29 February 2012

Moving Day

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

As I pack up to move with misty eyes,
I want to share a little about what we are saying goodbye to

Love the Victorian tiles and chimney pots

Great Neighbors

...providing baking soda when one of my kids was stung by a hornet on our second day here
...including us in Guy Fawkes celebrations, the Royal Wedding block party, Girls Night Out
...running kids across the street for playdates
...catching my dog on the loose while I was stuck in traffic
...sharing local tips
...unraveling cultural mysteries and cockney sayings

We will miss you! 
Thank you for being my gateway to understanding England
and foraging meaningful friendships :)

Victorian tiled walkway

A Charming Neighborhood

A London suburb built during the Victorian era,
the houses share wonderful architecture

Love the Victorian doorbells

Lovely Home

Built in 1898, our amazing house just oozes character
but I won't miss our tiny freezer

The Search For A New Home

Our house is on the market to be sold, so we did not renew our lease

With two moves in two years, we looked for a new home with mixed feelings
- while we love our current neighborhood, we look forward to getting to knowing a new area -

Unlike in the US, you have no real estate agent to represent the buyer/renter
so I called an agent for each house 'viewing'

While looking at houses in the country, I encountered a few adventures

Such as getting my car stuck in the mud for an hour on a farm road
and roadside assistance suggesting I find a tractor to help pull me out (really?)

With stinging nettle burns on my legs,
one realtor and 3 farmers/pheasant hunters later, 
the mud doth relinquished its powerful suckage

We were a day away from putting in a rental contract on a 17th century farmhouse
with a snug and AGA, but someone beat us to it

The New Home

But it all worked out for the best
for we are moving to a semi-rural village that I can't wait to putter around
And we still can manage with just one car, thinking my bicycle will get most of my errands done

Our house will not have a number, just a cottage name (love that!)
with a field of horses and a forest down the lane

Our broadband service tells me it will be working sometime between now and eleven days
so I don't know when I will be up and running again

But until we meet again, be well
Next time I'll be posting from the cottage :)

Post Of The Month Club:
We will skip this month for an exciting announcement next month - Stay Tuned :)

- all photos by me -

25 February 2012

A Visit To Bath

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

Many Americans will be surprised to read the Romans 
controlled Great Britain from 43 AD until 410 AD

The Romans named their Great Britain province Britannia,
which now refers to a female helmeted warrior carrying a trident,
personifying Great Britain or the British Empire

It is shocking to me how large the Roman Empire was,
with remnants still prevalent around this island

One fine example is in the beautiful town of Bath,
approximately 100 miles west of London

The city was first established as a spa town by the Romans
and popular again during the Georgian era (1714 - 1837)

Healing spring captured in a Roman bath

Another historical tidbit-
the first king of a united England, King Edgar, was crowned here in 973 AD

Bath Abbey

Novelist Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806,
using it as a setting for two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion

UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987,
Bath has secured itself as a popular tourist destination for years to come
with its protected beauty and history

The countryside isn't too shabby either :)

Hello Spring :)

Wishing you a wonderful weekend! 

Post Of The Month Club: 
We will skip this month for an exciting announcement next month - Stay Tuned :)

- all photos by me -

Tourist information: Bath
Source: Dictionary, Wikipedia 1, 2, 3

22 February 2012

More On The NHS

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

While 16% of Americans are medically uninsured,
should America abandon their awesome medical care
to look more like the UK's National Health Service?

Or should the focus be on getting care to those 16%
instead of changing the entire system?
Are we throwing out the baby with the bathwater?

Very controversially,
President Barack Obama pushed the approval of Universal Healthcare
to look more like the NHS

:: A side note on pronouncing 'Barack' ::
English: BEAR-ick
American: b'ROCK

Faux Fur Hot Bottle Covers sold by This Is Pretty

Like many American expats here,
we have the option of seeing private doctors through our company's insurance plan
or using the UK's 'free' healthcare system, the NHS

The NHS is one of the world's largest employers,
behind the likes of the Chinese Army

Our family has used private insurance so far
because it is a system I understand

Although I like that our private doctor provides house calls, 
his primary practice is out of his home, which kind of creeps me out

However, I can get an appointment the day I call
and I have been satisfied with the care he has provided thus far

I pay for the visit up front (£60/$100)
and our private insurance company reimburses us with a check in the mail
It is a bit of a hassle, but that's okay

Get Well Soon Chamomile Kit sold via Amazon

A few months ago
I decided I should register with the NHS in case of an emergency
or due to some mystery disease (they see so many cases of everything)
plus visits are free (prescriptions too, for kids)

So I went to register at the medical center my neighbor said I HAD to go to,
for they have the BEST doctor

So I walk in and let me just say
'Greyhound Bus Station'

...meaning cement floors, plastic bucket chairs affixed to the floor,
dim lighting, a long row of 'ticket windows' with receptionists,
and even a light up board that displays your last name once it is your turn
I. Kid. You. Not.

