30 October 2010

Trick-Or-Treating In The UK

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

First of all, let me just say it is difficult to play my kids game of 'Unscramble The Halloween Word' when the word unscrambled is spelled incorrectly in the first place.

I have a hard enough time with this game, but throw in 'dlub' to be unscrambled as 'blud' (blood) - well, the kids think I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed. Hey, no fair! Love the kid moments :)

Isn't this fantastic?  {via Centsational Girl}

In the US, Halloween and Trick-Or-Treating are practically synonymous. Not so in the UK. Whereas  Halloween was created hundreds of years ago in this part of the world, Trick-Or-Treating is an American tradition that began only in the 1950s.

It has been interesting to see how trick-or-treating is observed here. My sense is the older generation is nervous about this childhood activity - strangers coming to their door asking for candy. It is an unusual  tradition, isn't it?

I think the dark side of Halloween has been the association with October 31st for a long time. I've heard many fear 'tricks' could be played by the children or by the homeowner - and I'm certainly not one to say if this fear is valid or not. 

Most of the parents with small children did not trick-or-treat when they were kids, so it is a newer tradition that is evolving.  In a country filled with so many old traditions, I find it exciting and fascinating to be part of a new one :)

{Centsational Girl}

So far I've learned we are only to visit homes with a pumpkin displayed. When we ring the bell, I think we say 'Sweet or No Sweet' or perhaps nothing at all. I'll know more tomorrow :)  The kids will be given candy, cookies, or coins.

Costumes are traditional Halloween garb and only fill half an aisle in the stores, if at all - monsters, ghosts, and witches. I've heard they think it odd to have a cute little Minnie Mouse ring the doorbell.

Another interesting element is next weekend is Guy Fawkes Night, which includes fireworks and the burning of an effigy over a bonfire. This event sounds dark and eerie to me, but I have been assured it is a family friendly night with games and bonfires at most schools.

I sense that having Halloween and Bonfire Night so close together can encourage bad behavior from some over the next seven days - another reason some are nervous about this time of year.

I often realize what is 'very American' only when it is absent. This is true for candy corn and peanut butter candy bars, which are only sold in the American grocery stores here. How I'll miss my Reece's Peanut Butter Cup loot from my kids Halloween bags :)

Tomorrow my little muffins will transform into Harry Potter characters and will celebrate Halloween and trick-or-treating with our fabulous new neighbors. Fortunately for us, there will be a lot of pumpkins outside the doors on our street :)

Happy Halloween & Trick-Or-Treating wherever you are,

XO Laura

29 October 2010

Celebration of a New Home

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

When we moved to England, we sold our house in the US and brought everything with us. We have had a mourning period for the home we left behind. {Sigh} We loved that house - my canvas for home decor, our sacred space full of so many memories, the house we brought newborn Little G home to

Now we are renting a lovely Victorian home built around 1898 that oozes character. Except for an unhung  mirror (major procrastination), I think I can officially say we have settled in :)

Love the original door & window design

Bristles in mail slot keep the house warmer (so clever)

Renting this house actually has freed me of my design obsession. No more sewing curtains, pouring over paint colors, or ripping out inspirational magazine pages (well, not as many anyway). This home is imperfectly perfect for us, and there's not much we can do with it anyway. Who knew renting would calm my mind? At least for now?

Kitchen Window

Kitchen + Blogging HQ

I am posting photos of our home to help friends, family, and readers picture us here. Photojournaling is also a way for me to document and see the loveliness in the 'now'

Love all the molding

I love vignettes and little 'creatures' around the house. The movers thought I was crazy to have brought so many animals across the ocean. What do they know?!


Felt Birds in Playroom Window

I mostly decorate with items from Goodwill, Target, Pottery Barn Teen, and local artists. I like the challenge of having an eclectic style on a small budget.

Everything is so expensive here, I have bought almost nothing beside necessities. I hope to find some flea markets soon :)

Reading Nook (and dog hang-out)

One fun thing about putting this house together was taking everything out of boxes and setting it in a room. To decorate the house, I went 'shopping' in that room filled with things I love.

I wonder what new memories this new house will hold for us. I hope you have enjoyed a tour of our new home :) 

XO Laura

27 October 2010

Enchanted Exhibit at Kensington Palace

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

My friend, Ashley, surprised me with tickets to Kensington Palace's current exhibition, 'The Enchanted Palace'.  Thank you, Ash!

Exhibit: The Enchanted Palace
It was a treat to go into this famous palace in London, home to many including Queen Victoria and Princess Diana.

