Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 544

What are these ‘Biscuits and Gravy’ that you speak of?

My British sister-in-law appears to be quite repelled by the American ‘delicacy’ that is ‘Biscuits and Gravy’.

Do Americans eat biscuits and gravy together?’ she asked, aghast.

To be fair, I think she assumed that the biscuits in question might be similar to either Rich Tea or, God forbid, a Digestive. I think you’d agree that a Milk Chocolate Digestive and Gravy is not a winning combination.

I assured my sister-in-law after she had come across, much to her disgust, several online recipes for Biscuits and Gravy Casserole that the biscuits were, in fact, akin to savoury scones.

The offending biscuits and gravy

The offending biscuits and gravy

My American chum then spouted forth about ‘cream chipped beef over biscuits or sausage gravy over biscuits’, which she declared as ‘disgusting’.

Let’s mull this over. When I spoke about Yorkshire Puddings recently to American friends, they were just as bemused….’So they’re like fluffy pancakes with chicken stock on? How strange! I’ll take maple syrup any day.’

This is a Biscuits and Gravy casserole. Excuse me while I leave the room....

This is a Biscuits and Gravy casserole. Excuse me while I leave the room….

‘Tis true, I am not a fan of Biscuits and Gravy – I’ve tried it in the form my American friend suggests, and in many other ways, at many American brunch buffets, and I confess it’s never won me over (I kind of hide it under my knife and wish I’d got more smoked salmon instead).

But, if you’re up for giving it a go back in the UK, this recipe’s supposed to be pretty good. It’s not a thing I’ll be taking back, though!

Ruby Tuesday

In the town in which I live there is a restaurant called Ruby Tuesday. It is a chain restaurant.

When I first arrived in the town in which I live I thought this might be a curry house. When my British friend arrived last week in the town in which I live she also said that she thought that this might be a curry house.

It is not a curry house. It is a sort of fast-food, diner-style place.

Not a curry house

Not a curry house

If this restaurant was in England and called Ruby Tuesday, it would definitely be a curry house, all thanks to Cockney Rhyming Slang. Fact.

(NB: American friends – Ruby Murray = Curry in Cockney Rhyming Slang) ;)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 543

Christmas roadtrip

Well, y’all, I’m practicing my Southern drawl, as we’re heading on out to Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee for our Christmas roadtrip and I cannot flippin’ well wait!

I love the South. I do. I love the temperatures, the oldy-worldy-ness of it, the people and the food.

We’re hitting all sorts of towns and cities, walking trails, Savannah for Christmas Day, staying at Indian reservations and lodging in the Smoky Mountains. Dreamy!

Cop a load of that view!

Cop a load of that view!

So, expect a long, long, long blog post after the Christmas break is over!

Another fabulous giveaway (if you live near Baltimore!)

Last year I went to see The Wizard of Oz in Baltimore and loved it. I wrote a lovely piece about it!

And the smashing people at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore like me so much now, that they’ve offered readers of this blog TWO PAIRS OF TICKETS to see Cirque Dreams Holidaze on 27 December.

How much fun!

How much fun!

This is what it’s all about!

‘Cirque Dreams lights up with 2014 holiday season with its critically acclaimed holiday stage extravaganza… Cirque Dreams Holidaze…a new cirque show…Broadway musical… and family Christmas spectacular all in one! Hailed by The New York Daily News as a “delicious confection of charm, sparkle and talent by the sleighload & so full of energy it could end our dependence on oil.” Don’t miss the international sensation that “Dazzled…at The Kennedy Center” according to the Washington Post.’

‘Be amazed by this holiday spectacle with over 300 costumes, 20 acts and 30 artists from every corner of the globe. Many of these acts have been featured on America’s Got Talent and similar TV shows in other countries making Cirque Dreams Holidaze the greatest holiday variety show on the planet!’

‘Witness snowmen, penguins, angels, reindeer, toy soldiers, gingerbread men, ornaments and of course Santa; with soaring acrobatics, gravity defying feats, elaborate production numbers, imaginative costumes, illusions and more. The show also celebrates the most wonderful time of the year with singers, original music and seasonal favorites all performed in a winter wonderland of amazement. See it in Baltimore before opening in NY in 2015!’

It looks fabulous and I wish I could go, but I can’t :( But you can!

To win the tickets, email me at with your guess of the name of my favourite Christmas movie (hint: it’s got Will Ferrell in it!)

