Everybody Loves Presents…

…And I am a gift-giving ninja.  But sometimes I want a pressie, too. 

Hello Lovelies!

Now I have to admit, these subscription boxes have puzzled me.  I try not to take on extra stuff, because I’ve got a UK Excursion in the works!  In fact, I’m looking at spending at least a year in the United Kingdom.   It’s very early on yet, but it’s something that tickles my heart. 

Which is probably why the Quaintly & Co box so captured my attention. 

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No coincidence that it was the Highlands themed box that turned my head either, I have got a serious thing for men in kilts.  Seriously, how cute is this stuff?  I was so excited when it arrived that I opened it the mintue I got into the house, there were confetti hearts all over the dining room floor! 

So here’s the thing:  We all need a little gift just for us from time to time.  Indeed, we deserve it!  What I discovered through ordering this box, is how much fun it is to have someone picking out a particular set of gifts just for me.  The excitement and the wondering is just… magical.  Have I mentioned that I’m wild about Christmas?  More on that later, in fact, I’ll also put together a little list of gift ideas for the gifting challenged. 

Whether you sign up for a subscription box, treat yourself to a piece of jewelry, or take yourself out for a nice dinner, you deserve to shower yourself with love and kindness.  Be your own Valentine, your own Secret Santa.  Hell, be your own Secret Admirer! 

Life is way too short not to love yourself.        

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It Matters

Hello, Lovelies! 

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and I’m very much looking forward to taking it easy.  Of course, we do the big dinner, but this year we chose to kick off the weekend with the turkey feast. 

Since I had a smaller crew around me this morning, I decided to do a little brunch.  In fact, if the big dinner isn’t really your thing, this is a great way to fit in the family time, or catch up with a few friends.  After all, the busy holiday season is right around the corner.  

I set my brunch table up to be as cozy and welcoming as possible.  Here’s the thing:  I deserve to be welcomed to my own table

When you take the time to go the extra mile, the message you’re sending yourself is that you matter.  Whether you are dining alone, with your family, or hosting a group, take the time to set the table!  You’ll love it, and I guarantee your guests will, too.  It’s so easy to get bundled along by all the daily stuff and tell yourself that it doesn’t matter.  Lies!  It matters, my dear, because you matter

Just for a week, try it out.  Maybe even just for one meal a day.  Make a fuss, make it special, and then sit down and enjoy it.  Even if it’s macaroni and cheese from a box, set the table, put the food on a plate or into a nice bowl, and sit down to enjoy it. 

Here’s what I think you’ll discover:

  • You’ll feel better because you’re more relaxed
  • You may find that you won’t overeat because you’re not distracted or rushing
  • You’ll see others lingering around the table and enjoying some conversation as well as the food
  • Everyone will be in a better frame of mind because they’re more relaxed, and they feel important, too.  Really, what better message could you send to the people you care most about? 

Elevate the everyday, and bring something gentle, elegant, and wonderful into your life.  Make your days sparkle, you deserve it.   

Getting My Hygge On

Hello Lovelies!

The forecast says there’s snow on the way this week.  And in the wind today, well, I can feel it coming.  So let’s talk hygge!  For anyone unfamiliar with the word, here’s how Oxford English Dictionaries defines it: 

A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)

In Canada, we know all about long, dark, cold winters. 

Regardless of the season -it’s still fall, no matter what the forecast says- I think that cultivating an atmosphere of coziness is supremely beneficial for everyone.  It’s really easy to do, too.  Here’s an idea of a little solo hygge:

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A blanket, a cuddly sweater, cozy socks, a good book, and some candlelight.  By the way, I like beeswax candles, they burn clean, also clean the air, and smell divine!  These ones are from Honey Candles a personal favourite of mine.  Of course, hygge isn’t only a solo affair.  It can be snuggling with your sweetie, munching popcorn and watching a movie.  Or meeting with friends for drinks and dinner -or to get lost in a corn maze!  Picnics and barbeques, toasting marshmallows around a campfire, listening to a rain pattering on the roof, watching the snow fall.  It’s good food and comfort, whatever makes your soul feel peaceful.  At it’s heart, hygge is something you choose to do, participating in the moment, and making that moment glow with love, laughter, and pleasure.  To benefit from the practice, we have to be present, actively show up, and make our own magic.  It’s such a simple shift, but it can create beautiful ripples that will positively affect everyone you meet.  People who create their own joy are a joy to be around! 

