England, You’re Beautiful!

England is not very big. Compared to a US state, England is only 200 sq miles bigger than Alabama. The UK isn’t a whole bigger either. Comparing it to a couple US states, the UK is in between Wyoming and Oregon. Despite the size, a three hours drive in the US can equal to an eight hours drive here in the UK for a few different reasons. One, depending on where you go, you can hit traffic. Traffic on the motorway (interstate) or the A roads (highways, although some A roads are two lanes). In the US, once you hit the interstate you can pretty much set your car on cruise control and just go until you’re out of gas, need to pee or have to go around a big city. The motorways don’t go everywhere. There’s a long one between London and up to Edinburgh for example but for other destinations, it’s a combo of different types of roads. This means you have a chance to enter villages/towns and also many many roundabouts. Or, you take the smaller roads, the B roads or a combo of As and Bs, and you keep hitting cute village/towns or historical sites along your route and just want to stop and have a walk around.

When we were in Mississippi last summer, I drove the girls to Disney World. It was a 12hrs drive and we did it in two days. Yes it was a bit dull at times but the drive was a breeze. Our next trip is to Scotland. The border is about size hours away but we’re breaking the trip in two days. If we had all the time (and money) in the world, we’d probably do this drive in two weeks. Or even a month’s time. There are just too many places I want to drag the family to between here and Scotland. Yes, yes, I know I can go another time, but we’ll already be up there ;)

Anyhow, our house to M’s gymnastics competition is about 180 miles away. A good three hours drive. On our way there, we just stopped for a coffee/snack stop. But on our way back, we made a few stops and drove on roads which looked like it could only fit one car but it’s a two lane road. The drive back took us almost eight hours and it was beautiful!


We saw Bibury. Look at this house built in the late 1300s. Can we all go ahhhhhh, now? See the stone fence? You can see that alongside many of the roads we drove on. They’re carefully cut and stacked on top of each other and many have been there for hundreds of years!


Here’s a peek of Arlington Row. Built in 1380 as a wool store and then converted into weaver’s cottages in the 17th century. Arlington Row is owned by the National Trust (which we are happy to be members of). There is no fee to see these homes but for £84/year we have access to hundreds of sites owned and maintained by NT that are scattered all around the UK.


There were lots of ducks when we went and they all eagerly quacked and swam for food from the visitors (which there were loads of, buses of them).


To the left is a trout farm and that building is the Swan hotel and pub/restaurants. That’s where we had lunch Sunday. The food was good but not one we went ga ga about.


Arlington Row. It is now a residential dwelling and again, I wish I could just look inside one of them!



Walking towards the main road and look, I spot a handsome man’s back!


And him from the front, or side. Stalker me ;)


This is more less what many of the villages that we drove by looked like. Gorgeous, isn’t it? It’s why I love driving small roads here when I have the time. Every day I drive the girls to and from school and I love each drive! I know, weird! But I do. I love driving away from the street next to ours, where all the old homes are, and then the small road that goes into the village of the girls’ school, our old village we moved from. I love seeing the pub in the corner and the old houses that are there. In the spring the pink flowers would drop on us. In the summer is great to feel the warm breeze. In the fall I LOVE watching the leaves change colours. And in the winter, I love seeing the white branches and fields.


It’s been a really mild fall. I think it’s just started to cool down the last couple of days. And the leaves haven’t completely changed colours. But it’s still a lovely fall day!


Love them!

Until next time!!


The Frugal Traveler

It’s been months and since my last post, we’ve traveled a bit more. A few weeks ago I bumped into a friend and after a bit of catching up, my friend was a bit amazed at how many places we’ve been and plan on going soon. I suppose, since I stay home, it seems like we’re spending more than hubby’s making, but we’re not.

Before we moved to England, the husband and I decided that traveling Europe will be one important thing that we do while we’re overseas. It’s something we both love to do and being here, the cost will be significantly cheaper (e.g. there’s a flight to Dublin, Ireland, for £40/pp round trip this Thanksgiving weekend). So every year I budget for at least two big trips (one whole week kind of trip) and a few little ones (usually in the island or to a nearby city across the channel).

I am very good at budgeting. If I get a lot of notice I can plan a week trip for around $1,000. I know on two of our trips we stayed at a cottage (a one story house) for £250/week. That’s about $400. Since we had a kitchen, I did a lot of cooking. We did breakfast everyday, ate out for lunches and I think one or two restaurants for dinner. We had a great time and went to a lot of places (which many were free since we have a membership to those sites).

