Christmas Stockings

One of the fun things I did this year was to make Christmas stockings for all of our family. A New Years resolution was to learn to sew in 2013, and thanks to the generosity of my wonderful man, I got a sewing machine and have given it a good go this year!

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So I got going on making some Christmas stockings. I pinned about a million ideas, but mostly ended up usingthis site as a guide.
Of course in true Becca style I linked in with two other friends and between both families we decided to make 28 stockings…and as the only one who knew how to use a sewing machine this was quite a challenge…but look how awesome they turned out

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I did customise them up a bit with Christmas brooches and wooden letters, and they went down a treat. A success!

Happy new year!

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One of the things we seemed to spend a LOT of time on during my social work degree was the need for reflection. It is a concept which underpins social work practice; looking at what we did, analysing how it went, how it made us feel, what we would do differently next time. Since working in a hospital, I have realised that it is quite a unique feature of social work …not that noone else does it, but few other professions are given as much space to make this a part of their everyday work.

It is with that in mind that I come to the end of 2013 with lots of thoughts about what I/we did, how it went, how it made me feel and what I think I will do differently next year. It’s a great time for that, and I love the feeling of having a chance for a new start, to try and make changes.

2013 has been an interesting one. We have done so many fun things and spent lots of time with amazing people. We have travelled lots, both in and out of the UK, and have achieved some special things in both our personal and professional lives. Our church has seen massive changes this year as we (finally) moved into a new church building, and this has caused us to rethink church and community and our own contribution to those things. Our family have also had some exciting times, a new nephew was born in July, my ‘little’ brother got engaged to the most wonderful lady and they have started making exciting wedding plans, and my parents were appointed back to the UK and will be home in April which we are over the moon about. We also got to spent Christmas with some of our family from the states and are both head over heels besotted with our gorgeous niece and nephew!

However, 2013 has also been, in some ways, one of the hardest. I am shattered! We have done and achieved so much, but we have been shockingly bad at making time and space for ourselves. We have driven thousands of miles to see people we love, but have spent precious few days in our own house. We have learned about community, but have not spent enough time in our own. We have achieved lots, but at great cost to ourselves. And I, for one, am done. Our health, emotional wellbeing, marriage and other relationships have suffered because we have tried to do so much. So, friends, don’t be offended if you see less of Matt and Becca in 2014. We’ll be in Southampton, reading, cooking, crafting, building and rebuilding relationships and doing church. We will always have a spare room open to friends and family, but we wont be rushing to use anyone else’s spare room. 2014 is going to be a year of being more gentle with ourselves, more intentional about our lives, and more committed to our community. We are going to spend time on our marriage and do better at making each other a priority again. We have big decisions to make this year about where and how we are going to spend our lives, so we need to make that a focus, and enjoy it a little more.

I heard ‘Thought for the day’ on my way into work this morning, and the Archbishop of Canterbury talked about hope and the fact that a New Year is a time for hope. He pointed out that hope is different to optimism, pointing out that ‘real hope springs from something deep within us, I believe something put there by God. Hope rises above our trials and our failures, looking to a future that may be tough, even terrible, but in which the light of Christ always shines. Real hope compels us to act.’

My prayer for this new year is that you will know hope, you will know something deep within you that brings both a sense of comfort and a clear purpose. That 2014 will be a time when all of us learn, grow and make an impact

Happy new year!!

4 Simple Goals…before 2014

I love reading blogs a whole lot more than I love blogging. And one of my favourites is A Beautiful Mess. Founders of the app, and creators of so many beautiful things, these girls are a real inspiration and I love popping onto their blog almost every day for a gander. They blog REALLY regularly which I love, because it makes it worth looking at their blog regularly, so it becomes an inspiring little habit.

Anyway, this week they posted 4 simple goals to be achieved before the end of the year, you can see them here and I think that’s a beautiful idea. This time of year is so wonderful in so many ways, the world looks beautiful, the seasonal food is AWESOME and priorities shift from being out and about, to cosy intimate dinners/coffees/movie nights with the people you love most. But it can also be a time of massive amounts of stress, worrying about gift buying and too many commitments, and how to keep families happy, and I dont love that! So check A beautiful mess for the rules, and get involved yourself in making some simple goals for the last chunk of this year.

