UK: Week Two

Disclaimer- no spell check was done.

We are currently in our quaint little B&B and enjoying a couple hours of rest while Gabs takes a ‘bed-nap’. Her bed-naps are the ones she takes on our slower, relaxing days here- on a real bed and usually lasting two or more hours. Usually she troops through a ‘buggy-nap’ which is in the stroller, about 45 minutes long, and while we are touring around or in a museum.
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The past few weeks have been incredible, full of new experiences, exhausting but exhilarating, and going by SO FAST. We got to London after an 11 hour plane trip (which went very smoothly, barely used any of the million toys I or Grandma brought for the little miss) and promptly Konked out in our hotel after going through customs , finding our luggage, and hauling the luggage ourselves many blocks away to our hotel. And by ‘we’ I mean Grandma (Susan) and Joey lugged it- being that I was then 17 weeks pregnant and having a couple not-so-good symptoms, they were firm about not letting me carry too much.

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After the catnap of about 2 hours (felt like a WINK) we headed out feeling recharged and hungry! We popped into a restaurant nearby and had some absolutely marvelous fish and chips. Pretty much have to start with a British staple like that, right? We sat next to a lovely family at the restaurant who were absolutely taken with Gabby- which led to some fun conversation. Great way to start a 3 week trip!

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The next two days were a blur. We walked around London, seeing everything there was to see, touring anyplace that would let us in- including the House of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Eye, St.Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tower Bridge. We were walking from dawn to dusk, and never took a bus or train until late in the evening when Susan and I pretty much forced Joey to have mercy and find the tube station. :)

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The next day we made our way to Oxford- an hour train ride turned into a 3 hour one due to Wimbledon traffic/signaling problems- but we finally made it to our home for the next two weeks! Gabs soon got accustomed to the public transportation- and tried to say “HI!” to just about every passenger on every trip. It was definitely a learning experience for me as a mom to keep her well-behaved/occupied in a 2 square foot seat for so many hours the last few days- Can’t say I’m an expert but we made it, with tons of help from Dad and Grandma.

We got to Oxford and I almost heard myself relax. We took a bus through the town and just looking at all the historic churches and colleges, with the cool breeze and promise of two weeks in one place made me almost giddy with excitement. Grandma was so kind and insisted we switch rooms at the adorable B&B we stayed at- with more room for Gabs to run around and a larger bed. Grandmas have hearts of gold, don’t they? She also made sure that there was a mini fridge in the room for us and stocked it with grapes, apples, chocolate, milk and juice for us. No words. Just love, so much love for her.

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Joey pretty much slept, went to class (25 minute walk, which he loved) did homework, and read his textbooks for the two weeks he was in class here. This was no vacation at first for him! Though he loved his class and classmates- he’s excited to get to actually travel and explore with us now. He’s actually out at the Ashmolean Museum as I write this and Gabby naps- that’s the oldest museum in England, and suuuuper interesting. We made Gabs spend 6 HOURS in that awesomeness. Poor girl, but at least she’s a poor, cultured girl.

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You’ll be bummed (possibly) at my lack of great pictures in this post… Which I know is pretty much a crime to not have amazing pictures of such a historic town. I took most of them on my DSLR though and purposefully have neglected my phone this trip. It’s been great.
We are staying in a small town just outside of Oxford- called Headington. Our B&B is my absolute favorite- the managers here are new (Rhoda and Martin) , so we have been here almost as long as they have been here! We’ve gotten to know them really well and will miss them when we leave. They have a special spot and cup for Gabby at breakfast every morning and always know what she’ll have to eat- and every now and then Rhoda and I would spend some time chatting in the backyard while Gabby had some free time to run around. I have a feeling we will stay in touch!
The weather here is glorious- sunny, breezy, and cool. Sometimes rainy which I always welcome. We’ve been on hours of walking tours, church tours, seen old historic colleges, talked to a 91 year old about her experience in the Navy (she debriefed soldiers who returned from Normandy on D-Day) and seen Blenheim Palace, where Winston Churchill was raised. Also, grandma treated us to many things, which included a river cruise on the Thames!

