Discovering Oxford and searching for Alice.

I was compensated for this review. All opinions are honest and my own, as are all of my reviews. Thank you for visiting!

Just about two weeks ago my husband and I embarked on the trip of a lifetime, of our lifetimes at least. We hopped a plane or two and crossed an ocean to visit Ireland and England! Neither of us had ever been out of the country before, and got our first passports for this trip. In fact, mine arrived only 3 weeks before we were due to leave, which was cutting it a bit too close for my taste! Thankfully, it got to me in time, the kids went to spend a fun-filled week with the grandparents, and Tom and I went on a grand adventure.

One of the cities that we spent time in was Oxford, England, the city of dreaming spires. It is absolutely magnificent! The history, the architecture, and the tradition are awe-inspiring to say the least.

photo 4-9

Oxford maintains a bit of whimsy as well! Did you know that Oxford is the home of Alice? Lewis Carroll (a pen name) was Charles Dodgson, a maths lecturer at Christ Church, Oxford. His famous books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass were stories that Charles told to the Dean of Christ Church’s daughter, Alice! Many of the locations in her adventures are based on parts of the college itself. So I went looking for Alice in Oxford and imagined where she might have wandered and played.

The first place was Christ Church Cathedral itself, which is just beautiful. Can you imagine a more beautiful setting to base story books on?

Oxford Uncommon Goods Review

The meadows across the way are populated with deer, and if you explore a bit you’ll find Addison’s walk, where C.S. Lewis liked to walk and think.

Some places were not so obviously found. On my adventure I took Alice with me everywhere I went! I wore my Alice In Wonderland literary scarf from Uncommon Goods Gifts under $50 page! It seemed like there wasn’t a place that could be more fitting to wear it. After all, Oxford is where her adventures started. The weather called for a scarf, and this was just the right thing to wear. The entire scarf is covered with text and images from the book-I love it! It was honestly just what I needed, and if my adventures had taken me elsewhere, I could have chosen from a few other literary scarves. In fact, if I were Alice, I might take a drink from that little bottle and shrink myself down so that I could play in the postcard garden found on this page (in Gifts under $25). How cute is that?

Uncommon Goods Review

Uncommon Goods Literary scarf review

There are other more obvious places to find Alice… she’s quite popular around this town. There’s a quaint little shop called Alice’s Shop where you can find just about anything Alice related, from stationary to jewelry, teapots to tea towels, and books to wall clocks. It really is a cute (very small) shop, and I would have taken a photo of the inside except that they were not permitted, so here’s a shot of me and my Alice scarf in front of Alice’s Shop.

Uncommon Goods Review

Alice's Shop Oxford

Oxford is truly an amazing town. It was hard to decide if I felt stupider by comparison or smarter by osmosis just walking through its streets. It seemed as if everyone there must be highly academic and have some grand goals for their lives. They’re in Oxford, after all! I enjoyed soaking in the sites; the bell towers, cathedrals, spires, canals, lovely old buildings, and eager young faces of the students walking or riding their bicycles past us. I wish we had allowed ourselves more time to explore.

Radcliffe Camera Oxford

Our next adventure takes us to New York City, where Uncommon Goods is based, coincidentally! They were founded in 1999 and are headquartered in Brooklyn, which we just so happen to be visiting during our stay. They’re actually based out of the historic Brooklyn Army terminal, which is so cool. They are such a unique, or should I say uncommon (lol) company, supporting and providing a platform for artists and designers to share their creative work. In fact, one of my friends just so happens to have been one of those designers who Uncommon Goods gave a chance to shine, so I know first hand that they do what they say they do. So if you find yourself in Brooklyn you might want to check in and see about touring because they offer studio tours… how fun would that be? Or just check out their website while you’re doing your holiday shopping.

We saw so much more than Oxford on our trip. I hope to get some photos of our adventures in Ireland posted too. I fell in love with Ireland, even more than I did England.

Have you traveled to Oxford or Ireland before? What is your dream vacation?

The Best Yes by Lysa Terkuerst.

This post is part of Lysa TerKeurst’s “The Best Yes” Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers. To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

The Best Yes blog tour at www.thesoutherninstitute.com

Does the quote above speak to you in any way? It does me. Maybe this sounds familiar: You have a hard time just being still. Your day consists of you rushing from one thing to the next. You feel guilty taking any time for yourself. When is the last time you just sat and read a book for the fun of it? Before you know it, it’s 11:30 p.m. and you realize that you haven’t even stopped to spend time with God today. You haven’t cracked your Bible open or uttered a word of thanks to Him, outside of the dinner time and bed time prayers that were spoken with your children. The day is ending and you wish you had about 8 more hours because your to-do list is no where nearly checked off and you feel completely drained and empty, falling into bed, exhausted, and yet your mind is still going 100 MPH thinking about what you need to get done tomorrow.

Does any of that sound familiar?

“When a woman lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule, she’ll ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.”

How has this played out in your life? Does your soul feel underwhelmed? Yes? Here’s the thing…

“The decisions you make determine the schedule you keep. The schedule you keep determines the life you live. And how you live your life determines how you spend your soul.”

Did you see that? It’s an eye opener isn’t it? Life doesn’t just happen to us, at least not the majority of the time. The decisions that we make determine the schedule that we keep. If I haven’t made a point to carve out time with God in the morning then guess what? It ain’t happening, because there is ALWAYS something else fighting for my time and attention. Always. And I let it. And I let it win more often than I should. I’m left overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

This book is about finding your best yes.

Lysa TerKeurst is learning that there is a big difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God. Because really, when we say yes to everything we are saying no to something, right? Is that implied “no” the very thing that is your best “yes”? I can’t answer that for you, but The Best Yes just might be able to help you figure that out. In The Best Yes Lysa will help you:

-Cure the disease to please with a biblical understanding of the command to love.
-Escape the guilt of disappointing others by learning the secret of the small no.
-Overcome the agony of hard choices by embracing a wisdom based decision-making process.
-Rise above the rush of endless demands and discover your Best Yes today.

I have not even gotten to the end of this book yet and it’s already got me thinking in a new way. Whenever I read a book from Lysa I feel my soul saying, “Yes! You get me, Lysa. Thank you for putting into words what I haven’t been able to verbalize. Thank you for helping me think through this!”

Here are some more great quotes from The Best Yes:

“We must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please.”

“We have to put our hearts and our minds in places where wisdom gathers, not scatters.”

“If you desire to please God with the decision you make and afterward it proves to be a mistake, it’s an error not an end.”

“My imperfections will never override God’s promises. God’s promises are not dependent on my ability to always choose well, but rather on His ability to use well.”

“Not making a decision is actually a decision. It’s the decision to stay the same.”

New York Times Bestselling author Lysa TerKeurst’s new book is about finding your Best Yes. Many call this book “inspiring” and “fabulous.” I call it a game-changer. Go grab a copy here, I’m going to go read my Bible. ;)

On friends and sunglasses.

Firmoo review atwww. thesoutherninstitute.com
Last year turned out to be a pretty great month. I turned forty years old… FORTY! Do you remember the fundraiser for Enchanted Makeovers that I posted about? Maybe you contributed! If so, thank you so very much, because you were one of the many that helped me reach my goal of raising $1000 for that amazing non-profit organization. Because of our coming together there will be hope where there was little hope before. I’m so excited about that!

Earlier this year I had told my husband that my fortieth birthday wish was to go away for the weekend with my two best friends, and my sister if she was able. So, I decided to make it happen instead of just wishing about it! We found a weekend in July that would work for all of us, I rented a beach house on the coast of South Carolina, and we hit the road. Sadly, my sister wasn’t able to come with us.

Folly Beach sunrise

We had the best time, just three 40-year-old girls who were college roommates and have been best friends for 20+ years. We listened to 80′s music, we laughed, we cried, we laid out on the beach, we went out to eat, and we relaxed. It was exactly what we needed, a time to catch up without kids and husbands, just like we used to. It had been years since we had time to spend together like that. I missed it. It’s so important to nurture the relationships in our lives. In this online world it’s easy to get caught up in the social worlds of Facebook, IG and Twitter, but please don’t neglect the real life friendships that you are blessed with. They are a gift.

Folly Beach South Carolina

Funny story about the trip. I brought my favorite sunglasses with me, of course, because they go with me EVERYWHERE! Seriously. I don’t really like wearing contacts so I wear my glasses almost all of the time, but I’m also out and about a lot. I wear my prescription sunglasses most of the day when I’m out. My first pair of prescription glasses were from Firmoo.com. Yes, they were huge on my face, but I loved them! The picture at the top of the post is of my daughter and me in my beloved Firmoo sunnies…

So, my besties and I were enjoying a cool off in the ocean. The waves were rolling in, no big deal, they weren’t that big. Silly me, I turned my back to the waves, and I bet you can guess what happened. Oh my goodness, I never even knew what hit me! A wave hit me from behind and put. me. down. All of the sudden I was underwater and had no clue for a few seconds which way was up. Thankfully I had only been up to my waist in the water, so I found the ocean floor pretty quickly and emerged from the water, sputtering. That dang wave had knocked my sunglasses right off of my face. Needless to say I never saw them again. LUCKILY, Firmoo had just emailed me the week before to ask if I wanted to review a pair of their new glasses, and of course I agreed. Could the timing have been more perfect? I think not.

Firmoo review at www.thesoutherninstitute.com

So here I am in my new prescription sunglasses from Firmoo.com, and I’ve already gotten compliments on them. People are shocked when I tell them how inexpensive they are and that they are prescription sunglasses. You really cannot go wrong with Firmoo. Especially if you are prone to losing your glasses (who me?). You can even take advantage of their First Pair Free program and get your first pair of selected frames free! Even outside of that offer, the average price of frames is only about $33! Some of the prescription sunglasses are a bit more, but frames are still $80 or less. So go take a look and see if something catches your eye. I bet you’ll find a pair that you love.

Just don’t wear them in the ocean.

I received my sunglasses free of charge through Firmoo’s blogger program, but I would gladly pay for them myself! All opinions are honest and my own, as always.