Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Misty British Isles’ Category

From her supermarket bags she unpacked the makings of our meal—potatoes, and veg, and a chicken, still raw. And when I saw it all my heart leapt, because I knew she’d stay a while.

Work had called John away. And days were long, but nights were longer in our wee stone cottage, just baby and me. But that night she came. We had painted our kitchen walls Egyptian Sand, and in their yellow glow I watched as she peeled the veg, covered the chicken, and set it all to cook. I watched her, and we chatted, and then she sat with me. While I nursed my baby. While I gave him his bath. While I changed him and finally laid him down to sleep. And then we ate together. Me, just 27. Her, exactly 30 years older, though the years never mattered much to me. We ate, and we talked, and we sat. Catriona was her name.

That sitting was not the first time, nor was it the last.  Early days in our marriage, we’d often find ourselves at her table. Sunday dinner, beneath the black and white photograph of her husband Alex with the Queen Mother. Alex’s black robes flapping as he greeted the royal outside the old stone church. While we talked with her boys, laughed at their yellow budgie, Bart, smells would drift from the kitchen hatch–roast beef and boiled potatoes. To our right, through the great picture window, Catriona’s garden, where Scottish sun set to sparkle drops of Scottish rain on the lady’s mantle leaves. Catriona would scurry in the kitchen, the rest of us would speak.

224122_8725245526_7352_n

A Christmas Party at our cottage with three of Catriona’s boys, Graham, Ian, and Alistair. Here, I’m expecting the Professor.

And her four boys became like brothers—or like cousins to us, at least. The meal would begin with Catriona’s soup. It always ended with tea. Then the stories came, and the music, when Alex took down his guitar. True tales of dinners with Queens, talk of revival, Celtic melodies that stirred the heart. All shared with the modesty and ordinariness of their brown carpet, their family photos, their stacks of tapes and CDs. The sacred disguised as the ordinary. Sometimes I marveled that they enjoyed the company of little old me.

Catriona was a teacher, and in those days, so was I. And we taught a year in the same school, my class so naughty I’d hide in the cupboard at lunchtime and cry. But after school I’d feel better, when Catriona sat with me. She would crunch her apple, and I would grade away. At report card time, she came to our flat, helped me write them, and once again, she sat.

And when we bought our ramshackle cottage, she came to help with repairs. With the overgrown garden, the red shag carpet on the stairs. When summer came she took cuttings from her flowers, taught me how to make them grow. Climbing clematis, purple hebes, and the bright primrose. And she taught me how to make chicken stock. How she got her scones fluffy (though mine will always be like rocks). I will always remember the squeak in her young voice when she declared, “You’re doing an amazing job!”

225132_8725190526_6583_n

A wonderful Sunday afternoon at Catriona’s (she’s in red), along with her dear husband Alex, son Graham, and friends George and Elizabeth Barnie.  The Professor was almost one.

When the Professor was born, she invited me round—tired, sleepless, bewildered new mum that I was—and promptly sent me for a nap. Below me, my baby in her arms, she rocked him, she soothed him, she sat. I heard all about her boys—stories from when they were small. And I didn’t dream I’d be like her, with four handsome sons in all. And their first bed was his first bed—a little wooden cradle lent to me. And I can hear her say that “Boys are best!” with cheery certainty. Thirty years between us then, but in those days I considered her my very best friend.

When it came time to move south three hours to Dundee, she came for days to help me pack. Moving day, she insisted on driving with me, though I can’t recall how she got back.

As often as I could, I’d go see her. There’d be soup, and scones, and tea. And she’d take out the toys that were once her boys, and spread them out for mine. “You’re such a clever mum! Such an inspiration!” she’d always say. And I was so content sitting with her, just whiling the hours away.

36372_10150206387790527_527134_n

My sister and niece came to visit from the States. We took Catriona out for tea. I remember John prayed, thanking God for Catriona, which made her cry. The Professor was four.

I learned so much about her, from all those hours we sat. She wasn’t fond of goat’s cheese. She wrote in teensy, tiny, sometimes hard-to-read script. She never said a bad word about another person. And she never complained. Not once.

