Tuesday, April 2, 2013

England Top 10

Since I've been home, people have been asking me about my trip: How was it? What was the best?

I seem unable to answer the first question with anything but superlatives: amazing, wonderful, spectacular, life-changing.

The other thing I am unable to do is answer the second question the same way twice. Every day it seems, I remember something different as the best. There are so many great stories from this trip, so I might be blogging a few of them, but I thought I'd start with a top 10 list. I'm working on some projects that will get my fun photos on display in places I can enjoy them every day. One such project requires that I pick my favorite 18 images. Every time I try to narrow it down, I can't do it! So I thought I'd make an attempt at a top 10 list from my trip.

1. Wicked. Truly spectacular! I don't go to the theater often, and other than London or New York, I'm not sure it would make my travel wish list. I. Loved. Every. Minute. Note. Costume. Character. I LOVED The Wizard of Oz film when I was a kid, watching it over and over and over, so to see Wicked was something I will remember for a long, long time. And I will never, ever see the original again without seeing it completely differently. Oh, Elphaba! If only I had known. Loved, loved, loved it.

2. The London Eye. The Eye hadn't been built when I was in London before, so it was a must on my list. Never  have 30 minutes gone so quickly! The day I went up, I had already seen snow twice, so I felt especially lucky to go up during an interval in the day with plenty of sun. I loved seeing the London skyline from above, and I was completely fascinated by watching the wheel in action and seeing how it worked.

3. Evensong at Westminster Abbey. This was pure loveliness, and I loved it so much I went twice. (I also went to Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral, but I enjoyed it more at Westminster Abbey.) In a building as majestic as this, it is hard to not think of God's greatness; I think this was the point of such giant churches. I loved the beautiful choir, the reading of Psalms, and time to sit in this beautiful place, hearing God's beautiful words and reflecting on my life.

4. Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers at The National Gallery. When The National Gallery went on the list of things I must do, I confess: it was because of Claude Monet's Waterlilies. When I was in London before, the famous Monet was off display for cleaning or on loan or something - I forget! But it was the Sunflowers that captivated me more. Not that I overlooked Canaletto, Renoir, Pissarro or Degas, the temporary exhibit of Frederic Edwin Church, and dozens more amazing paintings.

5. The Underground. I'm pretty sure it was living in London before when I fell in love with public transportation, and I've been enamored of it every since. It's a crazy thing for a girl to love, but that colorful map is so cool, and this idea that you can just hop on and hop off and get anywhere you need to go without a car. On this trip, I also traveled by train and bus quite often, and enjoyed them all, along with the all-important advice to "Mind the Gap!"

6. Windsor Castle. What's not to love about wandering around a real castle, especially one where the Queen herself lives sometimes? As a added bonus, I got my picture taken with a royal guard.

7. The Tower of London. So much history like "this is where Anne Boleyn was beheaded!" and interesting fun facts, like learning the reason a pound is called a pound. The Crown Jewels were spectacular. I went to the Tower before when I was in London, and I confess, it was the Crown Jewels that lured me back! But as we walked around the Tower of London, we just kept saying "this is SO cool!" The icing on the cake was that although it was rainy when we got there (of COURSE it was!), the sun came out later, and we enjoyed brilliant views of Tower Bridge.

8. The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour. I know, I know. Go to England with all it's culture and history, and visit the Harry Potter tour? Absolutely! As a fan of the series, it was so  much fun to see how the stories were brought to life in the movies through sets, costumes, art, design, and more. Like so many of my favorite things about this trip, it was a chance to see beautiful things. I spent hours soaking up the details. On the other hand, I spent mere minutes enjoying my Butterbeer as it was literally freezing outside!

9. The Three Horseshoes. One Sunday, the biggest adventure of the day was a walk to the local pub, a favorite of my friends, for dinner and a pint. I'm 1000% positive that beer tastes better after a long walk on a brisk day, because I have not enjoyed a beer that much in a long, long time. I also enjoyed the very tasty fish and chips, the lovely walk home along the local canal, and the fact that the pub has been around since 1535.

