Tag Archives: Lists

Going Postal

The last few months have been absolutely crazy for me.  My days are filled with ever-fluctuating, crazy work situations, and my nights and weekends are filled with May Ball hoopla.  And I do mean hoopla.  It is because of this crazy schedule that we decided we needed a relaxing and fun-filled weekend.  My American friend Courtney, who I met at work invited Ben and me to stay with her this weekend at her house in Ely and do a bit of shopping.  You are probably asking why Ben decided to go along with this…well that is because the shopping was taking place on the American military base.  Oh baby.

We had a fun Friday night, but Saturday was the real highlight.  We headed to base before noon and made our first stop, the post office.  Normally this would be a pretty mundane and tiresome errand, but I was overjoyed.  I couldn’t stop staring at everyone.  They all looked so American.  There were tons of hoodies and baseball hats, running gear, and boot cut jeans.  I felt so at home.  It wasn’t only the people, but it was the actual place.  I loved being surrounded by all the American postal supplies.  Yes, you heard me right.  All the blue tape with white eagles on it, stamps of American presidents, and large signs that said “US Postal Service” just made me smile.  To Ben’s embarrassment, I actually starting giggling I was so excited.

After our trip to the post office, we headed South of the border.  Oh yes.  Taco Bell.  Sigh.  I could have ordered everything on the menu, but Ben, being the logical man he is, reminded me that I should start small and then order more if I was still hungry.  Smart man.  So I sat down with my chicken quesadilla, cinnamon twists, and huge Dr. Pepper and all the cares of the last few months just melted away.  There was one point when I was telling Courtney how good it was, and I actually started to tear up.  Of course my food was tasty, but it was more than that, it reminded me of home.  Who would have thought Taco Bell could elicit such a response?

After I savoured every last bite (I literally took twice as long as Courtney and Ben), we headed to the commissary.  We were like children in a candy store.  We walked down every single aisle and gazed admiringly at nearly every label.  We methodically went through our list and made sure we didn’t miss anything.  We filled our cart with barbecue sauce, Velveeta shells and cheese, Frosted Mini Wheats, chocolate chips, chocolate frosting, Hamburger Helper, Bush’s Baked Beans,CORNBREAD MIX, CANNED GREEN CHILLIES!!!, and the list goes on.  We were in heaven.  I bought cherry chapstick, Pantene Pro-V, and York peppermint patties for my friend Hannah as they are her favorite…unfortunately, two out of three didn’t make the journey home.  🙂

It was such a great day.  Not only did we get loads of amazing food, but we saved a whole lot of money!  Some of the things we bought we could get here in England, but for a pretty penny.  It was amazing to see just how much cheaper it was to buy American products with American prices.  To top the day off, we had a little Baskin Robbin.  Bless my soul it was good.  I couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing and fun weekend.  I was surrounded by friendly American faces, pocket-book friendly prices, and waist friendly food…ok, maybe not that last bit, but that is ok by me.  I think my feelings today can be best summed up by saying, God bless America and the kind military folks who let me go crazy this weekend.  Courtney, that includes you!! xox


Belated Thanksgiving

This is one of my favorite seasons of the year.  Halloween kicks off the fall with pumpkin carvings, crisp nights, and cozy fires.  Thanksgiving rolls around and I am practically giddy with joy.  I love the food, the snow, the festivities that bring all those you love together.  It truly is a time to be thankful.  The fall season builds in wonderful anticipation for the pinnacle, the celebration of the birth of my Savior.  I find myself getting more and more excited as the weeks go by and my heart seems to be constantly drumming out a beat of thankfulness.  This season just brings an immense amount of peace and joy to me.

I spend a lot of time at bus stops.  Probably about an hour a day.  So I stand there every day in the FREEZING cold, wrapped in layers of scarves, mittens, and hats, headphones in, just smiling to myself.  It is pitch dark when I go home and pretty cold, but most nights, I am pretty content.  Not just content, I am really, really happy.  I am headed home to a husband I love and on a lot of nights, I get to look forward to spending time with people I love here in Cambridge.

We had a pretty amazing Thanksgiving this year.  That is partially because we had two of them!  We hosted Thanksgiving day at our new flat this year (and amazingly fit 14 people around our make-shift table!!) and it was wonderful.  Everyone brought a dish or two and it was a night just spent sitting around the table chatting and connecting…wo things I love to do.  Then just a few days later we hosted another Thanksgiving at the home of some of dear friends here in Cambridge. We had a large group of British students (21 to be exact!) who for the most part had never had an American Thanksgiving.  We assigned each of them an American dish and it was fantastic.  Both Thanksgivings were filled with fun, A-mazing food, and lots of wonderful conversation.  They were two very special Thanksgivings.

This Thanksgiving made me a bit more reflective and as I looked back over the last 6 months or so, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelming blessed.  Here are some of the things that came into my mind.

