28 August 2012

32 Adventures In The UK

Posted By Happy Homemaker UK

Sometimes I feel like Alice in Wonderland,
for I am in constant wonder
at how much there is to do in this small country

Here's a list I'm chipping away at,
knowing I won't ever do it all...

1. Learn to surf at the Extreme Academy, Watergate Bay, Cornwall

2. Try sandboarding in north Devon

3. Explore coast, cliffs and caves while swimming (aka coasteering)
on the vehicle-free island of Sark

5. Try caving/spelunking in northern England

6. Soar above the Peak District in a paramotor

7. Fly over Cornwall's botanical Eden Project on England's longest zipline 

Eden Project

8. Swim to France via the English Channel

9. Snorkel with sharks in Scotland

10. Scuba dive in the HMS Scylla Wreck in Devon

11. Try New Zealand's river bugging in Scotland

12. Rent a narrowboat to explore the canals on your own

13. Go fly fishing in one of Great Britain's scenic rivers or lakes

14. Be a zookeeper for the day at Howletts Animal Park in Kent

15. Llama trek through the Surrey Hills

16. Be a passenger during a stunt airplane flight

17. Test your limits in a stunt car driving school

18. Churn your stomach at the UK's largest zorbing park

19. Camp out on a working farm
at Feather Down Farms

20. Spend a few days at Center Parcs,
packed with activities for all ages

21. 22. 23. 24.
Sleep in a windmillcastlegypsy caravan, or vintage camper


25. View the inside of Big Ben
(open to UK residents only)

26. Witness the nightly lock up of the Tower of London
in the Ceremony Of The Keys (free)

27. Enjoy wine tasting in your private London Eye capsule

28. Walk on top of one of London's landmarks, The O2 Arena

29. Cycle through London on a classic British bicycle tour

30. Try ice climbing in the heart of London

31. Get wet while rafting the rapids
at the Olympic Lee Valley White Water Center

32. Tour the River Thames in riveting James Bond style

Where to start first?
Have you tried any of these?

- all photos by me -

22 August 2012

Stairway To Norway

With a few weeks before school started
I decided to take the kids somewhere
while my husband stayed behind to work

Where could I travel safely and easily with two kids in tow?
- Norway -

We started our trip in Bergen,
Norway's second largest city

I couldn't get enough of these letterboxes

As the crowns indicate,
Norway has a monarch (King Harald V) and a prime minister
like the United Kingdom

They gained independence from Sweden in 1905

As one of the few European countries that did not join the European Union,
you can see and feel this country's independence

Grocery stores had lots of unique Norwegian brands
which felt very refreshing and authentic
as other European grocery stores often have the same products
probably due to the EU trade

I adored the Norwegian coins with holes in the middle

And interestingly
parents must choose their child's name from a list of official Norwegian names
This strict name law dates back to the 1800s

We happily got 'lost' in these cobbled alleys

And as if the country didn't have me at their longest word
(try saying that five times, or even one)

the fjords did...

We traveled by boat through the Sognefjord,
the world's second deepest fjord and the 3rd longest

Fjord is a Norwegian word, indicating a long narrow water inlet surrounded by 
steep mountains carved by glacial activity

I don't know the word for cute nestled fjord villages
but I bet it has some cool vowels in it 
like å or Ø

Here's a treehouse
with a million dollar view...

Vikings lived in these waters
which are still home to porpoises, seals, and otters today

There is a wonderful saying in Norway
'There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing'

You can see we had fantastic weather,
so I must have had fantastic clothing?

Oh my...

This is the land of the midnight sun,
northern lights, polar bears, and folkloric trolls

If you seek adventure
go on a rat safari in an Oslo sewer(!),
swim with killer whales near Lofoten,
or dive into Saltstraumen, the world's strongest whirlpool

Or just stick to kayaking

Camera out of window,
we are on the Flamsbana train to return to Bergen
and about to enter a tunnel

There are a lot of tunnels in Norway
Some are even undersea, connecting to islands

Norway is the second wealthiest country per capita in Europe
(Luxembourg, first)

And there are more Norwegian descendants living in the US
than there are Norwegians in Norway
Many emigrated between 1860 - 1910

what a wonderful way
to end a lovely summer

Dedicating this post to an American boy who dreams of traveling to Norway one day
Colin, this one's for you  ;)

- all photos by me -

Sources: Wikipedia 1, 2BabyNamesNorway

Linking to Post Of The Month Club here

18 August 2012

A New Flag In Our Midst?

