30 November 2011

US vs UK Cultural Differences + Post Of The Month Club

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

I just got wind of a discussion on November 4th at the London School of Economics

 American Sarah Lyall (New York Times London correspondent) sat down with 
Englishman Justin Webb (author and former BBC correspondent in the US) to scratch the surface 
of cultural differences between America and Britain

A few topics covered were politics, the media, raising children,
drinking, stoicism, recent protests, and religion

Touched on in the video, happiness is listed in
the American Declaration of Independence as an 'unalienable right' in
the well-known phrase, Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

To rephrase, the US government declares this state of mind not only a right and a valid pursuit
but also as important as life and liberty
Isn't that fascinating?

As a result, are Americans obsessed with happiness?

The title of my blog includes the word 'Happy'
Other blogs with the title 'Happy' tend to be written by Americans too

Americans say 'Happy Halloween' and 'Happy Thanksgiving'
Merry Christmas is a British phrase which dates back to at least 1565 }

Common American phrases include
'Whatever makes you happy' and 'I just want my kids to grow up and be happy'

Americans often make big decisions based on a happiness litmus test

Perhaps a US slogan could be 'Be Happy - Be, Pretend, Or Search'

I lived in Costa Rica for a few years, where their motto is 'Pura Vida'
which translates to 'Pure Life' meaning 'it's all good'

I can't put my finger on what the mantra for the UK would be
I'm sure my readers can help :)

For the readers in America, notice how often you hear the word 'happy' as you go through your day

Anyhoo, lots of food for thought in the interview
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts

The video is quite long, so view what you want...
Whatever makes you happy :)

* What is the red flower Justin Webb is wearing? Read about it here

* I believe in the video they are referencing Justin Webb's newest book, Notes on Them and Us: From the Mayflower to Obama - the British, the Americans and the Essential Relationship 


It's Post Of The Month Club time again, little muffins

I've extended it through the weekend, due to reader requests

I read every single entry, every single month :)

Just link up your best post from November - easy peasy

And if you'd like, add the button to your post or blog so more can join in

If you have a chance, drop by a few others to say 'hi'  {that's what makes it feel like a club}

A warm welcome to those new to linking in, those who occasionally do, and those who are here monthly

Your contribution makes the club what is it :) Thank you!

Wishing you a wonderful December!

25 November 2011

PostScript: Happy Thanksgiving From The UK

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

I thought you may enjoy some details of my English Thanksgiving yesterday

After dropping the kids off at school,
I skipped into London with some girlfriends to St Paul's Cathedral
for an American church service

Although there were quite a few tents with protester signs,
most appeared to be 'unoccupied'

Due to photography prohibited during the service,
you'll just have to picture the choir singing beautiful hymns
US servicemen bringing the American flag forward
the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom giving a speech
followed by an American pastor delivering a sermon in a typical humorous, casual American way 

As far as my eye could see, the cathedral was packed with Americans and other nationalities

We saw the secret service for the Ambassador
and maybe even some spies among us!

Being Thanksgiving, we had sushi for lunch of course :)

Yo! Sushi

I'd seen, but never tried, these conveyor belt sushi restaurants
where you pick up what you want as it passes by

The color of the container indicates price

It was fun and yummy :)

We headed home to collect our kiddos from school,
followed by cuddles for our newest family member

Bamboo, 8 weeks old

This is one cool kitty purr machine
We figured there is never a good time to get a kitten, so why not now?
He has brought squeals and giggles to our family,
ten fold

This little 'moggy' (non-pedigree) cat has a 75% chance of being hard of hearing due to its white genetics
which can create a chill'n cat who won't startle easily

Anyway, we headed over to the pub for an American Thanksgiving Dinner, 
which was loads of fun in a restaurant filled with our extended expat 'family'

I had to smile when the Yorkshire Pudding was passed around during our traditional meal
Maybe it's a little know fact the Pilgrims liked their Yorkshire Pudding?

I fell asleep on the couch, stuffed of course,
while my husband watched the Cowboy/Dolphin football game 
into the wee hours due to the time difference

It was a wonderful day to count our blessings
and certainly a memorable Thanksgiving abroad

Wishing you a weekend of thanksgiving, wherever you are!


Coming up Wednesday
with extended days


Hope to see you there :)

- all photos by me -

23 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving From The UK

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Thanksgiving may be the favorite holiday of most American adults,
a day of simply sharing a meal with family and friends

Because Thanksgiving is not celebrated in the UK,
tomorrow will be a regular work and school day around here

Our family will trot off to a local restaurant serving up Thanksgiving Dinner for local Americans
eager to fill bellies with the traditional fix'ns: cranberries, turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie
{ I hope an American football game will be playing in the background too}

Wishing my dear American friends & family a Happy Thanksgiving Day!

