Monday, February 24, 2014

Instagram Love

   There's something about Instagram that inspires you to look at life more creatively. Being able to snap pictures easily with my iPhone when I was in England was a big blessing. I captured many memories I would have missed if I hadn't had my iPhone. And since I had Instagram I was able to share some of them with my friends! 

   Most of the time the pictures I posted on Instagram were simply reminders of happy moments. But every now & then, if I took the time, I'd snap an artistic picture, one that told a story. The colors would talk to each other and the composition would frame it all. So I've gathered up my favorite Instagram posts from my England trip. These pictures are not only artistically beautiful in my eyes, but also full of memories. A glorious combination indeed.

If you want to follow me on Instagram, click the little Instagram button on the left hand sidebar. =)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

There & Back Again

   I've put off writing this post because I know it will be difficult. And the end result will probably be a confusing read. But in an effort to sort out my swirling thoughts, I'll make the endeavor.

{All these words . . . }

Today marks one month since our return to America, and I'd be lying if I said I don't still achingly miss England. Back when the move was in process my mind was swirling with words and thoughts. I couldn't think straight for all the words. Now that I've had several weeks to process it all, I find I've lost the words but some of my confusion and struggles remain.

I have such mixed feelings about being home. On the one hand, I'm so excited to be back with all my dear friends here and to be living in my house again (my own bathroom). I have lots of projects I'm inspired about and parties I want to host. But on the other hand, I've had to say goodbye to Cambridge. Say goodbye to all the amazing people I got to know (including the ones I basically lived with for six months). Say goodbye to the town centre with all it's shops and restaurants. Say goodbye to all the walking and the freedom to go anywhere I liked. My time in Cambridge was so special, and it is so hard for it to come to an end.

{What I miss . . . }

Sometimes I close my eyes & walk around my Cambridge. I can go anywhere. I can walk down Sedgewick. I can visit Aromii. I can call on Zuzana & little Andy. I can go pick up bread in Newnham for mum. I can bound down the stairs from my flat to check the mail. 

   But I can't. And that hurts.

I just miss everything about England, the walking, the stores, the accents, the fashions, the old buildings, the people, Tyndale House, the food, everything!

   My family & I, here in America, are trying to implement some of the lifestyle choices we enjoyed in England. There are things here we can not change, but there are choices we can make to enrich our lives. We want to slow down. Not rush about so much. Linger with friends more. Simplify our lives of all the stuff we own. Recycle paper, plastic, & metal. Eat healthier (more veg). Get more exercise. Limit the things we're involved in & be fully focused & intentional in those things. Don't spread ourselves so thin.

   I have to remind myself every now & then that life wasn't perfect in England. But it sure was wonderful, despite it's shortcomings.

{Things England taught me . . . }

   I have many regrets about how I spent my time over those six months. I wish I'd done less Pinterest and more journaling. I wish I'd watched less Netflix and took more photos. I wish I'd been more intentional about reading deep books. I wish I'd done some drawing & painting. I wish I'd written more letters. I wish I'd blogged more. (Sorry to you on that account.)

   But I don't want to focus on my regrets. I will use them to encourage myself in making wiser choices, and then I will move on. God taught me so much on this trip!

Being in England has given me fresh eyes. 
   I see things more clearly now. I see what I want to change in my life. I see what I don't like about my culture. I see the things I want to be more intentional about. I see how to love people more honestly. I see how very blessed I am.

Being in England taught me the meaning of temporary. 
   Before our move, nothing much had ever changed in my life. And I liked it that way. But living in a magical place you know you won't be in forever started to teach me how to savor moments. Knowing something won't happen again gives it a bittersweet taste, but it encourages you to delight in the moment & to soak it up while you still can. 
   That's how I should have been, at least. I often took things for granted. I didn't slow down. I didn't write about it. But I am learning. I am trying to savor the moments.  

Being in England taught me to not care so much what others think of my appearance. 
   In England there isn't as strong an emphasis on dressing to please others. People are who they are and that's okay. They're confident in it. 
   I did fall in love with the girls fashion though. The black tights, the casual dresses, the boots, the scarves, the cardigans. And messy hair was in, so I wore it everyday. Before our trip, I curled my hair every morning. But in England my hair curled however it wanted and often frizzed however it wanted. But that was okay, because no one cared. So I confidently didn't care either. It's a very freeing feeling to be confident in who you are.

Being in England taught me God has a grand plan. 
   There are so many things I could write under this one, but I'll just choose a few. Before we left for England I was scared. Scared about leaving the only home I'd ever known. Scared about leaving all my friends. Scared I would be lonely for six months. What if I don't make any friends? What if everyone hates me because I'm American? What if living in a flat the size of our living room is suffocating? 
   I laugh a little now when I think about these former fears. God is so gracious. I grew to love Cambridge as a second home. I developed many wonderful friendships, both in my church youth group & at Tyndale House. We ended up enjoying the small living quarters because of the simplicity of it (though I'm not going to lie, sharing that bathroom was a struggle). I actually felt more freedom living in our flat there than I do in our house here. There I could walk anywhere I pleased, while here we live out in the country far from town. 
   One after another the things I feared were negated by God. They always are, when will I learn?

