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Monthly Review: September 2023

Submitted by Bethany on Sat, 09/30/2023 - 10:00

September is always one of my favorite months of the year - and not just because it contains my birthday! (Although I do love celebrating my birthday.) I like that the weather starts to turn cooler, routines settle back in after the break of summer, and if I’m lucky, the leaves start to turn color! 

I kicked September off this year with a haircut, for which I hoped to have a fun before and after photo to share…but it pretty much looked the same when I was done. It did take off some split ends and even things up in a good way, but I didn’t even bother with pictures because I’m not sure most people could even tell it was cut. Ah well. So instead of a picture of my hair, I’ll let you enjoy this picture of the road construction that was taking place in front of our house. It feels like they’ve been doing something or other out there since we moved in last year!

That was a Friday, so later that day Steve came over for a frolic! We had plans to drive up to a good walking spot in the Forest of Dean and on the way there we got distracted by a food truck (as one does.) So pulled in to get some grub at Mrs. T’s (a sister place to Mr. T’s we found in Usk earlier this year.) The guy working that day made us an off-menu burger that was so delicious - it was topped with a chopped up mixture of sausage, bacon, eggs and cheese!

After stuffing ourselves, we made it to our destination - a place called Mallard’s Pike. The weather was absolute perfection - sunny with blue skies but not hot at all - so we went for a leisurely stroll around the lake. Steve hunted for mushrooms and then we spent some time watching Joel skip rocks on the lake. While I was sitting on the ground enjoying the view I suddenly got jumped by two puppies - actual puppies - and it was the most amazing moment ever. Their owner was apologetic but I didn’t care because who doesn’t want to get mauled by puppies?! I was too busy snuggling them to take any photos, so you can enjoy this photo of the ducks instead. Then we went home via the ice cream hut and binge-watched Bargain Block, making for a just about perfect day. 

The next day Joel was missing a comfort food from home - the Spud Supreme pizza from Jeff’s Pizza in Ames, IA. So we tried to recreate our own - it turned out okay, but we learned that we definitely needed to pre-cook the potatoes before putting them on the pizza. This day I also decided it would be a bright idea to try and ride my bike to the movie theater in Newport. It’s only about 12 miles but I haven’t done a long ride like that in years. I did make it there, but I did not have the energy to make it home, so we had to stuff my bike into the car. I wish I had taken a picture of it because it barely fit - the handlebars were hanging out the window - but we made it work! (Mostly…there is a bit of a scratch on the car now!)

The next weekend, one of the churches I serve celebrated 90 years! We celebrated with a “Songs of Praise” event where people gathered to sing some favorite hymns. The church was packed which was amazing to see. We also celebrated another special event that day…which I’m not sure I’m allowed to write about yet. I’ll come back and update if I can.

UPDATE! I am allowed to share about this special event now - our good friend from back home, Elly, got married! They wanted me to officiate which was oh so sweet, but as they gave us about 2 weeks' notice I couldn't fly back. So we ended up with a compromise - they did their legal wedding at the courthouse, and then I officiated their spiritual wedding over video chat from my backyard. They went out to the woods near where they live with their three kids - the oldest of whom, Oliver, is our godson! 

Here's a group photo a random passerby took for us - you can't really see it but Joel and I are on the phone Oliver is holding. The internet connection was sketchy and Elly's phone died in the middle of the cermony, so they had to call back from Kristian's phone, but even with all of that, it was still very meaningful and special. 

And if that weren’t enough, it was also the day of the Iowa vs. Iowa State football game! We found an easy way to watch it this year thanks to a streaming service my brother lets us use so we made some football snacks (Velveeta cheese dip) and made a bet on the game. If Iowa State won, I would have to watch a scary movie every day in October. If Iowa won, Joel had to let me decorate the house early for Halloween (usually I can’t do so until after my birthday.) Happily for me, Iowa won!

On the 12th we added some Jasmine to our garden - something we have been wanting to do ever since London! We never got around to it in Monmouth (which turned out well since we didn’t stay long enough to see anything grow) but now we finally had the perfect spot in the garden for it…and the gardener to do it for us! (We have hired our neighbor’s gardener who used to do the manse and he keeps this place in tip-top shape for a very reasonable fee.) Here is the starting photo, I can’t wait to see how this looks a few years from now!

