Thursday, February 26, 2009

Short post...

I have a subscription to Gwyneth Paltrow's online newsletter called GOOP. It is completely free and every week or so I get a lovely email either filled with information about travel, food, art, exercise, or tips for better living. It is mostly her opinions (which I of course appreciate), but sometimes she gets other experts and even some of her famous friends to contribute. I got into it because one of her newsletters was about her favorite places to visit when she's living in London.
Well this week was Paris and I am of course going to Paris while I'm hear so I popped open the email to hear what she had to say. I was so excited a touched though by the story she shared at the beginning. I had heard this story ages ago when she did an interview with Oprah following her dad's death. I cannot tell the story or think of the story without getting emotional and tearing up, but as I was planning my trip over to Europe, I kept thinking of the story and found myself telling so many people about what she shared... so here is the story:
When I was ten years old, my father and I took a trip to Paris, leaving my younger brother and mother in London where she was filming a movie. My dad believed in one-on-one time with us, and sometimes that extended to a weekend away. We stayed at a great hotel and he said I could order whatever I wanted for breakfast (French fries). We went to the Pompidou museum, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre - the usual spots. It was pretty great. On the plane back to London he asked me if I knew why we had gone, just he and I, to Paris for the weekend. I said no, but I felt so lucky for the trip. He said, “I wanted you to see Paris for the first time with a man who would always love you, no matter what.” From that time on, Paris was and continues to be very special to me. I lived there for five months in 1994 and I have made many trips back. These are the places in Paris I stay and eat and toast my dad.

I love that story because I feel like God is saying just what her dad said to her... "I want you to see [Europe] for the first time with a man who WILL always love you, no matter what" ... and loves me in a way that no one can ever compare. When I read the story in the newsletter, I got emotional all over again (seriously guys, you have to know something about me... I didn't use to cry hardly at ALL - you can ask my mom, she'll agree. But, in the last probably 6 months, I have become a huge baby). I just cannot believe that God is doing all that he is doing for me... I feel so honored and blessed and humble... INCREDIBLY humble.

Okay... so sorry for the lack of posting in the last couple of days, I know there are several of you who check everyday looking for news. It has been slow around here, so bullet points it is.
- I am up to my ears in essay writing... this essay is for my english class and doesn't have to be as long as the others, but I am actually excited to write on this topic because I think I have a very interesting angle and am finding TONS of sources to back me up, which is always awesome.
- I leave for Scotland bright and early tomorrow morning... I have to leave the school by 6:30 to make it to Kings Cross station (yes the one from Harry Potter) to catch a train to Scotland with my tour. I am BEYOND EXCITED and can't wait to start packing. It is however supposed to rain most of the weekend, but pray that it is miraculously sunny, which is what I intend to be doing all the way up there.
- I strained my wrist the other night while sleeping (I think it was stuck in a twisted state for an extended period of time) and it has been bothering me ever since. Today it is much better, but I bought a wrist bandage to help me.
- I am planning a post soon all about Founder's Hall, my place of residence... but I need more pictures of the inside.
- The cute leather purse I bought in Camden smells badly (abnormally strong new leather scent) and I have been trying to air it out for a couple of days. In doing research online of different deodorizing methods I discovered that the leather was more than likely tanned and prepared with horse pee... that's right. It is very common in foreign countries to do that... and therefore removing the scent becomes that much harder if not impossible. Fortunately, Phoebe assures me that she can't smell it unless it's RIGHT under her nose, so at least I don't smell like horse urine. But, currently my bag in hanging out of my window airing out... I also bought am regularly using febreeze on it and I bought some orange blossom scented sachets to put in it. But, yuck. I still love it though.
- I am starting to plan out my plans for the exam term. I get my exam schedule on March 16th and more than likely I will have a couple of weeks of exams only and then 5 weeks of nothing... TRAVEL TIME!! I am hoping to get to France, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, and Ireland. I will get Germany out of the way over Easter break.
- I am seeing my cousin Matt and his wife Sylvia and their little boy Elijah in London next week (then I'll be visiting them in Germany in April)
- You'll get another post from me probably on monday.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Weekend festivities...

