31 August 2010

'Crazy Quaint' Shere

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

I bought this wonderful book, 'Footpaths for Fitness Surrey' by David Weller. We have been making our way through many chapters, and enjoying each of them. The highlight, so far, has been our walk in Shere, Surrey.

This quaint village has picturesque buildings, amazing views, and a stream through town with ducks. A pub, tea house, and ice scream shop too : ) You may have seen it in the movie 'The Holiday' with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet (also filmed in nearby Godalming). See my post about it [here].

The walk we followed would be difficult to duplicate without the book, however, if you are in the area you can blaze your own trail by following one of the  footpaths behind the town church. It was a long walk for the kids, but they brought their little cameras along and enjoyed clicking away.

Grab your walking stick - here we go...

Footpath by the church

Mushroom fairy village

Every turn was so scenic

The kids loved seeing sheep, cows, and horses along the way

A 'ford' in the river

A community garden to die for

Can't go wrong with finishing a walk at the bakery and pub!

Crumbs and The White Horse Pub

I knew it was going to be a great day 
when I saw a VW bus in town

And we were fortunate to have lovely weather. 
Don't you just love Shere?!


Related Posts: 'The Holiday' With A Twist, Film Locations: The Holiday & Bridget Jones 

25 August 2010

Nervous Nellie Goes To France

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Last weekend my husband and I took the Channel Tunnel ('Chunnel') train from London to Paris to celebrate his birthday. I have always been a Little Nervous Nellie (and Claustrophobic Claudia) about being in a tube underwater - just doesn't seem natural. 246 feet deep, to be exact.

The undersea train line opened in 1994, although formal discussions began as early as 1802. Whereas the English tunnelling machines were given snoozy alphanumeric names, the French boring machines had lovely names such as Brigitte, Virginie, and Pascaline. Ooh, that sounds so pretty and French!

Our Eurostar Train in the Gare du Nord Intl Station (Paris) 

I am happy to report there are no faults on the English Channel seafloor, and it was ideal to bore into the strong chalky marl (think White Cliffs of Dover). Although a huge engineering feat, the construction of the tunnel appears to be void of colorful stories.

Although I turned some heads showing up in my big yellow life jacket and pudgy arm floaties over my cute repurposed Goodwill outfit, I never heard any safety talks including the whereabouts of my nearest lifeboat or exit.

I 'sleuthed' that fire is the biggest danger. There have been a few closures in the tunnel due to fires on the freight trains, thankfully without injuries. And conveniently I realized those scuba tanks I was wearing could double as my firefighter oxygen get-up.

View Inside Train

If I have an urge to ride more undersea trains, I could head over to the Seikan Tunnel in Japan or wait for the opening of the Marmaray Tunnel in Turkey. It is at least four years behind schedule largely due to the discovery of a Byzantine era archaeological find and to complications of building on a fault line underwater (Nervous Nellie skips that one for sure).

View From Train Window (France)

I think our train trip took about 2 hours, with only 20 minutes in the actual undersea tunnel. Cleverly, they distracted me first by pouring (free) wine before we got to the tunnel, and then brought my yummy meal and dessert just before going into the dark underground. And because we went through many short land tunnels along the way, it took a while to realize we were actually in THE tunnel - so I didn't even have time to locate my paper bag to breathe into. 

Getting off the train in my snorkeling flippers was a little tricky, though. I know, I am a dreamy travelmate : )

Source: Wikipedia.org

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Laura (Nellie & Claudia)

24 August 2010

Day Trip: The Roald Dahl Museum

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

'A life is made up of a great number of small incidents and a small number of great ones'    -Roald Dahl

In an effort to make books 'come alive' for our kids, we will attempt to visit places with literary significance. Fortunately living here will make that job easier : )

As fans of his work, we took a day trip to The Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. Roald Dahl was the author of childhood classics such as Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr Fox, James and The Giant Peach, and Matilda. He died in 1990.

The unforgettable children's musical movie Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory was filmed in Munich, West Germany in 1970. Interestingly, Quaker Oats Company provided big funding for the film as a platform for their new chocolate candy, Wonka Bar.

You'll notice that the exact title of the book, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, was not used for the movie Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory to better promote the candy tie-in. Mr Dahl disapproved of the heavy focus on Willy Wonka and less on Charlie, so he did not allow for the filming of the sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

According to Wikipedia, that unforgettable Chocolate Room was a two foot deep river and waterfall created by adding chocolate ice cream mix to 150,000 gallons of water which eventually created a foul odor that permeated the entire soundstage. Many of the floral props were edible.

