31 March 2011

Post Of The Month Club: March

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Come and follow me to the first Post Of The Month Club


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So exciting to have you here!

I saved a spot for you


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With a napping house and lemonade

Bloggers can link up their best post of the month
And see, you've already done the work

Share the love by visiting a few other blogs

Would you mind adding my button to your lovely sidebar so more can join the fun next month?
Yep, we'll do this the last day of each month

If you need help linking your post, just let me know
The linking will be open through the weekend

Happy April Blogging :)



30 March 2011

Fab Confab: Birthday Suits

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Welcome to another week of Fab Confab - where we have a little chat about a topic on Wednesdays

Here is my burning topic for the day


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It is a well-known fact that Europe has topless beaches, nude public steam rooms, artwork without a stitch of clothing, and magazines at my kids eye level with 'everything' on display

My young children have never seen so much skin

I think in the US, there are two extremes - prim & proper and 'not'

In Europe, we have seen everyday bodies in their birthday suits yet more of the 'inappropriate' as well

What do you think about raising kids in either environment? I'd love to know your thoughts
{Rated G comments only, of course}

28 March 2011

Mary Had A Little Lamb

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK




The next few weeks in England are informally known as the 'lambing season'
Little lambs dot many of the hillsides




Aren't they adorable?!


Smile!


And who could resist a pig race?! 'Grease Lightning' won :)




Ooh, how cute am I?




My kids wish their names were Mary (for she had a little lamb, ya know)

- all photos taken by me -

 Come Back :) Thursday is 'Post Of The Month Club' Linky Party (details here)

27 March 2011

'Post Of The Month Club' Linky Party

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK


Join me at the end of each and every month for 'Post of the Month Club'




Bloggers will be able to link up their favorite post of the month

It is a great way to meet other bloggers and showcase your best work :) 

Sound like fun?

I can't wait! 

You can add my button to your column too - just cut and paste the HTML code into your sidebar

This will help get the word out - because it is more fun when there are more at the party :)

Readers without blogs - I think you're in for a treat :)

Wishing you a wonderful week wherever you are!

26 March 2011

Happy Dance

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Thank you for all the well-wishes and for following for what feels like a never ending tale of getting my UK Driver's License. What great troupers you are! 

For a quick recap, it is a three step process which takes at least 6 months to complete. International drivers have one year from arrival date to complete the steps successfully to be 'legal'. Only 44% of applicants pass each year (I've also heard 33%). Let's just call them the lottery winners. 


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Without a UK Driver's License after the year is up, they will impound your car in the rain at night leaving you and your kids in their pjs on the side of the road - possibly miles (or kilometers) away from home - if pulled over by the police. That visualization was all I needed to get the ball rolling. Big, heavy, spiky ball.

Yesterday I took the last step of driving with Mr Tester Man. Waiting to meet him, I did a big sigh of relief when I saw he looked like a kind, grandfatherly-type (who surely doesn't fail those who try really, really hard). Scratched record sound in the background, I was then horrified when he opened his mouth in the thickest Scottish accent ever. Ever. 

Even my accompanying driving instructor thought 'Uh oh' - he told me later. 


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Ironically during my driving lessons, I had mentioned every single potential catastrophe to my instructor that I could imagine. He had assured me I would be able to understand my Mr Tester Man (and a flock of pelicans were very unlikely to fly into my car during my test). His mantra was, 'Don't worry, Laura. Don't panic. You'll do fine'. But you know what he was really thinking.... (psycho)...


Flowers growing in the road
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Back to the test - with Mr (Scottish) Tester Man repeating everything twice and a quick game of charades for clarification, I did all my turns and maneuvers 'good enough' to pass. After successfully completing my 3 Point Turn, a little 'Yippee!' escaped my lips. He chuckled a Scottish chuckle. 


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Definitely not a walk in the park, I received multiple check marks for insufficient mirror use. But I haven't met a person yet who hasn't been checked for that one repeatedly. Like Nadia Comaneci, is it possible to get a 'Perfect 10' on the practical driving test? 

With marbles in his mouth, I had to ask Mr Tester Man to repeat what he said, because it sorta sounded like he said I passed. Or at least that's what I'm going with :) 


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So Nervous Nellie can now drive legally throughout Europe and The Commonwealth. (Except for India - they don't have reciprocity since their driving is of a 'different standard'.) 


The Commonwealth
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You know you have good friends when they greet you with wine and cake to either drown your sorrows or celebrate. They admitted that 'really, the day could have gone either way'.


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So happy to put my book, notes, and CD-ROMs in the closet for my husband to use. Now I need to take care of duties that have taken the back burner. 

Like calling the chimney sweep to clean our old Victorian chimney. I so love that. So English. 

