Happy Birthday Sweet Notions!!

There is certainly a buzz in the air this Friday morning as we are all preparing for the Sweet Notions event tonight at Drink Shop & Do. We have fabulous designs by Jill Reno, Kendra Scott and Chris Duffy as raffle prizes in addition to a delicious ‘pudding’ – also known as dessert for those living across the pond – to celebrate the 1st birthday of Sweet Notions London. Wow, what amazing things it has done in one year!!

Being part of the process of preparing for the Sweet Notions event today while just less than 24 hours ago I was given, once again, the opportunity to experience the amazing effects it is having has enabled me to get a clear view of the cyclical nature of the Sweet Notions project itself. Like every Thursday, I spent yesterday at the Marylebone Project helping to facilitate the Design Camps that the money from Sweet Notions helps to fund. I will say with the utmost sincerity that every penny that comes out of Sweet Notions is producing blessings in the lives of the women at the Marylebone Project which exceed that penny’s value ten-fold. An analogy that comes to mind is Jesus feeding the 5,000 with 2 fish and five loaves of bread.   One of the coolest things about it is the way by which Sweet Notions and the Design Camps have affected women in such diverse ways. For example, for some of them, repurposing and creating new jewelry has truly become a skill and a craft that is going to enable them to be employed and earn an income, while giving them an actual vocation that they can be proud of and enjoy. For others, having a means by which to exercise their creative side gives them confidence and a reprieve from the less relaxing and pleasant thoughts that pervade our day – to – day lives. In addition, whether you are creative or not, or cannot craft pieces of jewelry to save your life (people such as myself) taking 2 hours out of the afternoon to engage with other people in a quiet, peaceful, and positive environment lifts the soul for a period of time and encourages all of those involved to believe that there is still some good in this broken world.

Yesterday and last week women were showing up to the Design Camp 30 minutes early because they were so eager and excited to come and participate. One of the women who comes regularly now has a job at a hospital in London and told us yesterday that she has rearranged her work schedule so that she will have every Thursday off in order to attend the Design Camps.  Happy Birthday Sweet Notions!!




Prime Tourist Time

Just for a little entertainment, although I’m not sure how entertaining it will be to you, I thought I would give a short update on some of my adventures as a tourist!

I got seriously lost for the first time last week trying to get the bus from an area called Angel where my friend from Texas lives, to another area where I was to meet Shannon and Cathers for dinner. In my book, the bus system in London is far more complicated than any other form of public transportation. Regardless of the opinion of others, it has proven to be difficult for me to figure out!! I wound up on the right bus going in the wrong direction – in my defense it had been a long day and I wasn’t thinking too clearly. The whole ordeal lasted about two hours but I finally arrived at my correct destination. Evidence of the sense of humor of God, earlier that same day I was bragging to Shannon about how I had mastered the London bus system…….serves me right.

On a more positive note, last Saturday Cathers took me to Greenwich where I visited the Royal Observatory and stood with one foot on each side of the Prime Meridian!! It was pouring down rain most of the day, but Greenwich was beautiful and I can now say I’ve stood on the Prime Meridian – pretty cool, huh?


After the Royal Observatory we went to the Greenwich Market and had ‘proper’ afternoon tea followed by some delicious Paella – so culturally diverse of us. For our homebound transportation we chose to take a ferry on the Thames (we tried to take a ferry on our journey TO Greenwich but the system was delayed due to a rowing race). The ferry ride on ‘The River Thames’ might have been one of my favorite things I’ve done in London so far!!  It was sunset so that made the whole experience all the more picturesque. Even more thrilling, our route took us right under the Tower Bridge enabling me to snap this frame-worthy photo!!












Meeting Marylebone

I go to the Marylebone Project every Thursday and get to work with Polly; she is the woman in charge of organizing and facilitating the Design Camps that are held by Sweet Notions at the project. She is a lovely woman – a ‘star’ as some have said:) and I feel so lucky to get to work with her!! She has such a gentle spirit and a special way of putting those around her at ease. Go Polly.

The first week Polly and I spent at Marylebone together we didn’t hold an official ‘jewelry workshop’ but used the time to organize and sort the Sweet Notions cabinet filled with all of the jewelry used for the workshops. It was a lot to dig through and untangle but we had LOTS of help from a couple of women who did exceedingly well in the workshops last term and graciously volunteered a little extra time to help out with Sweet Notions! Polly and I could not have finished our day’s work without the help of Adele, Medina, and Lawrence. The three of them have been especially involved with the workshops and have a real knack for the art of jewelry making. Spending the day with all four of these women was a joy, as was it really great getting to know some of the women who had already participated in the design camps before the camps actually began. The next week when we had our first official jewelry workshop I was nervous and so glad to see some familiar and warm faces!!  I have been blown away already by the positive attitudes, friendliness, and enthusiasm of Lawrence, Medina, and Adele.

Our first day to deliver the jewelry workshops this term was last Thursday and it went very smoothly!! Lawrence, Adele and Medina were chosen to help Polly lead the lesson, as well as help some of the women who were new or not as skilled. They were once again a huge help to everyone else and to me – it was my first go-round at jewelry making as well, and let’s just say it was very clear that I was a beginner! In addition to all of the jewelry crafting, the time we got to share talking to and getting to know the people sitting around us was a real blessing. Excitement filled the room as it was very clear everyone was so glad to have Sweet Notions back! We had tea and snacks, and chatted and sang Happy Birthday to Mona, one of the women who came to the workshops regularly last term – such a fun time. Based on my experience so far, the environment that is created by the joint efforts of Sweet Notions and The Marylebone Project is so positive and warm that it transforms the time spent there from merely a jewelry crafting class to a genuine experience of community and love; a community within which Christ’s presence is glaringly evident.