10. Days of Rest. I knew when I planned this trip that most of all, it was rest I most needed. Yes, I wanted to revisit London for the first time after living there. Yes, I wanted to see amazing sights, and have new experiences. Yes, I wanted to take a bazillion pictures. But mostly, I wanted a VACATION. I wanted to do all those other things, and not come home needing a vacation from my vacation. There was plenty of down time on this trip. I read a book. I printed pictures of my vacation before I got home. I watched movies. I wrote in a journal about my trip. I enjoyed time with friends. It was soooooo good.

Speaking of friends, I can't say enough good things about  my hosts Nathaniel & Dean. I met Nathaniel almost two years ago when I started a new job, and started working with him. He moved to England exactly 3 days after we met, but we work together a lot and over time have become really good friends. Not only did he invite me over to England to visit, but he and Dean took such good care of me while I was there, making me feel welcome well before I arrived, and at home the minute I arrived. Friends, thank you - again and again and again - for your hospitality, because that made everything on this list possible. I'm so glad we're friends, and your kindness and hospitality will never be forgotten.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Joy Dare Week 12

Ah, home sweet home. As much as I did NOT want to leave London, I reluctantly boarded a plane for home last Wednesday. Re-entry to normal life has not been terrible. I have one last London photo to share from my last day in the city. Like my first day in the city, it rained. A lot. On my list had been to revisit a couple locations to snap photos, including Piccadilly Circus. If one can only get a picture in the rain, may as well make the most of it!

233. Piccadilly Circus (technically from last week)

247. My beloved California Poppies. Love these, and it thrilled my heart to find that they were blooming when I arrived home.

242. When jet lag means you wake up at 3:00 am... you can get a LOT done before going in to the office. I fell asleep before 8 pm more than once after arriving home, but on the upside, I woke up in the middle of the night with plenty of energy to do the unpacking and laundry.

It's Tuesday night now, and I'm mostly back on California time, although I've still been waking up around 5:00 am. I look forward to sleeping late again one of these mornings!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Thankful Thursday London Edition: Joy Dare Week 12

It's my last day in London, and since I think the next few days are going to be a little nutty while I change time zones and readjust to "normal life".... here is the last London edition of Thankful Thursday.

222. Twice I went to Evensong at Westminster Abbey. This prayer is engraved on the outside of the building near  the Great West Door (the main entrance):

May God grant to the living: grace;
to the departed: rest;
to the church & the world: peace and concord;
and to us sinners: eternal life.

229. Going to see Wicked was an indulgence for me, but oh, how I LOVED it! Many times on this trip I had the opportunity to take in art of various forms, including this. I think what I did not expect was how deep the storyline was and how much it made me think. The Wizard of Oz was one of my favorite childhood movies, so it was pure delight to see Wicked - I will never think of Elphaba in the same way again.

226. Other than Big Ben, is anything more a London icon than Tower Bridge? And on this day, the sun came out, the sky was blue and there were perfect white clouds in the sky; truly a picture-perfect moment!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thankful Thursday London Edition: Joy Dare Week 11

It's been an amazing week of vacation in London. Without further ado, a week of thanksgivings in pictures, and one quote from a book after that.

202. On a day "in", I gave my other blog a "makeover" which was long overdue, and created the fun title with the scissors as the "a".

203. Windsor Castle. What's not to love about visiting a castle? :)

207. A lovely Sunday afternoon walk to a local pub, The Three Horseshoes, which has been around since 1535.

217. A ride to the top of the London skyline in the London Eye

215. And this, a prayer of St. Teresa of Avila:
Let nothing upset you,
Let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins all it seeks.
Whoever has God lacks nothing.
God alone is enough.
For this, and for every gift from above this week: Thanks be to God. Amen.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thankful Thursday London Edition: Joy Dare Week 10

Wow, so here I am typing this blog post from London England, where I arrived yesterday for two weeks of vacation. To be honest, it's a little surreal! Yesterday, I had made no plans since I expected to be pretty tired. With only about 2 hours of sleep on the flight, that turned out to be a good decision.

I brought this month's pages from my gift-counting journal with me for my trip, and I expect the next few weeks will involve numerous photos. While I brought the March pages with me, I forgot to note the number of the last gift I counted in February, so I have no idea what number I'm on. Ooops! I'll have to update this later, but for now, here are this week's gifts I wanted to share.

Update: Now with numbers!