When we moved back to the States, and she was far away, I’d think of her nearly every day. John and I would speak of “being a Catriona.” We both knew what that meant. I treasured every Christmas card and letter that she sent. I remembered the things she taught me. I remembered the ways she’d helped. But most of all I missed the times when together, we just sat.

When we returned a few years later, she welcomed us with a smile. There was soup, a meal, and tea, and just sitting together a while. She brought out toys for the boys. And she spoke of the joys of the girls now in her life. Daughters-in-law! A granddaughter! She told me they were “just great!” And I longed for a girl, but like Catriona, I supposed I, too, could wait.

Another sweet friend held a gathering—soup, tea, and cakes. And my heart ached from the joy of seeing each dear, sweet face. When the night ended Catriona was the last one to depart. Before she left I gave her hug and a soft tartan heart.

Earlier this year I emailed her, sharing our adoption plans. Of the little girl I’d longed for, because I knew she’d understand. And I dreamed of returning to Scotland, with all my family. I couldn’t wait to see Catriona, and share soup, and scones, and tea. I couldn’t wait to feel the love as together we just sat. Because I guess in my heart, I always felt a bit like Catriona’s lass.

CAM00162

At Auntie Catriona’s house on our last visit to Scotland. See all her lovely flowers? Here, I’m expecting Little Bear. The Professor was eight.

But early this summer, I got it. A message from her son. And she hadn’t been ill, but an accident, and suddenly she was gone. And I could not stop the crying. And I never knew this pain. And now I understand, so this is what it is…

So this is what it is . . . to be distracted a moment with some ordinary task—spreading the boys’ toast, or tucking in chairs — only to remember and have it hit me again like a splash of ice water on my face, this disbelieving, numbing shock.

So this is what it is . . . to feel a sense of panic, an urgency that something must be done, even as my muddled brain tries to comprehend that nothing. can. be. done.

So this is what it is . . . to search frantically through Facebook posts and old boxes of cards and photos, just to see a face, and read old words once again.

And I could weep, and weep, and weep.

I mourn that I will never again see a Christmas card from her lying on the mat. That I will never again hear her cute, squeaky voice say, “Avonlea, you’re such a pet!” That I will never again stand in her garden while she points out some new flower she has grown. That when we next visit Scotland we won’t sit at her table having tea and scones. That I will never again feel the strength and love I felt from sitting there with my friend. It’s like not being able to ever go back home again.

CATRIONA

“Mrs. Muir’s Boys,” Kenneth, Graham, Ian, and Alistair

She taught me so much. About cooking. About gardening. About asking God’s help to love the difficult people in our lives. But most of all she taught me the life-giving power of offering your time. Of rolling up your sleeves. Of being there. Of showing up. Of simply sitting with someone through life.

For that is what she did. She sat with me through life.

And there is such power in it. In sacrificial, real, tangible love.

She was a teacher, a baker, a gardener, a friend, a wife, a granny, a mum. And though her achievements might not seem noteworthy by society’s standards, for me she was as splendid as she could possibly be. She loved with me an everyday, ordinary, life-changing love. For even when her husband was ill, and she had her own family to care for, she made the time to help a new wife and mum. Despite the challenging moments in her own life, she made a point to sit with me through mine. And I loved her so very much.

And I could not bear the searing pain of such a loss if I did not believe with all my heart that one day, we will be sit together again in a garden, so like her own (oh, won’t she love that Celestial Garden!). If I did not believe her to be already with the Saviour she loved and lived for, her tears already wiped dry. If I did not know that she has been delivered safely to her Heavenly Home (2 Timothy 4:18). She has been delivered safely, though we from this end cannot see. She is safe, and she is home.

A piece of myself has gone there with her, and there it will remain until we meet again.

And the realms of Heaven grow closer still . . .

Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.

~ Proverbs 31:29-31

Avonlea x

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

Happy Little Sigh

Finding beauty in the everyday 

 

Read Full Post »

My fingers splayed across my rounded belly. I pressed gently, whispered the name I’d kept secret for two pregnancies before this one, though never got to use–the name of my daughter. I’d wanted sons, but I’d always imagined I’d also have at least two little girls. And so along with wooden soldiers, and soccer, and frogs in pockets, I’d also have china dolls, and tea parties, and diaphanous fairy costumes (assuming my daughters would be girly like me!). But this was not to be.

