Summer Flashback: The Lake District

Friday, 21 October 2016

Yes, the weekend I want to share with you was from this past summer, but it also be the most idyllic Fall getaway, so the inspiration still stands.  When Luke was back home (as in England.. still intermix what gets called 'home'!) we took full advantage of our weekends.

This one particular weekend, we has plans to head up to the Lake District.  I had the rental car all booked... said we'd pick it up at 6pm... I got there at 6:10pm... learned that the shop closed at 6pm.  How can it be ok that I pick up a car the minute it closes?  Needless to say, after a few knocks on the closed garage door, put me in tough with a gentlemen who was more than happy to charge me the £60 late charge (for those ten minutes) but not before he refused some work pay stubs as proof of address, and certainly not before Luke had to bring me my passport from home, so I could prove my Canadian citizenship.  Because 2 other kinds of ID didn't do the trick.

Sometimes, you just have to roll your eyes and be like, 'England, you crazy ******-******'.

Anyway, that £60 had me ready to cancel the weekend, but the rational and wise Luke talked me into it with 'it's just money' and blah blah blah.  Which, it was.  And it was a wonderful weekend.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, but we hiked, drove through absolute beauty, wandered through quaint towns, and took in the moments, peacefulness, and companionship.  It was amazing!

England wins a point.

A crazy evening.. we had just been in a pub where it was raining out one window, but sun streaming in the other, then went outside to this beauty of a golden hour:

Never without our trusty friend, Ricky-boy:

Follow along with our England adventures at #lukeandemdoengland or my Instagram.

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Everyone, meet Girlfriend Collective

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

I have something exciting to share: free leggings! Thanks to a friends' Facebook post, I came across Girlfriend Collective.  They are giving their inaugural product, just at the cost of shipping/handling (usually $30 USD - they'll retail for $60 USD down the line).  An up and coming activewear company, they're based in Seattle with their factory in Hanoi, Vietnam.  Intent on recycled fabrics, sustainable development and recycled fabrics, have an enduring commitment to quality and a responsible development process.

Co-founder Ellie Dinh writes: 
"We know that if we can just get somebody into a pair of our leggings, and let them know and experience firsthand what we stand for - they'll fall in love."

I think their 'marketing plan' is frigging amazing. The "experience what we stand for" part is what I find most interesting. It's about having faith in your product and understanding the kind of peer review, sharing community that we are.  They just ask for a share of any kind - Facebook, over coffee with a friend, or even just your email.  They believe in their product and will put their money where their mouth is.

I get so excited by this new era of company.  One that wants to partner with their customers, not manipulate.  Companies that care about their production and who it effects, not just their bottom line. Companies that are transparent and operate in good faith.  I want to be one of these companies.

I also find it liberating as a customer.  As a consumer, I have so many options about where my money goes and what I invest in.  I can choose big, small, expensive or cheap - all within reason, of course! - but I have the choice whether I prioritize convenience, cost, status, etc.  I find it a wonderful option to be selective in my purchases and truly believe in the company that I'm purchasing from.  I say, care where you buy from and what their ethical policies are. Care about where they source their materials from.  Care about how they ship the package to you. We now get to know, and we get to care.

Girlfriend has a lot to come - My hat is tipped to them, and I'm pretty darn excited to get my free leggings :)  Sign up for yours and share away. Thank you Girlfriend!

Any companies that you're impressed with these days?  I love hearing about them.

Image via Girlfriend Facebook.

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Got to go..

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Hey guess what! This is a good week.  Luke got back on Sunday and by Tuesday, we were on route to a sunnier and warmer island - Tenerife - one of the Canary Islands.

The past few months with Luke back in Canada, I learned how companionship is such a gift.  Everyone does life different and has different styles, but I am so thankful to have someone to do life with.

So we're going to go celebrate that, and just chill out and relax. Ever been to Tenerife? If you have any suggestions or recommendations let me know!

[Image via]

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Lean In

Monday, 26 September 2016

As I've mentioned, life has been crazy for the past few months. Everyone is dealing with their own 'something', and the specific situation isn't even the point.  I feel that the point is how we respond to it - how we deal with it and learn from it.

As I've been solo-living for the past little while, it has given me a lot of time to do whatever I want, whenever I want. Not as fun as it sounds - I much prefer companionship! All of this alone time has translated into an embarrassing number Parenthood and Gilmore Girls episodes, but there has been an enduring feeling that this is important time. It's a formative time and I'm a firm believer that you learn more in the lows of life than you do in the highs.  That there is something to learn in this phase and it's not to be wasted.  "Don't waste the pain" is a phrase that's been going over and over in my head.

