Archive for the 'London' Category

Lovely London Weather

I’ll miss the weather in London. Seriously.



Do Not Feed the Ducks

Oops. I honestly did not know how bad it is to feed the ducks, geese, and swan that live on the River Thames just outside our house. And I was just thinking of going with Stephen to feed them some stale bread and popcorn.


Wild ducks need to eat the green foods that grow naturally in their environment in order to maintain good health and a normal lifespan. Their ability to fly and retain natural instincts for survival depends entirely on the foods they eat. By feeding wild (or dumped domestics) you are contributing to their early death, shortening their lives ten-fold.

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Hello, Red Fox

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This morning we found this little red fox asleep at our front door. My mother-in-law says it’s good luck because foxes belong to the Canidae family. Cats, on the other hand, are bad luck. I’m unable to confirm what she says but says that seeing a lone fox is good luck.

NB: Hello, Red Fox is an Eric Carle book.


On the Hunt for LEGO at Flea Markets

The value of a collection to the collector lies less in its importance, surely, than in the excitement of the hunt, and the strange places to which the hunt sometimes leads.

~Graham Green, in his introduction to With All Faults by David Low via A Pound of Paper by John Baxter

I went to my first flea market (car boot sale in British parlance) at the beginning of the month with my sister. What were we on the hunt for?

“Vintage” LEGO Bionicle sets.

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The flea market is a once monthly affair at the local school. More than two years after moving here, I was finally going to check it out. We’d seen people before with their loot – worn-out wooden stools, lamps, bags of clothing, etc. but had never gone ourselves. When we drove by the advertisement the day before, I had a flash of inspiration that perhaps we could find old LEGO Bionicle sets that weren’t sold in the stores anymore and were sometimes available for exorbitant prices on eBay and Amazon Marketplace.

My sister and I arrived at just after 7 am when the flea market opened. For about $1 USD admission fee, we were on the grounds where half the sellers were still setting up. Within 5 minutes of starting our rounds, we got lucky. A bag of jumbled Bionicle parts sat on the ground next to the stall of a father and his 10-year-old son. They sold us the whole lot plus a LEGO PC CD-ROM game for about $10 USD. (FYI, one new Bionicle set ranges from $10-20 USD to as much as $80+ here in the UK.) For the next 30 minutes or so, we continued roaming and asking sellers with kids toys or children in tow whether they had any LEGO Bionicle for sale.


We were on our way to the snack stand for a breakfast bacon sarnie (sandwich) to eat on the walk home when we passed a basket with some Bionicle sets in their original boxes. JACKPOT! The woman said she had six sets but after rummaging around the trunk of her station wagon, she found 10 sets.

How much? $2 USD a set would do.

“That’ll keep your little guy busy for an hour,” she said.

Obviously, she doesn’t know my Stephen. He plays with his LEGO for hours a day and even when he’s not busy building something, he’s designing new creations in his head.

Although nothing we bought was in complete sets, for LEGO builders like Stephen it’s the parts that are important. If baby #2 hasn’t arrived by next weekend, I may go by the flea market again to see what others I can find. He tells me he’s now interested in Exo-Force as well.

The crazy things us mothers do for our kids. Collecting really is about hunting in realms beyond our usual haunts.


At 37 Weeks

No baby yet so we’ve continued sightseeing. On Monday Wednesday (can’t keep the days straight these days), we were at Greenwich straddling the Meridian Line at longitude 0′ 00″.

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Sunday Salon: The Amazon Kindle Electronic Reader

kindleMy reading life is about to change.* I will soon be the owner of an Amazon Kindle electronic reader!

They came back in stock last week after having sold out in less than six hours after being released last December. When I learned that my sister would be coming to London on a business trip, I immediately ordered one for her to bring for me. Woohoo!!

I will be missing out on the wireless connectivity that’s available only in the U.S. but it’s much more important to me that I have access to books in a timely fashion. When we started our expat life in 1998, books in English weren’t always easy to find.

  • In Taiwan, there was a decent selection at Eslite even though I was at the mercy of whatever was on the shelf.
  • In Japan, Maruzen was ok but it was very expensive. A couple of years after we’d moved there, launched and it was wonderful!!! (Yes, that deserved three exclamation points.)
  • In Vietnam, very few English books could be found in the shops except for classics. Relatively new releases with Vietnam as the main subject were available but only as pirated versions on the street corner. Otherwise, the International Ladies in Vietnam library was actually pretty well stocked but in disarray. So once again at the mercy of whatever was on the shelf.

    I’m not trying to make it sound like I was very deprived, though. We made frequent trips to Singapore where the selection of English books between Borders and Kinokuniya is quite good. My personal stash of not-yet-read books is also consistently worth several months if not a year of reading.

