Celebrating July 4th

July 4th is obviously not a big holiday in the UK, however,
there are some ways to make you feel right at home.

Fireworks — One of the best bits* about living in the UK is the opportunity to set-off proper* fireworks yourself. Whereas the US limits fireworks to holidays and to rural areas, the UK allows fireworks (including those of the aerial and explosive varieties) year-round in many parts of the country.

American Food — While not all 4th of July fare, they fit the bill to satisfy a few, but common American cravings!

  • Bodean’s BBQ Smokehouse (Multiple) — If you’re in the mood for Kansas City barbeque ribs in London, here’s your place. Other smoke pit specialties include chicken and pulled pork. Their Soho location also has American sports playing on giant screen TVs. Kids eat free everyday from Noon to 5 pm and eat for just £5 after that.
  • Hummingbird Bakery (Multiple) — This famous bakery bills itself as baking ‘authentic American cakes and desserts’. Indeed the portions are US sizes. They have huge cupcakes with black bottom and red velvet varieties being family favorites.
  • Knot Pretzels (Multiple) — I can still remember how happy I was to have discovered a kiosk in Clapham Junction station serving soft pretzels. While I have since realized Auntie Annie’s and Mr. Pretzels are also sold here, I like the idea of supporting a small, local business – did I mention they also serve hand-roasted coffee.
  • NY Fold (London) — We stopped into NY Fold before seeing a show at Phoenix Theatre located just across the street. It turns out the owners are New Yorkers themselves and missed NY style pizza. Beyond traditional pies, they have creative combinations, such as mozzarella, gorgonzola, fig, parma ham and balsamic.
    www.nyfold.com+44 2072 876633
    103 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0DT
  • Top Dog Diner (London) — While it is easy to find sausages at nearly every pub here, American-style hot dogs are harder to come by. In addition to traditional beef or pork hot dogs, Top Dog features a few unusual ones, including Korean, pulled pork ‘n’ slaw and even a smoked tofu one. wwww.top-dog.com+44 02030 192380
    48 Frith Street, London W1D 4SF
Another option is to grill at home. Costco stocks American beef hot dogs and Sainsbury carries Oscar Meyer hot dogs.
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Best of Wimbledon

How to enjoy Wimbledon with or without courtside seats

Wimbledon (June 27-July 10) — Ground passes are £8-£25 per person before 5 pm (less after 5 pm). Kids under five are free but not allowed on show courts. Re-sale Centre Court tickets are £10 each and Court 1 and Court 2 tickets are £5 each with all proceeds benefiting charity. If you go with kids, bring lots of snacks and something to do while waiting. The good news is that you can watch the games below at Centre Court while queuing. I love the fact with patience and a bit of luck you can turn up without a ticket and end up on Centre Court. Customer service that is hard to come by!
www.wimbledon.com +44 2089 441066
Church Road, Wimbledon SW19 5AE

Even if you are not able to get courtside tickets, it is still fun to tailgate in the queue and see the game streamed live on the big screens on Henman Hill. Don’t forget to enjoy some quintessential English fare:

Lanson Champagne — For the last 25 years, Lanson has been the official supplier of champagne to Wimbledon. The miniature bottles sold in stores come with a neoprene Wimbledon koozie and can be brought into The Championships as well as purchased on-site.

Pimm’s — The first Pimm’s bar opened at Wimbledon in 1971. The tasty gin-based ‘No. 1 Cup’ is made with carbonated lemonade and garnished with apples, cucumber, mint and strawberries (ingredients all found in Britain). In the summer, it is a very popular British drink indeed – perhaps second only to the ever-popular tea.

Strawberries & Cream — Similar to Pimm’s, a visit to Wimbledon would not be complete without an order of strawberries and cream. This traditional dish has made its appearance at the first Wimbledon in 1877. Today, the strawberries are always fresh since they are picked the day they are served.

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Kids Week

Each year during the month of August, kids 16 and under go free with a full price paid adult ticket (and two additional children can go half price). In addition to shows, there are free pre-show activities and workshops — both backstage and even on stage. The shows include both West End hits and lesser known productions. Tickets sellout fast — book now!

In addition to 'big name' shows like Lion King and Matilda, here are some other shows worth checking out:

  • The Tiger Who Come to Tea (ages 3+) — Returning for its sixth year, this show is an adaptation of the classic picture book by Judith Kerr. With a running time of only 55 minutes, this Olivier Award nominated production is a perfect introduction to the theatre*
  • The Railway Children (ages 5+) — If you have a train fan in your family, this is the show to see. The stage is on a train track and features a vintage steam locomotive. After the show, we visited Harry Potter's Platform 9-3/4 at King's Cross station.
  • Impossible (ages 7+) — It is always tricky to find a show that both my kids (a girl and boy) will like. Back after a limited run last year, the show features impressive illusions, close-up magic and everything in between. We'll be booking this one again.
  • The Play That Goes Wrong (ages 7+) — This play within a play had everyone in our family laughing. Beyond the slapstick humor, the technical effects and timing of the cast with its myriad of props is to be admired.
It is easy to forget that Kids Week has shows for mature teens. Some award-winning shows include:

  • Jersey Boys — Winner of 4 Tony awards and Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, this musical goes back in time to the 60s. The lead singer that plays Frankie Valli and the supporting Four Season cast members are all solid performers.