So on friday I spent the day lazily bumming around Royal Holloway and then Phoebe and I went into Egham for some shopping. I needed groceries and I wanted to look around the charity shops (thrift stores) while I was down there. Phoebe isn't into those kinds of stores, but I am on a mission to change her :) I did impress her quite a bit by finding some REALLY cute stuff!! Which included a pair of Levi 572 jeans that fit PERFECT!! - £3.50, a royal blue baggy top - £3, a long crochet sweater - £3.50! At one shop they also had a bin of mail envelopes of DVDs (kind of netflix style but with actual movie cover art)... only 80p! I bought Merlin (a TV miniseries that I have seen 100 times and my dad owns on actual DVD, but I had to buy it!) and Dr. Zhivago (the version with Kiera Knightly that aired on TV a couple of years ago... never seen it, but want to). It was a VERY successful day... except I got back after getting all my groceries only to discover that the bread I already had is now moldy... so I should have bought more... I'll have to wait for my next trip. Phoebe and I finished the day with Sliding Doors on DVD... funny, it was a different version than the one I own at home. Some scenes were rather more explicit... I think the US realized that the true movie would have gotten an R rating and so they edited it to be PG13 to appeal to a wider audience base... strange though. It is incredibly fun watching movies with Phoebe, especially movies we've both seen, because we end up commenting throughout the movie and then having hilarious inside jokes later on!! It was ALSO fun that I recognized places I have now been in the movie (which takes place in London - fact: they filmed the train station scene at Waterloo station, which Phoebe and I have now claimed as our station). HA!

Then on Saturday I went into London. I was planning on going to Camden with Phoebe to shop for cute clothes for our photo shoot in a month, but Phoebe instead had to be secluded in the Library of Roehampton University all day. So I continued on to London to meet Ashley (from Oxford) and her friends for the day. They were shopping at Brick Lane (known to have several vintage shops) and so ALL BY MYSELF I navigated my way through the London Underground to Liverpool Station and then through the streets of London a couple blocks to where they were. I felt SO cool all by myself. I even had a lady ask me for directions and another lady ask if she was getting on the right train... I totally fit in!
So we shopped around Brick Lane and then grabbed lunch. They has a couple stands for Indian Food and Chinese Food, so I ordered some Kung Pao Chicken - delicious and a Pepsi.
Then for dessert Ashley and I got a Crepe with Nutella and Caramel. You should note in the picture above that I am outside and my arms are exposed to the elements... it was 55 degrees in London that day, which equals heaven, which means my arms saw the light of day for the first time since I arrived in England. It is supposed to be that warm again in Egham come Thursday and I will be lying in the middle of the quad in a tshirt trying to get color on my arms. It is particularly alarming when the hair on my arms is darker than my skin... something that NEVER happens in AZ because the sun always ends up beaching my arm hair. Very sad that I can get even PALER than I already am, huh!
Ashley's friends were really nice and very interesting. One kid goes to Harvard and is studying at Oxford... he got his first Bachelor's degree in music at 10 years old and is working simultaneously to get his 2nd and 3rd degrees (bachelor's and Masters) in English and Science... he just turned 19. I feel hopeless. HA! not really.
After lunch we hopped on a train to Camden Market! They didn't allot for much time there, so we only spent maybe a little over an hour at the shops. You REALLY need a whole day to get the full Camden effect. But we walked around the stalls and I again lusted after the cute clothes that were too light to wear in the cool weather and dreamed of when I would come back and buy my spring wardrobe. I did however find cute socks that go all the way up to mid-thigh (now I can forgo the dual pants and just wear the socks and jeans) and the MOST AMAZING BAG!!! So, upon arriving in england and doing all the shopping and traveling I have been doing, I quickly realized I needed a sling back to save my shoulders. I found a cheap one at a charity shop for £3, but it wasn't that cute. I dreamed of the perfect bag - leather material and preferably yellow... because I have never had a yellow purse and felt like I needed one. Well as we were leaving Camden I spotted it!! In a genuine leather shop by the tube station... it was PERFECT! mustard yellow and everything. It was £35, which is steep, but it's real leather so I totally splurged because it was like someone stepped into my dreams to create this bag. The only bad thing I have noticed about it is that I don't think they prepared the leather properly and so as a result, it smells a little. But hopefully that will go away eventually. Here's my lovely bag:
We left Camden and our next stop was Harrod's department store.
This is world famous!! Every room is a different theme and filled with the top designer fashions. Names like Versace, Roberto Cavalli, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, etc, etc have their best stuff there. We didn't have much time, but we did get up to the shoes, where I HAD to try on some Jimmy Choo heels
We also made it to the Chocolate room - FILLED with Chocolate truffles, fudge, etc but I was actually more excited by the Fromagerie - an entire room the size of a large Walgreen's devoted to every cheese to can imagine!!!! I took a pic with all the deliciousness
These are the lovely people I spent the day with:
After Harrod's we went our separate ways and I caught the tube and then the train back to Egham. When I got back I met Phoebe at The Hub restaurant on campus and we sat with our friends Allie and Danielle for dinner. Then Allie, Danielle, and I went to Medicine (a pub on campus) to hang out and play from cards. Then off to bed!