For the birth of my firstborn, in Inverness, Scotland, I hadn’t been told the gender of my baby. And so for all nine months and two weeks of my pregnancy, I waited, wondered, scribbled two sets of names. We wallpapered the nursery with blue floral Laura Ashley wallpaper, supposing this would suit either a boy or a girl, and bought clothes in creams, greens, and yellows. But to the hospital I brought with me two fleece receiving blankets–a pink and a blue.

And then he was born. Of course I quickly fell in love with my firstborn–his generous lick of blond hair, his grey-blue eyes, his little scrunched-up face with the squared jaw that clearly said, “I’m your son.”

For the next two years I thoroughly revelled in all that it meant to be the mother of little boy (I call him the Professor). We put on wellies and tramped through puddles at our local castle. Threw rocks in the village burn. Read 17 books at bedtime.

Then we decided it was time for a sibling, and wouldn’t have imagined that it would take two years of trying and crying and infertility tests before I would finally conceive. And so nearly five years after the birth of our first son, our second son (I call him the General) was born, in Dundee, Scotland. Bright spark, black-eyed little boy.

And we joked, a time or two, about getting a little girl, though things like adoption were of course for other people, not for us.

Now, two years later and a continent away, I was pregnant with my third, and was days away from discovering the gender of this baby. I wanted a daughter this time–so desperately–yet at the same time, something deeper pulled at my soul. Something I could not fully recognize or explain. So even as the name of my little girl formed on my lips, I lifted my head and prayed, “Lord, you know I’d really love a daughter. But if this baby is a son, I’ll know that one day there is going to be a little girl out there who needs us.”

And he was a boy. Silky-soft, curly-topped butterball of a baby (I call him Mr. Waddlesworth). And over the next year I loved him fiercely–this baby who was all smiles and drool and chunk. But I also questioned myself, found myself regretting that prayer, wondering if God would really hold me to it?

A fourth child was born. And as if to make sure I understood Him, God sent another boy (I call him Little Bear, though to this day he drags around a stuffed bunny). And after four such difficult labors and deliveries, I knew this must be my last. Four boys. What a wonder. What a sight! So handsome. A boymom, that’s me. And I pushed away the thought of a daughter for a while.

Though over the years we’d joked a time or two more about “getting a girl,” it was never even a full conversation. Never anything we researched or seriously talked about. Adoption was for other sorts of people. Special, brave people who were not like us. Life was hectic enough with four squirrelly boys without adding anything to it. And yet . . . in boxes tucked out of sight, I kept my American Girl Samantha doll. My Victorian dress-up clothes. My Anne of Green Gables memorabilia. All for “someday.”

“You’ll have daughters-in-law!” people would tell me with a smile. “And granddaughters!” And I would smile back, truly thankful for the hope of these things. But I couldn’t forget my daughter. Couldn’t forget that prayer. Yet what was to be done?

Then late one night last December I was driving home from meeting some friends for coffee. I flicked on the radio, and landed on a Family Life Radio talk about adoption. I listened intently to the adoptive father speak about finding his daughter. About how after visiting the orphanage, he and his wife wanted to take all the kids home. And before I pulled into my driveway, I knew.

I wanted confirmation, however, that this feeling was more than my desperation or wishful thinking. After all, what if my husband, John, didn’t feel the same way? We were about to leave for a much-needed ten days away in Brazil, just the two of us. And so more than six years after the first prayer, I prayed a second time, this time saying, “Lord, if my feelings are right, and you really are telling me that you want us to adopt, I pray that John will bring up adoption while we are in Brazil.”

But what were the chances? We had never seriously talked about adoption, probably hadn’t even joked about it for a year or more, as far as I could recall. Yet the second night there,while enjoying a meal of chicken, rice, and yucca fries, he said it–“If you’re ready to adopt, we can get started when we get home.” And there it was.

