30 November 2012

'Vintiquing' In England

Portobello Road

I almost wrote 'Nervous Nellie' when the form asked my name,
as I registered as a buyer at an antique auction house
along with experienced antique dealers
What had I gotten myself into?

The nice man gave me my numbered card to raise during the auction
(could I exchange it for my favorite number 9, please?)
(elderly lady behind me smiles and says her mom always asked for a 3)

This was really the last frontier of buying cool vintage stuff for me
It showed my absolute dedication :)
 and I was sooooo nervous

Would I be able to understand their accent
as numbers flew out of their mouths?

Dare I remove a stray hair tickling my cheek
in fear of accidentally buying something?

Would my American accent 'out' me as a foreigner,
my shaky voice indicate my inexperience,
or would I accidentally double the price?

Here's how it worked:
I went a few days before the auction to view what was going to auction
I marked on my paper the items I was interested in (2 paintings)
The sheet indicated the opening bid
On that particular day, there were loads of furniture, artwork, and kitchen goodies
all at incredibly affordable prices/opening bids
Basically wholesale antiques!

Some of my recent purchases-
Groovy vintage printers tray by blogging friend, Vintage Sheet Addict
Authentic letter blocks from The Bothy

The day of the auction I found about 70 people in the room
The auctioneer was very easy to understand and spoke slowly (yay!)
They went through the items only by number, so I'm glad I went on preview day to view the goods
Typically only about 2 or 3 people were bidding on a particular item
The highest bidder paid for the item and took it home that day
(delivery available)

Because most of the bidders were dealers,
they would drop out from a bidding war early
as they didn't have the emotional tie to items
and needed to make a profit

I got my two paintings at half the price I would have paid at an antique fair
with no embarrassing mishaps
- plus a story to go with it and conquering the fear of auctions :)

Ardingly Antiques & Collection Fair

But if you must know, 
my happy happy place for vintiquing
held only twice a year

It is HUGE and jam-packed with vendors from all over Europe
It is open two days in a row, but only go the first day when it is full of vendors

Everything you could imagine is there
It is so freaky-good that I get giddy
each time I step foot among the treasures yet to be discovered

I have found London to be too expensive,
but nearby Surrey has some other great finds:

Hampton Court Village, East Molesey  
Dorking's West Street

I've found car boot and jumble sales have great deals 
but rarely provide good loot

The most bizarre thing I've seen in my foraging?
A container of human glass eyeballs from Victorian times(!)

My recent brocante obsession?
Kitchen scales and kitchen containers

Do you have any tips to share?
Your obsession?

- all photos by me -

More info: Ewbank Auctions
Related post: Buying Vintage In England


27 November 2012

A Social Profile Of Two Countries

For years I've wanted to write this post
which highlights some interesting differences
(and similarities)
between the US and England

I think it shows how culturally different we are

With a bit of research,
here's a look at each country's stand on a handful of issues...


Citizenship At Birth

US - All children born in the US are given American citizenship upon birth

England - Automatic UK citizenship not granted to newborns of foreign parents


Legal Adulthood

US & England - 18 years old


Legal Age To Vote

US & England - 18 years old



US & England - Yes
Remains very controversal in the US


Separation Between Church And State

US - Yes

England - No
The constitutional monarch is also
Supreme Governor of the Church of England
and Defender of the Faith


Particular Religion Observed In State/Public Schools

US - No

England - Yes
1/3 of publicly funded schools are religious in nature


Legal Driving Age

US - 16 years old, with a few state exceptions

England - Age 17


Legal Age To Buy & Smoke Cigarettes

US - 18 years old

England - 16 years old to smoke cigarettes
18 years old to buy them


Legal Age To Drink Alcohol

US - 21 years old

England - 5 years old if at home or on private premises
Age 16 in public establishment if with someone 18 yrs or older
18 years old to buy

Minimum Age To Join Military

US - Age 17 with parental consent; 18 without consent

England - 16 yrs old with parental consent; 18 without consent


Capital Punishment/Death Penalty

US - Legal (and used) in select states

England - No


Right To Bear Arms (Guns)

US - Easily accessible with a background check

England - Very restricted; not carried by many police officers


Trespassing Laws

US - Homeowners can do what is necessary to protect property & home, 
including bodily harm to trespasser with support of the law
Trespassers do so at their own risk, with a real possibility of being shot by homeowner

England - Homeowners have little legal protection for defending home,
as they may be prosecuted for causing bodily harm to trespasser
Some squatters move into homes while owner is away,
and owner has little legal recourse
( both UK topics are being discussed currently )

Although England is softer on crime,
crimes are less violent
with few crimes involving guns

Do you find all this fascinating too?

