31 July 2012

Twirling In The Fields

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Peeking over hedgerows, coast to coast,
I've been on a quest to find a field of poppies
for months

I'd researched on the internet where
to uncover their sneaky location
but ended up empty handed

Apparently it is like seeing a rainbow...
One year it is there, the next it is not

These field poppies grow where the soil is very poor
and most fields are filled with productive crops

Once I surrendered to not seeing these red beauties en masse
I practically suffered whiplash upon seeing this near Stonehenge
(just east of Amesbury, for other chasers)

What you can't see is me jumping up and down behind the camera
yelling, YES!
while my precious children were hollering if we can go now with rolled eyes

across the field
I spied another poppy/rainbow chaser
crouched in photo-shooting position 
among grasses, poppies, and ouchy stinging nettle

As last week was a very warm and sunny one
there was lots of farm equipment ambling the roads and in the fields
frantic to bale hay before the rains returned

Below you can see how the English refer to the landscape as a patchwork quilt
with small fields surrounded by hedgerows
So quaint, so 'English countryside'

A303 'Highway To The Sun'

I love it so

- all photos by me -

Related post:

28 July 2012

The Summer Olympic Games Begin

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Seven years ago
when it was announced the Olympics would come to London
my husband turned to me and said
'We should go'

Our tickets :)

Little did we know then
not only would be seeing the Olympic Games,
but we would be living here to witness
the Olympic Torch Relay,
The Diamond Jubilee and The Royal Wedding

Boy, do I feel like we totally won the lottery!

The last two years have been magical
Each event has been a 10 out of 10

Last night we stayed up until 1am to watch the Opening Ceremony
Did you watch it too?

I particularly loved the 'doves', the torch, and the fireworks
The British seemed to have loved the big event too
which had been shrouded in mystery

Day One of the Olympics,
we walked to a nearby village to watch 
the men's cycling road race

My son's view of the race

They went by so fast that had I blinked, I would have missed it!
Everyone was in a great mood
and the weather was gorgeous

Congratulations to gold medalist, A.Vinokurov of Kazakhstan in blue & yellow

Who am I rooting for?
The US
Great Britain
Costa Rica

When I lived in Costa Rica in 1996
Claudia Poll won the country's second medal ever
which happened to be a gold!
(200 m freestyle swim in Atlanta)

Her medal meant SO MUCH to the country

Claudia became a national hero, putting Costa Rica on the Olympic map
In fact, when she flew home,
the Costa Ricans were outside
all over the country
with mirrors to reflect light toward her airplane
as a way to say congratulations, we're proud of you,
and welcome home

I've never seen anything like it
and I'll never forget it

Knowing there are few Costa Ricans here to support their eleven athletes,
I'm happy to holler :)

Police giving lots of 'high fives'
I'd still be there if this End Of Race car hadn't driven by
I was ready for more :)

Lucky me, 
works to support the Great Britain, USA,
and Costa Rican teams

Go Great AmeRica! 
(get it?)

Stay tuned
I'll be showing you more over the next few weeks :)

- all photos by me and my kiddos -

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 Olympic Torch 
'Signs' The Olympics Are Coming 
Let The Games Begin: An Olympic Tour in 2011

25 July 2012

The Olympic Torch

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

How adorable is he?!
This is Olympic torchbearer Charlie Palmer
age 87 from Chilworth

I don't know if he or the torch is shining more :)

I stood next to his proud granddaughters 
who said he received the exciting news 21/2 months ago that he'd been selected 
For the longest time he thought someone was pulling his leg

Mr Palmer has been an active 'King Scout' as he joined Boy Scouts 75 years ago

He received the Olympic flame from torchbearer Oliver Haydon from East Horsley

'Kissing Point' in Shere

The aluminum torch has 8000 laser cut circles representing
the 8000 inspirational torchbearers carrying the flame
8000 miles over a 70 day journey

the Olympic Torch Relay will be within 10 miles of 95% of the UK population

I believe each torchbearer keeps his/her own torch (great memento!)
Only the flame is exchanged 
which will light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony on Friday

