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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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!

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.

February – Preparing to Launch

P1010712aThe fleeting month of February was surprisingly filled with quite a few events and learnings.

On a very small (but exciting for me) level, I de-seeded pomegranates for the first time and realised how much of a delicious addition those ruby seeds are to my lunch, which became healthy and budget conscious this month.

We had a fantastic day with my family and in-laws at the start of the month to celebrate my hubby getting baptised. It was such a wonderful evening, filled with truth, promise and dedication. It made my soul smile.

We also went to a great friend’s wedding and saw her and her new husband celebrate the start of the next stage in their lives together. It was beautiful, joyful and I was so thrilled to share it with them.

February has of course been interwoven with rugby, with the Six Nations tournament filling most of our weekends. Yet somehow in between cheering England to two victories out of three, I also spent a precious Valentine’s Day morning with my Daddy over a long breakfast. I am so thankful that I have two such inspirational men in my life.

The second Tuesday in February is traditionally Shrove Tuesday, better known in the UK as ‘pancake day’ – the day to get rid of all unhealthy produce in the home before Lent begins the following day. We were treated to a spectacular dinner – it was the first time this particular friend has cooked for us and he set himself a high standard! The gorgeous meal was followed by copious (wheat-free!) pancakes. The best filling, in case anyone was wondering, is banana, nutella and vanilla ice cream. Divine.

The final weekend of February was brimming with music. We saw one of my best friends sing in the choir for Bach’s St John’s Passion (which, unbeknown to us in advance, also featured a great friend of ours as the tenor soloist!) and then I played in the second day of a charity Beethoven marathon, playing all of his symphonies over a weekend. We played through the seventh and eighth before performing the ninth to a small audience.

Somehow, between all of this time with friends and family and among such momentous occasions as baptisms and weddings, February has been a time of preparation. It has been a time to be still, to look ahead, to prepare for what we know is coming: My husband is going part-time in March to fulfil another of his passions, writing; my job is likely to change quite heavily in the coming season; we will be doing lots of work to our lovely home to restore it to its full beauty but in the middle of that, we have a refreshing two week holiday on the beautiful islands of Hawaii to look forward to.

February has served us well, giving us times of joy but allowing us time to take stock and prepare our hearts for the launch of a new season of change and discovery. My heart is almost ready for some goals again, to commit to new challenges and new experiences. Perhaps the Hawaiian sunshine will inspire me at the very least to write a little more and record in slightly more depth how our lives are starting to blossom once again. Let the adventure begin!

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.

June reflections

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Finding my feet in my new office has been a little more challenging than I had anticipated. It has, however, allowed for some routine to be restored in my ever-busy world. I am mostly home at a decent hour so fitness classes and baking have made a welcome return to my weekly activities. I’m also amazed, looking back, that I somehow managed to find time to squeeze in punting, a weekend with the in-laws, multiple BBQs, manicures with my mama and sister, the start of my skirt-making and a friend’s 30th in London. Not bad!

July brings with it holidays – a weekend in Glasgow with one of my closest friends, to meet her first little one and then two weeks in Florida and the Dominican Republic with family. I’m not sure there’s much purpose to planning goals these coming months. Making sure work is ready for me to go away will be challenge enough, so the rest of the time, I just want to relax, enjoy and see what these next two months bring on the summer breeze.

>Reflections<

Have drinks outside with friends – I had anticipated this to be at a pub, but as it turned out we had drinks and ice cream outside with friends many times, but in gardens and parks instead of buying drinks. Much cheaper and most definitely just as fun.

Send some postcards – I sent a small package to a friend in America as well as some postcards this month. I hope this continues but it sure is difficult to remember.

Make smoothies – I didn’t quite get around to smoothies, plural, but I did make one very yummy one with papaya, sharon fruit, raspberries and bananas – it was amazing!

Make ice cream – We made two flavours. The first was nutella & cream with chocolate chips but my new favourite ice cream flavour of all time has to be the Black Forest ice cream – so yum!

No >Hopes< this time, just a hope to relinquish a little control and see where summer takes me.

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!

We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo

collage3We spent the last Saturday before my new job started, at Marwell Zoo. The day ended up being really blue and bright and we took our time strolling around – avoiding the enclosures where the animals just have no space. Even taking our time, we still made it all the way around long before the estimated four hours that had been suggested. Clearly with no children in tow, things go much faster!

I love being out and about as the weather starts to clear and it’s so fun to go on day trips together. I start to feel like I’m making the most of being in the moment and spending quality time with the people I love – it makes my heart happy.

Cherry blossoms in Spring

collage1Spring appears finally to have sprung in the UK this weekend and with it, the optimistic populous have donned summer clothes to embrace the fleeting sunshine in case it disappears as unexpectedly as it arrived.

Although our attire wasn’t quite as ambitious as some we saw, hubby and I did walk into town and bask in the unfamiliar warmth. A bit of shopping and a stroll by the river later, we came home for an afternoon that promised rugby, food and relaxation. Perfect.

Taking a photo of a cherry blossom is just one of the many things that makes me feel like a new season has arrived.

Hello Spring – you are so welcome!

Spring things

I adore the seasons, all of them, even if my favourite is Autumn. I love that just as one season is coming to an end, I’m perfectly ready for the new one to arrive. The change is good for me; I am refreshed by the shift in the air, the temperature, the mood and all that they represent.

I always try to make the most of what makes each season unique, so as spring approaches (and to me, spring is March-May), here are a few ways to make sure spring and all that it brings, is enjoyed in the moment.

springthings

  • Food & Drink: Elderflower cordial on a picnic
  • Bake: Mini-egg cupcakes & creme egg brownies
  • Places to visit: Northern Ireland, New York and Paris
  • Decorate the house with tulips and daffodils
  • Go to see some lambs
  • Visit a garden centre and plant something new in a windowsill box
  • Take a photo under a cherry blossom tree
  • Empty your handbag and restock only with what you need, not what you’ve accumulated!
  • Do a spring clear-out (if not a spring clean!)
  • Put on some wellies and splash in puddles