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Like I said, Joey finished his class on Islam and Sh’ria law today- (happy fourth! No one celebrates it here, duh. I kinda forgot.) anyways, and last night I got to tag along to the gala they threw in honor of the students. And gala’s here are most certainly NOT casual- most of the women had ball gowns on! And I enjoyed meeting the people Joey had been taking classes with online and now in Oxford for the past year and a half. It was intimidating to be the only non-student there at first, but they were incredibly kind and talkative people! It was a fabulous date night with great company- and I almost exploded from pride watching Joey be asked to explain the current events on Geert Wilders to the rest of us. It’s not everyday you get to see your husband in a situation like that. (I almost burst, truly.) By the way- they had a course AFTER dessert here. Whaaaat. Thank goodness I’m pregnant and gaining weight anyway.
Well, there’s my ‘hello’ to you all, from the Uk! Tomorrow we head to Amsterdam, which is going to be another amazing week with seeing Joeys host family from college, possibly (hopefully) some other friends, and going to pubs for the World Cup. We were devastated by the USA loss (chuck Norris changed his name to Chuck Howard) but at least we have HOLLAND to fall back on! HUP! Oh, and I need Some poffertjes in my life.

Nutella crepes?
Porridge every morning?
Croissanteries and cappuccinos around every corner?

Okay, I guess. 🎉

Love from Gabs, my dear, sweet AMAZING and sometimes tantrum-in-candy-shop-throwing little traveler.

Love from me, the one with no directional skills (Thankful for my MIL who guides us everywhere and hopefully doesn’t want to kill me by the end of this trip) but super love for foreign people, countries, food and history. And gets tired easily.

Love from ‘Mama Susan’ who has unending patience, generosity, a map for a brain (supposed to be a compliment) , and good sense of humor and fun.

And love from Joey, my really smart and fun husband- who took his family on this crazy adventure with him.

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Long Weekend

I feel like I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off lately, and I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling like this either. Spring always makes me a little crazy around my house, ‘spring cleaning’ everything (which drives Curtis nuts, especially when I try and do it all at once instead of room by room) as well as trying to get assignments and requirements done so I can graduate in precisely 45 days and 1 hour.

While it has been crazy for me lately, we just had the loveliest long weekend that was wonderfully rejuvenating because I decided to do nothing. I didn’t do laundry. I loaded the dishwasher one time. I avoided homework on Sunday. It was glorious!

Naturally, I spent my downtime reading for pleasure and watching the Harry Potter marathon that was on all weekend (I’m an admitted Harry Potter nerd, it’s why I have a Pinterest account). Again, glorious!

Anways, that was my weekend. I want to pass on a little phrase that caught my eye last week:

“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

This really struck home with me because kindness is something I struggle with while working in customer service. Oftentimes I am on the receiving end of rude behavior from others, and I often find myself holding a grudge against that person and then passing along the rudeness unintentionally to someone else. I am not trying to excuse rude behavior by saying there is always a reason for it, but on the chance that the person in question is having a terrible day, I think that returning unkindness with kindness may change that person’s day for the better…and in the process it might just change the way I walk away from the situation. That whole, ‘Do unto others’ thing- :) It really changed my attitude, which can get pretty crummy at work sometimes.

Anyways, have a wonderful week-

Read a book.

Relax a bit.

And be kind, even when you don’t want to be, and see what it does.

~K

 

 

 

 

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I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t!)

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“I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t!)” by Brene Brown. Here’s a quick exerpt “Dr. Brown writes, “We need our lives back. It’s time to reclaim the gifts of imperfection—the courage to be real, the compassion we need to love ourselves and others, and the connection that gives true purpose and meaning to life. These are the gifts that bring love, laughter, gratitude, empathy and joy into our lives.” The book is all about shame- a strange thing to base a whole book on, but it really hit home in a lot of ways for me, which is hard to admit. Shame breeds disconnection from our friends and family, but empathy encourages compassion and connection.

As far as this blog goes, I intended it to be a pretty lighthearted and upbeat hobby for me. I never planned on sharing too much personal stuff, just a few everyday tidbits and recipes that I’ve gleaned and enjoyed. I feel like I’ve done that for the most part, but every now and then- I feel like I’m missing a little something. I don’t really know what. I try to guard against making it seem like “omg, I have this blog about my perfect life you should totally read it”. In fact, when people compliment me on recent blog posts they’ve enjoyed, I get embarrassed.

Who are we to have our own blog? That’s quite high and mighty of you, Monica. At least Katie shares crafts and good books she’s read. And that other blogger? She’s way more real. Here you are, acting like your daughter is perfect and you make amazing recipes every night from scratch <<(HA! If only.)

