London Day Three: Piccadilly // Trafalgar Square // The Phantom of the Opera

After gallavanting all over the city for the first two days, we crashed in our room and swore to never walk again. Darren came up with the last minute idea to see The Phantom of the Opera the next day partly because it’s something we’ve always wanted to do but mostly because it involved sitting down ūüėÜ

I needed to find something to wear because I’m a ripped jeans and t-shirt kind of girl and that’s all I packed so we ran into H&M where I found the perfect dress. I’d been admiring all the beautiful, classy British clothes ever since we stepped off the plane so dressing up was half the fun.

When Darren and I met in college, he was working stage crew and the first photo I had of him (though I can’t find it now ūüė≠) he was dressed in a Shakespearean outfit with one of those ruffly lace up shirts and breeches…no wonder I fell in love with him ūüėÜ

The school has a great fine arts program and puts on operas and Shakespeare plays every year. Our first date and the first photo I have of us together is at one of these productions. So many of our memories from dating and falling in love wrap around our days in school and all the plays and programs we sat through together.

So last night felt extra special…like being on one of those early dates in college all over again. Though I must admit, we always loved the Shakespeare plays but ALWAYS fought through the operas. I am happy to report we made it through last night’s opera without an argument and that is a first ūüėĀ

If you’re ever in London and only have time or money for one thing, The Phantom of the Opera should be that thing. YOU GUYS. It was incredible. Pretty sure I sat on the edge of my seat with my mouth hanging open for the entire 2 1/2 hour production ūüėĄ

We’re only halfway through our trip but I’m having a hard time imagining how anything will top that night.

Before the opera, we had a few extra minutes and decided to walk around Trafalgar Square. Piccadilly and the square are lively with tons of people walking around exploring and enjoying the city vibes. The best part for me — sneaking a kiss and admiring all the beauty around me.

Sometimes, on vacation, you eat dessert for lunch ūüėä

If you’d like to see the previous posts in this London series click the links below:

London Day One: Kensington Gardens // Hyde Park // Buckingham Palace // The Strand

London Day Two: The British Museum // Westminster

London Day Two: The British Museum // Westminster

I always wanted to be an archaeologist growing up — I even looked into several programs when deciding what to do for college.

And I still love old stuff today — the feel of an old book in my hands, quality leather goods over cheaper alternatives, the vintage typewriter I keep beside the laptop reminding me to keep my writing rooted in something deeper than today’s trends and fashions.

So when we were talking about where to go for our anniversary, London topped my list for one big reason — The British Museum.

For the last four years I’ve worked my way through the Old Testament using an Archaeology Study Bible that gives insight into the culture and history surrounding the Biblical narrative.

One day after getting lost in the story of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire, I noticed something — All the artifacts mentioned are housed in The British Museum — and I knew I had to see them with my own eyes.

Also we took approximately 37,000 selfies and upon review I learned two things: I don’t smile enough and Darren has no idea where to look at my camera; we’ll work on both ūüėČ

4,000 year old door from Egypt making all my Indiana Jones dreams come true ‚̧

The Rosetta Stone

What I was most excited to see — the Babylonian exhibit and the Ishtar gate…I kinda geeked out a little bit ūüėĀ

WESTMINSTER //

After the museum, we decided to walk around Westminster for a bit. Unfortunately Big Ben and Parliament were under construction and I wasn’t able to get many pics but it was still a fun area to walk around.

London is enchanting and there’s certainly lots more to come ‚̧

If you’d like to read the previous post in this series check out the link below:

London Day One: Kensington Gardens // Hyde Park // Buckingham Palace // The Strand

Qu√©bec City: A Photo Journal

We slipped away to Quebec City to celebrate our anniversary. I think of Canada and Canadians as cousins and neighbors, so I was surprised with how completely French Quebec is. Everything felt very foreign and we, very lost. But what’s the fun of travel and adventures if you don’t feel a little lost and foreign every now and then?

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We’re learning that however long a road trip should take, it will most certainly take longer with a toddler. Sometimes you have to pull the car over and let wild things be wild. After a good long run through the grass and a proper sward fight with sticks, our wild one was ready to complete his first trip in another country.

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We arrived in the evening and spent an hour getting the room set up for Roman to sleep in a new place without burning anything down ;] I sat in the living room watching Darren on the baby monitor lying on the floor on a mattress with Roman tucked into him falling asleep. It had been a long day driving 10 hours from home. I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, having spent our anniversary with a rowdy toddler in the backseat screaming off and on the entire trip.