Happy Holibobs, y’all!

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 542

The Best of British

I’ve been hunting high and low recently for some quality British jewellery. Oh, I like Americana stuff here, but there’s something about British jewellery style that I can’t pass up.

And lo, just three weeks before Christmas, I find just what I am looking for! Hiho Silver is a smashingly authentic British silver place with some divine pieces, and they’re all sort of country-fide and Britishy and horsey! I can imagine her Highness Duchess Kate sporting a few of these pieces when she’s doing her rounds at the Badminton Horse Trials :) .

Kate doing her thing at the Badminton Horse Trials

Kate doing her thing at the Badminton Horse Trials

What makes this jewellery so exquisitely British? Well, Hiho Silver is based in the UK in the Somerset countryside, in an old piggery where it’s not unusual to see a herd of cows or a flock of chickens charge by the window or for the animals to follow the staff through the Hiho office. I am not messing with you.

Hiho Logo hi res

The jewellery is based on ‘countryside lifestyle and equestrianism’ and is aimed at everyone in the ‘country’ scene in the UK. Yep, I am reckoning Zara Phillips has got her mitts on a few pieces in her time.

Anyway, chat away as I do with folk, and the lovely people at Hiho Silver like the Britishness of my blog in the USA, and they have offered a little give-away of one of their fabulous pieces to readers of this blog! You can give it to a loved one, girlfriend, wifey, lover or chum, or just keep it for yourself! ;) You can wear it with some wellies and pretend you’re all British and wotnot and like to drink Pimms and tea and say ‘Fancy that’ a lot.

Would you like to win a piece of Hiho Silver jewellery? Yes, Brits or Americans, or readers of this blog anywhere in the world, you can get this piece sent to you as a little silver treat! It’s a Silver Sterling Beaded Friendship Bracelet and it’s simply stunning.

You can win this!

You can win this!

Just answer this question and email me at by Friday 19 December with your name and address, or inbox me at the Desperate English Housewife in Washington Facebook page! I’ll announce the winner Friday 5pm USA time!

Question: Who is Zara Phillips married to?

Lovely Zara (who lives in Cheltenham, don't ya know!)

Lovely Zara (who lives in Cheltenham, don’t ya know!)

And that’s my Christmas gift to you, dear blog readers!

About Hiho Silver UK

There’s a great story behind Hiho Silver, which bubbled forth as an idea some 20 years ago, on a Thai ferry round the islands. One of the founders, Andrew and his sister, had just spent the last two months travelling in India and Thailand and were heading to the islands to relax and to do some diving. They were sat on a sack of potatoes next to a really chatty American man named Willy and over the next few days (and several bottles of Mekong whisky, very hot tom yum soup and some beautiful dives) they made a real friend for life.

Willy had started a business selling Mexican jewellery in the US and offered them the chance to bring the idea over to the UK. They literally jumped at the chance of going on an exploratory trip to the US and Mexico and whilst over there, planned the first show which went well and paid for stock for the next show, and so, with a wallpaper table, a purple velvet cloth and a rucksack of silver, the Hiho Silver story started…

Within four years, Hiho Silver was doing two hundred retail shows a year at venues like Henley Regatta, Cartier Polo, Glorious Goodwood and Badminton Horse Trials and then fourteen years later had a number of shops in small market towns with a fabulous team of people running them. You can’t get more of a British success story at British events than that!

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 541

The forking issue

Okay, here’s the deal: we Brits often comment on the way Americans eat. Yes, we do. #sorry

When I say ‘Americans’ I don’t mean all Americans, but some Americans. So don’t take offence if you’re not one of the Americans about whom I am referring, and if you are one of the Americans about whom I am referring, I am just writing a blog ‘taking the piss’ British style :) .

So, the American fork-eating thing is a thing we Brits often comment about. Yes, really, it’s true.

Why? What is so different about the way Americans and Brits eat?

Watch this.

And this.

And this.

It’s really all about the way we hold the fork. There are two basic methods for eating with a knife and fork. The “American” way involves having your fork in your left (often held in the fist, not with the index finger on top of the fork) and your knife in your right when cutting your food, then putting the knife down and switching your fork to your right hand to eat, tines facing upwards. (If you’re right-handed, that is.) With the “European” method, the fork remains in the left hand and the knife helps coax your food onto your fork. The tines remain facing downwards.