1. Our siblings weddings.  It wasn’t just the weddings of Zach & Stephanie, and Alex & Rachel, it was everything leading up to those beautiful days.  It was precious time with our families and their closest friends.  The four weeks we were in the states this summer will be some of the most memorable four weeks of my life.  Our friendship with our siblings is one of the greatest joys of my life.

2. My friend Cassie spending her savings to come and see me!  The two weeks that Cassie was here were beyond fun.  It was a whirlwind tour of Cambridge, London and Paris and my goodness it was a blast!  Getting to show one of my dearest friends around this beautiful city and just see our life here was so special.  She is one of those friends that just warms your heart.

3. Our brief but wonderful night with Sarah and Mark in London.  One of my old co-workers from PDS was in London for a few days and she and her husband invited us down for dinner.  We met up with them and enjoyed one of the most amazing meals I have had in England.  We ate at this absolutely phenomenal Moroccan restaurant (and I mean phenomenal) and spent the night just catching up, marvelling over how tasty the food was, and just sharing our lives with each other.  I have been so blessed by Sarah as she has made such an effort to stay in touch despite the distance.  The night was wonderful and is one that I think back on a lot.

4. The group of university students and older youth that we meet with.  We started meeting with these students about three months ago and they have just taken up residence in my heart.  They are such a joy to be around and I feel so blessed that we get to be a part of their lives.  The joy and laughter they bring into our home each Wednesday is something I look forward to each week.

5. Dream opportunities.  I never would have thought that I would have so many opportunities come my way that would make my dream career become more of a reality.  I have a good job, but it is what I do outside of work that makes me come alive.  I love planning events and connecting with people and I have been given amazing opportunities to that this fall.  I am so grateful to God for the way he makes un-realized dreams come true.

6.  Our parents.  I feel so fortunate to have the parents that we have.  They have become some of our closest friends and it has been such a joy to see how our relationships have grown in closeness since we have moved here.  We have gained a new appreciation and love for our parents being so far away.  I have felt especially blessed by the ways they have shown us love since coming here.  My dad has written me encouraging Facebook messages and sends me links to things that remind him of me.  Ben’s parents have recently sent us a box of American food that filled us more excitement than just about any other gift we could have received!  My mom has sent me the most amazing letters and cards that leave me feeling so special and loved.  We are truly blessed by the love and generosity of our families.

7. I have a great boss.  For those who know me, you know I haven’t had a great working experience here in the UK, but the redeeming factor has been my boss.  She is by far the best boss I have ever had.  She knows how to get the best out of me, and how to motivate me.  My job and salary are not ideal, but when you have a great boss, those things aren’t quite as important.  I am gaining new skills and being given opportunities that she knows I will be excited about.  That just doesn’t happen every day and I am really grateful for her.

8. My amazing husband.  There is nothing like two weeks apart that makes you acutely aware of how crazy you are about your spouse.  I don’t let too many days go by without telling Ben how much he blesses my life, but two weeks apart makes you aware of other things you are grateful for.  I am thankful for the humour and laughter he brings to my life.  I am thankful for how reliable and constant he is.  I am thankful for all the small ways that he tries to serve and care for me.  He makes me feel like a cherished gift.

9. A renewed sense of conviction.  We have been challenged a lot in our faith since coming here and we have spent countless hours talking through why we believe what we do, and why we hold certain convictions.  There are some areas where my convictions have lessened (rightly so I believe) and others where they have gotten stronger.  I am grateful for all the ways God has grown me, and I am so thankful for His closeness and nearness.

I could keep going, but I am guessing that most people have stopped reading by this point anyway.  Thanksgiving is a special time to reflect on how God has moved in our lives and all the ways He has blessed us.  I pray my heart would always see the beauty of our Lord and that it would rejoice in the goodness that flows from His hand.  Here are a few photos from the last few weeks…

Things I Am Suprised I Love About Cambridge #3

I suppose this next love of Cambridge is not actually unique to the city, however, this is where I discovered it and this is my blog, so I am going to go ahead and count it!  You may surprised to know that the third thing I love here in Cambridge is…ketchup. 

Yes, you heard me right, I love the ketchup.  It comes in the same bottle/packet that it comes in the US (Heinz of course) but it is oh so different.  One thing to note here is that I actually dislike ketchup on anything other than fries, and that hasn’t changed.  I don’t love it that much…yet!  Now I am sure you are wondering what makes the ketchup here so special?  Well it quite simply is this; it is sweeter here.  The sweetness of the ketchup is the perfect complement to salty fries, or chips as they call them here.  I can’t get enough of it!  I don’t really like McDonald’s all that much, but if it means that I can eat some fries and sweet ketchup…I am in!  Don’t believe it’s that good?  Well then I guess you will just have to come see for yourself.