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands...
{clap, clap}

The Backstories: 

25 March 2011

Adventures In A RoundAbout

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

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Hello Mr. Driving Test Man,

I am very scared of you and your scary test. I know too many expats who have struggled to complete this rite of passage gracefully.

I took my second driving lesson last week, and it looks like I still have a lot to work on - although I have a clean record and have been driving for over 20 years. It doesn't help that the instructor recommends 4 lessons for me, when he suggested another expat only to take 2 (!).

I try so hard not to get confused in which lane and which indicator to use in a roundabout with more than 4 arms. Perhaps peeking through hand-covered eyes is blurring my vision. And frowned upon?

An honest attempt is made to obey the speed limit, although I see it posted no where. One must be English and/or Harry Potter to see those invisible signs. That lucky broom-flying chap. And that darn handbrake alludes me (on my left side, not right). And could you tell me again why I need to apply it every time I'm stopped at a stoplight?

I sure hope I don't draw a blank when I 'tell you/show you' the brake fluid, legal tyre tread depth (1.6mm), and how to check the power steering. Couldn't I just give you the name of a local garage instead?


But chances are, I am
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So I've come to grips that I have 'stressed induced asthma' just thinking about this test. Perhaps I could use an inhaler filled with wine during the exam - a little spritz would calm the nerves and clear the mind :) Our little secret?

And please forgive me if I pull over to throw-up during the exam. That's just my butterflies finding the nearest emergency exit.

I did pass the written exam on the second try, after all. They don't call me smarty-pants for nothing :) Or maybe they do. Call me that for nothing.

Ooh, let's go hunting for this sign. Like a scavenger hunt. Don't you know it is 'Fun Friday' on my blog? Wouldn't that be more fun? Testing with a twist. Maybe a friend will be holding it along my route. (Anyone, anyone?) Or maybe it will magically light up on my dashboard :) Magical, like those invisible ESP speed limit signs.


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See you Friday, Mr. Driving Test Man. I'll be the one wearing a florescent safety vest and a decorative airsick bag around my neck. I'll bring a set for you too. I'm thoughtful like that.

Here's to hoping the day will be unmemorable, Mr Mister. In a good way.

Kindest regards, Nervous Nellie

If you can bear to go back in time, read about my written driving test saga here. Buried deep in another post, I did pass it two weeks later.

24 March 2011

Daffodils :: Yellow Drops Of Sunshine

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK





Shhh, don't tell anyone the winters are bleak here, but last only a few months
Winter, what winter?


Gorgeous plum tree blossoms


How I love the bumblebee's leg pouches filled with pollen. What clever design




Quintessential England {Sigh}




It is believed daffodils were introduced to England by the Romans




Now you might say, That's really not fair that you live there. And I'd say, Well, you're right :)
But know that I appreciate each and every day

- all photos taken by me -

22 March 2011

Let The Games Begin: An Olympic Tour

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK


Last week was such a treat - I viewed the 2012 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Village 
in East London (Stratford)




The Games of the XXX Olympiad are scheduled in and around London from July 27th - August 12, 2012. London is the first city to host the modern Olympic Games three times, including 1908 and 1948.

You know how I like a good story, so here are a few:

Past Olympic Athletes Interviewed

Various French publications blamed French President Jacque Chirac for losing the bid for the 2012 Games (Paris had been favored). He did not know his microphone was still on when he said, 'We can't trust people [the British] who have such bad food. After Finland, it's the country with the worst food'. Oops. Two members of the International Olympic Committee were from Finland. Afterward, Paris lost by four votes - 50 to 54 - with London the surprised winner of the 2012 Summer Olympics.


If you look closely, you'll see the Olympic logo reads 2012. It was designed to appeal to young people. Not exactly a wild success - a small number of people with photosensitive epilepsy reported seizures from animated footage of the logo (since removed). And in February 2011, Iran filed a complaint that the logo appeared to spell 'Zion' and threatened to boycott the Olympics (which they retracted).

The 2012 Summer Olympics will host 26 sports; the Paralympics will feature 20 sports. Baseball and softball have been dropped, with female boxing as the only new addition. Golf and rugby sevens will be the newcomers in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.


Lots of construction on a cloudy day


The site of the Olympic Village has been raised 7 meters to prevent flooding. To raise the ground, cleverly they used the soil from the drilling of the Chunnel. Flooding is a concern, as the Olympic Village is surrounded by old canals re-drudged for transportation of building supplies and eventually people.

Major flooding occurred in London during the North Sea Flood of 1953. Due to a high spring tide, a severe storm, and the breaking of dykes in the Netherlands, flooding and loss of life occurred in 5 countries. It was one of Britain's most devastating natural disasters in history. 


