Category Archives: The UK

Jif Lemon Day!

If  you are American, today is Mardi Gras.  If you are Catholic, today is the day before Lent.  If you are British, today is Shrove Tuesday, better known as Pancake Day!  OK, technically the same as Shrove Tuesday, but let’s skirt over technicalities here.

I have often wondered why I have never heard the term ‘Shrove Tuesday’ here.  Wikipedia set me straight:

Shrove Tuesday is a term used in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia for the day preceding the first day of the Christian season of fasting and prayer called Lent.

The word shrove is the past tense of the English verb shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of confession and doing penance. Thus Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the shriving that English Christians were expected to do prior to receiving absolution immediately before Lent begins. Shrove Tuesday is the last day of “shrovetide”, somewhat analogous to the carnival tradition that developed separately in countries of Latin Europe. The term “Shrove Tuesday” is no longer widely known in the United States outside of Liturgical Traditions, such as the Lutheran, Episcopal, and Roman Catholic Churches.  Because of the increase in many immigrant populations and traditions since the 19th century “Mardi Gras” is much more widely-used.

The festival is widely associated with the eating of foods such as pancakes, and often known simply as Pancake Day, originally because these used up ingredients such as fat and eggs, the consumption of which was traditionally restricted during Lent.

Like most other traditions (like how Americans eat corned beef on St. Paddy’s Day, even though the Irish never have.  When the great famine occurred and they fled Ireland and landed in America, bacon was too expensive to eat with their cabbage  — known as Bubble and Squeak, btw — so they adopted the Jewish tradition of eating the beef instead.  Never let it be said you don’t learn something when you come here), protocol is dropped, and regardless of your religious affiliation or not, everyone makes pancakes for dinner tonight.

Pancakes aren’t just looked upon as a breakfast staple in the UK, in fact, you can eat pancakes anytime you want, and you don’t even have to give the excuse of having ‘breakfast for dinner’ to do it either.  I used to love stopping by the local bakery on my way to work, and ask for a buttered pancake.  It was such a good treat.

Growing up, my mum made two types of pancakes, the thinner, more crepe-like version (served with sugar and (jif) lemon juice), and the other hockey-puck thick version.  My mum’s are much sweeter than my husband is used to.

n.b.  my mum uses a coffee/tea mug to measure out the ingredients.  Aye, I know.  So, when I say cup, I mean MUG.


1 cup sugar
4 – 4.5 cups of flour
pinch of salt
pinch of baking powder
3 eggs
20 fl. oz milk (a British pint)

Combine everything in a large bowl, adding the flour last, gradually.

Makes: emm . . . a lot.

Here’s a great recipe for crepes:

1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine flour, milk, eggs, and oil.  Add salt.  Heat a lightly greased 6 inch skillet; remove from heat.  Spoon in 2 Tbsp batter; lift and tilt skillet to spread evenly.  Return to heat; brown on one side only.  To remove, invert pan over paper towel.  Repeat with remaining batter.  Fill with your favourite filling.

Makes 7.


Photo Hunt: Support

This broken down jetty in my hometown in Scotland doesn’t offer much support for anything, quite frankly; but I love how corrosion has formed and shaped the structure into a piece of art, amidst the deleterious River Clyde.

Click here to see a bigger version.

Bring Me Your Junk

Of all the things I actually craved about being back in the UK, it had to be stuffing my face with nonsense: Auld’s (legendary) Fudge Doughnuts, sausage rolls, curry, and of course, most things deep fried. You’d be forgiven for thinking I’ve come back a “Lardass”, and by rights I really should have. There weren’t many meals (and non-meals) I ate that were hitting every nutritional requirement, if, indeed at all.

It was great.

It’s amazing how tasting something we haven’t been able to enjoy in a while gives us comfort. Imagine my horror as I chewed my way through a Pot Noodle, only to discover
they’d taken all the bad crap out of it–it was almost healthy!  It was horrible!  And, as I drowned it with a tall, cold glass of Tizer, I almost sprayed that all over the adjacent wall. “No artificial colours or preservatives??!!” What are they trying to do to me? Prolong my life?” It was reduced to red-coloured Sprite, instead of the fruit-flavoured, bright red drink full of hallucinogenic E numbers we’d all grown to love and become accustomed to.