Shame shame shame. Truth is, I really do get a lot of joy from my life. I have been so richly blessed in so many ways. This week though, I’ve had a very short fuse and have been very on edge. Let me tell you the short version of a long story. We were robbed on Monday morning. Traumatic for me, yes indeed. Probably right when my  bathroom remodel post (which had been written and scheduled in advance) went up on the blog  is when the brute busted our door open- providentially, I had switched my work day this week so Gabby was at the babysitters and Joey and I were working and not home. I’m telling you, God had set in place for a long time that I’d switch days- and I’m so grateful!

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Our home has felt a little less safe this week, and I’m not sleeping very well. A little prayer and gratitude for God’s providence went a long way in that department. The house is a lot quieter because our TV was stolen- a welcome change, actually. I’ve quite enjoyed reading more books and not having the TV steal away valuable time- but the gaping hole in our living room does remind me that some criminal was in our ‘safe spot’ recently. It shakes me up and makes me feel fearful.

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In an effort to be more safe, I take the dogs with me when I run with Gabs, but that has made me even more short tempered because lately the dogs have not been listening to me- they wander in front of fast-moving cars (which resulted in me getting cussed out by an angry driver) and antagonize other country dogs. I lost it after the angry driver. I yelled at my dog, which made Gabs cry, and then I bawled in the middle of the road. Then I bawled more when I wondered if the robber had been as angry as that man- how would I have protected Gabby?

Love my Ghost, but he's giving me gray hair.

Love my Ghost, but he’s giving me gray hair.

 

In summary, this week I feel like I’ve had NO CONTROL over anything and it’s making me short of breath and a little claustrophobic. I cry pretty easily (that will pass soon) and I feel like I can’t get anything right. I quit the gym to save money and time, but can’t handle my dogs while I run with them. People can get in my house. I’m just spiraling a little.

But then, a compassionate conversation. An empathetic text. A hug. A “I felt that way when I was in your situation too.” A simple “It’ll be okay, honey”. “That guy was a JACKASS and you didn’t deserve that.” A tearful prayer. It just kind of melts away those feelings of always being one step behind, and you realize that everyone else is on the journey with you and those who love you want to help you succeed, not watch you sink.

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This is a big heavy post coming from a big heavy heart this week- and this heart feels a whole lot lighter after sharing. Thanks for the encouragement and I hope you read the book!

~M

 

 

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Weekend Wrap-up

Guys. I painted a room in our house allll by myself. I feel like such a big girl.

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I knew it was going to be a monster project (covering the darkest of red paint with the lightest of blue) and it was- but I’m super happy with how it turned out and the little bathroom feels twice as big as it used to be! There’s a couple spots on the ceiling that need to be fixed (I got a little excited with the extension pole roller) but other than that, I plan on hitting up Marshall’s for some decor to finish it completely.

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Shur- Line 1000. Best tool I bought for this project, hands down.

Shur- Line 1000. Best tool I bought for this project, hands down.

^^ that edging tool? That’s the reason I still have hair.

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The plan was to complete the project during Gabby’s naps throughout the week. She decided that wasn’t going to work for her, so I set her up in the pack’n’play and turned on Henry Hugglemonster. According to internet ‘doctors’, that choice means that Gabby’s IQ dropped by at least 4 points. Sorry babe, you seem pretty smart to me, but I’ll teach you a couple more words this week to make up for it.

20140324-085552.jpg20140324-085924.jpgWednesday- started project.

Thursday- worked. No project time.

Friday- looked into the project room, sighed, and ignored it. Still trying to get primer out of my hair.

Saturday- went for a run with SIL, then finished project in the afternoon! Still ignoring ceiling spots. Still ignoring. Also completely missed a patch by an outlet, but I already washed the paint brush, so… ignoring. If you come over sometime soon and you find the patch in under 30 seconds, you get a prize.

Here’s a few other weekend pictures.

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*sigh* I’m just… blessed.

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^^ much needed painting break. Thanks for covering my face, pumpkin sugar.

OMbre'd the Hair!

OMbre’d the Hair!

20140324-085510.jpg^^ only gloves we could find before an early morning run.

20140324-085940.jpg^^more painting breaktime.

20140324-085445.jpg^^ Liverpool gametime cuddles.

Enjoy your Monday!

~M

P.S. Ya’ll should make this for dinner tonight, it rocks my socks big-time.