As you may know, many royal weddings united countries through arranged marriages to strategically strengthen their European foothold.

Can you imagine marrying someone whom you've never met and doesn't even speak your language? As a result, many of the ruling families were loveless and quite dysfunctional, which makes for wonderful literature - doesn't it?

Kensington Palace
While most of the palace is closed due to construction, the State Apartments have been transformed for this temporary exhibition. The rooms looked, well, royal - tall ceilings, flocked dark wallpaper, heavy curtains, and beautiful wooden floors.

I had to hand it to them - it was a creative blend of classical masterpieces and modern art installations in a traditional palace setting.

Queen Victoria's childhood bedroom
The King's Gallery
The Gallery of War and Play featured thousands of plastic GI Joe-like soldier figures on the floor, while in the the ballroom a Victorian silhouette danced on the ceiling to a Duran Duran song. Traditional meets contemporary.

You may want to drop by this quirky exhibit which runs until February 28th, 2011. Click here for details

Afterward, you can stop by The Orangery for tea and scones - yum!

All images from Historic Royal Palaces website

XO Laura

25 October 2010

Bruges & Twelve Years of Marriage

Hello you, did you have a rejuvenating weekend? I hope so :)

Canal in Bruges

My husband and I decided just three hours before the train left that we'd like to celebrate our 12th anniversary in Bruges, Belgium. Often locked in indecision and perhaps laziness, we make lots of decisions on the fly. 

I had never been to Belgium before - famous for its chocolate, waffles, and beer. I read that 'French' fries were invented there too.

Bruges is known for its canals and quaint European atmosphere.  I was in photographic heaven :)

Cafes in the square

I reflected on other October 24ths throughout the years...our wedding day, major moves, career changes, our growing family, and my husband's 2 failed attempts to lose his wedding ring :)  Opening a sealed envelope that revealed we were having a girl after our ultrasound, that's the anniversary dinner I'll never forget!

The kids came with us for this trip. They are such fun travel dumplings.

As a parent, I worry about raising our kids outside their home country.  Eventually feeling neither American nor European, what are the repercussions of morphing their identity?

I was hoping to 'accidentally' get locked in here overnight

Yet at dinner, we went around the table saying the days of the week in either French or Spanish. It was a fun game that lasted at least 15 minutes. It made me smile, thinking maybe we had made the right decision to move abroad and enrich our life experience.

View from boat tour

When we left the restaurant, I asked my husband, 'Do you think the restaurant staff thought I was Angelina Jolie?' This is a really old game between us. I am the least glamorous person ever, yet I always ask him if people mistake me for this or that famous person. He responds with either 'Yes, probably' or as on that night I received a polite 'No'. Childlike, I never bore of this game. I even grin as I write this...

So my motto for the weekend was that if I lived in Bruges, I would be fat and happy. Fat, because of the chocolate (but maybe skinny because I don't share the love for mussels).  And happy with all the scenic eye-candy. But then I always feel a deep happiness when I'm with my family.

To my husband and best friend ever,
as they say in London, 'Love you loads!' 
sweetie ;)

XO Laura

22 October 2010

Friday Fun: Who's Coming For Dinner?

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

It's time for another 'Fun Friday' post. Yea!!

Just for fun, my husband and I have had an ongoing list of famous people we'd enjoy having for dinner. 

So let's just say this is a photo of my dining room (wink, wink)
I want to share with you my current invite list. I have to warn you I'm a simpleton

Ingredients For The Perfect Dinner

A Dash of Sparkle: Kate Hudson

1 Cup of Beauty & Charm: Julia Roberts

A Pinch of Slapstick: Sandra Bullock

Stir with Interesting Stories: Oprah Winfrey

Sprinkle with Humor: Ellen DeGeneres

Finish with the Perfect Table Setting: Anthropologie

The Menu

I'm a casual girl, and my husband makes the most wonderful sandwiches. Maybe he'd whip up some warm baguette sandwiches with basil, tomato, and fresh mozzarella cheese?

Let's see - thick salty chips. Cheesecake with cherries on top. Definitely. Jasmine green tea first; frosty mug beer later. Okay, so this sounds more like a picnic than a dinner

I'd like to tag Laura from A Place For Tea and Jane from Life on Planet Baby to play along

And you?
Please play and put your invite list in the comments 
or add your blog post in Linky below (closes Oct 30)

Because it's more fun when everyone plays!

Happy happy weekend!