To make matters worse, organic food was the same price as non. Keep things up like this and the UK’ll be getting a good name for itself.

The Prelude to the End

I miscalculated a little on the days of the week, we’re actually leaving Heathrow today.  I’m in a Premier Inn as we speak with a hotel-sterile white towel wrapped around my head.  What a nightmare getting here from Glasgow.  It was fine until we hit the Heathrow terminal exits and then everything went pear-shaped.  We ended up an hour late to the hotel from being lost and looping around the M4 more times than I care to remember.  Then, when we finally abandoned the driving directions and made our own way there from seeing the place from the motorway, they told us we were at the wrong one and had to drag our lifeless bodies back into the car and drive another 15 minutes up the road.  All in all, it took us 11 hours to get here.

There is solace in that our direct flight to Denver doesn’t leave until 1 p.m., but then again, we still have to find our way to the National car rental drop off which of course, isn’t next to the airport.  We should be getting into Missoula around 11:30 p.m. and then have a 45-minute drive home.

Did I mention how much I miss my own bed?

Even More Answers – Thursday Thirteen

1. GlassHallFull asked:
Have you read anything by Alexander McCall Smith? (he’s an Edinburgh native and one of my favorite authors.)
No, I haven’t read any of his books. I am trying to read more, but sadly the boys take up all of my free time. Even when the little one naps, I’m probably recovering the house from the devastation they both caused.

2. Do you have any favorite books or movies?
The one series I have followed was Harry Potter. A friend talked me into reading them about eight months before book 5 came out. I really want to get into all the big Chick Lit books and actually bought a few quite a while ago. They’re still waiting to be discovered by me. I actually enjoy most books I read on some level. The only book I didn’t enjoy was one I read by myself for an assignment for a (like AP) English class. I picked a genre and “Catcher in the Rye” was listed in it. Maybe the reason I didn’t enjoy it was because I may not have understood all the terms. I have no idea. All I know is, I was glad when I was done with it.

Movies. I love films and have a varied taste when it comes to picking something. I love the Shawshank Redemption; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Black Sheep, Happy Gilmore, The Pursuit of HappYness, 13 Going on 30, Night at the Museum, The Goonies, Back to the Future I & II. I love anything to do with time travel, like Frequency too. I also gravitate towards ‘Based on a true story” films. Although I don’t watch them as often as I used to, when it comes to scary films, ones that mess with my mind are the good ones. Unfortunately Signs and The Ring made me laugh.

3. Toni asked:
Are we Americans really as rude as we are told?
The only thing I took as a little rude and off-putting was when talking with a group of people. I found (and still find) that if someone is talking and it spurs someone else’s train of thought, they will interject and continue the conversation over them. Having had to fend for myself and drop the “she’s quiet” and “she keeps to herself” labels, I now do it myself. I have cut my poor mother off in so many conversations now.

I don’t know if I would use the word rude, but Americans are much more likely to voice their opinions rather than keep it to themselves (like my Mum who would blow up over stuff someone else did or said to her after it had festered in her for hours). I have always been able to stand up for myself a little bit more than my Mum (she taught me to, ironically), but living here has strengthened it.

In California, I noticed less people hold doors open for others.

Living here I don’t see it, but I think there are certain aspects to life where others could construe it as being arrogant. Occasionally, Bryan and I will banter back and forth spewing mock insults at one another’s country, one night he made some remark and I retorted, “You only despise the French because they’re more arrogant than you are.” He laughed, so I won! I find Americans to be very generous and open-minded.

4. Momisodes asked:
Do people ask you to repeat yourself often?
Moreso over the phone than anything else, or if it’s someone who’s never met me. I used to get it a lot when I first got here because people said I was ‘too soft spoken’. Bryan still says that.