I grabbed my kids' hands and walked a speedy u-turn (or should I say 'roundabout'?)
before you could say 'ah-choo',
and off we went to another location that hadn't been recommended,
but at least was another option

We drove up to an old Victorian home, with bedrooms as examining rooms
and the living room served as a waiting room
It seemed much more civilized, maybe even quaint

As I registered, the receptionist asked if I wanted to give 
a urine sample today (uh, no thanks)

TShirt available via My Cow Dazy

Okay, so now that our registration has been processed
look what came in the mail last week...

the seeds of a blog post...

My first PAP Smear 'Invitation'

You are allotted a 'smear' every three years in the UK,
whereas in the US, women receive one annually

'The Facts' brochure said I could stay dressed from the waist down
if I wore a full skirt
And I would lay down 'on a couch' for the smear test
- so interesting! -

Well, I almost got a chance to test-drive the NHS system
when I called to make an appointment for a rash on one of us

It is a good thing the rash disappeared in a few days and was not contagious
for I called on a Monday and they could not see us until Saturday(!)

Now that we are moving to a semi-rural village,
my catchment area is small and I only will have one NHS GP possibility

This means I won't be able to choose my doctor's office,
so I hope it is a good one

I hesitate to post this, for I know the NHS is something many Brits are very proud of
But I push 'publish' because it is something Americans are very keen to read about as
we march in this direction...

More medical posts:

19 February 2012

Dirty, Beautiful Windows

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

A few months ago
this was drawn in the condensation on a kitchen window

With the sun out today, it is really noticeable
and makes my heart sing

Have a wonderful week!

12 February 2012

A Wintry Week

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

And here I was bragging about how winter missed our island this year

Here are a few images from the week

And look what cutie-pie visited our backyard!

These rose-ringed parakeets (aka ring-necked parakeets)
usually stay in the treetops, so seeing one up close was a real treat :)

I've been intrigued by these noisy exotic birds,
the UK's only naturalized parrot often seen in South East England

Although native to sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent,
these green beauties are the most widely introduced parrot species in the world
found in 35 countries

Theories explaining the 1969 arrival of ring-necked parakeets
range from flying from the European continent,
escaping from the Chessington Zoo
to released as a former pets

Another interesting non-native species living in England includes
the mink
which escaped from local fur farms in 1929

I'm not sure the ferret-like mink is on my 'must see' list,
but the hedgehog and cuckoo certainly are

- all photos by me -

Sources: DAISIE, Biology.uco.edu

Related post: The Impact Of Snow

08 February 2012

Queen Elizabeth II & Windsor Castle Tour

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

'Flat White' at Costa

This coffee with smooth, velvety milk lingered in my thoughts for the day,
thanks to smart ordering by Rona of Flowerona

Besides introducing me to this new cozy beverage,
Rona turned me on to a new BBC three-part series about Queen Elizabeth II, The Diamond Queen,
during our recent coffee date

I learned so much as I watched it with the kiddos...

The Queen & Prince Philip at the Royal Ascot

Queen Elizabeth II became queen at age 25(!) after the sudden death of her father, George VI,
and is the second longest reigning monarch of the United Kingdom
(Queen Victoria the longest, reigning 63 years and 7 months)

Sixty years ago Queen Elizabeth II was crowned 
when Dwight D Eisenhower was US President
In fact, current UK Prime Minister David Cameron wasn't born yet!

And in all this time, Queen Elizabeth II has not been a controversial figure 
(although the idea of a monarchy has)

Her sixty year reign has provided stability and continuity to this country
in contrast to UK Prime Ministers (and US Presidents) which seem to be a blip in history

Queen Elizabeth II belongs to the Windsor family
But did you know 'Windsor' is a fabricated name by her grandfather King George V
to sound more English than 'Saxe-Coburg and Gotha'
during a time of anti-German public sentiment in 1917?