 

Here are mine

 

1. Commit time and energy into my marriage. I love being married, but 2013 has been a tough year, and part of the reason for that is that we have been SO busy with everyone else, we haven’t made enough time for each other. I am committed to weekly date nights, and time together at weekends because I really do love that boy an awful lot.

2. Cultivate Thankfulness. The last few years I’ve hosted a Thanksgiving party. Cultural relevance in the UK? Zero, of course, but I love the idea of a holiday that is just about being thankful (and eating candied yams…yum!!) and I love the opportunity to share that with friends. I will be doing that again this November, but also want to be better, every day, at recognising the things I have to be thankful for. I have a whole heap!

 

(Last years Thanksgiving effort. thanksgiving

A weird British American combo meal. It was awesome!!)

 

 

3. Make time for the things you can only do in winter. I want to go ice skating, and drink peppermint hot chocolate, and go to a carol service in a cathedral, and make pumpkin pie, and send Christmas cards (I NEVER do that) and I know I can only do those things in the next 2 months.

4. Find creative ways to show my family and friends that I love them. Right, dont hate me, but I’ve finished my Christmas shopping. Now that may sound amazing, but it’s actually a sickness I have that causes me to panic about Christmas as soon as September starts! So I’ve bought something for everyone, BUT I want to do creative, and inexpensive, and personal things for all of them to show them I love them in addition to the gifts I’ve bought. Not necessarily for Christmas, but during that period. I have the added blessing of getting to see my brother and sister-in-law and super gorgeous niece and nephew this Christmas, as well as one of my very best friends, all of whom live in the USA and none of whom I normally see at Christmas, so I want to make this one special.

 

What are your goals?

Clean Eating (but not at all low fat) popcorn

YES!!

I am still having sugar cravings so I needed a hit tonight.

So, I made me some popcorn.

And then I boiled up 1/4 cup of honey with 1/4 cup of maple syrup. As soon as it reached the boil, I yanked it off the heat and added 1/4 cup almond butter then poured it over the popcorn. A quick sprinkle of sea salt, and ten mins in the fridge

It was demolished before I could take a photo!!! But here’s a picture of SOME popcorn, y’know, so I can Pin the recipe!!

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Clean eating tuna enchiladas

So, after a crazy summer of excess, we’re attempting to be back on the clean eating, starting…from….NOW!

Todays lunch was clean eating tuna enchiladas. Super tasty and super clean.

Ingredients

pack of wholewheat tortilla wraps

1 onion

1 clove garlic

200g bag of spinach

1 tin organic black beans

1 tin tuna

1 tin sweetscorn

1 tin tomatoes (all this tinned stuff cant be good, can it?!)

2 tbsp chilli powder

1tbsp cumin

organic cheddar cheese

 

Method
Chop the onion and add to a pan with a small amount of rapeseed oil. Add the garlic and fry until the onions are softened. Add in the black beans and the spinach, a bit at a time, until it wilts. Add the tuna, sweetcorn, cumin and chilli. Stir for a couple of minutes and then add half of the tin of tomatoes.

 

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fill the tortillas with the mixture and line them up in a baking tray. Cover with the second half of the tin of tomatoes and the cheese, and bake for 20 minutes.

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Enjoy! You can totally do these sans tuna for a veggie option, or with chicken instead.

A fun ‘home made’ birthday gift – Vintage tea party in a box

Ooh it has been a while. I am a bad blogger indeed!!

So I have a few bits to catch you up on, but first of all, here’s a fun craft I put together for a friends 30th birthday. It’s based on an idea I found on Pinterest but developed a bit.

 

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So my friend turned 30, and I was struggling to come up with something that would be special. So I got my ebay on and got some vintage teacups and a teapot. I also picked up this gorgeous little box from Sainsburys, its a jewellery box but just perfect for tea bags. Then add in some bunting and some Prince George commemorative biscuits (oh yes I did!!!)

