Just living

I am a planner. I set goals. I dedicate time to figuring out what’s next. I look for ways to improve on my faults and maximise on my strengths. I organise, I walk with purpose and I am deliberate in where I want to go.

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these traits but this year is a year of ‘wait and see.’ My husband and I have no plans, no set targets. We have things we would like to happen and we are working on but we’re not revolving our lives around those things. We’re not filling our calendar and we’re not constantly looking into the future.

The inevitable result is that we’re far more in the present. We are enjoying the moment, embracing the things that we love and simply seeing what happens.

In a sense, we are letting go. We’re giving our plans up to God and seeing where we end up. I’m still aware of things I want to work on in myself but I’m also excited to see what the next few months hold.

Already I’ve been prompted to focus on creativity, on enjoying the things of this world that simply exist to give us joy and evoke a sense of possibility that is hard to stumble across otherwise. We’ve been steered as a couple into looking at prayer; why, what and how we pray. Right now, those two things are completely monopolising my thoughts and as I mull them over, I begin to see more opportunities to practice what I’m learning.

I miss having a specific purpose that I’m working towards but I have to admit, it is invigorating just living and seeing what life will bring our way.

So for this year at least, that is my new system for measuring goals. I want to see what we end up doing, whether we have embraced creativity, pursued what God has for us and discovered more about who we are and what brings us joy. I want to make sure I don’t waste my time on social media or overwhelm my time by forcing my schedule to fit in too many things. Instead I want to spend time with God, invest in relationships and use my time to appreciate the beauty and goodness that this world offers. I want to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, accept but not dwell on the frustrations and disappointments that arrive and develop a perspective bigger than what I can see. I want to experience new things, make the most of where I’m at and trust that by relinquishing control of what’s next, whatever comes will be exciting, challenging and satisfying.

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Aloha 2016

2015 watercolour

It was a project I started unintentionally in January with the aim of using my watercolour set to capture what that first month of 2015 meant to me. Somehow it continued through 12 months of ups and downs – small catchphrases that summed up 4 week interludes; brief snapshots of an unfolding story.

2015 has been better than 2014 – not that that was difficult. If I’m honest, it was a little bland overall. Nothing huge changed, I achieved quite a few of the things I aimed to achieve but I started out at such a low point that I didn’t really have time to make sense of anything or plan.

It’s been a middling year; a season in which the primary aim was for time to pass and wounds to heal. Sometimes, time just has to take its course without my plans or expectations getting in its way. 2015 carved its own course with little steering or focus from me and on reflection, that has set me up well for 2016.

If nothing else, 2015 has taught me how to relinquish some control over the direction of my life. It has taught me to live each day as it comes – not that I have mastered that quite yet(!) – and it has taught me that time brings with it its own challenges and hidden delights. Like a stream that picks up, carries and deposits the pebbles and debris it encounters, time continues to flow no matter what you try to do to stop or divert it, accommodating whatever life moments it stumbles across.

My aim for this month was to Look Up and Anticipate 2016 and I definitely enjoyed this time. I celebrated with friends and family in lots of ways from parties to carol singing to ice skating. I also read and re-read the Christmas story, which means so much more than the revelry, and I’ve given myself time to ponder the coming year so that the joy of anticipation isn’t lost in fairly lights and Lebkuchen.

I’m not expecting huge things from 2016 other than what the passing of time naturally presents – and I think I’m ok with that. I want to bake more, I want to have more time to myself, I want to read more and I want to move more towards that wonderful Hawaiian lifestyle we were privileged to experience in March. Here’s to hoping that the islands who gave birth to my name will pervade in 2016 with hellos, goodbyes, love and hospitality: Aloha 2016.

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!

Trusting in…

I’ve entered a season in my life that is completely new to me by one definition alone: I don’t know what’s next. I have always had ambitions, aims, goals and planned paths to help me get to where I wanted to go but I find myself in the slightly baffling position of having achieved what I wanted to by this age. In one sense, that is an incredible blessing but in another sense it leaves me feeling a little lost.

So I ask – what’s next? I have no defined journey to work towards and no comfort from knowing where I’m going because I’m there. I got to my destination. I had never really considered much past this point.

I’m living life without knowing: without knowing where I’m going, what’s next, how I’m going to get there or how I’m going to feel like I’m still achieving and learning new things. I’m not trusting in my own ability to get somewhere nor am I trusting in time to work in my favour, which leaves me trusting in the only one who knows what’s next for me: God.

It’s probably a good place to be because in my ‘not knowing’ I am left with no choice but to place my life in His hands. I have no clue what I’m stepping into so I’m thankful that I have someone walking alongside me. I am hoping that I learn how to live life without knowing in a way that is fulfilling and I am also hoping that as and when a little direction comes my way, I don’t forget how to take each step in faith.

September reflections / October hopes

P1030510 (2)September was all about the kitchen really. And the arrival of Autumn. The kitchen was almost completely faff-free and we love the result. We’re even starting to cook together because we can stand side by side and chop/stir without treading on one another!

