31 January 2013

Interview By Expats Blog

I was approached by Expats Blog
for an interview

I figured, why not?

I try to find the right balance of what to share personally online,
and I've revealed a little more about me in this interview with Expats Blog

I hope you enjoy it :)

28 January 2013

Weekend In Photos

Another weekend has passed,
captured within a few images

I love the view from Holmbury Hill of
the Weald of Surrey and Sussex

The Weald crosses Sussex, Hampshire, Kent, and Surrey

What was once a vast forest 
is now a picture-perfect landscape of scattered farms and villages

While the rain melted the snow this week,
chilly temperatures froze local ponds
to create yet another scene calling my name :)

The River Thames, however, was not frozen
as seen by rowers in Bray

The River Thames used to freeze regularly
You can read about it in a previous post here

Have a great week :)

- all photos by me -
Source: Wikipedia

23 January 2013

Snow Days

The weekend was filled with snow play
and a wintry walk

Monday brought loud cheers 
when school cancelled due to road conditions

By Tuesday,
the roads had cleared

so I hopped, skipped, jumped to 
one of the biggest 'Winter Gardens' in Europe
covering three acres with 650 different plantings

Although it is January,
there were already blooms in the garden

extremely fragrant Daphne Bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' and hellebore

witch hazel

I was completely smitten by the bark in the birch grove

Enjoy the rest of your week!

- all photos by me -

19 January 2013

Snow, England Style

Wondering what to post this weekend,
my answer came from the sky...

It doesn't snow 'big' or often
in this part of England

So beautiful to witness the landscape clothed in white

Thatched houses


and farms

Up ahead

and behind

My kids were thrilled
school was let out early yesterday
Ah.... snow days!

Driving is treacherous
as icy roads are narrow and windy

Ineffective salt is used to manage the ice,
but in an area that rarely receives significant snowfall
there is probably little reason to upgrade their method

As the English have taught me,
you surrender...
have patience...
and just pour yourself a cuppa

Have a wonderful weekend

- all photos by me -

16 January 2013

Tips To Defrost A Windscreen

I am a bit intrigued as to why English drivers
have frost-free cars on a chilly morning

Having lived in snow country,
I am a bit embarrassed to say I still haven't graduated from
using a plastic card to scrape my car 
before my mad dash to get to school on time

As most of the English do not park in their garage 
(it is used for storage)
they must have some magic trick up their sleeves?

Here's a few possibilities:

Throw water on the windshield with wipers on
(never hot, which could crack windows)

Overnight, cover windscreen with a towel

Use one of the popular de-icer sprays I've seen for sale

Spray a vinegar/water mix on windscreen the night before

Wipe a homemade saltwater mixture over windows
when parked for the evening

Without worries of a stolen car, 
warm car a few minutes before leaving 

Most of these I haven't tried 
but entering the frosty season, 
I may experiment 

Do you have any tips to share 
so I stop looking like the foolish American 
in a frost-covered car? 

- photo by me - 

Windshield recipes: eHow

12 January 2013

Fun Photo Apps

Photo of phone booth using Percolator App

Twenty years ago, 
a smartphone would have seemed to be technology from a James Bond movie
with its infinite gadgets in the palm of your hand

Interactive map, flashlight, mirror, video camera,
compass, translator, encyclopedia, and phone

Really quite astounding, eh?

So as happy accidents happen,
I forgot my camera charger at home (again!)
and had to document half of our vacation with my iPhone,
forcing me to explore the possibilities of the technology

Although I don't have the newest iPhone,
I was surprised the quality of my photos was comparable
to my DSLR camera

While not great for high-quality zooming or nighttime shots,
this little phone camera is certainly light-weight and convenient
with a wide angle lens

Here are some photo apps that have me really excited...

:: ProHDR ($1.99) ::

I use this app for landscape shots
It snaps two photos - one overexposed and one underexposed
and blends them together to create one photograph
with amazing depth and color

I find this to be a good solution for capturing the sky
which often appears white in my photos

On my desktop, I use Picasa and PicMonkey for photo editing
On my phone, I use Photoshop Express (free)

:: InstaPicFrame (free) ::
provides collages and those coveted circle frames

:: Percolator ($1.99) ::

I am CRAZY about this app
which turns your photo into cool artwork

Photo of wall graffiti

:: PhotoArtista Haiku ($2.99) ::

Not my favorite app, but it has its merits
by turning photographs into watercolor paintings

:: ToonPAINT (£1.49) with upgrade (£.69) ::

I find this app to be very addictive,
transforming photos into graphic woodblock prints

Bundles of roses at market

Many of these apps allow you to upload into Instagram and Facebook
and work on other Apple devices too

If your desired photo is on your desktop,
email yourself the photo, upload onto your device, and have a go!

Then email your finished photo back to yourself in 'actual size' for better resolution
and download onto your desktop

So easy and fun!

And for the kiddos, these are a great alternative to phone video games
They can spend hours making masterpieces :)

- all images are my own -

I found some of these apps (and more) in iPhone Obsessed (book)
This is not a sponsored post. Just excited to share :)

10 January 2013

Reading Tea Leaves

You can never get a cup of tea large enough 
or a book long enough to suit me” 
~ C.S. Lewis

credit: Le Pétrin

Having heard here the common phrase
'reading tea leaves',
I had to investigate what that was all about

'Tasseography' is the fortune telling method of reading tea leaves,
possibly practiced in England as early as the seventeenth century 
when tea was introduced to Europe

After you drink most of the liquid from your loose tea,
swirl the cup to scatter the leaves

Look at the patterns of tea leaves in the cup
which may look like a letter, a heart shape, or a ring
 See a list of symbols here

The leaves closest to the rim represent the present
The middle of the cup is the future
And the bottom of the teacup is your far future

In Victorian times,
clever fortune telling cups were designed to help with readings

via ebay

Reading tea leaves could be a whole new objective at tea parties now :)

And I couldn't resist this quote

“Women are like tea bags, 
they don’t know how strong they are 
until they get into hot water.” 
~ Eleanor Roosevelt (wife of former US President, Franklin D Roosevelt)

Source: Wikipedia

07 January 2013

Forest Dens

Take a walk through any Surrey forest,
you are likely to stumble upon one of these

Play dens are made by children with their families,
gathering nearby branches to prop against a tree

Possibly standing for decades,
a passerby may add to the pile

Such a delightful playground accessory to any forest :)

Related post:

04 January 2013

Scrambled States Of America Game

We've heard from other expat American families
that while their children may receive a more global education,
a strong US geography base might be lacking

Clever Santa delivered a family game this year
which teaches (or reviews) US state locations, capitals, and state nicknames

We played it on our vacation,

Based on book of same title
via Amazon

Targeted for children 8+,
this game is fun for tweens too

It is a great concept with many tasks,
such as finding the closest state and finding hidden names within capitals

It later brought up interesting dinner discussion such as
''Why is it called Rhode Island when it is not an island?''
''What is the proper pronunciation of Montpelier?''
''How do you call someone from Juneau?''
Hmm, good questions

My only complaint about this game is
it is not available for other countries or continents
(hint, hint Gamewright)

Many Europeans are surprised that Americans often can't name
the capitals of all 50 US states

This is because many capitals are in small cities that
 rarely make national news and seldom visited

Hoping you are having a wonderful new year so far
Thank you so much for reading :)

Sharing about this game only because it has been a great find for our family.
I received no free product or compensation for this post.