Archive | July, 2011

Forever 21 opens in London

27 Jul

Why do I feel a desire to punch this girl?

Today Forever 21 opened in London. I’ve been shopping there on and off since 2004. Back then it was only on State Street in Chicago — not in the Florence, Kentucky mall — so it was a big deal to shop there. I also remember their clothing being more “normal” then (and by “normal” I mean, well, not this (I wish I had created that blog.)) I bought relatively conservative sweaters and skirts there when I used to dress like a career mom. Then all of a sudden they started selling clothing that even the ’80s would have shunned. But they still had the best and cheapest camis — I have an entire drawer full of them. And they occasionally have panda shirts. I currently have five panda shirts, two of which are from Forever 21. You can never have too many panda shirts.

So even though Forever 21 isn’t my absolute favorite store, I felt compelled to go to their opening. I guess I thought there would be freebies of some sort. And I love freebies. When I went to the opening of Victoria’s Secret in Chicago (by accident) they gave me a $10 gift card.

All I got from Forever 21 in London was a 10% off a purchase of £35 or more coupon from a girl on roller skates. And claustrophobia. It seems everyone else in London thought it’d be cool to go to the store’s opening too, so it was packed to the max. People were shopping like mad. I just couldn’t get into it. Partly because of the crowds, but also because I find Forever 21 stores so hard to navigate. I have this habit of looking on their website and finding clothes I like, but then I’m never able to find them in the store. The store sells an obscene amount of clothing and it’s everywhere. Since this store is new it was relatively organized, but back in the US I always seem to find lone items of clothing and the correct size I need is either missing or on the other end of the store. The employees never seem to know either since they redo the store so often. But I think the biggest reason I didn’t buy anything in London was because of the prices. Yes, they were cheap, but not US-cheap. A skirt that costs $5.50 in the US is priced £5.50 here, which is really almost $9. Rip off. If I were a native Londoner I’d probably be jumping at the chance to get a £5.50 skirt, but not when I know I’ll be back in the US eventually and can get it there. So I left Forever 21 and went next store to H&M, where I bought a dress that I could probably get in the US cheaper. … Wait…


21 Jul

Well, friends, the time has come. I haven’t been happy with my old theme for awhile — the font was too small and the background too dark. But I’m a creature of habit and wasn’t quite ready to take the redesign plunge (by “redesign,” I mean clicking on a pre-designed free WordPress theme template). But now felt like a good time. I also changed my header to better reflect what this blog is about.  And occasionally this blog is about pandas, so the panda stays. Plus, I really like pandas. I’m embarassed to admit how long that header took me to make with my rudimentary Photoshop skills, but I like the way it turned out. I hope you do too. So enjoy the new layout, dear readers, and if you get nostalgic about the way the blog used to look, just look as this screenshot:

Beep beep! Evacuate the building! Or keep buying celery!

18 Jul

Have you ever noticed how unaffected we are by alarms these days? How many times do you hear a car alarm go off and actually call the police because someone’s car is being stolen? In most cases someone hit “Panic” instead of “Unlock” on their key (guilty of that), or a stray ball hit the car. In any case, the noise brings feelings of “Dear god when is it going to stop?” instead of “I hope that person’s car is OK.” It happens at the store too — those alarms at the door that are supposed to guard against shoplifters just make a lot of unneccessary noise. I don’t know how many times I’ve set them off — and who knows how — and I’m just ushered through, no bag check or anything. When I was at the Vatican with my family recently we had to wait in a long metal detector line to get into St. Peter’s Cathedral. My mom set the alarm off and they sent her through without a check, and I didn’t even have my bag X-rayed. What was the point of that queue?

I bring all this up because I was in Sainsbury’s today, looking for the best bunch of celery to get, when an extraordinarily loud alarm went off, much louder than the usual “Someone may or may not be shoplifting, but who wants to check?” buzzer. I almost took it as a sign from the universe that my attempts to eat healthy were crazy — I don’t even really like celery! But I put the celery in my cart, and as I was about to grab carrots, the alarm went off again. (Cue Job Bluth’s “Come onnnn!”) This time the beeping was followed by, “Evacuate the building immediately!” over the loudspeaker. This wasn’t something I heard often — or ever — at the grocery store, and almost panicked, but instead I did a quick “Is the building on fire because someone at the cafe microwaved something in an aluminium wrapper?” look around. No one was running for the door and everyone was going about their shopping like nothing had happened. Finally I heard a cashier say, “It’s just a test.” (I probably arrived at the store just after the “Don’t be alarmed by the alarm that’s about to sound, it’s a test” announcement.) It was a relief, but it made me think about how desensitized we are to alarms now. They said to evacuate the building and I just stood there, looking for the bag of carrots with the latest expiration date. What if the building really was on fire?

I guess the closet I’ve ever come to “This is not a drill” was in high school when the biology class conducted a lab in which they burned Cheetos to determine their calories… or something like that, it’s been awhile since I’ve taken bio. All I remember is that it smoked out the school and we all had to go stand outside in the rain while the firemen came and did an inspection while asking the same thing as the rest of us — “Cheetos? Really?” The bio teacher has been teaching there for 40 years, but the Cheeto incident is something he’ll always be known for.

