Winter wanderings

Winter WanderingsWinter is a strange season as it bridges the gap between the year’s polar opposites. While spring, summer and autumn all have a unique flavour that is usually predictable from beginning to end, winter embraces many emotions and characters. It is the only season where the mood and mindset change dramatically in the middle. At the beginning, the warmth, hope and joy of Christmas are all-consuming and they wrap up the year, offering time to reflect on the highs and lows of the past 12 months. But the season’s end welcomes in a New Year which, although cold and often marked by post-Christmas blues, is also ripe with possibility. For me, January often ends up as a strange month without any discernable purpose, so if you’re like me, here are some ways to stay in the moment through the whole of this coming winter.

  • Food & Drink: Toffee nut latte with chocolate hazelnut loaf
  • Bake: Snickerdoodles & Pflaumenkuchen
  • Places to visit: Germany
  • Play in the snow (if we get any!)
  • Do some Christmas crafts – most of mine involve Cinnamon sticks!
  • Watch lots of movies: The Holiday, Miracle on 34th Street, Muppet’s Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Love Actually
  • Experience a Christmas market – Köln Weihnachtsmarkt is just perfect
  • Buy a calendar for the New Year
  • Start on some New Year goals – make plans for the year, book tickets to shows and search out new restaurants
  • Go to a museum – it’s low season in January so much quieter and you can take your time
  • Go to coffee shops and watch the world go by
  • Have a long hot bath with candles and a good book
  • Prepare for spring – get ahead of the game with a pre-spring clearout
  • Make the most of the slower pace of life by sipping wine (or, my preference, G&T) late into the night with friends, dreaming about what the year ahead might bring

Winter may be the odd season out, but it can still bring joy if you live it in the moment!

Advertisements

Everything becomes familiar

In time, all things become familiar. What starts off as overwhelming, uncomfortable, confusing, unnerving or discombobulating eventually feels like routine. A new job, a new home, any kind of change – even a new kitchen! – takes time to adjust for me. That’s not to say it’s bad. It’s just new.

Since everything will at some point start to feel like the norm, I may as well embrace the slightly bewildering emotion of change – the feeling doesn’t last forever.

Autumn jaunts

IMGP0491bMy favourite season of all is fast approaching. For me, Autumn (September to November) is the perfect temperature, the perfect speed of life and the anniversary of me meeting my hubby. For me, Autumn is synonymous with joy. If you’ve lived life in the moment in spring and summer, here are a few ways to make sure the delight of this new season doesn’t pass you by.

  • Food & Drink: Pumpkin spiced lattes & Butternut squash… everything!
  • Bake: Chocolate torte with autumn leaves
  • Places to visit: New England
  • Walks, walks, walks
  • Splash in puddles (who says this has to be confined to spring?)
  • Wake up early and go for a sunrise walk
  • Drink Baileys hot chocolate while watching November 5th fireworks
  • Make S’mores
  • Gather acorns and pine cones ready for Christmas decorations
  • Take a photo surrounded by Autumn leaves – or throw them in the air!

Probably because a school calendar is hardwired in my brain, Autumn for me is still a time for new beginnings, a hopeful fresh start as the temperature too becomes fresher. We’ll see if any new challenges or opportunities arise for this favoured season.

March – Recharging the Soul

P1020052a

Boy is this blog post late in coming. It’s a very good thing that my reflection on March was for ‘Recharging the Soul’ because the moment that April landed, that energy has been put to very good use!

March was pretty much all about Hawaii (plus a wonderful weekend in LA). It was a holiday that was so needed for so many reasons and it fulfilled every purpose that we had so hoped it would. We returned ready to face the things that we have hoped and prepared for. Our lifestyle has changed so much in a few short months but I am so thankful that we have transitioned into it so seamlessly. Some of the things I feared haven’t materialised. The fact we now have a much lower income hasn’t really bothered me. All I have noticed is the joy and dreaming that have slowly grown as a result.

My husband is working on something that makes his heart happy. Most of his time is now governed by himself and that works for him. He is motivated, he is excited and this in turn makes me so content. My job has changed and transformed into almost everything I hoped it might.

We hoped these changes would come, we prepared for them and March refreshed us ready to face them. I was very thankful for March and I will soon try to make some sense of the intensity that is April…

Rhythms of Rest: Routine and Change

The Sabbath is a Biblical principle. Whether or not you believe that the earth was created in six days, the message of rest is undeniable.

