This category contains 18 posts

Syria Facebook Family Welcomes Baby Boy, Ghiath Ghiath Mattar

Life goes on in wartime and through social media activism we’ve come to share in the milestones of families in the Middle East whom we’ve never met.

Deaths (of natural causes) of elders, promises of marriage, births of children whose expectant fathers waited patiently for them, but who died before they were born.

Ghiath Mattar was one of these young men, a 25-year-old activist from Daraya. Here’s how the news unfolded this week:

Tuesday 15 Nov: Ghiath Mattar the Young man who died under torture in the Thug detention, do you remember him? his wife is in labor now… pray for her please

Wednesday 16 Nov: Urgent : Daraya “Damascus Suburbs” Ghiath never left us… he will always be in our heart. Yesterday his wife gave birth to a wonderful healthy young boy… they Called him Ghiath we promise you young Ghiath… we will not rest… until we bring who killed your father to justice

Then this morning, Thursday 17 Nov: I Could not hold my tears when i saw this photo please all welcome Ghiath Ghiath Mattar

(…because the child’s middle name is the father’s first name, regardless, for boys and girls.)

Ghiath and other little boys and girls like him, born during this the first year of protests, are the future of a free, democratic Syria, for which their loved ones ‒ approaching 4,500 citizens, no matter what the UN death toll says, stuck at 3,500 for months ‒ gave their lives.

Well-wishers posted many comments, including “precious child,” “SO beautiful mashallah,” “habibi” (my dear), a hope that he’ll grow up “dans un monde paisible, très bientôt” (in a peaceful world, soon to come), and “the most famous baby in Syria!”

Someone even nominated little Ghiath for President!

Mabrouk (congratulations), Mattar Family! Here’s Ghiath’s wife holding baby Ghiath, posted on 20 Nov.

The activist who shared this photo with us added the following note:

“My Heart breaks every time i think that this young child will never know his father …will never play with him …will never hold him…

but when i saw her Smile… i believed that the Syrian will Win this fight
and Assad will be brought to justice

Bless you Sister… bless your child… and bless your husband… may he rest in peace”

“The Precious Is Gone,” He Said

These are the words of a Syrian father, spoken to the Assad regime forces whose snipers shot and killed his young son.

Because he refused to sign a document saying his son was killed by terrorists, they took the boy’s body away, so the family couldn’t bury him. The father never saw his son again.

“Allah takes what he gives, in his time,” the father said. “To the highest heavens, dear child,” the writer added.

This week, like every week since mid-March, another sniper ended another child’s life: Karam Al Zeitoun, only 10 days old, shot through the window of his home in Homs on Nov 12.

Over the past 8 months, there have been many touching eulogies documented by eyewitnesses or written by Syrian democracy activists. Some from these very towns, writing about people they knew and sharing their tributes on social media for the whole world to read.

Here’s the original English translation of a remembrance posted today for Bhujit Karem Abu Basil, 50 years old, from Barzeh, Damascus. He was married with 4 children, 3 sons and 1 daughter. He was killed while attending Bissam Barra’s funeral on Nov 9.

“Today… you left our earth
Your blood was tears on Damascus eyes
Today… Damascus hugged you one more time
He is my son, she said
Died for my freedom
Died for me
Come back to me, she called… I will hug your body like I hold my rivers
But please let your soul fly with my birds
So I can see you every morning”

Bhujit knew it was risky, attending his friend’s funeral, but he went anyway and never came home.

I can add only this, the phrase in Arabic that people say when someone dies (and how sad it is that it was one of the first phrases I ever learned):

الله يرحمه
allah yer7amo

Une amie ou une étrangère?

Brief intermission from coverage of the Middle East. For fun, some friends and I decided to see if we could each write a credible piece of fiction, a poem or short story…in somebody else’s native language. This is harder than it sounds. With apologies to the French, here’s mine (based on a true story about the daughter of a family friend):

Voici l’histoire d’Emelina, qui choisissait de disparaître.

Emelina est la deuxième fille d’une famille célèbre de notre village, qu’est situé dans l’extrême sud de la Californie, à côté de l’Océan Pacifique. Au XIXème siècle, les ancêtres d’Emelina avaient reçu une concession du roi d’Espagne et finalement la famille Delgado a gagné une grande fortune grâce à leurs vergers d’avocats.

Emelina était une très belle fille, avec beaucoup de talents artistiques. Elle était mannequin et travaillait dans une entreprise du mode qui s’appelait Bégonia. Elle faisait aussi tous ses propres vêtements à partir de ses propres dessins. Pendant qu’elle était élève au lycée, elle a fait un portrait du maître d’école; ce portrait se trouve toujours dans l’hôtel de ville.

