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A To-Do list of sorts

As 2014 begins, many people are making resolutions.  I’ve never been really big on New Year’s Resolutions, partly because I’m too lazy to come up with them as well as actually complete them.  Why set myself up for failure, right?  Well, this year I decided to set some goals, create a to-do list, I suppose.  Who knows, maybe I’m just putting a different name on the old resolution trend.  So here goes nothing:

  • Make croissants…from scratch.  Bonus points for also making pain au chocolat

 

  • Remember each immediate family member’s birthdays and acknowledge them (before their birthday).  This includes my siblings, parents, in-laws, nieces and nephew.  I have let myself get away from sending gifts, let alone cards or making phone calls, and it bothers me to no end.  So, I’m making a list, putting it on every calendar I can grab and making it a priority

 

  • Find joy in something every day.  This is partly inspired by a movie we saw last year called About Time.  Part of the message from the movie is live each day seeing or making the best of every moment.  I often let myself get bogged down in the minutiae of life like traffic, the piles of laundry waiting to be washed, or the fact that I need to stop for gas and figure out what’s for dinner.  I want to focus on admiring the sunrise on the way to work or the smell of a candle burning.

 

  • Explore more of the good ol’ USA.  After traveling the world, and Europe in particular, we want to see more of this beautiful country of ours.  We have some things in the works and others are mere ideas at this time.

 

  • Spend more time cultivating important relationships.  I know it may be cliche, but I have some fantastic friends and family.  Recently, I have let some of them fall by the wayside and it makes me sad.  So I want to work on strengthening those again.

 

  • Plant something.  I’ve been toying with the idea of creating a garden at the house, but it overwhelms me.  This year I’m going to bite the bullet, create (or buy a prefab) raised bed and plant something – perhaps peppers and tomatoes to start?  I might not actually get to harvest anything, but I’m going to give it my best shot!

 

  • Put pictures on the walls.  I only have one wall in the entire house where I’ve actually hung photos.  After we move back in, I want to put pictures, art or something on a wall in every room.  Particularly, I have big plans for the office and have gradually been collecting decor.  I’m pretty excited to execute my vision.

 

  • Make my own butter

 

Whelp, there it is – my 2014 To-Do List!  Here’s hoping I can accomplish it all and then some.

MIA

You know what happens when you combine working non-stop and the holidays?  The blog gets completely neglected.  Since starting working just about a month ago, I feel like its been go, go, go.  And then go some more.  I’m used to working three to four 12-hour shifts a week, now I’m working four to five 8-10 hour shifts.  It makes for less free days but more time to see C each night.  A little give and take, its what life is all about, no?

Aside from work we’ve been going here, there, and everywhere spending time with friends and family celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, graduations and birthdays.  It has been fantastic!  Tonight we’re jetting off for a few days to spend time with my family in the land of sun.  The forecast is for 70s and sunny the entire time we are there and we have some fun stuff planned.  It will be the first time my entire family (parents, siblings & spouses, nieces/nephews) have been all together in a really long time and I can’t wait!

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas and have time to see the ones you love!

Grateful Living

Now is that time of year where everyone is posting their lists of things they give thanks about.  Well, just a couple weeks ago while in Park City, Em and I had a conversation surrounding my issue with being grateful.  See, its not that I’m not grateful for everything I have, because I am.  Sometimes, however, I get into my own head and bemoan the things I could have or could do.  I know its ridiculous because there are tons of posts on this blog alone about all the great things we’ve been doing in the last six months.  However, I see posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram from people’s adventures and travels and the green-eyed monster of jealousy rears its ugly head.    I think to myself I could be doing that, we should still be traveling around Europe, we should still be living in our quaint village in England, too bad we’re stuck in this apartment while someone else is enjoying our house.  So I start feeling sorry for myself despite all the great things in my life.

I have decided to start working on being more grateful and desire less.  Much easier said than done.  So, whenever I start to think of what I don’t have, I remind myself immediately of all the wonderful things in my life like:

– An amazing husband who not only supports me in everything I do, but joins me for crazy adventures (and makes sure we can afford our life)

– Our parents (and families) who raised us to reach for the stars, and allow us the room to do so

– Friends near and far that keep in touch no matter how difficult it may be

– Our first child, Lacey; she may chew my shoes, wake us up in the middle of the night and beg endlessly, but nothing beats walking in the door and seeing that fur ball

– A career that I truly love which allows me to heal the sick while making a respectable living and giving me time to travel

– The amazing and rare opportunity to live abroad

 

These are just a few of the things I’m grateful for.  I hope during the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas you take some time to reflect on your blessings.

