Archive for March, 2010



The Starbucks Babyccino

Starbucks stores across London offer a free drink that I have yet to come across here in the US: the Babyccino.

If you’re with a baby, or even if you just say you are, the barista will froth up some milk in an espresso-sized cup for you. Then, you can sit down and drink your own coffee without feeling too guilty that you have dragged your son/daughter into a coffee shop that holds no interest for them.

Minutes of fun await at the counter with the sugars and other toppings. Capping the Babyccino with alarming amounts of chocolate powder and cinnamon make the warm foamy milk even more enticing to the toddler set.

When we moved to the US, I got blank stares when I ordered Babyccinos in Starbucks. After I explained what it was, the crews were happy to make it — but less obliging when I told them that in London, it was free (frothed milk comes at a price here).

We even occasionally ordered more than one Babyccino on our London Starbucks visits, since they were, as I mentioned, free. So it’s possible, because of our abuse of the free frothed milk and powdered chocolate policies in the past, that they will start charging for the little warm milks in London Starbucks stores in the future.

It’s also possible that our London neighborhood baristas weren’t heartbroken to hear we were moving to the US.

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Buying British

When a friend told me that the local Publix on Ponce de Leon Avenue here in Atlanta had a new British food section, I scurried over to check it out. It was small, but thorough: the British items ranged from baked beans, to Yorkshire puddings.

PG tips tea was featured (even decaf!), Ribena (a syrup kids add to water to make it purple), salad cream (a mayonnaise like substance that one puts on lettuce) and McVities Digestive biscuits.

I was slightly disappointed to find that the top few digestives were crumbled. While excessive crumbs are always a hazard with those light cookies, I worried that they took a hit getting shipped over from the UK.

Unless, knowing that there is a demand for British products in the US, maybe there were produced here. And it’s possible the biscuits broke when they fell out of my canvas tote bags in the trunk of my car.

It took me about a year of living in London to find stores that sold peanut butter and low fat salad dressing. So, having been here for nearly a year and a half, I am right on schedule. I will be pleased to have the extra luggage space that is usually taken up by Branston pickle.

Now if only we can find a local liquor store that sells Pimm’s…

The Perils of Getting Gas

A year into my role as a suburban US driver, I made an alarming discovery. Getting gas without turning off my cell phone is forbidden.

I was filling up at our local station from the middle pump (a nice compromise between the top of the line gas, and the cheapest) and noticed this warning sign: apparently, when pumping gas, customers are supposed to turn off their mobile phones, as well as “other electronic devices.”

Really? It had never occurred to me to do this. And if I were to hunt around for my phone in my handbag, pull it out, and turn it off, I would surely drop the pump, and cause a big spill.

That was a scary thought, as another sign informed me that I was responsible for spilled gas. (For cleaning it up? Or just paying for it? The sign was unclear, but I didn’t want to find out).

The more obvious warnings are easy to follow: customers are not supposed to light matches or cigarettes while pumping gas. Open flames certainly seemed to be bad ideas in close proximity to gas pumps – but cell phones?

I looked over at another customer, who did not appear to turn off his electronic devices before pumping. Instead, he seemed to wonder why I was looking at him.

Maybe the main reason for the signs is to give drivers something to read while they procure gas. Otherwise, standing there holding the pump can get dull.

Weather Whiplash, Part II

A brisk snow storm is falling on Atlanta, but the bright side is this: the hail stones that hit me as I loaded the kids into the car this morning have abated, turning into fluffy flakes.

But what surprises me most about the winter weather isn’t the timing: snow seems to fall in the Northeast, where I’m from, well into April. What is odd about today’s storm here in Atlanta is that it was almost 60 degrees and sunny yesterday.

How is it possible that today, it’s just above freezing?

Even President Obama was surprised. He opened his talk in Savannah, Georgia, this afternoon by saying that he was expecting 60 or 70 degree temperatures here in Georgia.

This isn’t DC, after all….