Last week I toured Windsor Castle,
Queen Elizabeth's home and principal weekend retreat in Windsor, Berkshire

Have you been there before?
It is a quaint town with the impressive castle in view

The original castle was built by William The Conquer in the 11th Century
and today is the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world

Historically, the castle only has been attacked in 2 sieges during the time of that unpopular King John
You know, the infamous 'baddie' in Robin Hood

I had forgotten that in 1992 a major fire occurred in a portion of the castle which lasted 15 hours

Queen Elizabeth termed that year her 'annus horribilis' ('horrible year') for besides the fire in her 'home',
Charles and Andrew separated from their wives and Anne divorced
(Yep, that sounds like a pretty sucky year to me too, sister!)

Due to a halogen light too close to a curtain that caught fire,
the blaze quickly spread through the old, dry castle

And once the roof burned away, there was a chimney-like draft whipping the fire through nine state rooms
Over a hundred rooms more were damaged by smoke, flames, and water

Fortunately no one was badly injured and artwork was untouched, 
for it had been moved earlier due to a renovation in that part of the castle

Today they have smoke alarms, but still no fire sprinkler systems
thinking that a little smoke or fire would set off the sprinklers causing severe water damage everywhere
Whereas a flame could quickly be contained and extinguished, minimizing castle damage (hopefully)

Anyhoo, like other state buildings, Windsor Castle had no insurance 
So who was to pay for the repairs? The crown or the government?
That was a great debate at the time

The solution was to fund it by opening Buckingham Palace to the public for tours
(which I did and would highly recommend)
and charging for public access to parkland surrounding Windsor

The silver lining?
- Queen Elizabeth II has made her mark on this ancient castle, 
reflecting her style through the renovations (which took 5 years to complete)

- Archaeologists have been very excited about discovering hidden windows, doors, 
and even a 150 ft deep water well revealed during the demolition/ restoration process

The sections of the castle I visited were very old, grand, and ornate as you would expect

And for real,
I saw doors to hidden passageways (used for mistresses and servants)
and I inquired about the whereabouts of a moat

No moat.
Water would have seeped into limestone leaving the moat, dragons, and crocodiles very parched

After spending two hours touring the castle and grounds (self-guided)
I scooted to the guided kitchen tour

Although the kitchen tour was brief (there's only so much to see in a kitchen)
it held some interesting facts and it was fun to see where all the action happens

Since interior photography was prohibited,
just picture a healthy mix of old and new

I spied blackness on beams from the '92 fire

I spied a large kitchen with wooden beams, retired copper pots, and an old spit
juxtaposed with modern industrial kitchen equipment

Although no one was working in the kitchen at the time of our visit,
the guide told us the chefs bring their own copper pots and pans by the lorry-load

While I only saw the kitchen and cold food prep area,
there was a patisserie and a wine cellar just around the corner

All royal kitchen clocks are set 5 minutes fast
(mine is 12 minutes fast; are you more royal-like?)

Apparently there are traffic lights at the top of the kitchen lift (elevator) 
near the doors to the main dining area
This allows footman to enter from both sides of the dining room at the same time on cue
- Clever royals -

The Queen is involved in selecting the menu two months in advance for state dinners
The menu tends to be quite simple

Visitors can tour the State Apartments, Queen Mary's Doll House, and St George's Chapel
And with advance planning, you can tour the royal kitchen too
But be sure to check ahead of time, for the castle is closed when the Queen is home

This year marks the Queen's Diamond Jubilee (sixtieth year reigning)
which will be celebrated June 2nd - 5th by a national holiday, street parties,
loads of concerts, and other activities around the country

To check out planned events, view the official website here

I've already celebrated a little with this recent Emma Bridgewater tea towel purchase :)

by EmmaBridgewater.co.uk


- all photos by me -

Watch The Diamond Queen series on BBC iPlayer 
Diamond Jubilee Events here
Public Windsor Castle Tour info: Windsor Castle

04 February 2012

Random Thoughts

Posted by Happy Homemaker UK

I love this photo of me because

A shadow forms only when the sun is shining ;)
I love that the grass is green year 'round in England
And for once I look tall!

Ah Ha!
I just realized why no parking spaces are angled here

It would be too difficult to reverse into an angled space,
as drivers often do to make it easier to get out between those narrow lines

And a little hat tip to two very important Englishmen...

James Bond's 50th Anniversary
Charles Dickens's 200th birthday

And with Super Bowl Sunday coming up,
we are on the fence about staying up to watch the football game that starts at 11pm our time
on a school night

What would you do?

Linking to Project 52