So I've been trying to see it as an opportunity. I don't just want to get through this phase or to get through to the other side and feel only relief. There will be relief, no question about it, but I also want to look back and be able to identify what I have learned.  What I have felt.

So I say, lean in.  Tune in.  Don't waste the pain.  Listen to what is going on inside of you and think about it. Pay attention to the little things.  Look for the positive things and don't dismiss the negative.  It takes intentionality and a bit of stubbornness.  It takes digging deep and sitting with the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.  It's raw, but it's good.

One of the things I keep coming back to is the idea of the bitter and sweet.  One of my favourite authors, Shawna Niequest put it best:

The idea of bittersweet is changing the way I live, unraveling and re-weaving the way I understand life. Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness. ‘It’s the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul. Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands. Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity. Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, audacious, earthy.  This is the work I’m doing now, and the work I invite you into: when life is sweet, say thank you, and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you, and grow.”

I went out looking for those little gifts - the 'moment of lightness', as Shawna puts them.  They have become referred to as 'manna' moments in my family.  They were simple.  Like riding my bike to work and seeing the first bloom on a big vine.  Or on that same bike ride, seeing a police officer admiring an old lady's earrings (it was adorable).  Or just a really good coffee.  An easy, genuine conversation. Just those little things that you can pass by without a second thought or, take a minute to be present in it and appreciate it.

For you today, whether life is sweet or bitter, I hope you claim your moments to be present and thankful, and through that awareness, you see your manna moments.  Happy Monday :)

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20 things I love about Oxford

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

I have written about my first reaction to Oxford and how it's not all about the pretty pictures that we paint in anticipation.  I've also written about some initial observations of Oxford - from the funny, to shocking, to ridiculous.  As I've come to know this city better and really feel at home here, there are some things that I really, truly love.  There are so many things I have yet to discover about it, and I love that.  Here are twenty of the undeniable charms about this city:

1. I love the plethora of pubs.  So, this probably shouldn't be the first one, but it's relevant to the development of this post.  I'm writing this on a weekend where I have had a full Sunday to myself.  Luke is out golfing today and, wanting some variation and a change of scenery, I ventured out to a cafe to do some blog and business work.  I first went to Zippy's Bike Cafe, which is a fantastic place.  True to its namesake, the cafe is over a bike shop and is decorated in line with this - lots of vintage bikes, rustic wood, etc.  They also make a fantastic cappuccino and breakfast.  Go there if you're looking for a reasonably priced weekend plate of pancakes (with mayple syrup!).  Don't go there if you want to work on your computer for these primetime brunch hours.  I respect that they encourage people to close their computers and talk to each other over the main mealtimes.  It's just not always conducive.  No one asked me to leave or anything, but I arrived by about 11am and by the time I drank my cappuccino and devoured my pancakes (really didn't take long!) I felt guilty sitting on my computer, as there were a lot of people waiting for seats.  All this to say, after a few errands, I have found myself in a little pub where I feel totally comfortable setting up camp with a laptop.  This is something I never would have done at home, but it's totally acceptable here.  There are no shortage of really great pubs with warm atmospheres and wood-burning fires with great beer and delicious food to boot.

2. I love that no one goes to Starbucks.  Well, very few people.  Most everyone would rather go to one of the local coffee shops and drink their coffees inside.  There are so many good ones - my favourite are Turl Street Kitchen (a not for profit - also a great restaurant that gives all proceeds back to the homeless in Oxford), Zippy's Bike Cafe (now known as 'Handlebar'), Barefoot and lastly, Brew.  So delicous.

3. I love that so many people ride their bikes.  It's a big hassle to drive within Oxford both because of restricted roads and lack of parking.  People ride their bikes instead.  It feels active and collective.  (Most) cars know to look out for bikes, respect their space, and basically give them right of way.  I've loved biking everywhere.

4. I love the amount of green space.  So much of their prime property is reserved for meadows and parks.  What could be eaten up with extremely profitable apartments or office buildings is reserved for collective enjoyment.  Some of these spaces are reserved for college use (I recommend the Deer Park in Magdalen) but you can pay an entrance fee, grab a student, or just find one of the many meadows or parks that have open access (Port Meadow - complete with horses/cows, Christchurch Meadow, University Parks, etc.)

5. I love that grocery delivery is a common thing.  I never really had groceries delivered at home.  I never looked into it, but I imagine it would have been an expensive thing.  We tend to shop regularly - buying for the next meal instead of for the week ahead, but in the times that we want to stock up on some supplies or buy some of the heavier items (e.g. wine!), all grocers offer delivery services.  It's usually under £2 to have it delivered - and when that saves me a burdened, long walk home, it's a no-brainer.

6. I love that there are stories for everything.  Living in a place with such rich heritage and history, there are so many stories behind everything.  It's more than "so and so" drank here (refer to #1 with all of the pubs!) or this college has produced 'X' amount of nobel laureates, it's about the set of bricks in the town square where many people were burned at the stake because of their religious beliefs, the traditions within colleges, etc.

7. I love the beauty of the buildings.  I love that I feel the urge to take pictures on most of the walks I go on.  There is so much beauty in the architecture.

8. I love being in a place where academic rigour and learning is so highly valued and prioritized.  This can feel isolating at times when you are apart of the 'town' instead of the 'gown', but the opportunities are there when you look for them.  There are public lectures, continuing education courses, seminars, night-classes, etc. that you can take advantage of.  Having the window into the academic sphere through Luke is also a great opportunity to get the sense of student life and all that this city has to offer.

9. I love being surrounded by passionate people.  So many people here are incredibly passionate about their field or research.  It is really great to be around people who love what they do.

10. I love that there are so many museums and galleries - that are free!  Based on the size of the place, the amount and scale of museums and galleries is really incredible.  You can wander through the Ashmolean for hours, enjoy the dinosaur models in the Natural History Museum, or take in one of the (acclaimed) best anthropoligical and archaeological collections on earth.  All in cute little Oxford.

11.  I love that there is always something to do.  Yes, the main area of Oxford is relatively small, but that doesn't mean for a second that there aren't an abundance of talks, concerts, plays, restaurants to try.

12.  I love the great restaurants we've found.  It's not all garbage food or over-breaded fish.  We have found some French food here that rivals the best I've ever had.

13.  I love how close everything is.  I love that I can walk to a variety of restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, parks, etc.  Anything you want is likely within walking, and at most, biking distance.

14.  I love the feeling of "I get to live here."  We're living in a tourist destination - one that even those from within the UK flock to.  Yes, it's annoying to always have to walk around the tourist groups that have a disregard for sidewalk etiquette, but knowing that you can call this your homebase, it pretty great.

15. I love that there are different neighbourhoods to explore.  Yes, Oxford is a little city but there are still different neighbourhoods to get to know.  Jericho, Cowley, Summertown and more.

16.  I love the close proximity to other great areas of the UK.  It's a great jumping off point to the Cotswolds, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Wales, Bristol, etc. - there are so many weekend trips to enjoy.

17.  I love how inspiring the city it is.  Matthew Arnold described it as the 'city of dreaming spires', which encapsulates it perfectly.  People have felt this inspiration for centuries - it's where Lewis Carroll came up with the story for Alice and Wonderland, where famous stories by Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were first penned and so many other masterpieces.  There is something in the atmosphere here that makes you feel like you can and should be doing something wonderful.  This city makes you want to discover, consider and pursue a passion.

18.  I love (or at least can appreciate) the pomp and circumstance. There are still things that annoy me about it or can be awfully pretentious, but there are also charming sides to it.  My husband goes to Trinity, where they have formal hall six days a week (where the students must wear their gown for dinner and you stand while faculty enters and hear prayers recited in Latin).  There was recently a vote to see if students and faculty wanted to continue on with some of these traditions.  The vote to continue status quo was nearly unanimous.  These traditions can be ridiculous and weird, but sometimes they're also fun.  Don't bat an eye when students pass you on their bikes in full 'sub fusc' (tuxes or shirt/skirt with their gowns), or even if said sub fusc is covered in champagne and whipped cream (signal for the completion of their final exam!).  The beauty is in joining the tradition - doing the same as all those who came before you - irrelevant of the century.  This place is weird, crazy, and unique, but eventually, it's best just to go with it!  (while also knowing that you live in a bubble and this is not real life)

19.  I love being close to the river.  Ignore the fact that it's called the River Isis in Oxford, the river (Thames) has many offshoots running throughout the city and it makes for so many lovely trails and walks.

20.  I love being in a city that knows how to celebrate.  Whether it be the end of exams when students are doused in champagne, whipped cream and confetti (good riddance to the beautiful tuxes... or hello dry cleaners), 'May Day' when people get up at 4am or stay up all night to sing at Magdalen Tower, or at Christmas when one of the main streets gets overtaken with a Christmas market... celebrations are done well.  It's a town where you should always have a bottle of champagne in the fridge and mark your calendars for the events months in advance.  What's not to love?!

If you've bene here, let me know what your favourite things about Oxford are.  There are certainly things that I could 'whinge' about, but I'll leave that for now :) Oxford is a beautiful place and I'm so thankful that we get to do this phase of life here.

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