- photo by me -

19 November 2011

Tips for Hiking with Kids

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Close friends know we have been dragging our kids
on weekend adventures since forever

For years our children have referred to it as 'The Prison Bus',
as they felt forced to go

Now that we live in England, the Prison Bus still takes day trips
but with little struggle

One recent weekend the Prison Bus never left
and we found we each twirled in our own little worlds in the same house,
without really connecting the whole weekend

Ever since, our family does something together for a few hours
usually in the form of a walk to bask in fresh air & bucolic views
to rejuvenate for the upcoming week

And with so many public trails nearby,
we never need to walk the same one twice


Digital Camera
Each kiddo has one and enjoys snapping away to their little hearts content
It can significantly slow down the walk but that's okay

Hello, interesting mushroom
{ little hairs highlighted by camera's flash }

Metal Detector
I first got this idea when we went on a path that specifically said 'No Metal Detectors'
Of course that made me want to run out and buy one!
Were Roman coins or pirate treasures buried there?!

Obviously for older children,
my son enjoys finding sticks and turning them into spears as we walk

Walkie Talkies
The kids feel like little spies,
running ahead of us with a 'Roger That' and 'Over and Out'

Walk The Dog
The kids love racing our little Wilson through the woods and heath

The idea of a post-hike ice cream or lunch at a country pub gets them running out the door

Best with a smartphone,
follow the compass and clues for this outdoor treasure hunting game

A Geocache is a hidden container that is registered with the Geocaching website
Varied in size, there are over a million located worldwide
Random items may be inside; if you take something, leave something

I bet there is one near you, no matter where you live in the world
{ see Geocaching.com or download app }

Remote Control 4x4
I definitely wouldn't recommend this if you are looking for a quiet walk,
but my son insisted I share this one :)

My daughter recently took to riding her bike
and enjoys doing it any chance she gets
In England, you can cycle on bridleways but not walking paths

What tips do you have to share?

- all photos by me -

Postscript: I also want to mention Geocaches are in rural AND urban environments. Really, there probably are a few near you wherever you live in the world.

Linking to Sweet Shot Tuesdays


16 November 2011

Hever Castle

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn,
{ Henry VIII's second wife and mother to Elizabeth I }
Hever Castle makes for the perfect date with a camera

This moated thirteenth century castle in Kent is complete with drawbridge and swans

What would a castle be without a yew maze?
{ Planted in 1906 }

A variety of programs are offered on weekends
The Falconry Demonstration was our favorite

I hadn't realized birds of prey were relied upon
to capture dinner for its owner during the Middle Ages

It was impressive to watch them fly beyond our vision
and dutifully return

Other activities included long-bow archery for the willing in a picturesque setting

Over a two year span, a thousand men dug out this 38 acre lake
The result is picture-perfect

{ Excuse the romantic wash on the photo - I couldn't help myself }

Boats for hire


128 acres of award-winning gardens wind throughout the grounds,
including Rose and Italian gardens, nature walks, grottoes, fountains, and water maze for kids

Just over 100 years old, the spectacular gardens were planted on marshland 

We took the self-guided tour inside the castle
filled with beautiful artwork and furniture and interesting placards to read along the way

{ my quest for hidden panels and trap doors continues }

Entertaining, beautiful, and educational, 
Hever Castle has the recipe for a favorite day trip for all ages

- all photos taken by me in August -

Source & Calendar: Hever Castle


11 November 2011

Remembrance Day

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Poppies, poppies, poppies everywhere

If you are walking around the streets of England right now, you cannot help but notice many wearing 
paper red poppies in their button holes or driving with an affixed plastic poppy on their grille

[ personal photo ]

Aside from the date being 11/11/11 { love that! }

today is Remembrance Day,
a memorial day observed in many Commonwealth countries 
to remember those in the armed forces who have died serving their countries since World War I

{ the official end of WWI was 11 November 1918 at 11am }

As a sign of respect at 11am,
many English will take a two minute moment of silence today as they do each year as a sign of respect

A team of about 50 people, mostly disabled former British military personnel,
work all year to churn out millions of paper poppies to sell in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland
{Scotland makes their own}

Formed in 1922,
The Royal British Legion Poppy Factory is located in an old brewery in Richmond, just outside London

Remembrance Poppies are sold on the street by volunteers at the cost of a donation
and worn by the general public, TV presenters, celebrities, the Royal Family, and politicians

Emma Watson wears a Poppy to the world premier of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I' in London last year
[ The Telegraph ]

Funds collected go to charities providing financial, social and emotional support 
to those who have served or who are currently serving 
in the British Armed Forces and their dependents

It all began with the wartime poem 'In Flanders Fields' written by Canadian doctor John McCrae and
first published in 1915 in the London-based magazine Punch

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row...

