A Royal Visit…In My Back Yard!

I’m back, friends! I couldn’t tell you what day or time it is yet, but I couldn’t wait to tell you about something special happening in “my” backyard back in Oxford. See this building? It is on St. Hugh’s campus in Oxford and just so happens to back up to the houses we lived in while there.

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I took this shot from my bedroom window just a few days ago. First, awesome name for a building, right? Second, and more important, Prince William and his bride will be there later today to declare it officially open. That’s right, Wills and Kate will be in my back yard. Like, literally. Never mind that I flew back Friday and am missing the whole thing, they will be there! I’m thrilled for my friends Bill and Laura and all of the students that will get to see it all unfold.

So, if you happen to tune in to BBC World tonight, watch for my old hood and all the excitement there! Good times!

Late breaking news….apparently Kate will not be attending due to morning sickness. Bummer. Especially for poor Kate…she’s had a rough go of it in that department. Best of health to the princess!

 

Across The Pond: 5 Tips for Traveling Light in Style

Last May I had the pleasure of taking a group of my students to Paris and while we all arrived safely, some of our bags did not. In fact, my bag wasn’t delivered to the hotel until 10:30 the night before we headed home. Guess what? I had an absolute ball. Yes, I did purchase a few essentials, but I basically spent 9 days recycling the outfit I wore on the plane, a pair of pants and a jacket I bought there, and the t-shirt the baggage claim folks gave me (along with the teeniest little toothbrush/paste I’ve ever seen). And I had an absolute ball. I’m not sure if you got that, but even though I didn’t have all the stuff I’d planned on wearing, I had the most fantastic time watching my kids explore Paris for the first time. Bliss.

This week I have the pleasure of returning “home” to Oxford, England for about a week. Dr. Kyle’s job took us there in ‘o3 and ‘o5, and now I get to go visit my dear friend Laura for her second stay there with her family. I can’t wait to hug some necks, have some tea, and revisit some special places.

I’ve already learned that it is entirely possible (and quite likely) that I can have a great time without all my stuff, but there’s no need to tempt fate. This time I’ll be carrying on what I need. Ten days worth, in fact. And yes, it can be done. I promise. There are just a few things I like to keep in mind as I pack.

1. Unless you’re going to a third world nation, you’re not going to a third world nation. My point is, resist the urge to over-pack toiletries. If you forget your toothpaste, it’s very likely you’ll be able to purchase some there. It may not be what you’re used to, but that’s part of the adventure, right? Exception: make sure ALL necessary medications go in your carry-on. Period.

2. Lay out your stuff in a pile, then put half of it back. I’ve always found it helpful to start a “pile” a week or so before I leave. As I walk past it, I put stuff in and take stuff out as I discern what clothing I’ll need. You’ll want to take far more than you need. Put half of it back in your closet. Trust me.

3. Pack to dress in layers. As you decide what you’ll want to wear, especially if you’re going to a cooler clime, consider dressing in layers. This will allow you to add and subtract as the weather dictates, Another bonus? You’ll only need to change the layer closest to your body, like camis, t-shirts, and the like. That’s the only layer that will actually get dirty, so you can recycle the outer layers and not need to take as much stuff. Smart, huh? Have some old t-shirts and undies that have seen better days? Pack ‘em! They’ll be under other layers, so no one will see them, and you get to chuck them as you pack to come home, leaving room in your suitcase for things you may pick up along the way. Genius.

4. Prioritize good footwear. If your feet ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Oh, and tuck in a good, comfy pair of slippers. Your dogs will be barking by the end of the day, so treat ‘em right.

5. No one really cares what you’re wearing. I mean, you  do, but truthfully, few people will be looking closely at what you’re wearing. Of course you’ll want to feel pulled together and dressed appropriately for the weather and your surroundings (FYI: many churches/mosques have a “dress code” of sorts, so pack accordingly), but recycling outfits isn’t just practical, It’s downright European. In fact, most Europeans have a fraction of the clothing that we do in the states. Note: don’t let tip #5 be a bummer, let it free you of the shackles of overpacking and having to lug all that extra stuff around with you.

Here’s a little peek at what I’ll be taking with me. Of course I’ll take a few toiletries and unmentionables, but this will give you an idea of what I’ll be layering and mixing/matching while I’m there.

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Rain JacketGray WrapCashmere TopperRust Sweater (similar)Denim Shirtdress Striped BretonDotted ShirtCardigan

Pixie PantsBlack TunicInfinity ScarfWellies • Patent FlatsCamiTote

Questions about packing? Tips or tricks you’d like to share? Comment away, dear readers. And if you’re headed somewhere fun in the near future, bon voyage!

Son of Melon Balls. Part Deux.

Remember that time I told you about how I was about to lose my mind and that it was time for school to start again? No, not that time. The time that involved melon balls? Well, it’s almost one year later. Like, to the day. After a lovely evening out with Dr. Kyle and some friends check out what I came home to last night.

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That’s right. Melon balls. And a half-eaten, totally melted bowl of ice cream. And all this on the tails of my last post on how to try to bring some semblance of order to your home. With a happy heart. Yeah, whatevs.