“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20


Let Everything that hath breath praise the Lord

Last Sunday I do believe I was given the chance to see a sliver of heaven. As discussed by Shannon and I on the train home from Chichester, England, there are places on Earth that are especially reflective of the glory of God and the glorious place that is heaven, and we both agree that Chichester is without a doubt one of those places.

Chichester Cathedral is 900 years old and its presence in the city is both solidifying and majestic. What struck me initially by the interior of the cathedral was its unique combination of historical and contemporary art and architecture. Never before had I been inside a cathedral – a very old one at that – and experienced such a wide chronological span of art and structure. Immediately it renders you mindful of the God that was and IS and is yet to come -one who isn’t locked into ‘bible times’ as many people perceive Him to be, possibly because of the literally ‘old’ nature of the multitudes of church buildings around the world.

One of my favorite, and one of the most inspiring parts about visiting Chichester Cathedral was experiencing what is called ‘The Marc Chagall Window’. Painted by Chagall in 1978 the stunning stained glass window is based on Psalm 150: ‘O praise God in His holiness…..let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.’ Fortunately the cathedral allows photographs so I got to snap this shot!!

 On a plaque that sits to the right of the window, it describes the action in the scene with the words ‘…it is the people in festive mood, exalting His greatness and His creation.’ In addition, the caption explains that there are instruments involved, but also that the colors were chosen specifically to exemplify and inspire celebration and praise of the Lord, coinciding with the scripture from Psalm 150. As I stood there revering in the window’s beauty and Chagall’s talent I was all of a sudden reminded of how many ways there are to worship and adore our Father in heaven. While the window is intended to depict people worshipping more traditionally with instruments and song, the artistic wonder of the window is absolutely a form of worship in and of itself. How marvelous that even the use of color can be a form of worship, and how wonderful it is that God has created, and then bestowed upon us such beautiful tools and ways by which to praise Him!

Following my visit to the cathedral, I got to spend most of the rest of the day wandering around Chichester trying to absorb as much of it as I possibly could. I ended up taking a long walk along the city’s walls (half of which was in the rain). The trail that followed the walls led me through a breathtaking green with an old chapel and idyllic English homes lining its border. It was sprinkling but the sun was subtly peeking through the clouds enough to give the whole park that divine kind of glow that illustrates for us once again how beautiful God is, and what a gift He has given us through creation – a means by which we might clearly see and praise Him more.

Interestingly enough, my day in Chichester only served to perpetuate a lesson I’ve been in the process of  learning while working for Matryoshka Haus. I will continue to elaborate on this lesson, but in a nutshell – quit putting God in a box. Living in a ‘Christian culture’, if you let it can sometimes cause you to mentally put God in a box in regard to how and where you worship Him,  how and where to serve Him and others, as well as putting limits on what He alone CAN do – which is immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine! God’s splendor and capability is limitless and when we ‘box Him in,’ we limit what He can do through us for His great kingdom.

Food Features

I believe that an integral part of traveling and exploring new places is exploring new food. I have no doubt stepped out of my comfort zone as far as eating new food during the time I’ve spent in London, and thanks to Shannon, I have done the same in regard to COOKING food as well!!

Despite London’s ‘apparent’ reputation for insufficiently satisfying the taste buds of its visitors, as I spend time here in 2011 I find that the diversity of its population is most certainly reflected in the variety of kinds of food it has to offer, and thereby has sufficiently satisfied my taste buds and my stomach!! I fortunately happened to love sushi and Mediterranean food before I arrived here, both of which are found on every corner of this great city.


As far as my London ‘new foods exploration’ goes, I have now had my first community curry experience, and I now love curry in addition to other types of Indian food. A couple of weeks ago I went to get curry with Cathers and Shannon and a group of their friends, all of whom are connected to MH in some way. This is something I have come to love about working for MH; it has brought, and continues to bring such a wide array of people together into meaningful relationships. I love it because every person involved comes from a completely different walk of life and brings something unique and wonderful to the table. It has been so fun beginning to form my own relationships with the people in this MH world that it still new to me, and I have already learned from the way that they invest in each other’s lives.

In addition to curry and Indian food, I have also tried the infamous British ‘black pudding’.  I actually found it to be rather tasty but supposedly many don’t share in my taste for it. Out of respect for the small chance that you’re queasy while reading this blog I’m not going to share with you the contents that comprise ‘black pudding’. This should imply that it was brave of me to try it at all:)In contrast to my brave consumption of ‘black pudding’, I have returned to the comforts of Mexican food a total of 3 times in 3 weeks. First when I shared the experience of eating the delicious King Ranch Chicken Shannon made for the couple she is staying with for the time being, again when I made breakfast tacos (the only thing I can cook), and another when I had a delicious chicken burrito on a Sunday night following my first visit to Grace Church in my neighborhood of Shoreditch.

As I mentioned previously, in addition to all of this eating I have ventured out a little into the – for me – uncharted world of cooking. I know for those of you reading this who know my mother – an unofficial gourmet chef and baker – this comes as a surprise, but my cooking abilities are pretty much limited to scrambled eggs, sandwiches, and heating up lean cuisines. Shannon, however, has set out to expand this list of things of which I’m able to cook. Last week, she taught me how to make a quinoa salad, meat loaf, and a delicious lemon cake. I burned two pans in the process and came dangerously close to ruining the quinoa salad altogether, but in the end the pans were washed and the quinoa salad was a hit at a dinner table full of friends.

So here are the ‘food features’ of my past few weeks in Londontown. Hopefully after reading this you are hungry rather than having lost your appetite. Bon appétit, my friends!