Most weekends, my husband and I go to yard sales or estate sales. We don’t actively search for them, although I do know people who make detailed plans to hit yard sales: laminated maps, printed lists, and a very carefully planned route. There are just so many that we can’t help but pass at least a couple on our way to or from Saturday morning coffee.  These are events I have come to enjoy since moving to the US because I have never seen them in the UK. In Britain, we have car boot sales where people pay to use a parking space and then fill the boot (trunk) of their car with things they want to sell, but I’ve never come across either yard sales or estate sales there.

The sales advertise themselves via handwritten signs attached to lamp-posts. Sign writers, take note. Good signs have the date. “Today” is not much use if the sign has been there, flapping in the wind, for the past month. If I don’t usually go down that road, I don’t know if today is really today or was three months ago.  Good signs have large bold lettering. I can’t read a 16-point font sign driving along the road. If your sale is down the road on the left, don’t post the sign immediately at the turning. Give us a warning and time to change lane! If you draw an arrow on your sign, make sure the average person can figure out where it is pointing. I’m pretty sure you aren’t directing me to a sale in a treehouse, but I’m not always sure. Also, don’t write an essay on your sign. When and where are all I need to know. I’ll figure out if it’s worth stopping as I drive by. If I’m struggling to find the info in a mass of text, I’ll give up. Finally, please don’t say ‘Huge sale’ or ‘Biggest sale ever’. Those always seem to be the tiniest, with the junkiest stuff for sale.

Bad sign: yard-sale-sign-fail

The average yard sale has  tables of books, some old furniture, clothing and shoes, and a bunch of odd knickknacks (some odder than others).  Despite all those stories about people finding priceless paintings or rare Ming vases at yard sales, I’ve never found anything like that.

I like estate sales more, although I felt a little uncomfortable at the first few I attended. It felt odd browsing through someone’s life, all put up for sale after their death. However, I enjoy it now  – mainly because it allows you to see inside all kinds of houses. The most amazing house so far had a lovely wide staircase and huge windows, and backed onto a private lake. The most grungy was a very run down house with a terrible mildew problem and at least 20 lamps hanging from the ceiling in one room, plus creepy dolls. Most are predictable, but some have such an eclectic mix of art and literature that you really wonder what kind of person lived there. Some would have been very interesting people to meet.

A lot of the things in our home come from yard and estate sales. A handy chrome rack to stash unpaid bills, framed artwork, a like-new watch for just 25¢, book shelves, clothing, numerous books, and a hideous wooden monkey (that I did NOT want) – all yard sale deals.

Even better than yard sale purchases are FREE things! I’ve not seen people in England leave free, unwanted items in their front yard for others to take ( perhaps because the local councils can be pretty strict about how you get rid of things in England), but here you’ll sometimes pass a house with a pile of stuff and a sign saying ‘free.’ Our most recent free-in-the-street find was a drum. Well, two drums. My husband loves drums – playing them and fixing them up. When we picked them up they looked like this: drums before

And now, after some sanding, staining, and lacquering,  they look like this:drums now (I should confess that my only contribution to this transformation was opening and closing the back door so my husband could take them outside to spray with lacquer.)

So there you have it – one person’s trash can look very nice with a bit of effort!



I’m probably a bit of a fussy eater,  but I’m open to trying new foods (as long as they don’t contain meat or fish). However,  my husband will tell you that I’m about 95% likely to have some kind of complaint about those foods. I say they are not complaints, just comments. When I lived in Korea, I tried all sorts of foods that I have no intention of ever trying again, but to avoid offending my hosts I tried them. I refused to try things that were still movingit was very unnerving to watch people attempt to eat octopus tentacles which were wrapping themselves around their chopsticksand most of the time I avoided any kind of non-vegetable dish at all, although I did try fermented fish (very strong taste of ammonia) and I was once served a soup containing bright green snails. I have to admit I ate around them. They just  seemed to have the effect of making the soup taste like seawater.

