Tag Archives: Moving

Home Sweet Home

Well it has been far too long since we last wrote, sorry about that!  As most of you know, we spent the first part of the summer visiting family, making moving plans, and just enjoying the land of the free!  It has been really good to be home.  Ben and I are now settled into our new place and absolutely loving it.  It would be hard not to love it though after three years in university accommodation!  Nonetheless, I thought it would be fun to show you our new place and mention some of my favorite details.

It was pretty fun moving into a place and getting to unpack all of our belongings for the first time in three years.  It felt like we were getting married all over again!  I have to say though, one of the things that God really changed in me while we were in Cambridge was my attachment to “stuff.”  I love stuff.  I love to decorate and entertain, and keep every special memento which means that it is very easy to accumulate.  There were times when Cambridge was really hard because we had so little, and yet the simplicity of life there changed me.  I loved having space.  I loved having empty drawers and cabinets that weren’t packed to the brim.  So as we moved into our new place, there were moments when I felt overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we had.

I counted eight spatulas.  Eight.  I have certainly never cooked with an octopus so it just seemed a tad excessive.  There was a point when I was unpacking our kitchen that I became overwhelmed as I was running out drawers and cabinets (granted, we don’t have many at all), and I just kept thinking, “what am I going to do with all this?”  I had never even used some of it.  So after we had opened every box, I started really looking at things and making “keep” and “give away” piles.  I had so looked forward to moving home, but I did not look forward to feeling like we were already bursting at the seams.  So we took about four boxes of stuff to goodwill and now I feel like we can breathe.  We have space.  Not every shelf is taken and not every drawer is filled.  It feels good.

So here is just a quick glance into our new home…

Entry way...I love the birds  :)

Entry way…I love the birds 🙂

I have my own couch again!!!!

I have my own couch again!!!!

My new dining room table...love, love, love!

My new dining room table…love, love, love!

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Hallway to the bathroom and bedroom...love all the colors in the house!

Hallway to the bathroom and bedroom…love all the colors in the house!

Very small bedroom but it works!

Very small bedroom but it works!

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Hands down my favorite thing is having a dishwasher again!

Hands down my favorite thing is having a dishwasher again!

Ben's little garden

Ben’s little garden

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We needed extra storage and Ben said he liked these wire racks...I was not a fan at first...now it is one of my favorite areas! Smart man that one!

We needed extra storage and Ben said he liked these wire racks…I was not a fan at first…now it is one of my favorite areas! Smart man that one!


Last Minute Dinner Plans

Last night we had dinner at our friends Candice and Collin’s house.  It was a simple night, but I loved it nonetheless.  On Friday a couple of us realized that we didn’t have plans for Saturday night, so we decided to hang out and do nothing together.  That is just the kind of thing that I love.  We didn’t have to get dressed up or cook anything fancy, it was just a night sitting around a table enjoying salad, chicken skewers, sweet tea, and good conversation.  These nights are what I will miss most once we go back to the states.

It isn’t that we won’t have simple dinners with friends, but there is a sense of unity here that is very unique.  We are all here because one person in each couple is studying for a PhD.  A good chunk of us are finishing up in the next 3-12 months and we are all starting to think about the next phase…going home.  We talk a lot about what we love here in Cambridge and England in general.  We love the fact that we don’t have Texas heat in the summertime, we love the community, and we all love online grocery shopping!  Most of us have been here for several years and we talk about how difficult it will be to leave our tight-knit group of friends.  We are all excited for the next stage of our lives (when our husbands actually get real jobs!), but we don’t want to rush out of this stage of life either.  We want to enjoy this time for all its worth.

Mostly the night involved laughing about the fact that there are very few job prospects and we may very well have to beg our families for jobs!  We will all be going home to different situations, some of us boxed up all our belongings and shoved them in our parents basements, others sold everything they had, and others brought all they owned with them.  We will go home and have to buy cars, renew driving licences, buy bottle openers and the everyday necessities.  We will be starting from scratch in a lot of ways, but it is exciting.

We don’t know what the future holds, but we will all look back fondly on these years.  The friendships we have made here will last a lifetime.  We have all shared something very special and unique here in Cambridge.  We are all so much a part of each others lives that it will be extremely sad when we all go our separate ways.  I don’t want to think about that yet though.  So today I am going to be thankful for last-minute dinner plans, laughter over a great meal, sharing clothes, and just sharing life.