5. Does it drive you nuts?
It does when it gets to be the fourth or fifth time, yeah. I’ve watered my accent down a bit just because of that. I also change a lot of my words because I got tired of repeating myself or eventually having to think of the American word for it anyway.

6. Karen MEG asked:
How often do you have to spell your name out for people, say on an average day?
Any time I have to say it, I have to spell it. The sad thing is, in Scotland the name was just getting popular in the last five years or so before I left. As an example, I had never heard my name called out in public where it wasn’t someone I knew calling after me. I was in a clothes store in Glasgow when I heard a mother yell out, “Siobhan! Put that down and get over here!” You’d be right in thinking I wet myself. Sometimes I joke with people who ask:
THEM: “How do you spell that?”
ME: “Like it sounds…”
THEM: “CH…?”
ME: “No–”
THEM: “SH…?”
ME: “Haha no…”
And then I put them out of their misery. The exact thing happened at Costco one day when I went to pick up my contacts. “CH or SH?” “Neither, SI.” She actually huffed at me. I’ve met about thirteen Siobhans in my lifetime. More than you’d think were here in the States.

7. The Grand View asked:
Tell the truth; Scottish or American cuisine?
Sarcastic answer? The only true American food that I can think of are hot dogs, casseroles and pies. (But not apple pies. I too was surprised last year when I learned the Pilgrims brought the recipe over with them from England. Who knew?) Everything else is kinda adopted. And at that, if I do eat a hot dog, the only ones I’ll touch are Hebrew National, I’ve liked them for eight years now.

I used to say, throw anything in a 13 by 9 here and it’s suddenly a casserole!

No contest.

8. Elizabeth asked:
Celtics or Rangers?
Although I’ll happily watch football now (on my own schedule and if I so choose–long story), I tend to steer away from those two teams–especially the Old Firm games. I’ll watch anything else though.

My step-dad was more than an avid fan, he was obsessed. If there wasn’t a game on TV, he’d watch a compilation of pre-recordings he’d made. On Saturdays, he’d watch one on TV, listen to another on the radio and watch a live game out the kitchen window (looked over the local stadium) all simultaneously. After they were done, he’d watch the highlights of other games around the country. I grew to despise Saturdays and would leave for hours just to get away from it.

9. Joy T. asked:
Have you ever been to Canada?
No, but I would LOVE to go. I have always wanted to go there. We’re only four hours from the border, and now that the boys have their birth certificate/passport, we have no excuse! Bryan had never been there until his business trip last month. I was spitting glass at him.

10. Do you plan on blogging forever?
Forever seems so indefinite to me. (See last answers I gave). I’m not sure really. I’ve almost given up twice now. Although it’s cathartic at times and definitely enjoyable to interact with others and share thoughts I may not normally voice in outdoor life, it can be time consuming and addictive! I still can’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ though.

11. Where do you see your blog being 5 years from now?
Everyone wants to be popular and I won’t deny that I haven’t thought about it. It can be a little disheartening to anyone if you don’t get some sort of feedback. I’m not looking for Dooce, Rocks in my Dryer or IamBossy et al levels, but I’m kinda secretly looking forward to the day when I get 50+ comments.

I’ve always wanted my own website, but all the names I have wanted are taken. We’ll see, I may still do it. In five years, I doubt I’ll still never want to be labelled a “Mommy Blogger” though. I’m stubborn like that.

12. VA Biker asked:
Do you care for Craig Ferguson?
Oh how I love Craig…his coy smile, his shout-y serious voice and when he laughs at his own jokes. His skits kinda creep me out a wee bit, but I’ll forgive him for that. He admits he “Googles” himself (“I like to Google my Yahoo!”), and I hope he finds this! I’ve always wanted to send in an e-mail, but can’t quite come up with anything good enough. I am very happy for him and his success here. Funny thing is, my husband used to watch Conan religiously for years, he now switches over for Craig without blinking. Muahaha!

13. anglophilefootballfanatic asked:
What do you think of Gordon Brown?
(New Prime Minister who took over from Tony Blair.) As politicians go, he’s pretty damn ugly. Oh…wait. I really only knew him as the Chancellor of the Exchequer (i.e. not very well), but aside from being a very well educated and highly intelligent man, he has a prolific education and political career. I like his forward thinking and policy initiatives. I also like that he’s Scottish. It’s about time.