Now back to the museum. The museum took approximately two hours to tour. The focus was on Roald Dahl's life and how to get those creative juices flowing for aspiring young (and old) writers. When we entered the museum, the kids were given little notebooks to jot down creative ideas for writing a story. 

There were drawing stations, dress up costumes, dictionaries, and magnetic areas to put random words together. It was loads of fun.

You can't go to this museum without some candy, right? 
And a darling museum cafe too.

Of course the kids had to try 
the 'whizzpopper' and 'fizzy lifting' drinks!

I just finished reading Roald Dahl's fascinating autobiographies, Boy and Going Solo, which recounted his full life in boarding schools, making trips to the candy store, being a taster for Cadbury's Chocolate, working for Shell Company in Africa, and flying for the Royal Air Force in WWII. I always wonder about the life of such unique creative minds.

Click here to see the museum website


23 August 2010

A Few Fav Photos - Great Missenden

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

One nice thing about having a blog is I now go everywhere with my trusty little camera.  Here are a few photos I took last week in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. Enjoy!

My 'red door' theme...

I want that green scale! - and even my kiddos might eat
 those good look'n veggies

An adorable flower shop

I love the idea of chicken wire in a basket 
to keep the flowers upright. 'Brilliant!'

18 August 2010

Off To A UK Grocery Store

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

One of the things I like to do while traveling is visit a local grocery store. Looking like a total tourist, I snapped a few shots of interesting things I saw: 

I love the label on this 'cloudy' lemonade. I did not see a non-cloudy alternative. The lemonade company must know that it is always cloudy here. They are so smart.

While I think the packaging for this baby food is interesting, I think that fish pie filling tasting 'fabulous' would be a bit of a stretch.

Eggs are not refrigerated and are located next to the flour and sugar.

And we bought armfuls of these...

Every dinner should conclude with a cookie digestive biscuit : ) Right?!

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17 August 2010

UK Tidbit: Chimney Pots

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

I love the skyline of my new English Victorian neighborhood.

Interestingly, when we rented our house, we had to agree to use a chimney sweep annually. We have a small fireplace in almost every room, but only the living room fireplace works.

Look at this beauty. I love the detail on the roof too.

The clay part on the chimney is called a 'chimney pot'. Who knew?! According to Wikipedia, ''a chimney pot is placed on top of the chimney to inexpensively extend the length of the chimney, and to improve the chimney's draft. A chimney with more than one pot on it indicates that there is more than one fireplace on different floors sharing the chimney.''

The National Clayware Federation has nearly 500 varieties of chimney pots catalogued, such as "The Lady Broughton," "The Little Bishop" and "The Moulded Roll."  Sounds so English!

Seems a chimney makes for a good aerial planter too : )


16 August 2010

UK Tidbit: Rubbish

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

You will not see many public trash receptacles in England - my husband says it is due to bombs being placed inside them in the past.

I never know what to do with my disposable drink cup while walking around. How many people put their trash in post boxes? 

At home, we have 5 bins to dispose of our trash, each with its own pickup schedule and purpose.

1 - Recycle Bin
1 - Garden Waste Bin
2 - Compost Bins
1 - Trash Bin for rubbish that does not go in other bins

The city only picks up what is IN the bin, which means you cannot put anything on top or beside the bin. While compost is picked up each week, other bins are picked up every two weeks on a rotating schedule (a memory workout for me).

As you can imagine, this makes manufacturer over-packaging not only annoying but downright rude and inconvenient. The less packaging, the better. 

It is not uncommon to take a trip to the local dump with trash that won't fit in the bin. I had a lot of styrofoam and boxes from the move.

The recycling and waste center was FASCINATING. It was very busy with people with truckloads. Here is what I saw (always armed with a camera):

The term 'Skip' refers to a 'Roll-Off'

This is just a tiny portion of the very clean and well organized center. Absolutely everything has a proper designated place.

I brought this treasure home : )  An older gentleman was carrying this to the wood 'skip' as I ran after him yelling, 'Excuse me, can I have that ladder?'  He was happy to give it to me and said it was about 60 or 70 years old when asked.  I'm not very good at math, but that sounds old!  Love that! 

A future painted plant stand in my future?