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Crockpot ‘Best Chicken You’ll Ever Have’

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I love daylight savings time. I love when it stays light later into the evening and on the other side, I love when it gets light earlier in the morning. I wasn’t thinking this love would last once we had Gabs, since I heard that kids don’t adjust quite as smoothly as adults (who don’t always adjust so swimmingly either..) but she must have the same love as I do, because she’s still sleeping the same! I think it’s because she was sick during the time change, so she wasn’t sleeping normally anyway.

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All she wanted to do was lay on the couch and cuddle with Violet- it was sadly adorable.

Either way, we’re adjusted, back to healthy and luuurvin’ it.

So, even though there’s more daylight in the evenings now, that doesn’t always mean you want to spend more time on dinner. I found this recipe online, and though it may not be healthy- IT IS MY FAVORITE. I’m getting used to taking pictures of my recipes again, so if you want to be sold on the recipe, visit the original site and don’t be repulsed by my gross ones!

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These are the leftovers on a sandwich. We had it by itself for dinner the night before, but ate it too fast to take pictures.

You must make it and watch your family devour it before your very eyes (even the picky ones) and then proclaim their undying love for you afterwards.

Then the next day, put the leftovers in a sandwich and hear it all over again.

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Meanwhile, you’re just excited because you spent literally $1.54 per serving and 4 minutes in prep time (that’s being generous.)

Joey and I have a friend from college who told us about what his mom would do each evening at dinner. She’d serve a wonderful meal to her family of all boys- and tell them how much each serving cost to make while serving it. It became almost a fun game to see how delicious/cheap she could make her meals- and a great way to keep yourself in check when planning meals!

~Enjoy! M

P.S. yeah, it’s not healthy or technically low in fat. BUT. Whenever I make a meal that might not be waist-friendly, I just serve my portion over a big handful of chopped romaine. Honestly, I’ve found that pretty much any dinner tastes good over crunchy lettuce.

Crockpot ‘Best Chicken You’ll Ever Have’

serves 4

recipe from littleblackraincloud.com

ingredients:

4 chicken breasts, frozen or thawed. (adjust cooking time if frozen)

1 box chicken flavored stuffing mix

1/2 cup sour cream

1 can cream of chicken soup

1/4 cup water

Directions:

Place chicken in bottom of crockpot. Open up stuffing mix and dump it on, right on top of the chicken.

Next, mix your sour cream, cream soup, and water in a bowl, and dump it on top of the stuffing.

Lid on, and 4 hours at low (thawed chicken) or 4 hours on high (frozen chicken).

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Virtual Coffee Date

Mmm how I love coffee dates. It’s been a reallllly long time since we’ve all had one, so this is how I’m easing back in to Dutchsisters. >insert coffee with just a tad too much creamer here<

Gosh, life has really been so sweet lately. Gabs is basically a toddler now (when do babies officially become toddlers??) and turned one last week. I get a little teary-eyed just thinking about it. She’s just a lot of fun and totally hilarious. It really makes spending the next couple decades together sound super awesome. Plus, she’s sleeping like an adult lately- a really good adult who values sleep. **AWESOME**. She looks just like Joey and acts just like me. Loves books, and playing with dirt, flour, and things that make noise. She talks all day long, and can kind of dribble a soccer ball. And sometimes stays quiet during prayer (its a start, right?).

We had her first birthday party last Saturday, and honestly, I just enjoyed the whole thing so much. Pretty much the only thing I enjoy about throwing parties is the actual party. I am not a planner, organizer, creatively minded person. It takes a lot of copying/website browsing and trips to Staples for me to even come close to being called ‘creative’.  I was worried about relaxing & enjoying the party because I get a little anxious before events I throw- just ask my slaves sisters. Here’s how events go for me:

Phase One: “I’m going to just get everything done 2 months beforehand, so it’s super relaxed and easy the week of.” (= do a few DIY things for decorations, plan party menu, guest list, fabulous creative touches, avoid pinterest because even THAT isn’t original anymore, etc.)

Phase Two: “I can’t believe I’m already planning this thing. She’s ONE, not a freakin’ princess.” (immediately desist all party planning activities, consider having NO party to teach humility (ha), figure all things will come together one way or another)

Phase Three (week of party): “OMG I haven’t done anything since 2 months ago and the party is this Saturday” and things get done FAST. I hear it’s pretty universal.

Despite the pre-party nerves, the thought that kept me {mostly} grounded was that the party wasn’t about me or how cute the decorations were. It was just a get-together celebrating that Gabby survived a year of our parenting, with people that we care about. I could spend an hour writing about how blessed we are with our community of family and friends, but I’ll just say this. It is a majorly AWESOME and unique thing to have a network of people who genuinely care about your family and kids. It’s something I thank God for daily.

