Hibernating

This is usually the time of year that I start to get restless for spring. The short, cold days and extra long nights just get too much and I can’t wait to run, skip, and jump into a new season.

This year, though, is different. As my last few weeks of pregnancy approach, the instinct to turn inward and savor the winter quiet is getting stronger. My slow, sluggish body is perfectly content to spend the days with cups of tea, kitty cat snuggles, and an utter lack of productivity. This instinct is only helped by the fact that the trains aren’t running into London on the weekends this month so seeing friends or doing things in the city would be a huge effort.

For the first time in my life, I can identify with a bear hibernating through the winter. I have full confidence that spring will arrive in its own time. There’s no need to rush or worry. All that needs to be done now is rest and prepare for the season to come…

2015/01/img_2732.jpg

Light up the Palace

DSC05864

Hampton Court Palace (our local palace, if you will) is a beautiful structure built by Henry VIII. The palace is now open to the public year-round. Although we haven’t actually been on a proper tour of the house and grounds yet, I frequently check their website because they have some wonderful events. In the summertime, there are evening concerts, flower shows, and lawn parties. In the autumn and winter, they have events like ghost tours, carol singing, and an ice skating rink.

As you know, going on one of their ghost tours is on my BBAL so you may be reading about that in the next several weeks ;-). I also wanted to go carol singing before Christmas and Hampton Court Palace does a carol singing event. I tried to get tickets but it was sold out by the time I got to it so I decided on another festive event: Light up the Palace.

DSC05845Light up the Palace is a lights display around the palace’s gardens. You start by going through the garden’s maze in the dark which is a really cool experience. The maze was constructed around 1700 for William and Mary and is the oldest surviving hedge maze in the UK. To help you get around in the dark, they line the paths with lights that turn on as you progress. We wandered around for a while, bumping into the same family ahead of us a couple times, and eventually found our way out. Did we actually see the center of the maze? We’re not sure! We’ll have to go back again sometime in the daylight to really get a good look.

The next part of the tour was what they called the Wilderness Porthole, a lit trellised path to walk through.

DSC05847

This path led to the next section called Talking Trees. In this section, they had rainbow lights illuminating a semi-circular row of trees. At the start of the trees was a microphone. When you spoke into the microphone the lights would activate and shine brighter depending on your volume and length of sound. It almost looked like the trees were talking to you. This area was the prettiest and most magical section of the tour.

At the end of the Talking Trees we were led back toward the palace, past a fountain and reflection pool with illuminated lily pads.

DSC05856

The lights on the back of the palace were also interactive. There were foot pads set up on a stage in front of the palace, each corresponding to a different color. When someone stepped on a pad, that color would light up the palace. I gave it a go but it was a bit hard to control since I was surrounded by what felt like fifty kids jumping up and down on the various pads. This part was definitely a kid favorite!

DSC05862

Overall, Light up the Palace was a fun little treat to celebrate the festive season and a good substitute for carol singing. It also whet our appetites see more of the palace – really looking forward to that ghost tour!

Resolved: A Look Back at 2014 Resolutions

IMG_2718

For the past several weeks, our minds have been focused on the future; planning Christmas, thinking ahead to welcoming our little one into the world, preparing to leave work in February. We haven’t really had much time to look back on the good things we have been doing.

With Christmas behind us and the quiet slowness of the budding new year at our fingertips, it feels the perfect time to reflect on the last year. In early 2014, I blogged about my new year’s resolutions. Unlike my BBAL which is a very concrete list of things to do, most of my 2014 resolutions were intentions for how I wanted to live in the year. The only goal-oriented resolution was to get my UK driving license which I’m happy to say was done in March!

So how did I get on with the rest of my resolutions?

