4.15.2014

Travel essentials

 The countdown to sunshine is on and the only things that stand in my way are a few days of work and the dreaded task of packing. I should be a pro by now but I still don't enjoy this process, although I think we can all agree that it's much better than unpacking? The sun dress, sandals and sunnies are ready to make their debut for the first time this year finally  - hallelujah!
 
So today it's all about the packing essentials carry on style. 
1. The outfit. It has to be the perfect balance between practical and cutesy. My go-to right now are these floral flowing trousers paired with a comfy tank. Outfit above can be found here & here
 
2. A hat is a must because my hair suffers THE worst bed head on the plane. This little guy makes for the perfect disguise, pop it on and your hair nightmare will remain your little secret. 
 
3. The ipad loaded with the latest Giuliana & Bill and my go-to mag apps make for the perfect in flight entertainment. 
 
4. My sbux tumbler goes with me everywhere so to stay hydrated it makes it in my carry on.
 
5. The sunnies because this trip is looking bright in more ways than one. Bring on the good times and sunshine. 
 
6. To cover up my lack-of-sunshine self, I come armed with sunless tanner. Soltan never lets me down, doesn't turn me orange and doesn't leave streaks!
 
7. Can't forget the reading material and can't go wrong with a little Beth Moore. 
 
8. You also can't go wrong with a good catch up with People, airports and train stations are the only places that sell American mags so it's my excuse to stock up. 
 
9. I'm not one for plane food so I typically pack my own nibbles and you can bet one of my eats will be this roasted bean mix - delish and healthy. 
 
10. Lastly is the bag to hold all of my essentials which is essentially my favorite Longchamp. AKA the dump bag. Big enough to hold more than enough and that's definitely a must for this over-packer. 
 
What are your travel 'musts'???

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4.11.2014

The 'B' word

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I'm here today discussing the big fat "B" word. The one that sits on my shoulder and tries to convince me that Carrie Bradshaw is terribly wrong and that bag isn't a necessity but an urging want. The little nuisance that rings in my ear when I swing open the door to my mothership coffee house. The rotten little word that shuts me down when mentioned because I flat out hate any conversation that involves it.

Budget.

Let's be honest, I've never ever been good at this. I've tried and I've failed. Luckily I wasn't a credit card holder or we could've had big problems. I was, however, the single working woman and if there was money in the bank, and I was eyeing something, I made it mine. Quick-like. My savings account saw sight of little to none of my earnings. Budget was the last thing this sister considered.

Then along came marriage. Two now become one. Meaning two thoughts on spending merged into one. Yet, I still dodged this budget thing at every cost.  


That is until I was forced to put my big girl pants on and look this thing square in the eye. Like most newlyweds we went through that phase of crazy spending... things like traveling, home ownership, decorating and DIYing, building up my winter wardrobe and purchasing a car are all accredited to this and now we are here. 


We've made a conscious decision that we want to save for the good times and believe that living debt free lives frees us up and doesn't own us like piles of debt could and would. Insert conversations and planning using that 'B' word that was so foreign to me.

Again, we have a whole lot of learning to do, like a lot. But what we aren't doing is ignoring it , we are now tackling it and each month is a new clean shot for success. Let me reiterate that we are in no way pros but this is what works for us.

1. Plan ahead. We've started to implement things like weekly food planners which enables us to shop smarter. We've also made time to stop and look at the month ahead to see what the additional expenses might be. For example if in March you have a wedding, a birthday party , a dinner party and your going on holiday then you know in the months leading up to it  that you need to tighten that spending belt. 


2. Be frugal. I'm not saying go crazy coupon lady on me here but what I am saying is snuff out a good deal. Our freezer has became our best friend with this because if we see something at the grocery store on sale we throw it in the freezer and use it in the following week's food plan. Another way we've saved a few pennys pence is by using those 'free/no obligation' rewards cards that almost every one now offers. My Starbucks gold status has paid off more times than I can count and so have the points I've collected at a number of other shops. It's easy and it's free so there's no harm in doing them all.


3. It's not a punishment. It's important to see budgeting not as a punishment but as strategically spending your money. If you want those shoes that are calling your name, save. If you have a pot you've saved for those 'I gotta have em'' moments than all lights are on green. What works for us is a personal spending budget that we can either spend each month or stock pile for something extra special and it allows us to still treat ourselves here and there but also restricts us from going too crazy.