The party was relaxed and fun, and I was (selfishly) super happy with how the decorations turned out. They seemed to match Gabs’ personality (and the fact that she IS going to be a world traveler this summer) but… the whole time, I was just thinking… too bad none of our other kids will ever have a party like this one. :)

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1794756_10151901637146493_1719182071_n~M

p.s. below I listed all the links to what we used for the World Traveler party- pretty cheap and super fun!

PARTY LINKS

Inflatable Globe Party Favors

Cake Topper- globe stress ball with printable glued on

Party Printables

Cake recipe

Party Layout

Map shower curtain (given to me by a friend)

PVC pipe backdrop stand- borrowed from a coworker

Earth Balloons

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Breaking the Silence

WOW that was a long time of no communication, and for that, I really must apologize. I can only speak for myself here, I totally  got absorbed in the craziness of last semester, and then decided to be lazy during Christmas break. And then continued being lazy about the blog, so I’m really sorry. That’s the last time I will apologize, however, because my next story will make you wonder how I got this far in school, let alone in making desserts. I’m breaking the silence with a K-Shaming post.

In my internship, my unit was responsible for hosting a potluck this month and I chose to do dessert! Mainly because I force myself to do something from scratch, desserts are easier than making lasagna (my other option), and- honestly?- I thought I might be able to convince my hubby to make it for me. No go on that last one though, so I asked for suggestions  and chose Famous Wafer Dessert. It’s so delightfully delicious, as well as low in ingredients so it was a perfect solution.

Here’s the recipe quick, so you can understand my mistake later:

Famous Wafer Dessert:

-Two boxes Famous Wafers (a chocolatey wafer)

-One Quart of Heavy Whipping Cream

- Your choice of fruit as a garnish (I recommend berries of any kind, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)

That’s it.

Whip the heavy cream in the blender until it turns to whipped cream, and then one by one using a knife, gently spread about a quarter inch of the whip on the wafers.  Put them together on a platter so they are standing up, perpendicular to the platter. The way I prefer to do it is in a circular shape around the edge of a round plate, and then I serve the fruit in the middle of the dessert. Don’t use all the whipped cream for this! Once you’ve got all the cookies ‘glued’ together by the whipped cream, use what’s left to do a final coat all over the wafers, completely covering them. Once you’ve done this, cover it with Saran Wrap (use toothpicks to hold up the Saran Wrap and protect the frosting) and let it set in the fridge for a minimum of two hours, adding the fruit right before you serve it. The way it works is the hard wafer absorbs some of the moisture in the whipped cream and expands into a cake-like texture by the time it’s ready to serve, and just melts in your mouth. It’s light, fresh, and a huuuuuge crowd pleaser.

My problem happened when I realized I had no toothpicks to stick in the cake to keep the saran wrap off the whipped cream- I searched high and low and found none, even though I swear we had a whole jar in the cabinet. Since I was sure I had some somewhere, I decided not to go to the store because, well, that’s just silly! I knew I’d find them as soon as I get home from the store anyways, so I decided to use uncooked spaghetti instead. Genius! Who needs toothpicks when you have uncooked spaghetti? Perfect. Let’s do that.

In the morning, when I got up (late, I might add), I went to put my dessert in the car only to discover that the moisture in the cake had also done its work on the spaghetti. Every piece was totally limp and the saran wrap was resting nicely over every inch of my gorgeous cake.

Curtis got a kick out of my muttering while I started yanking out the spaghetti thinking I’d just have to re-frost the top of the cake before serving. But that was before the spaghetti broke apart in my hands, leaving pieces of noodle in the stupid cake. By this point, I was hyperventilating with frustration, and started cutting the cake into slices to try and neatly dig out each individual noodle left in it.

After ten minutes, I was pretty sure I had it spaghetti-free, but it was no longer my pretty masterpiece….nevertheless I brought it to the potluck, and decided to be grateful that it was an Italian themed potluck. That way, if anyone found spaghetti in their dessert they’d assume that it somehow found its way from another plate, not that the baker had spent twenty minutes playing ‘Operation’ that morning.
And…….everyone loved it! Thank goodness. It was not the relaxing potluck I thought it would be, as I was peering at everyone’s plate hoping to not see a noodle sticking out.
Success….?
Maybe, maybe not. But I bought some toothpicks and started blogging again, so maybe it wasn’t all bad :)
-K

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