I read a great blog earlier this week which spoke about the Rhythms of Rest and it prompted me to look at my perception of routine and change. As a girl of opposites I am a creature of habit but I love change that brings new challenges so I consciously work to keep a balance between the two.

I also find that change forces me out of my comfort zone and brings with it an exciting season of learning, new experiences and self-discovery. I love the feeling of achievement that change usually heralds and I love making memories in the process.

Of course, change isn’t always positive and at those times, when change is out of my control and life takes over, I revert swiftly to routine to maintain an internal equilibrium which helps me to deal with what the world currently holds. It takes fine tuning but I have found that at the core of this balance, is rest.

Making sure that there are times when I am able to recharge, either by myself or with those I am completely myself with, lies at the heart of both routine and change. Those rhythms of rest, when built in to my schedule, serve as a foundation in the good change and the bad. They prepare me to face whatever type of change comes, with energy, determination and a network of friends and family who encourage always. And when, inevitably, life is just a bit too much, rest brings a momentary peace in chaos and a temporary escape from the patterns and pressures of the day.

Simply put, rest is just one of life’s rhythms that is worth taking a moment to listen to.

A girl of opposites

I am a confident introvert, a creature of routine who thrives on change, an adventurer rooted at home, a healthy-eating chocoholic and a believer who questions. I’m a leader who happily follows and a musician who loves the quiet. I love simplicity but my thought processes are usually complex, I save money but enjoy spending it, I adore tradition but not for the sake of it, I appreciate photography but rarely art and I stick to the rules, but rarely recipes. I seize opportunities, carefully, I seek out challenges, cautiously and I set goals, flexibly. I am a strategic thinker who lives in the moment, a 21st century technology advocate with a paper calendar and a meticulous planner who loves spontaneity.

Changing character

ISFJ head and stress

It’s been a while since I wrote in my little corner of this seemingly infinite web space. It has been a pretty intense rollercoaster of a six months and too many of my thoughts were simply too raw, too unprocessed, to publish. In a relatively short space of time, I have learned so much about people and about relationships. I have learned an incredible amount about what it means to love and be loved. I have experienced situations I never thought I would encounter personally and I have come through them – not completely just yet but I’m certainly on my way to a lighter place.

In the process, I have discovered that the change in me is more apparent than I had thought. Many pay little attention to personality tests, the likes of Myers Briggs, but I find them useful in understanding myself and in understanding others, in order to bring out the best of both.

When I was first prompted to take the Myers Briggs test around five years ago, I was an ESTJ. I sat firmly in the category of someone who was logical, factually thinking, often quite opinionated, mostly unemotional and usually direct. If you wanted something from me, you would need to persuade me with sound and logical argument that it made good sense, before I would acquiesce.

After getting married, I changed fairly quickly to become an ISTJ. As my character developed, I placed an increasingly high value on time with myself, to process my thoughts, to understand the ‘why’ not just the ‘how’ and simply to be still. My husband is a very strong introvert and no doubt that has had a marked impact on who I am. Both of us are fairly confident, especially when it comes to public speaking, but to recharge, we are happiest in small groups, with each other, or even on our own. I still was very logical in my thinking but I had learned to be a better listener and not always feel the need to offer my opinion.

I took the Myers Briggs test again this past week and lo and behold, I am now an ISFJ. Slowly but surely, my character is leaning towards the simpler, more empathetic priorities in life. I am very quick to hold my tongue now, I consider the impact of my words before they are spoken, I listen more than I speak and the character trait in me that was so quick to step forward and lead has taken a step back, enabling those around me to take more ownership of their own paths, instead of being directed solely by mine.

I am still endlessly logical, organised and detail-focused and I can’t honestly see myself changing in either the ‘S’ or ‘J’ categories. I should also clarify that the point of these designations is not to pronounce a better or worse character, but rather to emphasise difference in character. The beauty of understanding personality is that we can learn to complement one another instead of antagonise, so that the weaknesses of one are overcome by the strengths of another.

We all change over time, but the circumstances of the past six months have brought about a change that is far more visible in the way I interact with people. I’m intrigued to see how that has an impact beyond the confines of relationships, especially as the new year approaches.