(Linky will close Oct 30th)

20 October 2010

Sending The Love: Recent Finds

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Don't you just love when you make a new discovery?! Well, I have a few 'stumbles' to share with you, my dear reader


Feels like such a secret insider tip, I'll whisper it {Bledding Heart French Restaurant}  An ex-Londoner whisked us away to this amazing restaurant in the most tucked away location imaginable in the middle of the city. We had delicious French (good French not 'weird' French) food in this cobbled 'close'.

See more on Bleeding Heart's website

AUSTRALIA: JOHN BUTLER TRIO jamming with Keith Urban

I'm probably the last person to know about JBT, but boy, can he play!


Thanks to blogger, RubiaTica, for this find

For those who live outside the US and unable to stream their fav US TV shows due to international licensing - you are going to FREAK OUT! It's free and current!  It requires some patience, but I find the zshare.net link most reliable. I know, you want to jump up and down, right?!


For those of you who follow multiple blogs, you will find this 'reader' to be easy to read and manage. It organizes your blogs in a magazine format. It is brilliant, a time-saver, and free. Thank you Julie of Knittlebits for this nugget. See Feedly.com


Have you ever tried to take a photograph of your computer screen with your camera? It is not pretty. With the Windows 7 Snipping Tool, taking an image of your computer screen is a snap. Yea! I love easy tools :) I used it to get the Feedly image above.

Hopefully you found a useful tidbit today :) Do you have one to add?

* I'm looking forward to 'Fun Friday'! I'll have another game to share *

Restaurant Images: Bleeding Heart

(Side Note: I received no payment from these companies.
Just wanting to share)

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18 October 2010

I {Swoon} For Retro Wallpaper

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Loving this vibrant smattering of vintage wallpapers, I am inspired!! 

Can I have a playdate in this delightful space? 

Danish company, Retrovilla.dk
I love the green stove burners and cut out elephant - so creative

Check out these handmade vintage wallpaper finds on Etsy.com
Can you tell I also have a thing for ochre florals? Pea-green too

Buy from the artist
 1. Draw Flowers  2. Barking Maddison    3. Mooza   

Am I the only one who goes to a store and puts things in my basket for a few minutes, happy to have 'owned' them for just a moment? 
I feel that now :)

Have a happy, inspired week!

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15 October 2010

My New Toy: Picnik

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

I have been using Google's free photo editing program, Picassa, for years. I have loved it but has been somewhat limiting.  I recently delved into (free) Picnik - ohBoy,ohBoy,ohBoy!

My Picniked Photo: it looks kinda Martha Stewartish(?)
I love how clean, vibrant, and romantic it looks

You can see the original photo went through a bit of transformation with cropping, text, color adjustments, glow,
and white feathered edge

Playing with Picnik stickers,
I think it would be a fun tool for scrapbooking

Here I adjusted the color somewhat for mood and darkened the edges

With the ability to add text onto the photo, 
I might design my own Christmas card this year. Fun!

With Picnik, anyone can make their photos look more professional. I am amazed by the photographers who achieved these looks decades ago without digital cameras and editing programs!

Warning: Picnik.com is incredibly user-friendly and lots of fun, especially with a glass of wine :)



13 October 2010

Sand Between My Toes: West Wittering Beach

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

After many days of clouds & drizzle, Sunday was a BEAUTIFUL day. 
On a whim, we drove to the south coast to West Wittering Beach. 

What a surprise! Colorful Caribbean cabanas in England? 
Love that :)

I was told these beach huts cost as much as a small home, and sleeping in them is not allowed. Unlike the numerous pebble beaches, West Wittering has nice fine sand.

Aah, a few more beachy snapshots...

We had dinner in this quaint pub/inn
The Fish House in Chilgrove, Chichester

I guess our little 'sun dance' the previous week paid off :)

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11 October 2010

Today's Chit-Chat: Nutella

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

I first learned of this chocolaty spread from college friends who had spent time in Europe. No huge surprise when I had a 'Hey Mikey, She Likes It!' moment when I tried it years ago. Yum!

Interestingly, this Italian creamy condiment contains more hazelnuts than chocolate (thus NUTella) due to their super secret recipe developed during WWII cocoa rations.

Commonly spread on toast, Nutella is sold in over 75 countries. According to their website, Nutella outsells all brands of peanut butter combined worldwide. It's tasty right off a spoon too, or so I hear :)

This past summer, European Parliament proposed strict labeling laws on convenient foods and soft drinks, which could have posed a marketing challenge to Nutella, and even whispers of bans (gasp!).

The proposal was rejected, and it looks like this Italian comfort food is safe once again. Now that I have a huge stockpile of Nutella, I thought I'd take one out and 'take one for the team' to test a recipe idea. See what lengths I go for you, my lovely blog readers?!

