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Posts Tagged ‘Happy Little Sigh’

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 🙂 ).

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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 . . .

1. The 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.

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

2. The DecĂłr  –  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!

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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. 

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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!

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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. 

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

Avonlea xo

 

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Finding beauty in the everyday ♥

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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.

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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.

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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 CruditĂ©s (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.

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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

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Finding beauty in the everyday ♥

 

 

 

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We can wait decades. Sometimes more. Hoping, praying, begging that God would make a thing come true. And you pray, and you wait. And sometimes you recall some sweet blessing, or some specific prayer that was answered in the past, and you faith is boosted a bit–just enough to keep you hoping, even when it all seems to fall on deaf ears.

Other times the seeming silence makes you feel you might crumble right down to nothing but dust. And sometimes dust is just what you wish you could be.

For the waiting, and the longing, they can work away like long years of labor on tender heart, leaving you just . . . tired. And the world, with all it’s beautiful places and beautiful faces can begin to seem like the only comfort you’re going get. And sin is drug-like, and it smiles so sweet, and the lies it tells you never look like lies at all.

Sin can begin to look more beautiful than . . . well, than God himself. And you find yourself wondering if He really is so good.

Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.

But I’m here to tell you–as I’m here to tell myself–that whatever it is the world is offering you, it will never bring you the peace and fulfillment you desire. Whatever it is you’re being tempted by, God is better. He is BETTER. And He is GOOD.

Yes, I’m waiting. Long, long waits. And I’m asking God so many Whys–about family, and relationships, and these books, which I’ve written but have yet to land in a reader’s hands. And it’s ever-so-hard when a burning desire–an ability, a gift–we think God has given us, seems to bounce off the ceiling and land right back in our laps.

And I can’t give the answer to that for my own life, as I can’t give the answer to that for yours. But I am determined to choose what is BEST. No matter what the outcome, no matter if I go to my deathbed still whispering these prayers, I am determined to trust the One who gives me breath. The One who made me and placed me just as and where I am. The One who calls me His own.

May God give you the strength to do the same. For the dear ones in your life. For your own self. For the glory of Christ. May you determine to walk the narrow path of life. To “set your face like flint, determined to do His will.” Isaiah 50:7.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

Avonlea xo

Find me on Instagram @happylittlesigh or Facebook @happylittlesigh

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

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Everywhere, there were walls. Day by day, they’d grown up around us till every house and shop and school and road had its own borders, its own barriers. Keeping things out, keeping them in. Walls, running all over this frozen land. Walls made of snow. Not that the barriers were intentional, when we all went out with our shovels, blowers, and plows. But the walls came anyway, as we made a path from door to car, from car to sidewalk, from sidewalk to road. But at our house, we also had a path. A path between our neighbours’ house and our own.

Not that we’d used it often, that imaginary gateway, that break in the wall. No, not in such a winter when the snowfall set records and people had to shovel their roofs so they wouldn’t collapse under the weight, and icicles hung like thick stalactites from gutters, and the painful wind and cold brought tears to your eyes and chapped hands and cheeks and lips. No, not in such a winter.

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But then there came a day, one soft and snowy Sunday, when we did. Church had been canceled after an ice storm left thousands without power. So we were home, the day before us a little lonely and uncertain and unfilled. But then there came a knock.

I shuffled to the mud room in my slippers, found the tall frame of our neighbour filling the glass door. Expecting him to ask John’s help with the snow or maybe something to do with frozen pipes, I reached for the handle, hoping all was well.

“We’re not going anywhere today, and neither are you,” he said. “We’ve got a ham in the oven and we’re hoping you’ll come over and help us eat it.”

Well, such an invitation! Such a welcome invitation on such a silent, snowy day.

And so we put on our boots, didn’t bother with coats, and filled the silence with our chatter as we walked that path, that break in the wall of snow, and into our neighbours’ large kitchen.

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We stayed for hours. And I couldn’t tell you what it meant to sit round their table, surrounded by photos of their grandchildren and a collection of Eiffel Towers. But it was more than the ham and potatoes and veg that we ate while we talked and laughed. More than the tea and cookies and jello that came next. More than the stories from days past, told with such animation that we laughed over till our sides hurt. More than our neighbours themselves, who had begun as kind strangers and turned into friends.

It was the sum of it all that filled us that day, warmed us from the inside out, made us feel that winter was the most wonderful of seasons because it had brought us together–could bring us close to other family and friends–before spring came and the world opened up and let us sprawl out, warm in the sun but far from each other.

March is nearly upon us, but the temperatures are still frigid, and until the warmth comes to melt the mountains of snow and banish the walls, we will have winter. And for as long as it lasts, for all those long Saturday afternoons and black winter nights, I’ll be searching for ways to warm our home, to warm the hearts of our friends. With big pots of chili, and spontaneous tea parties with plates of shortbread taken from the rations John’s parents bring.

And that is the best way to not just survive winter, but love it.