En 1980, Emelina est allée à l’université. Après, elle a travaillé dans une galerie d’art à Los Angeles. Un jour, à une fête à la galerie, elle a fait la connaissance d’un médecin suisse et elle est tombée amoureuse de lui immédiatement.

Mais, il y avait quelque chose qui n’allait pas. Sa meilleure amie a dit qu’elle avait pleuré toute la nuit précédant la noce. Aucun de ses amis ou de sa famille n’avait été invité au mariage et le jour suivant le couple est parti à Genève sans dire au revoir.

Quelques ans plus tard, j’ai voyagé en Suisse toute seule pour jouer à La Fête de la Musique Ancienne. Quand je descendais le train, tout à coup je l’ai vue! J’étais absolument sûre.

Pendant qu’elle me regardait à travers la foule, je l’ai salué de la main. Elle s’est détournée et a marché dans l’autre direction.

Je ne l’ai jamais revue.

Kate’s American Bridesmaid Returns to Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey Visiting Hours for the Uninvited.

I wanted to see the Abbey again, while the Royal Wedding trees and flowers were still in place. So did a few (hundred) thousand other people.

The queue was 7 or 8 deep: all the way down the street, past the Houses of Parliament and the Westminster tube stop, to Big Ben. A few people walked across Westminster Bridge to take photos, waiting for the excitement to die down.

Good luck with that.

Being a morning-person-in-training, it wasn’t such a hardship to be among the first in line for the chance to walk under the canopy of wedding trees and flowers in relative quiet. One wedding wish that, as I expected, didn’t exactly come true.

Regardless, the botanical effect was dramatic and inspiring and utterly amazing.

I don’t know whether William and Kate chose the color scheme partly for any of the following good reasons, but green and white are the two primary colors of the Welsh flag, Wales being their current home. They were also the colors of the House of Tudor. They’re fundamental to the personality, history, and spirit of the whole of the “Isles.”

However it came about, the result was simple and spectacular…and, as far as adjectives go, I’m just getting started.

I loved the potted trees best, the English maples especially.

We Abbey visitors walked down that same aisle where the royal couple and their attendants had walked not so many days before, into that pavilion of green and white, as one British poet described a long-ago image from nature, which the Royal Wedding florists re-created to near perfection.

The couple, we’d been told, had put great thought into the symbolism of the seasonal flowers.

White lilacs, symbolizing first love, together with Solomon’s seal, which symbolizes love’s confirmation. Azaleas, to which the Chinese attribute femininity. Beech, rhododendron, and wisteria from Windsor Great Park, lush with greenery cut from the royal estates, at the groom’s special request.

Other blossoms, unnamed but not unnoticed, signifying spiritual beauty.

Two billion people around the world saw the official proceedings on TV, including me standing in London’s Hyde Park with “only” a million or so other viewers. But naturally our primary focus on April 29th was on the pageantry and the people and their expressions…and their clothes, expert and novice opinions this once actually converging.

The green and white together struck me, observed one British writer, describing a much less formal event. Suddenly we who stood in the Abbey on this ordinary day understood what he’d meant, 150 years ago, by being wrapped in green and white.

The quotes I’ve included in this post date primarily from Victorian times, an era of relative peace and prosperity in Britain, no small credit to the long reign ‒ and happy union ‒ of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. As a consequence, literature and literary figures ‒ poets, novelists, essayists ‒ flourished and the Victorian period is considered the high point in English literature.

Much of this imagery came from the topography of the land itself, scenery that inspired writers who were simply looking out their own windows, or journeying on foot or by carriage near their own homes.

How lovely, the green and white fields, noted one. Green and white flowers, beautiful to view, wrote another. An artistic study in green and white, observed a third, a fourth reportedly walking along some green and white shore, finding by accident a frail half-shell pale green and white-lined of sea-urchin.

A medley of writings from a medley of British writers, with variations on the same elegant theme.

This theme also inspired a veritable rush of not only the mythical ‒ fairies…green, and white, she wrote, dreamily ‒ but also of the philosophical, particularly suited, I thought, to a Royal Wedding not only marking the beginning of a new life of a young couple in love, but also ushering in a new era of the British monarchy.

Over the years, and as King and Queen one day, I hope William and Kate can look back on their wedding day and say that, from the very beginning…

…the river was the green and white vein of our lives.

One of the iconic images of the day was of Kate standing at the high altar of Westminster Abbey, where royal brides have stood for 1,000 years, about to exchange vows with her Prince, perhaps thinking: green and white his name on the tip of my tongue.

