Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Sunday morning I walked downstairs to eat breakfast in the hotel reception area.  A couple of tables over one man was explaining to his companion how the French press their coffee was served in worked.  In England they call it a cafetiѐre.  I realized they were Americans, a fact that I should have realized sooner because when I'd walked in the room, one of them made eye contact and smiled at me, which my brain now registers as slightly unusual behavior.  The man then got up and asked for wheat bread while the man serving us clarified, "Brown?"   I smiled inwardly because all these differences were once unknown to me, too.  

I asked where they were from.  Texas.  We got to talking about who we were and what brought us to a hotel in Canterbury.  He told me about when he was in high school and a revival broke out in their small central Texas town, and they would meet in a different church each night.  They moved from the Baptist to the Methodist to the Lutherans.  Part of his story included skipping band practice because "it was August, and we had to get ready for football season."  He didn't have to explain that to me, though.  I know all about band camp.

I walked into Poundland to see what things I might buy for one pound that day.  The self-checkouts were in Elvis mode.  The King's voice sang out:  That's one for the money, two for the card." After I paid he said, "Thank you, a-thank you very much."  

I was standing outside our hotel waiting for K.J. to unlock the door as a couple walked by, and I couldn't help but think the tones of the woman talking to her husband sounded familiar.  She smiled as she passed me, and I almost let them walk by without speaking, but then I called out, "Where are you from?"  Florida.  She's a genealogist, a word I keep having trouble spelling, and she and her husband both have their roots in families in Kent.  She knows who her 10th great-grandfather is, and they're staying with some of her husband's 4th cousins.  She can trace her family's journey from England to Virginia.  They're black Americans, and I wonder what hard things were uncovered in this tracing of their family trees, but she doesn't mention any of that.  They're both so thrilled with finding their English roots.  She tells me to have a blessed day when we part ways.  

We've spent all afternoon and night in the car and arrive after 10 p.m. at our AirBNB.  Our hostess explains to me how everything works in German, and I nod along and say okay because I think I can understand about the sofa bed and the kitchen tap, but her final instructions in which I only understand the word auto are a complete mystery to me.  Hopefully we didn't need to know whatever she said too much.  

We try to unpack the essentials to get everyone to bed, and as I'm putting things in the fridge I look up and see a mouse scurry along the side of the wall behind a cabinet.  Of course I jump in the nearest kitchen chair.  (Why do we do this?  Is the mouse going to hurt me?)  This is not a happy beginning, and not for the first time on this trip do I think about leaving reviews on AirBNB and debate my desire to give constructive criticism with not wanting to cause people to lose business when otherwise the place is perfectly fine.

We're sitting at the table in the garden at the end of the following day eating pizza and enjoying the sunset.  The other half of our AirBNB host appears to greet us.  He's in his 70s and has a bright smile.  He asks how everything is, accepts a Sweet Chili potato chip.  He speaks a little English, identifies a flower K.J. photographed on his morning bike ride.  He ruffles James' hair as he says good night.  He's delighted that we're here, and we decide not to write anything about the mouse.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Before we moved to England our little family had only been on vacation together once.  This was due in part to the ages of our children at the time and the truth that it's just easier to stay home with babies and toddlers and not disrupt the sleep patterns, amiright?   K.J. would tell you that it was partly due to his contentment in staying home.  He's like Mr. Knightley in that respect.  

First Family Vacay

But vacation is amazing!  I'm feeling the truth of it afresh this week.  Time to lay aside the regular work and rest is a good gift.  School is out, and we're eating the easiest possible meals I can put together.  My brain feels still.  I took a nap yesterday.  The people who know me best understand that is a sign of truly being at rest for me.  I have never been a good napper.  

How do you like to vacation?  What makes your mind slow down and rest?  I think the past two days have really felt like vacation to me because we had no agenda but to do what we liked, which is a different thing than traveling to me.  We'll see some beautiful and historical things because we're in England, and nearly everything is beautiful and historical.  But we're taking time to be agenda-less, which might be my brain's favorite place to be. 

I'll leave you with this quote from Amor Towles' Rules of Civility.

I think there is!  But it did call up images of pulling out the proverbial slides and projector.  I've already taken nearly 400 photos, so I admit my culpability here.  

Friday, September 7, 2018

Friday Favorites, vol. xiii

Happy Friday!  Here are a few of my favorite things from this past week.  Maybe you'll find a new favorite, too.  I was really happy to hear this week that someone else found and loved the Flavia books.

1.  Joanna Gaines' Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ella requested a cookie cake for her birthday, and while looking for a recipe on Pinterest I came across this one from Joanna's new cookbook and thought I would give it a try.  I didn't make the individual cookies, but as a cookie cake it was a huge success!  The biggest difference I noticed from other recipes is that it used only brown sugar instead of a combination of white and brown.  It was nice and fluffy and didn't flatten out like other recipes I've made.

2.  Aragorn going to fight orcs

I mentioned earlier this week that we watched The Fellowship of the Ring with the kids on Labor Day.  I was reminded of my love for this scene when Aragorn tells Frodo to run and walks out to fight the orcs alone.  It is 20 seconds of cinema gold.

3.  Asking for help

I was reminded this week of how wonderful it can be to ask for help when you have situations in front of you that you don't know how to handle.  I thought I might have to take James to a doctor, and of course we don't have a regular doctor yet, nor do we speak much French, which can make me feel stressed.  But within five minutes of asking a friend who has lived here longer and knows how to navigate the system, she had found me an appointment.  I didn't end up needing it, but it was good to be reminded that there are people I can ask when I don't know how to do something, and it's often simple for them to tell me what to do.  I spent the rest of the week thinking about other things I could ask for help with.  😊

4.  FaceTime

I think this is a recurrence in my favorite things, but FaceTime makes it so much easier to share moments with family that would otherwise be missed.  In Alabama we would always watch Ella's birthday video with family, and with the miracle of technology, we were able to watch the cousins watching it from over 4,000 miles away.  It's such a powerful tool for connection.  