On a day-to-day basis we’re pretty frugal and I am always budgeting. I can budget using a spreadsheet but I also like the You Need a Budget software/app. If you’re struggling to pay bills or have a lot of debts to pay off, YNAB is a fab app to help you figure out how much you can pay each month without eating ramen noodles everyday. Or, if you’re like me, and just want an app to budget and monitor spending, I think you’ll love YNAB. We don’t buy a lot of toys or clothes. We buy whatever clothes we need and I often shop second hand. The second hand shopping I do for two reasons, it’s cheaper and we’re reusing. If I have to buy new, I always buy on sale or from a discounted shop online, e.g. 6pm.com for shoes. I meal plan every week and have completely removed our Friday/weekend takeaways. On average, we spend around $100/week on food.

The little bit we save we put into our travel pot and this is how we’re able to travel more than a couple times a year. And if you’re still wondering whether or not we save, we do! We always max out our IRAs and have savings for us and the girls. I guess it helps that we have zero debt. I only use the credit card to maintain our credit score and we only have one nice car — and cars here are cheap compare to the US!

Last weekend was our latest frugal travel. We took advantage of M’s overnight competition at the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds and Yorkshire are two of my favorite areas to visit. There are so many pretty villages with an abundant amount of charm and teahouses. On this trip, we stayed at a military lodging for a whooping £10.25/night. This gave us a double wide, linen and a kitchen. Quite basic but we weren’t in there much and the lodge was about 20 minutes from M’s competition, Bath, and Castle Combe. After competition (she came 12th out of 83 girls) we wasted no time and off we went!

Of the handful of villages that we stopped at, one of my favorite was Castle Combe. Hundreds of years ago there used to be a castle but now, above the castle ruins is this beautiful village. Besides the few tourists that were there, the village was so peaceful and quaint. While there, a craft market was held, and lots of locals came in to look and to say hello to one another. It was nice to see while enjoying our 60p (about $1, tea and biscuit).

DSC_3585 Before we left the hotel I didn’t really get a chance to read up on the history of this village. I was hoping to grab some literature whilst in the village but there was none. My phone also had zero service and so all we could do was look around until later on down the road when my phone received 3G service again. I didn’t know until later that there’s a very old clock inside the church. My friend said it’s one of the oldest clocks that still works. Bummer! If I knew, I’d have waited for the church service to end and have a peek. What I did know was that a few movies have been filmed here. The latest being War Horse.

DSC_3590 The bridge, shown above, was built during Roman times. Isn’t it amazing that it’s still being used?

DSC_3591  And I just love the rooftops!

DSC_3594 Beautiful!! I can move here any day!

DSC_3597 Once upon a time that house was a post office. Now it’s a home. I wish I could knock on each door and ask if we can take a look but ya know, that’s just rude :)

DSC_3599-copy And of course, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of baby girl.

castle_combe And M. Even though she didn’t look to happy. I think in her head she was thinking, “Oh no, where will this photo end up in? Facebook, the blog, a scrapbook page?” Ha!

DSC_3580-copy Last but not least, traveling, and photography, is a time to be a family. Even if you’re not too fond of each other at the moment.

Jovie: I want to take a picture with Emma
Emma: I don’t want to take a picture with Jovie. She’s always silly.
Jovie: I am NOT silly!!
Emma: Yes you are!
Jovie: Mommmyyyyyyy, Emma’s mean to me!! I want a photo with Emma (tears starting to come out)

*a bit of sidewalk drama and me butting in*

Me: Emma, just take a photo with Jovie. One photo. Come, we drove all the way here for your gym competition, you can at least take one photo (guilt tripping, ha ha!!)
Emma: Ok (huge sigh and pout)
Jovie: Yay!! (somehow tears disappeared)

*Jovie grabbing Emma’s hand, Emma refusing Jovie’s hand, a bit of bickering and ready*

Me: Emma, can you look a bit happy?
Emma: No!
Me: Ok, get ready! (snap)
Emma: See, she’s always silly!
Me: *shrug*

Finding Places Using Google Map

There are lots of wonderful apps that Google has to offer and one of my favorite, next to Google Search, is Google Map.