As we witnessed all this, we long-distance guests were finding true what those British poets of old knew best: love is green, white.

Prince William of Wales and Kate (now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge) will undoubtedly have ups and downs in their marriage, like any couple, but unlike most couples, theirs will play out on the international stage and undoubtedly be scrutinized to death.

But it might comfort them to remember, when those times come, that it’ll be all green and white when the weather clears.

Kate’s American Bridesmaid Smiles for the Family Photo

When they saw Kate’s dress, the crowd gasped. When William said “I will,” the crowd went crazy.

So, after an unprecedented TWO kisses on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate) party on with their close friends and family.

For the rest of us, the Royal Wedding is over and my bridesmaid services are no longer required.

But first: the world’s largest family wedding photo.

BBC took a panoramic shot of the huge crowd in Hyde Park and that photo will become part of the official royal family wedding album.

One, two, three… Smile! Wave your flags! …and at that moment, confetti started falling, champagne corks started flying, and people started singing God Save the Queen…and even crying a little.

If you look at that photo very closely, you might see someone wearing a navy blue wedding hat, on which I got a few compliments today, surprisingly, and hope to wear at another British wedding someday.

With a suitable dress, shoes, and handbag this time, I promise.

Despite taking a Buffet Penalty in Fruitcake Overtime in this week-long Royal Wedding match I’ve been covering for you, London is ‒ quite simply ‒ overwhelmed today.


I’ve been to London many times and have never seen anything like it…that didn’t involve football.

Even then.

“We’re so very proud.”

Proud of William, that adorable little boy we’ve watched grow up to be a fine man. Proud of William to have chosen Kate, rather than be pressured into a more socially logical match with someone he didn’t love. Proud of Kate to have stepped up to the role and become “a treasure of the nation,” one delighted citizen told BBC today.

Quite a compliment after being a member of the royal family for less than an hour.

I can’t speak to treasure, but I can speak to vision. Kate, you were one today. That Sarah Burton (at Alexander McQueen) wedding dress you wore was absolutely stunning and worth the secrecy and speculation and agonizing wait.

I don’t know if you noticed this, but when you first started walking down the aisle and William had his back to you, as he was supposed to, Harry looked over his shoulder and snuck a peak at you…and we caught him doing it.

Harry seemed to be enjoying himself throughout, riding back to the palace in a carriage with little pages and bridesmaids, giving them waving-to-the-crowd tips.

Looking like a little kid himself.

(You know when you’re single, no matter how old you are, when you go home for holiday dinners, they put you at the kids’ table? That would be Harry. Except he’d think it was fun.)

But during the service, Harry looked sober and one wonders how he felt, hearing some of those same hymns in the same place as his mother’s funeral, with some of the same people singing them.

The 2nd hymn, after the vows, was Love Divine, All Loves Excelling by Charles Wesley, a particular favorite of William’s and Kate’s and mine. I learned it in French and had never sung it in English before today, but the last 2 lines…

‘Till we cast our crowns before thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise!

…must have special significance to people who wear real crowns, and the privileges and burdens those crowns signify.

Despite random festival seating, I somehow was surrounded by fantastic British, Canadian, and Australian singers, who did equally well by the wedding hymns (and knew all the words), God Save the Queen (why do I always forget line 6? “happy and glorious,” just like today), and Aerosmith.

Hyde Park’s favorite wedding dance song, by a landslide in a popular voice vote: Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.”

So, the world’s largest wedding dance was followed by the world’s largest wedding toast to the Prince and his Princess bride, with champagne generously provided by a group of young women standing near me, who were dressed up as brides ‒ veils, tiaras, the works ‒ and holding up signs saying, “Marry Me, Harry!”

When Harry walked out of the Abbey with maid of honor Pippa Middleton, arm in arm and laughing, they booed, loudly.

The Right Reverend and Right Honorable Dr. Richard Chartres, K.C.V.O., Lord Bishop of London and Dean of Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal had a short message. Shorter than his name.

He gave William & Kate this royal 21st-century advice: “Set the world on fire.”

Kate’s American Bridesmaid Has the Wedding Jitters

You know something’s up when the average Brit starts acting like the average Italian.

Going out to dinner very late. On a weeknight. Strolling arm in arm afterwards. In very high-heeled boots.

Even though over 30% of British citizens reportedly don’t care about the Royal Wedding (except the “I’m happy for you and thanks for the day off” part), and a further 15% or so are ambivalent, a simple majority of Kate’s future subjects are in excellent humor as they gear up for a marathon of parties, street fairs, and dress-up games of British Royalty Trivial Pursuit.

