Happy Blog-iversary!

As of today, I have been blogging for an entire year! I’ve had a couple of blogs in the past, but none that have lasted this long or had any sort of following whatsoever, so this is quite exciting. I’ve been able to unpack thoughts on this blog, as well as share fun facts about my life and travels.

What does the future hold for Perfect Harmonies? Since this is purely a hobby for me, I don’t plan on trying to make any significant income from it. However, it is a very fun hobby and I’d love to grow my content and readership, so I do plan on making some improvements and implementing some new ideas around here. Look for fun changes over the next few months!

To celebrate Perfect Harmonies’ first birthday, here are some of my favorite and most significant posts from the past year.

The realization that my life struggles happen for a reason.

A solo trip to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studios in London.

How I view my role as a wife, and what’s awesome about being married to T.

Top five things I’ve learned from working at a dental office.

One of the most life-changing decisions I’ve ever made.

Why every kid needs cousins, and why we will eventually give our nephew some of his own.

The story behind my right-hand ring.

Traveling to Brazil? Here are some of my observations about the Portuguese language.

How I overcame one of my biggest fears.

25 days of Christmas music.

The greatest trip of my life.

How to be awesome at public transportation.

I hope you enjoy reading Perfect Harmonies as much as I enjoy writing it! What are some of your favorite posts?

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2014: Looking Back

What a year it’s been for us. 2014 took off running and never slowed down. I feel like every time we got through one major thing, something else major came up. Here are the highlights (and some lowlights as well).

Travel: T and I went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February, to visit friends. It was my first time in South America and T’s first international trip ever, and the language barrier was quite a challenge. I also went to England and France with my grad school chamber choir, where I explored Oxford, nerded out at Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studios, attended an Evensong service at Westminster Abbey, took in tons of champagne and World War-era history in Reims, and admired the Paris Opera House, drank incredibly thick hot chocolate, and stood in awe of the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Finally, I spent a month in Weimar, Germany for a summer opera program.

T and me with Christ the Redeemer in Rio.

T and me with Christ the Redeemer in Rio.

Work: I started two new jobs, one at the dental office and the other as the director of our church choir. T made great strides in his job as well, getting promoted and working towards some certification tests.

Family: Three new babies were born into our family, which has been a huge blessing. My dad got married, and my mom sold her house, bought a new one, and moved just yesterday. Multiple family relationships have been stretched thin and subsequently healed this year, and I hope for further strengthening over the next year.

Baby T and me at Christmas.

Baby T and me at Christmas.

Friends: Two of our best friends got married in July in a wonderful celebration. Three weeks later, one of them was diagnosed with cancer. It was a big shock to everyone, and it definitely caused T and me to think about our own health and lives. After surgery and chemo, our friend is now cancer-free. In the midst of all this, we’ve continued to strengthen the bond we have with our friends and learn to trust in God for His mercy and healing.

Singing: I made the difficult but absolutely right decision to quit my pursuit of singing as a career and instead focus on the things that truly matter to me. It was a long, hard, painful process, but I know it’s where God has been leading me for a long time. I will continue singing as a hobby and a passion, but from now on my career choices will be ones that contribute to our current and future family. On a positive note, I did get to sing one of my favorite roles for the second time, as well as add a couple of new roles to my resumé, and I will be starting rehearsals for a new show next week.

Church: Our church had been going through a process over the past couple years of determining whether or not to leave our denomination, Presbyterian Church (USA), because of some faith-based issues arising in the upper levels of PC(USA). After months of discussion and debate, a straw poll in June, and more months of discussion and debate (and lots of fragmentation and division within the church), our church body voted earlier this month to leave PC(USA) and move our church to a different Presbyterian denomination, ECO. None of it was easy or pleasant, but seeking the will of God and following His direction is ultimately more important than anything else.

Personal: I achieved many of my monthly and yearly goals, including saving money consistently and adding at least one new role to my resumé (see above). I also overcame one of my biggest fears, and I made the extremely important decision to quit the business of singing and focus on creating a future for my family.

And now, my goals for 2015!

  • Look to God’s will for my life and use it above all else to determine my choices.
  • Create a solid savings account that will go towards a down payment on a house.
  • Develop a healthier lifestyle, whether that means cooking at home more often or being more physically active.
  • Figure out what sort of career path I might want and take steps to get there.