  • Right now, we’re in London, UK which is, of course, fabulous for books but can still be quite pricey esp. compared to the U.S.

In contrast, Amazon Kindle books are $9.99 or less and available immediately for download.

Whether you prefer biographies, classics, investment guides, thrillers, or sci-fi, thousands of your favorite books are available. The Kindle Store offers more than 100 of 112 books currently found on the New York Times® Best Seller list and we’re adding more all the time. New York Times Best Sellers are $9.99, and you’ll find many books for less.

You spoiled lot in the U.S. will get to download sample chapters as well not to mention doing it all wirelessly (assuming you’re in the wireless coverage area). I, on the other hand, will be very satisfied with downloading my content via USB. Three features I’m really looking forward to are the built-in dictionary, search of all materials downloaded onto your Kindle, and clippings and notes which can be uploaded to the computer for other uses.

The first set of books I intend to download includes:

  • Escape by Carolyn Jessop
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  • The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee (If you’re wondering why she has a number for her middle name, she added it herself when she was a teenager because “Jennifer” is too common.)
  • Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello
  • Pretty is What Changes by Jessica Queller

My books wishlist (started using delishlist in March) is, of course, much longer than this. Unfortunately, not all books are available for the Kindle. So while you may still find me at home with traditional paper books in hand, when out and about, I’ll most likely bring my Kindle.

What do you think of the Kindle and of eReaders in general? If you already have a Kindle, what books have you downloaded?

*Although hopefully not in the way of what’s been assumed about pregnant and post-partum women and their reading habits.

Join The Sunday Salon of readers!


Oddities at Holland Park

Stephen and I went to Holland Park earlier this week and saw this dog toilet. No matter how hard I tried to explain it to Stephen, he refused to believe that it was an actual toilet because there is no toilet to speak of! He thought that someone mislabeled it.

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At the Adventure Playground, there was this sign. You see how pushy London parents are? Kids are practicing sums even while they’re supposed to be outdoors playing! Or maybe that’s where you send kids for their timeout. Might as well learn something while you’re being punished.

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Here are a few more pictures of Holland Park Adventure Playground. Click for a larger image.



10 Tips for Riding London Buses

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UK bus operator Stagecoach has created a very basic bus manual for passengers that includes tips, such as “first of all decide on what bus you need” and “signal for the driver to stop.” I’ve been riding buses in London since January 2006 so I think I’m qualified to give tips as well. Here’s what you should keep in mind when braving the London bus system.

  1. If you’re able-bodied, always sit in the back of the bus or on the second level of a double decker. Otherwise, you risk the wrath of senior citizens who will not hesitate to call you selfish and inconsiderate.
  2. If you are pushing a stroller, be sure to put the brakes on or your child may get the ride of his life!
  3. Buy an Oyster card to save money. It’s especially wonderful when the card reader is broken. You won’t be charged a pence but those using cash will still have to pay!
  4. Flag down the bus even when you shouldn’t have to at stops that are not marked “request stop.” I cannot count the number of times buses have whizzed by me when it should have been a mandatory stop on the route.
  5. Many double decker buses are much warmer on the second level so if you overheat easily, sit on the bottom, not on top.
  6. Do not count on the bus driver to tell you where to get off. Even if you’ve asked them for help, they may forget or simply not care. It’s easier to check your map to see when you’ve passed the streets in the vicinity of your destination.
  7. Allow yourself at least an extra 15-30 minutes when journeying on public transportation subject to traffic conditions and other situations that crop up. Like the time when we got 3/4 of the way home and our bus stalled at the stop so we had to get out and wait for the next one.
  8. Always bring reading/listening material.
  9. This is a tip from my friend Lisa – pop pain reliever before getting on to ward off any stress-induced headaches.
  10. If at all possible, WALK. (On the other hand, mathematicians have calculated that if both bus and walking are equally attractive, it’s better to wait for the bus.)

Got any other bus tips to share?

Telegraph via Neatorama


A Fiber Optic Christmas

For the past several years, we’ve made-do with a three-foot tall Christmas tree. This year, I thought Stephen would enjoy a tree that’s bigger than him so I “splurged” and ordered this five-foot tall fiber optic Christmas tree.

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And, look! Here’s the tree in action.

Update: I’m not the only one with a fiber optic tree!


Quiet on the Underground

What a shame! The voice of the London Underground subway system, Emma Clarke, posted spoofs of subway announcements on her own website and now she’s been fired. Here’s my favorite spoof:

A Reminder for American Tourists

via Boing Boing

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