'The Orbit' - art piece and observation deck (red tower)
The Aquatics Centre has 'wings' to resemble a gliding ray (rt of The Orbit)


Originally intended to revitalize a depressed area in East London (high unemployment due to the closing of docks), the site was already a blank canvas to become a new city. So when London won the bid in 2005, this area became the Olympic Village. 

'Revitalization' and 'sustainability' were constant themes running through the tour. Oversized new greenbelts will be real assets to the community, and many structures will be used or repurposed after the Olympics. Public transportation will be the only allowable means of travel to the games. Ten train lines, including the EuroStar, will lead to the area.


Stadium and 'The Orbit'
White building in distance is the Basketball Arena
Unlike most structures, it will be removed after the Summer Games


And if your eyes glaze over while watching sports (like mine), you may be interested to know Stella McCartney, famous English fashion designer and daughter to Sir Paul McCartney, will design the uniform for Team Great Britain. 

The appointed designer for the ceremonies is Es Devlin, who helped create Lady Gaga's Monster Ball Tour. Joining Devlin as artistic director of the closing ceremonies is Kim Gavin, a ballet dancer and Take That Circus stager. David Arnold will be the music director for the events. It is sure to be a great show.

If you have a chance to visit London before the 2012 Olympic Games, you don't have to miss out. Blue Badge Guides offer daily tours of the area, and Formans Restaurant and Bar has an excellent view of the Olympic Stadium.  

What sport do you most look forward to watching in the Summer Olympics?

- all photos by me -

Sources: Wikipedia, The Independent (newspaper), local guide

More Summer Olympics posts:
Olympic Beach Volleyball
A Day At The Olympic Park
London Dressed For The Olympics 
Behind The Scenes: An Olympic Opening Ceremony Performer 
Summer Olympics: I Just Can't Get Enough 
The Summer Olympic Games Begin 
The Olympic Torch 
'Signs' The Olympics Are Coming

19 March 2011

Woo Hoo! 'Around The World In A Day' Party

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK


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Greetings! Come in, come in! I'll take your coat, if you are wearing one - pull up a chair and stay awhile. Heck, even go barefoot if you like :)

I am so glad you are here. It wouldn't be the same without you!

Cup of tea?


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Ooh, I can't wait to hear all about the lovely places expat bloggers now call home.
Transport us through your words and photos. I know we will love it!


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I hope you don't mind that I brought a few desserts to share. I just couldn't choose one, so I brought them all!

A few party rules...

Guests :: Everyone is invited to read and enjoy the party :)

VIPs :: Please only link a post if you are an expat. Your post can be anything about your hosting country.

Logistics :: Follow the instructions to register your link below. Contact me if you need help.

Linky Love :: Mention my blog with a link in your post so others can join the fun (as a courtesy, but not required)

Party Mixer :: Visit a few of the other links and say 'hi' - because it's more fun to meet others at a party

And without further ado, take it away...  Thank you for coming!



Link Up: For The Love Of Blogs, The Thrifty Military Wife


17 March 2011

Joining 'Bloggers Day Of Silence' for Japan

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK


via For Japan With Love


Today I donated to ShelterBox, one of the first organizations in Japan after the earthquake.  Each large, green ShelterBox is tailored to the disaster but typically contains a disaster relief tent for an extended family, blankets, water storage and purification equipment, cooking utensils, a stove, a basic tool kit, a children’s activity pack, and other vital items. 

ShelterBox was founded by Tom Henderson, a Rotarian and former Royal Navy search and rescue diver. He saw that the aid response to most disasters was in the form of food and medicine to help people survive the immediate aftermath.

Little or no assistance was given in terms of proper shelter to help them through the first few days, weeks and months as they tried to rebuild their lives. ShelterBox was launched to fill that void.




In 1999, Tom started researching the idea, sourcing equipment and twisting arms to get the project off the ground. His persistence paid off in April 2000 when ShelterBox was launched.

You can donate or find out more from ShelterBox.org (Intl) or ShelterBoxUSA

Bloggers can participate in 'Bloggers Day Of Silence' via For Japan With Love


{ It's almost here! Join 'Around The World In A Day' Linky Party on Saturday. Details here }

16 March 2011

Fab Confab: 'Bless You'

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Come on in!
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Welcome to another Wednesday conversation at my little Fab Confab. I absolutely cannot believe another week has gone by! Thank you for coming : ) 

When I sneeze, I like to hear a simple 'bless you'. After all, I could use as many blessings as I can get. In the US, 99% of the time a stranger will 'bless' me when I sneeze in public. I see it as kind and thoughtful.

Yet in London, I said 'bless you' to a man in a store, and he responded with a very dirty look. In fact, I have never ever heard anyone 'blessed' in public after a sneeze in England.

I asked three different people why this is. I got three different answers:

1. Historically, it was a bad omen if someone said 'Bless You' in the days of The Plague.

2. A 'Bless You' may be seen as proselytizing your religion.

3. An acknowledgement of an involuntary bodily function could be embarrassing.

I find this fascinating. I'd love you to share your thoughts and insights.

Itty Bitty Favor

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

So my husband and I have a goofy little bet. He has a saying around the house, '1000 by Spring'. He thinks I'll have 1000 followers by spring - such a 'glass half full' boy! But let's run with it and say '1000 by June' (my one year anniversary).

A thousand is a huge number, and I smile with an eye roll every time he mentions it. But what if I did?!

So my little favor is to ask those of you who receive this via email (250 of you) to become a 'follower' today. Becoming a 'follower' is just a thumbs up that you 'like' me, you're a fan.  

You can do this in just two easy-peasy steps:

1. Click on 'Itty Bitty Favor' at the top of this email - it will send you right over to my blog. 

2. Click on this button on the sidebar, and you have just become my newest follower!



Thank you for joining our little family game :)

13 March 2011

Alps Skiing sNot For Wimps


I apologize for writing a post that involves snow when we are all itching for Spring! But I think you'll find it interesting...

Although a long-time skier in the US, I have never skied the Alps. We chose Switzerland - home to Roger Federer, Swatch, Swiss Army Knife, and one of the two sovereign states with a square flag (the Vatican City is the other). You know I have a flag fetish, right? 




A beautiful country with four official languages - German, French, Italian, and Romansh. I see no English in that list, but we had no problem communicating. Sign language is such a universal language. So is Pictionary and Charades :)  Actually, my husband pulled out his high school German to get us around, but everyone spoke English quite well.


Racing Gate with a View


We are not accustomed to bringing ski maps with us or planning our route ahead of time. Typically we just follow signs and ski to the bottom of the mountain, wherever that might take us. This winging-it style didn't serve us well :)

We found ourselves very very lost (and alone) at the top of an expert run as our only way down with two kids in tow. My husband had been skiing while carrying our youngest for some time, for we learned a little late that a blue run is a US green run and a red run is a US blue run. Clear as mud? And that's what happened. The run was too advanced, and we found ourselves in a pickle. 

So do we take off our skis, walk however long to the train station, and risk getting arrested for jumping the train (tickets in the hotel)? Or try to walk down the mountain in our clumsy ski boots like a 'Man Vs Wild' episode?  




After much debate, a very long wait, much head scratching as to where it would take us, we took that train. It was 3p until we got lunch into our rumbling bellies. We wondered how many skiers slept on the mountain due to a wrong turn or poor planning.

Well, just the other day an English friend told me they did walk down the mountain because they missed the last gondola. They made it down the mountain by nightfall, scooting down rocky steep parts on their bum. 

Aside from walking and scooting, there were many modes of transportation on the mountain. And because the skiing was only above tree line, you take something to get back down the mountain. 


A little love on the TBar


And how about that TBar... I was riding by myself on the kiddie TBar, behind my oldest child. Somehow my skis got caught in a rut, I clumsily fell off, and it was a near miss as the TBar almost whopped me in the face - as if the whole world wasn't already watching.  I jumped right up as Will Ferrell would do, yelling 'Uh, I'm okay sweetie' (he didn't even notice I'd fallen). 'Don't you worry, I'll be up there in a few minutes' (he wasn't remotely concerned). My son just turned back around saying nothing. I'm one of those really cool moms about now :)

So I stood up real straight as I got back in line. With kids no taller than my knees. (Cool.)


Train & Chair Lift


What we saw: gondolas that held over 100 people. Paragliding, dog walking, igloos, snow bikes, snow parks, sledding runs, ski jumps onto a giant air bag (my husband tried this). The mountain is used in so many interesting ways. Tiki bars, lounge chairs with blankets, and hammocks!


Paragliding Chutes in Backpacks


Hammocks With A View


It was also intriguing what we didn't see. Employees. No one working the TBar - if you don't no how to ride it (like me), you shouldn't be on it. No one checking your ticket - automated scanner at turnstiles instead. No snowmobiles or ski patrol. 




Many of the buildings were beautiful works of art




View out of our window on the way to the airport




Loved this flashback to 'Catch Me If You Can' film with Leo DiCaprio  
Flight attendants of Emirates Airlines


Matching shoes and handbag too!

And because you know I also have a fetish for interesting signs




It was a really great family trip with lots of memories and an education for all of us - including the nude public steam rooms. We enjoyed the land of yummy cheese fondue, hot chocolate and warm spiced wine. 

And as my English friend said, 'Oh my gosh, it is so amazing that in North America you have Kleenex in the lift lines. That's so fabulous!'.  The Alps is not for wimps, map challenged, or runny noses :)

- all photos by me -

{ Join 'Around The World In A Day' Linky Party on Sat Mar 19th. Details here }