun and they gave Bryan a mug that says “Don’t Be Daft” so we’re pretty much set. Saturday wee Pau had his first birthday and at night we very luckily scored a double-date on Faye & David’s coveted Ledbury booking. It was probably our last fancy London dinner out and it was the perfect company. Yesterday it was UK Mother’s Day and Bryan was sick so I just took the kids myself for a quiet, little breakfast at Nordic Bakery.


Nordic Bakery is among my favorite things in London. It is famous for its cinnamon rolls


but my heart belongs to this totally weird, and totally delicious thing:


And now it’s snowing. And I wish I was moving to Florida, not the mid-Atlantic. But I would miss the chicken parm and fettuccine alfredo, so I’ll just let it be.


Filed under a bunch of boring stuff, food, friends, london, music - HA!, photos, product placement, weather

it’s the one month countdown

(You have to sing that as dramatically as Europe did in its 1986 hit by a similar name.)

Actually we’re not really counting down at all. There’s probably a lot we should be doing but it’s too exhausting so instead I’m just focusing on this week being Half Term in the UK. Half term is roughly translated as “no school, no playgroups, no classes, good luck not going mental.” So we’ll see how that goes.

Spirits are high though because the sky has looked like this a fair amount lately:


It’s probably why Bryan and I spontaneously decided to actually go out on Valentine’s Day. (Who does that?) We saw the least/most romantic movie possible: This is 40. It opened on the 14th in London and the ads plastered on the sides of hundreds of red double-decker buses had me at iPad On the Toilet. It’s like if Bryan had no facial hair and I had a slamming body like Leslie Mann and ever did something as ridiculous as wear make-up and lingerie to bed, this ad would totally depict my life.


It was also a very funny movie IMHO.

IMG_3925Then the next day Jonah decided he loved being a cowboy so we picked up a Woody outfit at Disney World (Store, but what’s the difference to a little kid) just in time for his BFF Nina’s 4th birthday. Nina’s mum hired a professional Belle to lead all the kids’ activities and wow, was that a fantastic decision. I just drank beer and did very little. I love the fancy dress thing for kids’ parties here. Just the week before Jonah got to be a knight at another 4th birthday. Multiple Halloweens is never a bad idea.

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We spent Saturday at Kensington Gardens because I realized we should have one more Hyde Park visit.

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Saturday night we were with friends at The Shed in Notting Hill. All the servers were wearing versions of these:


and I was stressed about what to call them.

Flannels in the UK = wash cloths
Plaid is wrong because the patterns are really tartan. (From Wikipedia: “Flannel shirt” is often mistakenly used to refer to any shirt with a plaid or tartan pattern, rather than a shirt constructed of flannel fabric.)

Anna told me she just calls them lumberjack shirts.

So I Googled it and lo and behold. I learned something new.


Filed under friends, london, photos, product placement, translation, uh oh mommyblogging, weather

happy pancake day!

I am now fully embracing of this holiday. Just in time to leave.

I highly recommend the English-style method of preparing a pancake, and then smothering it with Nutella. It’s like a cross between a European crepe and an American-style pancake. Which is sort of what Great Britain is, isn’t it? Torn between two great partial-continents, but going at it alone like the English-style pancake island it is.

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Filed under food, holidays, photos, product placement

my favourite things #17

Shame, shame, shame on me. I did not write about a single favourite thing in 2012. Even though there are thousands to choose from.

Worse, I hadn’t yet mentioned the

electric tea kettle.


The one we have. Thank you, landlord.

A staple of every, single British home, hotel room and office space, the electric cordless tea kettle has changed my life. It’s not that they’re not available in the US, it’s that people in that crazy country don’t view them as an integral part of a home. Yet. Because when they discover how fast an electric tea kettle boils water for tea, pasta, eggs, filling a bathtub when the hot water heater is yet again up to no good, etc, well it’s only a matter of time. In a tea-loving, rainy, cold isle such as the one I am currently inhabiting, it makes sense. But I know an electric tea kettle can make a happy home anywhere.

As we speak, I am enjoying some chocolate tea in an I (heart) NY mug. My worlds colliding, but yet so cozy.


Filed under culture clash, food, product placement

gung hay fat choy

Happy Chinese New Year of the Snake. Snake! It’s not Rat, so there’s that.

We absolutely intended to head to the super fun, exciting parade ending in Chinatown and then the all-day festivities in Trafalgar Square. I have actually wanted to go every year we lived here and this year we finally decided to do it and even stepped outside the house with good intentions. Plus, I knew a trip to Chinatown meant I could stock up on packaged ramen.

But the weather was so dreadful – so rainy, cold and raw – we decided instead to go to John Lewis were the kids could at least play with some toys Made in China. According to Bryan.

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At least Melissa took the kids to Chinatown the other day and today we had family dim sum dinner at Royal China. It’s kind of an institution and I can’t believe it took us this long to go. Nothing like waiting until their busiest day of the year.

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Otherwise the past few days have had a coincidental starring-actors-of-Wreck-It Ralph theme. Matt was able to get tickets to see John Reilly and Friends Thursday night – a beautiful acoustic show in the lovely St-Giles-in-the-Fields church in Soho comprising John C Reilly and his two band mates covering old bluegrass and country songs.

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They are all incredibly talented and the show was produced by the very cool Black Cab Sessions, so check out John Reilly and Friends on it:

Then Saturday day we went to a 4 year-old birthday party and we got the little girl a toy with Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman) on it.

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Then Saturday night we went with the Trumbells to see Sarah Silverman at the Bloomsbury Theatre. (Are you catching all these tie-ins with the Disney movie premiere in London?) She definitely killed it, and me. Better than when we saw her early on in our London life. And we weren’t alone in feeling that way. This, from The Times:

She opened with a rape joke and ended by singing a stream of C-words. But in between Sarah Silverman went a good way towards atoning for her last British appearance, a notorious Hammersmith Apollo gig in 2008 at which she performed barely 50 minutes of mostly old material and then reacted with startled petulance when the audience wanted more from her.

I like how she infuses a lot of her off-the-cuff stand-up with actual messages she wants to deliver about feminist and being a strong woman. In a shocking turn of events though, Bryan and I got in not one, but two altercations with strangers at the show. I am never on my guard in London because in so many ways it is the antithesis of New York. There is so little confrontation here generally. The details are not important (also they might all be my fault), but Bryan definitely called a guy a d*ck twice to his face. My baby’s gotta get back to Gotham.

Speaking of the dark city, he was there on business all last week. I said “did it make you excited to move back?” and he said “I forgot how dirty and loud it was.” #cantwait

I may think there is very little confrontation in the UK but that doesn’t mean the pleasantness is all genuine. My brother Josh is trying to upset me and sent me this interesting article about how Pret A Manger (my favorite fast food on Earth) forces behavioral norms on its staff through mystery shopper reviews and a unique bonus scheme. Essentially arguing that “emotional labor” (people being forced as part of their jobs to be incredibly warm and happy towards customers) as a growing trend in the workforce is bad. Wait, what? How about you be fake nice to me and I keep buying your wares, mmmkay. Glad we could settle that.

Finally, America f*ck yeah. Tesco announced several months ago it was dedicating store space to special sections of American products. And now it’s all available on-line. Two Americans forwarded me the email within a 5-second span. It is kind of life changing.

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Filed under a bunch of boring stuff, celebrities, culture clash, food, friends, holidays, london, music - HA!, photos, product placement, weather