60887574_686105995153835_6097774346707664896_n

And so here we are–after mountains of paperwork, police checks, medical exams, references, talking to other adoptive parents, online education, and more I can’t even remember, we are nearly finished with our home study . . . and still have plenty of education, paperwork, and evaluations still to come. But it’s all worth it, because we are on the road to finding our daughter and bringing her home. Thankfully, God knows who and where she is. He has from the start.

Avonlea x

For more inspiration, bookishness, and mad stories of life homeschooling 4 wee men,

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the everyday 

Read Full Post »

I grew up with William and Harry in a way–sitting on our brown living room carpet at age 5, popping out clothes for my Princess Diana paper doll. Or flipping through the glossy pages of my mother’s Princess Diana fashion books–page after page of her glorious clothes. Page after page of her holding her little princes with her radiant smile. And I watched those princes grieve their mother. Watched them go off to school, then college. Watched dreamy-eyed the romance between William and Kate.

Fast forward a few years, and it’s 6.15 A.M. on a Saturday. And I’m dashing through pelting rain, hopping into my car, driving across town to my mother’s house because it’s Harry’s turn now. He’s getting married.

Yes, they are two people on the other side of the world whom I have never really met. But since I have watched them, I care for them. And as I have friends who personally knew the Queen Mother (the present Queen’s mother), and spoke so well of her and her faith, I now care for her family. I also have great respect for the Queen, so I do. I became a British citizen a few years ago, so I suppose she is my Queen–and maybe that means William and Kate and Harry and Meghan are my Princes and Duchesses too 🙂

Royal Wedding

So, my lovelies, here are my favorite misty-eyed, ear-to-ear grin, happy little sigh moments from the wedding (plus pics of our Watch Party Breakfast Tea!).

  1. What They Said (mostly) Without Talking – The secret smiles, the whispered words, the subtle interactions. William and Harry grinning at each other. Kate leaning to whisper to William. Little George and Charlotte with their mum and dad. The bride and groom’s adoring stares. They may be titled, wealthy, and famous, but they are real people–mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, brother, sister, husband, wife. And their genuine smiles and obvious affection for each other warmed my heart. When Prince Charles passed Meghan over the Harry, Harry whispered, “Thank you, Father,” then turned to his bride and said, “Are you okay? You look amazing.” What did William and Kate and the others whisper to each other? We can only guess, but their faces tell much.
  2. The Bower –  Roses, peonies, forget-me-nots, all tumbling down wild-like, and glorious, and jubilant around the church doors. How long these arrangements took (while keeping the flowers fresh), I can only imagine. They were beautiful! 33057851_10160286659270527_1335233580602753024_n
  3. The Dress! – Our questions have now been answered! Meghans’s dress was satiny, her hair was up, and her nails were pale pink, just as I guessed. And the veil–sigh… delicate, yet breathtaking. The only thing I didn’t glimpse was her shoes! Prince+Harry+Marries+Ms+Meghan+Markle+Windsor+pyLSu8O5Nvzl
  4. The Message – Wasn’t it great, friends, to hear the name of Jesus? To hear said in so many words that Christianity is not obsolete? And didn’t Bishop Michael Curry’s exuberance make us all smile? Especially when he said, “and with this, I will sit you down. We’ve got to get you all married,” (and then proceeded to keep talking). I think I need to watch again. 😀 33032557_10160286682715527_2424621536670384128_n
  5. God Save the Queen – And this was where I cried. With news circulating that the Queen will be stepping down this year, we won’t have many more times to sing this song. As Queen Elizabeth II has been reigning since 1952, she’s the only Queen many of us have ever known, and I sometimes forget she won’t be here forever. It’s a fact I’m sure her family feel even more keenly, and it was seeing their faces (as they sang of their mother and grandmother) that made me cry. I love the Queen. 33066087_10160286682790527_3662319480882593792_n

And here’s how we watched–

Guests – My mother (the hostess), my mother-in-law (visiting from Scotland–she brought the fab Harry & Meghan biscuit tins), our friend Pat!

32949020_10160286801275527_9090124121060147200_n

The Breakfast – Quiche, sausages, fruit salad, scones with cream and elderberry jam, tea, coffee, and the highlight–lemon muffins with elderflower syrup in honor of the royal wedding cake (where does one get elderflower? my mom is amazing).

