Sunday, May 15, 2016

"Everything man sees...

...he takes for a toy."

This book was recommended to me a few weeks ago by a fellow fiction-loving friend. Coincidentally, I had already purchased The Miniaturist from a local charity shop, and so I resolved to read it as soon as I had the chance. 

The novel is about Petronella; a young and newly married girl living in 17th century Amsterdam and learning about the dark complexities of life. The story is unique and immediately engaging, exactly as I was promised.

As ever, the opportunities that I have for quiet reading and reflection are few and far between, but each time I manage to find a moment, The Miniaturist greets me like an old friend - familiar and exciting all at once, as if I'd never set it down.

Also this week.

Birthdays. I am 28. My students were shocked to learn this. Thanking my family for the genes that allow me to produce such astonishment.

Moving on. Beginnings, endings, and the underlying panic of suddenly finding oneself in the midst of a long-awaited transition.

Spring. Flowers. Alternating brilliant sunshine and rainy chill. The persistent itch of hay fever.

Looking forward to all that is on the horizon.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Springtime and an abundance of tulips.

Springtime and an abundance of tulips. 

Kitchen pitchers overflowing with the richest of colors, stolen from garden slopes or allotment rows. Each stage of their bloom is as compelling as the last, each wilting phase as inspiring. 

In every moment lies a vivid beauty.

Hold fast to the ones you Love.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Superproductive Saturday.

Last weekend, in an attempt to break the exhausted and monotonous cycle that has characterized my free time as of late, I determined to have a Superproductive Saturday. Just one, non-work day that involved more than what has been my recent routine of sleep-wake-coffee-Netflix-sleep. I don't know about you, but I tend to find that the busier I am, the more I accomplish and the better I feel at the end of the day.

The day got off to a good start with a run, as evidenced by my tired-looking face and workout wear. I won't bore you by listing all of my proud accomplishments (hint, one of them involved a whole lotta laundry), but I will say that the day was a rousing success. 

I will also share the recipe for the cookies that I baked, which are fun and delicious and absolutely made my whole week.

Smitten Kitchen's Ugly-But-Good Cookies

Ingredients at the ready! Chocolate, sugar and toasted hazelnuts. 

The words "Mint Julep" were accidentally transferred onto the countertop by a cocktail label after a recent 20s themed birthday party at our house. We haven't made any huge efforts to scrub it off.

Ugly-but-good looking mixture.


Mmmmm. Mixey.

Another accomplishment. I also made an entire Snapchat story about baking these cookies.[I'm mandagr2 if you're a fan of the Snap] Maybe not that big of a deal except that this was only the second time that I have ever posted anything on Snapchat and the first time that I have posted multiple videos. 

Tangent. I have a love/hate relationship with Snapchat. I finally downloaded it a little over a year ago because I wanted in on the funny videos that my siblings were posting of each other. For a while I looked at it every day, then every few days, then barely at all, until I finally deleted it because I resented the space that it was taking up on my phone. I re-downloaded it recently, after a few hilarious face swapping experiences and I decided that there could be no better day to get the most out of my activity and to try something new than my Superproductive Saturday. The experience was definitely satisfying. I'm still not sure how I feel about Snapchat. I might just delete it again soon.

Crispy, chewy, chocolate-hazelnut meringue goodness.

Perfect with a cup of coffee.

Wish-of-the-week: May you find the motivation that increases your productivity, allows you to feel accomplished, and brings you back to the activities that make you feel alive :)


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

ABS - always be skiing.

That is not photo editing, that is whiteout fog, which we spent our last two days in.

Everyone has those yearly, winter traditions - things that we do with our loved ones, that create lasting memories and give us something to look forward to every year.

For me these traditions include, but are not limited to: snow fort building; carol singing; ice skating; baking copious amounts of cookies; chatting over cucumber slices, pasta with home-made sauce, and braunschweiger balls; watching (and quoting along to) the film, The Wedding Singer and every year, EVERY YEAR refusing to join my family at the local ski hill.

I say "hill" because we have a distinct lack of altitude in Michigan. Despite this fact, people are so enticed by the ski season thrill that they will fling themselves off of any bump and, ignoring everything they learned in geography, call it a "mountain". 

Every year, I was invited to go skiing and every year I turned it down. At first, I think, I was a little nervous (the people who I would have learned with have a pretty rough-and-tumble, no pain, no gain kind of attitude towards life, which, frankly, I avoided at all costs), but as time went on I sincerely just stopped caring. 

I would go ice skating and sledding and put myself in all manner of precarious positions involving a moderate risk of bodily harm, but for whatever reason skiing never held any interest for me. As I got older, I became busier with other activities and the fact that skiing doesn't come cheap became yet another reason to just not even bother. 

In all of my 27 years of life, I have never been motivated to break with this winterly tradition....until this year. 

I don't know whether it happened because the offer of a ski holiday was extended during our honeymoon travels, when we were free and roving and wanderlust drunk, or simply because the notion of a whole week spent in fabulous company, surrounded by the-hills-are-alive-worthy scenery was just too much to pass up. 

I really don't know what happened, but somehow, someway, someone convinced me that I needed to go on a ski holiday.

And I luuuuurved it! 


It probably helped that I took to the actual skiing bit pretty readily. A few of us chipped in for a personal instructor, which really eased the learning curve. We were doing red runs by the end of our third day, which I could never have even visualized on our first.