So start small, block off a few minutes for yourself this afternoon.  Gather up your favourite blanket and a cozy sweater.  Maybe brew a cup of really good coffee, tea, hot chocolate or whatever.  Light a few candles, play some Vivaldi, and read that magazine you bought the last time you were at the supermarket.  Create your own practice, and if you have family around you or roommates to contend with, then either challenge them to participate, or insist they respect your space until you’re finished.  It’s not always easy, but it’ll be worth it, I promise.

 

Supremely Satisfying Self Care

Last Sunday I was out doing this:  600_464731452 My team and I walked 10K for Terry Fox. 

Today I’m doing this: 

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It’s all about balance.  And this weekend I need to just lay low and snuggle between two dogs. 

I’m not sick or anything, just indulging in a Bed Day.  Sometimes we all need to step out of the daily bustle and take care of ourselves.  The thing is, we rarely do it.  I can’t help but wonder, what if we flipped the modern notion of productivity on its head and instead made more of a point of taking care of ourselves?  What if we prioritized getting enough sleep, enough exercise, and enough good food?  Would we be prettier?  Our jokes funnier?  Would life feel better?  I would say absolutely to that last one.  I’m certainly willing to give it a shot, are you? 

Think on this:  Science aside, you just want to enjoy your life and get the best out of the living of it.  Am I right?  At the same time, you probably devote long hours to doing everything under the sun to earn your gold star, feel wiped out, and drop into bed to stare at the ceiling until the alarm rouses you for another day of the same.  If you thrive on that, good on you, but please take time to take care of yourself anyway. 

As for me, I know that if I push too hard for too long, my body will put me down and force me to rest.  So I’m trying out this revolutionary notion that taking care of myself needs to be my top priority.  Now, some people -me included- will think, “Ooh, that sounds a little self-serving.”  You see, we have this idea that if we’re not running ourselves 24/7, if we so much as stop to catch our breath, then we’re not accomplishing enough.  Well, that’s 100%, Grade A, B.S.  It’s a mindset that needs to be changed.  Right now, most of us push the pendulum so far to one extreme, that when it finally forces us to swing back the other way, it requires major and immediate changes because our lives depend on it.  Scary.  There is good news, though.  I can start right now to live my life differently, and so can you. 

In my IG feed below, there’s a photo of the pecan pie I baked for dessert last night.  I could have just dumped the filling into the crust and popped the whole shebang into the oven, job done.  It would have taken less time, and it still would have been entirely edible, but I decided to linger over my creation and make it something just a little bit more special.  Why?  Because taking those few extra minutes to cut out the maple leaves and apply them around the edge, to line up that row of pecans just inside the crust, it says, “I love you, enjoy.”  To myself, and to the other people who got to enjoy it.  More than that, though, I actually really enjoyed making a prettier presentation. For me, it was like meditation, and break from emails and phone messages and checking the latest and greatest on social media.  That pie was a love note, a play date, and a coffee break just for me.  And it brought other people joy, too.  You see?  I took care of myself first, and by doing so, my loving cup ran over.  You have to start with yourself.  If you dull your own sparkle, no one else can enjoy it either.   And this applies to everything, from the way you dress, decorate, and entertain, to the office, the gym, and anywhere else you go on your daily round.  It’s about how you show up.  You can’t put your best self out into the world if you’re not giving your best love and care to yourself first. 

Now, I am brimming with ideas for how I want to shift the tone of this blog in the coming months.  I’m going to put my ideas where my mouth is and really let you in as I begin to live these principles I’m espousing.  It’s exciting and a little scary for me, but I hope I can share something relevant and inspiring with you.  For now, though, I’m off to snuggle with my dogs!

 

Wild Soul Food

When I started out at the beginning of 2017, I knew only that I needed to do things differently because I wanted to create something different for my life.  I’m telling you here and now, if you want something done, get up and do it.  Nothing happens without a little shove. 