What about total Scottish independence?
If it’s economically sustainable, I have no qualms about it.

Bonnie Prince Charlie?
I think his cause was (and to a certain extent, remains) noble, he gained a lot of support (and rightly so), specifically from Highlanders, but I also think he made many careless mistakes in battle that cost others their lives. Like most leaders, his life wasn’t without scandal or the lack of women. I almost wish more political or moral leaders were like those of the past, there’s definitely something to be learned there.

Queen Mary?
I’ll assume the First, right?
I actually feel really bad for her. Her Dad (Henry VIII), obviously loved her, gave her her own court at Ludlow castle and many royal prerogatives usually only bestowed upon males, then later in her life, disown her and halt her causes and progress. OK, so we’ll skim over the fact that she gained the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’ thanks to a few (fine, over 300) dissenters she had beheaded, but still, I can’t help but pity her, and all because of her father’s love for a bit of skirt (that could produce a male). Even though he was her biological father, due to a remarriage, she was declared illegitimate from that point and eventually lost all of the rights she had. I mainly feel bad that she had to stoop to gain favour with her father again. Henry (in my opinion), was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. I am impressed mostly, that she held to her faith and never wavered, despite being in the monarchy and in the minority.

The role of the monarchy in the 21st C?
I think my opinion has changed slightly, living over here. I think I now respect the tradition, the pomp and circumstance, if you will. I love that “uniforms” and ceremonies of the guards and Beefeaters haven’t changed through the centuries and that tradition holds true. However, the Royal Family – despite refute – hold quite a substantial burden on the UK. I think the role of the monarchy has changed dramatically just in the last century. I also think Princess Diana was one of the only ‘good’ ones left and I was sad that she died. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that they all have causes they support and they’ve all been in the military at one time or another, but I think in my mind, they have less importance and relevance to the British public now, more than ever. In fear of being stoned by some English friends, that’s all I’m saying.

It’s spicy, but herby. Doesn’t really taste of anything else other than that. I think it’s funny that so many Americans get up in arms about it or grossed out when there’s Rocky Mountain Oysters, Scrapple and, dare I say–hot dogs?

If you made it this far (without skipping), I love you.

Scrolling Saturdays – A Post From the Past

I feel like this is the only subject I have harped on about for the past few weeks, but some of my most favourite posts are the ones I am sharing. This is one of the other posts I was thinking of re-publishing last week. It was originally written 10 August 2005.

I miss Scotland, but I’d also miss the U.S. if I wasn’t here. I know this unequivocally because I’ve experienced it in the past. I spent a year-and-a-half in PA and went home to Scotland in late November 1997. It was a rough adjustment at first. It was also a rather interesting experience. Scotland is a *touch* greener than the east coast. ‘Why’ I hear you ask? Partly due to the 150 inches of precipitation per year we experience. I missed my family greatly, and I spent the first 4 days home telling them they “talked funny”, to be met with the “you sound like that too” defensive rebuttal. I was therefore grateful I had not lost my (alleged) accent.

I also had a greater appreciation for the old architecture in Scotland, and old things in general. I had someone in Pennsylvania tell me, “This house is a hundred years old …” I tried to look awe-struck, flabbergasted — anything really. But in reality, all I could think about was the protected tree outside my church in Scotland that had been around just as long. The irony of the story was the woman showing me her home was from Hull (England) originally. Interesting.

I had been living back in the U.K. for 2 years when I decided to come back to the States, just for 6 months though. I missed something, and I still have no idea what it was. Six-and-a-half years later (at the time), I am still here, my immediate family remaining in Scotland. I was talking online to my younger brother yesterday, a blessing in itself. It’s comforting to talk to him, even if the conversation is the demise of Scottish life with the infestation of neds (non-educated delinquents, aka chavs).