And then I watched my husband being the amazing father that he is; watched him snuggle our son close¬†in¬†his arms until he felt safe¬†enough to fall asleep in a new place. And I realized¬†that¬†this is what¬†marriage and parenting are all about—about road trips made longer and louder by little ones but more magical¬†and memorable¬†because of¬†them too. About learning to love each other and find ways to celebrate and seek adventure even when it might be easier to¬†just stay home. I lucked out on the boys in my life, no doubt about it.

I’m usually well prepared for our trips but Quebec surprised me at every turn.¬†¬†It was cold, much colder than I ever imagined a place could be in July. I wore my one long-sleeved shirt every day and drank hot coffee as much for the comfort of drinking it as having the hot cup to warm my hands.

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Our first day in the city, we pushed Roman in his stroller, not realizing that Quebec is basically all uphill and every shop entrance has steps up into it…we got a good workout and Roman got a sweet ride :] The next day we smartened up and hauled Roman around in a backpack carrier instead—still a workout but a little more manageable on hilly cobblestone streets :]

The giant toy moose, or “foof”, travels with us everywhere :]

I love walking cities and feeling the culture of the people living and playing out before me in the sound of foreign language and the smell of food and coffee and cigarette smoke a little different from our own. Quebec was full of inspiration in the architecture and the way small, simple spaces were made even more beautiful by plants, flower boxes, and bright pops of color.

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We walked around eating crepes and getting lost on streets that seemed to wind endlessly one into the other.

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donutAnd of course no trip to Canada is complete without about 37 trips to Tim Hortons :] We ended each day back at the apartment with a pastry and a hot cup of coffee—which is quite hard to order when you don’t speak French; we were surprised every day with what kind of coffee we ended up with but it was always good :] It was a fun trip and a sweet little getaway with my two favorite boys ‚̧

Look Up

We just celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary, Darren and I. We sat trying to decide how to celebrate. All either of us wanted was to get away for a few days—away from work, and house remodeling, and life’s routine. We talked about Quebec City or Acadia or Niagara Falls. And we talked about fresh air, and crisp river water, and camp fires beneath the stars. And that’s when we decided camping would¬†be the very best celebration this year. So we packed, and¬†goodness, I’m amazed how much stuff it takes for us Americans to¬†sleep on the¬†ground properly. This was Roman’s first time camping in a tent and it takes as much stuff for one baby as it does for 8 adults¬†I think. You should have seen our car, loaded down with tent, and pack n play, and bike rack, and a million other things to help nature out with our high maintenance ways. And then¬†we were off, up to Vermont,¬†to the woods and river and biking trails—up away from work and routine and all that wears us down these days. The sky was playing games and just starting to spit rain when we arrived. We moved fast, taunting nature back, and got our tent up just before the heavy rain came. We stay huddled together in our tent that evening watching Roman run from one¬†end of the small space to¬†the other. We made sandwiches for dinner and went to bed as soon as it was dark,¬†listening to the sound of the rain beating against our¬†little shelter¬†all night long like a song. setup DSC_0468 We woke to a cool, foggy morning. We and everything else felt damp but how good it¬†was to wake up with the sun and our baby boy snuggled between us on the floor.¬†A crackling campfire was built and soon red potatoes and kale were cooking for breakfast. DSC_0330 I like the pace of nature and our pace in nature when we work with instead of against the morning light, and dew, and cool air wrapping around us before the heat of the day comes and pushes us back inside. So we took our time that morning, tasting our breakfast not just eating it. We took sauntering walks and breezy bike rides and looked at each other, not past to the next item of business.¬†DSC_0763bikecarrierDSC_0815 DSC_0817 We filled our hearts, and lungs, and minds with all the good thing of nature and quiet time together. We held hands and held our son and snuggled close together around campfires at night. DSC_0436 One night, our last night, I walked back to our tent alone in the dark. I thought about the¬†sweet days we¬†had enjoyed and was sad to see¬†them ending.¬†I¬†tried to soak up everything around me¬†one last time–the smell of the woods, sound of the river, feel of the night air¬†wrapping around me—and the stars, I thought—don’t forget to look up at the stars one last time for they look nothing like this back home with all the other lights hiding them. So I looked up¬†at the night sky and all the millions and billions of tiny light freckles¬†poking through from heaven to earth. How enchanting the night sky is and how mysterious. When I got back to the tent, Darren¬†traded watching Roman with me and started to walk the dark path himself. I told him, “Don’t forget to look up” —and off he went with¬†eyes to the sky. I watched him walk away and heard those words echo back to me in my head— “Don’t forget to look up.” momandrome DSC_0417 Don’t forget to look up. I have thought about that phrase many times over the last two weeks since camping. I’ve thought about it when the waves of life have washed our feet out from under us and¬†brought us humbly to our knees. I’ve thought about those words when I’ve grown overwhelmed or discouraged and can’t find my way. Don’t forget to look up—not just to the stars, but to the God who made the stars. Look up to the God whose light shines through to us, not just in a million freckled bits of light but in our hearts and lives every day. Look up to the God who is present and in control and loves us even when we think perhaps he has forgotten. Don’t forget to look up—first, always,¬†to the God who is there in every bit of light in the world, for he and he alone is¬†The Light of the world. Look up.