5.  The Expectation of Vacation

We spent our summer moving and getting settled, so we're taking our vacation this month, combining it with a conference for new pastors in the International Baptist Convention at the end.  We're hopping over the channel to the south of England where I have the expectation of familiar things, speaking English, and charity shops.  I'm excited.

What good things have you enjoyed this first week of September?  How many Pumpkin Spiced Lattes have you already consumed?

"What IS it about the English countryside--
why is the beauty so much more than visual?
Why does it TOUCH one so?"
- I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith - 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

In the Mom Haze

I'm in the mom-haze this morning, that haze that comes upon all mothers in certain seasons when your main occupation is taking care of a child or children at home and your days and nights are confused by missing sleep in the night and trying to recover the lost sleep during the day with a nap.  In other words, I have a sick child.  And I've never been very good at taking naps.  

It's been a very out of the normal routine sort of week, as I'm sure it has been for everyone who was off work on Monday for Labor Day.  The day off is always nice, but you spend the rest of the week wondering what day it is.  (I just got through thinking today was Monday.) We took Labor Day off school after a busy birthday weekend and because James was running a fever.  We watched The Fellowship of the Ring, and it felt like being reunited with old friends.  K.J. and I used to watch those movies constantly when we were first married, and it was so fun to have our kids finally old enough to watch. 

I feel compelled to say that this picture was from last week.
They're not sharing a bowl of popcorn while James has a virus.

I was up between 3-4 a.m. with James Tuesday morning, and I was awakened at 5:30 this morning by him going downstairs.  I desperately wanted to go back to sleep, but I figured if he was up his fever had probably gone up again and I better check on him.  It had, and I did.  I put him back to bed at 6:30, but by that point K.J. was getting up to get ready to go into the city, and it's that awkward time of deciding whether to try to go back to sleep and just risk being frustrated that you can't or make your coffee and enjoy the quiet before your kids wake up again.  

I chose the coffee and quiet and made myself a version of a Pumpkin Spice Latte using this extract I bought on a trip back to Alabama.  Along with the extract I added a packet of Stevia, some vanilla extract, a splash of cream, and some milk, and it was not too shabby.

Since James was not really able to do school work yesterday I gave Ella a book report assignment.  In talking about what she should include I felt an itch to write a book report myself.  It's been awhile.  I miss writing assignments.  Sometimes I give them to myself.

Here's to Wednesday, even if we're not firing on all four cylinders.  

Maybe second breakfast will help. 

Friday, August 31, 2018

Summer Days - August

This month we fully settled into our house.  We got Internet and T.V. hooked up and had our second over-night guest.  We enjoyed a slight drop in temperatures and several dinners with friends.  I took a girls' trip and returned to start the school year.  The pictures from this month are some of the most beautiful in a monthly round-up in a while!  

August 1 - A Visit to Versailles

August 2 - Traveled to Provence, Laughed at Signs for Goat Wranglers

August 3 - Intrigued by these Altars in the Fields

August 4 - The Prettiest Street I've Walked Down Lately

August 5 - Birthday Magic

August 6 - Games-Obsessed Family

August 8 - Gelato with a Friend

August 9 - Tea Break

August 10 - Most Romantic Bedroom Window I've Ever Had

August 11 - Teaching Kyrah to Use Measuring Cups

August 12 - Emmanuel International Church

August 13 - First Day of School Evening Walk

August 14 - The Magic Hour

August 15 - Forest Light

August 16 - Dinner Party

August 17 - Our Local Creperie

August 18 - My favorite tree in the park

August 19 - Sunday Morning 

August 20 - Party

August 21 - Bedtime Selfies

August 22 - New Read-Aloud

August 23 - Perfect Sun

August 24 - Fresh Coat of Paint

August 25 - Bricks that caught my eye

August 26 - After Church Fun

August 27 - Tea with Noreen

August 28 - Found some Exercise equipment

August 29 - Grape Vines

August 30 - New Park to Walk In

August 31 - Morning Light

The change of seasons is in the air, though we still have a few hot days left to come.  I'm looking forward to September.  It just feels like it's time for that bouquet of newly sharpened pencils, right?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

An Evening on Sutton Bank

I've been slowly sorting through pictures from 2017 for a family yearbook I'm making, and I loved these from a beautiful August night last year.

Summer days are long in North Yorkshire, and sun shining always feels special, so one night after dinner we decided to seize the golden hour and drive up to the top of Sutton Bank for the view James Herriot called, "the finest in England."

You can see for miles and miles from this vantage point.  I love the late-summer fields ready for harvest and all the wildflowers and heather.

The path wends its way along the top of the bank above the Kilburn White Horse.  It's a landmark hard to find when first pointed out to you from a distance but impossible not to see once you know what you're looking for.

I love having my family for scale in this picture.  It helps capture the vastness of all the open space around you.  But you can't help but notice the small things, too.

My boys tried to pinch a little heather for me to take home, but that proved harder than expected.

It came up roots and all, which feels like it's probably a violation of national park rules.

I took the most up-close picture I ever got of the white horse as we drove down the bank toward home, but I loved this last one best with the sign and the little house with the white horse in the distance.