Sunday I went to St John's from church. They sand 3 songs that I knew - "Holy is the Lord" "Majesty" and "Blessed be your name." There was also a baptism, which is always SO cool.
Sunday night there was a Regenerate Christian Union event in the Student Union. It was a night of worship. Very neat.
When I got back to my room I was able to Skype my parents at Emolyn's Birthday party for only about 5 minutes before Skype kicked me off, but I got to see the Princess and wish her a happy Birthday! I love that little girl so much!

Then I had classes today, so that brings you up to speed on my life.

*** Oh and I didn't get to watch the Oscars cause I would have had to stay up till 5am. But I have watched most of the acceptance speeches and the two big musical numbers on the internet!!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Mem!!!

My beautiful niece turns 1 years old today!! I can't believe she has been with us for a year already, and at the same time, I feel like our family was never without her. I am so sad I can't be with her. This was the day I dreaded the most when I decided to come to England. Seriously. I didn't mind missing ANYTHING else about back home as much as I was sad to be missing her first birthday! I keep reminding myself that she won't remember if I'm there or not anyway, and I'll make up for it with all the days I am planning on kidnapping her for Aunt Miranda and Emolyn days!!

I still remember the day she was born... I feel with that statement that I have aged 60 years and am sitting in a rocking chair with an afghan in my lap. It was raining (I know that sounds cliche, but it was). I remember I got out of work exceptionally early that day (around 11am) and I was wandering around Arizona Mills looking for tennis shoes to buy. My mom called me to tell me Nicole had gone into the hospital because of some pregnancy complications and that she would probably be there for at least a couple of days. I was thinking as I shopped that I should call to go down and visit her while she was there. Then my phone rang again (probably about 20mins after the first conversation). My mom was bawling on the phone and I remember freezing with a pair of black and white Nike shox in my hands... thinking the worst. My mom told me that Nicole was going to be having the baby THAT DAY!! 7 weeks early!! I immediately asked if the doctors thought everything was gonna be okay, and what was happening. She told me they were all heading down to the hospital in the next hour. I immediately dropped the pair of shoes (hopefully on a table of some sort and not just on the floor... I can't remember) and I just walked out to my car. I hung up the phone and remember crying as I walked to my car in the rain praying that everything was gonna be okay. I was so scared for everything, but at the same time, I was so excited to meet my niece or nephew. As I drove back to my apartment in Phoenix and then onto the hospital, I remember feeling this wave of peace. Even though I knew it was gonna be nerve racking, I never for a moment thought the worst... I just knew it would all be okay.
I got to the hospital and sat with all dear friends and family. The people that I love so much surrounding Shawn and Nicole through that daunting afternoon and evening. I just am so thankful that I have such an awesome family and amazing friends. I remember hearing that she was gonna be so small... I remember as each of my friends showed up, I felt even more peace. I remember sitting in the waiting room with the girls laughing and talking, praying, and thinking about what life with this little one was gonna be like. I would have put money down on the fact that it was gonna be a boy... but I remember Shawn walking by the hall saying, "Her name is Emolyn Kate" and my whole world changed. It was like time stopped and my heart was so filled with love for this little girl. That was when our entire group: The girls, my parents, Tyler, Joel, Beckie, Jason and Michelle, and the rest of Nicole's family all rushed the hallway running towards Shawn and Emolyn as she was wheeled by to the NICU. She was perfect. No tubes, no machines, nothing I expected to be there. She was wrapped in a little white blanket staring at all of us - her little eyes blinking. She was so perfect and beautiful. I just cried and cried.
