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 fro 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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Enjoying England: Cornwall

Thursday, 8 September 2016

I'll be playing catch up over the last few months for a little while.  There were some fun weekend trips and a long trip with my parents and aunt that I'll surely get to, but first... a wonderful long weekend spent in the southwestern tip of England: Cornwall.  What a delight.  Cornwall made me enjoy England in a brand new way.  It is so nice to feel like you can be so far away, in a few hours' drive.  The coastlines were absolutely gorgeous; the food impeccable; the pace, nice and slow.  It was a wonderful way to spend the weekend when my friend Leslie came.  We had such a great time!

It's a beautiful area to jump in the car and drive.  You'll come across town stop explores and views the you just have to stop at.  One of my favourite times is when Leslie felt compelled to take a picture, so we just stopped the car on a random trip of road and crossed a meadow to our right.  What greeted us around the bend were some of my favourites views of the weekend.  The coastline was absolutely stunning, and we just climbed rocks and explored the different crevices for at least an hour, soaking it all in. 

My main tips (other than rent a car - you'll need it) where to eat! It was a quick trip, so I have two must-visit eateries: 
  1. Seafood! And lots of it. We had an impeccable meal at Outlaw's Fish Kitchen in Port Isaac.  It's a tiny and very well decorated restaurant directly across from the port. As in, crab legs are in a direct trail from the sea to the kitchen.  Nathan Outlaw has a 2 michelin starred restaurant in the same town, but this is the more affordable and dare I say, charming pick of the two. They serve tapas-style dishes so you can taste a lot, and trust them on their wine recommendation.  The white they served was among my favourites, ever.  Make a recommendation and treat this as your special meal in Cornwall.  It's completely worth it.
  2. Strong Adolfos is the perfect place for a great coffee, brunch or lunch.  The first time we were there we had the best fish tacos I've had in ages.  The next day we came back for brunch.  The following (and final) day we came back for a cappuccino.  It was excellent and is right along the A39 (just past the Cornwall showgrounds) so it is often on route of the day's drive. 
  3. One other mention - it's prime picnic terrain everywhere, so pack some sandwiches, enjoy a bottle of wine (throw sticks at the seagulls) and enjoy the views.

We'll definitely be headed back to Cornwall.  Have you been there?  Any suggestions?

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New Skincare: Rodan & Fields

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

There was one weekend in this not-really-but-kind-of British summer where my forehead was a red flashing beacon in the night due to a wonderful and wild day in the sun. I didn't think the British sun could do this to me. I was downright cocky about it and was rightfully put in my place.  I am usually all about the sunscreen and hats, so I was kicking myself and seriously considering making an investment with my friend Heather who is a Consultant for Rodan & Fields. Not sure if you've seen them around your Facebook or any other social media channels, but they are a beautiful tribe of women who care about your skin in both its present and future form, and are all about teamwork, community and celebration.  The before and after photos are also ridiculous.  Heather was nice enough to send me a sample facial - a 'Get the Glow' mini facial.  It was fantastic.  One of the packets gave me three facials and it comes with night renewing serums, leaving your skin as soft as a baby's bum.  I was seriously impressed and intrigued with this company and I thought I'd share!  Here's Heather to give a recap of the line and her top skincare tips:


Hi y’all!  Thanks for tuning in and witnessing one of my (very nerve-racking) little dreams come true; to write a blog post #somebodyholdme.  I’m a huge fan of Emily’s blog and when I reached out to let her know how much I enjoy keeping up with her life she was generous enough to offer me the opportunity to write a post on my newest business venture; Rodan and Fields.  Thank you, Emily for having me & happy reading, ladies!

I joined Rodan and Fields in the Fall of 2015.  I was living in Vancouver at the time and kept seeing social medial posts from one of my girlfriends about Rodan and Fields.  At first I paid no attention to it, but then her posts kept coming, and they were intriguing.  Her skin was better than it had ever been in her life, she started growing a little team and she was so passionate about everything she was posting … I wanted to know more.  She then started posting that her side biz income had matched her full-time income in wealth management #canIgetanamen!?! I mean, how could this be true?!  I needed to know more and I wanted to be a part of her team, STAT.  I was still a little nervous to reach out about it … what would I say?  What if I decided it wasn’t for me?  So I did what any normal girl would do … I told one of my closest girlfriends, Jamie, who was newly pregnant and would soon be on mat leave all about this opportunity.  Once the thought was in her head that she could:
  1. Change her skin (pregnancy hormones had her skin going haywire!)
  2. Help others get their dream skin, and; 
  3. Possibly stay at home with her baby and not commute 2 hours per day to her usual 9-5 job ... 
She was sold.  She decided to sign up as a Consultant and hasn’t looked back.  After hearing about Jamie’s quick success, that girlfriends of hers were pouring in from all over that wanted to try the products, and seeing the quick turnaround of her bumpy skin back to a beautiful pregnancy glow… I thought to myself … this must be legit.  My goal was to love the skin I’m in.  Instead of just purchasing products, I decided to also join as a Consultant because:
1) I get discounts on my products; 2) I have the opportunity to help others get skin they love; and 3) I may be able to make a bit of extra cash while I’m at it.

I thought I’d share a few of my favourite skin care routines with you.  Every Sunday evening I treat myself to a mini micro-dermabrasion facial.  This is my way to cap off the weekend and to get myself prepared for Monday.

Simple steps to follow:
  1. Remove make-up and wash face;  
  2. Open micro-dermabrasion packet and use enough product to cover your face (one packet provides me with 3 uses).  Massage paste onto face for 30-60 seconds;
  3. Rinse face with warm water and pat dry;
  4. Open night renewing serum capsule and apply serum over entire face; and
  5. Apply usual night cream to face.  

And before I leave you, here are a few tips to remember, regardless of what products you’re using: always always always wash your face before bed, get a good night's rest, and drink lots of water!

Thanks for reading!


If you want to contact Heather, just send an email at h.mcculloch10@gmail.com or visit her Rodan & Fields site.  She's one of the the nicest people you'll ever meet. Promise.

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Life Update - 80+ days later?!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Hi! ..it has been a while.  Feels good to write here again.  Things have been quiet on this blog, I know.  I also know that I have started several other posts like that in the last year.  And while I have written about the sweet and bitter pieces of life, my pursuit of transparency and choosing my priorities , I could write them afresh and have them be just as relevant. We have also had some news that Luke's Dad has leukaemia, so needless to say, our worlds have been shaken.  The good things to note - the family is strong, we see God's timing and love in so many pieces of it and he (and we) are getting through it.  Grit and love are two things that you need in equal measure in these kinds of situations.

This has put me in a strange situation in relation to blogging, as much of this isn't my story.  I am absolutely effected and I could put my experiences out there and give light to some of the pain, joys and fears, but it effects many people who I dearly love - this is their story too.  With this being so primary in our worlds, I have often felt disingenuous about putting regular content up, whether it be travel, beauty, etc.,  related - all things I love, but things that don't take priority right now.  It's also about emotional energy.  I love this blog and want to do it well and not do it for the sake of it.

Yet, there are some things I'm so excited to share with you and they'll be coming up in the coming days/weeks.  I appreciate all of your patience - for any check-ins to see if anything is up, any perusal of archives, and any and all prayers, love and understanding.


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