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Being a flag nerd,
I can identify most national flags
around the world

But this one took me by surprise which I saw waving
twice during the Summer Olympics

The Silver Fern (not a feather)

Besides the flag of Cornwall (England)
and the Jolly Roger,
I couldn't recall seeing another black & white flag

So I googled it
and found out New Zealanders are considering changing their flag

Current New Zealand Flag

The flag evolved from their naval flag flown as a British colony
and does not reflect their identity, independence or
non-European population today

And it looks a lot like Australia's flag
which Jerry Seinfeld identified as
'the Union Jack at night time'
(funny flag humor)

Australian Flag

In terms of branding,
a black flag with a white fern is certainly 
more recognizable globally

Look at Canada's redesigned flag
- simple yet unique -

Canada's flag pre- and post-1965

You can see how some countries view the Union Flag emblem 
as historical but less a part of their future

On the other hand,
the Union Jack is extremely relevant in the UK
See how it is a clever overlay of three of the four 
constituent country flags within the United Kingdom?

It creates the 'Union Flag'

Notice it's not symmetrical

A few readers have kindly commented it technically is not the Union Jack
because a 'jack' is a flag on a ship

And they do refer to this flag as the Union Flag here

But in the US (where many of my readers are from), 
it is known exclusively as the Union Jack

And calling it the Union Flag
sounds like it is from the American Civil War
or represents labor unions

So for these reasons, I'll use the terms interchangeably :)

the Union Flag has not been immune to proposals of a flag redesign
over the last ten years either

Proposed Union Flag including Wales; a modernized Union Jack reflecting today's cultural diversity

However, changes haven't gotten off the ground
for this iconic symbol

As for New Zealand, I think it is a great idea to rebrand their global identity
Are there any New Zealanders who could weigh in?

Sources: NZFlag, Wikipedia, Creative Review, BBC News

12 August 2012

Olympic Beach Volleyball

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

On The Mall looking toward Buckingham Palace

Our final Olympic event to attend
was Men's Beach Volleyball

and WOW! was the venue spectacular!

(click photo to really appreciate the view)

It was a mark of brilliance to set up this temporary stadium
at the Horse Guards Parade

And that night, it was the game for gold
Germany v Brazil

Icing on the cake, the weather was PERFECT

My husband cleverly spied this plein air artist 
capturing the day high above us
( For the Diamond Jubilee, artists in the flotilla were busy painting too )

Such a creative way to capture history

And as if it couldn't get any better
we also watched the conga line

Dancers provided entertainment between matches and during time-outs

and Bananarama singing Venus


Time-outs also included raking sand
and shaking sand off the lines

Announcer: 'It's rakey-rakey time!'

Going for gold,
the Brazilian and German crowd was very loud and excited

And many waved their flags proudly
- Germany, Brazil, and TEXAS?! -

And the gold goes to Germany!

We walked away with Olympic-sized smiles on our faces
and a glow from the memories of the past few weeks

London has radiated a wonderful Olympic glow too :)

- all photos by me -

09 August 2012

A Day At The Olympic Park

Posted By Happy Homemaker UK

Headlines of yesterday's news

My first and last chance to visit The Olympic Park
during the Games...
A night to remember!

As if you were by my side,
here's 'our' highlights

Walking Out Of Tube Station
Gates remain open for a speedy exit
Pink signage everywhere
Crowds flow out of trains to this 'end of the line' destination
All incredibly well organized

Walking To Olympic Park
Excitement builds as we see The Orbit ahead

Volunteers With Bullhorns
Along the route, volunteers with bullhorns
welcome us to the Olympics and thank us for being there
Wonderful customer service :)

Going Through Security
Airport-like security is fast and fuss-free
No liquids, food allowed, shoes on, X-Ray for bags, and walk-thru metal detectors
All with a military presence (and very friendly)

