20 Things After Living 4 Years in England

If my husband’s job didn’t extend our stay, we’d be back in America by January 22nd. But he got extended and we have four more fabulous years to go!

After settling in and got used to living here, we took advantage of living in England. We made sure we make lots of British friends. We made sure we go to every village/town/city event that looked (vaguely) interesting. We made sure we live somewhat British while still loving our s’mores, ice tea, and eating birthday cakes at the birthday party. And we made sure we traveled. In and outside of England. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we’re for sure not going to waste it!

We’ve learned so much and created so many memories and want to highlight a few things:

1. Rain or shine, hot or cold, I drink hot tea. I honestly believe that ce tea only exist inside an American family’s home. It was blazing hot that day and there’s me with my cuppa tea.


2. Still weather related (and I’m almost sure it’s very British to talk about the weather often), 75 degrees (or 23-ish) is HOT! If at all possible, everybody would be outside and oven related cooking would be way too warm. While I am too Asian to swim in the ocean (too cold still for my blood), some people do!

Beach 3. You cannot easily find a home with air conditioning. Even in posh homes. The last four years I’ve only seen one home that we can afford to rent with AC in it. You just open up your windows and let nature blow (hot) 75 degree air inside your home.

4. The hot weather I’ve been talking about? It can go from lovely sunny weather to pouring rain within an hour. I got cold once. I wore a skirt and t-shirt once — because it was bloody sunny and warm outside — and regretted it an hour later because the weather changed just like that. So ever since then, I always layer and/or bring leggings. Only if it’s 80 (happened but not often) will I go out confident in a summery outfit.

5. Bless. It’s not only for sneezes or used by religious people. If a child falls down: Oh, bless. If a puppy poo on the carpet: Bless. If a sweet little girl hugs her mommy so tenderly: Aww, bless. When Jovie’s sleeping and people say: Oh, bless her. I think it’s used in lieu of “poor thing” or “oooh, how sweet” but I haven’t really confirmed with anybody.

6. I learned not to ask for pants when I wanted were trousers. HUGE difference walking around in just pants or trousers in public!

7. Tea. A few weeks after we arrived, I was invited to tea. Great I thought! And when I got there, there was what I would call dinner. Tea can mean three things. First, is a cup of tea. Second, a light meal which I believe is also referred to afternoon tea. Third it’s the main meal of the evening, and I think this is what they refer to as high tea.

Thai Fried Rice

8. There are really good food in England! Before moving here, I heard many comments about bland food and how nothing’s tasty in England besides fish and chips but while there may be some out there, and some people do prefer bland dishes, we’ve not encountered many! Maybe because I always go to places with good reviews but really, there are LOTS of great food in England! From simple sandwiches to really fancy dishes.

Fish and Chips

9. Driving four hours is a loooooooooong drive! We used to drive from Missouri to Mississippi for holidays. Ten hours of driving and a couple hours of stops — toilet and lunch. It was always exhausting but never stressful. But here, unless you’re on the A1 going up to Scotland (with normal traffic), driving four hours can be so tiring and sometimes stressful. You’re not always guaranteed a highway kind of road – the two roads on each side kind of roads. And even when you are on a highway, you may have to slow down every few miles for a roundabout. Or merge into a two lane road because it has to go through a town or forested area. I am not complaining about the preservation of old fabulous towns or trees, btw. I think that bit’s great. But it’s still an obstacle when driving long distance. So, when you see a town that is five miles away from you, don’t think it’s your GPS that’s broken when it says it’s 20 minutes away. It may just be!

10. I am now a kick ass reverse car parker. Oh yeah! Parking bays are small here. Often times you’re better off going reverse so that you won’t have to do a three point turn coming in and out.

11. Being middle class is more complicated here than the US. And this blog post describes it perfectly. Here’s a snippet:

…in Britain, one can be working class or upper class or, indeed, upper-middle or lower-middle class, or even middle-middle. I suppose that’s what I am. In Britain, in sum, we have a fully functioning class system and we’re not afraid to use the stereotypes it throws up. But in America, to be middle class seems to me to be… any American at all.