Home Sweet Home

Well it is time for us to share our big news with all of you.  Yep, you guessed it, we moved into a new apartment!!  I cannot begin to express the change that has occurred in our lives since moving into this flat.  We are warm.  We have hot water (well, most of the time).  We can have more than two people in our apartment at one time without it being a fire hazard.  We no longer have to weather proof our windows with sheets of plastic in order to keep the wind out.  And after 13 months, we were actually able to unpack all our suitcases!

Peterhouse knew of our desire to leave our old flat, so we were quite thrilled when they contacted us in late September and told us that they had a flat for us to look at.  It is literally a stone’s throw away from our old flat so we are still in a great central location.  We came for a viewing and I was so excited.  We walked through the door and I was instantly sold.  The living room was at least double the size of our old one and it has this amazing wall with built-in shelves.  The ironic thing is that we have always wanted this kind of built-in bookcase, but we have none of our books with us!  So, for now it is an empty bookcase.  Empty, but beautiful.

The living room is my favorite room because it has the bookcase, an old fireplace (that doesn’t work, but is still pretty nonetheless), high ceilings with large windows.  Large windows covered with the same motel 6 curtains, but I think this pattern is significantly nicer.  Or maybe I am just becoming blind to crazy patterned curtains.  The highlight of the living room…we have a real couch again!!  The kind that you can actually sit cross-legged on, or you could even lay down.  Amazing.  Beyond the living room we have a nice size kitchen though it is a bit on the blue side.  Even the cabinets are blue.  Very au-naturel.

From there we have a little mud room with a washer and dryer.  That’s right, no more coins or hefting laundry out into the cold and down to the grad laundry room.  They are two very strange machines though.  The first time I did our laundry I took it out and it was soaking wet.  Then I realized (or rather, Ben did) that there was a separate spin cycle.  Never seen that before.  Then the dryer took about three cycles before our clothes were actually dry.  That was when we found this huge cylinder of water that you have to take out to empty.  Once we figured that out, it worked like a gem.  A gem that was built in 1960 perhaps, but a gem nonetheless!

Our bedroom isn’t anything too exciting, but it is warm and a bit bigger than our old one.  The bathroom is lovely though.  It has an actual bath so now I don’t have to be a contortionist just to shave my legs.  It is painted bright red, but as we are Sooner fans, we are pretty happy with that.  All in all, the new place is a huge blessing.  It feels so much more like a home, and even though it is really old, we love that it has character.   It doesn’t feel like our dorm at OU.  It feels like me and Ben’s Cambridge flat.  It feels like home.


Lesson #2 from our first year – A Simple Life is Okay

When we came to Cambridge a year ago, the two of us each had two suitcases packed with as much as we could bring for our new home.  That’s it.  We didn’t ship any stuff over.  95% of what we owned in the US was either sold, given away, or packed into boxes and placed in our parents’ basements.  We knew that we would be moving into a furnished apartment, so we figured that we’d get to the UK and then figure out what we needed to buy once we saw what the apartment included.

Well, when we arrived, we discovered that ‘furnished’ is a term that can be used rather loosely.  The kitchen came with 3 pots, 1 pan, a few plates and cups and bowls, some basic silver wear, a few basic utensils, a few knives, a toaster and microwave, a dorm-room refrigerator, and, strangely enough, a sandwich press.  We weren’t expecting a kitchen-aide mixer, but it would have been nice to have had a mixing bowl.  We knew that our dishes wouldn’t be from Pottery Barn, but we thought we’d at least have enough dishes to invite people over for dinner.  In California, we had what to us was a dream kitchen – even if we rarely used most of the gadgets and utensils that we had.  This new kitchen was a big adjustment.  Things were a lot simpler.

Our kitchen wasn’t the only area where our lives were simplified.  In the states we had two cars.  Here we have one bike.  I used to drive 30 minutes to school.  Now I just walk across the street.

The simplicity of life here has been an adjustment.  Some of the changes have been positive.  Almost all of our friends live within walking distance, which makes it very easy to meet up with people spontaneously.  Also, life can be less stressful when your circumstances limit your options and dictate your choices for you.  Because of the relative prosperity that we had in the US, we were constantly faced with a seemingly limitless array of choices in every area of life – what we would buy at the grocery store and where we would eat out, how we would structure our schedules, what we would do with our free time.