It is said that good fences make good neighbours, and I agree. Good fences, good walls, they make good neighbours–but only when there is a gate.

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And there is quite a different sort of conversation around a fire than there is in the shadow of a beech tree…. [F]our dry logs have in them all the circumstance necessary to a conversation of four or five hours, with chestnuts on the plate and a jug of wine between the legs. Yes, let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.

~Pietro Aretino, translated from Italian

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Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger. She calls her family together within her inmost home to prepare them for being scattered abroad upon the face of the earth.

~Hugh Macmillan, “Rejuvenescence,” The Ministry of Nature, 1871

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Avonlea xo

For more breathtaking pics of Great Britain, inspiring quotes from our favourite authors, & peeks into the daily life of a boymum looking for beauty in the everyday things in life, find Avonlea on

Instagram @happylittlesigh

Facebook @happylittlesigh

OR for EXCLUSIVE photos & inspirations get my MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com

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Finding beauty in the everyday ♥

 

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He met the Queen, my husband, John, did. As in Her Majesty, The Queen. Elizabeth II. Mother of Prince Charles. Grandmother to Princes William and Harry. Great-grandmother to the little royals. John grew up in a small fishing community in the Northeast of Scotland, far from the gilded elegance of London. But it’s one of those things, I suppose, that the longer one lives in the United Kingdom, the more likely one is to meet, bump into, or at least see one of them–a member of the royal family.

It’s like being an American in L.A. Sooner or later you’ll recognize someone from the Silver Screen. Two of my siblings lived there, and seemed to post weekly pics of famous people they’d helped in their retail jobs. Jackie Chan, Helena Bonham Carter, and the list goes on. My brother ended up with a part in a YouTube video with Richard Simmons (which thankfully didn’t involve exercise). My sister made a friend who lives in the same gated community as Reese Witherspoon. He let my sister use his house for her birthday party one year (which I got to attend!). We all chuckled at the story of Reese coming to his house trick-or-treating with her kids. He handed out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and in her sweet Southern voice, she replied, “Very funny.” I can just hear it.

There’s something just a bit different, though–a little more magical and surreal–about meeting The Queen and all her family. And stories, both magical and surreal, are what I mean to tell.

Wouldn’t we all have loved to be a university student at St Andrews, where Prince William and Catherine met and fell in love? The daughter of a minister at a church we attended was a student there, and one day got a lovely surprise when Prince William himself opened a door for her. Always the gentleman. Sigh.

And wouldn’t the scenery in the hills of the Scottish highlands have seemed all the more green and glorious had a group of poshly dressed people come along the trail–and one of the them was Prince Charles, who bid you good day? That’s exactly what happened to a woman from our church.

But not all of my stories are of chance encounters.

John met the Queen at 14. He was active in the Boys’ Brigade, a sort of Boy Scouts with Christian roots, and one summer his troop was on parade at Windsor Castle. As the Queen inspected the ranks, she stopped every so often to speak with one of the boys. I like to think it was my husband’s bright crop of ginger hair that caught the Queen’s attention.

“And where have you traveled from?” she asked him, in the way only the Queen could.

He answered, all earnestness and Scottish brogue.

“My,” she smiled, “you have come a long way.”

It wasn’t the lengthiest of interactions, but quite special none-the-less, and a story I surmise we’ll pass down to our grandchildren.

My sister got to see the Queen and Prince Charles. John’s great aunt had secured tickets for the Royal Highland Games (think bagpipes, and kilted men tossing large logs called cabers). The games were held at Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s highland residence, which first belonged to Queen Victoria. John and I had only been married a year, and as he had the day off, I decided to forego Balmoral and stay home with him. Ah, young love. And so I missed my chance to see the Queen, although my sister showed me her photos!

And what of the younger royals? University friends of ours attended a charity event and got near enough to Prince William and Catherine Middleton to snap some close-ups (which they kindly shared with me–hope you like them!).

But my stories don’t end here. Next time–your personal invite inside the gates of Buckingham Palace for The Queen’s Garden Party, and even more up-close and personal stories of the Royal Family.

And if you didn’t catch the story of the weekend I spent in England with some almost royals and totally embarrassed myself, you can find that here.

Avonlea xo

For more breathtaking pics of Great Britain, inspiring quotes from our favourite authors, & peeks into the daily life of a boymum looking for beauty in the everyday things in life, find Avonlea on

Instagram @happylittlesigh

Facebook @happylittlesigh

OR for EXCLUSIVE photos, inspirations, & videos, sign up for my MONTHLY Newsletter, Morning Cuppa Tea at happylittlesigh@gmail.com 

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Finding beauty in the everyday ♥

 

 

 

 

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The London days are the worst. That feeling I wake with, or that settles over me in the almost twilight of an afternoon, to be somewhere exotic yet familiar. Buzzing with activity, yet gracefully weathering the passage of time. Somewhere able to give me the rough grittiness of ancient castle stone and surround me with the intoxicating fumes of a double decker bus. Somewhere with all the imagined romance of a Charles Dickens novel, all the contemporary romance of William and Kate. Somewhere that can always give you a hot cup of tea, a good deal on a new pair of shoes, and a crisp set of white sheets at the end of the day. London.