In America, I am middle class. In England, I think I have always been middle-middle class but my husband may just have moved from working class to middle-middle class. Complicated!


12. Online grocery delivers to us village people! In the US, big cities only. And not every grocery store delivers. Here, every grocery store delivers!!

13. School drop-off and pick-up. There is no school bus for the girls. I am the school bus driver! Hubby and I still wonder how some families manage with both of them working because not every school has a before and after school program.

14. It gets really dark at around 4 p.m. in December!

15. $100 and a short drive can bring the whole family to another country. I LOVE this part of living in Europe! There are so many things to see in England and leaving the island is not too expensive or difficult. You can find deals if you really want to, like £9 bus ticket to Paris from London. We’ve done many trips the last four years and we look forward to more our next four years!

16. Cath Kidston, PaperChaseJoules and John Lewis. Adore these UK shops!

17. Brits, or maybe it’s just my friend Tash — hmmm, but Brits love bunting. Bunting at parties, tents, rooms, ornaments, carboot sales, etc and pretty much year round.

Sophie's Christmas Fair

18. Car boot sales! Garage/yard sales are rare. Mostly the Americans do it around here but car boot (the boot being the trunk), is a very common thing. You basically fill up your car and drive it to a field where the sale will be happening and hundreds of people will come to try and find a bargain. I actually haven’t been to one but hubby and the girls have been to a couple. They’re too early for me {::WINK}.

19. Living in a village is like living in a subdivision but with your own school, shop and pub (although some village don’t always have a school or pub etc). It may also be like living in a small town in America but small towns in America are usually in the middle of nowhere where a UK village can be small and feel isolated but still 10 minutes drive from a city or bigger town.

20. Great friends. Oddly, despite living in a small village, we have met some really fabulous people. And while the experiences we’ve had have been great, the travels have been wonderful and the food not at all shabby, it’s the friendship that we’ve made here that we will cherish most. Great friends don’t come by everyday and we’re lucky to have been surrounded by many the last four years!


Meal Planning Week One

Meal Planning I attempted to plan our meals for the week today at the grocery store’s cafe while sipping my (free) coffee. It all started out well, or so I thought, until I got to Tuesday. Then by Thursday everything had to be rearranged again and by Saturday, I felt like I needed a new sheet of paper. One thing that made my list a bit jumbled up was my vege deliver from Abel and Cole. I almost forgot that one is coming this Tuesday and after looking at it, a few things needed swapping.

Abel and Cole

See, not sensible to buy squash today for the lobster bisque when one will come tomorrow morning!

Up to today, I would just go to the grocery store and plan our meals as I walk through the aisle. Doing this has caused a few issues. One, we would have two bags of something (because I didn’t check to see what we had at home first), two, we then ended up not cooking what I thought we’d cook and three, by Wednesday (garbage day), we say a lot of money thrown into the trash in the form of half used cream, rotten veggies, food nobody wanted to eat, etc etc etc.

Besides trying to save money, use raw material we already have and eat everything I make, I want to try a few new recipes each week. I tend to cook things I know we all at least like and I know there are more out there than the two handfuls of stuff I am really good at cooking.

So here’s this week’s menu. The only old dish I have in there is Cincinnati chili. If you’ve never had Skyline chili, or any Cincinnati style ones, you NEED to try this. SO yummy!

Monday: A dish inspired by this Couscous recipe. I don’t have any cauliflower and I didn’t want to buy a whole head of it. There’s nothing I want to do with cauliflower this week. Instead of cauliflower, I shall bake some bell peppers and toss it in the dish.

Tuesday: Lobster bisque! Tuesday is a busy day. It’s gym day. The girls get out of school at 3:15p and we need to leave for gym at 5p. Jovie and hubby (he rolls in right at 5p or a few minutes before) stays home and so I need to prepare a dish that will be good fresh AND warmed up a bit. I happen to have frozen baguette in the freezer and so I only had to splurge on the (very frozen — all I could find) lobster for this.