Never stop looking for what’s not there

The last few weeks and months have changed me a lot. When I look back on my personality just a few years ago, I see such a stark contrast to who I am today that it quite amazes me. Most of the changes are good, some are neither good nor bad, simply different. I am very aware that I am in a time of learning, trusting, watching, listening, waiting and hoping. That combination brings my introversion to the fore and leaves no option other than to introduce space for flexibility in order to make the most of this time of change because however hard you try, life doesn’t keep to deadlines.

I find it so easy to forget the things I learn so I’m indulging myself by recording a few things that I would love to have known a few years ago.

  • Take life at its own pace, don’t force it to conform to your timings. A life lived according to the schedule of the world will only ever be rushed, unfulfilling and unappreciated. Flexibility gives you permission to enjoy life in the moment without concerning yourself with the paths of others.
  • If the milk runs out, buy some more. Tomorrow will have bigger things to worry about than whether your planned amount of groceries lasts out the week. 
  • Take one day at a time, life can change in an instant.
  • Just aim to be the best you that you can be. No envy, no competition, just you. You will be loved for it.
  • Love with all your heart. Whether or not you are loved in return, to love another makes life worth living and serving friends and family is such a source of joy. The time will come when another person’s love for you will be your strength so in the highs, be their strength. Lean on them. Put pride aside and enjoy all that love truly means.
  • “Never stop looking for what’s not there.” This fantastic quote from the film ‘Once More’ starring Morgan Freeman is so insightful. Dream. Think big. Hope. See light in the darkness. It doesn’t have to be in front of you; it may be years away, it may be tomorrow but never stop looking for it. 

I’m still learning. I hope I always will. For me, this season is so full of new insights into life that I want to capture what I can, if only to read it again in a few years and remind myself that the world is so much bigger than I give it credit for.

Soaking up summer

summerThe air is changing again, this time to a hopefully warmer climate with long days of sunshine and seemingly endless hours to relax and soak up some much needed Vitamin D. Just like spring, there are ways to enjoy this season (which I consider as June to August) that are unique to the characteristics it brings on its breeze, so even if you’re not off on a summer holiday, here are some ways you can make the most of this summer.

  • Food & Drink: Pimms, cider, salads and BBQs of course!
  • Bake: Grasshopper pie for Wimbledon or an avocado chocolate cake
  • Places to visit: Colorado
  • Go for a long walk at dusk
  • Make Sprite floats… or Coca-Cola floats if you prefer
  • Go on a road trip in the sunshine
  • Pick fruit! Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries…
  • Find a waterfall and watch the sunlight make a rainbow
  • Watch a movie outdoors (local venues often have a temporary outdoor theatre in the summer – worth watching out for!)
  • Paint in the park
  • Have an evening picnic in the park after dinner, just for drinks and dessert
  • Sat outside at a pub with friends in the evening with a cold drink
  • Make ice cream and smoothies
  • Eat breakfast outside – only in the summer months are those early hours warm enough for this. Make the most of it!
  • Go punting (my favourite is to go from the Cherwell Boathouse in Oxford)
  • Listen to the dawn chorus. It’s light and warm when the birds start their singing and it’s quite something to hear them!

Baby shower – Twinkle, Twinkle theme

One of my closest friends is expecting her first little one. She lives pretty far away so she and her husband took a road trip – a ‘Big Bump Tour’ if you will – to see friends and family before baby arrives. While she was here, we took the opportunity to throw her a baby shower and I had the joy of planning it.

As they’ve chosen not to find out the gender of their baby, we wanted to keep colours and the theme neutral. So, with help from friends and Pinterest (of course!) we decided on yellow and white with a ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star’ theme. We joined up with the boys for the second half of the shower so that we could all celebrate their anticipated new addition together.

It was such a fun afternoon getting to spend time with this precious couple, soon-to-be a little family!

Invitation – designed by the creatively wonderful Leah Eli

Cake!

Collage - cake

Food

Collage - food

Stationery – all designed by Leah Eli

IMGP4361

Decorations

Collage - decorations

Games – a nursery rhyme quiz, memory game with baby clothes, plus a couple of other games without photos – Fifty Shades of Lullaby and getting a baby’s bathwater to within 2 degrees of the recommended 37 degrees in the time it takes to play ‘Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot!’

Collage - games

Gifts – as well as the traditional gifts, each of the girls bought their favourite childhood book and wrote a little message for the Mama-to-be inside.

Collage - gifts