In my heart, I craved a life that fed my soul.  Not just an existence, but an experience.  Or rather, a plethora of experiences to draw from and create my own wild life.  This is where things got a little personal, because in order to figure out what calls out my own wild soul, I had to dig a whole lot deeper than TV and coffee drinks. 

It’s about pleasure, it’s about opening up to all the flavours and colours of the world around you and learning to see and appreciate what truly adds value to your life.  When you find what feeds your soul, it’s like finding a piece of yourself.  Something that just fits because it does, and you don’t owe any explanations about that to anyone. 

One of the most beautiful and interesting things about this big lovely world of ours is that we’re all different.  I take my coffee with cream, my sister prefers milky tea.  I remember this great line from the movie (and hopefully the book, too, but it’s been a while and my memory isn’t that good) ‘Harriet the Spy,’ when Harriet’s nanny tells her young charge that “There are as many different ways to live as there are people in this world.”  Wisdom. 

So…What have I discovered so far?  Well, don’t take this the wrong way, but I kind of enjoy a couple of barbaric pastimes: Axe throwing and archery.

Don’t worry, I’m just having fun.

I’ve also begun to really wake up to my own personal style, like lace and axes.  I’ve mentioned before that my wardrobe is pretty small, so in an upcoming post I’ll work up something about what I wear and how I make it all work to last a week. 

I’m also really getting into putting up an attractive plate.  They do say your first taste of your meal is with your eyes.  Here’s a little taste of a simple Sunday supper for my family:

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But most importantly, I’ve been taking more and more time to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air.  I love to see the natural world as it goes about its business.  The qualities of light throughout the day, the scent of the air, the birdcalls, it all feeds me on a very soul satisfying level. 

Just like reading an amazing book or even just a quote that resonates with you.  That’s how you begin to find your own soul food, it’s by exploring the things that your wild soul responds to.  When you trust that, begin to listen to and feed it, that’s when you allow something larger than yourself to take root.  It’s also what becomes your personal guidance system, because the more often to lean into it and answer what calls to you, the more often you find yourself pulled towards what you truly desire.  Life’s magic like that. 

Finding Peace

I’m happy to say that I’ve finally begun to appreciate the here and now.  It’s amazing what has begun to take root in my life now that I’ve reined in the “somedays” and begun to love the todays.

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Would you believe that when I began to let go of yearning for the future, I started to create my dreams in the present?  It’s really only been in the last year that I’ve started to see my own growth, let alone appreciate the travails of the journey. 

I’ve got a little bombshell for you: You’re wasting your precious time waiting for conditions to be just right.  

Take me for example.  I thought that once I had this book or that jacket, things would line up and I’d feel great.  Don’t get me wrong, reading good books is very enjoyable, and I’m a big believer in the importance of dressing well.  But when the pursuit of “perfection” consumes the ability to be happy here and now, you’re out of alignment.  I certainly was, and I’m still learning so much.  Naturally, I ended up in debt, which is a hugely relatable stressor for a lot of people.  Then I thought, “Once I get this cleaned up, I’ll feel great.”  Again, I’m definitely pro responsible money management, but even being debt free didn’t flip my happy switch.  It’s still pretty new for me, actually, so I’m still keenly aware of all my thoughts and feelings around money. 

I digress, the point is that I was waiting for x, y, and z, to be right in order to feel what I wanted to feel, great.  Look back, the feeling I desired was the same, just the method changed.  This is when the big AHA! hit me:  The external stuff is not as important as what my internal dialogue is creating.  To simplify, I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t “feeling great,” because I wasn’t choosing to.  Wow, right?  I was getting in my own way.  I still get in my own way, like I said, I’m still learning.  What matters is that I come back into alignment just that little bit quicker each time. 

Since I quit waiting, I have cleaned up my debt (stoked about that), I’ve shrunk my wardrobe considerably (it fits in carry-on luggage and I love to wear every piece in it + I’m down a dress size!), and I’ve also begun to read solely for the pleasure of reading.  I’ve also connected with a great group of people and we’re having a blast having adventures together.  These are all things I wanted, but they were buried under waiting for someday. 