I don’t think September gave me much time to be still at all. We had wonderful friends who fed us almost every night so that we didn’t have to rely on takeaway whilst kitchen-less, but that did mean it was very busy and very extroverted. The introvert in me is crying out for a few days of nothing. Not quite sure October will offer that but I have a few hopes nonetheless.

>Reflections<

Don’t get too frustrated while the new kitchen is installed. This actually happened. I spent a lot of time preparing myself for the fact that the flat would be a mess and I wouldn’t be able to find anything for a few weeks and as a result, the whole situation felt fairly calm! We now have decorators in so the dust sheets haven’t been put away quite yet. A few more weeks and we’ll be there!

Spend less money. This pretty much happened. We didn’t go over budget, despite the kitchen and need for takeaways. I’d really like to continue this for a few months, especially in the run up to Christmas when I’m sure we’ll enjoy the freedom of spending a bit of money on lovely gifts for the people we love! (If you hate people talking about Christmas in October, perhaps just ignore that last sentence…)

Spend more time with family. Without even trying, this happened. I spent an evening curled up with my mum and sister watching the Great British Bake Off and I spent a very very wonderful weekend away with my sister and got to spend quality time with her – no distractions. The weekend actually happened at the beginning of October but seeing as I’m late in writing my reflections and hopes this month, it totally counts!

Spend less time watching TV. This hasn’t actually been too difficult as the television was under a dust sheet for most of the month! I added rugby to the list of OK television as it’s the Rugby World Cup and not watching rugby was just not going to happen!

>Hopes<

Go for Autumn walks in new places. The leaves are changing colour and I want to take in every crisp breath of this perfect season. I’d like to go for walks in new parks and places and make the most of being outdoors – even if it’s raining!

Get the flat painted (except maybe the bedrooms) and clean again! A month (ish) of dust sheets are taking their toll on our flat. I really want to get the decorating finished and give the whole flat a good clean to get rid of some of the dust. This would include steam cleaning the carpets, although that might be too ambitious…

Be in the moment for birthdays. One of my best friends turns 30 this month and it’s also my sister’s birthday. They both have things planned and I want to take those opportunities to forget the overwhelm of work/life and be present in those times with friends and family. I just want to relax and enjoy them for what they are, no more, no less.

That’s it for this month. I’m loving the darker evenings and cooler weather – the rain and wind give me the perfect excuse to enjoy indoor things alongside the joy of dusk air and beautiful crisp walks. I hope October will let me enjoy both.

Bucket list

I could have sworn I had already made a bucket list on this little blog but I can’t seem to find it. When searching through some of my old blogs, I found some past iterations and was surprised at just how many things I’ve done. I’ve been to Israel, created a scrapbook I’m 100% proud of,  got married, read the Bible from cover to cover, been on multiple holidays with groups of friends, made an item of clothing and been on a cookery (Yo Sushi) course.

I’m seeing this as a good thing as I wrote most of those ambitions in 2010 and they were clearly all achievable within 5 years so I hope this list will also see me ticking off some hopes. Given that this blog has never seen a version of my Bucket List, I may as well start from scratch:

  • Look through a telescope at planets and constellations
  • Be part of a film production (behind the scenes, not on screen), however small my part
  • Visit Australia and New Zealand
  • See the Northern Lights
  • Hold a baby hedgehog
  • Feed a lamb
  • Spend 4th July and Thanksgiving in America
  • Go on the Trans Siberian railway
  • Read the whole of the Koran
  • Have a wardrobe I’m completely happy with (the contents, not the actual structure…)

I’m not sure any of these goals are particularly ambitious, but they’re a start and that’s where bucket lists usually begin…

July hopes

July Hopes 2015

It’s about time I set some goals again. The last time I set myself any semblance of an aim was in May 2014 followed by some reflections in June and a hope that I would be able to enjoy summer and see where it led. Summer didn’t lead anywhere good in 2014 and neither did the months that followed but it’s been exactly one year since then. How fitting that now is the time when I’m ready to get back into the business of looking forward.

>Hopes<

Stargaze. We’ve recently bought a GoPro and my husband is experimenting with slow motion, time lapse and short clips. One evening he set a short time lapse and I watched as the stars emerged from behind clouds and rose in the sky as the sun set. I want to do more of this while the evenings are still warm enough to enjoy being outside. If there’s any chance of me looking through a telescope, even better!

Read the Bible in German more. I’ve mentioned many times how important my German heritage is to me because of my grandparents and how their faith and character inspired me. Reading my Bible in German connects me even more to the meaning of the words as I associate them with the man who used to read them to me and lived them until his last breath. I realise ‘more’ is vague as even once would be more than I am reading it in German now but I hope it will be the start of a habit of reading the Bible in this lovely language.

Re-visit my 2015 year aims. It’s half way through the year. About time I checked in to see where I’m at compared to where I set out to be at the start of January.

Go to the cinema twice. Shouldn’t be hard, there are enough movies I want to see at the moment!

Go to a National Trust site. Our membership runs out in September so we want to make the most of it before then!