182. Celebrating the birthday of a wonderful sister-in-law with a fabulous night out.

190. Safe trip to the airport and easy check in.

192. An in-flight personal entertainment system! I watched 3 movies on the flight.

194. First views of England from the plane as we descended through the cloud layer approaching Heathrow airport.

Also, this wasn't officially on my list, but if you've ever seen the movie Love Actually, there is a scene at the end of the movie where lots of travelers are arriving at Heathrow airport. Can I just tell you it felt awesome to walk through the doors and have a friend waiting to welcome me with a giant smile?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Joy Dare Week 9

I'd confessed a couple weeks ago that I was falling behind on counting. As I write this, it's already a few days after the scheduled date for the post. I think I'm still a little behind, but I'm not going to look at the numbers. I'm just going to "Keep Calm and Count On" (graphic from the free Complete Joy Collection printable at the A Holy Experience blog):

Gifts for this week:

153-160. At my job at church, we had our staff party this week, so I counted each staff person as a gift this week. I work with a GREAT group of people!

162. A beautiful truth in Sunday's sermon.

170. A new computer mouse at work. (Yep, counting the little things. Isn't it cute???)

174. I didn't run out of gas in the car today. Despite not paying attention to the gas gauge until it was already well beyond "light going on" low....!

Lastly, a pic from a couple weeks ago, I finally just saved this from the memory card on my old phone.

119. Playing "Ticket to Ride" with my cousins from Alberta.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Joy Dare Week 8

Another week with lots of photos. I'm having a little fun with this photo thing, can you tell?

135. Finding this fortune-cookie fortune in my wallet. About a week after the date on it, I bought a ticket to go to London in March, in part because the friend I'd shared Chinese food with helped talk me into it.

138. February blossoms. (It's California, spring comes early!)

139. from writer Jennifer Dukes Lee:

"You. Matter. You are God's Masterpiece.
You were created anew in Christ Jesus,
so you can do the good things
he planned for you, long ago."

147. from the WhiteStone Publishing Facebook page, a song and melody I have often enjoyed:
'Tis the gift to be simple,'tis the gift to be free,'tis the gift to come downwhere we ought to be,and when we find ourselves in the place just right,'twill be in the valley of love and delight.When true simplicity is gainedto bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,to turn, turn, will be our delighttill by turning, turning we come round right.~ EIGHTEENTH CENTURY SHAKER HYMN

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Joy Dare Week 7

Unlike the 1st week of February, this week has a lot of pictures! (I guess I was making up for lost time?!??)

119. Playing Ticket to Ride with cousins from far, far, away. (I have a pic for this, and I hope I can still extract it from an old phone.)

127. Pretty, sparkly things - a belated Christmas gift from a far-away friend!

127. A sweet and unexpected Valentine's Surprise that arrived in the mail.

As I write this post, it's February 16 and I've counted 138 gifts, so I'm still 3 behind schedule. Here's to counting some extra gifts this week!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Joy Dare Week 6

I'm behind on my blogging, but still counting away! Here's some notes of thanks from the first week of February:

100. Reaching a count of 100 gifts, and appreciating the gift of a milestone reached.

103. Life Groups starting up again at church.

104. A date with my sweet nephew Charlie, and hearing his adorable voice from the backseat: "Thank  you, Auntie Rebo."

Oh, how my heart melts at that!

No pics this week, that definitely fell through the cracks. I've also been missing a few days now and then; I've lost some momentum. I'm trying to keep up with the count, catching up with extra gifts some days, but need to remind myself that this is important and not turn out the light by the bed before I write in my gifts journal.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Joy Dare Week 5

This week has been much better. I've been busier, experiencing a dramatically productive week at work (unheard of!) and well, what can I say? God is good.

This week:

79. Worship without work (I work part-time at a church, and it's not a foregone conclusion that I can worship on Sundays without having my day of rest interrupted with work.)

80. and 87. Time to create and be creative (different days/different ways.)