32947078_10160282447895527_2000285910356197376_n-1.jpg

The decór – Bunting, fresh flowers, floral globes.

33027126_10160286810660527_8701742121247309824_n

What we wore – Check out the hats and fascinators that we made!!!

The wedding brought us all together. It was a reason to dust off the good china. It was a reason to make new hats! And no matter what, it was worth because of that. Praying every spiritual and good blessing on Harry, Meghan, and the entire royal family.

Avonlea xo

For more royal fun, bookishness, and mad stories of life homeschooling 4 wee men,

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com

happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the everyday 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

A ginger-headed Brit and a dark-haired American–sound familiar? Yes, Harry and Meghan, but not so long ago this dark-haired American married her own Brit.  Apparently fair-headed British guys can’t quite resist us brunettes, American or not (we won’t mention the fact that Meghan and Kate are probably a good six inches taller than I 🙂 ).

@happylittlesigh (16)

But in case you’re somehow clueless about what I’m going on about, Prince Harry, grandson of the current British Monarch, and American actress Meghan Markle’s wedding is coming up this Saturday, May 19. Another wedding as grand as this one won’t be seen until wee Prince George gets married. So whether you consider yourself an Anglophile or a fan of the Royal Family or not, no one does pomp and circumstance quite like the British, and I’m sure the wedding will be full of fairytale magic aplenty–though all in tasteful British style (unless Meghan decides to add a bit of American sparkle to the affair!).

So just for (so much) fun, my friends, plus a few tips on throwing together your own wedding breakfast tea party to celebrate, here are a few facts and speculations about Harry and Meghan’s upcoming big day . . .

1The Location – Harry and Meghan will be married at neither Westminster Abbey, where Prince William and Catherine Middleton said their vows, nor St. Paul’s Cathedral, where Princess Diana and Prince Charles wed. Nope, Harry and Meghan’s “cozy” wedding will be at St. George’s Chapel, and the reception (for around 600 guests) at St. George’s Hall, both at Windsor Castle, a royal residence in the south of England. No Buckingham Palace means no iconic balcony kisses, such as we saw with William and Kate and many royals before (awww). And while royal weddings are traditionally held on a weekday, they are also breaking tradition by getting married on a Saturday. Following the reception, around 200 have been invited to a private reception given by Prince Charles at Frogmore House on the castle grounds (where Harry and Meghan took their engagement photos). 

 Your own living room, dining room, or sun porch will be just perfect for your wedding tea party (somewhere you can see the T.V.!). Don’t forget to add some British style bunting for a real British tea party effect.

@happylittlesigh (11)

A snap I took of Windsor Castle and gardens when we visited before emigrating to the States

2. The Decór  –  London-based florist Philippa Craddock was chosen by Meghan and Harry to design their flower arrangements. And the bouquet? White garden roses, peonies, and foxgloves (two of the flowers I chose for my own wedding day!). The flowers will be locally sourced, in season, and reflect the wild and natural landscape of the surrounding English countryside. But one thing Meghan will have that I did not is sprigs of myrtle–from the very same plant used by Queen Victoria for her own wedding. Quite the family tradition! And of course there are speculations as to whether Meghan’s bouquet will pay tribute to Princess Diana’s.

 For your own wedding tea, why not gather wildflowers that reflect the beauty of your OWN local countryside?

@happylittlesighxt (5)Princess Diana, Harry’s mother, at her 1981 June wedding

3. The Reception  –  Though we won’t get a balcony scene to ogle over, Harry and Meghan will have a carriage procession through Windsor immediately following the ceremony. Afterwards, rather than the sit-down lunch for 650 guests that William and Kate held for their guests at Buckingham Palace, Meghan and Harry have chosen “bowl foods” for their wedding reception, with “mini main courses” (not sure about you, but if I were somehow lucky enough to be invited, I’d be terrified of dripping something down the front of my dress!). But a standing reception will allow Harry and Meghan more of a chance to mingle with their guests compared to a traditional sit-down event. I was a little surprised at this choice for a royal wedding, though it reflects Harry and Meghan’s less-fuss approach. And it seems that as sixth in line to the throne, Harry and his bride had more flexibility.