We still get to make a lot of choices for ourselves here, but our options are significantly narrowed.  On a date night, instead of choosing between 30 different restaurants, 3 theatres, and 5 ice-cream shops, our choice for dinner typically looks something like this:  Dinner – McDonald’s, Subway, or Pizza Express?  Entertainment – Play cards or watch a DVD?  Dessert – Nutella toast or a bowl of cereal?  In some ways, we miss the allure of endless possibility, and sometimes none of the options seems too appealing.  It was nice to be able to choose between watching a movie, going to the batting cages, playing miniature golf, taking a walk, going to the arcade, going to Disney Land, going to the driving range, or any one of the other forms of entertainment that we had in California.  At the same time, having fewer options has made life less stressful.

After one year in this simplified life, we can’t deny that there’s a lot about our lifestyle in the US that we miss.  Unpacking all of our nice stuff when we move back home will feel like the best Christmas ever.  Nevertheless, this has been a really good, healthy experience for us.  We’ve been faced with our own materialism, and there have been positive lessons we’ve taken from this that will effect how we make decisions about raising children, spending money, setting up our own schedules, and finding balance in life.  A simplified life can be a very good thing.


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.


Our Flat…warts and all

We have only lived in England for 9 days.  It only took me 3 days to experience my first movie moment.  We moved into our “furnished” flat a few days ago to find that the dishes were still dirty from the people that had lived here before us (and even if they were clean, which I did try to do, there is no way we would have eaten off them), a blanket that has the thickness and quality of the felt-like blankets they give you on airplanes (oh and it had clearly been dragged through some sort of brown and black goo…yuck), an onion still in the cabinets, half a roll of toilet paper, and you don’t even want to know what I found in the shower!  So needless to say, we needed to go shopping before we could even stay the night in our new apartment. 

Naturally, the rainiest day we have had was the day we moved in.  I got soaked sitting outside as Ben carried all our luggage up three flights of stairs (I couldn’t help you see because we couldn’t leave our other bags out on the street!) only to walk into the dirtiest apartment I’ve ever lived in and see that we had a full day of shopping to do.  We would have shopped beforehand but we didn’t know what size our bed would be, what dishes it would have if any, if they would be clean etc.  Well we made a list and headed out into the rain.  Not the greatest day for household shopping as the closest houseware store is about a mile and a half away.  Once we arrived we bought our sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, rugs, and several other things we needed to get us through the first night. 

It was then, on our trek in the rain that it happened, just like in home alone…one of the bags I was carrying ripped.  I tried to use my quick ninja-like reflexes, and I did manage to save a few towels, but most of the contents ended up on the muddy streets of Cambridge.  I managed to use the ripped paper bag to hold the towels against me as we continued walking, but then to my great dismay the bag in my other hand ripped!  Not just the handles, but the entire side of the bag ripped open and everything fell out onto the street.  Ben’s hands were full and so I had to finagle two huge bags worth of towels, sheets, jackets, rugs, and who knows what else the rest of the way.  Not my most embarrassing moment (not even close) but still embarrassing.  No one wants to be the person whose bag rips open on the street in the pouring rain.  Surely these moments only come once in a lifetime though, right?

Below are a few pictures of our flat…please don’t judge me as I haven’t been able to fully unpack everything let alone decorate!


Initial Impressions

We’ve now been in Cambridge for more than 48 hours but it has passed by in a blur.  Between the lack of sleep, miles of walking, and cacaphony of accents we have felt a little overwhelmed and disoriented.  Thankfully we are moving into our own apartment, or flat as they call it here, tomorrow which will help us feel a little more normal if for no other reason than it will be the first time in four months that we will get to unpack our suitcases!  We have really enjoyed the last two days but it will be nice to finally settle into our new home. 

As this was my first trip overseas I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of it all.  I had dreaded JFK, the flight, and immigration, but it all went far better than I had anticipated.  I know it may not always be that easy but I was thankful it was simple this first time through.  The worst part of the whole thing was probably that I forgot the name of the cab company that was picking us up so we wandered around Heathrow for a bit before we finally found the guy who was picking us up!  

We have spent the better half of the last two days meandering through the streets of Cambridge and it has been amazing.  Every building we come upon is lovelier than the last and the streets are lined with cute shops and great cafes.  Thank goodness for all the walking though or I might be in trouble as all the chocolate is incredible!   Not only is the chocolate incredible, but the people have been great.  I was nervous as to how personable the British would be, but they have been perfectly delightful!  Though it will inevitably be a bit of an adjustment, I have found just enough of America to make me feel comfortable (McDonalds, Starbucks, Dr. Pepper, still water, ice-cubes, H&M, Man vs. Food, and Extreme Home Makeover)!  Until we write again…cheers!