Finding a Job in the UK

As I am finally starting to get settled into my new job, I thought I would take the opportunity to write about looking for jobs in the UK.  We have had a couple people ask about what the process was and how I went about finding a job so hopefully this will help anyone who needs it, and enlighten anyone else who cares to read it. 

To begin with, as the wife of a student I was given a dependent visa.  I am not sure of how these differ (if they do) but in my case I was given a visa with no restrictions when it came to working.  This has been extremely helpful as I think it is much harder to find jobs if you have to obtain a work visa.  I didn’t specifically apply for a work visa, but thankfully as a dependent I was given one.  As Ben can work no more than 6 hours on his visa, we were very happy that I didn’t have any work restrictions!

In regards to actually looking for a job, I knew that it would have been extremely difficult and unlikely that I would get a job before I arrived in Cambridge.  Had I been a teacher or a nurse I think I could have looked for something before coming (as I have several friends who obtained jobs in these careers before they arrived) but my experience was in HR.  I also knew that I couldn’t begin working until I applied for a National Insurance number which I couldn’t apply for that until I arrived in the country. 

We arrived here in late September and I took the first month or so to settle in and really acquaint myself with the city and just British life in general.  Towards the end of October I began looking for jobs.  I started by looking at jobs at the university and searching job boards.  As anyone who looks for a job does, I spent hours filling out applications and writing cover letters.  Mostly to no avail.  I will say one thing about British recruiting processes, they do not leave you in the dark.  In most cases a job will tell you how long it will be posted for (normally about two weeks), when the closing date is, when interviews will take place, and when a decision will be made.  Not only do they post this information but they actually get in contact with you if you apply.  They send you an email letting you know they received your application.  Then, if you aren’t successful, they send you an email or most likely a letter (well at least in the case of the university which is mostly where I applied).  They are very old fashioned when it comes to the whole letter writing business (though I secretly like it).  This is extremely different from what I experienced in America.  When I applied for jobs back home, I rarely heard if I didn’t receive the job.  I really like how they do things here in that regard.  It helps you to know where you stand and is just very straightforward.

From my time in the states I knew this wasn’t the best way to go about getting a job, but I wasn’t sure what else I should do since most places like you to apply online nowadays.  When we first got here I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I also applied for random retail jobs one afternoon.  I printed off my resume (or CV as they call it here), got dressed up and walked through town dropping off my CV to any store that appealed to me and said they were hiring.  This is always a little embarrassing but I did find it effective.  I was offered a job early on but unfortunately it didn’t work out for various reasons. 

So the job search continued.  I managed to get a few interviews after pouring over cover letters and applications for hours.  Even still, nothing came through.  I had several friends that encouraged me to register with a temp or recruiting agency which I dragged my feet on for a while.  Having worked alonside recruiting for the last several years, I knew that companies rarely resorted to using recruiting agencies and finding people through there is always more expensive than just hiring someone who applies for a job online.  Yet again though, I was forgetting that I was not in America.  Here in England if you want a job, the best advice I can give you is this…call a recruiting agency (or all them for that matter) and you will have a job. 

I registered with the university temp agency but they had a large supply for temps at the time.  I continued to apply online and then one day I applied to a couple of jobs that a recruiting agency had posted.  This agency contacted me and from there things moved very quickly.  They had me in for an interview within just a few days and then I had the option of temping, interviewing for temp to permnanent positions, or just going for permanent positions.  I said I was fine with all three…I just needed a job. 

I can’t tell you how diligent they were.  I received emails and calls almost daily.  Iwas first contacted by them during the last week in November and I could have lined something up earlier but we ended up going to the States for Christmas and then taking a trip to Rome in mid January, so that put everything on hold.  On my last day in Rome (which was a Wednesday) I received a call and asked if I could interview with a company that Friday for an HR job that would be temporary to permanent.  I agreed and went to the interview that Friday.  I recieved a call that night and began work the following Monday.  Within two weeks I had moved from being a temp to a permnanent employee. 

Finding a job here is very different as a lot of companies use recruiting agencies here.  I am not sure why it is so different, but now I know from experience that it is.  A couple of pieces of advice that I would give to someone who is applying for jobs in the UK would be this:

1. Do your research and know what kind of position you are looking for as well as what kind of company you want to work for.

2. Register with a recruiting agency (or multiple).

3. Tell everyone you know or meet that you are looking for a job.  Always be ready to sell yourself and your skills.  Most people are willing to help you if they know you actually need (and want) help. 

4. While you are looking for a job, research companies in your area (find a list of top companies to work for or ones that have received awards for being a great place to work) and stalk their websites for job openings.  Read as much as you can and be ready to pounce if something of interest comes up.  Be creative in how you set yourself apart and know your audience (what kind of recruiters are going to be reading and viewing your CV/cover letter/application-know when to be creative and when to keep it simple).