I’ve made it sound as though it was a step by step process, which it wasn’t.  I tried to make it that way, but it clearly didn’t work like that.  It was more like planting seeds and watching them grow all together.  It can feel a little big, as though life has come running at me like Dino rushing out to greet Fred.  This has all only been in the last year or so, and it is amazing to me to see how far I’ve already come.  Because I chose, and choose every day, to make myself happy.  I sincerely hope that a year from now I’ll be able to look back over this blog and see a whole lot more new chapters filled with exciting adventures and insights.

 

 

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

Ah, September!  The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, and the world goes mad for pumpkin spice, bonfires, and apple cider. 

I. Love. It.  Though it’s not yet officially fall, around here you can definitely feel it in the air.  

It’s time for curling up with good books, wrapping up in chunky knits, and enjoying all the wonderful flavours of fall.  Oh, and a little self care, too, like the delicious facial I’m modeling above.  It’s a banana bread inspired mix, the recipe for which is in the latest issue of Willow and Sage.  Not my creation, I simply had to try it out. 

I’ve also got another apple inspired offering for you all.

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Since our apple trees have produced quite a bit of fruit this year, I have been experimenting with ways of using them.  Above is a stewed apple topping that we used on our pancakes this morning.  It’s super simple to make, and tastes really good.

Pancakes with Stewed Apples

3-4 small apples, washed and sliced

1 knob of butter

1 tsp of cinnamon

1/4 tsp of ginger

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Scant 1/4 cup of brown sugar

Put the butter, sugar, and spices into a medium sauce pan with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan (no more than 1/4 inch deep).  Heat on medium setting, and add the sliced apples.  Stew until the apples are softened, but not falling apart.  Strain over a bowl, reserving the liquid.  Keep the apples warm over a very low heat while you make your pancakes.  You can use any pancake recipe you like, but add in the reserved stewing liquid from the apples as part of the moist ingredients for your batter.  My grandfather’s pancake recipe is also simple to make, and you can adjust the quantities for the size of your gathering.

Grandpa’s Pancakes

1cup all purpose flour

1Tbsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

Milk to get a flowing consistency*

Mix the dry ingredients until well incorporated.  Add in the eggs, and mix.  The batter will still be very dry at this stage.  Add in the milk, starting with about an eighth of a cup, mixing and adding more milk until you reach your desired consistency.  Cook over medium-low heat until golden. 

*Variation:  using the liquid reserved from the stewed apples along with  the milk -or buttermilk- yields a scrumptious pancake mix.

A couple of notes, I don’t really bother measuring my ingredients when I’m inventing.  Just a sprinkle of this and a pinch of that.  Makes it frustrating for anyone who really likes quantifiable numbers to follow though, so my measurements are approximate and can easily be adjusted to suit your taste.  Also, the pancake recipe serves 1-3 people as is, but can easily be doubled if need be.  Just double each measurement, except the eggs, add just one egg for each additional cup of flour.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pots of Gold

A few snapshots from my weekend so far:

 

My sister suffers from RP (retinitis pigmentosa) and will eventually lose her sight completely.  When I found a sensory garden at the University of Alberta Botanic Gardens, I had to take her over there.  She’s also a writer, and asked me to do a little photoshoot for her blog while we were there.  Naturally, I had to snap a few photos for myself, too!

I took most of these photos in the Japanese Garden, which has always been my favourite part of the complex.  It’s very serene and feels harmonizing for me.  You should see it in winter, the Luminaria festival is breathtaking.  Of course, a trip to the gardens wouldn’t be complete without picking up a bag of butter pecan crunch popcorn from the gift shop.  That’s my little pot of gold in the pictures up there, a girl’s gotta have her treats! 

September is only days away, and the coming of fall always fills we with a sense of joy.  The colours, the cuddly sweaters, the starry night skies and frosty mornings, I love them all.  Cooler temperatures also gives me an excuse to get creative in the kitchen, so I’m whipping up a maple peach topping to use on my porridge.  Who doesn’t love a hot breakfast on a cold morning, am I right?  If you’re looking for a way to add a little extra loving to your homemade porridge, I’ve got a couple of ideas for you:

Cinnamon Apple Topping

1 medium apple, cored and sliced.  I like a tart apple, but it’s your choice.