Being in England taught me to seek beauty in the everyday.
   When you live on less you learn to make the most of it. Why not eat soup out of a pretty mug? Why not display pretty things on a shelf instead of hide them out of sight in a drawer? Why not wear jewelry today? You see, there is so much beauty around! Sometimes you have to look harder for it, sometimes you have to pull it together yourself. But it's there. 
   Now that I'm back home I find myself so inspired & I hope I'll inspire you too. Hang pretty pictures on your wall, (don't worry about the holes)! Eat morning toast off of a fancy plate! Wear your favorite socks! Put on make-up even though you're staying home today! Wear those fancy shoes! Pick that flower for your hair! Wear your favorite lotion, even though there's only a bit left of it! Light that special candle! Today is a special day because you are alive!

   If I had to summarize I'd say this. {Simplify. Be intentional. Make life beautiful.}

   There's really no way I can recapitulate my magical time in England. But this is a start.

P.S. I plan to write several more posts soon. There are several adventures we went on that I have yet to write about! So don't be sad, this is not the end.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Very British Christmas Feast

   I think I will always remember our Christmas Feast in Cambridge. It was a massive feat of deliciousness. 

   We began with a "starter" of shrimp with Rose Marie sauce. Oh my word. I don't even like shrimp but this was delicious! And even better, it's extremely easy. The fancy Rose Marie sauce is really just ketchup and mayonnaise! Mix. Serve. Impress. (You don't have to tell them it's just ketchup & mayonnaise if you don't want to.)

   Then dad cut our bird (or birds, depending on how you look at it). Since we were in England we knew we had to do something special for our Christmas feast, so we got a three-in-one bird. Basically there are three birds (we choose chicken, pheasant, & duck) stuffed inside each other! And then there's bacon on top. Anna approves.

   Right before the meal we all stood in a circle & popped our Christmas crackers! We don't have crackers in America which is a real shame because they are so fun! If you have never heard of a cracker, they are little circular packages with treats & (very often) a paper crown inside. You pull them apart and they open with a loud crack! We donned our paper crowns and sat down to enjoy our feast.

   Mum really is spectacular. We had our three-in-one bird (chicken, pheasant, & duck), sweet potato casserole, bacon wrapped sausages, bread sauce (so British), & cheesy Brussels sprouts. The bread sauce was (unfortunately) only enjoyed by mum, but everything else was a winner! My favorite? The Brussels sprouts. Who would have thought. They were amazing! 

   We feasted. We laughed. We told the (endearingly lame) jokes from our crackers. We talked. We acted out the charades from our crackers. We laughed some more. We reminisced. We toasted mums amazing cooking. It was a good night.

P.S. Just as a disclaimer, that's Raspberry cordial, not wine. =)

P.P.S. After our feast, Joshua & I rushed off to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special! Goodbye 11th Doctor!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas in Cambridge!

   About a week before Christmas it was time to decorate the flat! We got our adorable little tree at the market. As many of you know, I'm a firm believer in Christmas lights, so mum got a string of lights that's 20 meters long (almost 22 yards)! Joshua and I hung them all around our flat.

   On Joshua's first Sunday here we had a lavish Sabbath Tea. Scones with clotted cream & jam, several kinds of cheese, salami & ham with crackers, a meat pie, fruit, & (of course) tea.

   A few days before Christmas we received our Abel & Cole Christmas box! Complete with tangerines, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, brussels sprouts, cabbage, herbs, & complementary mistletoe.

Christmas Day!

   Christmas morning dawned and we all gathered in the living room anticipating the day's delights! We ate Night Before French Toast & sausage for breakfast while the potpourri on the stove made the room smell live cinnamon and cloves. Then it was time to open gifts!

  This year we did something a little different with our stockings. Normally Joshua and I would be the only ones with stockings, but this year we decided that everyone would have one. Dad gave everyone a certain amount of money to spend on everyone else's stuffers. It was the funnest thing to go around Cambridge searching for the perfect little gifts! 
   On Christmas eve we tried to fill our stockings, but mum and dad's were too narrow and mine and Joshua's were too small. So we got creative and used backpacks for dad & Joshua, a bag for mum, & a pillowcase for me. 
   It was the best thing opening our "stockings"! We went around in a circle pulling out one gift at a time and guessing who gave each thing. Gift giving is my love language, so I was almost more excited for everyone to see what I got them than to see what they got me. 

   After our gifts were opened we had a lovely relaxing day reading, resting, eating, enjoying each others company, & remembering how our savior came to earth as a little baby. It was a very blessed day. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas . . .

   Hello everyone! Sorry about No Blog November. And December. Oops. Not much happened around here until a week ago when my awesome big brother arrived! It's been lovely having Joshua here. It feels strange and normal at the same time though, which is confusing. But I've managed to deal. We've filled up this first week with Christmas shopping, eating, and just hanging out. I'm very content. 

   I also finished my first semester as a Senior in high school! I'll be posting again now that I'm on break. Yay for space to read, knit, blog, & watch Netflix!

   I can't believe it's almost Christmas! We've got our little flat decorated with lots of lights and there are buskers on every street playing Christmas carols. I'm this close to being done with my Christmas shopping and I've made some brilliant buys (if I do say so myself). I can't wait for Wednesday! Eek!

  I also can't wait to tell you what Christmas in Cambridge is like, but for now I just want to say thanks for sticking with me through my no-post season. I'm glad to be back.

   What are you most excited about this Christmas? Baking favorite cookies? Watching old Christmas movies? Shopping for presents? Let me know, I'd so love to hear from you!