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I made up some little labels ‘just add water’ etc. Et voila (why yes I have just got back from France, thank you for asking) a vintage tea party in a box.

The Day I ran 13.1 miles

Dear all of my PE teachers ever…

You are not going to believe this, no seriously, you are NOT going to believe this, but yesterday I did a half marathon. After all those years of skiving all of your lessons, sometimes with forged notes from my Mum, sometimes with no excuses and just point blank refusal, it turns out I’ve discovered some of the benefits of exercise!

I will confess to not having run the whole way, but I got round, and I actually kind of had fun. Admittedly I was running with two of my favourite people in the whole world, but we did it.

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And in the process of both training, and running, I have learned a whole lot about myself. I’ve learned about the strength I have that I didnt think I had. I’ve learned about my stubborness that has kept me going through the really tough training runs. I’ve learned that (and please excuse me quoting one of my favourite tracks to run to) ‘anything that’s worth having is sure enough worth fighting for. Quitting’s out of the question, when it gets tough got to fight some more.’

So we did it. Not in any great time (which annoyingly means I may need to do another one in the future…damn my competitive streak) but we did. And for all of us it represented a really important achievement. And another thing ticked off Hannah’s list.

Incredibly, I also managed to raise over £500 for an amazing charity. Which makes the serious pain I am in today totally worth it!

Props (when did people stop saying props?!) also go to my gorgeous husband for his 1hr 44 mins half marathon, and Benjamin who got in at just under 2 hours. These guys are incredible!

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All you need is love

About 18 months ago, my little brother came to stay with us, he was writing his dissertation and needed somewhere to go where he wouldn’t get away with not working. I, too, was writing my dissertation, so we spent some hours in the uni library together. Not the funnest sibling bonding ever.

Right at the start of his few days here, he said to me ‘I met a girl at uni today and asked if I could take her on a date.’

My brother is not the most forward of people, and seemed to be especially nervous around girls, so this was news indeed.

And then he spent a lot of the week he was here texting with a little coy smile on his face…to this girl who it transpired was Northern Irish and was at home for Easter and had agreed to go on a date with him when she returned.

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And that was that. Every time I’ve heard him speak about her since, it’s been that same little smile. He called me a few times in those first few weeks with ‘what kind of flowers should I be buying for a girl?’ and one memorable afternoon when he literally called me 17 times to make sure he was cooking dinner right. We were allowed to meet her after a few months, and my parents met her a few months later. Mum did a little jump of glee when, at the end of their stay here last year, they said to her ‘see you next year’ and she said ‘yep, you will!’

Turns out, my brother has excellent taste, because this girl is awesome. She has so quickly become part of our lives, and we love her.

And so does he

And this weekend, he asked her to marry him. And she said yes!!

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So, having grown up without sisters, I am going to have two. My wonderful Sister in Law Hannah, and now (soon) the beautiful Sarah Gilkinson (soon to be Webb!)

It is such a blessing that God has provided for my brother someone who is so right for him. She pushes him to be better, to be who he was created to be. They so clearly know where they are going and what they want life together to look like, and they are so passionate about people and Jesus and living in a way that honours Him.

And we are SO excited to celebrate with them when they get married.

JOY JOY JOY!

We also had a lot of fun making this little treat for them as an engagment gift…CLICK

Reasons to Smile 28/08/13

oh, it’s been a while!! I am sorry to you few faithful followers. Here’s the lowdown.

1) Bake off is back!

Mary_Berry_Paul_Ho_2378687band these beauties are back in my life every Tuesday. Now I just need to get on it with recreating some of the bakes. I’m already plotting breadsticks for this weekend

2) Family!

This year, because of some crazy unusual goings on, my parents ended up being in the UK for two months. Usually we only get them for a few weeks, so 8 whole weeks of them being on the same patch of land, able to text me, and as much as possible actually being with them was a dream! We took them out to our favourite restaurant, went out for ice cream, sat and talked about things we care about, and had one hilarious day which will be revealed some other day.

Then yesterday my lovely Brother and sister-in-law and their delicious two littlies booked tickets to come over from the states for Christmas. The ONLY good thing about living away from the people you love is the genuine joy and excitement of their visits. So now I’m plotting beautiful winter treats to enjoy with my niece and nephew, and Christmas presents that I can watch them open. Genuine joy!!

3) Glamping

I dont do camping. I did it a couple of times at Roots, back in the day, and it was awful! I just remember laying awake at 3am literally shivering in my sleeping bag despite having on every item of clothing I had brought with me, and having bad bad hair all day because I didnt have a hairdryer.

I’m not an outdoorsy type, I’d like to be, but I love my creature comforts too much. However, it turns out I love my sister in law more, because one of her 26 things was to go glamping, so this weekend, that’s exactly what we did. We hit up a bell tent in Herefordshire and I survived. More than that, I had quite a lovely time. 5 of us in the tent meant it didnt get too cold, and I’m pretty lucky that I’m married to a human hot water bottle…turns out sharing a bed with him is the cure for my chilly camping woes.

IMG_4015What I loved most was the cooking set up. We had an awesome little wood stove with a hot plate in our tent, and a BBQ outside, and I had a lot of fun (and a few moments of angst) creating dinners for us. And we had some awesome food (although i suspect digestive biscuits+marshmallows+chocolate > any dinner ever). We were in the middle of nowhere with no signal, and hardly anyone else camping at the site, so I chilled out, possibly for the first time this summer, and it was grand! I am still anti-camping, but glamping I can do!

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4) LSE Summer School 2013

For anyone who didnt grow up in the Sally Army, the idea of summer schools is a bit foreign, but growing up, they were genuinely the best weeks of my life. They seemed to be the only times I could be with people who fully understood me, they were the weeks of my first loves, first kisses, and more importantly my formative spiritual experiences. So it was a great privilege for Matt and I to be asked to be on the staff at a summer school in Kent this year. Both of us had pastoral roles, and I also lead a specialism called ‘expressions of faith’ which was such a joy. The idea of the specialism was to show the young people that they can use different ways to show what they believe or feel. I’ve been on such a journey of learning that myself in the last couple of years so it was amazing to get to share that with those young people.

Overall it was a brilliant week, exhausting and massively challenging, but just amazing. And in the long run I think it’s going to be life changing for us. We are both changed by it and it has changed the way we look at our life, so we’re making some big changes. It is amazing to see young people who have seen God and are living like it. It’s challenging to see them making better choices than I made at their age, and its challenged me about the way I’m living now.

And we had a lot of fun. It is rare that I laugh until I cant stop, but getting to sleep at 2am several nights in a row will definitely get me there. As, in almost all cases, will a Kazoo!!

and finally, 5) My first race

I’m doing it.

I’ve been running, on and off, for 8 months. I started on New Years Day, and apart from when I’ve been injured, I’ve run every week since. It has NOT been easy. I’ve had such a hard  time, and seem to have hit every hurdle possible. I started off with breathing difficulties, then had horrendous back pain which, after finally seeing a podiatrist, it turned out was caused by a forefoot supernatus…nope, i’d never heard of that either, but it was causing me some real problems. I finally got orthotics to fix it about 5 weeks ago, and then my trainers didnt fit anymore…so I had to get new ones.and now the blisters have begun…(Brother in Law Daniel, if you read this blog, avert your eyes now, i’m assured you dont do feet…)

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That is an extreme example, but my feet have been COVERED!

Traditionally I dont do things I’m not good at. I’m too competitive, so if I cant do things well, I dont do them. My life is a picture book of giving up stories. I have given up on lots of things because I couldn’t be the best. So there has been a real struggle for me as I have started doing this thing that I’m certainly not the best at. In fact I’m probably the worst. I run so slowly and I still have to do a combination of running and walking for any significant distance, but I’m doing it. So next Sunday I’m running a half marathon. I’m not going to beat any speed records, but I am proving something important to myself.

Training for this race has shown me what I can do. It’s shown me that I can push myself harder than i thought, and that when I do, things change.