The Perfect Date

Here we are, about to make the leap from two to three—from you and me to mom and dad. We’re soaking up the time we have left together before life is forever changed. Last night I asked you what your idea of a perfect date would be—you talked about the ocean and the water, about the beach and boats—and if you could really truly do anything…a few days away in the Caribbean. You asked me the same—what the perfect date would be. I talked about camping under the stars, sitting by the fire at night, biking, hiking, and tubing—that would be the perfect date for me.

We can’t go far from home right now—not with this baby ready to come whenever he pleases. So there will be no Caribbean vacations or nights in a tent under the stars—not right now at least.

But today we found a way to spend time together—outside, on the water…combining what bits and pieces we could of our ideal date ideas. We rented a canoe and took off together down the river—soaking up the sun and the breeze and the stillness of the water—and more than anything, the time together away from everything else.

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Water Panorama

Baby Belly Crop

Food Collage

Ice cream and lemonade from the corner store. Burgers and fries from our favorite burger stand. And homemade strawberry¬†limeades when we were sunburnt and ready to call it a day—I would call it a perfect day, a perfect date, and a perfect day with you.

Kiss Monkey B&WIn a few days we celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary—just two days before our baby is due. Thank you darling, for the best six years of my life. It won’t always be just me and you but you—you will always be my favorite.

Us Monkey B&W

 

Equinox

Look at me writing a post two days in a row…who knew I had it in me ;]

It’s spring today everybody! Not that the weather agrees here in New England but I’ll take the end of winter either way. I decided to celebrate by wearing a springy little sundress…and am compensating for¬†the cold¬†with a cardigan, long socks, and riding boots so I don’t freeze to death. I can at least pretend spring is here even if freezing in a sundress is a poor way to do it.

I wore this dress in Italy when we explored Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and Pompeii by foot and train. That was a magical day in a magical country and this bright little dress always reminds me of those sweet, warm memories.

Today, on the first day of spring, I’m dreaming of the Italian sun, of lemon groves and street vendors selling bright flowers, and of taking a long walk in the sunshine…either here or there, anywhere so long as I’m warm :]

catKatniss is helping me celebrate…all snuggled up in my lap while I write this post.

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Walking the streets of Pompeii in my little sundress

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Flowers for sale on the streets in France

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A sunshiny day on the Adriactic

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Birds sunbathing in Croatia

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Poppies growing up out of the rocks in France; I think they love they sun as much as I do.

Happy spring, everyone :]

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Look a Little Harder

We just spent a week in the Tennessee mountains. Darren was turning 30 and as he has been saying such things to me as “the buttresses of his soul are collapsing” and “his youth is now a distant memory”….I thought maybe he could use a week away in the woods to soothe his sorrow as he faces this new decade of life ;] It worked too.

We spent most of the time tucked away in our cabin but we ventured out for a couple hours each day and wandered through the different shops in town. Then on our last day we decided to drive up into the woods and see what was hiding beyond the edge of town; it was worth the trip.

Just a few minutes out of town and we started noticing the distinct frost line running around the mountain tops and leaving everything capped in white.

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We drove up and up the mountain trying to get a better look.

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And soon the frosted trees looked more like fluffy billows of whipped-cream clouds than anything tethered to the brown winter earth.

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And we learned that sometimes you need to look a little harder to find the places where magic is hidden and winter is sleeping quietly on the snow-kissed mountain tops.

