London, Brussels & Bruges

It felt amazing to travel again this Spring and to do part of the trip on my own. The weather was perfect and all the towns were jumping with tourists. I had pretty low expectations for my first time visit to Brussels but it ended up being lovely and fun, possibly the highlight of my trip. Other highlights include walking around Bruges at twilight and, in England, a sunny day out at Sissinghurst Castle & Gardens. On to the photos!

A New Year

It’s January… which can be a bit of a let down after all the indulgences of the holidays. Twinkle lights and Baileys have given way to To-Do lists and lemon water. I like that though – moving gently into a new year with some structure and common sense. I am lucky to live in a warm part of the country where the winters are forgiving but today it has been chilly and I’m getting over a cold. A very good day for hot tea, Pride & Prejudice, and a photo from Point Reyes in winter.

Experimenting With Life

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Swoony Little Trip to London and Scotland

We’ve just returned from a lovely vacation in the UK. I had been to Scotland before a long time ago but not for more than a day or so (on a tour). It was great to return and see a few familiar places and a few new ones too. I love Scotland. I even ate some haggis and drank some Scotch. That’s how much I love Scotland.

As usual we stopped in London to see friends and family. It was Halloween and I saw some great carved pumpkins which I unfortunately didn’t get photos of. Halloween was followed quickly by Guy Fawkes (Bonfire Night) – I caught a few different small fireworks displays from our hotel window (see photo #1 for our super view). The city of London didn’t do any fireworks, having been all fireworked out by the jubilee and the Olympics. And I still didn’t get to see anyone collect for or burn “the man” on a bonfire… ah well, maybe next year.

Since there is no Thanksgiving celebration in England (natch), the Christmas decorations were out in full force. I kept shielding my eyes and saying “too soon, too soon!” but to no avail. The good news is that I was able to find the mincemeat with beef suet that my friend wanted me to pick up, and I’m guessing that only comes out at Christmas time.

On to the photos!

A Better Breakfast

Trying to break the cereal for breakfast rut. Wheat toast with butter (yes) and jam, cut up apple, 4 pieces of turkey bacon (not 10 as it looks like in the photo), and a cup of tea. I served it on one of my pretty plates that I never seem to use, but should. I wish I could say that I ate it at the dining table or on our balcony or something, but I actually ate in front of the computer.

So, you know, not perfect but still nice.

The Dangers of Reading Against the Seasons

I’m about half way through reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett for the first time. I had seen the 1990s film version, which I adored, but had never read the book. So far I have not been able to put it down. I love the constant reminders Burnett gives that fresh air, simple food, and time spent running around in nature can cure illness and depression. I have never wanted to live on the wild and windy moors before, but suddenly it’s all I can think about!

Unfortunately, where I am, it’s 95 degrees outside (down from the 100s!) and, well, the middle of August. So I picked a really bad time to read this book as I can’t exactly spend the whole day outside with a jump rope and an old key in my pocket. I also can’t suddenly transform my rickety balcony into an English cottage garden as Spring has long since passed.

This got me to thinking that maybe my next book should be about the end of Summer and/or the beginning of Fall. Something appropriate for the season. Maybe something like Little House in the Big Woods? I haven’t read that either but I believe it starts off in the Fall.

I could be on a children’s literature roll here.

Summer Goodness

This summer has gone by pretty quickly and I haven’t been up to too much. Mostly I’ve been trying to enjoy the good things about summer in my own little way.

My Kindle + the library = summer goodness.
I’m not a huge fan of summer in this town, because it’s pretty scorchy, right? But I make the best of being stuck inside with the A/C by reading. A lot of times I will choose magazines or children’s books, but with my new Kindle (the plain vanilla kind) and ebooks from the library I’ve been delving into all kinds of genres. I will confess that my habit of having several books on the go is multiplied by the eReader – very easy to start a book, get bored and in an instant start another book. Still love it though.

Baking cookies + morning = summer goodness.
This is probably a serious eco-nightmare, but I confess that I really miss baking when the weather gets hot and sometimes, on the down low, I will whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Guittard chips.

Night swimming + BBQ = summer goodness.
Since I’m as pasty white as Vlad the Impaler, I tend to avoid direct sunlight. So we sometime commandeer my parents’ patio and pool for early evening burgers, 20 minute let the food settle breaks, and then a few laps under the twilight sky. Heaven!

Farmer’s market + fresh fruit = summer goodness.
There is a fab farmer’s market near me that I didn’t know about, until a friend of mine moved to our neighborhood. It’s shady and festive and they always have some interesting live music going. So far it’s been hit or miss with me and the fruit there, but that’s mostly due to me being easily overwhelmed by farmer’s markets and I end up just buying whatever is in front of me. Still, if you get lucky, the payoff can be huge.

Netflix instant + air conditioning = summer goodness.
I have seen a ton of movies lately. I highly recommend Cairo Time, In A Day, and Forget Me Not. They are all sort of related because they mostly focus on a guy and a girl exploring a city. Fun if you are a fan of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (like me).

So there you have it… this is what I have been doing in my “free” time. Hope your summer has been spectacular!

Wedding On The Coast

Busy processing photos from a recent wedding shoot. Lovely spot near Half Moon Bay… I’m still daydreaming about moving closer to the ocean.

Temple Coffee on Fair Oaks

teacups and pot
Not a shot from Temple, but rather my own tea party for the royal wedding last year

My husband was released from his office cage early yesterday so we decided to claim our extra time together at the new Temple Coffee location on Fair Oaks Blvd. It was such a beautiful day to sit by the window and they had propped open one of the doors, so I enjoyed the cool fresh air coming in as I sipped my tea.

Full confession – we stopped at Esther’s Cupcakes first to pick up a treat each before heading next door to Temple. Okay but moving on to the teas. My husband ordered the Ceylon (I snuck a sip, it was very good) and I had the special concoction known as Bliss. I’m not sure exactly what’s in it, but I think it’s soy milk, peppermint tea and maybe some coconut water? It’s a creamy decadent treat, perfect for a sweet afternoon with your significant other.

The folks that work at this location are super nice too. I asked about the brush they use to clean the necks of their small teapots (I’m in the market for something for my own teapot, pictured above) and the guy went back, grabbed the brush they use and brought it out to show me. They also did not give us a hard time for bringing in treats from next door, which can’t have made them too happy.

So check out Temple on F.O. Blvd. next time you are out and about.

Seeking Further Improvement

Illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith. Image and info on the artist found here.

The way I tend to approach my life is to anchor the parts that are going well and then leave them to bob along – hopefully without incident – while I turn my attention to the parts that are in danger of floating out to sea. But while my back is turned, the good stuff isn’t just bobbing along without incident, it’s very slowly showing signs of neglect. So in fact, life is more like spinning plates (if you haven’t had enough metaphors for one paragraph)… and each part needs at least a little bit of attention and improvement. Not huge changes. Just enough.

This is what I’m getting started on today. Writing down categories in my life: Relationships, Work, Health, Personal Development, etc… and then brainstorming very small steps I can do each day to improve in those areas. I find having a written list to be the best way to handle this, otherwise I find myself sitting in front of the computer, reading blogs and trying to find something interesting to pass along on Facebook. If you become what you focus on most, then I’m a freakin Facebook posting expert. I do really well with lists, when I take the time to write them down.

So when I find myself sitting in front of the computer, instead of posting on FB, I could choose one item from the list and work on that for a short amount of time. Not only would I feel better about myself for having accomplished something from the list, I will have improved the quality of my life without a ton of effort.

I’m logging off to go work on that list now.