I fell down a whole lot too, but weirdly, while I originally thought I would feel embarrassed about it, in the end I didn't mind. It was such a normal and happy feeling to be stacking it in the snow, something that I haven't really had the chance to do since my university days - it reminded me of my childhood. 

Immediately before falling most of the way down a red run. Loving life!

I'm not sure what my favorite part was - learning a new skill, eating Currywurst, or the ridiculous souvenir I took away from a disagreement with t-lift.

Looks not unlike an upside-down pickaxe attached to a stretchy rope.

Look, how easy!
Even a child can do it!


(that's Wills and Kate, by the way)


What actually happened was not that I fell over while riding the t-lift, but that I attempted to retrieve my dropped poles and was hit by a flinging bar as my friend exited the lift. 

Oddly, no one seems to have actually seen what happened, although I can 100% assure you that it did hit me. I have proof. Thank goodness for my sunglasses and helmet (always wear a helmet, people), which took the brunt of the hit and left me with an intact, albeit amusingly bruised cheek bone, which I took great pleasure in documenting for the rest of the trip.

Day 1
Day 2

Day 3
Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Basically a bruise model.

Honestly, it didn't hurt that badly and after a couple of days I sort of forgot that I even had it, and would only remember when people would do a double take or stare just a little too long. I am getting a little bored of it now, though, because it's going through the yellowish phase, leaving me with a look that is a little less badass and a little more sickly. 

My real luck lies in the fact that we have another week until school starts up again, which means plenty of time to chill and get stuff done, but also plenty of time for this thing to heal up a bit more before I have to present myself as a respectable adult in front of a bunch of merciless, image-obsessed teenagers...

Fingers crossed, people. Fingers crossed.

Love and a request for ultra healing vibes.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A dresser development.

After six-and-a-half years of living in the United Kingdom I am beyond thrilled to announce that I am the proud, new owner of....

my own chest of drawers!!!

Muwahahahaha! So. Much. Spaaaaace!

A bit much, you say? Ok. Fine. Maybe, but seriously after so many years of living out of suitcases this feels like a real victory. 

I mean, I was married before I had enough space for all of my stuff. How backward is that progression of events?!

Now I have so much room that I hardly know what to do with it all. In fact, the drawers are almost a bit too empty - even with all of my clothing neatly folded inside - which is something that I suspect would immediately call for a shopping spree for some, but for an organizational freak like me is practically a dream come true.

No, I am pleased with the exaggerated roominess, but now all I can think about is next steps - like all of that beautiful wall space directly above, which is just begging for a little TLC and a big ol' redesign.


To be continued!


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Two weekends and the stuff in between.

Afternoon tea and a good, old fashioned gossip sesh - what better way to end the week? 

Luckily, there is a four day weekend ahead of us, which I think we are all in desperate need of. My poor year 11s have GCSE prep coming out of their ears at this point and while I know it is mainly their own faults for letting themselves get so behind, I can't help but feel sorry for the little things who, in the last few weeks of their school careers, are most likely facing a successive set of gloomy weekends spent indoors and sat in front of their revision books.

Two weeks and counting since my last post. I've been finding it difficult to muster up enough energy to do my laundry in the evenings, so writing down something even semi-interesting or insightful has been pretty much out of the question. 

I am still thinking about it though - every day. Sometimes I imagine an entire post while I am on the way to work or eating lunch. I'll plan it all out, complete with research or photo ideas, but when it comes time to actually execute the plan I suddenly find myself on Netflix, my latest guilty pleasure in full swing on the screen.

Part of the reason for this, I know, is that we have actually been really busy over the last couple of weeks. Two weekends ago, we went camping and trekking with some year 10s for the first part of their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award. On Saturday we sat with them during training sessions, where they learned about planning and navigating an expedition. On Sunday we hiked ten miles with them through the Bedfordshire countryside - they with their rucksacks and compasses, we with our morale boosting chat. 

The Monday after was pretty hellish. We were all exhausted from the trip and it felt (as I enjoyed telling anyone who would listen) as if we'd been on a bender all weekend. On the bright side though, most of the students sucked it up and came into school anyway, the hike day weather was perfect and I got to break out all of the campfire songs that I know for an entirely new audience. 

So a win, for me at least.

Last weekend was slightly less outdoorsy, though still quite action packed. We had a few visitors stay with us, including some family from Northern Ireland, which meant that the house was chaotic, with people rushing in and out or congregating in our kitchen. Sunday night the whole clan met for fish and chips, followed by a massive ping pong tournament and game night that lasted until way-too-late-o-clock. 

In addition to that, we had dinner plans on the Saturday, football, Zumba, tutoring (all the normal happenings), plus a DIY project involving some IKEA furniture that wasn't even going in our bedroom, but the assembly of which meant that I would be able to finally stop living out of suitcases for the first time in about six years. 

All of this just meant that by Tuesday night I was exhausted all over again and had finally submitted to the cold that has been running rampant round the year 11s for a while now. I have been finding it especially amusing (when amongst small groups of them) to very loudly and obnoxiously wonder why they are all getting sick at the same time... Also, to remark aloud that I am now also sick, but am still in school, doing my job, working through the pain, etc etc.

Some of them giggle at this: 

Oh Miss! Heeheehee. 

Some of them give me dirty looks. 

Either way they rise to it and I can't decide which reaction pleases me more.


Thursday, March 10, 2016