I was SO proud of Nicole... SO proud of Shawn. I just couldn't believe all that they were going through, but they were incredible. They were beautiful to watch. When Shawn finally made it out to the waiting room after making sure his DAUGHTER was safe, I remember being amazed at how much he had changed in a day... he was a daddy... how weird. I finally got to see her later in the evening and she was such a bundle of cuteness!! So tiny, so fragile, so precious, so loved. Every time I would see her I just marveled at how tiny she was and how she was still whole and perfect. Her little legs kicking up and stretching... her cute little sleeping mask... her tiny tiny diapers.
I remember the first time I got to hold her... how light she was - barely felt like I was holding much at all. I even remember how radiant Nicole looked when I would visit her in the hospital. She was so tired and worried and exhausted I'm sure, but she was so in love with this little girl and it was awesome to see. Shawn too, he was so attentive, so capable, so cool to see my big brother head over heels for his daughter.
I remember holding her after she had come home from the hospital at Shawn and Nicole's... she started getting squirmy and restless in my arms and I started singing to her... she immediately settled down. You couldn't rock her or bounce her in your arms... all those normal things you have learned to do to sooth babies, but singing helped. I remember when she looked at me the first time - I would have given her the keys to my car with those eyes. I remember when she first smiled at me... no words.
She is so sweet. Every time I have held her since that first time, I have had "Aunt Miranda and Emolyn sing-along time." Slowly she has joined in the singing adding her little noises to my song. Her favorites are "You are my Sunshine" and "Down in the Meadow" (at which she screeches). I love how in the last few months before I left she started to know who I was. She would look at me and just get the BIGGEST smile on her face!! I loved that! I hope that doesn't stop when I get back.
She is so funny. She makes the cutest faces and has the quirkiest little pirate smile... she has amazing rhythm too!! When you sing or have music playing she finds the beat and dances along in time with the song! She is also so smart and I love when she shakes her head in disagreement. I can't wait to hear her talk and hear more of her little voice. I can't wait till she starts walking... waddling around everywhere. I can't wait till I get to be home and get to hold her and cuddle and kiss her!! I can't believe how crazy I am about this little girl. I just keep thinking as she gets older all the things her and I will get to do together, just like I did with my Aunts.
Okay I have to end the blog cause I'm getting emotional...

I love you Emolyn Kate, Emy, Mem, Memmy, Peanut, Princess, Lady, baby-girl!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Updates and Oxford #2

- It is the first truly sunny day here in a week and a half and yet the coldest... how does that work? Wait, don't explain, I actually DO know how that works.
- I absolutely adore Amy Lynch's idea of blue shoes for her wedding! I may steal it for my own someday.
- I have fallen in love with a little candy called Minstrels... They are basically oversize M&Ms with simple brown crispy shells. BUT the chocolate has just a HINT of caramel, I think.
- I finished the Shack last night!! SO GOOD!!! I read a lot of it on the train ride to Oxford yesterday (I could totally dig the train rides, because you get SO MUCH reading done). I got to a part where I had to put the book up to my face to shield everyone from see me just bawl. It has such powerful moments where you just have to stop and really wrestle with what you believe and realize the lies you've told yourself about who God really is. Now, if you want my very honest assessment, I'll tell you that there were parts that I didn't care for... but that's due to opinion and not really biblical unsoundness. None of those part deterred me from loving the book though. It was a very powerful journey for me to read it.
- I am starting on Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell today! Actually I am continuing... I started it in November and got through to page 65 before I picked up Twilight... oh Twilight. But I am so excited to start reading it again!! Amy, don't give anything away.
- I read somewhere that my brother Shawn takes the draw strings out of all of his hoodies... my life was forever changed. I have since done that and it seriously makes me so happy to not have to deal with the strings!!
- These pictures are the result of my decoration with magazines night the other night...