And on a completely unrelated note, today wasn’t a bad day because I saw a pug. (Remember?) He was wandering down Finchley Road without a leash, which is common here, then wandered right into an Oxfam shop like it was no big deal and he just wanted some vintage trousers. It was almost as good as the random tied-together wandering pugs of Portobello Road. (How did I not blog about this? It was back in October last year. Here is a poor quality picture I took. They were too fast for me):


A post about sandwiches

14 Jul

I have a love-hate relationship with sandwiches. For the most part, I love them. I could really go for some Panera or Jimmy John’s now. In fact, whenever I go out to eat, I often order a sandwich. But for some reason, I hate making sandwiches at home. They never taste the same. I think it goes back to my childhood days when my parents would pack sandwiches for us to eat on road trips to Cleveland. Mine would inevitably end up on the bottom of the cooler, squished under a can of pop, and tasting faintly like a Ziploc bag. So whenever I think about making a sandwich at home, I think of that smushed, bag-tasting baloney sandwich, and I’m put off.

If you remember, when we first moved here I was obsessed with the Tesco meal deal, where I got a boxed sandwich, bag of chips (crisps), and drink for £2. But recently they jacked the price up to £2.50, and for some reason that really bothered me. The meal deal no longer seemed like the great deal I once thought it was, especially when I eat it at home and don’t really need the drink. So I got smart. Instead of buying the meal deal, I started buying just the sandwich for £1.40. I went to that unpronounceable grocery store Lidl and bought an 18-pack of my favorite bags of crisps for less than £3. That’s less than 16p a bag! Who needs a meal deal?

But then I was on a money-saving roll, and started thinking about the sandwich. Was a boxed sandwich consisting of just bread, ham and mustard-mayo really worth £1.40? So I decided to conquer my sandwich-making-at-home fear, and I bought a loaf of bread, thin-sliced ham, and mustard mayo. How could I go wrong?

Well… I bought the wrong kind of mustard mayo. I usually don’t like mustard, but anything tastes good when its mixed with mayonnaise. I looked on my favo[u]rite website,, and saw Branston mayo with a twist of mustard and onion was on sale. Perfect! But then I got to the store and they didn’t have it. Instead of buying Hellmann’s mustard mayo, I had Branston and the sale on my mind, so I got Branston salad cream classic with a hint of Dijon mustard. I should have noted that it said “Great in egg sandwiches!” on the front, and not “Great in ham sandwiches!” Because, you know what, it’s not great in ham sandwiches. Instead of giving that perfect creamy mustard taste that balances out the sandwich, it makes the sandwich taste like vinegary egg salad, which didn’t help my homemade sandwich aversion. So now I’m stuck. Do I call it a loss and go back to buying £1.40 sandwiches? Or do I try Hellmann’s dijon mustard mayonnaise for £1.79? Or maybe I should boil some eggs and make an egg salad sandwich with my salad cream, or squeeze some salad cream into my mouth, swish a hard-boiled egg around, and have a mayonegg.

Slacking and accents

12 Jul

It appears I am turning into one of those bloggers who rarely posts. Which is not cool. I promise I have some stuff in the pipeline, I just need to get it on paper (or the screen, I guess). Every night for the past week as I’m flossing I think about this great blog post I’m going to write about floss. But then the next day goes by and I never write the post. I also never cut the pineapple that’s been in the fridge for over a week, but I digress. In short, I’ve been busy, but hope to post some quality stuff in the near future.

Until then, here’s a little story about my experience getting my hair coloured today.

I went to get my hair coloured today with my very first London Groupon. For less than the price of color in the US, I was getting a full head of highlights, a hair cut and manicure. As much as I hate going to a new salon, I was all over the deal. I had the usual impersonal, awkward experience with my new stylist that made me miss my Kentucky one. The lady I had today was a bit of a scatterbrain who kept dropping the clips and comb and left me with foils in my hair for an hour without a magazine. For an hour I had nothing to do but stare at myself under the intense florescent lighting, wondering if my dark circles are that noticeable in normal lighting.

My stylist asked me where my accent was from, which is the first time anyone’s ever asked me that. I didn’t know what to say. I’m still getting used to the fact that I even have an “accent.” I like to think I have a rather neutral American accent, which in the US is deemed not having an accent. I spent my learning-to-talk years in Pittsburgh, but I certainly don’t have a Pittsburgh accent, yinz. And y’all know I don’t talk like I’m from Kentucky. So I told her “Chicago,” because it was a place I’ve lived that Europeans recognize. “Oh. I just know it sounds like you’re from some place I’d want to go,” she said, before launching into a story about how much she hates airplanes. I should have told her she’d like Chicago, but could skip Florence, Kentucky unless she wants to buy lots of cheap stuff on Mall Road, which might actually be appealing to someone who is used to paying London prices.

Celebrating USA in the UK

6 Jul

So we spent Independence Day in the country our country declared independence from. (Yes, this is a delayed post). It wasn’t as weird as I thought it’d be. In fact, it wasn’t weird at all. This might be because we live in St. John’s Wood, which may as well be Little America or Americatown. (The American School in London is in the neighborhood, so many American families choose to live nearby). On Sunday night I witnessed a few fireworks displays from my bedroom window, and on Monday some people went all out. We went to Stephen’s boss’s house to hang out with other Americans and eat hamburgers and hot dogs outside, light sparklers, and play ping pong while we cranked James Brown’s “Living in America” (is that ironic?) and other USA-themed tunes, much to the dismay of the lords and ladies next door, I’m sure. They even had Kraft mac and cheese, which I didn’t think you could get here. It was a real Proud to be an American day, complete with Pimm’s Cup (a popular British summer cocktail) …because, you know, “when in Rome” (or London).