-  photos by me  -

Source: Citizen Advice Bureau, Army, Wikipedia, National Secular Society

24 November 2012

English Children Of WWII

Did you know 3 million English children were evacuated privately and by the government
from major targeted locations during the Second World War?

You've actually 'met' four of them already...

Right here...

via amazon

'' Once there were four children whose names were Peter,
Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to
them when they were sent away from London during the war because
of air-raids. They were sent to the house of an old Professor who lived in
the heart of the country, ten miles from the nearest railway station
and two miles from the nearest post office. '' 
(bold text, my addition)

Beginning in 1939
in a government-sponsored scheme,
children were transported en masse
via trains and buses to the English countryside
( often Wales and the West Country )

Upon arrival,
many children were brought to a central location
and selected by foster families
based on appearance,
much like a cattle market
Can you imagine?

An unusual event during an unusual time

Some siblings were kept together,
but often they were not

Most of these urban children had never visited a farm,
much less seen a cow before

The government even transported some children
to safer havens in foreign countries by ship
with the real threat of torpedoes looming
( Canada, United States, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand )

Most evacuees were away from home for four or five years,
experiencing the bulk of their childhood away from home

Some children felt abandoned and terribly homesick,
while others saw it as a grand adventure to live a totally different life

'' ...let's go and explore tomorrow. You might find anything
in a place like this. Did you see those mountains we came along?
And the woods? '' - Peter, The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe

Can you imagine being a parent during that time,
torn between your heart and head of letting
your children live with unscreened strangers for a indefinite amount of time
in hopes of them surviving the war?

Photo of a typical evacuated child traveling
with gas mask, suitcase, and baggage tag with child's name
(Book here)

How could a parent surrender their child to the great unknown?

Well, those parents would not want to expose
their children to the tragedies they had witnessed in World War I

They would want them to be safe from attack,
and would send them abroad if they thought it would be safer there
if Great Britain came under Nazi control

( only 22 miles of channel separated England
from German-occupied France )

There was huge pressure from the government
for parents to voluntarily evacuate their children
There was little time to decide

Furthermore, there were no schools left in 'evacuated' cities
as most had moved to the country too

I can't imagine the inner turmoil to 'do the right thing'
It would be impossible to know what that would be exactly

Sadly, parents had a hard time visiting their children
with rations of petrol, little free time, long distances,
and transportation difficulties due to bombed systems

What amazes me is that this affected
a whole English generation still living today
 as evacuees and as hosts
(now in their 70s and older)
YET I never hear it referred to
- I just happened to stumble upon a book about it in the library -

After the war,
children trickled back home
with new regional accents and country life experiences

Many returning children had to adjust to a new home (as previous one bombed),
a biological family that seemed like strangers (many didn't recognize their aged parents),
and often a new family dynamic with no father, a new baby, or a stepfather in the home

Some children became orphans or were young adults when the war ended,
so may not have ever returned 'home'

The evacuation was a success in that it saved thousands of young lives
who may not have survived had they stayed

But the break up of families was certainly a casualty of the war

I don't know about you,
but it gives me a greater appreciation for the privilege 
of witnessing my kids' childhood

And it makes me want to give them just one more squeeze before bedtime :)

Read more:
When The Children Came Home by Julie Summers (my source)
My Secret War Diary, By Flossie Albright by Marcia Williams (children's book) 

20 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving From England

In England, 
there is no indication that Thursday is Thanksgiving
in the United States

Thanksgiving is not ear-marked in the year
as a day off from school or work
It is just like any other day

But for us, it will still be
a time to share a meal with friends and family
void of gifts but full of friendship, food, and American football

An evening set aside to reflect on all things we are grateful for and 
an opportunity to stop and count our blessings

One of the loveliest holidays in its purity and lack of commercialism

Wishing your heart and home are warm with friends and family
and countless blessings

- photos by me -

18 November 2012

In 'Loo' Of...

