Sunday, June 29, 2014

Trip To England Part Six: Stratford Upon Avon and Shakespear's Birthplace

One of our favorite day trips when we were home visiting my Mum and sister in England was to Stratford-Upon Avon. As a little girl we'd come here for day trips to feed the ducks in the river Avon.
There were country dancers and Morris men being merry.
Right alongside the old Christmas shop.
Cory at Shakespeare's birthplace.
As you meander the streets the variations of architecture is apparent.
My Mum treated us to a boat ride along the river Avon.
Where we saw Trinity Church where Shakespeare was buried.
We also saw these baby ducks along the river Avon.
A view of the canal boats along the river Avon.
William Shakespeare's statue.
After sightseeing we stopped for a delicious lunch. This is my sweet sister and my hubby, Cory.
Of course, he had to try a Guinness.
What a fun family day out.

Trip To England Part Seven: Jephson Gardens and Tea

One of the places we visited during our time in England was Jephson Gardens, in Royal Leamington Spa.
They say this flower is called pink powder puff.
My sister Gigi in Jephson Gardens.
The bridge in Jephson Gardens.
A couple going down the river, in Jephson Gardens.
After a stroll through the gardens we stopped for an afternoon tea and to tour the museum at the Pump Rooms.
On our drive through the countryside on our way home we stopped by the Old Milverton Church, where our Nana is laid to rest.
It was a nice family day out.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


I came across this article about caregiving and it's so true. It is tough, oftentimes thankless and done out of duty and love. I hope my family stays healthy as loosing four relatives in under four years was worrying, sleep depriving and my cortisol levels (and pounds) got higher. Through grace, gratitude and joy I'm now reflective, holding on to photos, memories (good and bad) and have so much to look forward to. If you know someone who is caregiving, give them a call, tell them they're appreciated and loved, or send them flowers and above all thank them, for caring so much.
Old love.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Finding Balance

I'm a natural doodler, list maker type with lot's of pieces of paper with every though that comes into my head, it would be funny if one day those thoughts float around as others try to piece it all together.  
A few days ago I drew up a chart with what I needed to focus on in my life. In no particular order:
Continuing our family ancestry. We have asked a lot of our family for photos, I've scanned in all my Nana's and Mum's albums and my husband's scanned all of his. We've been on ancestry since the beginning of the year and we both have family trees traced back to the 1700's. It's prompted many conversations with family, and I love the idea of raising our children with an annual Family History Evening so they can learn about their past ancestors.
My marriage is also important to me. I grew up with my Mum and sister since the age of eight, and spent summers since the age of fourteen visiting my dad with my sister. I came to live close by to my dad for college just before I turned nineteen. I think I turned out better than many children raised in two parent families. When I met my husband, I thought my family was nuts, but his family was just as nuts and there were just a lot more of them!
And when things don't always go to plan you can always say "I'm sorry".
My husband and I have been in our new home in the Carolina's for about four months now, and when we moved here we knew nobody. We're taking the time to cultivate new friendships in our neighborhood, at church and with people we work with. We're naturally introverted, so it takes time for us to open up. Another way to build with friendships is to invite them to participate in your traditions.
A lot of our traditions include travel. Sometimes we're questioned how we can afford to travel so much. Our first reason is we have no vices. Our second is that we live on percentages, and it's by no means perfect, but it's a balanced way for us to spend and save for our future. We divide it up into 40% household, 20% Roth IRA and savings, 10% Holidays and donations, 10% Vehicles, 10% Food and eating out and lastly 10% Guilt free spending money (5% each).
Savings also helps us to fix up our home. We bought a short sale, and although at one time it was loved on, it needed an update. We've been in the midst now for four months and I'm sure it will take at least another year. We looked at real estate to see if we'd want to move again in five to ten years, but our home is paid off and putting it towards a future garage guest suite with two additional bedrooms, a sunroom and a kitchen pop out will give us an extra thousand square feet and a reason to stay and raise our family here.
I also like to find balance to spend time working on what I love. I wish my life were a mixture of Susan Branch and Ina Garten. I look up to them for their homemaking wisdom. I also work as an interior designer preserving old properties and  on several personal projects like my project life binder, watercoloring and writing a memoir of sorts, maybe one day I'll be a mom, or have my own little shop, or teach more design classes or host tea parties for the elderly.
Last, but not least practicing happiness and health. With all my grandparents passed, and my dad passing away at only fifty-four I've realized life is short. I've come to terms with death, and even find peace in knowing that I will pass one day. If I'm blessed enough to live to a ripe old age, and to fulfill my wishes to have a large family, and to live by my motto...Live Gracefully. Laugh Joyfully. Love Gratefully, then I will be happy.
So, as I laugh along the way as I try find balance, I hope over time as we settle it will fall into place. Any if you are a master balancer, or always juggling, I'd love to hear what's important in you life.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Trip To England Part Five: Althorp The Childhood Home of Diana, Princess Of Wales