5. Give it time. Like with everything else, practice makes perfect. This isn't by any means an easy thing to implement and it takes self control and a little will power but give it time and it's sure to pay off. 


Remember -  a budget isn't just numbers on paper is spending with intention. 

You can download the version of our budgeting template here.

Do you have any tips & tricks when it comes to the 'B' word???

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4.07.2014

My journey & why I blog...

Do you ever have those weeks that you finally catch your breath and find yourself in shock that Monday is upon us already? That's been me as of late. Instead of living everyday to the full I've just been trying to keep my head above water. Enough to wear this girl straight out. However, I have squeezed in some time in the past week to stop, slow down and reflect. Time to consider my intentions and take inventory of the things that fill up my diary. I've asked myself a few questions, amongst others enquiring, and it's lead me to this...


What is a blog and why do you do it?

I initially started this blog once I got engaged and it was certain that I would be packing up my little life in small town America and moving abroad. I figured it would be the best way to keep my friends and family updated from afar and an outlet for documenting this journey that I knew would alternate and shake up life as I knew it. I figured there would be some funny expat stories and, being the pictureholic that I am, I knew there would be photos a plenty to share. What I never contemplated is how much bigger it could and would be. 

I never consider the community. This journey has lead me to find those I never would have otherwise who are traveling on a similar route. There aren't enough fingers on my hands for those who have touched my heart. We've shared good news, we've encouraged each other through the valleys and we've genuinely rooted each other on to the next goal and fulfilling the next dream. We're a bunch of sistas walking through life together. If distance was no obstacle I would have one big slumber party and each of these beauties would have an invite. 

A voice. I never, for once, imagined how far my little voice could travel. The 21st century way of story telling has carried my testimony to other parts of the world. Who knew that this little space could do that. A story is not a story until it's shared so this outlet allows me to do just that. It's evidence of the blessings that this life is filled with and a testimony on the other side of the struggles. 
Each story is unique. We are all created in the image of one but no two blue prints are the same. In this community filled with newlyweds, new moms, veteran moms, cooks, dreamers and fashionistas there are still no two alike. We're each experiencing something that others can learn from or be encouraged by. 

You can write your heart. You know the whole, imagine the audience is in their underwear story? Well you don't have to do that because behind this screen you are lacing together your beautiful thoughts for an audience of one. Yourself. It allows you to be vulnerable and write what's truly stirring inside and that is a beautiful thing. 

I'm so thankful for this beautiful space. I'm blessed that God has called me to sit amongst this community and share my story to the world. We're the newlyweds burning our first home cooked meal. And those finding our feet through infertility. We're those changing diapers for the first time. And those buying our first homes. We're those facing challenges and experiencing triumphs. We're those at different corners of the world living out the calling on our life. We're a community of those not absorbed in portraying a perfect life but those willing to share a real one. We're the dreamers and believers. 

And that ladies & gents is why I do what I do. 
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3.31.2014

Awkward greetings.

Weddings bring a variety of people together. Some close friends, distant relatives, strangers or a spouse of a friend that, just-so-happens to be an immigrant and not fully aware of the greeting etiquette, like me. Hello accidental smack on the lips.

I'm more than familiar with a 'hey ya'll', I'm even of fan of the handshake, or the occasional fist bump, the side hug is no stranger but this kissing thing is a whole new world. Imagine a fish out of water flopping around not really sure how this is going to go down and you've got muwah. 

After seeing more and more of the world Mr.Walt seems more accurate and it really is becoming a small world after all. I can imagine that greetings used to stay contained within a specific culture, region and nationality but now it's a melting pot of various different people from all around the world. 

So today I bring to you my expat guide of greetings and all you need to know before encountering any of the following. This is sure to aid in the prevention of your accidental kiss. 

Friendly greetings in...

















The handshake meets hug. 
No doubt you've come across this one. That moment when your entering or exiting a conversation and you go in for the handshake and the opponent meets you with a hug. You try to play it off and drop the hand but it's now wedge against someone else's abdomen and there's no way to hide it.