And better.

Tomorrow morning, upwards of a million of us will be descending on Hyde Park and environs in time to eat breakfast together in front of the TV.

We’ll buy a commoner’s wedding breakfast from one of the massive food tents and eat sitting on the grass ‒ or standing under our umbrellas ‒ in front of one of the 3 big screens broadcasting every detail of the wedding live from Westminster Abbey from 7:00am GMT onwards.

Yes, there will be “stuff going on” that early. Even florists and chauffeurs are national media figures this week.

Some of us will have our Blackberries poised to send news flashes to viewers in earlier time zones, who in their sleepy state might’ve missed some important detail and sent up an urgent SOS.

Help! $20 is riding on whether Prince William arrived at the church on time.

I’m worth only 12£? Hey, it’s the recession.

Kate, you’re either going to help my Seattle friends win big in their Royal Wedding betting pool, or they’re going to be buying a lot of wedding breakfasts for people who said you’d wear your hair down, just like you said you would, no matter what Princess Anne thought of it.

The big money, of course, is on YOUR DRESS. Just so you know, Seattle says Stella (McCartney).

Although Londoners are every bit as keen to see what you’ll be wearing, they have a bit more at stake than bridal fashion design.

Consequently, some are calming their nerves at the nearest pub. Others are watching sappy TV specials about your romance as it unfolded at the University of St. Andrews, now the go-to school for undergraduate princesses-to-be.

Then there’s always retail therapy.

In Knightsbridge earlier today, I watched 2 unfortunate women spend 300£ each on designer hats that I wouldn’t wear at home alone in the dark. One, a crown made of black plastic sequins; the other, a clear plastic visor with a black lace decal. (Unfortunately, the store prohibits photography. I would, too ‒ for fear somebody might mass-produce such hideous hats.)

I went down the street to a nondescript accessories boutique and bought a pretty and pretty traditional navy blue hat…for 30£.

Add to the ensemble my black umbrella with a tiny ruffled edge and I’m all set for tomorrow’s Royal Wedding…

…where It’s So Very Important For Everything To Go Just Right.

Because, Kate, you’re about to star in the most downloaded YouTube wedding video of all time.

There wasn’t room for me at The Goring, but the Middletons know you can’t go wrong with Winston Churchill’s favorite hotel and Kate will get some private time with her mother and sister Pippa, Britain’s Most Eligible Bridesmaid.

In the USA, they’d have to get through the wedding rehearsal tonight. Followed by the rehearsal dinner.

The first is unnecessary if you’ve been rehearsing for 8 years, snipes the British media, who I guarantee will be the first ones over the moon tomorrow…and complaining all the way to the Royal Bank with their copious royalties.

The second is just not a British custom.

This research called for a good old-fashioned pub crawl, starting at Leicester Square, which yielded the following anecdotal results:

“If you have to rehearse a dinner, then it’s overdone.” Now there’s a thought (and an unintended pun).

“Only in films.” So you’re saying that Four Weddings and a Funeral was utter rubbish.

“We’re nothing like the Americans.” Really.

The most common response: “Sorry?” Meaning, I have no idea what you’re talking about, or if I do, who says this is a good idea?

Grooms’ parents, who traditionally pay for the rehearsal dinner, are Kate’s biggest fans tonight.

Never fear, you still can attend a Royal Wedding rehearsal dinner of your own making, whether you’re in London or somewhere else. Unlike real rehearsal dinners, you get to choose the menu.

Nine times out of 10, that’s a blessing.

The city is somewhat emptier of locals than I expected, a fair number taking advantage of 3 national holidays in 2 weeks to get out of town on a vacation they’re paying for by renting their London flats to foreign visitors for hundreds of GBP per night.

However, there’s still a critical mass of people in town and the talk of the “British Street” this week ‒ up in the London Eye, at St. James Park, on the Circle Line ‒ has been about two things.

Well, really one thing.

We want it to be a lovely day that makes us proud. (And, yes, it would be nice if it didn’t rain.)

Because we need it. Badly.

We’ve been in the news a lot in recent years about things we’d rather not be famous for, from royal scandals to political scandals to unpopular wars and rumors of wars. The sour economy has opened up some hard-to-heal rifts in our society. We need something positive to bring us together as a nation, even if only for a day.

We’re overdue for a comeback and the Royal Wedding will hold us over until the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Because there’s just nothing like a beautiful wedding of a beautiful couple to bring tears to the eyes of even the most hardened naysayers.

Everyone, royalists to cynics, agrees: the future of the monarchy rests largely on the success of this marriage, and on Kate herself. She won’t be another Queen Elizabeth; she can’t be another Princess Diana.