Can you imagine this award ceremony?

Parking garage, Stratford-Upon-Avon

If you are an American visiting England,
you quickly learn that asking for the 'bathroom' or 'restroom' 
will only get you quizzical looks

'Toilet' is what you are really looking for
(although it sounds crude to my ears)

'Loo' is an informal British synonym thrown about as well

The origin of the curious word 'loo' is unknown,
although there are a few unsubstantiated theories circulating:

-  Medieval servants would yell 'gardyloo' 
(from the French regardez l'eau 'watch out for the water')
as chamber posts were emptied out of upstairs windows into the street -

- Using the French word le lieu (the place) sounds more polite -

- The trade name 'Waterloo' appeared on iron cisterns in many British outhouses
during the early 20th century -

I must say I have yet to meet a person here by the name of Lou,
much less Lulu

Every good mom has moments of dueling their kids
with potty talk

Welcome to my world :)  

- photo by me -


16 November 2012

Funny Trees

Linden/lime (Tilia) trees in winter

Throughout Europe you find these Dr Seuss-esque trees with nubby branches

Practiced since medieval times in Europe,
trees have been 'pollarded' for wood and for livestock feed (fodder)

Today the technique is used to shape trees, decrease shade,
and confine branches from obstructing streetlights or tangling in overhead wires

But primarily
I think many like the look of a 'tidy' tree

Pollard limes in summer

With less weight and a controlled size,
pollarding a tree does decrease wind and snow damage 
and thus increase longevity

Yet I was taught in the US
that a pollard tree may have a shorter life-span 
due to the stress of regular cutting
and the tree putting all of its energy into creating branches in the Spring
and delaying leaf growth for photosynthesis

Possibly due to this difference in school of thought and tradition,
you see these dramatically pruned trees in Europe but not in the US

Trees I see in England as pollards include
willows (Salix), lindens/limes (Tilia), and planes (Platanus)

What do you think?

- all photos by me -
Sources: Wikipedia, RHS

14 November 2012

London: Underground Tube Map

You may not have heard of Harry Beck
but you have seen his most famous work

London Underground Tube Map

Not geographically accurate, but simplified for users

Unofficial map of  Zone 1
Geographically, more correct placement of stations

In 1931 this English engineering draftsman drew up 
a simplified diagram in his uncommissioned spare time
(he was later paid a nominal amount for the original concept)

London Underground was skeptical of his radical proposal at first
but Beck's map gained immediate popularity 
and is now a British design classic

Beck color coded the train lines (brown for Bakerloo, for example)
and continued to redesign the map until 1960

Check out this fun map I stumbled upon recently

London film location map
available via Transport for London

I think the lesson here is to go with your gut instinct
and if at first you don't succeed, try, try again

Nice job, Mr Beck

Sources: Wikipedia 1, 2, TfL

11 November 2012

More About Me

Thank you for all your questions last month

To be honest, I wasn't sure anyone
would have any 'wonders' about me

Over time I will answer more questions...

What do you miss most from the US?
What have you enjoyed the most in England?

The people: I miss the important people in our lives in the US
and miss being there for them in their time of need and celebration
I miss being a part of my friends' daily lives

On the flip side, I adore my new friendships here
that I will treasure for a lifetime;
I am savoring our time together,
knowing we will not be here forever

But I know you were asking for more :) So,
I miss owning a home - someplace we can truly make our own,
paint the walls, choose our own curtains, feel really rooted
Yeah, I also miss my American washer & dryer

I miss affordable, stylish, one-stop-shopping Target,
everyday conveniences (drive thrus)
and great customer service

Sometimes I miss biscuits & gravy like mad
(like, yesterday - big time)

I don't miss all the bossy billboards in the US
telling me who to call, what to buy, etc

This is my drive to school, billboard free
It's a nice way to start the day :)