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It’s hard, you know, when you’ve been to a city like that. Especially when you’ve been enough times that you begin to find your favorite haunts, your favorite stops on the tube, but where the scenery is still something like a living painting, dazzling before your eyes.

I get other sorts of days, too. Florence days, where I long for the lazy air of a sun-drenched piazza, pistachio ice cream dripping down the cone and over my hand, though I’m glorying too much in the beauty of it all to notice. Edinburgh days, when I ache for Princes Street, and shortbread, and hearts, dear hearts of friends.

But there is something about the otherworldliness of London that can catch like a gasp in my throat, and I have to breathe it out. Breathe it all out.

Because it took a million miracles to get us here. Here, in this little yellow house in the country in the middle of America. At the edge of the river and the edge of a town founded when America was still quite new. Here, where I wake and breathe in the now of my life.

Most of those miracles passed by unnoticed, like most every moment of an ordinary day.

A few of them seemed more like tragedies than miracles at the time. That house in the city. The break-ins, where they took so much, and yet left so much pain and fear and those awful dreams. The bat in our bedroom. The garbage. And the bugs.

And then there were those events that came about in such strange, unexpected ways that we had to look at each other, my husband and I, and we just knew. This house, which seemed a half-decade or more away, was scrolled past on the computer just for fun one Wednesday night. We didn’t know the thieves were coming that Sunday while we sat learning, praising, smiling in church. That we’d come home to find they’d been in our room—just there beside the bed, rummaging through the drawers and taking that pocket watch I bought him for our first anniversary. And the money and the phones, and worst of all the computers with the pictures of our babies and all those files of my research and words, lost. We didn’t know, and it seemed like the worst thing ever, and we didn’t know why.

Looking back, it seems as strange as ever. But so does this house. Six minutes from my mother, and six years earlier than we thought we’d be here. An empty house. Just waiting.

And then there are our neighbors—kinder, and with more joy and home-baked cookies than we know what to do with, and it feels like they’d been waiting. Just for us.

That night they came for dinner and I heard the story about the truck crash that ripped the top off the trailer like a tin of sardines and yet left their five-year-old son curled up behind the seat fast asleep. That night I felt it heavy upon us. That miracle. That grace.

And I could go on and say more about our baby. Our silky-soft butterball of a baby boy who joined our family in December. I call him Wonderbaby. Did a child ever laugh so much? I prayed over him, prayed over my stomach that God would give me a child of peace. And He did. Wonder.

 

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But I couldn’t see it all so clearly, wouldn’t treasure it so dearly, if I hadn’t first stood drenched, umbrella-less in the torrential rain that lifted us up and floated us here.  Here, to this house and this place in our lives. Here, where our hearts are full of love for our children, and for every hurting person who has known our pain and worse. Here, where we’ve dropped everything else and our arms are empty as we go running through fields in the gleaming sunlight to Him.

These are the days I’ll want back. These days of wonder and want. Of nappies and sticky hands. Of gifted dandelions, and legos, and laundry, endless laundry.  Of never, ever enough sleep, and staggering from bed to lift my smallest one and tuck him close so he can drink.

London can wait. We’ll take them one day, our boys, and show them where the Queen lives, and that roaring T-Rex robot in the V & A. And we’ll have our cream teas, and it will be grand.* But for now, here, where we live and breathe today, I’ll show them the wonder. The miracle of a God who doesn’t stop loving, who doesn’t stop thinking of them as if it’s just them. For every glimpse I’ve gotten, I want them to see more.

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It took a million miracles to get us here. And for all the days we have to come, however many that will be, whether they are London days or laundry days, I want to live them with my eyes open to it all. To every miracle. Every gift.

Avonlea xo

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Finding beauty in the everyday ❤

*This post was originally written in 2013. The very next year, we did go to London, and these photos are from that trip.

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1,500 women gathered in a chapel. Outside, snow flurries danced in the bitter wind. Inside, the warm glow of the chapel’s soaring wood ceiling. Chocolate covered pretzels, and coffee, and light. Smiling faces, and candle-lit carols, and friends. And the speaker had so much to say–so many good things to inspire and help us on. But there was one thing that struck me–sat like a burning weight in the deepest part of me. She spoke of the Armor of God, and of the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:17). THIS is how we do battle with all that threatens to undo us. THIS is the weapon we must take into our hands when darkness starts to close in. The Sword of the Spirit–the Word, which is Light, and Love, and Truth. I took up the challenge this morning, and this is the passage to which I was drawn–

Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

This is the picture I’m holding with me as I go through the day–the picture of my Father, who is Ruler of the Universe, yet who has stooped to hold onto my hand.

HOPE

Avonlea xo

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Finding beauty in the everyday ❤

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