During our casually ramblings, my dear brother decides to flash miniature photographs of my hometown in the Messenger window. My reaction was a lot like it has been in the past when I have seen it in pictures. I felt strange, hollow almost. Something was missing from me for that small moment. And yet, a connection, a feeling of security swept over me. It’s something I know, recognise, identify with — whatever you want to call it.

My night dreams are still based in Scotland with America mixed in for good measure. Sometimes I feel like I am in a country purgatory, neither here nor there. It’s especially noticeable to me if I watch “The Weakest Link” on BBC America and try to answer British questions, only to realise I don’t remember anything, and am so behind the times – 6 years to be exact. So I take comfort in the fact that I have somewhat of a longevity here and watch “The Weakest Link” on GSN, and I am beaten down quickly as I come to the realisation that I don’t know as much as I thought I did. Maybe I should stick with “Jay Walking” on the Leno show. I know more than those people, especially politics and American history. But then again, they never show the smart people.

Anyway, maybe I wanted to point out to myself that it’s amazing the things we all take for granted. But I really endeavour not to. With everything. I promised myself when I got married that I would always tell my husband that I loved him at least once a day, and I have lived up to my own promise, 1826 days later. It’s not a hollow “I love you” that reverberates against tall buildings or sinks in shallow waters. I treasure him, he is precious to me.

So why the introspective comments and serious demeanour of this post? I feel the need to pay homage to life, give it the respect it deserves. And in doing so, proclaim that there is nothing more strengthening or humbling than being that of an ex-pat.

Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night

Every November 5th, Guy Fawkes night is celebrated in the U.K. with bonfires and fireworks to commemorate the dissident’s failed attempt to blow up Parliament on November 5th, 1605.

It was intended to be the beginning of a great uprising of English Catholics, who were distressed by the increased severity of penal laws against the practice of their religion.  The conspirators, who began plotting early in 1604, expanded their number to a point where secrecy was impossible. The group included Robert Catesby, John Wright, and Thomas Winter, the originators, Christopher Wright, Robert Winter, Robert Keyes, Guy Fawkes, a soldier who had been serving in Flanders, Thomas Percy, John Grant, Sir Everard Digby, Francis Tresham, Ambrose Rookwood, and Thomas Bates. Percy hired a cellar under the House of Lords, in which 36 barrels of gunpowder, overlaid with iron bars and firewood, were secretly stored. The conspiracy was brought to light through a mysterious letter received by Lord Monteagle, a brother-in-law of Tresham, on October 26, urging him not to attend Parliament on the opening day. The 1st earl of Salisbury and others, to whom the plot was made known, took steps leading to the discovery of the materials and the arrest of Fawkes as he entered the cellar. Other conspirators, overtaken in flight or seized afterward, were killed outright, imprisoned, or executed.

Today, one of the ceremonies which accompanies the opening of a new session of Parliament is a traditional searching of the basement by the Yeoman of the Guard. It has been said that for superstitious reasons, no State Opening of Parliament has or ever will be held again on November 5th. This, however, is a fallacy since on at least one occasion (in 1957), Parliament did indeed open on November 5th. The actual cellar employed for the storage of the gunpowder in 1605 by the conspirators was damaged by fire in 1834 and totally destroyed during the rebuilding of the Palace of Westminster in the Nineteenth Century. Also known as “Firework Night” and “Bonfire Night,” November 5th was designated by King James I (via an Act of Parliament) as a day of thanksgiving for “the joyful day of deliverance.” This Act remained in force until 1859. On the very night of the thwarted Gunpowder Plot, it is said that the populace of London celebrated the defeat by lighting fires and engaging in street festivities. It would appear that similar celebrations took place on each anniversary and, over the years, became a tradition. In many areas, a holiday was observed, although it is not celebrated in Northern Ireland.

Guy Fawkes Night is not solely a British celebration. The tradition was also established in the British colonies by the early American settlers and actively pursued in the New England States under the name of “Pope Day” as late as the Eighteenth Century. Today, the celebration of Guy Fawkes and his failed plot remains a tradition in such places as Newfoundland (Canada) and some areas of New Zealand, in addition to the British Isles.