88. Affirmation from a coworker of something done well.

This week's "photo" is a little digi-paper-scraps image I threw together, it's a representation of a friend's house. I helped my friend move this week, and I stopped by her house the night before the big move. We reminisced together about the memories in that house, and for me, I remember the first time I hung out at her house, near the beginning of our friendship. This friendship has been a great blessing in my life these last two years, and I am so very, very grateful.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Joy Dare Week 4

This week has not been so awesome. I knew those days, those moments, would come, but I'm not enjoying the icky feelings that have been sticking with me much of this week, and these are certainly moments where I DON'T FEEL LIKE GIVING THANKS, thank you very much. Yet I trudge on, 3 little things every day. One thing, one day, I simply wrote after "it", the thing that was not awesome that day, "can I be thankful for this?" I'm not sure I succeeded at gratitude. But I wrote it down. I tried. Maybe in a day or 100 days I will learn what to be thankful for because of it. One hopes.

Sunday's sermon was about prayer and my pastor relayed an idea from C.S. Lewis (as he tends to do, being as he is a big fan of Lewis) that prayer is about relationships, and when the relationship between us and God is not 100%, we should engage in practicing the discipline of prayer anyway. Lewis said (something like) a practice of prayer is the cast around what is broken that helps us along until what is broken is healed and healthy and strong.

Day 20something and I'm not keen on thinking of 3 things. But I'm going to do it anyway. There are still good things and this practice, as crazy-hard as it is some days, is healing. Because I do this, I am reminded of other, good, wonderful, beautiful things - and for that I am thankful.

Things on my gifts list this week:

54. A gift from God's word:

"My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever"
- Ps 73:26

57. helping one friend pack up for a move (which, thankfully, is a local move, or I would have a much harder time being thankful...)

59. hours spent with a friend, relaxing and chatting over some coffee. Mmmmm.

And a photo. My jobs give me reason to be creative in problem-solving, organization, etc., but not to be artistically creative. In my free time, I try to make time to create pretty things.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Joy Dare Week 3

Things I'm thankful for this week:

28. "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." - C.S. Lewis (emphasis mine) 

36. Warm blankets and fluffy pillows.

42. Hope still. 

Two photos this week... I got flowers not once, but twice. In one week! The hydrangea arrangement was the centerpiece from the women's retreat at church last weekend. I was the lucky one at our table whose birthday was closest to the date of the event, so I got to take home the flowers. Then, Tuesday, someone brought me flowers as a thank you gift, so that's makes twice in a week - wow! I love flowers, so I am enjoying these gifts.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Joy Dare Week 2

Things I'm thankful for this week:

10. A day at Disneyland :)

16. Shared with me on Facebook by a dear cousin/friend/sister: "Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease." - Lamentations  3:21-22

25. A zero minute commute (I started working from home 1 day per week, something I'd been trying to get approved for at least 6 months.)

A photo for the week, related to #10, but actually #12 all on it's own

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Joy Dare Week 1

It's a new year, and I find myself taking on a new challenge. Last year, I started reading the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Since I work part-time for a Christian book publisher/online retailer, it was impossible not to be aware of this book; it landed on the bestseller list month after month. I was intrigued by the idea of counting 1000 gifts, 1000 things to be thankful for in a year.

Over the holidays I had some extra days off, some time to think, and I decided to jump in and try this DO THIS for 2013. ("Do or do not. There is no try." - Yoda (right?!?)) 1000 is a lot. It's a really big number, the kind that makes me want to say, "No way I can do that...." On the other hand, noting 3 things every day sounds very manageable. I can definitely do that. (Don't tell, but I feel like even if I miss a day, thinking of 6 things once in a while to "catch up" is reasonable. Not that I'm planning to make a habit of that.)

And then I remembered that once I thought I'd post every week for Thankful Thursday. Right before I neglected my blog for months on end. Last year's decision to blog more also fell apart. New year, new resolution, new blog schedule. Yes, a schedule. I'm optimistic that by committing not to the vague "I will blog more" but to the specific, "I will blog on Thursdays", I might be able to stick to it.

The plan is that each week, I'll post on Thursday and share some of the things I've been thankful for in the week. I will be mostly focusing on writing these down, but I hope to photograph some of them. The photographs in this post is are actually from #13 on day 5, but I wanted to share the mini-journal book I put together for my year-long project right here at the beginning. Without further ado....

Things I'm thankful for:

1. watching the Rose Parade with the smell of the Christmas tree still in the air

4. lunch with a friend (a 2.5 hour lunch, but who's counting?)

8. hugs from my nephew Charlie

Photos for the week: