Expat Life

Our First Snow in London and Catching Up

I’m not very good at blogging about our daily lives. That’s no surprise to those of you that have been reading here for awhile, I’m sure. Although I love reading blogs by bloggers who regularly share the more personal aspects of their lives, I haven’t quite been able to do that myself. As far as bloggers go, I guess I’m a pretty private one. It doesn’t bother me one bit to share the details of our travels, all the way down to where we stayed and what we ate, but ask me to get personal, to share what goes on on an average Tuesday or, even worse, my feelings about what goes on on an average Tuesday, and I shy away. I wouldn’t have a problem telling anyone these things over coffee and crumb-cake, even if we were just meeting for the first time, but putting them on the internet seems an entirely different thing.

Late last year, when I was beginning to put together my resolutions, the only one I formally wrote down in regards to blogging was just to continue doing it, but I had another that I hesitated to write down, just in case I didn’t follow through. And that was to share more about the days when we aren’t doing anything remarkable or what I’d consider blog-worthy. You see, when we’re not traveling, our lives are almost exactly like they were before we moved here, minus the chicken poop landmines in the backyard and the 12-mile drive just to get Lexie to school. In other words, our day-to-day life is pretty normal, certainly not anything to write home about. But since I do not write a journal – this blog here is my journal, I suppose – this is the only place I’ll ever have a record of ‘the little things’, so here they’ll go, once a month or as often as I can muster the courage to let you all see just how boring we actually are.

Our First Snow In London & Catching Up

Our First Snow In London & Catching Up

For us, the month of January is unusual. The other eleven months of the year we go to all the places and see all the people, but in January, we hibernate. Just like bears. We watch movies, read books, play games, and single-handedly keep our local Thai take-out in business. And I love it, because I know come February, life will resume as usual and I’ll be grateful for those four weeks we had to recharge.

This year, February brought the first snow in London we’ve seen yet. It wasn’t much, just a dusting on the grass and the rooftops of our Chiswick neighborhood, but it was beautiful. And fleeting. I woke up to see it falling in the pre-sunrise early morning light, but by the time I’d shuffled an uncharacteristically ornery Lexie off to school (she was so disappointed it was still in session!), it had stopped. Less than an hour later, all but the bits hiding in the shadows of the rooftops had been reduced to grey puddles. Still, an improvement over last winter where not even the smallest of flurries was sighted.

Our First Snow In London & Catching Up

Our one snow day aside, the first two months of the year have mostly looked like this. Don’t let those blue skies and puffy clouds fool you – it’s still been bitingly cold, but we, thankfully, have not had anything similar to the 6-8 straight weeks of rain we had last year. That was the gloomiest winter I’ve ever experienced. This one has been much more pleasant. (I’ve just realized, all three pictures in this post so far are from my kitchen window. Sorry for the repetition, but the only other windows in our flat face an office building across the courtyard. Not exactly a scenic view, unless you like to watch people at their desks, which I sometimes do, but we won’t get into that.)

Our First Snow In London & Catching Up Our First Snow In London & Catching Up

We really haven’t been going into central London very often lately, but when we have, I’ve tried really hard to remember to take some shots for Instagram. I know, I know. Everyone else does this naturally, like all day every day, but I still need reminding to post my 1-2 pictures a week. I had hoped that getting a new iPhone would be the kick in the butt I needed to take more “random” shots, but it sadly hasn’t. My iPhone 6 does take shockingly good photos in comparison to my old 4S, though. It’s nice to know I’ve got something to use when I don’t want to lug around my heavy Canon.

Our First Snow In London & Catching Up

Our First Snow In London & Catching Up Our First Snow In London & Catching Up

Our First Snow In London & Catching Up

Poor Lexie has had a bit of a rough start to the year. First, a boy in PE intentionally threw a basketball right at her face which broke her glasses and cut the side of her eye. I swear, when I found that out I was so angry I wanted to march right up to the school and confront that boy This Is 40-style, but I was truly afraid I might actually punch him in the face if I did. When I get angry, rare as that may be, the redneck tendencies I’ve worked so hard to bury come flying out and there is literally no telling what I might do. Still, this isn’t the first time this boy has physically hurt her on purpose, so if it happens again, and the school does nothing, then I’m sending Cory up there to have a little chat with him. (If I do it, there will be lawsuits.) To add insult to injury, we couldn’t find anyone who could repair her glasses, so I had to superglue them until we can get her a new pair this summer. Needless to say, she’s been wearing her contacts to school everyday.

Then she had her wallet stolen. You’d think having a kid’s wallet stolen wouldn’t be as big a deal as an adult’s since there are no bank or credit cards to cancel, but Cory and I spent two full days last week sorting all that out – canceling and reissuing tube passes, library cards, replacing her house keys, trying to get the school to issue her a new locker because whoever stole her wallet now has her locker keys. Ugh. What a freaking hassle. As far as how all of this has been affecting Lexie, well, that’s the sort of thing I’m not comfortable sharing on the blog because it begins moving into the realm of feelings, and someone else’s feelings at that, so suffice it to say, I’m very, very proud of how well she’s handled herself given the circumstances.

Given everything that’s happened, no one needed a day off more than Lexie, so when her school offered a Take Your Child To Work Day and Cory couldn’t take her, I decided to loosely translate the rules of this excused day from school and claimed my hobby as a job. This blog is not my job, and it never will be, but sometimes it feels like one, so that’s enough to count, right? So I took her through the process, start to finish, for compiling a proper blog post. We went to Chiswick House and Gardens armed with the task of taking less-obvious photos of things. She did a fantastic job with the prompt and after only an hour or two, we were ready to come home and get started on our post.

We did everything – came up with a good title and URL, and then we wrote about where we took our pictures after doing a little online research. It was pretty fun, actually, to show her all the work that goes into making these posts. I even showed her how to use Twitter and Facebook, which is kind of a joke since I am the worst at being a social blogger.

Our First Snow In London & Catching Up

Our First Snow In London & Catching Up

And although it’s not something I usually do, I also took Lexie through the photo editing process I should be doing. All I usually do is brighten and resize my images before slapping them on a post, but that’s boring, so we opened up PSE6 (that alone should tell you how infrequently I edit – they’re now up to version PSE13) and brightened the photo, increased the contrast, evened out her skin tone, and then applied a pretty creamy filter on top. And that took like an hour because I literally had no idea what I was doing. Giant kudos to all of you that do – teach me your secrets! I just don’t have the time to do this to the 10-15 photos I include in every post!

That being said, I’m about to have at least a little more time because I am finally caught up with all of our travels, which means only two posts a week from now on – yay! Who knew that taking nine weeks off for the summer would have me playing catch up for the next five or six months? It feels good to finally be current. We’ve just returned from Sweden and I’m so excited to write next week about something that just happened instead of something that happened months ago. It’s harder than you’d think to do that! Anyway, I really nurtured my ADHD tendencies today jumping from topic to topic like this! Thanks to anyone who hung in there and suffered through all my rambles! Happy weekend y’all!

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  • Miwa
    February 26, 2015 at 10:10 PM

    Thanks for sharing, Sarah! I love hearing (and seeing) bits and pieces of your daily life. It sounds a lot more interesting than you give it credit for! That photo from your kitchen with the window showing…love it! I’d take photos from that window every day if I had that view. Amazing.

    And ugh, I can’t believe that boy at Lexie’s school!!! That’s just unforgivable. I know for sure I’d be more than upset if that happened to E. I just want to keep her safe from everything…forever. (haha I just read that and realize that’s crazy.)

    Oh, and I can’t wait to see your shots from Sweden :D

  • rorybore
    February 26, 2015 at 4:47 AM

    Oh my, poor Lexie….. just keep swimming girl! The tides of life never really settle, but you do learn to surf them quite well eventually.

    Um… okay, we gotta have a talk about what constitutes “Snow”…. I came here for SNOW darnit!! LOL
    I’d show you my snow… but I am at my parents, and of course forgot my camera where all my snow pictures are currently stored. I think I may need to sit in on a blog post lesson next. :)
    Is it wrong that I want to see the desk people too?

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 27, 2015 at 9:36 AM

      Hey now…don’t knock our snow. Just because yours is four feet deep doesn’t mean it’s any better! ;)

      Cory laughs at me all the time for watching the people in the homes and offices around us. I can’t help it – it’s fascinating! Like watching a movie without sound.

      • rorybore
        February 27, 2015 at 3:18 PM

        makes me think of that “ugly fat guy” on the show Friends. LOL

        and my snow is now a good 10 feet deep!! my kids can actually sled in our driveway. ha

  • Amy @ the tide that left
    February 25, 2015 at 4:38 PM

    I really feel for Lexie. I had similar issues when I was at school. One boy in particular used to be pretty horrid (threw my bag in a puddle, made fun of how I looked). At the time it felt horrible, but now of course it is totally meaningless. I know that probably won’t mean much to her now, because everything at this age (and for the next few years) feels so monumental, but it does pass, so maybe that will reassure you if nothing else.

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 27, 2015 at 9:34 AM

      I know. That is what I keep telling her, too, but when you’re in it, knowing the future gets better doesn’t really do much for you. You want it to go away now. Poor thing. She’s tougher about it than I would have been, though. I’m sorry you had a boy bullying you when you were younger, too. Thank goodness most of them grow out of it.

  • Mrs. Match
    February 25, 2015 at 4:08 PM

    Oh my heart breaks for Lexie. I used to get picked on by boys at her age. It usually comes down to the boy having a crush and being an absolute ass about how to handle it. I don’t understand the school not doing anything about it!
    Your blog is totally your job, and you devote so much time and effort to it. I bet Lexie loved having that special day with you. I remember going on a take your daughter to work day with my mom, and I cherish that memory. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your lives on a daily basis. Those are always my favorite posts of yours!

  • Amanda @ Rhyme & Ribbons
    February 23, 2015 at 2:31 PM

    I don’t really edit picture other than resize them most of the time because of all the time involved in it. *Hangs head in shame* x

  • Katrin
    February 22, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    Oh no, Lexie really had some bad luck! That boy sounds like a real douche. She should throw a ball in his face. But that’s so lovely you worked on a blog post together! I can imagine how much fun it was! Cannot wait to read about Sweden!

  • Ashley | Domestic Fashionista
    February 21, 2015 at 3:14 PM

    I love hearing about the everyday! Thanks for sharing! It took me back a little to your old days before this became strictly a travel blog. Though I love hearing about your adventures I also enjoy the real heart stuff. :) And may I highly recommend trying out Lightroom for photo editing? It is so fast and easy. I think you would really like it.

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 27, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      I actually have Lightroom 5! I just haven’t learned how to use it yet. That is the one I’m going to teach myself, though. Do you use any other programs, or just Lightroom?

      • Ashley | Domestic Fashionista
        February 27, 2015 at 6:40 PM

        Oh yes, you must start using it! It is so easy! It will blow your mind! I am happy to help if you have any questions! I usually only use Lightroom. Occasionally use Photoshop for adding text or creating something but LR for all regular editing. :)

        • Sarah Shumate
          February 28, 2015 at 6:27 PM

          Did you buy special presets and brushes or just use what came with it? I’m looking at Pretty Presets brushes for fixing skin, etc. I don’t use things like that often because I don’t take a lot of pictures of people, but that’s one thing I would occasionally use in PSE and I don’t see how to do it in Lightroom without buying brushes.

          • Ashley | Domestic Fashionista
            February 28, 2015 at 9:04 PM

            No i dont use any presets. I mostly edit exposure and contrast. But occasionally I edit skin. But use the tools already provided (I think it’s the brush tool on the very top). You can search online for preset formulas or tutorials on specific editing looks. You know me, frugal and minimalist! I apply that same attitude towards photo editing! :)

  • Sammy @ Days Like This
    February 20, 2015 at 9:16 PM

    What the hell is wrong with that boy!? Poor Lexie. I hope she’s okay. How cool is it that there is a bring your kid to work day! I love that idea!