As a visual person, I LOVE ENGLAND
It is just so beautiful at every turn
- the gardens, the villages, the architecture -

I love the accents (I'm shallow like that)
and I love that I'm surrounded by history

Of course I love the accessibility to so many other interesting places

It is fascinating to live under
a government with different ideology
as well as be a part of the European Union and all that that means

But on a deeper level,
England has provided a place for me to step out of the known
and reinvent myself

I walked away from my old routines and sought out new ones

With blogging, I'm exploring the writer and photographer in me

While my days were just as full as in the US,
they look different

With excellent brain food,
my mind is always whirling
witnessed just the other day as I turned on my empty dryer

- all photos by me -

09 November 2012

Election Night At The US Embassy

What better place to watch the election unfold
than in the US Embassy in London?!

{ cameras not allowed, so all from my phone }

The Embassy was all lit up,
with tight security

Live Dixieland music greeted us - so distinctly American!

Ambassador Susman welcomed the crowd

We were surrounded by
1500 other Americans
{ Republicans & Democrats }

US newscasts were aired on screens throughout the Embassy

We walked through the Media Center,
with the BBC set up 
among others

Difficult to see,
but a computerized map was filled in throughout the night
as results were reported

The basement held a bar and live band

McDonald's and finger food were served

The Election Party started at 10p
with costumed Elvis, Statue Of Liberty, and Uncle Sam
walking around

Due to the difference in time zones,
we knew the results wouldn't roll in until 4am
at the earliest

So we left -
happy we had gone to the party
and happy to be going to bed


The US Embassy has been in Grosvenor Square since 1960
and is the largest American Embassy in Western Europe

A new US Embassy is being built across the River Thames in Wandsworth
( near Battersea )

photo credit

It should be completed in 2017

A few fun facts:

In December 1777,
Morocco was the first nation to publicly recognize the new United States
Together they maintain the United States' longest unbroken treaty

Benjamin Franklin had the first overseas mission of the United States
in Paris, France in 1779
{ and in London, you can visit his only remaining home in the world }

The first American Embassy was in The Hague, Netherlands
where John Adams was the first US Ambassador (1782)

Adams became the US Ambassador to Great Britain (1785)
and then the second President of the United States (1797 - 1801)

You knew I couldn't resist throwing in a bit of trivia,
didn't you ;)

all photos by me
unless otherwise noted 
Source: Wikipedia 

07 November 2012

Fanciful Toadstools

Posted By Happy Homemaker UK

I'll never forget the first time I laid eyes on these beauties
when we first moved to England

I thought they only existed in fairy tales

Don't you love their girly 'skirts'?

These are Fly Agaric toadstools
and are 'toadstools' by definition because they are poisonous
(mushrooms are edible)

You'll find them under birch and pine trees

With a commanding size and color,
you can't miss them on the forest floor 
this season :)

This image shows the stages of the Fly Agaric
with the youngest cap in the foreground
which will gain more spots and flatten as it ages

Aren't they delightful?

And btw,
England schools really do have competing houses and prefects
just like in Harry Potter

Makes you wonder what is 
fact and fiction sometimes...

- all photos by me -

05 November 2012

James And The Giant Mulberry

...not the giant peach :)

In an effort to become more independent from mainland Europe
(and perhaps another source of taxation)
King James I wanted to bring the silk industry to England

It's hard to say if the French deliberately misled King James I
by suggesting he plant the black mulberry (Morus nigra)
instead of the white one (Morus alba)
or if he just got the facts wrong

But unknowingly in 1608,
James I fervently issued an edict
encouraging the cultivation of the 'wrong' mulberry tree
as silkworms prefer leaves from the Chinese white mulberry

He offered packets of black mulberry seeds to anyone who would sow them,
making the tree fashionable at the time

Before his reign, few mulberry trees were recorded in England
and today, nearly all mulberry trees in England are of the Morus nigra variety

So although the silkworm industry proved unsuccessful,
James I did leave an arboreal legacy behind

William Shakespeare's home, New Place, in Stratford-Upon-Avon

Isn't this graceful, gnarled tree gorgeous?