So far, Kate, you’ve proven to be nothing like either.

My cashier at Waintrose, which is completely sold out of McVitie’s chocolate biscuits for reasons I explained in Tuesday’s post, refers to tonight as “the last night of poor Katie’s life.” She’s the protective mum of a daughter Kate’s age and would’ve dreaded seeing her choose that punishingly public life.

(Interestingly, the phrase “poor dear” usually refers to William, followed by, “he’s so like his mother.”)

But it’s a life Kate chose long ago. She fought for it, hard. Unlike many young couples, she & William knew exactly what they were getting into and took their time to be sure. Tomorrow they’ll seal it with a kiss, just like any other newlyweds.

Except that they’ll be standing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Kate’s American Bridesmaid Gets Fitted by the Milliner

Gentlemen: strictly uniforms, morning coats, or lounge suits, if you please.

If you don’t own at least one of the above, you’ve probably made your way onto the Royal Wedding guest list other than by birth, money, or politics.

Seek assistance from your local “costume rental.”

Gentlewomen, who we can trust to figure out appropriate Royal Wedding attire all by yourselves, you already know perfectly well your most important fashion accessory for Friday: your HAT!

British bridesmaids don’t generally wear hats…because they’re generally about 7 years old. Even so, I’m wondering: how could generations of British women be so completely fearless of “hat hair”?

Women here tell me that’s exactly why you wear a hat, my dear. If you’re having a bad hair day, there’s nothing like a fabulous hat to cover it up. Even more fortunate, you’re obliged to wear it all day.

Honestly, I don’t know how they’re going to fit 1,900 people into Westminster Abbey, with a thousand or so wide-ish hats taking up all kinds of space in the pews. Nor how the attendees are going to see anything over all those…palatial…hats.

The public watching on the big screen in Trafalgar Square might actually have a better view of the proceedings.

Except the big-screen audience is being asked to dress up in wedding hats, too!

Because if you’re live on BBC with the rest of the Hyde Park congregation, made up of parishioners who, at inopportune moments during the nuptials, might ‒ horrors ‒ actually applaud, or you’re on the Mall by Admiralty Arch in the pouring rain hoping to catch a glimpse of the future King and Queen passing by in their glass carriage, you want to look your very best.

I find this fascinating, since ‒ given the dismal weather forecast ‒ I’d fully planned to wear an umbrella, and Gortex.

I see now that just won’t do…and there’s no easier place in London than Bond Street to get separated from your life savings over a suitable wedding hat.

In the USA, we have 2 kinds of hats: baseball and cowboy. If you wear any other type of hat and you’re not either at the Kentucky Derby or starring in Pirates of Penzance

Look at her, she’s trying too hard.

So, off to the London milliners, who make women’s hats. (Hatmaking, or hatting, refers to men’s hats.)

In the only legitimate fashion tip the younger set can glean from the current Queen Elizabeth, brightly colored hats are in, in, in. (London bookmakers say the good money is on the Queen wearing yellow on Friday.) However, when your shoes, your handbag, your lipstick ‒ OK, we’re exaggerating ‒ all match perfectly, frankly Ma’am it’s a bit much.

While I’m instinctively unexcited about wearing anything on my head that the fashion police have nicknamed “The Galaxy,” I realize I have no choice but to get with the Couture Bridal Millinery Programme.

And fast. I’m far behind the cultural hat curve and the Royal Wedding is now just 2 days away.

Quite a few mass-market hat styles, I discovered, are named after girls. English girls: Emma, Tess. French girls: Justine, Nancy. Even Spanish and Italian girls: Maria, Angelina (although we’re pretty sure she’s not invited, having the best chance of anyone to upstage the royal bride).

Even Darcy, in a gender-neutral nod to Jane Austen.

Few people in London, including me, will be able to afford a Philip Treacy hat. Philip Treacy is the Royal Wedding Hat King, who designed hats for the entire wedding party, including a selection of hats that Kate is wearing to non-tiara events.

A hat like that is going to run you 1.000 quid.


(Here we’re seeing the Brits’ adventurous side because Mr. Treacy also designs hats for Lady Gaga.)

But good designers inspire good knock-offs and there’s a run on feathers this week.

Even though the hat shop is packed, the proprietress looks me over and feels a millinery makeover coming on.

First, your hat size, Miss. I’m assuming you have no idea what it is. No, it wouldn’t be the same size as your bike helmet.

While I serve other customers, please take a moment to review our Hat FAQ.