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 21, 2015 at 9:39 PM

      She’s okay. She’s much tougher than I was at her age, so she’s handling it well. She even had enough spunk to stand up for herself after it happened!

  • Stacie Stamper
    February 20, 2015 at 6:21 PM

    This year working in the middle school has been a real eye opener for me. I’m planning to build a big bubble for Elise….not at all surprised to hear that Lexie is dealing with all of it gracefully. P.S. I like the personal stuff, too, so feel free to share whenever you feel like it!

  • Talia's Travels
    February 20, 2015 at 2:56 PM

    I find that Google’s Picasa is the best, most user-friendly editing tool… I find it’s perfect and exactly what I need for my blog, you should check it out! I think you’d find that post production is just that little bit less daunting then :)

  • Emma @ AdventuresofaLondonKiwi
    February 20, 2015 at 6:47 PM

    I love looks into other bloggers lives – especially when they are a beautifully photographed as yours! That boy deserved a little whooping I think – I mean just why!?

  • Irene @ Away from Tenerife
    February 20, 2015 at 5:56 PM

    Oh, poor Lexie! That’s a really nasty boy if he broke her glasses on purpose, can’t believe the school didn’t do anything about it (especially as it is not a run down state school, you would expect them to care more …) anyway, she looks great in the pics and it sounds really cool that you showed her how to do this blogging thing properly. You do great at blogging so I’m sure she learnt a lot :)

    It’s a pity you had so little snow but your second photo is really beautiful!

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 21, 2015 at 1:35 PM

      Well, Cory did go up there to talk to them, but because the boy claimed it was an accident, there wasn’t much they could do. From Lexie’s description of how it went down, though, it sure seemed like there was some malicious intent there. At least she’s strong – I certainly wasn’t that confident when I was her age!

  • Jennifer @This Off Script Life
    February 20, 2015 at 9:51 AM

    Thanks for sharing, Sarah. Winters in Switzerland are very much the same for me — full of days spent at home. I do very little traveling, and my “exciting” expat life feels, well, ordinary. And I’m so sorry to hear about Lexie’s trouble at school. I hope your day together at Chiswick House and Gardens gave you a well-deserved escape from all of that.

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 21, 2015 at 1:30 PM

      Brrr! I can imagine winters in Switzerland get pretty brutal! In London it gets cold, windy, and rainy, which is the trifecta of weather conditions I dislike the most! :) It’s hard to travel in Europe at this time of year, too, because a lot of countries suffer from the same weather. We take one wold-weather vacation and then we wait for spring to start traveling again! :)

  • Holly
    February 20, 2015 at 9:18 AM

    Thank you for sharing a bit about Lexie. My daughter is near her age, and she’s had similar things happen at school that just break my heart. Like you, it it hard to not unleash the mother tiger. I hope Sweden was fun and not too cold!

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 21, 2015 at 1:27 PM

      I’m sorry to hear your daughter has been dealing with the same sort of things. It’s so hard as a mother to watch bad things happen to our kids. In our case, it’s just one boy who seems to terrorize quite a few of the girls, but it’s definitely made me want to take matters into my own hands!

      Oh, Sweden….I’ve never been so cold in my life. But it was worth it!

  • Jamie | The Healthy Passport
    February 20, 2015 at 12:43 PM

    Oh I would have wanted to punch that boy too! Ugh. Boys are the worst at that age…gives me nightmares thinking about it! But yes. Hasn’t this winter been so much better?! I really thought I might be falling into a dark hole last winter haha! Thanks for sharing the catch up post :)

    • Sarah Shumate
      February 21, 2015 at 1:33 PM

      Middle school boys – ugh. I don’t know why anyone would ever want to teach those grades! I keep telling her it gets better – MOST boys grow up eventually. :)

      Last winter was hard. I love a good gloomy day, but two months of them in a row was a little excessive!

  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee
    February 20, 2015 at 12:18 PM

    I know you don’t write loads about her, but I just think of Lexie as being the most resilient grounded kid ever! Wouldn’t it be cool if she got really interested in photos just like her mama? When I get mad the redneck comes out too, I blame playing Ice hockey and learning how to properly punch someone so you don’t break your hand haha.