According to some etiquette books, the American style came to the States with the British colonists and took hold here, while the European method is a somewhat more recent change. Well I never! You mean my father’s descendants once held their forks like that? He’ll deny it! ;)

The European style is also referred to as “hidden handle” because the knife and fork are held in such a way that the handles are tucked into the palm and held by the thumb and forefinger.

The European way

The European way

The American style is also referred to as the “zig-zag method” where the fork is held like a spoon and indeed sometimes used like a spoon to scoop rather than spear food.

According to Wikipedia, American spies were exposed in at least two American films by using the wrong fork technique: O.S.S. (1946) and The Big Red One (1980). Genius!

We Brits talk about this fork thing a lot. And when I was in DC this very weekend I was given a fork that was impossible to hold using the European method I am used to (index finger on the top). So I had to hold the fork in my fist American-style and switch hands to eat. (NB: It was a very trendy hotel with uber-trendy cutlery (aka silverware) and I think it was more style over practicality!).

This is that fork.

The trendy fork

The trendy fork

Me trying to eat American-style

Me trying to eat American-style

The Robin Christmas card

‘Do you get Robins in the USA?’ asked a British friend who sent me this Christmas card, below.
‘Not like these little chaps,’ replied I. ‘They’re gurt big thrushes here in America-land.’

Little Robin Redbreast :)

Little Robin Redbreast :)

I don’t think I’ve seen a Christmas card (or ‘holiday’ card) with a robin on in the USA. What a quintessentially British thing it is!

Can you turn it down, please?

God knows I’ve tried to like them, but I just can’t do it. American sports bars, that is.

Argh, the noise!
Argh, the football!
Argh, the people on TV talking about football!

On Sunday I missed the good old British pub with the log fire and the oak tables and the roast dinners and the sing-song banter of old men reminiscing about times gone by (am I slightly romanticising this?!). Anyway, we took my British friend into an authentic American sports bar in Columbia with its 109 sports screens for the Ravens game. You know, just to experience it.

This. Ugh.

This. Ugh.

Good lord, never again! Especially at lunch time when an American football game is about to start. I couldn’t hear myself think, nor my friend and my husband speak, over the noise of the TV commentators.

‘Would it be possible to turn the TV down?’ I asked in my best British accent.
‘Um, it’s Sunday football in a sports bar,’ replied the waitress.

Fair enough. But that whole American sports bar thing is definitely not my cup of tea!

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 540

The English Dialect Coach

I love talking in my British/English accent in America – it’s been a useful tool. So useful that I am due to be the dialect coach for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s upcoming production of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde in the new year. #chuffedtobits

It will be interesting to work with American actors to perfect that high class British accent. I’ll have them all talking like Judy Dench and Rupert Everett in no time.

Everyone practice now – ‘Handbag’!

The British Embassy

We went to the British Embassy in Washington DC this weekend for the kids’ Christmas party. As we drove past the Embassies from the other countries along the route, my UK friend was in awe at the grandeur of the buildings. Then we came to the British Embassy, which, quite frankly looks just like a 1970s civil service building in Slough.

Civil service 1970s architecture at its best ;)

Civil service 1970s architecture at its best ;)

The Ambassador’s Residence is all together different, thankfully. It’s all very posh and smart, but when I am there I do think I have stepped back into the 1950s. Not a place to wear leopard print boots, I gather. Sadly, I don’t own a twin set and pearls to fit in there ;) .

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 539

Hectic life in the USA!

It’s been utterly hectic in America-land this week just gone. My UK friend will need a holiday to get over the busy week she’s had.

So, what have we been up to?

Let’s talk about the trip to NYC for the Dr Oz show.

The bus
I nearly missed my bus to NYC, mostly because I can’t follow the Sat Nav when they put new effing roads in on the I95 in Baltimore! I had to run (in my heels) to attempt to catch my bus, which was just pulling away, and I now know that nothing gets more attention than yelling ‘That’s my bloody bus to New York!’ in a British accent around a group of Americans. Bless them for all cheering when I got on. And off I headed to New York City.

Happy to be in NYC!

Happy to be in NYC!

The trip
I got three glimpses of New York this time round, only because I was making my way to the ABC studios via cab to be a guest on the Dr Oz show. Why would you do this? some people asked. Why not? I replied. For the record, the NYC I saw out of the cab window was both sunny and cloudy, wintry and Christmassy and as mad and delightful as ever.

Just got a glimpse of the city!

Just got a glimpse of the city!