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — Winner of 7 Oliver awards originating from National Theatre, this play uses technology creatively. Be sure to stay to the end of the show.
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Father’s Day

Five places to celebrate Father's Day

Unlike Mother's Day where there is a US and a UK Mothering Sunday (or affectionately called 'Mum's Day'), there is only one day for Father's Day. Where to go on June 19th:

Bar Boulud (London) — Finding a proper* burger has been a challenge, but increasingly an easier one.  Among the first good burgers was in a restaurant located within the Mandarin Hotel. Though we had already ordered our entrees, after seeing plates of burgers going by, we couldn't resist and ordered one for ourselves.
www.barboulud.com+44 2072 013899
Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA

BRGR. CO (Multiple) — An unconventional tea that even the guys will enjoy. The menu consisted of a Bellini, ice tea, mini sliders (beef, chicken and salmon), fries and included a mini milk shake, brownie and lemon tart for dessert. You will need to book on Saturdays and Sundays when it is not uncommon for 80 teas to be served.

Burger & Lobster (Multiple) — This restaurant has a two-page drinks menu, but a much simpler food menu. There are only three items: burger, lobster and lobster roll. All three were perfectly cooked, though the best value is the lobster, which can be steamed or grilled. Each entree includes a small side salad and shoestring fries.

Hawksmoor (Multiple) — The beef in their Sunday roast is listed by cut and weight, with an assortment of sides (mac 'n' cheese, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach).  Be sure to leave room for yummy desserts like Knickerbocker Glory*, Peanut Butter Shortbread, and Raspberry Eaton Mess* to name a few.

MEAT Market (London) — Discreetly located within Jubilee Market Hall in Covent Garden, this is as far as I am concerned home of the messy burger. The burgers typically have two patties with a full choice of toppings. Be sure to end your meal with a spiked milkshake (a non-alcoholic version is also available).
www.themeatmarket.co.uk+44 2072 404852
The Deck, Jubilee Market Hall, Tavistock Street, London WC2E 8BE

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Queen’s 90th Birthday Celebration

How to celebrate with and like the Queen

It has been an exciting time for the Monarchy over the last five years, a Royal wedding, a Diamond Jubilee, two Royal births and now the Queen's 90th birthday celebration. If you missed Her Majesty's walkabout in Windsor on her birthday (April 21st), there is still time to be a part of the festivities.

Royal Sightings:
  • Trooping of the Colour* (June 11) — Known as the Queen's Birthday Parade, this is when she inspects soldiers from the Household Division. While the actual event takes place in Horse Guards by invitation only, the general public can catch a glimpse of the Royal family outside Buckingham Palace or on the Mall.
  • Royal Ascot (June 15-18) — Traditionally, the Queen's horse races in The Gold Cup that takes place on the third day (June 16th) of Ascot also known as Ladies Day. Guests in the Windsor Enclosure (previously Silver Ring) will be the first to see the Queen's procession. However, to get a closer look purchase a Queen Anne Enclosure (previously Grandstand) ticket and head to the Parade Ring. The Queen and Royal Procession will arrive at approximately 2 pm and Her Majesty also presents the Gold Cup following the race.
  • www.ascot.co.uk+44 8443 463000
    High St, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7JX
Royal Treats:
  • Fortnum & Mason (London) — The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon opened by HM The Queen is the perfect place to have traditional a very memorable afternoon tea. We had a tour before tea, led by the resident archivist, who is well versed in the institution’s 300-year history.
  • www.fortnumandmason.com+44 2077 348040
    181 Piccadilly, London W1A 1ER
  • Konditor & Cook (Multiple) — Bakers to rock stars and royalty, Konditor & Cook are famous for their 'contemporary and witty cakes'. However, their decadent brownies are not to be missed. Our family favorites include: Boston (cranberry), Curly Whirly (vanilla cream cheese) and Fudgepacker (vanilla fudge with salted caramel). With the release of their first cookbook, Konditor & Cook: Deservedly Legendary Baking, you can now also bake their treats at home.
  • www.konditorandcook.com
  • The Original Maids of Honour* (Richmond) — It is believed that Henry VIII came across Anne Boleyn and her Maids of Honour (young ladies who attend the Queen) eating cakes. The story goes that he liked them so much that he put the recipe under lock and key at Richmond Palace. Maids of Honours are similar to Portuguese custard tarts, but are lighter, crispier and melt in your mouth. To this day, this bakery is the only one that makes them.
  • www.theoriginalmaidsofhonour.co.uk+44 2089 402752
    288 Kew Road, Key Gardens TW9 3DU
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