Wednesday: Hubby will cook — another gym night — BUT, if he can’t (for whatever reason), I will cook the Korean Jap Chae noodles. Amazingly, I already have everything I need for it.

Thursday: The Jap Chae dish will be cooked this day if not cooked Wednesday. If already cooked, plan B is Cincinnati Chili. I’ve cooked this many times and I’ve tried many recipes. I’ve improvised since but the closest to what I do is this one. I don’t though cook the onions first. I put the water in first, then meat and then everything else. When the water is still cold, I put the ground beef in the water and break the meat up. I’d then stir frequently. Once the water starts to boil, I’d add the onions etc.

Friday: Bacon and Parmesan Pasta — and we all know, anything with bacon will be delicious!! M has a birthday party to go to, not sure if there’s a full meal or not but I want to be able to cook early and feed her before she goes to her party. This dish seems like something fast and easy.

Saturday: I almost forgot that it’s our friend’s birthday, so we’ll be fed there {::SMILES}

I’ve included my receipt with this post. £50! This is pretty good I think. Don’t try to convert pounds to dollars when you live overseas (and getting paid in dollars) or you’ll never eat. I could have spent less, there are cheaper shops, but we like Waitrose’s food philosophy (they also seem to care about their employees) and so we shop there. It’s similar to why we shop at Whole Foods, farmer’s markets, co-ops and case lots/CSA in the US.

I am looking forward to week two! I am already searching Allrecipes, Food Network, Martha Stewart and my Julia Child recipe book!






PL Week 1

Project Life Week 1

Whoohoo! Go my cover page/week one done! Now I am working on week two! I have a lot of scrapbooking to do but I am very much organized in terms of keeping track of all the day-to-day highlights/happenings up to day 12! I haven’t been like this in ages — since I didn’t have a job anymore basically — and it’s quite comforting!

For my PL, I don’t want to necessarily document every single thing we did everyday. I want to highlight what we/I did or thought of that week. So for my week one, I added two sewing photos, since they’re still new to me and something I really want to be good at this year and goals.

While I am quite confident about how I want to document our 2014, I am though not so sure how to photograph my weeks in a nice way. I don’t have a really good set up for it and there’s that glare from the plastic sleeve. Any suggestion? So until I figure this bit out, I’ll just take a few bits out and highlight them like below.

Here’s one of the inserts I did. Just some splattered ink, Thickers, alpha stickers, stamps and my handwriting.

Project Life Week 1

Thi one is very easy too. I actually accidently blotch the paper with orange ink (see top right near the washi tape) and the rest are just Thickers, washi and stickers. Oh, I did use WPlus9′s alphabet stamps to write out “OLW”. It was really hard to list one for this year but I figured if I can listen better I can do the rest better too. My brain goes 200 mph often times and I often times can’t pay attention. I then assume quite a bit and that gets me in trouble. So this year I want to slow down and listen better.  Project Life Week 1

Just a few of my goals. I am working on getting rid of a lot of stuff, learn to sew more AND use my sewing bits to brighten up the house and have days where we’re not plugged in.  Project Life Week 1

And I LOVE this card by Crate Paper I think. I want to remember to do all those things in 2014. I am too serious and judgy. Which can make me a bit uptight and nothing is good enough if not perfect. I want to be less complicated I suppose and just be happy with the little things. The stamp by WPlus9 is perfect here too, a little “hello there” from Strictly Sentiments Project Life Week 1

So that’s it. First week. And quite happy with how it turned out.
Project Life Week 1

Project Life Week 1

Hoping to finish week two in the next few days and continue to photograph and journal the upcoming days.


FREE Organizing/Calendar Printables

This year I have the ultimate goal of getting all sorts of things organized. I have things in different rooms that need to be be out of this house, I have baby toys in Jovie’s room still, clothes in my closet that I haven’t looked at since we moved here and I really want to be able to budget better, manage the home better and not faff about so much or be so last minute. While I haven’t missed any important deadline, often times I’d have to be up until 5 a.m. to complete them.