And on the menu? According to royal chef Mark Flanagan, Meghan and Harry have “been involved in every detail.” And apparently the local vegetables are all doing their part and coming into season just in time to land on the royal wedding table–er, in the royal wedding bowls. While the exact dishes to be served remain a secret, Mr. Flanagan did say that tried, true, classic foods will be most likely. One thing we do, know, however is that Meghan and Harry’s wedding cake, which will also be served to guests, is lemon and elderflower with a buttercream frosting and fresh flowers to decorate. Sounds delish, and much nicer than the traditional British wedding fruitcake!

The wedding will be early in the morning for us here in the States, so why not serve lemon pound cake or lemon poppyseed muffins (as tribute to the lemon wedding cake), along with fruit salad, sausages, quiche, and other breakfast foods for your guests to enjoy? You could also try to locate some sparkling elderflower juice for something new!

@happylittlesigh (13)

Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s 2011 wedding cake

4. The Dress  –  The style and designer of Meghan’s wedding dress is undoubtedly the biggest secret of the day–and the most fun thing to speculate about! In a Glamour interview about her Suits television character’s wedding dress, Meghan said, “my personal style—wedding or not—is very pared down and relaxed. Classic and simple is the name of the game, perhaps with a modern twist. I personally prefer wedding dresses that are whimsical or subtly romantic.” I’m willing to bet her dress will have less lace and beadwork than sister-in-law Kate’s–but will she be modern and relaxed enough to go for silky fabrics and a skinnier silhouette? There is also debate about whether or not Meghan will be wearing a tiara. I hope she does–a fairytale wedding wouldn’t be complete without one! And what about her hair–up or down? So much for us to wonder about, so much for us to look forward to seeing on the big day. 

A few things we do know–one tradition the couple will be keeping is that Prince Harry won’t see his bride in her wedding dress before she walks down the aisle. Also, Meghan will probably have two dresses–one for the ceremony and one for the reception. And last, but apparently not least, Meghan–along with Kate and the Queen–will most likely be wearing pale pink or clear nail polish. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a photo of Kate Middleton with red fingernails (although she sometimes wears it on her toes 🙂 ). And reportedly, the Queen has been wearing the same pale shade of polish, Essie’s Ballet Slippers, since 1989. A small thing for a girl to give up in exchange for being a royal. 

@happylittlesigh (12)

William and Kate’s balcony kiss

You may decide to watch the royal wedding with your favorite mug . . . and in your favorite PJs. But if you are throwing a wedding breakfast tea, don’t forget to dust off your hat (or pick up one from a thrift store). You can always add lace, netting, or flowers. Or buy a headband and make it into a fascinator, taking inspiration from Prince William’s cousins, Beatrice and Eugenie. Don’t forget to paint your nails a delicate shade of pink!

@happylittlesigh (15)

Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie at William and Kate’s 2011 wedding

Whatever ends up inside those bowls of food, whatever the shape of the dress, whatever the color of those soon-to-be-royal nails, the day is sure to evoke a few wistful sighs from us all. I’d so, so love to hear your thoughts and best guesses for the day! Also, I’ll be joining a few friends to celebrate, and would love to have you along! Comment below, or find me on Instagram or Facebook @happylittlesigh. 

@happylittlesighxt (4)

Me with my ginger-headed Brit on our own May wedding day

Avonlea xo

 

happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the everyday 

Read Full Post »

A new royal baby, and isn’t it wonderful? And aren’t we happy for Prince William and Kate? But wouldn’t we all like a closer look than what the web or magazines let us see? A closer look at life behind those royal stone walls? And wouldn’t it be fun to imagine being invited to one of the royal homes–say Buckingham Palace?  What would one would wear? What would one do? And most importantly, what would Her Majesty be serving for lunch? Well, read on to find out. 