I am running to raise money for CLIC Sargent, the amazing charity I work for. I hadnt planned to ask for sponsorship, as I’m doing the race for me. However, there are thousands of people who do extraordinary things to enable us to do the work we do with children with cancer, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try to raise a bit of cash, knowing the amazing difference it makes in childrens lives. So if you fancy sponsoring me, you can do that here.

Thats all folks 🙂

What we’ve learned…

Matt and I had our second anniversary last week (and the week before, but thats another story)

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We’ve been married for 2 years, together for 3 and a half, and more than ever I feel like we’re just learning what it means to be married. I think when we had that beautiful day 2 years ago, I really thought we knew what we were doing. I still believe we went in with eyes WIDE open, more than many people do, but boy oh boy we really didnt know.

And we still don’t. We struggle, we don’t always quite fit, we frustrate each other and I’m sure we frustrate others at times. Someone asked me at a wedding recently which year had been best, the first or second year of marriage. In all honestly, year 2 has been a whole lot harder! Matt and I have faced things we never could have anticipated and it has been so broken and painful at times.

Having said that, we are still head over heels in love. We giggle together at some point every day. We love sleeping next to each other, sharing precious moments of talking about those most important things right before we fall asleep, and waking up together…starting the day with the person you love most is a treat. We are each others best friends, and even on the toughest days that is still true. I would rather spend time with Matt than anyone else in the world, and our dreams and ideas for the future are still aligned.

So, two years in, what have we learned?

1) You get who you marry

Sounds like it goes without saying, but the person you marry is the person you’ll be married to. They dont change, and you cant change them. Both of us have rough edges that need sanding off if we are going to fit together better, but basically we are the same people we were before, and those differences are both our greatest weaknesses and our greatest strengths. I think when you’re planning a wedding and being giddily in love, it’s easy to overlook things that are frustrating. But those things dont change when you’re married, and learning to live with them is key.

2) Life’s not always easy, but it’s not always hard either

When we got married, lots of people talked about how being married isnt easy and we would totally face tough times etc. Now dont hear me wrong, thats all true. However, lots of the time, being married IS easy. And thats ok too. Like I said, we’re best friends, so living together is so much fun. And we enjoy the same things, so we have such happy days finding cake shops on walks in the New Forest, or watching our favourite TV shows and laughing at them, or hanging out with our favourite people, or most recently running together. I think sometimes it’s easy to focus on how tough it can be, but I feel like we’re loading up the bank with happy days and wonderful memories for when the harder times come.

3) You dont know what ‘for better’ or ‘for worse’ will mean when you say it

You make promises that are pretty darn vague and sweeping when you get married, and thats for good reason. It’s impossible to know what those promises will entail. But you make them anyway. Like I said, we had no idea some of the tough stuff we would face, but we have faced it together because we promised, and because we love each other. Equally, I couldn’t have dreamt in that first few months in a dingy damp flat when Matt was the only one working and bringing in any money of the incredible blessings we would experience in this first two years.  We’ve moved to a beautiful home and been to some amazing places, and those are the ‘for betters’ we didnt know would come.

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4) There’s no escape from yourself

One of the weirdest things about living with someone else is that it has forced me to live with myself. I can’t kid myself about my flaws, I cant pretend to myself that I’m better than I am. I’ve heard someone say (I cant remember who, and I’ve googled it and dont think it was someone famous) that being married is like having a mirror held up to yourself all the time. You can’t avoid your faults when you are living with someone who is inpacted by them.

5) It’s supposed to be beautiful

“You and your spouse are created in the image and likeness of God. Marriage speaks to the world about the Nature of God. Since Satan cannot hurt God, he will hurt you, His image, or your marriage, His reflection. Satan will interfere with your marriage in any way inhumanly possible. If he can’t end the marriage, he will mar it to make it as imperfect a reflection of God as he can entice the two of you to make it.
 Why Sex is Complicated

 

So there we are. another year, another load of lessons learned. I am so excited for year 3 and all that that will bring

Ginger