Staying out of Trouble

Now that I have even more time off before starting work, I figured I need to find ways to keep my wallet in my purse and myself out of trouble.  You see, those two things are very closely related, just ask that wonderful husband of mine.  Anyhow, last week I decided to pop into a craft store to buy a few items.  Well, $50 later I walked out with supplies to make cookies, cupcakes, a mason jar craft and some other things.  Not a cheap trip, but I figured the time spent getting crafty at home would keep me away from Target, the mall, Whole Foods, internet shopping…you get the idea.

I’ve never been a very crafty person, despite my desire to be.  I can’t cut, sew or draw a straight line to save my life.  And I’m one of those people that if I can’t do something well, I don’t want to do it at all.  Perhaps, I should start working on that?  Well, I decided to do relatively simple crafts and with the help of Google, Pintrest and the other wonders of the web, I made a couple pretty successful creations just in time for a TCU tailgate.

Mason jars on their way to becoming football utensil holders

Mason jars on their way to becoming football utensil holders

Instead of trying to draw or cut straight lines, I used a template

Instead of trying to draw or cut straight lines, I used a template

Lacey wanted to get in on the crafting...until she realized there were no toys or food on the table

Lacey wanted to get in on the crafting…until she realized there were no toys or food on the table

Had to bust out the tape measurer to make sure the spacing was correct

Had to bust out the tape measurer to make sure the spacing was correct

Final TCU bunting!

Final TCU bunting!

Here's the bunting in action on Saturday

Here’s the bunting in action on Saturday

One of the mason jars in action (of course this was the uglier of the two)

One of the mason jars in action (of course this was the uglier of the two)

On top of getting crafty for the game, I got busy in the kitchen last week as well.  I busted my beloved Le Creuset french oven out of storage and geared up for some kitchen therapy.  Over the week I whipped up a Butternut Squash, Broccolini and Fontina Crostada, two homemade pizzas (chicken, fontina, pancetta, onions and spinach make a killer pizza in case you were wondering), Chicken and Orzo Soup, gluten free brownies, a purple French potato salad and finished off the weekend with spaghetti bolognese.  It was a great week in the kitchen, but man-o-man, it made me miss my kitchen and all my fun gadgets.

The crostata - excellent buttery crust, delicious sweet and savory fillings...mmm I want to make it again and again!

The crostata – excellent buttery crust, delicious sweet and savory fillings…mmm I want to make it again and again!

My sous chef on pizza night

My sous chef on pizza night

The beautiful purple potatoes that went into my purple potato salad

The beautiful purple potatoes that went into my purple potato salad

Football brownies for the tailgate

Football brownies for the tailgate

Now in an attempt to enjoy my time off, I’m reading through books I had been putting off when life got busy and stressful.  Next week I’m heading home to CA and a few days after I return I’m going to UT to spend quality time with a great friend.  The UT trip has been planned since before we left England (well the idea of it at least).  The idea of the CA trip was floating around since we found out my work start date was getting pushed back, but flights were just too expensive.  Well, the folks at a major US carrier must have known my dilemma because the one weekend I didn’t have anything going on they slashed prices making it impossible to resist the trip home.  Maybe this extended work hiatus isn’t sooo bad after all? [As long as I don’t look too closely at the dwindling savings account 😉 ]

Two sides to every coin

Well, I have some good news and I have some bad news…

It feels like that has been the story of our return to the good ol’ US of A.  We made it home safely and all our bags made it with us.  That first night back we had dinner with family and did a little catching up until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.  Our first few days were spent just trying to adjust to a very different time zone and train our bodies not to wake up at 4am every day.  My wonky sleep schedule didn’t help my mood.

Our first weekend back happened to be TCU’s homecoming as well.  We tailgated with our usual crew and it felt great to be back with them (good news), despite the heat and ridiculous humidity (bad news).  Plus TCU won the game, so that was a plus!  We then got to spend some time with more family.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been trying to get things set up for work, figure out a living situation and catch up with friends and family.  The spending time with friends and family has been the only non-stressful part.  It’s been wonderful seeing everyone, catching up and starting right where we left off.

For work, we are both lucky enough to be going back to our previous companies.  C hoped to start the first full week we were back, but the paperwork couldn’t go through in time so he had to wait a week.  Last week I interviewed for my position and accepted it on Monday.  Its great to officially have a job (good news), but I won’t get to start for almost 4 weeks (bad news).  In the meantime I’m getting a little stir crazy and our savings account is on a downhill slide.

On the living situation front, we’ve been blessed with accommodating and understanding parents who let us stay in their guest bedroom and use their kitchen, food, internet, etc.  Our house has been rented out since we left for England (good news) but they’ve extended their stay until the end of January (bad news).  We know we can’t stay with family that long so we found a furnished apartment in a pretty good location and will be moving in soon.  It’s quite a bit of a downsize (its a 700 sq ft 1-bedroom apartment) but it will be our own space.  I’m just excited to finally unpack our all our suitcases and get some things out of storage.

