Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Tale of Two Buckinghams

Our home address in Knoxville is on Buckingham Drive.  Rebecca occasionally refers to it as the palace.  Today we saw the real deal along with Kensington Palace and Gardens.  We walked from one to the other through a series of parks.

I've read several times that Princess Diana and William and Kate find Kensington Palace drab, and compared to the gardens, I think they're right.  Frankly, a pressure washing wouldn't hurt.  

After spending almost the entire day out of doors, we went to Evensong at Westminster Abbey.  

For an hour we set right in the middle and heard the most gorgeous choir and organ music.  There was no "message" - just reading of scripture.  Prayers were all scripted, but the leader sang some of them.  

After that, we went to a show - "The Importance of Being Earnest."  It was very enjoyable! 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sunny Day in London

First of all, when we arrived at our flat ( which is apparently more properly called a "terrace end house"). It was quite dark as it was 1 am!  The consequence of arriving that late was that the subways weren't running (New York is the city that never sleeps; here they apparently still do).  Anyway, that resulted in a fairly expensive train ride to Paddington instead of Piccadilly because I got my P's mixed up followed by an even more outrageous cab ride.  Our cabbie was nice and thought we were quite adventurous and maybe a little nutty to stay with strangers instead of at a hotel.  But so far that experience has been wonderful. Our room and private bathroom are very nice, and the king size bed is very comfortable. Terry and I stayed in a hotel in London 20 years ago that cost much more than this but was comparable to sleeping in a camping trailer.  Here are pics of where we're staying:

We woke up early, had a great visit with our hostess and then headed to the Tower of London.

We heard more German spoken here than any other language.  Then we sat down by the Tower Bridge and heard some southern accents behind us.  Met the girls, and they had all lived in Johnson City.  One had graduated from Milligan College. Small world! They are here to do ministry, which I appreciate much more after our experience later.

We tried to do a bit too much today. I wanted to take full advantage of the sun.  After the Tower, we visited Covent Garden:

And then attended Evensong service at St Paul's Cathedral.  

That was one dead church service! But hey, the bulletin said their communion wine was free trade and the paper used was all recyclable, so it had that going for it.  It was a beautiful church, but it made me very sad to see that the gospel is not preached or apparently believed. We are hoping  to hear something different when we visit Spurgeon's old church, the Metropolitan Tabernacle on Sunday.  It's very near to where we're staying (and it's pictured here in the background).  

Interestingly, we saw. Group called "London Repent" later that evening - along with some pretty sites down by the Thames 

I would write more but we need to leave soon or we'll miss the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


It is now the eve of our flight to England for our much-anticipated holiday in England.  We bought our tickets and started making plans in January, but really we have been anticipating this trip for MUCH longer.  Back when Rebecca was first learning about geography in kindergarten, I told her that some day she and I would make a trip to Europe - a mother/daughter trip with just the two of us - when she graduated.  Homeschool teachers don't get any pay - so I thought this would be reasonable compensation for my efforts.

Of course, when your daughter is in kindergarten, you don't have any real idea what kind of relationship you will have with her when she grows up.  I don't think I would have anticipated that we would be as close as we are.  I can't think of anyone I would prefer to travel with!  I am hoping to see lots of sites, but I don't really worry whether the trip will not meet our expectations, because the main thing I want is just to have an extended adventure with my little girl, who is now a big girl!  So if it rains a lot (which it very well might), or we get lost (a distinct possibility) or are too tired to enjoy everything, we will still be having an adventure and making memories.  Come to think of it, our homeschool journey was a lot like that.  It wasn't always fun, but we were always together.

I am so glad that we didn't leave for this trip right after her college graduation in May.  We have had all summer to savor the anticipation.  Rebecca loves to sketch and we both love to take photos, journal and blog.  Besides planning and packing, we've had time to prepare our journals:

and even our toes (well Rebecca painted hers, I was too busy buying food and preparing meals for the men who are left behind, whose main concern about this trip was "What will we eat for three weeks?").

Rebecca even printed logo stickers for the trip that is on our luggage and water bottles:

Since I have some family and friends that want to follow along, I will be posting lots of photos on Facebook and updating this blog as often as possible.  Here's our itinerary, though we have tried to keep most of our plans flexible.  As you can see, we are taking in lots of literary sites - everything from Dickens, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen to Beatrix Potter and Roald Dahl.  I guess we will never be through taking field trips!  It looks like the first couple of days, there will be no rain, so we're off to a good start.