I love maps. With a map you can go from one place to another. It doesn’t matter if it’s a paper or electronic map, maps get you there! Two big features of Google Map that I love is its ability to find establishments in the area I am interested in. So if I am in downtown Seattle and I need a hotel, I can type in “hotel” onto Google Map and it’ll give me a list of them. Ditto if I ask for “scrapbook store” and it’ll fill the map with choices (or so I hope).

While Google search is fabulous and I love searching for places to stay and eat on TripAdvisor, I always feel the need to use Google Map to do more digging JUST in case there’s a place I miss. Some smaller B&Bs for example do not have their business listed due to cost or maybe they don’t want a whole lot of people booking. I know the later is odd but I found a place just late last year where the host didn’t want to be too busy with new visitors. She already has a great list of regulars and even though you cannot Google Search the B&B by town/area, i.e. B&B in/near Harrypotterville, it does show on Google Map and it also shows reviews on TripAdvisor since the B&B does have a website. Clever lady!

Ok, so I am a bit OCD this way, but that’s me.

I also love to Google Walk the area that I will be passing or going to. Especially when I am traveling alone or with the girls. I feel safer this way.

I know it’s been years since I created my last video so bare with me but I do hope you find what I have here useful for your next travel or searching in general.


Until next time!!!

This entry was posted in Travel.

Our Short Amsterdam Trip



Amsterdam. What a beautiful city! The canals, the cafes, the pancakes, the history, the buildings, the Indonesian food and the houseboats.

It was cold when we visited last weekend but between the walking, going into a couple different museums and the cafes, we were warm enough and happy.

Amsterdam’s always been one of my top 10 places to visit. It wasn’t really for the above reasons, but mostly because my grandfather talked about it quite often when I visited him. He grew up in the Dutch colonial system (Indonesia colonized by the Dutch for around 300 years) and besides speaking fluent Dutch and loving Dutch influenced food he never visited. When Indonesia became an independent country, he wanted to move to The Netherlands but the family didn’t and so he stayed. Ever since I can remember, he always told me to visit Holland, Amsterdam in particular, and I am so glad I finally did!

We took the ferry from England to The Netherland. A night one. And it was so relaxing! We only had to drive a bit over an hour and the next thing we knew, we were there. If you’re interested in taking the ferry from Suffolk county to The Netherland, you can read my write-up here. I am a bit OCD on details so there are LOTS of info!

While in Amsterdam we visited and did a few of the things listed on TripAdvisor’s website. Since it was a short trip, we wanted to make sure we went to the places we really want to see but still try to keep it relaxing. To do this, I only scheduled activities for day 1 and the rest we just winged it.

Day 1 we visited Ann Frank House, a WW2 walking tour for hubby, a long lunch and casual walking tour for the girls and I, lunch at an Indonesian restaurant, lots of coffee breaks, and a Rijsttafel dinner (a very Dutch thing to do I think).

Day 2 we spent shopping and exploring Amsterdam. By the end of the day we walked everything but the (old) Jewish district (although hubby visited during his tour but he thought it was really neat and wanted to show us — next time!).

Day 3 we split up again and hubby went to the Resistence museum and the girls and I visited the Rijksmuseum — and what a FABULOUS museum it was!!

We saw a famous Rembrandt: The Night Watch. What a magnificent painting!! Pictures do not do it justice. You really have to see it in person to appreciate the details, especially the way he used light.


I wasn’t sure what to expect at the museum but there were surely many things to see. This one for example, the old library. One of my favorite (I was too busy looking to photograph) was the room with the old ships and the one that told the story of early film. Very neat! I did think that M might be bored after a while but no, she loved it as much and thought the Rijks to be one of the best one she’s been to. I think because it’s got a lot of varieties and everything in there was just beautifully displayed.

Amsterdam I took a few photos of buildings, streets and canals of Amsterdam but not too many. I think it’s nice to capture a few for keepsake purposes but when I am in a new place, I love to just take it all in and as long as I have a few great photos, I am happy. How about you?

Amsterdam Amsterdam

While the walks alongside the canals were mostly quiet and lovely, the shopping areas and main thoroughfare were always busy with trams, buses, cars, people, bikes and scooters. You really need to be on guard when crossing because even when the light is red, a bike may still waltz by.

Amsterdam Amsterdam Amsterdam

I thought Cambridge, UK, has a lot of bikes. But after Amsterdam, I think Cambridge got beat!