We've Arrived!
Aquatics Centre on left
Olympic Stadium straight ahead
The Orbit peeking at us

Once we are in the park
the space opens up and is not crowded

Food Vendors
Although controversial,
I'm dying to see the biggest and busiest McDonald's in the world
In its busiest time, it serves 1000 customers per hour
As it is a temporary building
most of the materials will be reused for other local building projects
after the Games

I am not sure if there is seating inside this two story building
but brilliantly there are hundreds of picnic tables on which to eat your food of choice
(picnics are very British)

This photo below shows the following:
a  non-English speaking customer pointing to what he wants to order,
items on the menu,
and 3 order stations just in this photo alone -maybe there are 100 total?-,
and the bustling kitchen behind them

Happy Meals include a plastic Olympic mascot toy

I have no wide angle lens to capture this monstrosity
Picture at least 5 images of this photo strung together to imagine its massiveness...

There are other food vendors too,
such as fish & chips, curry, sandwiches, and jacket (baked) potatoes

Inside The Stadium

Twisted fabric panels on stadium - clever

Selling programs

First View Inside
I don't think its enormity has been given justice on TV
and could be close to filling its 80,000 person capacity

The Events
When we applied for the tickets through the UK ticket lottery in April 2011,
we knew we would see medaling events, but didn't know which ones

We watch Women's Pole Vaulting finals
and are surprised how many competitors don't make it over the bar
I never see that on TV, and it made me appreciate how hard it must be

It is a long event that lasts the entire night

Jenn Suhr (USA) wins by clearing the bar at a height of 15'7''

Curiously, it is a male American voice announcing all the events
I wonder why
(he's actually pretty funny too)

You can bet they play the Chariots Of Fire theme often

And the crowd's cheering is deafening for the Team GB athletes :)

I really enjoy watching the Women's 3000m Steeplechase

Representing USA, Emma Coburn from Univ of Colorado - go Buffs!

Did you know those women run through water?
Doesn't that create blisters?

They hurdle too

You can see the media seats covered in plastic in background
(it was raining at times)

Funniest Moment
A cameraman runs behind the steeplechase winners in their victory lap
but quickly realizes he's being outrun and gives up
So another cameraman on a Segway takes over :)

You have to be an athlete to run a camera at the Olympics!
Yuliya Zaripova of Russia (gold) and Sofia Assefa of Ethiopia (bronze)

Cameraman in hot pursuit of winners in their victory lap

Running Events
Bins are placed at each mark
to collect the competitor's tracksuits
before each race

Here come the athletes
Some of them look so nervous, poor things!

Below we see Carmelita Jeter on the JumboTron
and on the track to the left

Look at all those people!

On your mark...


The red thingy makes the sound
I think the gun is just ceremonious

...and they're off!

Between Events
The audience does the wave

As BBC television commentators often say,
'Despite the cold and rain, the crowd's spirit cannot be dampened',
it is true!
It is cold and drizzly, but we don't care

Setting Up
Next up, the hurdles are laid out methodically

And double checked

Only detailed-oriented people need apply

I have no good hurdle race photos to share, so on to my

Biggest Surprise
which is seeing Bolt receive his medal for the race the night before
(I have no idea why he didn't receive his medal the night he won)

You can see the Olympic Flame here
Pity it can't be seen outside the stadium

The backside of the podium
Blurry - it's a big stadium and we are on the other side

There are many more races
throughout the night

But now it is 10pm
and time to go home

Goodnight, stadium

Goodnight, Orbit

Goodnight, beautiful rings backlit on the Aquatics Centre

Goodnight, lovely spectators from all over the world
with colorful flags I so adore

And goodnight to the police (in yellow) who helped keep us safe


I am about to turn into a pumpkin,
so home we go via tube and then train
(2 hours, door-to-door)

And I fall fast asleep in bed
while visions of jumping, running sugar-plums dance in my head...

Nighty night ;)

- all photos by me -

Source: McDonalds, Olympic Stadium

More Summer Olympics Posts:
Olympic Beach Volleyball
London Dressed For The Olympics
Behind The Scenes: An Olympic Opening Ceremony Performer 
Summer Olympics: I Just Can't Get Enough 
The Summer Games Begin