As is typical with hair stylists, most of her other customers have arrived with photos snipped from magazines of Royal Wedding guest celebrities modeling the hats they’d like to buy today. Since I didn’t think ahead, I’m putting myself in the hands of the experts.

So, in a few short minutes, I’ve gone from the powder-blue taffeta in Monday’s post to the feathered crème felt to the gun-metal grey silk to the chocolate shantung with sea-green sash to the bejeweled rose-pink organza with pompous bow and overbearing flowers.

If you still haven’t found The One, there’s always the gold tulle/faux fruit platter.

You didn’t arrive in London nearly early enough. It would take DAYS to try on every lovely hat we offer (and YEARS to pay off any of them afterwards).

She’s using phrases straight out of British romance novels ‒ “delightfully feminine,” “frightfully chic,” “absolutely radiant” ‒ in an effort to flatter me into forgetting all about the unfortunate exchange rate and spending even more too much money.

Turns out, I have a smaller head than normal…about which I immediately sense unkind remarks forthcoming from some readers of this blog. But you look wonderful in a hat, my dear, and really should wear one more often.

More often than never, you mean.

My immediate concern in the hat department, however, is hearing that Sir Elton John will be attending the Royal Wedding. When the Queen honored him with a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) a few years back, is it an urban myth, or did he really wear a hat of the Eiffel Tower?

Kate’s American Bridesmaid Critiques the Wedding Catering

Waiter? I’ll take the Royal Wedding Falafel and pass on the Royal Wedding Fruitcake.

It’s Royal Wedding Everything Week here in London, where the countdown is currently Wales Wedding Day Minus 3.

Fruitcake is a tradition 100s of years old ‒ now, we’re talking about the recipe, not the cake, although we understand why you might make that mistake ‒ of English bridal couples, not just royals.

In a fine display of the fine art of compromise with the in-laws, William & Kate are serving fruitcake as their primary wedding cake, but William also has his own cake. Made of cookies.

A “chocolate biscuit cake” from McVitie’s, a snack food company!

Sounds suspiciously like an American idea, as does that tacky wedding buffet they’re putting on after the service ‒ simply awful, darling. Which is why, Jeanette, we were firmly against your involvement in this enterprise from Day 1, whenever that was.

Because this thing has been going on forever.

Although I despise fruitcake on principle, because I’m in a genial, wedding-going, love-conquers-all kind of mood, I’ll share with you the commercial fruitcake secret.

You know when you make fruitcake at home, all those little “bits ‘n pieces” ‒ of nuts, dried fruits, and bizarrely-colored candied stuff that got that way by being soaked in rat poison and battery acid ‒ sink to the bottom of your loaf pan, rather than distributing nicely throughout the cake?

Do what the pros do: defy gravity by simply rolling your little “bits ‘n pieces” very lightly in white flour before adding them to your batter. This will “suspend” them in the batter and create that nice slicing effect you’re looking for.

Sorry, there’s nothing I can do about that dreadful icing. Extra rum will help you forget about it.

For the Royal Family, there’s no such solution to that dreadful buffet.

Nobody knows for sure what this buffet will entail, either ‒ it’s just as big a secret as Kate’s dress ‒ but speculation is rife among people who have historical experience with royal “wedding breakfasts,” which are in fact held after lunch.

Here’s what we do know: Chef Mark Flanagan is in charge. He’s also said he’s preparing an all-British menu.

Normally, I’d find that a frightening prospect.

However, if Chef Flanagan is really serious about using produce and wild game from the royal estates…now, that could be fairly interesting.

Here, try the boar à la truffe. (Truffle the mushroom, not truffle the chocolate.)

Chef Flanagan and his army have had a full decade to learn the culinary idiosyncrasies of the royal family…which compared to their other idiosyncrasies are probably fairly benign.

Here’s the deal-breaker: Brits are accustomed to a sit-down wedding breakfast and there are some things you can eat sitting down that you just can’t eat standing up.

Anything more than bite-sized. Or drippy. Or both.

(Goes without saying: anything that requires cutlery.)

The American founders of 101 Tacky Buffets would pay serious money to be flies on the wall of the palace dining room when that first trout pâté with carrot curls goes sliding down the front of that first noblewoman’s burgundy silk sheath.

Commoners 1, Royals 0.

For Americans, all this is fun in the same way Disneyland is fun. We don’t mind royalty, and actually find them kind of entertaining, as long as they stay way over there.

Wills seems like a stand-up guy, but we went to lot of trouble to fire George III, the arch-nemesis of the original Tea Partiers. Ever since then, we’ve had a permanent hiring freeze on royals.

I’m quite sure the feeling is mutual.