There were many ways a parent would peddle with their children but if I were to live there with little ones, this would be mine.


Before leaving for Amsterdam, our friend lent Jovie and I a Zwarte Piet outfit. But since it’s been a couple weeks since him and Sinterklaas came to visit, there were no other children wearing the costume and Jovie refused to wear it out and about. So here she was modeling.


Hope you enjoyed the photos. If you ever have a chance to do some traveling, I highly recommend Amsterdam. It’s family friendly (even the Red Light District was easily avoidable and even at the tip of it — I had to see what it was all about — I could distract M), small for a city and easily walkable (but the public transport was really nice, easily accessible and frequent), and for a small city, Amsterdam has  A LOT to offer in terms of things to see and do.

We want to go back sometimes during our stay here but next time it’ll be during the warmer months! We want to sit outside our houseboat drinking coffee (or beer)!


This entry was posted in Travel.

The Girls and Nice Restaurants


Maybe we’re lucky, but we’ve been able to take the kids to nice restaurants (places that most people would only go on anniversaries) since they could sit on a high chair. Even with Jovie’s pickiness, I never ask whether they have a kid’s meal or not. While I do ask what the kids want to eat for lunch/dinner (if I am cooking that is), when it comes to eating out, mom and dad gets to pick and they eat whatever is on the menu.

I remember when Emma was about Jovie’s age and I booked a dinner at a French restaurant. On the notes section I wrote: Two adults and one VERY well behaved 3-yrs-old. After dinner the owner stopped by our table and commented on how true I was about M’s behaviour. Not only was the owner impressed by M’s table manners, she was also impressed with the fact that we didn’t order a kid’s meal AND that M ate the escargot and cheeses. So for Emma’s good behaviour, the owner treated M to dessert.

Fast forward to a month ago when we were in Paris. I booked lunches and dinners at restaurants that food bloggers (well, mostly David Lebovitz) and Chowhound folks were clamoring about and the girls sat nicely throughout the meals (I think one was a two hours meal). Fast forward again to a few weeks ago. We were at a casual restaurant and in the middle of our meal, an elderly gentleman stopped by and praised us on how well the girls were eating and how great of a job raising them I did. That comment made my day and M (Jovie doesn’t get stuff like that) was pleased too.

Earlier in the year a book was published by an American living (or maybe used to live) in Paris: Bringing up Bebe. I haven’t read the book, but the WSJ article made me believe that if we were to live in France, our kids would just fit in. At least in terms of eating and playing.

What have we done to make the girls this way? Well, I’m not quite sure but we do the following when we eat (with special days here and there):

  • We always eat together as a family at the table
  • There’s no slurping (although I told hubby that in Asia, slurping is a sign that you love the food, but then he argued that we’re not in Asia)
  • There’s no chewing and talking
  • There’s no leaving the table unless you’ve been excused
  • We eat everything that’s served, even the yucky vegetables (or in M’s case: Fish)
  • We respect each and every food (so no food playing)
  • There’s no TV (and this is where the special days come in, we watched the Olympics opening while eating a few weeks ago)
  • We all talk about our day and whatever else that comes to mind (nothing negative or work issues – we save those for hubby and I time)
  • We practice our pleases and thank yous
  • And we do punish during meal time for table misbehaviors

They’re all pretty basic and I have to admit that without hubby, the girls wouldn’t be as good (he’s louder than me). It’s kind of cute too because when Jovie’s done she’d go, “Can I be excused?” and if I said yes, she’ll go off an play quietly until we finish or if I say no, she’ll just sit there and as long as I keep talking to her, she’ll be just fine.

There is one nice restaurant tip for toddlers/preschoolers. Always give them something to do, always interact with them, and give them something to eat that will last a bit. Jovie’s favorite is bread and butter, which most restaurants (at least here in Europe) serve.

Jovie + Bread

Yes, she likes posing with her food.

Also, let the kids use the same glass and cutlery you’re using (sans real knife unless the kid’s old enough) and they will feel pretty special about eating with mom and dad at a nice restaurant.


Yes, she drank water from a wine glass, got her own gaspacho, and spreading butter on her own bread.

I did make a few projects too a few weeks ago. Presents for M’s twin friends. And matching cards. I enjoy a bit of stitching now and then and I always think that hoop art is just fabulous. I used Waltzingmouse’s stamps for the little girl and I just winged the rest of it.

Hoop Art