 I can’t claim to have extra info on the royal baby or what the new prince will be called (though I’m rooting for Arthur). But during the years spent living in the United Kingdom, I met more than one person who ran into a member of the royal family, or even got to meet them face to face. So for the rather charming little tale of my husband meeting the Queen, plus stories of run-ins with Prince Charles, Prince William and Kate, check out Meeting the Royals – Part 1. And for today, I’ve reserved some rather exclusive pics from two other royal events—the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and her Annual Garden Party. So join me for a peek inside the walls of Buckingham Palace for tea with the Queen. 

Buckingham Palace

First off, we need an invitation, or we’ll not be let through the gates.

Certificate of Completion

Now what to wear? The Garden Party requires more stately dress–for ladies, a pretty spring frock and hat or fascinator (pictured above) would be appropriate. For men, a suit and tie or dress uniform is a must. The picnic lunch in honor of the Jubilee, however, allowed for more casual summer attire. 

And what shall we do while we are there? Clearly the Queen doesn’t wish her guests to be confused, and so provides a handy timetable for the afternoon of the Garden Party.

23798834_1733325653368101_635720821_o

And for her Diamond Jubilee? First, the all import picnic on the lawns of Buckingham Palace. On the menu? Chilled British Country Garden Soup. Diamond Jubilee Chicken &  Tea-Smoked Scottish Salmon (toppings for the Fresh Bread Rolls). Oaten Biscuits with Harvest Chutney and a selection of Cheeses. Crunchy Seasonal Crudités (that’s veggie sticks to the rest of us). We mustn’t forget the Bubbly and Tea. And for afters, Lemon & Caraway Madeira cake, Chocolate Indulgence cake, and Sandringham Strawberry Crumble Crunch. A lunch not to be sniffed at. 

Afterwards, entertainment by a variety of performers, including Sir Elton John, followed by an impressive fireworks display over the palace.

IMG_8727 (1)

IMG_8747

And isn’t it all lovely, and doesn’t it just make you sigh a happy little sigh?

Avonlea xo

For more royal fun, bookishness, and mad stories of life homeschooling 4 wee men, 

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com

happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the everyday ♥

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Never have I been so glad to see mud. In my garden where there should be grass, clinging to bottoms of my boys’ boots as they climb into the mini van, smeared across the mudroom floor. I’ll tire of it, complain about it eventually, but for now I’m glad for anything, anything but the salt and grit my family tracked into the house over the long months of this cold, drawn-out winter.

Mud, yes, we can see it, now the afternoon sun has warmed the earth. But I awoke this morning to a new layer of snow, and it lingers still–in corners and shadows where the sun doesn’t shine. And so still, we are waiting. Waiting for balmy breezes, and for tender green things to make their appearance. Waiting for color, and an end to this black and white world. Waiting, waiting, waiting for spring.

@happylittlesigh (10)

The Kilns, former home of C.S. Lewis

The Kilns, former home of C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia series

And I’m feeling that wait as I clean the mudroom floor, glance out the window at the snow, now grey, littered with twigs and leaves, and pock-marked by the rain. I’m waiting for spring, sure, but also waiting for answers to prayers I haven’t even bothered to pray, waiting for clearly marked miracles and the next bend in the road.

Because all that waiting can make me feel trapped. Trapped, like I’ve been all winter, trapped here rattling around the house with the boys,  when most days the temperatures were too low to even get out and exhaust ourselves in the daylight and snow. Trapped in the sameness and monotony, wondering why I do each little thing that I do day in and day out. Stuck with that unsettled feeling that something’s not right, and it’s more than my décor, or how clean the house is, or even how many cuddles I give the boys. Because no matter how I try to make it so, this is not really my home. And no matter how I wish it so, though I know the very end, I don’t know what comes next. 

282287_10151766575030527_192639598_n1

Oxford University, where Lewis taught

And it’s strange how much waiting can feel like fear. Strange how sameness, instead of affirming who I am, can leave me feeling oh, so purposeless, so lost.

I feel lost, but I keep sweeping that mud into a pile, a pile of black dirt I can scoop right up. And while I sweep, I think of Susan and Lucy in Narnia, waiting in the darkness of that almost spring as they watch the Lion leave them hidden in the trees to go forward and face evil. They’re waiting, though they don’t know what for, and they’re frightened because they don’t yet know the ending, or how much they can trust.