However, the former colonies know a little something about red carpets and we’ll roll out the best for you when you visit, William & Catherine aka Her Royal Highness the Princess William of Wales. We’re feeling a bit slighted that you’ll be visiting Canada in June without even stopping by to say hello.

Meantime, there’s simply no way we’re going to miss toasting the happy couple at Friday’s worldwide virtual tailgate party, celebrating what’s arguably the first genuinely happy royal match of a future British monarch since William’s great-grandparents in 1923.

That bride, a certain Miss Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, reportedly refused no fewer than 3 marriage proposals from her husband “Bertie” (later King George VI), convinced that in becoming Queen she would lose Elizabeth.

Of course, she was partly right.

But she was Queen until the early death of her beloved husband in 1952 and “Queen Mum” past age 100. All the while with twinkles in her eyes, confirms my cabbie Edward Ward, who says I can use his name in my blog as long as I don’t make any jokes about it.

Who am I to make jokes about people’s funny names?

“When I was a boy, quite young,” says Mr. Ward, his family went to an event the Queen Mum was attending. He gave her a bouquet of flowers.

All these years later, he remembers her like it was yesterday: so warm, so kind, so approachable.

Hold that thought, Kate.

Although many of the great British rock bands are past their prime ‒ looked in the mirror lately, Mick? might want to stick to radio ‒ I can’t help but get nostalgic hearing Queen playing “God Save the Queen” over the intercom.

Thinking that one day a woman we can actually relate to ‒ someone who fell in love with her college sweetheart and stayed the course, despite breakups and baggage ‒ will one day sit on the throne of England.

Torn between the William & Kate snow globe and the William & Kate tea towels, I hear a Royal Wedding Curry calling.

Kate’s American Bridesmaid Blogs Live from London!

Even the most regimented, orchestrated, steeped-to-death-in-tradition British Royal Wedding will undoubtedly have its little surprises and this one is for you, Kate the Great (so says Newsweek):

You’ve got a mystery bridesmaid who’s come all the way from across the pond to crash your pomp and circumstance and blog about it shamelessly to all comers on

Before this week, the closest I’d ever come to being a bridesmaid in a royal wedding was being a bridesmaid in a military wedding, my first and last experience with powder-blue taffeta.

I get it, Kate: we’re both suckers for men in uniform.

The bride in the aforementioned United States Air Force/Navy wedding, who’s reading this, can confirm: moments of hilarity are key to formal wedding survival, especially if you’re wondering/dreading what your more embarrassing relatives ‒ both those you invited and those you didn’t ‒ might be up to right as you’re walking down the aisle and can do nothing more about it.

So, Kate, an extra bridesmaid is the least of your worries. Believe me, I’m your ally. I think you’re taking one for the team, agreeing to this whole Westminster Abbey drama to begin with.

Although, since you’re the most recognizable engaged couple on the planet, you & William couldn’t elope to the Brazilian rain forest…and they already know you and your sapphire ring out on the Kalahari.


Selfishly, though, we’ve been waiting 30 long years for a Charles and Diana Do-Over. Of the fairytale wedding that turned out to be the sole highlight in the longest blind date in history.

Everyone ‒ across the pond, across the seas, overland in every direction ‒ also desperately needs a break from this week’s 2 other top news stories, both tragic.

Dictators in the Middle East and Africa continuing to murder their own people: civilians, who are simply asking for democratic freedoms, as is their right, after decades of brutal repression.

Radiation continuing to leak from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, while tens of thousands of Japanese citizens still live in unheated shelters ‒ loved ones still unfound, still unburied.

Here’s where you come in, Kate.

While some Americans love to hate the British royal family ‒ we don’t look kindly on monarchies in general, for obvious historical reasons, and that cushy welfare lifestyle…what can we say, get a real job already ‒ many people will get up on Friday at 4:00am Eastern anyway, to witness your wedding vows live on CNN.

They’ll secretly wish they were in London, too, staking out their prime processional viewing spots along Whitehall…

…and personally wishing you & William every happiness in your future together, as strange as that future sounds to us and how unlikely we think it is that your straightjacket royal life will allow it.

But here’s hoping you surprise us, and yourselves.

Those who prefer to sleep in can read my daily posts from London as I go all about town, irreverently counting down to the British Royal Wedding Day: Friday 29th April 2011.

Somebody’s gonna have fun this week!

Torn Between Two Sob Stories

Almost simultaneously, the girl on my left, 20, held her head in her hands and sobbed. The man on my right, 50, slammed his hand down on the counter and said, “Son of a b**ch!”

Just about the reactions you’d expect from these particular demographics.