Shortlist.com has an article about the foods that Brits deem the least appealing:
http://www.shortlist.com/home/oysters-voted-least-appealing-food-by-brits Top of the list is oysters, followed by liver, and anchovies.

I am definitely not a fan of oysters and liver. Oysters were another of the ‘try once in Korea’ foods. I was ill for almost a week after trying oysters thanks to a lovely bout of food poisoning that left me unable to stomach anything for several days. Liver brings back childhood memories of school lunches. I remember looking at a lump of liver on my plate at school thinking  it looked as I imagined dinosaur skin to look (no idea why!). Other unpopular foods on the list  include blue cheese (34%), olives (33%) and marzipan (26%). These three would be on my list of most delicious foods. I’ve  talked about my love of marzipan before. It’s just so tasty! In looking for a picture of marzipan, I came across this recipe which looks nice and easy.

I’ve tried to think of the foods I would put on my list of unappealing foods. I don’t  like mashed potato (or potatoes in general although I’ll eat them if I have to), I don’t really like fried food, and I’m not a fan of artichokes either. What would go on your list of unappealing foods?

Doing Things Differently

Americans might think all British TV is Downton Abbey-esque period drama, but that is certainly not the case. I was reminded of all this when my husband called me over to look at 29 Things The U.K. Does That The U.S. Needs To Start Doing on Buzzfeed. Click on the link to check out the full list. The pictures below all come from the Buzzfeed list.

Buzzfeed 29 Things The U.K. Does

Buzzfeed 29 Things The U.K. Does

Often when I watch British TV shows with my husband, he is amazed by what people are allowed to say on British TV. He’s not averse to swearing, but there have been so many times when he has remarked, “You can’t say that on TV.”  Well, in the U.K., you can after 9:00 p.m. American TV can  seem quite tame compared to some British stuff. Whether that’s a good thing or not is a whole different discussion.

Some shows that I think would have a hard time succeeding in the U.S. include The Inbetweeners – a comedy about 4 hapless high school students with one thing on their mind (offence factor high) and Outnumbered – a sitcom about a family of five. The children in the show are not completely scripted, but improvise what they say, leading to cute and funny, although sometimes just weird, dialogue that touches upon controversial topics at times (medium to low offence factor). Clicking on the links above will take you directly to Youtube clips. I’m not crazy about The Inbetweeners, but Outnumbered can be hilarious.

Buzzfeed 29 Things

Buzzfeed 29 Things

Another difference listed on Buzzfeed dealt with money. First, I’m afraid that American money is the most dull-looking money of any country I have ever visited. Even the newer ‘colorful’ paper money is just blah. I read a blog post by another Brit living in the US (sadly I don’t remember where it was) and he said that even after living in the States for years, he confuses the coins. Me, too. Seriously. There is not much variety and they don’t have their value written in numbers. I just save up all my coins and cash them in when it’ is time to pay my property tax. Just look at all the different coins we get to play with in the UK – all the different shapes, sizes, thicknesses, and colors. What fun, eh? So what if you lean to one side when you have a pocket full of pound coins.

Buzzfeed 29 Things The U.K. Does

Buzzfeed 29 Things The U.K. Does

The third thing on the list that struck me was about writing the date. That one always confuses me. If I see 5/3/2012 I really have to think about it. Is it May 3rd, or is it March 5th? I always write the month in full to avoid confusion, not to mention that 15 years of living in Asia conditioned me to write the date in the format: 2012/05/03 – biggest to smallest. Logical. Just like the British style of going from smallest to largest. But small, smaller, big…hmmm. That’s confusing!

Buzzfeed 29 Things The U.K. Does

Buzzfeed 29 Things The U.K. Does

Maybe the biggest difference on the list is the drinking age of 18 in the UK. My husband is just horrified when I say it’s perfectly feasible to be in high school and legally drink with your teachers (although the wisdom of those teachers might be questionable). I don’t know that it is a good thing. But it is different, as are laws on carrying open containers of alcohol: Carry away. You can also buy alcohol pretty much whenever you want it. Maybe things are a bit too lax!