29 September 2010

Beatrix Potter & A Tale of a 1o8 Year Old Rabbit

What's not to love about a tale with names like
 Jemima Puddle-Duck and Timmy Tiptoes?!

The story of author and illustrator Helen Beatrix Potter is a very interesting one. It's a little long, but stick with me...

Born in 1866, little Beatrix grew up in South Kensington in the heart of London during the Victorian era, just down the road from some of the world's most acclaimed museums. (Interesingly, author/illustrator 'Dr Seuss' lived down the street from a zoo and library in the US)

I trotted right down to her home yesterday :) There was no 'blue plaque' indicating that this was her home, but I think this was it. In a charming little 'close', actually.

2 South Bolton Gardens, Kensington

Like most girls of wealthy families of her time, she was educated by governesses and not often around other children besides her brother, Bertram, who went to boarding school once he was of age. She found comfort in her pets, including the ones she and her brother 'smuggled' inside paper bags into the house. 

These pets included mice, birds, lizards, snakes, frogs, ferrets, and even a bat. (Such patient parents!) Pet bunnies Benjamin Bouncer and Peter Piper were frequent models for her earliest rabbit illustrations. She even made a leash for Peter Piper, who occasionally went on outings with her. 

At age nine, young Beatrix was filling sketchbooks of drawings of animals wearing clothes, carrying umbrellas, riding horses, and ice-skating. Despite her lack of formal education, she had a real knack for blending scientifically accurate illustrations with fantasy.

The idea of Beatrix Potter's first book, 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit', developed from illustrated letters she sent to a friend's son suffering from scarlet fever in 1893. She wrote to him, 'I don't know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits, whose names were - Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter...'

Encouraged by friends to submit a book variation of her letters, Miss Potter was rejected by all six publishers, for they wanted a larger, more expensive book with color illustrations. She insisted the book be small enough to fit in a child's hands and affordable with illustrations on every page to hold the attention of even the youngest reader.

So in 1901, a determined Miss Potter published her own 250 copies of 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' in time for Christmas. Then having seen a copy, F Warne & Co decided to publish the book, and within a year produced six editions to meet demand. 

Beatrix Potter went on to author and illustrate 28 books throughout her lifetime. She was very involved in every aspect of her books including typeface, binding, cover design, and title pages, thus making each book truly 'By Beatrix Potter'. 

As her eyesight deteriorated as an adult, she continued to write and used previous illustrations to piece together new books. She married and moved to a farm in the Lake District in northern England. Beatrix Potter died in 1943 as a conservationist, farmer, sheep breeder, mycologist (fungi botanist), botanical illustrator, and of course, author.

There are 23 tales in the little book series, which have been translated in 35 languages, sold over 100 million copies, and never been out of print. In addition, Peter Rabbit became the first patented plush toy, making him the oldest licensed character since 1903.

Walt Disney tried to obtain the rights to Beatrix Potter's work, as he had with 'Winnie-the-Pooh' and 'The Wind in the Willows'. Miss Potter declined his offer. 

Today her life and books have been interpreted in television, film, ballet, and theater.  The biographical film 'Miss Potter' starring Renee Zellweger was released in 2006.

London's V&A Museum (free admission) holds the world's largest collection of Beatrix Potter's drawings, literary manuscripts, and related materials. You can visit the exhibition until January 2011. I visited it yesterday :)

V&A Museum, London

And if you crave more, you are in luck...
STUDY DAY at the V&A Museum, Sat 13 Nov 2010
Dissecting Peter Rabbit: Perspectives on the Art of Beatrix Potter

Coinciding with the V&A's display, Peter Rabbit™: the tale of The Tale, this study day reveals the secrets of Beatrix Potter's astounding commercial and literary success and offers insights into her compelling narratives. Speakers include award winning writers and illustrators, biographers, publishers. See the V&A website for details. 

Such a great story of creativity, passion, and determination

Do you have memories of reading these delightful
'little books' as a child? A favorite?

See Beatrix Potter's home here in the Lake District through the eyes of blog Living With Thanksgiving.

Content sources: PeterRabbit.comV&A MuseumWikipedia


27 September 2010

Flag Trivia Reveal

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Ooh, that was so fun! Thank you to everyone who participated in my 'Look Smart For The Day' contest last week :) The answer is...


The design for the flag was created by  local art teacher Grantley W. Prescod and was chosen from an open competition arranged by the Barbados government. Over a thousand entries were received for the flag design.

Interesting facts about Barbados:
  • Ruled as an English colony from 1627 - 1966 
  • Geologically made of coral and mostly surrounded by coral reefs
  • Lies just outside the principal hurricane strike zone 
  • Maintains the third largest stock market exchange in the Caribbean region
  • Hosted the 2007 Cricket World Cup
I'd like to send a gold star to Charmaine 
for answering the question correctly

And I'm sending you, my lovely readers, on a mental vacation to beautiful Barbados to get this new week started right. That's right, just park your car anywhere :)

Source: Wikipedia.org

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23 September 2010

Hello, I Am A Flag Dork

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Handmade pillow by Bespoke Bunting

Confession: I have loved flags since 1st Grade when I would hide the classroom flag book under my desk and read it instead of paying attention in class. Another confession: My 1st Grade birthday party was at McDonalds, and it rocked!