This poem refers to the corn poppy/ Flanders poppy (Papaver rhoeas), 
the first plant to grow in the churned-up soil of soldiers graves in Belgium and northern France during WWI

{ and one of my all-time wildflower favs }

Flanders Poppy
[ wikipedia ]

In 1918, American YWCA worker Moina Michael was inspired by the poem
and vowed to always wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in war

She appeared at the YWCA Overseas War Secretaries' conference 
with a silk poppy pinned to her coat and distributed 25 more to those attending 

At this conference, Frenchwoman Anna E Guerin was inspired to send artificial poppies to London in 1921
which were adopted by the Royal British Legion shortly thereafter
The rest is history

Although this poppy-wearing tradition was started by an American,
it is not practiced in the United States

I must say it is nice to see a garden of poppies walking around the streets on lapels and cars
What a wonderful way to remember the men and women of the armed services who sacrifice so much

And it is a reminder that you never know when you can start a worldwide trend :)

{ Free 2-hour RBL Poppy Factory Tours are offered in Richmond here }

P.S. Thanks to Paul of From Sheep To Alligators for pointing out that Richmond is in London.

Sources: Go LondonBBC 1 2Wikipedia 1 2

09 November 2011

What I See

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Snapshot of yesterday

The last trees shed their leaves 
as darkness falls early
and constant moisture drips from the air

Like squirrels preparing for winter,
we hunker down with chunky sweaters,
a cozy fireplace, warming soups,
& family games

- photo by me -

{ Congratulations to Chania from Razmataz for winning the enamel sign giveaway. And many thanks to RamSign for providing the goods! }

06 November 2011

Guy Fawkes Night

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

I had plans of hiking near Chiddingfold yesterday
to capture the building of their annual bonfire

But with mud and a grey sky that doesn't bode well for photography,
I skipped it

Yesterday ended with sun and puddles

Rain in England varies between 
a gentle drizzle so soft you can't feel it
to a 'gully washer'

Interestingly, thunder and lightning are rare

Since we turned our clocks back last week
{ a week before the US }
the sky starts to darken at 3:30p

Although Halloween is not really celebrated here,
Guy Fawkes Night certainly is

'Remember remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!'
{ first stanza of English nursery rhyme }

This is THE holiday in England where people congregate 
for bonfires, sparklers, fireworks, games, mulled wine, food, 
and merriment

Over the weekend
'Bonfire Night' will occur in backyards, schools and municipalities across England

Aside from 'one-off' occasions 
{ i.e. street parties for the 2010 Royal Wedding }
Bonfire Night is the only holiday that brings people out of their homes
to mingle among neighbors and strangers

Bonfires are built with garden waste, furniture, fencing - whatever

An effigy of Guy Fawkes, like a scarecrow, is created 

It is a tradition for children to show their Guy effigy to neighbors, 
who may give them 'a penny for the Guy' who will soon be burned over the bonfire

The fireworks curfew {11p-7a} is extended for Bonfire Night {midnight}
and likewise for Diwali, New Year, and Chinese New Year {1am}

Sales of fireworks louder than 120 decibels are banned

Although effigies and pyres sound dark and macabre,
it is a joyous and treasured tradition in England

'Guy' at my neighbor's house

In 1605, Guy Fawkes was a Catholic soldier who intended a coup known as the Gunpowder Plot
He and twelve others planned { and failed } to blow up Parliament to kill King James I of England

Although some evidence implies Guy and his crew may have been framed,
they were executed for the conspiracy

caricature of Guy Fawkes
[ via Bonfire Night website ]

King James I was also King James VI,
which confuses me no end

King James VI and I
[ wikipedia ]

Born in Edinburgh Castle in 1566, King James VI's mother was Mary, Queen of Scots

In 1586, James VI and Queen Elizabeth I of England became allies under the Treaty of Berwich

When James's mother was executed by Elizabeth I the following year, he became King of Scots 
and later was named Elizabeth's successor in 1603 upon her death
thus inheriting the Kingdom of England { including Wales } in the Union Of The Crowns

{ Scotland and England were politically united in 1707 under Queen Anne }

This made King James VI of Scotland also King James I of England 
and the first Stuart monarch to rule England

A Protestant, he commissioned the writing of the Authorised King James's Version of the Bible
which is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year

Most surviving original copies of the KJV Bible are housed
in universities and cathedrals in the UK and US

But earlier this year a little church by the name of 
St. Laurence Church in Hilmarton, England 
discovered their copy to be one of the original 200 printings

{ Imagine their delight! }

I find it interesting that in a country overflowing with history,
Guy Fawkes Day is the only annual holiday 
that puts a finger on an actual historical English event

And with that history another tradition has formed in the Palace of Westminster:

In present day the Yeomen of the Guard searches the cellars 
where the famous gunpowder was stored 
before the Queen enters Parliament during her annual 'State Opening of Parliament'


Have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are :)

all photos by me unless otherwise noted

Sources: Wikipedia 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, BBC 1, 2, Bonfire Night, Fireworks UK