I had thought the flame was carried continuously by people,
but actually it is in a vehicle quite a lot
between the 1,019 community visits

The Olympic Torch started its UK journey on May 19th
with David Beckham bringing the flame from Athens to England
abroad 'The Firefly', a purpose-designed British Airways jet

Bus that transports torchbearers to their position

While sample torches were tested in BMW's high-tech wind tunnel,
the flame has gone out a few times during its journey due to
a gust of wind in Athens,
water during whitewater rafting on the Olympic canoe slalom,
and on a para-badminton wheelchair in Devon

Not to fear,
one of the four lanterns carrying the mother flame is always nearby to relight the torch
and a new torch is never more than 30 seconds away in case of 'droppage' 

The flame has gone on other fun and unique adventures such as
speeding along a zipline across River Tyne with Bear Grylls
flying above Eden Project's rainforest in a helium balloon
and travelling on top of a London Eye pod

For me, 
I must admit it was a bit emotional seeing the torch go by
Such a historic moment for everyone witnessing it

at 8:12am this Friday
the nation will ring bells for 3 minutes to
kick off the first day of the London 2012 Summer Olympics
town hall bells, church bells, bicycle bells, hand bells, door bells -

Ting-a-ling :)

- all photos by me -

22 July 2012

'Signs' The Summer Olympics Are Coming

Posted By Happy Homemaker

Road closure signs are sprouting up around Surrey
for the upcoming Summer Olympic cycling races

These gorgeous 'tree tunnels' are typical in this area

Many Olympic cyclists who will ride these roads are in the Tour de France now

The Olympics start next week - you know I'll show you what I see :)
Stay tuned :)

- photo by me -

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 
Let The Games Begin: An Olympic Tour in 2011

19 July 2012

English History For Kids

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

There are many reasons the English know their history so well

For one, on such a small island
history is never far away with a short drive to a castle, museum,
or some sort of historical attraction

{ photo by me }

History is made appealing at an early age
through various books and TV shows
such as the 'Horrible Histories' series

via Amazon

Often describing gruesome details,
children are attracted to the real stories,
some more colorful than many of us could make up!

My daughter has taken to this series...

via Amazon

Beloved English works by Dickens, Shakespeare, and Austen
have been abridged for children to learn 
these classics at an early age

via Amazon

Okay, not historical, but I love this one for younger readers...

via Amazon

Local venues stage theater performances of Shakespeare's works,
while the Last Night of the Proms concert offers British patriotic pieces

In essence,
the English are surrounded by their history and culture all the time 
from an early age
- geographically and leisurely -

I love that!

:: More popular historical fiction ::
Asterix series (comic book)
The Baker Street Mysteries series
Biggles series
Cat Royal series
The London Murder Mysteries series
Books by Michael Morpurgo

14 July 2012

Trip To Amalfi Coast, Italy

Posted By Happy Homemaker UK

I don't know why, but the Amalfi Coast has been on my bucket list for the last few years

We visited last month, and my family had to drag me back onto the plane

And the water was warm enough so that even I could dip in

We visited the villages of Amalfi, Positano and Ravello

We didn't make it to the Isle of Capri 
- saved for next time -

But we did make it to Pompeii, 
buried by ash in 79AD by Mt Vesuvius
and rediscovered in 1748 under 20 feet of earth

Mt Vesuvius

These Roman-straight streets were filled with sewage at the time
I love the stepping stones pedestrians used to get across the road/sewer
Chariot wheels were the perfect width to get through them (you can see their ruts)

One of the largest European archaeological sites,
this city has not been completely unearthed
as funds have been diverted to saving and restoring what has already been discovered

Archaeologists discovered 'voids' where people and animals had decomposed

Cleverly the voids were filled with plaster of paris to see what shape had been in the space,
revealing wooden doors, people, and animals

Later we hiked up Mt Vesuvius to the crater

Mt Vesuvius Crater

Not a lot to see inside, but the outside of the crater was covered in this pink flower,
centranthus ruber/ Valerian

I don't know what this flower is
but it is gorgeous
and found along the coast

Now back to my 'happy place'

Don't you love this guy's office?