Back on point, I love flags for their design, color, and their story. Maybe I'll convert you into a flag nerd too :)

As you know, the flag for the United Kingdom is called the Union Jack ('Jack' is an olde term for 'flag'.) 

Here are the individual flags within the United Kingdom. See if you can figure this one out...

Flag of Scotland
Flag of England

Flag of Northern Ireland

Overlay all three flags and you get this

So clever!

In 1606 the Union Jack was adopted by the United Kingdom. Today it also can be seen on the flags of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Tuvalu.

Regrettably, Wales is not represented on the Union Jack flag although it is a part of the United Kingdom. My son would agree it is a cool flag all to its own. 

Flag of Wales

'LOOK SUPER SMART FOR THE DAY' CONTEST: Okay, I have no free giveaway, but you will get an imaginary gold star if you can tell me 

-> Which flag was designed by a local art teacher, whose entry won among 1000 designs in a contest? Hints: The flag is yellow and blue; the country is an island

For fun, tell me your best guess here in the comments section :)

Flag images: Wikipedia.org


21 September 2010

Lists & Doodles

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

If we ever speak on the phone, chances are I am mindlessly doodling (or doing laundry). I think I am a second generation doodler. I am a bit shy to share this, for I have no formal training but have developed a strong kindergartner technique. 

This was my doodle today during a workshop - I later colored it with my daughter's Magic Markers to share with you :)

Hillside Landscape Doodle

I don't know why, but swirls have shown up in my doodles for only a year now (drawn in my sun). Since I was a kid, I mostly doodle flowers, mountains, and random shapes. I just noticed that for the first time my typical mountain peaks now look more like rounded English hills. Interesting...

And without giving it any thought, I doodled the red Fly Agaric mushroom that I had thought existed only in fairy tales - but they have them here! I am in a mad search for a glimpse of this magical mushroom and cutie-pie hedgehogs. Let me know if you have any tips on where I could spot them...

Inspired by Kate's expat list at Across the Pond with the Loeckens,  here is my own list I thought you might enjoy

'You Know You Are Living In England When...'

  1. You pay $150 to fill the gas tank (and you are okay with it)
  2. The 'meter reader' guy pops by unannounced to read the meter in your house
  3. The grocery cart performs 'doughnuts' in the aisle, whether or not you want it to
  4. You miss boxed Mac & Cheese, effective laundry stain-remover, and Reece's Peanut Butter Cups
  5. You have to try to speak with an English accent to be understood 
  6. What had been a mundane task in your home country is now a huge adventure
  7. You surrender to the impossibility of memorizing the multitude of phone numbers with their infinite digits 
  8. Pigeons & parakeets frequent the backyard
  9. Book club meetings are with the author, at a pub, and/or in the actual historical location
  10. Your daily commute is through the woods past swans, weeping willows, and a charming church built in the 1800s
Today is sunny, so I must go now and enjoy the 'sun shower' :)
Have a lovely day!

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19 September 2010

Retail Therapy: Camden Markets

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Camden Markets is situated in northwest London along the Regents Canal towpath. Filled with over 1000 stalls, this colorful indoor/outdoor market is open 7 days a week (incl Sunday when many stores are closed). 

Camden Markets is actually comprised of 5 separate markets, so if you think you've seen it all in one hour, keep looking. Under bridges, in alleyways, nooks, and courtyards you'll find unique food, clothing, arts and crafts, entertainment, pubs, and much more. 

And in case you are a rock star, MTV studios is nearby.

This photo is a tribute to my college days of crazy love for The Cure and my Doc Martens. I saw them in concert in London in 1989 - a true life highlight (just behind my wedding and a few births).

I'll just let you get the vibe from these photos with little commentary

Eating bar

Did you miss my post about pedicures by fish? Read it here

Loads of clever design at Camden Markets, don't you think? 

Information Source: Camden Lock 

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15 September 2010

Pedicure with Fins

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Yesterday I enjoyed getting lost in the hidden nooks and alleys in Camden Markets, filled with international stalls.

Everything was interesting and good until I stumbled upon what looked like a fish tank of minnows. Hmm, random but whatever. 

And then I took a closer look

What???!!! Check this out!

'OMG, are you kidding me?!' 
Then I begged the stall owner to dip his hand in 
(I wasn't about to)

Craazzyy! I have no idea what entrepreneur pursued this one, but good for them. 

Turns out these little guys are garra rufa fish which originate from the hot springs and river basins in the Middle East - giving pedicures for centuries, exfoliating and treating psoriasis & eczema along the way.

I wasn't mentally prepared to give this a try at the time, but now I think I need to give this a go next time. Let's see, after I pee in my pants from laughing so hard, who knows?, it could be the best pedicure yet.
Certainly the most interesting.

Source: WondaFish.com

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14 September 2010

Muddy Boots & Glam-ping

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Have you ever wanted to camp at a working dairy farm? Me neither :) Let's just put it out there that my idea of fun camping is a gentle cross-breeze through the house with a good snuggle by the (electric) fireplace.