The show
I confess I have never actually seen the Dr Oz show, I’m just kind of aware of his name in a slightly controversial way. Anyhow, that did not put me off. What’s not to like about being a guest on one of the USA’s most successful daytime shows?!

The Dr. Oz Show is a TV talk show, hosted by Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon and teaching professor at Columbia University who became famous for his appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show. He was very pleasant, to be fair.

In my dressing room backstage

In my dressing room backstage

My Dr Oz dressing room :)

My Dr Oz dressing room :)

Slightly enjoying the moment!

Slightly enjoying the moment!

He focuses a lot on diet and weight loss, and, in this case, for me, insomnia. I’d spent all week making home videos about my insomnia and sent them off to the producers.

This is how it worked on the day: the TV audience were getting entertained by some ‘comedian'; I get pulled on stage by the crew who show me where to stand etc, then I have 25 seconds before the cameras roll and they show my home videos, and then Dr Oz and a sleep expert (who was very sweet) come and talk to me about how I have or haven’t been sleeping (I tell them and the audience murmurs slightly at my British accent), then Dr Oz and sweet sleep expert tell me what I should do about it (take a 10 step plan to better my sleep) and then everyone claps and cheers and they wish me well.

The show will be aired in January, so watch this blog for more info!

The jacket
However, dear readers, let it be known that Dr Oz’s wardrobe team does not like shoulders on TV. I had been instructed to wear colour, which is hard for me, since I wear mostly black. Yet I pulled out a summer dress, which they liked until I actually wore it, and then they commented that there was too much leg (of course) and too much shoulder (WTF?!). Too much shoulder? I was advised that this is a daytime show. They decided to cover my shoulders. Shoulders are obviously very offensive to middle-American housewives. So they rolled out this dreadful polyester jacket in black (IN BLACK!! I would have worn black anyway if I had been allowed!) that was two sizes too big, and there I stood on set dressed like a middle-aged American school mom with a penchant for JC Penney’s sale bargains. Sigh. I did not feel like me at all!

I did attempt to walk out on to set without the jacket by taking it off and pretending to be hot, but they caught me just before I walked through the curtains. Damn! I salvaged an ounce of street cred by rolling up the sleeves slightly. But that jacket will give me nightmares for a while yet!

Thumbs down for the middle-aged mom jacket ;)

Thumbs down for the middle-aged mom jacket ;)

And that was my Dr Oz experience. They were a professional production team, and the dressing room snacks were awesome, so, despite the jacket incident, it was all pretty darn cool for a day in NYC.

The pint
After the show I went for a pint in The Spotted Pig in NYC. They had proper British pint glasses! Way to go, NYC!

A much-needed pint after the show (not recommended by Dr Oz) ;)

A much-needed pint after the show (not recommended by Dr Oz) ;)

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Desperate English Housewife in Washington, chapter 538

The Dr Oz Show

Who is Dr Oz and why am I writing about him? Is he an Australian Doctor in the Outback, as I first thought? No, he is not.

He is a TV doctor on the ABC network in New York, and he has a big following with stay-at-home-moms and other such folk who might like to watch TV in the daytime (not judging! ;) ) I think he’s a bit like that doctor that Richard and Judy used to have on This Morning in the UK – Chris Whatshisface – except Chris Whathisface is a bit less controversial.

Oh yes, Do Oz is quite a controversial figure in the fitness, weight loss and nutrition industry, but let’s push that to one side for the purpose of this blog and let’s talk about ME BEING ON HIS SHOW! WTF?!!

Dr Oz, who is not Australian :)

Dr Oz, who is not Australian :)

When I tell people I am going on his show they’ve cried: ‘How did you make that happen?!’ Well, I’m not giving away my secrets!

So, tomorrow I’m heading to New York City – the place I love and the place that is alive! – to sit in a TV studio and talk to Dr Oz about my insomnia! I’m so tired all the time that even as I write this I’m nodding off (as I suspect you are whilst reading it ;) ). So, that is my day tomorrow. And why not, hey? It’s all about the experience, folks (and getting my British face/arse on American TV!).

British visitor

My friend’s time in the USA is nearly up.

I think it’s been interesting for her to see a different way of life out here. My life is hectic anyway, but it’s been a pleasure to share it with a fellow Brit for the week.

Fun times in Columbia, MD

Fun times in Columbia, MD

She thinks I’ll struggle slightly with life when I go back to the UK. I think I will too. We’ll see what happens, folks.

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