1Tbsp butter, or an oil of your choosing, but butter tastes the best

Sprinkle of cinnamon to taste

Sauté ingredients until apples are cooked through, but still have some bite. Serve over warm porridge, with cream and sugar.

Maple Peach Topping

1 sliced ripe peach, preferably freestone, it makes it easier to remove the pit and slice 

Water enough to cover the peach slices

1/4 cup of pure maple syrup

A knob of butter

A pinch of brown sugar, again to taste

Bring all ingredients to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce to low and let stew, stirring occasionally, until peaches are soft and the liquid is reduced to about half.  Turn off the heat and smash the peaches up with the spoon.  This one is quite sweet, so I will use it instead of adding sugar to my porridge.  Serve over porridge with cream.

By the way, I have sought out a couple of really good recipes for porridge.  I’m not a fan of the instant stuff because I find it way too sweet.  So I always make my own, using either rolled oats or quick cooking rolled oats.  Usually there’s a decent recipe on the package, but I quite like the overnight method in ‘Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook’  by Theresa Carle-Sanders.

Well, that’s about it from me for this week.  If you give either of my toppings a try, I’d love to hear your thoughts!  In fact, just talk fall goodness to me, and we’ll be friends for life.

Chasing Adventure

“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”  ~Leonardo Da Vinci

 

I went to my first airshow yesterday.  The daring do of those pilots just blew me away.  The wind helped, but the pilots definitely were amazing.  I also got to see the Snowbirds in action, but those photos are on my phone.  Yes, I forgot the back-up batteries.  Oops.  Live and learn.

So anyway, being there, watching those magnificent men -and women- in their flying machines got me thinking:  I have been playing small in terms of chasing my passions.  It’s as if I’ve been tamping down my fire.  Anyone else ever feel that way?  If so, what did that bring you to?  I’d love to hear your stories and inspirations.

I have to ask myself what lights me up.  More importantly, how do I make that into a bigger part (or all of) what I’m doing on a daily basis? 

Well, here’s what I want: I want to go out into the world and meet good people.  I want dinners where strangers become friends -and dinner goes until breakfast.  I want to hear people telling their stories, and tell some of my own.  I want to eat amazing food, and see amazing places that take my breath away.  I also want to be surrounded by cozy beauty, read good books, have real friends, and find love.

That’s the adventure I choose.  I have no idea where that’ll take me, but it sounds like a great way to live my life.

The Perfect Day

Who hasn`t done that exercise, “describe your perfect day, in detail.  Who are you with?  What are you doing for work?  What does your home, wardrobe, life, look like?” 

My answer: Good food, good people, work I enjoy. 

Or maybe it’s good food, no people, and quietly reading a good book while rain lashes the windows. 

It could also be stargazing with one person in particular, or catching up with an old friend over coffee, or even throwing axes with great people.

There just isn’t a one size fits all perfect day.  For instance, today I went on a hike with a group of people I’ve never met before.  We had a great time.  Yesterday I got a massage.  Also a great day.

All that really matters is that you experiment until you find something that works for you, then you keep doing that.  If you outgrow it, you experiment again.  Makes life something of an adventure, I think.

For all that, I do have a few constants that are worth striving for every day.  Good food tops my list.  So does spending time with these two:

 

I mean, just look at those faces!

Coffee is another staple, sipped and savoured.  Anyway, the point is that there are innumerable little pleasures that I can build my days around.  And isn`t that marvelous!  I get to build whatever I like into my days.  True, I would like to change jobs, but that isn’t going to stop me from finding pleasure in every day.

You mustn`t waste time bemoaning whatever isn’t going as you would wish, when you could instead be delighting in what you can do.  So if you want to dance, sign up for a class, or blast some music and have a ball.  If taking tea in the afternoon sounds too lovely for words, then put that kettle on the hob, warm your best tea pot, and make an occasion of it. 

Now is the very best time to do what makes you happy.