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Monthly Review: November 2023

Submitted by Bethany on Thu, 11/30/2023 - 10:00

On the first day of November, I had some work to do in Trellech and Monmouth, so Joel and I turned it into a mini road trip as well. We stopped by the garden center just outside of Monmouth and then we impulsively decided to go into Newport for lunch. There was a restaurant I had been wanting to try for quite a while - a taco place that came highly recommended by an American in one of my expat groups. One thing I miss from the US is quality Mexican food, so we thought we would give this one a go! It’s a food stand located inside the Newport Market, which it turns out is a very posh market. I think it has recently been redone and it is quite nice inside. 

The way it works is you sit down at a table and then use a QR code to pull up the menus. It takes you to one link that lets you order from any of the food places located inside the market - then you give them your table number and your food comes to you. I really liked this set up, but unfortunately, that was about the best part of the experience. The food was insanely overpriced but by this point I was super hungry so I probably over-ordered a bit. We got two things from a place called “The Italian Job” and while this arancini was delicious, it was absolutely not worth £12 (about $15.)

The main thing we went for was the birria tacos from “Bab Haus” as that was what had been recommended. Y’all, these two teeny-tiny tacos cost £12! £6 per taco! That is insane! Looking back I’m shocked I still ordered it after seeing the price. Also, it was only okay taste-wise. I would maybe pay £2 for these and be happy, but at 3x that price, it was absolutely not worth it. I would never recommend this place to anyone and we will never go back. Ah well, lesson learned (again!) that I make better tacos at home (for a helluva lot cheaper) and UK Mexican places are never worth it. 

On Saturday the 4th, Steve came around and we went to Caerleon to explore everything Roman! With our Cadw membership we got into everything for free. The Roman bathhouse ruins were my favorite - I love the way they have the lighting set up so it looks like water. There was also a pretty good museum with the recreation of a Roman garden out the back. There are also the remains of a Roman amphitheater nearby, but they were closed that day due to rain. 

The next day was Bonfire night! We still have yet to go to a proper Bonfire night as here in Wales they tend to just do fireworks and not have any actual bonfires. But this year was my favourite one yet as in Caldicot they were doing fireworks at the castle! Only locals could purchase tickets as they don’t have any parking, but lucky us, we live a less than 5 minute walk from the castle. So we invited Steve and Amy and Ben and the kids to come and park in our drive and go with us. It was cold and wet but when we got too cold we could just pop back to the house to put some tea in travel mugs and then we went back to waiting for the fireworks. They were well worth the wait! I hope we get to do this every year. 

Ever since I re-read SuperBetter earlier this year - a book about gamifying your life and the benefits of playing games - I have been wanting to get a video game system. We first bought a Nintendo Wii that we found at a charity shop (I loved the Wii back in grad school) but when it didn’t work very well we returned it and decided to splurge on the Nintendo Switch! I am in love with it! We got a RingFit exercise game that is motivating me to workout almost every day, I’m currently building my house in Animal Crossing, and my favourite game is Mario Kart! I love that one especially because I talked my mom into letting my brother get the game and a switch so now we play together about once a week. We’ve now talked and “hung out” more in the last month than in probably the last year! 

Remembrance Sunday this year was a cold and rainy affair, but we tried something new at Caldicot that I think worked really well. Our regular service starts at 10, and the town Remembrance service starts at 10:50 (so the 2 minutes silence can fall right at 11:00.) I wanted to have a presence at the town service so here’s what we came up with - I started the service at the church, then at about 10:30 I handed it over to a local preacher. Anyone who wanted to leave with me and join the town service could, and those who were unable to go stand in the cold and rain were able to stay in the church and continue the service there. I think this will be our new tradition. 

On the 17th we had our (mostly) monthly game night with Amy and Ben. We played another EXIT game - this time it was a mystery on a riverboat cruise, we had to figure out who stole some important papers. We used the app which added some fun atmospheric music and kept time for us. We are still figuring out these games so it took us much longer than expected, but it was fun!

This year can go down in history as the year we discovered Costco pumpkin pie! I’d hear rumors of it in expat groups so I was super excited to find some at our Costco this year. We bought one the week before Thanksgiving to test it out and it was delicious. Unfortunately, when we went back the Monday before the big day to buy more they were out already! Next year when I find them I’m going to buy two and freeze them. 

Our plans for Thanksgiving got a little derailed this year. We were meant to have Steve and the Green family and some other American friends in the area, but in the end the Green kids were ill and Joel and I weren’t feeling very well either so we canceled everyone but Steve. We had already done all the food prep when we did so we ended up with wayyyy too much food, but that’s okay, the best part of Thanksgiving is the leftovers! We ended up having a very chill day watching the parade, every Thanksgiving episode of Friends, a bit of (American) football, and the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles. 

The day after Thanksgiving is for shopping and Christmas decorating, so we dragged Steve back to Costco with us to look for some deals. We ended up getting £20 off a new air fryer which is a huge upgrade from the cheap one we bought from the middle of Lidl years ago. It also bakes, roasts, dehydrates, and does all sorts of other things - it has basically replaced the oven for me at this point. It takes up a lot of room on the counter which I don’t love, but it is so darn useful (I use it basically every day) that I can’t really be mad about it! 

I was very excited to put up the Christmas decorations this year as we purchased a second Christmas tree (from a charity shop) for the bay window! I love the look of a lit tree in a bay window and I am so delighted to have one of my very own. 

Then on Saturday, it was time for the Christmas lights switch on in town. It was very cold and very crowded and I didn’t manage to get any good pictures of the lights this year. The church set up a booth to give out free gifts - some volunteers made these adorable reindeer bags with candy canes for the antlers. Inside we had some flyers about upcoming events at the church including a craft morning for kids. 

Towards the end of the month, I finally decided to stop in Devauden (which I drive through about once a week) to check out the bust of John Wesley. He first preached in Wales in this very spot on October 15, 1739. The nearby informational sign also talked about the first Methodist chapel built in Wales in nearby Earlswood - that is Earlswood Valley chapel of which I am currently the minister! It still blows my mind that I get to live and work in the midst of all this Methodist history. 

In case you haven’t noticed, November is often a month of buying things for us (Black Friday deals are hard to resist!) and this year I ended up with a new set-up in my office. I’ve been seeing this on TikTok and I finally decided to go for it - a standing desk and walking pad combo! This means I can “workout” (aka walk rather slowly) while I work, am on Zoom meetings, etc. It is a really neat setup that keeps me from just sitting around on my bum all day. In fact, I just raised it up and am standing as I type this now! (And then I decided to walk while I edited photos!)

Finally, one big thing happened this month that I don’t have any pictures of but I just have to share! I have been a member of an organization called “Young Clergy Women International” for years now. It is a networking group for female clergy under the age of 40. This organization has been invaluable in helping me grow in my ministry (so many resources!), has helped me build friendships online and IRL, and when we traveled we actually met up with people from YCWI literally around the world. This month a board member for the group reached out and encouraged me to apply for a seat on the board - they were looking specifically for international members. After some prayer and discernment, and discussion with Joel and my superintendent I decided to apply. I then had a Zoom interview with current board members and the nominating committee and then a week later I was invited to serve on the board!  

Starting in January 2024 I will serve a three-year term, which will take me right to 40 when I have to leave the organization (then there is an alumni group to join.) I am so excited to do this and help to grow and improve an organization that has been so instrumental in my vocation. This also means I will be attending their yearly conference in person for the first time - I have always attended online before. So next May I’ll be off to Washington DC for the conference! 

And with that exciting news, we have a wrap on November of 2023!

XOXO, Bethany