And then after, when it’s over–when it is finished–they run to caress him, to free him even though they think he’s gone. And they don’t even know what he’s accomplished, what’s been given–for Edmund and for them. And they don’t know the power he has over darkness, over evil, over death. But for the moment they are waiting, fearing every dreadful probability their minds can fathom. They fear because they’re waiting, and they don’t know what’s coming, though we on the outside, do.

So I remind myself that these times come, and I can’t escape it. In this world we must wait, though our eternity begins now.  And even though we know He’s with us in Spirit, we’re not home, not with Him like we long to be. But we know, though Lucy and Susan didn’t, that it’s coming–that being with Him. And we know, though they didn’t, just what’s already been done for us.

547918_10151766572440527_916188652_n

Gardens in Oxford University

And in these frequent times of in-between waiting, sometimes the only thing to do is sing. Sometimes when your heart is heavy–with waiting, or uncertainty, or fear–the only thing to do is lift your voice and sing out praises to the One in whose sameness you can always put your trust. Sing it like you mean it, loud and clear. Sing of what He’s done, sing of how He’s won. Sing it till you feel His presence, feel His arms wrapped tight around.

And so I’m singing, and I’m sweeping. Moving boots and wet door mats. Cleaning this floor like I’ll clean it tomorrow, like I’ll clean it the day after that. And though I’m waiting, still I’m smiling.Because it all does matter. This home, and the cuddles, and what we say and do here.

Because He’s here. And He’s returning. And when He does, He’ll really hold us. He’ll hold us and the wait will end.

He stood for a second, his eyes very bright, his limbs quivering, lashing himself with his tail. Then he made a leap high over their heads and landed on the other side of the Table. Laughing, though she didn’t know why, Lucy scrambled over it to reach him. Aslan leaped again. A mad chase began. Round and round the hill-top he led them, now hopelessly out of their reach, now letting them almost catch his tail, now diving between them, now tossing them in the air with his huge and beautifully velveted paws and catching them again, and now stopping unexpectedly so that all three of them rolled over together in a happy laughing heap of fur and arms and legs. It was such a romp as no one has ever had except in Narnia; and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind.

– From The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

by C.S. Lewis

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Running to His arms . . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f3sNiYpuF4

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Avonlea xo

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh orFacebook @happylittlesigh

MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com 

happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the everyday 

Read Full Post »

I went out grudgingly.

Would have rather stayed in to clean the bathrooms.

Do some scrapbooking.

Get a batch of muffins in the oven.

All the important things I wanted to do today.

But the fractiousness of little boys after a week of April showers forced me out.

CAM01078

CAM01083

CAM01084

Out into the garden.

Warmth and sunshine washing over.

The almost green of our snow-flattened grass.

And birdsong.

Birdsong, and I’m Mary Lennox, chasing a robin over a garden gate.

Birdsong, and I’m Jane Eyre with her rooks, exploring Thornfield Hall on her very first morn.

Birdsong, and time is lost,

and I’m myself fifteen years past, discovering a walled garden of my very own.

Scotland.

Pussy willows and crocuses.

Blackbirds and brick.

CAM006201

Birdsong today, and the magic of viewing the world

upside-down

from a swing.

And it’s springtime,

and doesn’t your heart ache with the glory of it?

Of life,

new beginnings,

winter’s end?

And I’m thankful,

wildly thankful in a way I could never express,

for the possibility of all things,

me included,

being turned upside down,

made new.

And I wonder at the sun’s warmth,

and that He calls Himself that,

our Sun and our Shield.

Our Shield,

for don’t we need protecting

from many things,

even ourselves?

Our Sun,

for don’t we revel in the light and the heat?

Don’t we thrive?

Get life?

Doesn’t He give us life

eternally?

Spring.

It has come upon us.

Find a tree stump.

A picnic table.

A bench.

Wait for birdsong.

And just breathe.

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

Listen…

Avonlea xo

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh orFacebook @happylittlesigh

MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com 

happylittlesigh.com

Finding beauty in the everyday 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: