Tag Archives: Pictures

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!


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!


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


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!


Farewell to Cambridge

It has been far too long since we have written on here and a lot has happened since our last entry.  It has been a very busy, intense two months, but things are finally starting to settle down for us.  Well, sort of.  Our time in Cambridge has just come to an end and now we are spending about a month with our families before we move to Chicago.  We are moving to Chicago as Ben will be starting a job at Moody Bible Institute in July which we are beyond excited about.  I will be starting my own wedding and event planning business so as you can imagine, I am pretty elated.  We are excited, but there is also a lot of change ahead of us.

Before I start looking forward though, I want to reflect on all that has taken place the last few months.  Our time in England was such a wonderful, unique time in our lives and I want to share some of the highlights of the last few months.  In no particular order, here they are…

1.  In April my mom decided to take a last-minute trip and come visit us before we left.  It was a whirlwind visit but it was incredible.  I wanted to show her everything, so we did from walks to Grantchester (even in the freezing cold wind!!), afternoon drinks with my girlfriends, walking around the colleges, a day trip to London,  and afternoon tea, we did it all!  We had such a great time and it was wonderful to just enjoy the city I love with my mom.

A couple of days before my mom came she decided that she wanted to also do a short trip to Italy so we spent about four days in Venice toward the end of her stay.  It was an amazing trip and we had so much fun together.  We laughed so hard my mom was bent over holding her stomach and couldn’t even walk!  We kept getting turned around in the canals and we just couldn’t stop giggling.  We enjoyed gelato, Italian opera, views from the bell tower, a gondola ride, and of course, tasty Italian food!  It was such a memorable trip and I am so glad I got to share it with my mom.  The only thing that would have topped it off would have been having my dad, brother, and sister-in-law there!

2.  For most of the last year, we had been praying about what to do when our time at Cambridge came to an end.  Graciously, the Lord answered our prayers – after teaching us many lessons in patience – and opened some exciting doors for future ministry.  Ben couldn’t be more excited to start his job at Moody.  Chicago is going to be a wonderful city to move to.  We feel incredibly blessed, and we can’t wait to start the next phase of our lives there.

3. We went out with friends to Wimpole Hall one day and it was one of the most relaxing afternoons I have had in months.  We sipped on hot chocolate, walked the gardens, escaped a hoard of mangy looking cows, and strolled through fields in the fading sun.  It was afternoon of fun as we posed for photos, played on the bridges and hiked to castle ruins.  The setting was gorgeous, but it was the people that made the afternoon so wonderful.  The Brock family along with Jack, Jess, and David never fail to keep me laughing.

4. One of the things that we have not really shared on our blog has been our desire to start a family.  Through our training in natural family planning, we have known ever since we got married that we may have some problems with getting pregnant.  When we moved to England we began trying to have a baby, but after two and half years the doctors in the NHS told us that we would not be able to conceive without surgery and in vitro fertilization.  No sooner had we received that depressing news than we found out that we were pregnant!  That’s the NHS for you (sorry British friends…you know it to be true).  We couldn’t wait to tell our families once we returned home, but sadly we lost the baby around 8 weeks and this was devastating for us.  We had a very difficult few weeks as we grieved the loss of our baby.  Nevertheless, the very fact that we were able to get pregnant has filled us with a hope that one day we will get pregnant and eventually hold a baby in our arms.

5. Another highlight for me was a girls weekend away in the Peak District.  Me and 10 of my girlfriends rented a house in a little village named Calver and we had such a great time!  It was a weekend filled with great conversations, painting our nails, an afternoon at Chatsworth House (where Pride and Prejudice was filmed), cooking amazing meals together, reading in front of a cozy fire, dancing in the kitchen, playing games, and just enjoying each other’s presence.  This weekend came after my miscarriage so it was exactly what I needed in terms of rest, laughter, talking, and great food!  I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend or more amazing friends.

6. Our lease ended in late April and so we were in need of a place to stay until we left on the 21st of May, and our Cambridge family came to the rescue!  We stayed with five different families during this month and we could not have been more blessed.  We were not only given a bed to sleep in, but we were provided meals, rides to and from here and there, a washer to do our laundry, and best of all, quality time with each family.  While it could have been a really stressful time, our friends made it a time of real blessing and encouragement.

7. Our last two weeks in Cambridge were amazing.  We were showered in love nearly every day.  We had two going away parties that were just incredible.  The first one was a surprise party where everyone was dressed in Victorian apparel and it was unforgettable!  Not only was everyone dressed in Jane Austen style clothing, but they provided us with matching attire!  There was a five course dinner to follow complete with menus, candelabras, and place cards with me and Ben’s silhouettes on them.  Like I said, it was an unforgetable evening.

We had another going away party that was in the Tyndale garden and this was another memorable evening.  The night was filled with all the things we love…burgers, an all chocolate dessert buffet, vases and jars filled with peonies (which is my favorite flower!!), and country music!  My favorite part of the night was once the sun went down and we sat around a fire eating smores.  It was such a sweet time of everyone just enjoying being together.

Our going away parties were so special, but we had a hundred other ways that we were blessed.  We received some of the most incredible gifts and we could not say thank you enough.  From gigantic Cadbury bars (and I mean GIGANTIC) to lovely bracelets, an underground sign with messages from our youth to a painting of me and Ben, a book of photos and notes from friends to a slide show of photos of Cambridge with music by Taylor Swift, we could not have felt more blessed. We felt so, so loved these last few weeks and it made it that much harder to leave.  Thank you to all our Cambridge friends.  When I say that you have been family to us these past few years, I mean that.  Leaving you all and this special time in our lives has been very difficult, but we are so thankful for the time we had with each and every one of you.

There are so many more highlights, but I will stop there for now as anyone who has read this far is probably now in need of stretching their legs!  Below are some photos from the last few months (sorry for how jumbled they are).  More will follow I am sure!!

The whole gang at our surprise going away party...don't they all look amazing?!

The whole gang at our surprise going away party…don’t they all look amazing?!

The whole group at Wimpole...even the family dog made it in the photo!

The whole group at Wimpole…even the family dog made it in the photo!

I love the Brock women. :)

I love the Brock women. 🙂

Me and Lady Roe squeezing each other to death!!

Me and Lady Roe squeezing each other to death!!

Ben and Jack looking cool with their jackets over their shoulders!

Ben and Jack looking cool with their jackets over their shoulders!

Venice...so beautiful.

Venice…so beautiful.

Me and mom having a laughing fit in London

Me and mom having a laughing fit in London

Mom and me posing in Notting Hill

Mom and me posing in Notting Hill

Mom laughing in Venice...how fitting that it was in front of the crazy bar!

Mom laughing in Venice…how fitting that it was in front of the crazy bar!

Me and mom in the Peterhouse gardens.

Me and mom in the Peterhouse gardens.

Amy...our resident chef for the weekend!

Amy…our resident chef for the weekend!

Jackie and Ben posing in their period clothing!

Jackie and Ben posing in their period clothing!

Group photo at Chatsworth!

Group photo at Chatsworth!

Brittany and Laura in Mr. Darcy's garden...so fetching!

Brittany and Laura in Mr. Darcy’s garden…so fetching!

Dinner with the girls in the Peak District...so fun!

Dinner with the girls in the Peak District…so fun!

My beautiful peonies and chocolate desserts!

My beautiful peonies and chocolate desserts!

I love these girls :)

I love these girls 🙂

The guys playing it cool

The guys playing it cool

Amy LOVING her first smore!

Amy LOVING her first smore!

Amy making her first smore

Amy making her first smore

Birthday Surprise!

I forgot to post this a few months ago…better late than never, right?!

For those of you that don’t know, birthdays are a very big deal to me.  Growing up in my family birthdays were always something to look forward to.  If my birthday fell on a school day, my parents would always send a large bouquet of balloons or yellow roses.  I would be loaded with cards, flowers, balloons and gifts, and let’s be honest, I absolutely loved this.  Birthdays were always fun celebrations of love and laughter and I came to cherish each and every one.

As an adult I find it a little more embarrassing to be as openly excited about birthdays, but the truth always slips out.  I just can’t contain the joy that overcomes me when birthdays are near!  This year, the day before my birthday at our Bible study, I was surprised with the most amazing birthday cake ever.  I mean ever.  It was a tribute to America and me and I loved every bit of it (including the person who made it!!).  Everyone at my work knows how much I love birthdays so they did an amazing job of decorating my desk in the craziest way possible.  There were decorations everywhere, cards on my desk, a beautiful bouquet of roses, and a nice big gift!  I was ecstatic.

Another reason I love birthdays aside from all the attention you get, is I adore surprises.  With that being said, I am a fairly difficult person to surprise because I am always thinking of how people could surprise me!  You can imagine my delight when Ben took me out to a nice romantic dinner and all my girlfriends were there to surprise me!  Ben kissed my cheek and left us girls to enjoy a nice night out together.  We enjoyed tasty Italian food and good conversation.

The last surprise for my birthday came a few days later.  Ben had asked all of my Cambridge friends to write limericks (I had to have him clarify exactly what kind of poem this was!) about me and the past year.  There were 29 of them and each one was made up (for the most part) of 29 syllables.  They were amazing.  Some had me crying, others had me smiling, and some had me rolling with laughter (Jackie!!).  Ben put them all together in this great book that had photos of my friends and favorite memories from my 28th year.  This is a gift I will always treasure.  I thought I would share one of my favorite limericks with you since so many of you won’t have the opportunity to see it anytime soon.  I hope you enjoy!

The Surprise by Ben Wilson
She flew across the ocean,
holding this crazy notion:
To home she goes,
but no one knows-
this might cause some commotion!

IMG_8644 B&W IMG_8733 photo (8) photo (9)

The Peterhouse May Ball…It Doesn’t Get Much Better!

The Peterhouse Ball is quite unique as it is on the only white tie ball in Cambridge.  I couldn’t wait to get all dressed up and I was even more excited to see Ben looking dapper as always in a tux!  The women strolled in wearing long evening gowns and the men wore tuxes, white gloves, and some even donned top hats and canes!  At one point in the early morning I asked a fairly drunken young man if I could borrow his hat for a photo.  He smiled and obligingly handed over his hat to me.  After a few photos I handed it back and said thank you, to which he bowed and tipped his hat!  So funny!

The ball was stunning.  We broke up the ball into several areas and it was amazing to walk through.  Guests entered through the gates to the Deer Park which is attached to the college.  This area had the main stage and a huge dance floor as most of our big acts went there.  This stage featured Cocknbull Kid, Urban Myth Club, and Jakwob just to name a few.  The highlight for me in this tent was the Abba tribute band that we had toward the end of the ball.  I am not a particularly big Abba fan, but I couldn’t help but sing along to classics like Dancing Queen!  The band was amazing and the place was packed.  Ben’s sister Rachel and her husband Alex were hired as photographers for the ball, and this was one point where we all met up and danced and sang along together.  It was so much fun! As the sun came up at the end we headed out to the rest of the park.

Outisde the main stage was the fair area where we had our largest attraction, a ferris wheel.  The Peterhouse Ball is known for having a ferris wheel and this year was no exception.  In this area there were lots of food tents, bars, and an outdoor stage that featured magicians, escapologists and my favorite, brass bands.  We also had wandering magicians and beautifully dressed stilt walkers.  We had three different brass bands play throughout the night and these got more people dancing in this area than anything else.

My favorite band was the Brass Funkeys who at one point jumped off the stage and played right in the middle of the crowd.  The danced and sang and even got on the ground and played while lying down.  The crowd went absolutely nuts!  As the sun was coming up and the other stages were coming to a close, the deer park filled up with people who were making their way to Old Court for the survivors photo.  The last brass band was finishing their set and the students went crazy.  They were dancing everywhere, getting on each other’s shoulders, giving piggyback rides, and running around with toilet paper rolls streaming behind them.  Some students were even wrapping each other up in toilet paper.  It was one of the funniest sites of the whole night.  You start off all posh and refined in the beginning of the ball and by the end you’ve got toilet paper mummies.  Granted, most students were beyond intoxicated, but it was funny to watch nonetheless.

Also in the deer park was a tent that featured a few comedians and the sounds of Motown, jazz, and barbershop quartets.  This tent was filled to the brim all night as it had a huge bar, plush sofas, and large wing back chairs.  Across the way from this tent was an acoustic stage that was set up in front of an elaborate dining area that looked like a classy teepee.  There was an area which we called the Gardens of Arabia, which had smaller tents, large rugs and cushy pillows that all centered around a few shisha pipes.  Probably one of my favorite areas was Gisborne Court which was described as “a tour through the dark, delicious mysteries of the Orient.”  This tent was centered around a tree that we had lit up and had chinese lanterns hanging from it  There were low tables all around and we had tons of throw pillows for lounging about.  There was sushi, sake, tea, portrait artists, and geishas.  It was a beautiful area that was very relaxing.

The next area was the college bar where we had a casino running all night. Students seemed to love this as they didn’t have to lose any of their own money as it was all just for fun!  We also had a powder room for the ladies.  This included a seamstress, massages, and makeup artists from Bare Minerals.   One of the smallest areas of the ball was in the dining hall which we turned into a funky silent disco.  Students put their headphones on and danced around which was hilarious to watch as a bystander who couldn’t hear anything.

The other main area of the ball was Old Court which was called the Mirrored Court.  It had huge full length mirrors that were gilded in gold and hung from the tent.    There were punts filled with champagne, shrimp, and other cocktails.  When I was dancing in this area, I felt as though I had been transported back in time.  It was so beautiful and just so sophisticated.  The stage in this area featured big bands and classical music.  There were waltzes and even lessons to go along with it.  The main event in this area was the image mapping show that took place on the front of the chapel.  At one point the chapel looked like it was ablaze.  It was incredible!

I don’t think I have ever been to an event like this.  There was entertainment at every point in the evening and with six stages, you were never bored.  You could dance the night away, laugh til you cried in the comedians tent, be amazed by escapologists, drink any kind of beverage you could dream of (or in my case…as many hot chocolates and cokes as I wanted!), gamble til the wee hours, or view the sun rise over the trees from the top of a ferris wheel.  Though Ben and I had to work throughout the ball, it didn’t keep us from enjoying the night and all it had to offer.  I loved dancing to so many different kinds of music, eating tasty sugar covered donuts, and hearing the sounds of the ball from the atop the ferris wheel.

Another Roman Holiday

At the end of my parents’ visit in June, we took a weekend trip to Rome.  My parents had never been there before, and Rachael and I were happy to see the eternal city once again.  We saw too many places to mention, including many of the same sights as our first trip.  One spot that was new for us, however, was Ostia Antica and the beach at Ostia Lido, about an hour outside of Rome.  We had a blast.  Lots of memories, and lots of laughs.  Thanks Mom and Dad!  Here are some pictures from the trip:

A Visit to Brighton

On the first weekend my parents were in England, they kindly took us on a little trip to Brighton, on the south coast.  Rachael had always wanted to visit Brighton because of its prominence in Jane Austen stories.  Needless to say, the city has changed quite a bit since Austen’s time, but it remains just as popular a place for Londoners to spend a weekend.

We stayed at an excellent bed and breakfast right across from the seaside.  Strangely, you can’t smell the ocean in Brighton, even when you’re on the pier.  Plus the beach is made of rocks.  In other respects, the boardwalk is similar to a lot of the coastal cities in the US.  There’s an amusement park at the end of the pier and a big ferris wheel on the beach.  The place is packed with people.  It’s a very fun atmosphere, and the city as a whole has a whimsical atmosphere that’s reminiscent of a small-scale San Francisco.

We happened to get very lucky with the weather.  It was in the high 70’s and sunny the whole weekend.  Apparently, many Brits haven’t learned about skin cancer yet, because we saw a shocking number of people who were sunburnt to a reddish purple from head to toe, just laying out in the sun even after it was clear that they probably ought to seek medical attention.

Speaking of sunburns, the best moment of the trip was when the host at our B&B walked in to greet us as we ate breakfast one morning.  Upon seeing my father’s rosy cheeks, she cringed in surprise and asked whether he was in pain.  My dad matter-of-factly replied in his cordial southern drawl, ‘My face is always this red.’  My mom, Rachael, and I couldn’t stop laughing.  Thanks for the trip Mom and Dad!

Here are some pictures:

My Newest Addiction…

While we were in Zambia, we were persuaded not only to do a safari, but to visit Victoria Falls.  We decided that we would make this an early anniversary trip.  We only went for four days, but they were the best four days we have had in a very long time.  We spent the first two nights at a very budget motel and then splurged the last two nights on a hotel that was out of this world.  Well, let me be more accurate, we stayed at a luxury chalet.  Oh baby!!!  We would normally never be able to afford a place like this, but one of our dear friends at Northrise University helped us to get a massive discount.  It was one of the best gifts we have ever been given.

Our first night we enjoyed the splendor of Victoria Falls and got sufficiently soaked.  Seriously, we had two rain coats on and we were still soaking wet!  Then the next day we went on our day safari.  The next morning we left for our luxury chalet.  We had no idea what to expect, but we were not disappointed.  We spent an hour driving to the most remote hotel I have ever stayed in.  Then we turned off the main road and basically went four wheeling for about thirty minutes.  Eventually, we pulled up to the front gate of the Islands of Siankaba where we were greeted by our hosts.  Our bags were taken away and we signed in at the front desk.  We were then led out to the docks where we boarded a boat that speed upstream.

We eventually came to an island in the middle of the Zambezi River and my breath was completely taken away.  There was a large sweeping veranda with plush sofas and large cushy chairs.  There were fire pits everywhere, and off to the right were swinging rope bridges that lead from one island to the next.  On the next island you could see the chalets peeking out of the tree tops.  It was like a luxury Swiss Family Robinson.  I was in awe.

Our room was this amazing tent that had a heated bed, a beautiful claw-foot tub, and a porch that over-looked the river where hippos came in at night. We woke up each morning to tea being delivered to our room and we would sit and watch the sun come up as monkeys played on our porch.  It was surreal.  We took walks around the island, got massages, and were able to go out to the village of Siankaba where we met the most amazing people.  The hotel staff were all a apart of the Siankaba tribe and they take great pride in their village.  My favorite part of the whole trip was meeting all the children who attend the local primary school.  The sang and danced for me and Ben and my heart completely melted.  I wanted to take all of them home with me!  Those two days were filled with fun as we adventured around our tiny island.  I felt like a kid chasing monkeys and searching for hippos.

There was no TV, internet access, or phone signal so it was just me and Ben and nature.  It was two of the best days we have ever had together.  Since it was an all-inclusive hotel, we were able to enjoy all sorts of activities for no extra charge.  We ate the most amazing food, went on sunset river cruises each night, and just enjoyed the company of the other guests on the island.  The most amazing part of the whole trip was our last night when Ben and I happened to be the only guests staying on the island!  The staff went out of their way to make it a special night for us.  They set up an enclosed gazebo for us so we could have an intimate dinner together.  They lit lots of candles and served us the most delicious dinner.  We even tried crocodile tail (a bit on the chewy side, but pretty tasty)!  After dinner we crossed over the rope bridges and headed off to our what was our private island for the night.  Talk about a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I could have stayed there forever, but alas, we had to return to Cambridge.  I have never stayed anywhere with better service, more delectable food, or a more peaceful environment.  It was the best early anniversary gift we could have given each other.  I don’t know if we will ever be able to return, but I know I always remember those two days at Siankaba as two of the most relaxing, most romantic days we have shared together.  What can I say, luxury suits us well!

Here are some pictures from our trip, but please take a look at the webiste as I couldn’t even capture how beautiful this place was! http://www.siankaba.net/