>6 month ambitions<

Why not look a little further ahead? We’re six months through twelve, a perfect time to reassess and challenge myself to something new. The one thing I’d really like to try is to make a meal every month from now until Christmas, without a recipe. My husband is great at this so I intend to make it a joint goal and I’m already looking forward to it. We shop, we find ingredients we enjoy and we make something that is ours. Fun for a date night activity and a great kitchen venture as soon as our new kitchen arrives in two weeks!

Goals in limbo

I’m still not quite at a place where I am happy to set myself monthly goals. They were really fun and motivating at the start of last year but being present in the moment and simply appreciating the people and blessings I already have in my life have become my priority for this season. I do have goals for 2015 as a whole, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t, but I’m not quite ready to go back to setting myself monthly aims. There’s simply too much going on in the rest of my life to add in extra ambitions. They would become a burden, rather than the motivator for change that I love them to be.

That said, there are a few things I would like to do more of in the coming months and these I am happy to commit to writing because they can be achieved without much time or effort and could perhaps even encourage me towards a place where monthly goals are back on the agenda.

More brunch – 2015 got off to a great start with Eggs Benedict brunch but it has hardly happened since and that’s such a shame. Brunch is such a weekend delight.

Switch out my wardrobe – About 18 months ago I spent some time (as one of my goals) figuring out my style, what suits me and what makes me feel good. I have made quite a lot of headway in making sure my wardrobe is filled with those items but I’m not there yet and it’s still in the back of my mind. So I’d like to get rid of the items that don’t quite fit or aren’t quite me and slowly refill my wardrobe only with items that give me joy to wear.

De-clutter – Whenever my mind is cluttered and I don’t feel like I have space to process or room to achieve ambitions, creating space in my physical environment helps. I’ve never been particularly attached to possessions and regular de-cluttering reminds me of what is really important in life – certainly not ‘stuff’!

Bake and read – For some reason, being in a time of limbo has meant that I have had inclination neither to bake nor to read, both of which I usually love and find incredibly relaxing. So while I wouldn’t naturally pair these two activities, I’d like to do more of both.

Just four things, but four things that will hopefully spur me on towards a place where change, new challenges, new experiences and a productive time of growth are a natural and innate part of me once again.

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!

April reflections / May hopes

April reflections - May hopesWhere are these months disappearing to? I can’t quite believe how quickly April flew by or how far through spring we now are. April has been a little calmer, although still pretty full. We’ve seen friends, enjoyed some sunshine, taken photographs and celebrated at a baby shower and our anniversary – the latter in the beautiful city of Paris. For once I’ve even managed to achieve all of my goals!

>Reflections<

Do brunch – more than once would you believe! With friends and with my hubby, brunch has been wonderful. We’ve also discovered that other friends love brunch as much as we do so long may this leisurely meal continue in our weekend priorities!

Clear my laptop and iPhone of photos – yes! My devices actually seem to have responded and are working a little quicker… my hubby also updated the firmware on my Pentax Q camera and it’s as though it is now a brand new phone. So exciting! Nice to have renewed technology around the place without spending any money at all.

Make homemade GF granoladone. So quick and easy to make and you can make so many varieties. I kept it pretty simple this time round, but next time I think I’ll add in some dried fruit, nuts and rice krispies so that all it needs is milk and it’s good to go!

Make popcorn without a microwavethis was really fun. I love hearing the kernels popping in the saucepan! We tried a few flavours but I haven’t settled on one I really like yet. We’ll keep trying I’m sure, it’s a great snack!

Buy some sports clothes – 3/4 length joggers and 2 sports tops bought! Comfy, cute and easy to move in – check!

>Hopes<

May brings an end to my long commute as the office for my new job finally moves close to me, so hopefully I’ll have some time to stop and look around me a little more.

Take a class at the leisure centre – I may need a friend to drag me to this, but in principle I really like the idea of having a set time to go, work out and come home. I like the flexibility (and the free-ness) of doing Tae Bo at home but I need a little sports inspiration. With my new sports gear, I think I’m ready to venture out…

Don’t get sunburned in Turkey – I cannot wait for the last two weeks of May as one of my best friends is flying over from LA. With my hubby and another friend we’re all visiting a mutual friend who is teaching out in Turkey. It should be a really great holiday as I’ll be with four of my favourite people! Although, as my sister put it, this is such a middle-class goal…

Pin down a date to make an item of clothing – it amuses me slightly that my goal is to get the date in, not actually make the skirt. However, the person who will be helping with it is hard to catch so it may take most of this month to find a date we can both commit to!

Wash the car – it’s May, that means it should be sunny right? Well then, hubby and I can make sure we find a couple of hours to hand wash our car in the sunshine! I noticed when we were with my grandparents in Germany last summer, how well people take care of their possessions and I think that’s a really good thing to abide by. Not to have pride in what we own, but to steward it well for as long as we have it. For me, washing the car comes under that category and if I get a little time in the sunshine with my husband, all the better!

Get some more dates in the diary for fun things – some kind of watercolour or baking course, dinner somewhere posh and maybe a mini-break. That’s not too much to take on, right?!

So by the looks of things, May will involve some preparation for future activities, some time in the sunshine, a holiday and getting back in shape. Here goes!