Then one of my fav neighbors told me about Feather Down Farms, which looked like a 'glam-ping trip' (glamorous camping) I could actually enjoy. Plus we owed the kids a camping trip this year.

Always up for an adventure, we were off to The Cotswolds - 3.5 hours away in the middle of lovely English farming country. The Cotswolds are know for gentle hills ('wolds') and sleepy picturesque villages. We traveled through this adorable town, Ledbury.

From the Feather Down Farms website, we selected Hollings Hill Farm as our destination. Managed by the delightful Knowles family, this 300 acre farm is part of the Duchy of Cornwall ( = Prince Charles). (Yes, he has visited.)

It is a busy farm complete with crops, dairy cows, goats, chickens, horses, and geese. My friends, this was a dream-come-true vacation for my animal-loving kids.

We stayed in a custom-designed tent with everything a girl like me could want (beds, running water, potbellied stove). And the kids loved making their way around by lantern at night, for there was no electricity. Okay, so it was as close to perfect camping as it gets for me.

Cool, huh? Our happy kids were busy feeding goats, fetching firewood in the wheelbarrow, and caring for chickens in the coop. Squeals of delight pierced the tent camp when an egg was laid :)

Another highlight (and education) was helping to milk 
the cows at the end of the day

Ah, this is the life. Glam-ping.

Check out their website here

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12 September 2010

Photo In The Field

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Just a little taster of my weekend, which I will document in the next couple of days : ) I have the photos downloaded but still need to work out the text. Let me just say, it was a 'jump-up-and-down' great weekend at Feather Down Farms.


10 September 2010

Photo Of The Day: Weekend Bouquet

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

'Happiness is the ability to create a beautiful bouquet with the flowers in reach.' 

Just a quick little photo that I thought I'd leave you with for the weekend : ) 
I bought these wonderful Van Gogh-esque sunflowers from the market today, 
placed them in this Wellies vase, and stopped to enjoy the fuzzy moss in my backyard : )

Have a splendid weekend!


09 September 2010

Whole Foods Market: UK Super Sized

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

In search of a good story, you know how I like to sprinkle a little research from my Wiki friends into my blogs. 

According to Wikipedia.com, twenty five year old college drop out John Mackey and his girlfriend, Rene Lawson, borrowed $45,000 from friends and family to open a small natural foods store called SaferWay in Austin, Texas (the name being a spoof on Safeway). 

The couple was evicted from their apartment for storing food products in it, so they lived in the store where there was no shower. They bathed using the water hose attached to the dishwasher.

Two years (and many water hose showers) later they merged SaferWay with Clarksville Natural Grocery to open the original Whole Foods Market in 1980 in Austin. Today, Whole Foods Market is the world's largest retailer of organic and natural foods with stores in the US, Canada and UK. 

In 2007, Whole Foods opened this UK flagship store in London with 80,000 square feet and 3 floors of pure yumminess! 

Beautiful bakery

Eggs in many colors - no cartons or refrigeration
The hens were laying eggs right behind me (just kidding)

This looked interesting

If you look carefully to the left of the escalator, you will see
a grocery cart going up the ramp-y thing!

Whole Foods Market has done it again - beautiful store design and lots of interesting food! The third floor has an impressive food hall
and restaurant too : )

Whole Foods Market
The Barkers Building
63-97 High Street Kensington
London W8 5SE

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07 September 2010

Tutorial: How To Post A Blog Comment

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

A few followers have asked how to post a comment on my blog : ) Let me just say it is a THRILL to receive comments so that the blog is a dialog, instead of a monologue.  And it is super duper EASY to do.

STEP 1 For those of you who receive posts via email, click on the post title in the email. This will bring you to the post online.

STEP 2 Once on the blog, scroll to the end of the post where you see this. Click on "Comments".

STEP 3 You will be led to a page that looks like the one below. Write your comment, then choose a profile. 
You may register as Anonymous if you wish.

I hope that helps! I'd love to hear from you : )


05 September 2010

Sign Of The Times

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

I recently saw on BBC News that the government is encouraging cities to remove unnecessary signs to declutter towns  to ensure town character. I am delighted that visual aesthetics is important on a national level. I'm in the land of very few billboards - LOVE THAT!

A snapshot of interesting signs...

Quaint fingerposts

Public Footpaths traverse a lot of beautiful land 
and make for popular hiking spots

I don't think the graphics on this one would 'fly' in the US

With only a 33% pass rate for the UK driving test, I'll definitely enroll in driving school. I have one year to pass the test. 

And if I'm not mistaken, the speed limit on the highway cleverly changes on electronic signs, depending on traffic & road conditions.

Look! They captured my kids running late to school!

I can use whatever help I can get...

What symbol would you design to indicate 'no cutting in line'?

In the front row of the grocery store parking lot

My husband assures me that everyone knows what 'alight' means at the train station. I thought it meant 'no smoking', but he assures me it means 'don't disembark'. I'm still not convinced he's right.

Beautifully tiled sign in tube station. 
Who knew colors tan and mint could look so good together?!

A re-post, but I love what is behind the 'private' gate in 
this community garden.

Have a wonderful week!

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