So, to help me accomplish this oh so big goal, I need a few organizing tools – digital and paper. I downloaded Any.Do app on my phone to remind me of what I need to do and I write everything in my Google Calendar. This way it’s synced up to my computer and iPad. For my finances, I have HomeBudget (which I bought since I love it so much and need the advance features). I love it because I can add dollars and pounds expenses and accounts in one app.

If it was just me, myself and I, I can do with just those three apps above. But I live with my husband and an older very active child. Also, I think it’d be nice if Jovie, who can read simple things, see when her birthday is and that there’s a gigantic princess sticker stuck on her special day — kid is sticker crazy and her goal in life is to be a princess!

To help me I went online. I want to go the inexpensive route <– budgeting goal! And I found sooooooooooo many wonderful, customizable, calendars and planners!

Here I will just highlight some of my favorites. For more, you can check out my Pinterest board.

Sara Woodrow. Ahhh… if only I can draw like her. Sooooooooooo pretty! And yes, her work will be displayed in our house. I <3!!


I Heart Nap Time. LOTS of fabulous ideas for families and if you’re not a regular reader, I encourage you to do so. But the below will be our family paper planner. I have paper, a printer (although kind of low on ink) and a binder!


Vintage Glama. If you want a one year calendar (which you can Copic, ha!), this may fit your need. Isn’t it pretty? I love the leafy and floral swirls.


Els Brige. If you’re feeling MORE creative, you can download this calendar, stamp, glue, paint, etc on one side and then bind all the pages together. How FANTASTIC, huh? This actually may inspire me to do something for M! But we’ll see, I have other crap to do before that happens!

Crafty Desk Calendar


No Editing Collage Printing


From your mobile.

Project Life-ers, Instagramers or mini scrapbookers who want to print their mobile phone photos easily will need one (or both) of these phone apps! Available for Apple, Android and Windows mobiles.

I have two photo collage app on my phone. One is free, with add-on purchase option, and the other is £.69/$.99 and it comes with all sorts of fun things. The best part is, BOTH have templates for 4×6 prints! Which basically means, I can (if I have a wireless printer) print directly from my phone. I also know that some places, like Costco or Shutterfly (and many others), have the option to print directly from your phone! Sweet, huh?

At home I have a Canon Selphy ES30 (next month Canon is releasing their latest model, the CP-910, and it will have a square template for Instagram kind of pics). It’s probably considered ancient by today’s standards but it still works great. The lack of wireless sometimes make me want to upgrade but for the time being, it’s ok.

Since I use my iPhone a lot to take daily photos. I downloaded Pic Stitch (I still haven’t upgraded) and just splurged on PicFrame (choose the 3:4 ratio to print almost perfectly on a Selphy) mostly because the frames are super cute and I can do heart shapes etc — ok, completely cheesy and worthless reason but for $.99, I deserve it {::WINK}.

Below are the two printouts using PicFrame (top) and PicStitch (bottom). You can’t really tell the difference, huh? Maybe on the bottom right corners but it could also be because the paper came in crooked. Either way, both photos are usable.

Sample Pic Sample Pic

And this was how the photo looked on the Selphy monitor. I didn’t do any adjusting. Just select and print.


The below was the reason why I spent $.99 on PicFrame. SUCKER!! Ha ha! But don’t you LOVE the rounded corners AND the stripes?


Oh, there’s more! You can add cute little washi tape notes too with PicFrame. COMPLETELY SOLD! Best $.99 purchase this year!


Last, how it all looks all trimmed inside a Project Life sleeve. Three photos in one print without any editing!

Project Life

My husband won’t get my enthusiasm surrounding these two apps and their abilities to help me print and display cute photos. But that’s why I have this blog and other photo enthusiast friends.

Ta ta for now!

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