Now don't go confusing me for one of those foodie bloggers. I can eat fancy, but I don't fancy cooking. But I did make these to bring to a neighbor's house. Just between you and me, I made eight but only five made it to the tea...

'Look Brilliant' Nutella Croissants

1 package of croissant dough (I used Pillsbury)
1 jar of Nutella or a creamy chocolate spread

1. Unroll croissant dough. Smear Nutella on one side of dough or put a dollop in the future heart of the croissant

2. Roll croissant loosely. Bake according to package

3. Allow Nutella center to cool a bit before eating, if you can (I couldn't)



09 October 2010

Happy Weekend!

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

I don't know if it made headlines where you live, but in my house, it is very big news when it is MY HALF-BIRTHDAY! Any extra occasion to eek out cake and feel like a princess, I'm on board. 

I have been celebrating my half-birthday since I was a child, and it just never ended. Here is how we celebrated it today:

Ticket for Fulham Palace Art Fair
I won this ticket from Amelia, local artist and blogger of 101 Birdtales. My family and I went to the Fulham Palace Art Fair in Hammersmith (London) today and had a lovely, inspirational day on the beautiful palace grounds. Thank you, Amelia! It was such a treat!

I bought my first splurge item as a little half-birthday gift to myself the other day - this fun teapot. Don't you love the colors?!

So with an extra spring in my step, I would like to wish you a very happy 10-10-2010 tomorrow! Buy your lottery tickets; it must be a lucky day indeed :)

Cake Photo: Lulu At Home (Google Images)

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08 October 2010

First Signs of Autumn

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

The first signs of autumn are here with cooler rainy weather, 
the smell of burning fireplaces, and just a few trees turning.

My sweet little parakeets don't visit my tree any more. 
Where have you gone for the winter, chirpy ones?

I'm curious to see what this season looks like, feels like 
in my new home country...

Have a colorful weekend!!


06 October 2010

Nervous Nellie Gets A Drivers License, Part 1

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Remember when Nervous Nellie went to France through the Chunnel? Well, I'm she's back! and now needing to start the process of getting herself a UK driver's license.

So I have less than one year to complete two written tests and a practical driving exam with an official-type. If I get caught driving without a license after my year is up, they will impound my car and leave me in my bunny slippers on the side of the road. So harsh!

And knowing the test only has a 43% pass rate, I feel 16 again and just as nervous - but I'm not gonna wear my braces and headgear this time!

To prepare like most driving expats, I'll need to invest in a CD-ROM program that will teach me the rules of the road (I've just been guessing so far) and 5-6 hours of driving school.

Interestingly, Barry (who all the expats use) will sit in the car with me during my crash driving test - not only to hold the vomit bag for me (or for the officer if need be), but also to properly introduce me to the officer. Isn't that adorable?! 

Why be nervous? Hmm, here's an example...

Looks like an innocent street

But wait, what's that?

'This Side'?! The street has a different name 
depending which direction you are driving?!

Now wait a minute! You can't do that!

So I've already picked out my cute little outfit for 'the big day'. I put my Starbucks order on my shirt, in case my bundle of nerves runs away with my memory.

I will keep you posted on my driving licensing progress (liquor license too, perhaps). Hopefully Mr Official Man doesn't read my driving blog post before the test :)

TShirt sold by Zazzle
TShirt Image by HipMomsWhoWork

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Laura + Nervous Nellie

04 October 2010

Operation Big Red Mushroom

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

I am jumping up and down happy! Thank you to those of you who wrote me as to where to find these amazing red toadstools. I was on a multi-day treasure hunt and scored these pics :)

No wonder so many drawings and folklore came from England

These red beauties are the Fly Agaric mushroom, traditionally floated in milk to attract and kill flies. And they are GIGANTIC - the round ones are the size of my fist; the flatter ones are the size of a saucer. These really are my photos!

A few more fungi...

As you can see, the heather is still flowering 
and a rabbit must have 'dropped' by recently :)

Nature provides the best art! 
Now if I just can find those cutie-pie hedgehogs...

[ Fun Friday Word Trivia ]

Thank you so much for participating in another Fun Friday contest!  I will have another one when I find something interesting. 

Creative definitions of 'geegaw' submitted by readers included fruit, laughter, and animals. I love you guys!

The real answer is not nearly so interesting. According to Dictionary.com a geegaw is 'something gaudy and useless; a trinket'. Now try to throw that in a sentence today :)