I must admit that I am the teeny-weeniest bit proud of two things: one, that I had actual fruit in the house, and two, those dishes (waaay in the back) on the counter are actually clean. Other than that, I’ve got nothin. Nada. Zilch. Stick a for in me and those melon balls. Dickson out. *drops mic and runs to the nearest quiet corner of the house but first has to shove a pile of crap out of the way before curling up into a (melon) ball and counting to ten* *or maybe one hundred*

5 Tips for More Efficient Crapshifting

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It’s inevitable. It’s part of life. Crapshifting. No, not scrubbing and cleaning, crapshifting. You know, when you have to dig through all of the shrapnel of life to find your floor. Or couch. Or your dog. We all have to do it. Even if you are fortunate enough to have someone come clean for you, you have to tidy up first, right? The clean before the clean. And though it isn’t my favorite thing to do, I sure do love the result. Orderly nirvana, no?

With the recent onset of Cranky Joint Syndrome, I’ve learned that I am wise to budget my energy just as we all budget our time and money. You may not have CJS, but why not crapshift as efficiently as possible, leaving more of you for other fun stuff? Here are 5 tips for getting in and out and on to other things.

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1. Gather your supplies. You’ll need a few things before you dive in, but first, crank up your favorite tunes. Fun fact: my brother and I, as youngsters, discovered that cleaning your room while singing The William Tell Overture decreases crapshifting time by up to 50%. It’s fact, people. Try it. If that doesn’t float your boat, how about a little Gloria Gaynor (because you will survive) or a little Yo Yo Ma (for the more cultured amongst us)? Once you’ve got your jam going, gather your supples: one large basket, a smaller basket or tote, a trash bag (I like paper grocery sacks) and, especially if you are cleaning out a kid’s room, another sack for collecting donate items or your husband’s dry cleaning.

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2. Start big. Start by fluffing, making, or clearing the biggest thing in the room. Living room? That’s your sofa. Bedroom? Make that bed. Dining room? Unearth the surface of your table. Restoring order to the largest thing in the room, even if the rest of it looks like a bomb site, will give you a glimpse of what the rest of the room will look like before long, and will keep you going.

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3. Work clockwise. Start at a point of your choice, and work clockwise around the perimeter of the room. Resist the urge to skip around the room from place to place. Moreover, resist the urge to leave the room. This is huge, people. The efficiency of this method centers around NOT leaving the room, thereby focusing your energies until the task is done. What about all the junk that needs to go elsewhere? That’s where your supplies come in. And a little strategy.

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4. Use your basket. Anything that doesn’t belong in this room goes in your basket. Things that need to be shifted to another part of the room go to the center and remain there until you’ve reached that part of the room (resist the urge to flit around the room, people!). The smaller tote is for any paperwork you find along the way. Trash any of the trash you may find. Keep working clockwise until you’re back where you started.

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Now and only now is it kosher to leave the room. Dispose of the trash and call your sweet people to come claim their junk from the basket. Still have stuff left over? Leave it in the basket because chances are a good deal of it belongs in the next room you’re going to crapshift. See? Efficiency, people!

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5. Sit and sort. That’s right, it’s time to put your feet up and enjoy your favorite beverage. As you sit and sip, sort through your paperwork with a trash bag nearby. And if your pile includes a back issue of Real Simple, so be it. You’ve earned it!

One last note before you go forth and conquer: as much as I hope this method helps you to be more efficient, mostly I hope it helps you do so with a happy heart. This isn’t my favorite task, but it’s a necessary one. There’s no reason for me to grouse my way through it, as I am want to do. So crank up that music, dig in, and smile knowing that your space will be spic and span in no time. Happy shifting, friends!

Winner, Winner, BLT Dinner!

Thanks to everyone who got my dinner-making creative juices flowing and for your kind words about Eternal Threads. It is an incredible concept as well as a hard-working team that has a heart for helping women in the name of Jesus. I hope you were able to find a few things on their web-site that might brighten your day, or better yet, someone else’s.

Speaking of shopping, did you know that you can host your very own Eternal Threads shopping extravaganza right in your own home? Yes, you can! For more info on hosting a Gathering Sale, click here. Need even better news? Eternal Threads wants to help all you mamas out there with your birthday party planning! Introducing Birthday in a Box! It includes everything you need to throw a colorful, fun bash. You also get to teach your littles a little about geography and a lot about how other folks live in other parts of the world. They are still working on putting together some fun photos of the Birthday in a Box in action, so stay tuned! In the mean time, here’s a little sneak peek I snapped at their warehouse the other day. Super cute, no?

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And now, our winner. I whipped out my handy-dandy random number generator (who knew that was even a thing???)…

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 7.50.00 PM …and #2, you are our winner! Congratulations, Sheila! Your BLT dinner extraordinaire had my mouth watering! We’ll be in touch to get your particulars and get that gorgeous tote in the mail post haste!

I can’t wait to represent Eternal Threads this week at Declare ’14, and if you are attending, too, please come by for a smile and a squeeze-I’d love to meet you!