Happy New Year, everyone! May God bless you in the coming year.

England: Harry Potter Studio Tour

I’ve been a Harry Potter fan since the day the first book was released in the States. My generation of Harry Potter readers is unique in that we started out at the same age as Harry and his friends and grew up alongside them, which means HP has always had a special place in our hearts. I even have a particular group of friends with whom I have seen all of the midnight movie premieres, with whom I held hands and cried when the credits started rolling at the end of the eighth and final movie, and with whom I spent a glorious (and yet terrible) twenty hours marathoning all eight movies one fateful December 23-24.

A few months ago, right as I was reading travel books and trying to decide what to do with my one free day in London, I happened upon this post by Casey at We Took the Road Less Traveled, and I knew immediately how to spend my free day: the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Warner Brothers Studios.

Casey’s advice, as well as the advice of real-life friends who have been, was to book a ticket in advance because they sell out quickly and can’t be purchased at the tour. I bought my ticket almost one month to the day before my tour date and many of the time slots were already unavailable. Luckily I managed to get one for a 9:30 AM tour. I also told my choir friends who would be on the trip with me and encouraged them to buy their tickets ASAP if they wanted to go with me. Naturally, none of them got their act together in time, so I was going alone. No biggie.

On the big day, my plan was to take the tube from our hotel to Euston Station in central London, which was the recommended starting point on the HP Studio Tour website. I left the hotel at 7:45, which allowed me almost two hours to get there. As luck would have it, that happened to be the weekend that several major tube lines and stations were closed, and after waiting an unnecessarily long time and traveling a grand total of two stations in half an hour, I gave up and hailed a cab to Euston Station. Once there, it was easy to buy a round-trip overground train ticket to Watford Junction, the end of that particular overground line and the nearest (and recommended) station to the studios.

Here’s where I must caution any future tour-goers. The website says that the train ride from Euston Station to Watford Junction takes about twenty minutes. Don’t rely on this being the case! That’s only true if the train doesn’t make any stops in between. If the train stops at every station, it will take approximately 45 minutes, which is what it took me. Needless to say, it was well past 9:30 AM by the time I even arrived at Watford Junction.

From there I headed to the bus stops right outside the station, where I and several other HP lovers were greeted by the shuttle bus to the studio tour. It was another 15-minute bus ride to the studio itself, and when we arrived I was able to redeem my emailed confirmation for an actual ticket. I had been nervous the whole time that they wouldn’t let me in after all that trouble, since my ticket was for a specific time that was already well past, but that didn’t seem to matter at all. I got in with no problem.

The rest of the experience was completely magical, for lack of a better term. It was everything I thought it would be, and my only disappointment was that my group of Harry Potter-loving friends back home weren’t there to share the joy with me.

I don’t want to spoil the magic by writing out too many details, so enjoy some of my favorite pictures from the tour. If you find yourself planning a trip to London, it is well worth the money and the excursion out of the city.

McGonagall, Dumbledore, and Snape in the Great Hall.

McGonagall, Dumbledore, and Snape in the Great Hall.

The Great Hall.

The Great Hall.

Me in front of the Hogwarts gate.

Me in front of the Hogwarts gate.

The Gryffindor boys' dormitory.

The Gryffindor boys’ dormitory.

The Mirror of Erised.

The Mirror of Erised.

Hagrid's hut.

Hagrid’s hut.

Inside the Burrow.

Inside the Burrow.

The Marauder's Map.

The Marauder’s Map.

Dumbledore's office.

Dumbledore’s office.

The invisibility cloak's secret revealed... green screen!

The invisibility cloak’s secret revealed… green screen!

The Gryffindor common room. Can't you just imagine hanging out and doing homework in here?

The Gryffindor common room. Can’t you just imagine hanging out and doing homework in here?

Drinking a butterbeer was a must!

Drinking a butterbeer was a must!

One of the chess pieces. They are actually life size.

One of the chess pieces. They are actually life size.

Buckbeak the hippogriff.

Buckbeak the hippogriff.

I'm in Diagon Alley!

I’m in Diagon Alley!

The huge, magnificent model of Hogwarts that was used for all of the aerial shots in the movies.

The huge, magnificent model of Hogwarts that was used for all of the aerial shots in the movies.

What a fun experience!

What a fun experience!