The side hug & pat. 
This was once presented as the church hug. A 'safe' way to give a friendly hello with not too closely invading someones bubble. Know what I mean? I learned in an etiquette class that this is the most appropriate way to say hello/goodbye to a person of the opposite sex. So when I greet someone to this day it's always in the back of my mind. Until they go in for a bear hug and then we've got yet another awkward, fish out of water thingy again.

The cheek kiss.
Hello British greeting. We just don't tend to do this in the south but here it's standard people. I also quickly learned that it's not actually a cheek kiss but rather an 'air' kiss. You make the sound but not actually touch the cheek. Sounds fairly simple right!? Not when you both go to the left or both head for the right. Hello head butt.

My personal cringe moment - the kiss, kiss, kiss!
This is the newest greeting and apparently the new trend here. As if the cheeky air kisses weren't enough it's now a repetition of three air kisses before you can catch your breath. Necessary? I'm not so sure - I think two paints the picture just fine but who am I to say right?

In attempt to avoid these cringe worthy moments consider the following.

1. Never assume someone is overly affectionate or you might find your hands or lips invading their personal space and nobody wants that. Although I'm pretty sure it  would be something to use in a 'what's the most embarrassing thing Q&A and would make for ace blogging material. 

2. Follow their lead. This is my tactic and as women we can often get a way with this one. If they hold out their hand there's no second guessing and if they come in for the cheeks well you just go the way they don't. 

3. Be culturally aware. I mean if I ever get to meet the queen. I'm already prepared to curtsy and never handshake because it's a likely situation and all. Grinning. Make yourself aware of traditions and the culture to avoid accidental occurrences.

4. Laugh it off.  At the end of the day they've probably had an awkward hello a time or two so have a little laugh and appreciate the differences. This was my motto for said wedding weekend.

Please tell me I'm not alone?? Leave your awkward moments in the comments below. 

S and I are working up our next vlog edition so if you have any questions/suggestions leave those in the comments below also!
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3.26.2014

Danger of perfection.



My hands are up and I'm guilty. The very thought of this word eats right through me and I find myself spinning my little wheels as fast as I can and lay my head on my pillow, more nights than not, only to feel a sense of utter failure. Sure I may have waken before the sun, worked a 10 hour day, responded to all of my personal emails, may have even whacked out a blog post or two, updated my social media accounts, Facetimed home, squeezed in a quick workout, whipped up a dinner, tidied up and had a convo with S to catch up on our day and life in general, and yet I fall asleep feeling completely unaccomplished. I mean the laundry wasn't touched, I didn't have time to call and catch up with that friend, my to-do list still looks like a brainstorm, my closet looks like some kind of war zone, things at work are still looming over my head, my blog needs nurtured and could use an update and lets be honest the dinner was much less than a 5 star steakhouse. Woosh
Lets face it, life is chaotic and with social media and this fast paced kinda mentality all around us the word perfection can seem so easy. Just flip through that insta feed of yours and instantly you'll find your modern day portrait of a susie-homemaker meets Martha Stewart, meets Oprah, meets Miranda Kerr in one little insta bundle. But is that real? Is that sustainable? What is reality? It all seems so blurred, if she can do it surely I can.  
 
I've said it once and I'll say it again. I.am.guilty. I'm guilty of outwardly expressing perfection but internally feeling burnt out and utterly exhausted and for who? Is it for my husband? Somewhat. Is it for my friends/fam back home? Kinda. Is it for my new friends here? Sort of. Is it for my bloggy readers? Partly.  Is it for my Jesus? Not if my heart isn't in the right place. Is it healthy? No. You will burn out. 
 
A friend sent an article to me and within it this quote struck a chord. 
“We are the girls with anxiety disorders, filled appointment books, five-year plans. We take ourselves very, very seriously. We are the peacemakers, the do-gooders, the givers, the savers. We are on time, overly prepared, well read, and witty, intellectually curious, always moving… We pride ourselves on getting as little sleep as possible and thrive on self-deprivation. We drink coffee, a lot of it. We are relentless, judgmental with ourselves, and forgiving to others. We are the daughters of the feminists who said, “You can be anything,” and we heard, “You have to be everything.” - Courtney E. Martin’s
 