The next Saturday was a long one as I had to go to Synod which was held in a town about 2.5 hours away. Joel decided to drive me which was really nice as we got to spend time together and after a long day, I took a nap on the way home. I put my name in as a representative for Conference this year but didn’t get elected. However, I’m hoping now next year more people will know who I am and I’ll have a better chance! I also got to introduce myself to our new chair of district. Our Synod is now officially bilingual so sometimes people were speaking in Welsh and those of us who don’t speak Welsh had translation headsets. I just had to stumble through attempting to sing some hymns in Welsh, which you can see on the screen here. 

I’ve been looking for new ways to get some exercise in and funnily enough, someone in a local Facebook group I’m in asked for recommendations for adult tap classes. When I saw someone recommend a place nearby I thought, hey! I wanna try that! So I contacted the studio and learned that their beginner and intermediate adult tap classes were full…but they had room in the advanced class! It has been about 13 years since I last put on my tap shoes but I figured why not, let’s give it a go. I had my trial class on the 19th and I was a bit ambivalent about it…I was anxious meeting new people and my skills are definitely rusty, though I did manage to keep up. Joel convinced me to go back for the second class and now I am officially hooked! So on Tuesday nights from now on you’ll find me tapping away!

The big plans for this month were for my birthday weekend - which I always take off of work - especially this year as my birthday was on a Sunday. (Who wants to work on their birthday?!) On the Saturday before Joel and I set out in the car to explore and ended up in Lydney. We took a stroll through Taurus Crafts and commissioned a piece of dragonfly art. We didn’t get to pick it up until later, but here it is in all its glory!

The artist also had beautiful watercolor paintings of the Lydney stones, so we decided our next stop would be to visit the stones. These random stone circles are found all over the UK and never fail to fascinate me. These ones were located right along the coast so we got to take a beautiful late afternoon stroll (in perfect weather) as well. 

On my actual birthday, my only request was to have my friends all come play Dominion with me! But of course, Joel went above and beyond, designing a 10-game Dominion tournament for us to play. We only had time to play 5 of the games, but we have plans to finish the rest when we all get together again for Bonfire weekend. We also managed to squeeze in an epic American breakfast (biscuits & gravy and pancakes), homemade mac and cheese for lunch, a huge chocolate cake from Coscto, and some exploring at the castle. It was an absolutely perfect birthday. 

I wasn’t expecting any gifts…but everyone gave me some anyway! Each gift was incredibly thoughtful and shows how well these people know me, which I am so grateful for. From Amy and Ben (and the kids) I got this epic Halloween sign that will have pride of place in our house every October. (Amy also brought me back Fritos from her recent trip to the US!)

From Steve, we got a piece of art for our kitchen that is an inside joke that stemmed from his birthday celebration. I won’t attempt to explain it here, but I will giggle every time I pass this in my kitchen. 

From Joel, I got two huge amazing mugs that he designed himself. One says “I’d rather be playing Dominion.” The other is harder to explain…but it has a quote from one of our favorite movies (Mr. Right) and then it combines a Dominion card I love (Page/Champion) with scenes from the movie…like I said, hard to explain, but suffice to say it is EPIC and I drink out of it basically every day now. 

We made another upgrade to the manse this month, this one on our own dime. We had a battery installed, which will help us start to save money on our electric bill. This lets us pull from the grid when prices are low, then we can use the battery when prices are high. We’ve signed up for “agile pricing” from Octopus which means the price changes literally every 30 minutes - sometimes it’s crazy high and sometimes they pay us to use electricity! Joel has spent many days programming a website to keep track of when we should be using the grid vs the battery and making sure we run everything as cheaply and efficiently as possible. This is partly in service of me hoping to have a good hot tub again at some point in the future! (We had a fabulous one at our house back in Fort Dodge.)

On the last day of the month, I officiated a Blessing of the Animals service at Caldicot. They had never done one before, and I had never led one on my own before, but it was a lot of fun. We advertised all over town (including in the vet offices) and had a few people show up who weren’t church members. We are hoping to make it an annual event! I couldn’t possibly choose a favorite from the five dogs that came to the service…so I will just pick one cutie at random to share. 

This September has my favorite portion of the year off to a good start, and we’ve got some great plans for October as well. Life is good! 

XOXO, Bethany