Travel to London, AA Flight 90
Tower of London, Double Decker Bus Tour, Covent Garden, St. Paul’s, Theatre
(hopefully the musical “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”)
Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Westminster (Evensong), Theatre (“Mousetrap,” “1984,” or “Wicked”)
Worship at Metropolitan Tabernacle, Thames River Cruise and/or War Museum
Rent a car, drive to Rockingham Castle for “Viking Invasion”
Private Tour of CS Lewis’ home, Walking Tour of Oxford, eat at Eagle and Child Pub where Lewis, Tolkein, and the other Inklings met
Cambridge, hopefully punting on the river if weather is good
Stratford upon Avon; Cotswalds, Roald Dahl Museum
Peak District: Chatsworth, Country Fair
Lake District Hiking, Castlerigg Stone Circle
Lake District, Wordsworth Home, Beatrix Potter Home
Longest Driving Day, Tintagel (King Arthur’s Castle) late in afternoon
Visit St. Ives, Hike South West Coastal Path, look for Lego lost at sea
Visit St. Ives, Hike South West Coastal Path, look for Lego lost at sea
Whatever we still want to do in London
Fly home to Knoxville

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Speech and Debate

I'm trying to do a little catching up on blogging before we leave on our trip to England next week. This is something I meant to write about since last May.  Now that I'm officially years behind on scrapbooking, this is the only way I am even somewhat keeping up with recording events in our family life.

This past spring was Noah's second year to compete with NCFCA.  The first year, he did two speeches and ended up advancing to Regionals with both of them.  He had no expectations of going that far, so he was pretty pumped.  In fact, he just missed qualifying for Nationals with his Illustrated Oratory by one spot.

This year, he did four speeches.  His expectations were high.  He wanted to not just make it to regionals with all of his speeches - but to qualify for Nationals as well.  Just to make it more interesting, he also decided to compete in Team Policy Debate - debating about a resolution on the Middle East.  Here are Noah and his debate partner trying to look intimidating:

And here he is with his Duo partner trying to look silly:

Noah did qualify for Regionals with all four speeches (but not debate).  Here he is with some of his friends at the Regional Banquet, which had a very cool steampunk theme:

Obviously, Noah didn't want to dress up.  Of course, everyone has to wear professional attire at a tournament.  Here is a photo of Region VII's best (Region VII covers Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama).  It's strange to get used to seeing teenagers dressed up all the time.  If nothing else, speech has taught Noah to press his slacks and tie his tie.

At Regionals Noah advanced to semifinals with his Humorous Interpretation and to finals with his Illustrated Oratory.

He dropped a prop when doing his speech in the final round and got rattled but still got 4th place.  Once again, he missed qualifying for Nationals by one spot.

Noah has made many good friends in our speech club.  One of the things that warms my heart the most is seeing how supportive he is of his friends - you can see his outrage here when his friend didn't get a spot in semifinals:

But even more special to me is how genuinely excited he is when his friends do well - even if he didn't do well himself.  I've told him I think it's much easier to weep with those who weep than rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15).

Next year, I want to blog about each tournament as summarizing the entire year in one post is just too difficult.  I recorded all of Noah's speeches if you'd like to see them.  Each one is about ten minutes long.

Noah's Humorous Interp. of The Teacher's Funeral by Richard Peck

Here is an Open Interp about a stutterer called The Paperboy:

Here is a Duo on Lois Lowry's The Birthday Ball:

And here is the speech that made it the farthest, Noah's Illustrated Oratory on Rollercoasters:

He is already working hard on next year's speeches.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Capture the Moment

This summer I took the time to review another photography book - this one called "Capture the Moment" by Sarah Wilkerson.  Sarah is the CEO of "Clickin Moms."

This is a wonderful book with lots of inspiration for making great photos.  It is illustrated throughout with photos taken by the Clickin Moms community (by the way, that's a great website with lots of great photo inspiration).

I couldn't help but compare this book to the other photography book I reviewed recently.  I loved them both.  While "Your Family in Pictures" was organized around different types of photos (family photos, holiday photos, vacations and travel, etc.), "Capture the Moment" is organized more by technique, with chapters covering topics such as natural light, composition, black and white, and low light - all illustrated with family photography, not artsy photos that I could never imagine taking.  I loved the glossary of photography terms that is in the back of the book.  I think this is a helpful book I will return to again and again.

I found it interesting that Sarah Wilkerson acknowledged Me Ra Koh, author of "Your Family in Pictures" in the front of her book.  I think it's neat how photographers support and challenge each other.  As photographers, we may use the same technique, but we'll always have unique subjects. And when those subjects are our family, we each have our distinct moments to capture - there is no competition.