This week has been especially stressful.  It’s been one step forward, two steps back in a lot of ways.  However, we’re pushing through.  I’ve been keeping busy with arts and crafts projects, some kitchen therapy and watching terrible TV (can’t help it, but I love Revenge!).  C’s been getting settled at work and going out to catch up with work friends.  I’ve also been planning a trip to Utah!  Em and I are going to Park City in a few weeks to celebrate her birthday and spend quality time together.  Just thinking about our trip is one of the only things keeping me sane right now.

Everyone knows I wasn’t terribly excited about our return, so I know that attitude has a huge impact on my own happiness and stress levels.  However, I’m trying to keep my spirits up, surround myself with things and people who make me happy and tell myself that its all good.  After all, it will be, right?

Goodbyes are never easy

*I wrote this post while on the plane from London back to Texas.  I’ve been meaning to post it but had to get that long Barcelona post out of the way first.  So here ya go*

After a few days of packing and stressing out, D-day (departure day) was rapidly approaching. Sunday evening C & I had dinner with one of the physicians I worked with. It was a good time chatting and enjoying each other’s company. Monday was spent getting more things packed up and running a million errands. I dropped by the base for the last time, finished up a few final things and dropped off my badges. That evening we had dinner with several of my coworkers. It was a great night of talking, laughing and swapping stories. It was such fun and made me regret that we hadn’t really spent much time with these people outside of work. After all, for the most part when I wasn’t working, we were traveling. The presented me with a fantastic gift – an engraved and signed cricket bat. It will definitely hold a special place in our home. I found myself getting a little choked up as I hugged them all goodbye, promising to keep in touch while hoping I was being honest. I have been blessed to work with some wonderful people – kind, smart, talented and hard working are just few descriptions that come to mind. I can honestly say I would be honored and blessed to work with another group like them any day.

The bat in question

My new cricket bat

Just a few team members I was blessed to work with

Just a few team members I was blessed to work with

That night I had a hard time sleeping despite the fact that we had to be up early to take Lacey to the airport for her trip home. After a short and restless night of sleep, we woke before the sun. After throwing on some semi-respectable clothes and sneaking the travel crate into the car we loaded the pup into the car for the drive to Heathrow. Despite the early hour (we left the house at 5:15), we hit traffic due to construction and overall congestion. I was worried we wouldn’t make the scheduled drop off time of 7:45 am, but pulled up the cargo area just on time. A man met us in the parking lot, we assembled her crate, placed her in and he wheeled her away as whined loudly. We jumped back in the car before we could hear anymore (and make ourselves upset).

The rest of the day was spent running final errands like making sure there was enough money in our UK account for the last rent payment, dropping off recycling, getting food for dinner and then finally, dropping the rental car off. I’m pretty sure the folks at the car rental agency were happy to see us go – after all we’d been through 5 cars in our 5 months due to various issues.

I was exhausted at 6:30 that evening and had to struggle to stay awake until 8:30. Once everything was fully packed (with the exception of a few small things needed for the morning) we fell into bed exhausted. I woke up early thinking I had slept through the alarm, but of course, it was way before the time for my alarm. I’m not sure that I ever fully fell back asleep, but was exhausted when my alarm finally sounded. We got ready for the long day ahead, assembled our mass of bags downstairs and waited for our ride to the airport.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunrise

My supervisor kindly drove us (and our 4 large suitcases plus 2 carry-ons a piece!) the 2+ hours to Heathrow. Before we knew it, we were at the departures area, he dropped us, helped unload the bags and we said farewell. While dropping the bags off at check-in we silently prayed the scale at home matched their scales. Thankfully each bag came in between 22.4 and 23.1kg – the max allowed being 23 kg. We made our way through security, ate a small breakfast then went to the boarding area. I was feeling a mixture of sadness and excitement about going back home. It wasn’t until we were sitting on the plane a few hours into the trip that my emotions got the best of me. I was listening to music on my phone and a song came on from a movie we saw this summer. Suddenly the tears welled up and I couldn’t hold back.

Mixed emotions at Heathrow to say the least

Mixed emotions at Heathrow to say the least

I know it sounds silly to be so upset that I’m crying on an airplane, but its how I felt. I know just how lucky and blessed we were to have this opportunity in the first place, but it just seems too soon for it to end. I really truly believed that I would get extended and we would spend another year living over there. The fact that it didn’t happen as I imagined makes me really sad. It makes it harder that the people I worked with wanted me to stay as well, but I guess it just wasn’t in the cards. A few people said to me that everything happens for a reason, and perhaps its true, but its hard not knowing that reason right now.