  • Celebrate my femininity – I started out this year hoping to have fun with all the perks that come from being a woman. I wanted to enjoy dressing up, looking nice, and spending time with girlfriends — not just schlepping around in the same old sweatpants and ponytail day after day. What I didn’t anticipate (and couldn’t have known at the time) is how deeply I would connect with my femininity this year through my pregnancy. Months of morning sickness didn’t help me with “looking nice” or “spending time with girlfriends” but the entire journey of pregnancy is so undeniably womanly. I can’t think of a better celebration of the female experience than bringing a new woman into the world. On that count, I’d say I achieved this resolution and then some!
  • Care for the people and things in my life – there are always more ways to show the people you love how much you care for them. I can’t say I succeeded in nurturing my relationships and possessions every single day but there were some really good moments in 2014. One of the major ways we extend our love is by opening our home to family and friends. In 2014, we hosted my sister from the US for several weeks, organized several gatherings for friends and neighbors at our house, and had Peter’s entire family around for Christmas. So much love in one little house this year! I also managed two trips to see family and friends in the US. One trip included hosting baby showers for two of my dearest friends, such a special experience and one I really value. I’d love to continue this trend of caring and nurturing into 2015.
  • Reconnect with my creative side – my creativity came through this year in three main ways: gardening, cooking, and entertaining. When I was given the opportunity to take over an allotment this summer, I jumped right in and immediately got my hands dirty. The act of gardening is a quiet creativity but the outcome can be anything but. The fruits of my labor quickly presented themselves and I was blessed with an abundance of squash. Out came the cooking creativity! I found recipes for zucchini bread, zucchini soup, zucchini casserole. You name it, I cooked it (with varying success). Also, I enjoyed the creativity that comes from hosting a gathering. From selecting invitations and decor to preparing the food to arranging the house, I love the creative expression party planning can bring.
  • Surrender to possibility – oh boy, I don’t think I could have done this resolution any more justice than I already have! Thinking back to a year ago, I could never have imagined that I would spend my spring obtaining my ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status in the UK, my summer gardening, and my autumn checking things off of a Before-Baby-Adventure-List. And ultimately, the biggest surrender is to bringing new life into this world. There are so many possibilities and unknowns when it comes to building a family and the only thing you can do is surrender to the journey life takes you on!

And on that note, it’s time to start this new year! We’ll be clearing away the last of Christmas today and starting the new year with a clean and fresh house. What will you be doing?

Merry & Bright

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Can’t believe it’s come and gone already. So quick!

For us, the past few days have been a fabulous whirlwind of family and festivities. It all kicked off on Christmas Eve as Peter’s brothers arrived with their families and just ended yesterday when we said goodbye to our last guests. During that time, we enjoyed up a big pot of chili for Christmas Eve dinner while playing cards, gathered eleven people strong for our Christmas meal and present opening, played with two babies under the age of one, went for a walk in the woods with the family, and got to know our Australian family members even better than before.

There were laughs, tears (from tired babies), and lots of post-food naps on the couch. I love that about big families! Everyone just piles in, pitches together, and has fun. So sad to see the family time come to an end yesterday but it is also really nice to look back on the time together and know that this is another great Christmas for the books.

We hardly had time to stop and document the days but here are a few snaps from our Christmas, including my finished Christmas pudding!

London All Dolled Up

One of the best things about England is how cheery everything is at Christmas. Almost every city, town, village, and hamlet gets into the season with Christmas lights along the main street. As you might imagine, London is exceptional when it comes to decorating the streets and imbuing them with a sense of coziness and festive cheer. Here are the lights on Shaftesbury Avenue near Covent Garden and the enormous Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square.

There are Christmas-y scenes across London but by far my favorite is Oxford Street and Regent Street. Every year, I try to make it out to see what they’ve done there. In the past, there have been Christmas lights strung above the streets in the shapes of stars and a 12 days of Christmas theme that extended all the way down Regent Street.

To get my fix this year, Peter and I headed out on the top floor of a double decker bus on Friday night. The bus dropped us off right at the intersection of Oxford Street and Regent Street so we got to see both!

Oxford Street has a snowball/snowflake look to it this year with hundreds of different sized globes of Christmas lights suspended over the street – so pretty!

On Regent Street, the lights are even more spectacular with garlands spanning the width of the street that extend all the way down to Piccadilly Circus. The only slight disappointment this year was that the ovals inside the lights were promoting a Ben Stiller movie. How annoying to have that instead of something more festive. Regardless, I still love the look!

DSC05834

DSC05837

DSC05840

Only 4 more sleeps until Christmas!!