5. Don’t waste your time applying for every job that comes along.  Really spend time on the ones that you are interested in.  Write amazing, flawless cover letters.  I have a general cover letter that I start with, but I spend about an hour or two on every cover letter I do.  I tailor them to the job and the company. 

6. Keep going even when you feel discouraged.  Make looking for a job your full time job.  I am bad at doing this, but I was better this time around then I was last time!

Well, those are some of my thoughts on how to get a job in the UK.  It is never easy looking for a job but there are things you can do (things I should have done) that make it a lot easier.  Don’t make it harder than it has to be.  And like my friends told me, don’t worry something will come through.

In honor of the Oscars – My 5 Favorite Films For the Past Year or So

In the spirit of the Oscars, I thought I’d make a list of my five favorite movies that I saw for the first time in the past year or so.  These movies were not all made in the past year.  But, watching movies has become one of our main night-time activities here in the UK.  It’s too cold to take walks.  We hardly ever eat out.  We play a lot of cards, but I can only take getting dominated at SkipBo for so long.  So, one of our distinctive memories of this first few months at Cambridge will be watching movies together.  If there are any movies you’ve seen recently that you think we should check out, let us know in the comments.  Anyway, the winners are…

5.  The Buddy Holly Story.  I usually do not like biographic movies.  I hated Ali, couldn’t stand that Ray Charles movie, and after watching that movie about Howard Hughes with Leonardo DiCaprio, I vowed not to watch any more biographies.  But this one was different.  It’s a very well made portrayal of the meteoric rise of Buddy Holly and the Crickets.  Great music, entertaining and revealing storyline, surprisingly happy.

4.  Inception.  I had never seen a movie before where you had to pay attention to every single second of the film in order for it to make sense.  I’m glad I didn’t drink a big gulp before sitting down to watch this one.  I love the complexity of the story, and it’s an aesthetically stimulating experience as well.  I feel like it drags along a bit at parts, but I still left the theater very impressed.

3.  The Blind Side.  Rachael could tell you that I have a strange aversion to sports movies, especially sports movies of the syruppy sweet, Disney wonderland variety.  They all follow the same script.  However, I make an exception for this one.  If only the big guy had gone to OU!

2.  Cry Freedom.  This is a movie from 1987 starring Denzel Washington.  It takes place in South Africa, and it’s a powerful, supposedly true story about the relationship between a black civil rights activist and a white journalist.  Rachael and I both really liked this one.  It’s inspirational, uplifting, and heartbreaking all in one.

1.  Sherlock Holmes.  A new favorite for me.  Good story, surprising humor, great chemistry between the actors.  We really liked this movie, so we tried to watch a few older Sherlock Holmes movies off the internet.  They aren’t as good – at all.  One, in particular, was just ridiculous. 

Honorable Mentions that are somewhat embarrassing to admit: 

  • Knight and Day – If you wonder what it would be like to see Tom Cruise make fun of himself for two hours, check out this spy spoof.  Don’t let the combination of Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz scare you away.  This is actually a very clever, creative movie.
  • Four Christmases – I can’t stand Vince Vaughn or Reese Witherspoon.  But, as a married man I am obligated to watch romantic comedies from time to time, and I found this Christmas movie to be surprisingly entertaining and funny.  It’s one of those relational comedies that caricatures certain family and marriage dynamics in such a way that afterward Rachael and I end up talking about the other couples it reminds us of:  ‘I could totally see this happening to couple X’, ‘That’s definitely something couple Y would do!’ 
  • The Italian Job – This was the original Italian Job.  I don’t think I’ve seen the recent remake.  It’s similar to Ocean’s Eleven, if you like that sort of movie.

Movies I’ve recently seen that I couldn’t stand:

  • The Duchess – This is a great example of why I usually don’t like biographic films.  Long, depressing, boring.  Sure, the acting is good, but who really cares?
  • Avatar – As Rachael can attest, I really want a good story when I go to the movies.  This one had zero creativity in terms of its plot.  It’s completely one dimensional characters portrayed with 3D graphics.  Plus it is really long.  The creators of ‘Fern Gully’ should sue James Cameron for stealing their movie and passing it off as his own.
  • Killers – Possibly the worst movie I have seen in a very long time.  Ashton Kutcher needs to stick to the canon commercials.
  • Salt – Unlike ‘Knight and Day’, Salt is two hours of over-the-top, absurd secret agent stunts without any hint of self-awareness.  Apparently the viewer is actually supposed to believe that Angelina Jolie’s character can jump off multiple bridges onto moving semi-trucks, survive violent car crashes, and get shot – all without ever even getting a limp.  Whereas ‘Knight and Day’ sarcastically caricatures the absurdity of its genre, ‘Salt’ just expects you to accept the story that it tells.  Lame.