I keep hearing God whispering the same thoughts over and over - stop doing and juggling all of these different plates and focus on the few which I have called you to and be excellent at those. Stop striving for perfection, do you not realize that this journey you are on is just a sweet as the destination? Do you not realize that the ultimate goal is to glorify me and love others. Stop being so busy that you miss this mark. Stop worrying and consuming your mind with thoughts of doubt and fear and replace them with my promises that I will never leave you, I will never forsake you and the promise that if you choose to deny yourself daily and follow me your paths will lead to perfection. Not necessarily the worldly accolades and perfection by the worlds definition but a rather an internal prize far better than that,  crowns are stored up for my children in heaven.  And let's rewind back to that honesty thing - this chic loves some royal treatment. It's true.
 
This scenario reminds me of our Martha {Luke 10:38-42}. The woman, who while in the presence of her creator opted to clean, tidy and busy her herself instead of worshipping him. She neglected the Savior's presence and the blessings he brought right in front of her.  I believe this story was illustrated in the bible for those, like me, to show us that busyness and exhaustion wasn't what was intended but rather to stop & love. This scenario also reminds me of another piece of advice that I once heard on how to tackle a day and it was about taking each task as it comes and simply 'doing the next thing'. We don't have eight arms. We have two. We must complete one task and then move onto the next, or as S says, "eat the elephant one bite at a time'.
 
I encourage you today to remember these promises, and amongst our crazy lives instead of getting wrapped up in perfection, consider the journey and always choose love. 
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3.24.2014

Weekend tidbits.

1. Tulips are essential for all things home decor this season.
2. ...as are hydrangeas. 
3. Good coffee shops aid in creativity.
4. Sheeps can be aggressive. These aren't the ones you want to count yourself to sleep by that's for sure.
5. We love roadtrips, especially on a Friday and the 'Happy' song is on the play list. See insta. 
6. Belting out ballads is fun. After being to a handful of UK weddings now I've come to the conclusion that the reception music here is all about the big ballads where as in the US its all about the choreographed numbers. Both are great but there's something about belting Mr.Brightside.
7. You only have a few hours left to enter the Lilly Pulitzer prize pack - don't miss out!
8. These leopard converse need to find their way to my closet fast.
9. You're one of my favs so use the code springtime to get a 15% discount to partner with A Brew of Blessings.
And

10. Make this week a beautiful one lovelies.
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3.20.2014

Because I'm happy.

Today is Spring although the weather has yet to convince me of this, it's my Friday and I'm letting you in on one easy peasy flourless chocolate cake recipe and if that doesn't make a person happy then I guess your glass of half empty goggles need to be adjusted. As if I needed another reason to smile, today also just-so-happens to be International Day of Happiness! Yes there may be a day dubbed for everything under the earth but this one's surely one worth celebrating.

My happy place looks different on any given day to be honest. Sometimes it comes from hitting the snooze button multiple times because we all know that it makes all of the difference. Grin. It can come through the smell of freshly brewed coffee. It can be delivered by the post man in the form of handwritten snail mail or even a message from a friend who I haven't heard from in a while. It can come through an empty agenda and completed 'to do' list or the high after a great workout. It can come from an embrace from my hubs or through a smile from a stranger. I believe that although we will experience the valleys the perspective can determine our time it will take to reach the mountain top. My happy place comes through remembering that the journey is just as sweet as the reaching the goal. 
But ultimately the endless supply of happiness comes from the undeserving grace and unfailing love of my creator. 

And chocolate cake. Enough said.
Serves 6-8 OR one - you choose.

Gather the Ingredients:

225g dark chocolate
100g butter
150g caster sugar
175g icing sugar sifted
4 eggs, beaten

1. Preheat to oven to 180C and grease a 20cm round cake tin.
2. Use a double boiler or a smaller pan within a big pan and over gently boiling water, melt chocolate and butter.
3. In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks with the icing sugar until pale and creamy.
4. Fold the melted chocolate into the egg mixture.
5. Using a clean whisk, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, then fold gradually into the chocolate mixture
6. Using a spatula pour the mixture into the greased mold, then bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until slightly cracked on the top but still gooey in the middle.
7. Sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy. 

What's your happy place???

Don't forget to enter the Lilly Pulitzer Spring giveaway!
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