I feel like my life again has color in it.

Yesterday I went to Oxford to meet a Ashley! I had such a great time. I am enjoying the visits to famous places where I don't feel like such a tourist. We didn't have much planned to do, so we basically wandered the city. Ashley is studying at Oxford for the semester and as a student she was able to get us into different college courtyards and even the Rhodes House, where the Rhodes scholars live. We also went shopping and I got a Tshirt from this one nice store called ZARA. It is kind of a deep coral color and it has this spray-paint style screening on it of a artsy style light bulb with a leaf in the middle and it says "The Light of Life." It's also organic cotton - I feel so "green."
Alright, so here was my day:
I took the trains to Oxford... Again, I felt so awesome doing it all on my own - a true Brit. I really dig the trains. They are really nicely kept and you really can't do much else but read, which is lovely, because I find it hard to just sit and read without being distracted. So I got through MUCH of the Shack just in the 1 1/2 hr trip. I also love watching the England fly by my window... the houses, towns, fields, etc... awesome. I had to make a change in Reading and I haven't got all my bearings with platforms yet, but if you politely ask for help and I flash my lovely smile, the nice gentlemen will kindly point you in the right direction. So I finally got to Oxford and met Ashley at the station. We then walked back to the heart of the College. Our first stop was brunch - it was after 11am when I got there. I had a great smoothie and Ham and Cheese Omelet. We then headed off for our first destination which was St Mary's tower by the Radcliffe Camera.
It costs £3 to climb to the top, and what a climb it is. Not as tall as St Pauls, but the stairs are insane... very steep and BARELY big enough for you feet. I could see it again, the headlines "American Exchange student plunged to her death today in Oxford's St Mary's Virgin Church. She was descending the stairs and lost her footing, plummeting through the stone passage way to her imminent demise." Very illustrious way to parish, but still sad to think. But we successfully got to the top. Another challenge presented itself. The walk way at the top is barely big enough to fit a person... I had to tilt slightly to the side to fit in some places... this presented a problem when families were leaving and you were arriving. Needless to say I was in personal contact with many a tourist as we navigated our way around. It was scary when we were walking down the narrow stairs and others were walking up... again personal contact coupled with the fear they would bump you into loosing your footing and you would die. But here are out pictures at the top:
Behind me you'll see St Mary's College. Those tall towers are called the ivory towers... when someone says "you're in the ivory towers" that is to what they are referring... in those towers is where the highest scholars spend their time studying (ALL THE TIME). The saying basically means that you are in another word... high up on another intellectual plane.
This is my friend Ashley
More of the city

The scary staircase
My future home in Oxford #1
Rhodes House (this is where Bill Clinton attended along with other distinguished Rhodes Scholars
Charming courtyard
After the Rhodes house, we walked over to Magdalene College (which you'll remember is pronounces "Maudlen" college). This is where Cs Lewis taught... Collest courtyard award.
The tree alone was AWESOME!
Inside the Chapel at Magdalene College... very interesting Stain glass... they were like cepia.
This is the courtyard that apparently CS Lewis' room looked out into and the statues around the edges helped inspire the narnians in his famous books.

(if you zoom in on the above picture, you may see that one of the statues is of a greyhound dog, another of a beaver, another of a prince).
They also had this water pump in the courtyard.
In Oxford you are NOT allowed to walk on the grass... on penalty of death it would seem... No one was looking and therefore Ashley dared the impossible...
Future house in Oxford #2 (I like this one the best)
After this we mostly shopped. We had coffee at Starbucks and then dinner at her College St Catherine's. St Cat's was built in the 1960's and therefore is very modern compared to the rest of Oxford. I didn't take pictures the rest of the day because before we knew it, it was dark. I left around 8:15 on my trains home... I felt so cool.

Hey, if you are curious at all about other aspects of my life here... just ask in the comments. I will write about pretty much anything.