Diana, Princess of Wales was one of the worlds most famous icons. But growing up in England she was known as the Queen of people's hearts.
I remember the day Diana died as if I were still eleven years old. It was the end of our summer holidays, and my mum allowed my sister and I to sleep in sleeping bags in the living room, watch VHS tapes (ha ha) and eat some homemade treats. She knew full well, after a busy summer day we'd be asleep before the movie even ended.
I woke up early the next morning, at around 5am to watch my favorite cartoon at the time called Madeline, and was interrupted with the news. It said that Diana had died in a car accident. So I ran into my mums bedroom, and shook her a little, then I proclaimed;
"Mum...Princess Diana is dead"
She had never, in all my childhood woken up so fast, and she responded;
"She can't be, she's my age and has two young boys."
We all gathered in the living room, huddled around the television with cups of tea, in a state of shock!
Lady Diana
In many ways Diana was a part of our life. My mum, aunt and their friends were always talking about her fashion, growing up she was always on television opening a hospital, or seen enjoying a day with her sons and lastly after she passed away.
So, months before I had decided to come to England, my sweet sister booked us tickets to visit Althorp, Diana's childhood home in Northamptonshire. Luckily, we had chosen the most glorious of days for a tour.
So this home has been held by the prominent aristocratic Spencer family for over 500 years, and has been owned by Charles Spencer (Diana's brother), 9th Earl Spencer since 1992. It was also the home of his sister, Diana, before her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales. 


Behind me are the stables where we stopped for some tea and cake. It also housed a small exhibition which had some of the books of condolences. A tearful moment.


After a relaxing break, my Mum, sister, hubby and I meandered down a gravel pathway to the oval lake where Diana was laid to rest.

It was nice that there were benches to sit on and watch the ducks swimming around the lake. Such a simple setting for an extraordinary woman. Then we walked back up to the house and bought a few souvenirs.
It was a lovely family day out at Althorp.

Linked up to:
Imparting Grace #108
Share Your Cup Thursday #109

Friday, June 13, 2014

Trip To England Part Four: Stoneleigh Abbey

Toward the end of my time in England, my husband arrived. On the day he arrived we spent the day meandering around Stoneleigh Abbey, it's played host to several people of note, including King Charles I, Queen Victoria, and novelist Jane Austen.
The house is comprised of two halves; the first, is a fine example of a Jacobean country house. The second, was designed by famous architect Francis Smith of Warwick in the Baroque style.
My sweet sister and my Mum.
The lake where they would row in the summers.
Beautiful English country garden.
The field next to the cricket lawn.
The Orangery, where we had a pot of tea.
Intricately carved urns.
One of my favorite flowers, lupins.
Wildflowers everywhere.
We walked around the gardens until we reached...
...this gate. Behind is an orchard.
The gate house.
The oldest part of the Abbey was once a monastery and protestant nunnery (C of E) and dates back to 1154.
Next to the oldest part to the Abbey is the manor house where Jane Austen got her inspiration for Mansfield Park.
My family has been to Stoneleigh Abbey many times growing up, mostly in the spring as it's minutes from the village I grew up in. I was so blessed to grow up with so much history, stories of notable people and my mum taught us the art of gracefulness when walking around such splendor.  
"Respect for right conduct is felt by every body."
by Jane Austen
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