We’ve talked about whether we would go back if given the opportunity and we haven’t really truly decided. It was a huge financial burden for us, causing us to dip into our savings. We were lucky in that we had a large cushion built up so we still have a decent amount saved despite taking a pretty good hit. But I don’t know if we could afford to do it a second time, especially knowing the costs to move (and then move back). My supervisor has promised to keep an eye out for positions not only in England, but also in Germany & Italy. However, with the current US government financial situation, who knows what will be out there, if anything.

In the meantime, its back to life in the states. Back to our family and friends who we’ve missed terribly. Back to life as semi-responsible adults. Back to Tex-Mex. But I’ll still have tea time every now and then and fondly remember our time abroad.

Back to Tex Mex

Sadly, my contract has come to an end and thus, we are heading back home.  Yep, its true.  The contract is up and, despite my supervisor’s best efforts, the powers-that-be didn’t allow me to stay on.  That means no job in the UK and moving back to the US.  We have suspected this would happen for the last several weeks and have known about it for the last few days.  However, I was waiting until the last minute to tell everyone.  Well, today we finally booked Lacey’s flight as well as our flight, so I guess we can call it official.  We’ll be back in Texas next week.  I can honestly say its bittersweet.  It sucks that we’re leaving, I won’t sugar coat that.  But it will be great to see family and friends that we haven’t seen, or even talked to, in months.  It’s been a great ride, and I can honestly say we’ve made the most of it.  I don’t regret a single decision we’ve made and I wouldn’t change a thing (well anything that was under our control at least).  We still have a lot to arrange & figure out, but in the meantime we’re enjoying one last adventure: this time in Barcelona.  Adios mis amigos!

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Happy Thursday!

We returned from our trip to Scotland late last night.  We had a great time and I’ll fill you in on it in another post, but we’ve got tons to do today!  However, I couldn’t wait to share this photo with you.

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Have a wonderful day!

 

It’s All Relative

So in the UK we’re experiencing a “heatwave.”  I put that in quotations because this is the weather warning issued by Met Office (who issues severe weather warnings here) posted on the BBC website:

UK Warnings

Weather Warning

Sunday 14th 2013

There is a LEVEL 3 heatwave warning in force for southwest England for the remainder of Saturday and until 2000 on Sunday.

Temperatures in this area are likely to be in excess of 30 degrees Celsius by day and no lower than 15 degrees Celsius by night.

If you want more information about hot weather and your health please visit www.nhs.uk. If you are concerned about your health or somebody you care for, please contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647, www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk or your local pharmacist.

Valid from 1500 on Saturday 13th – 2000 on Sunday 14th July.

 

Yes, you read that correctly, apparently around here temperatures above 30° Celsius (86° F) constitute a warning.  I made a joke to a Brit I work with that 30° C is likely the average low temperature for Texas in July & August (its not, but not that far off).  We’ve been taking full advantage of the gorgeous weather and have been outside quite often this weekend.  I’m just hoping the beautiful weather is in Scotland later this week for our trip!

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Divine intervention

Yesterday I posted about our trip to the beach.  One of the coolest parts of our trip was the hotel.  It was a great hotel and super dog friendly.  They even had a dog bed laid out, with a towel for her and treats on top.  The tea & coffee facilities included real milk in a thermos and a jar of marshmallows for hot chocolate.  But the best part of all was our room decor.  There were African wood carvings of male & female faces adorning the walls, beautiful pictures and cute furnishings with a huge window.  It sounds crazy, I know, but bear with me.

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The carvings in the hotel. The two I have at home are very similar to the bottom.

Last week, C and I were talking about the financial burden of our relocation.  We talked about how we were lucky to have a good amount saved up at our age and that made it possible and the no work for a month a little less stressful.  A significant chunk of our savings came from an inheritance I received after my grandmother passed away several years ago.  We spoke about how my grandmother would definitely approve of us using that money to explore the world and live abroad, after all my grandparents lived in Saudi Arabia for a while and travelled the world for years.  Long story, short:  My grandparents had wooden carvings from Africa that are very similar to those in the hotel room.  And to make it even more strange?  I got those wooden pieces when my grandfather moved out of his house after my grandmother’s death.  They are currently packed up with our things in storage.

When I saw those wooden pieces hanging on the wall of the hotel room, it felt like some sort of reassurance that my grandma approved.  It gave me an overwhelming sense of peace and helped settle some of the nagging doubts I’ve had since we moved.  In that moment, staring at the carvings, I knew everything would be okay, no matter what happens come September.