Sitting in the airport café between these two basket cases, I did the most inappropriate thing possible. I laughed.

Then they both laughed.

Then they told me ‒ and each other ‒ their respective stories and immediately felt a whole lot better.

She’d just received a breakup text from her boyfriend.

He’d just received a layoff text from his boss.

Bill is Bill’s real name and he says I can print it because it’s so common that there have to be millions of other unemployed Bills in this country already, he jokes…which is a good start.

Misty isn’t the girl’s real name. It’s the name of the horse she had growing up…who lived for 27 years and never once received a breakup text.

Although unlike Misty I’ve never been the lucky recipient of a breakup text, it seems to me ‒ seconded by Bill ‒ to have a few key advantages:

#1 It’s definitive

He didn’t move away while you were out of town, without saying goodbye or leaving a forwarding address. He’s gone, and gone on record. When he comes crawling back months of silence later, claiming temporary insanity and asking for a second chance, you can forward his own text back to him.

No guessing or agonizing required!

#2 It’s private

Although he’s a coward not to tell you in person over coffee, this text is presumably only between the two of you. You’re not at a wedding with 100 mutual friends, at which ‒ in an uncharacteristically public stunt ‒ he’s made the most important day of two wonderful people’s lives about himself…and dragged you into it.

No public humiliation involved!

#3 It’s close to home

You’ve received this text either in the city where you live or somewhere you’ve chosen to travel yourself. You’re not stranded far from home without transportation, plans, friends…maybe even housing!

“You’ve gotta understand: she’s my Dream Girl and if I don’t leave with her ‒ right here, right now ‒ I might not get another chance and I’ll always look back and wonder if she was The One.”

No need to spend $500 on a one-way plane ticket over a holiday weekend!

#4 It’s preferable to some other breakup methods we can think of

…like him showing up to visit you in the hospital after your surgery, with flowers…and his new girlfriend. If there was ever a time to ask the nurse for more morphine, this is it.

Oh please don’t tell me guys do worse things than that! (By the way, all of the stories above are true. In every detail.)

Oh honey. You have no idea.

So we can get the full effect, you have to read this text to us out loud. Wait, wait! Let me type while you talk. I don’t want to miss a word of this inspired missive.

“Translated” from texting abbreviations, Devin’s (his real name) 1-sentence kiss-off: “hey misty this isn’t working sorry see you around but i still need your ee notes”

Around campus. Electrical Engineering 205. Case study notes.

Hear that silence, Devin? It’s short for “not a chance.”

Bill reluctantly admits to #3 back when he was single, “but I’ve been happily married for 20 years to an amazing woman who’s neither of those women”…at which point Misty and I immediately tell him he deserves to be laid off because what goes around comes around and did you honestly think you could get away with it forever, doing something that low?

Employment layoffs are no less emotionally charged than romantic breakups, says Bill, who has now experienced both. Maybe even more so, since we often invest more hours per day in our jobs than we do in our relationships, sadly.

To get unceremoniously sacked after you’ve given years of over-the-top effort to build your employer’s client base ‒ and have succeeded, in spades ‒ can be heartbreaking, too.

I should also mention that Bill’s wife was “right-sized” out of her senior management position after a messy corporate merger late last year. Oh, and they have twins ‒ a daughter and a son ‒ starting college in September.

In football, they call this kind of thing “piling on.”

Ironically, Bill had just gotten off the phone with a new customer, having signed his biggest deal of the quarter. Probably the year. Luckily, he says, that one commission will keep them afloat for quite awhile.

He was really tempted to fire back a text to his boss right then and there, crowing a little about the details of this magnificent win over a key competitor and how ‒ too bad for you ‒ this client would most likely follow him to his next job.

Wisely, he decided not to. He was a day and a plane ride away from the office. He’d wait ‘til then.

Crowing is so much more effective in person anyway, especially with this delighted new customer on speaker phone.

We hear a lot about the hazards of going to bed angry, meaning not dealing with bad things right when they happen and letting them fester and eventually explode. Even the Scriptures encourage us to “let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”

Although this advice is ideal for couples, because what pure misery to share a bed with someone with whom you’re not on speaking terms, the same basic principle surely applies to our friends, co-workers, extended family, and anybody else with whom we closely interact.

So, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with God a little on this one. I think it’s smart sometimes to go to bed angry on purpose. I don’t know about you, but when I’m really tired and really frustrated, there’s a good chance I’ll say or do something really regrettable.

Why not sleep on it?

Rested and refreshed, we’ll have a calmer, more reasonable, longer-term perspective. On everything: life, love, work, family, and whatever other unanswered texts we’ve got flagged to follow up.