The First Rule of Wine Club Is...

Way back when the book club met for the first time to discuss The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, only one person finished the book. The next month was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. A few more people finished it, but it still wasn't getting the momentum it needed.

My friend Rosa wanted the book club to work, but she says she forgot that we were all young 20-somethings and no one seemed to have the time to read a whole novel in a month. She was inspired by our other friend Ashley who was part of a group of girls who switched books out for bottles met every month to learn about vino. Rosa was like, "Hey! We could do that. We all love wine anyway."

"Yes!" everyone screamed. And that's how this tradition started.

So, to make sure my headline isn't deceiving, I'll finish the sentence: The first rule of wine club is... to start a book club and then get rid of the book part of it. (Of course, if you do switch book club to wine club and have a juicy novel you think would be fun to discuss one month, you can do a pairing theme around it.)

Hey! I Know Her: Tammy Tibbetts

You know when you're just so in awe of the people in your life that you sometimes have to pinch yourself and say, "I can't believe I'm so lucky to have them as a friend?" I actually feel that way every day. I look at my friends and think they're some of the sweetest, strongest, most inspiring women on the planet, and how they made their way into my life, I have no idea. But I'm truly thankful.

Photo Credit: Kate Lord Sander

And because of that, I thought it'd be fun to feature them in a new monthly interview series. Welcome to "Hey! I Know Her!"

Last week, I went over to my friend Tammy Tibbetts' home where she introduced me to smoothie bowls and we sat on her patio for hours just chatting. In case you haven't heard of her yet, she's taking the world by storm. She's the founder of "She's The First," a nonprofit committed to funding girls' education in low-income countries. Check out my Q&A with her below!

Q: So, I remember sitting with you in the Hearst Cafeteria in 2008, and She's the First was just an idea in your head. You were so enthusiastic about it then -- but did you ever imagine it would be what it is today?
A: When we launched, it was just a YouTube video. I thought it'd just be a social media campaign that would inspire people to sponsor girls’ education. I never imagined it would spawn a network of campus chapters that’s now close to 200, a coalition of 10 partner schools, a staff of 4 people, 5 interns, and our own office space.

Q: What do you think is to thank for its success?
A: I would say the action of college students was the match that lit the fire. When the video started resonating with them and they started organizing events and activities, that’s what made it grow so much faster than I anticipated.

Q: What do you see in the college students that you saw in yourself when you were their age?
A: I see what I was looking for. I have a diary entry to prove it from when I was a senior in college -- I knew that I was graduating from my journalism program and would probably get hired, but I didn’t feel like I was part of something bigger than myself. And I think these students found that very thing I was looking for.

The First One Back In New York

I'm baaaack! So, technically I've been back in New York City for over a month now, but I've finally had some time to settle into our new (old) life and catch my breath. Needless to say, it's been a very busy six weeks. From reuniting with our old friends to doing some major home improvement projects on our apartment (more on that later!), Christopher and I have not let a wasted second go by since we've been back.

The main question everyone's been asking since we returned home was how has the adjustment been from Oxford to New York. Here's my honest answer: from the moment we stepped off the plane at JFK, my stress level and anxiety increased by at least 200 percent... so, yeah, it's completely back to normal.

While we dearly miss our little English countryside home and the hikes and the friends and the peace and quite, it really is nice to be back. Sure, I could do without the hot trash smell as you walk along the streets and the crowded subway rides where you try so desperately not to brush up against strangers' sweaty skin, but I guess that's just a part of living in NYC, and well, it's home.

Me and my core group of girlfriends in NYC during our annual picnic right after I got back.
So, what is this blog going to be now that I'm not "Across the Pondering" anymore? I plan on keeping it up in a similar vein, sharing bits and pieces of my life with you but also making it more of a general lifestyle blog. I plan to share recipes we make and love, trips we take and suggestions from those, home improvement projects and lessons learned. It'll be letters home to you all so that we can stay in touch and share ideas.

If you haven't done so already, you can subscribe to the blog here. You'll get an email notification every time a new blog is published (about once a week, if we're setting realistic expectations.)

Thanks for sticking with me through the hiatus of Oxford to New York. It's definitely been a transition, but I'm excited to be back!

PS- If you ever feel the urge to re-live the "Across the Ponderings" days, I've created a section in the navigation called "Oxford Archives" where you can find all the old blog posts. I secretly know that it's just for me when I get homesick for the UK, but I'll pretend that you care, too :)

The Last One From Oxford

Well guys, this is it. I can't believe the time has come to leave our wonderful adventure of a year in Oxford and head back to New York City tomorrow. Our time abroad has been a life-changing experience, and I'm so happy you all have been with us on the journey via this blog. Thank you for subscribing, reading, and commenting throughout the year--I never once felt homesick, and I think it was because you all were with us the whole time.

A lot of you have asked what's going to happen to this blog. I plan on keeping it up--the name and theme are obviously going to change since we won't be abroad anymore, but I'm looking forward to sharing our adventures in New York City once we're back. This has been a really fun outlet for me, and I hope you will continue checking in. I'm going to go on a brief hiatus for a couple of weeks while we get settled into our new (old) home and I make a few changes to the site, but I promise to be back soon!

We're currently trying to pack our life up into 4 suitcases and 2 carry-ons, so I need to run. But, I'll leave you with my top 5 favorite blog memories from this year. See you soon, America! xoxo

1. Mrs. Stratton's Words of Wisdom - That time we received marriage advice from a sweet British lady waiting for the bus.

2. A Round of Drinks With a Real Oxford Native - That time we met a new friend at the pub.

3. Sleeping Among the Monkeys - That time we slept in a hut in Thailand.

4. Making New Friends Far Away From Home - That time we met our best friends this year.

5. What It's Like to Attend a High Table Dinner in Oxford - That time we did the poshest thing ever.

Postcard I found from 1903 of people standing in front of our Oxford apartment. Just had to share here so I'll always have it.

Weekend Adventures: Hiking In the English Countryside

On Sunday, Christopher and I met up with his sweet coworker and her husband. The two of them are serious hikers and wanted to show us a side of Oxford you can really only get to by car. So, we drove to the little village of Ardington to begin our five mile walk through the English countryside. Here are some pictures from our adventure!

house in ardington, oxford
This is a house that actually belongs to someone. Or perhaps the vacation home of Jay Gatsby.

Just hanging with a bronze statue honoring a horse that won "Best In Show" one year.

Oxford wildlife

The trail

#TBT: 6 Never-Before-Seen Pics From Our Year Abroad, Plus The Story Behind Them

In honor of Throwback Thursday, I thought it'd be fun to share a few pics that never made it onto the blog this year but are still some of my favorites. Check them out below, along with the story behind them:

Bangkok, Thailand
Our friend David took this pic during a dinner cruise in Bangkok. Besides David being one of the most amazing photographers I know (and he does this just as a hobby, BTW), I love this picture because it was taken right after Christopher tried his first shrimp as an adult. He used to be the pickiest of eaters but his palate has matured a lot recently. I like to think the Thailand trip changed him for the better. In fact, as someone who used to oppose fish, he's even requested salmon for dinner a few times this year.

Stuttgart, Germany
When we visited my college friends Elise and Truett in Stuttgart, Germany, we also got to hang out with their three adorable little boys. On our last day there, we woke up to the first snowfall of the season. The whole town was covered in a blanket of white, so we went into the forest and played in it, obviously. I was not prepared with my flimsy little tennis shoes, so needless to say, we had a lot of fun slipping and sliding on those hills.

Bordeaux, France
This is me and my mother-in-law inside a fancy wine cellar at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte during our trip to Bordeaux. We were just casually enjoying a tasting when the person working there hit a magic button that made the floor open up, revealing a glittery staircase that led us to a room stocked with vintage wine and this really cool wall (I'm not making this up, although, yes, I realize it sounds like a dream).

A Comparative Analysis: British Festivals vs. American Ones

This weekend, we stumbled upon a huge festival happening in our neighborhood park. There were rides, arts & craft tents, performers, and food--all familiar things, sure, yet there were still some little things that felt different. Here's how a British festival compares to an American one, in case you were wondering:

1. No offense to Brits, but Americans should never order a burger at a festival in England based on the one we got. It was so bland and quite possibly the worst hamburger I've ever eaten in my life.

2. I spotted a sign at a craft tent that read something along the lines of "Polite Notice: All reasonable offers will be considered." First, I love their "polite notices." Usually those are found around town with some kind of rule tacked on the end like, "Polite Notice: Be quiet in this area." The Brits are just so darn polite. Second, I love that this vendor was like, "please haggle with me."

3. The car shows feature vehicles that have weird-looking license plates and steering wheels on the wrong side.