I wonder what other old English treasures 
people are giving away at the dump : )

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12 August 2010

Photo Of The Day: gNomenclature

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Last year I was in Target when this sweet garden gnome called my name looking for a new home (how I miss that store). 

Now at our new home, he keeps getting moved around the garden. The kids think he wants be hidden, and so they put him way in the back of the yard. But because I'm usually not wearing glasses, I can just barely see his red cap. So I'll move him closer where I can enjoy him, and he magically appears in the back of the garden again! 

We have made a compromise - he lives in the middle of the garden in front of the ferns so he is somewhat hidden yet I can still enjoy him.

He looks happy in his new home, don't you think?


11 August 2010

Heart of the Home: My European Kitchen

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Salt & Pepper - Get it?

I love my happy kitchen and want to share a few photos. It is really difficult to photograph with the lighting, but here is my best go.

I love all the natural light in the kitchen that looks onto the backyard.

Were you wondering where I'd hang my clothespins
and dish towels from the last house?

Here is a photo of the breezeway between the kitchen and garage.

And I love my kitchen view of
the moss growing on the garage roof : )


09 August 2010

Laundry Days

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

No matter where you live in this world, there is always laundry to be tackled. And I wouldn't be the Happy Homemaker if I didn't have some housework to report : )

We have a standard Barbie-sized European washer and dryer. It takes two loads to wash the linens from our king size bed. 

Just as the Norwegians have a lot of words for 'snow' (don't they?), the English have an equal number of creative contraptions for drying laundry, so you know it is a big deal here. Just a small sampling:

We bought an 'indoor airer' to hang smaller items to dry. 

'Indoor Airer'

I crocodile-wrestled this laundry contraption. I lost the battle but not the war, for I sneaked off to recruit my neighbor for 'backup support'.

'Rotary Clothes Line Airer' in our lovely backyard
Grove of bamboo too : )

She taught me clothespins are called 'pegs' here. (She is charmed by my refreshing cluelessness?)

In the crawl space, we have this little room with drying racks. I had to tell the kids not to use it for forts or covert LEGO operations.

Mystery Drying Room

This is how my husband's dry cleaning was packaged. 
Don't you love it? 

We also have a Barbie-sized refrigerator that always looks full : )  Love that!


06 August 2010

Wilson Moves To England

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

My first baby, and furriest, is Wilson. He is a sweet and gentle Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who came to us on Valentine's Day ten years ago.

We knew our family would not feel complete in England unless our dog joined us. To avoid quarantine, we had to start the process 6 months in advance.

What was involved? Blood tests, another rabies vaccination (although he wasn't due), an international microchip (he already had a US one), tick and tapeworm treatments, examinations, and lots of paperwork, patience, and knowledge by our stellar vet. 

Overwhelmed by all the moving details, I had left buying him a ticket to the last minute. I was in a panic that legally he had to leave on July 19th (exactly 6 months since his blood work test) and I couldn't find an airline that would take him (summer heat bans). Agh! Thankfully my mom came to the rescue and found that Continental Airlines would : )

Mr 'Woo Woo' Wilson In His New Home

We were very anxious about his flights and layover. He had never flown before, and he had to go in the cargo hold. He was not allowed to take a tranquilizer (but I needed one) since it could effect his body temperature. It took 4 hours for him to clear UK customs, and he and his kennel were as clean as a whistle. 

We had the most joyful reunion! His whole body wiggled side to side with the force of his 'happy tail'. We squealed with excitement, and I did my 'mommy sigh' of relief.

I had wondered if a dog that sleeps all the time could have jetlag. And the answer is yes - when he slept, he slept HARD.

He seems to love being a UK dog - back to his roots. He loves the walks, and the smells of the foxes and neighborhood cat. He is a happy boy. 

We made the right choice to bring him.

For more information about traveling to the UK with a pet, view 


05 August 2010

Notes From The Kitchen

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Yesterday I added two new pages to my blog website - 'The Best Of London' and 'UK School Search' as a resource for those visiting or moving to the area. If you have a favorite in London, let me know and I'd love to check it out!

Notes From The Kitchen...

Green Gage

Yesterday I bought a package of green gages to try. 
What, you may ask, is a green gage? They taste like plums.

And then I had to pick up a box of porridge. I am in England, after all.
It was right next to the curds and whey. Just kidding : )

And this is the brand of our disposal
The brand name tickled my funny bone