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{18 weeks pregnant and feeling a bit like a mountain myself}

Winter Hues

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I don’t pull my camera out very often in the winter. I forget to look for the beauty and the magic when the world is cold and gray— when it seems like everything is dead or asleep until a warmer, better day.

But sometimes I remember to look. Sometimes the light pouring in the kitchen window catches my eye and the sun falling sleepily below the horizon beckons me to come outside and see.

Sometimes dead things frosted and glittering with snow and ice are as lovely as a winter flower, blooming and blossoming from the grave.

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Katniss comes outside with me and tip toes through the snow while we hunt for pretty things.

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And sometimes, when we are patient with the cold, we find a whole living world of green and gold growing in our own back yard.

‚ÄúI wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’‚Ä̬†¬† -Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

NYC in the Fall

DSC_0918When I was growing up in Missouri I always¬†insisted I would move New York City when I left home.¬†Then I married Darren and¬†moved to¬†Massachusetts instead. We had been married for about six months¬†when I finally¬†saw NY for the first time by convincing¬†Darren¬†that we absolutely must go stand in¬†Time Square on New Year’s¬†to¬†watch the ball drop at midnight.

We cooked up a plan to get out of work and took off to see this place I’d been dreaming of.¬†I remember walking around with my head tilted back the whole time trying to take in all the buildings towering over me. It was snowing and we walked all over the place that cold December day trying to see as much of the city as we could.

DSC_0809{The New York skyline, September 2013}

We saw the place where the Twin Towers had been; at that time it was still just a big hole in the ground and the worst feeling washed over me when I saw it. I have been to NYC several times since then and now a memorial fountain sits where the hole once was. A new tower is being built and I have pictures of it at several different stages of construction throughout the years. The fountain and building are beautiful but I still get the same awful feeling every time I walk by.

294430_10150322514431517_283246994_n{The new Tower, September 2011}

DSC_0826{The new Tower today, still under construction, September 2013}

We spent a good part of that first day going through a Jewish Holocaust museum; I don’t know why but we were drawn to it and we stayed there until the building closed and we had to leave. When we walked outside the sun was setting over the Hudson and my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty was lit by a backdrop of pink and orange. It was a strange contradiction, walking out of a museum that reminded us of how wretched humans can be to each other and immediately seeing the Statue of Liberty standing there reminding us of the freedom and hope we have in this country.¬†And then the¬†hole where the Towers¬†stood reminding us that even though we are free, we are not invincible.

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After all that, we made our way to Time’s Square to bring in the New Year. It was bitterly cold that night…the coldest I’ve ever been actually. And truth be told, we gave up and went back to our hotel room before midnight and watched the ball drop on TV just like any other year. Still though, I will never forget that first trip to NYC.

305715_10150322514561517_265150384_n{Time’s Square September 2011}

My brother and his family were here for the last two weeks visiting. We took them all over New England and of course to NYC. My 5 year old nephew talked endlessly about riding the boat {the ferry to the Statue of Liberty} and the underground train {the subway}. Every day he wanted to know if today was the day when we were going to NYC and after everything we did over those two weeks, he still says NY was his favorite.

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Here he is on the train…he kept his face¬†pressed to the¬†glass throughout the entire ride even though we were¬†going through dark tunnels and couldn’t see a thing :]

DSC_0752I think my very southern brother was the only one on the train wearing cowboy boots ;]

DSC_0805Here’s Gabe¬†holding onto uncle Darren on the ferry ride to the statue.

DSC_0766And here I am…getting blinded by the sun :]

DSC_0655I love seeing the world through a child’s eyes. Kids are so excited about everything and they notice and delight in things grownups push past and overlook.

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DSC_0838We watched street entertainers and got lunch¬†from an outdoor¬†vendor…which by the way, served the best lamb gyro ever.

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We¬†rested our feet in¬†Central Park before taking off to see Time’s Square all lit up in the dark.

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NYC is its own wild place. It’s nothing like the rest of America and feels like a strange little cultural bubble that represents so many different aspects of American culture as a whole. I love it and I hate it and there’s no other way around it.

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” You’ve Got Mail

Then & Now

Sometimes it feels like everything has changed. Sometimes you look back and realize nothing has changed at all.

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This year {above}

Last year {below}

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This year {above}

Last year {below}

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We chase the sun across the waves.

We taste the salt water kisses on our lips.

Summer won’t get away from us, not today.