- all photos by me -

11 July 2012

Tips: Planning A European Vacation

Posted By Happy Homemaker UK

Putting together a European vacation can be really overwhelming
There are so many choices here

I admit to finding myself frozen in indecision

Thanks to the internet
we can save money (but not time)
by becoming our own travel agents

Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way:

Google your desired location and click 'Images'
to see photos captured by real people 
to see if it is what you are looking for

Use TripAdvisor and Expedia to research the heck out of hotels by reading reviews
Look at photos posted by travelers as well as by hotels

Cruise Critic provides reviews on cruises

Jetsetter offers great accommodation deals by signing up for their free alerts

i-escape has some good getaway ideas too

If you have more than 2 people traveling in your group,
ask for quotes for creative rooming such as a Junior Suite,
which can be cheaper than a connecting room

Ask the hotel to arrange transportation to/from the airport
It can be the same price as a taxi and takes out the stress of
negotiating a price in a foreign language/currency

Find one stop shopping for airlines at Kayak
The two major London airports are Heathrow and Gatwick,
gateways to many European cities from the US

Discount airlines from England to the European continent
include Easy Jet and Ryan Air
among many more

The time of using travelers checks is way gone
Once you arrive at your destination
find an ATM to retrieve money in the local currency

Most European hotels do not have clocks in the room,
so bring one

Many countries within Europe have different plugs,
so buying one of these clever adapters is a good investment

Global Adapter with 2 USB ports via Brookstone

Don't bring your hair dryer or anything that creates heat (ie curling/straightening iron)
 because you'll need a electrical wattage converter too
Just use a hair dryer provided by the hotel

If you plan to use your mobile phone abroad,
be sure to talk to your phone carrier in advance to get on a daily international plan
International roaming and calls can cost a fortune

And you may want to take photos of your luggage with your camera phone
to show the airlines in case bags are lost in transit

Lastly, learn from my mistake: bring your camera battery charger :)

What tips do you have to share?

- all photos by me -

* Traveling to England with kids? See my list of historical fiction for kids here *

07 July 2012

Why Many Americans Don't Hold A Passport

Some Europeans are shocked that less than half of American citizens hold a passport
(I've heard as few as 38%)

It is quite expensive to travel abroad from the US
and the passport application is not cheap

Those who do travel abroad often make 
Mexico or London their first international trip
depending on where they live in the US

Many Americans don't live near an international airport
so traveling abroad can include 2 layovers
making traveling cumbersome

With the United States almost as large as Europe
most travel desires can be fulfilled within the country

Anyone else find this funny?

Wanting world class surfing? Travel to Hawaii
Warm beaches? Lots of coastline from which to choose
Desert? American Southwest
Snow skiing? Rocky Mountains
Northern lights and igloos? Alaska
Beautiful national parks in every state
Native American ruins? Mesa Verde
Historical colonial village? Williamsburg
Museums? Smithsonian
Amusement parks? Orlando
Fashion and culture? LA and NYC

Would most Americans like to travel abroad?

But you can see that one could be a tourist in the US for a lifetime
for a lot less wonga and no jet lag

- all photos by me -

*wonga = money (my new favorite word)

Linking to Life On Planet Baby

03 July 2012

4th Of July

Posted By Happy Homemaker UK

My favorite holiday of the year is 
the 4th Of July

No longer a celebration of gaining independence from England
(parts of the US belonged to France, Spain and Russia as well)
this hot summer bank holiday is welcomed by all

People decked out in red, white, and blue
this is the most patriotic American holiday

It is a time to get together with friends and family around the barbecue
eating hot dogs, hamburgers, potato chips, potato salad, 
coleslaw, watermelon, and popsicles
Many will go to a pool, lake, or ocean to celebrate and stay cool

Most towns hold a 4th Of July parade during the day
which may feature local children on decorated tricycles and local soldiers

The warm night ends with fireworks often provided by the local town
(fire bans make fireworks illegal in some states due to risk of wildfires)

It also marks the middle of summer,
as most children have been out of school since early June
and will return again in August

Happy 4th of July!

- all photos by me -