It is likely
this one grew from a scion
of the original mulberry Shakespeare planted in 1609
directly from the garden of James I

{ Shakespeare also participated in King James I's coronation procession }

At the least, Shakespeare referred to the mulberry in
Coriolanus and A Midsummer Night's Dream

'Now humble as the ripest mulberry
That will not hold the handling.'
-Coriolanus, Act III, Scene ii

Shakespeare's tree was cut down by a following owner of New Place around 1752,
exasperated by showing the tree to so many visitors

Thankfully descendants of the famous tree remain at Kew Gardens
and again at Shakespeare's New Place

To think the Common Mulberry
has such an uncommon story

- all photos by me -


03 November 2012

Guy Fawkes Night And Other Holidays

Did you notice the new banner above?
I'm really drawn to gray right now :)


On the heels of Halloween 
is Guy Fawkes Night
{ aka Bonfire Night, Fireworks Night }

Bonfire Night will be observed all weekend
Officially it is on November 5th

In 1605
Guy Fawkes and his Catholic crew attempted to
blow up Parliament and {Protestant} King James I
in the foiled Gunpowder Plot

Bonfire Night celebrates their failure

Seen in York
(photo by me)

November's Fireworks Night
has always been a bit of a head-scratcher for me

It's the only annual event the whole country gets together
to celebrate something British

Think bonfires with effigies, sparklers, fireworks,
games, mulled wine, food

Think general merriment and good fun

Typical Guy Fawkes effigy on Bonfire Night
(photo by me)

There have been so many other Britons who have
contributed much to the UK and the world
other than Guy Fawkes and his crew

In England
there are a few bank holidays called...
wait for it...

'Bank Holiday'

(bankers are pariahs in this country
and not the least bit celebrated)

There is not one but
three annual 'Bank Holidays'

So I propose the renaming of Bank Holidays
- are you with me here? -

Here's a few suggestions I'd like to bring forth...

Classic British Literature Day
William Shakespeare, Jane Austin, and Charles Dickens just to name a few

Print for sale via Flourish Cafe

Too much of a stretch for
Fabulous Fictional Characters Day?
Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle,
Peter Pan, Willy Wonka, The Hobbit,
Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and Harry Potter
coming to mind

Imagine elevating books to become a national holiday!
what an excellent example for kids

Or how about
UK Explorer Day
to recognize the adventures of Charles Darwin, Captain James Cook, 
David Livingstone, and Ernest Shackleton (South Pole explorer)

For sale via Print Land

Try on
'Really Historical Folks' Day 
to commemorate King Arthur, Florence Nightingale, 
Duke of Wellington (defeated Napoleon to end war)
or Sir Winston Churchill

Of course I like
Happy Homemaker Day
to celebrate
 those charming English toilets with chains & cistern,
the first washing machines (debuted at 1862 London Exhibition),
domestic dishwashers (thanks to Englishman William Howard Livens in 1924)
and Dyson vacuums (he's British too)
to make life a little easier at home
And happier

Available from Graphique

I'd also cast my vote for

Let's Jump In The Puddles Day
Happy Dance For The Countryside And Gardens Day

How would you rename boring ol' 'Bank Holiday'?

Sources: Wikipedia 1, 2

01 November 2012

Halloween 2012

Posted By Happy Homemaker UK

Last night
there was no question trick-or-treating
had a stronger foothold in our area

Whereas only a quarter of houses offered sweets two years ago,
I'd guess as many as half of the neighbors participated on the same street this year

It feels magical to witness a new tradition in the making,
as it was the first time many of the residents had given away Halloween candy

I heard a few children saying 'cheers' as they left with their goodies,
and neighbors oohed and aahed as to how scary costumes were
{ they don't do 'cute' costumes here }

The evening ended with a typical English rain
which made it easy to call it a night

Here's a look at the goodies we received

I believe Parma Violets are a very old-fashioned sweet here,
and I'm not sure the words 'foam' and 'candy' should ever meet on the same package :)

Americans will be pleased to know those yummy Marathon braided bars of yesteryear
are alive and well in the UK as Curly Wurlies

How was your Halloween?

- all photos by me -