I am a cheerleader

Last week, I mentioned that I hear from many people who tell me they are thinking about starting a blog. After I wrote about that, I heard from even more which was delightful. One friend spilled the beans that she had actually already started blogging, but that she had a stumbling block of not really feeling like she had direction for what she wanted to write or who her audience is. I identified with that a LOT.

I’m sharing this little adage for two reasons.

  1. My friend is a professional writer. A very experienced professional writer. If you are neither of those things, then you can let yourself off the hook a little if you are, like her, struggling with where to begin.
  2. After our little exchange, I thought about what she’d said a lot – about how true that all felt for me as well and about what advice, if I was the advice giving type, I would have given her.

JUST WRITE

That was the advice that I borrowed from Elizabeth Dehn, creator of my new favourite website, Beauty Bets. I still believe that it is sound and a great place to start, but I’ve added my own two word mantra to the mix with the following.

be yourself

I’ve always been an advocate for transparency and truth when it comes to personal representation online. It’s how I coach my friends, family and clients to be. Through social media or my blog(s), I’ve always wanted to maintain the reality of my personality. Partly because I want to be genuine and act with integrity, but also because I feel like keeping up a fake persona would just be so much work and, if I’m honest, I probably don’t have a lengthy enough attention span to make it happen. When people caution others to be careful about what they put on social media for how it might impact their careers or other goals, I often think that maybe the more helpful advice would just be to be a better person. Know what I mean?

But once I dug a little deeper into this advice and really searched my heart and soul, I started to realize that there is one way in which I hold back, one way in which I’m not really honest or myself. I did some digging into the things I enjoy, what makes me happy and how I get the most out of life. What I’m about to say is something that it took me a long time to realize (and even longer to accept), something for which I have a passive-aggressive acquaintance to thank and something that I’ve slowly had to become more comfortable with.

i am a cheerleader

I don’t cheer for everyone and I certainly don’t cheer for everything, but I am at least a little bit in love with so many of the people and things I see in the world and so many of the things that I do. I like drawing attention to great things that are being done. I like putting a spotlight on the people who are doing them. Based on my perception, there really isn’t anything wrong with that, but I couldn’t avoid asking myself the question: why do I hide it? I didn’t come up with a very thorough or complex answer, but here are a few of my suspicions. (My awaken response in brackets.)

  • People get really ornery when it comes to positivity and enthusiasm. I have to defend myself against naysayers on the regular. (That isn’t something I enjoy.)
  • It can come across as fake, gimmicky, simple or trite. (I am none of those things.)
  • Sometimes people have different opinions/experiences. (Big deal. You do you.)
  • What if I’m wrong? (Are you even being serious with this?)

Finally, there’s the old, haunting standby: “loving things isn’t a theme” to which I have decided to take the position, “says who?” Because loving things is my theme – it’s how I go through my days and nights, it’s what makes me smile and laugh, it’s how I choose who to spend my time with and what we will do. This is who I am and that is exactly how I want to be.

And, you know what I concluded, the more I thought about it? If they don’t like it, well fuck ’em.

And then Rory Lula McMahan posted this on her Instagram this morning: The High Priestess. Here was her summary of today’s occurrence of this card.

LITTLE: Put some heart in your head. BIG: There is too much going on right now. Your mind is spinning with tasks, ideas, goals, dreams, wants, needs – and a great big dose of overwhelm. There is just so much you think you should be getting done, but all you keep hearing yourself say is how you can’t get anything figured out, or even which direction to start in. Don’t write off that spinning head of yours. It is actually trying to get a great deal of valuable information out for you to use, in its own ridiculously tangled way. The key for moving from anxiety to efficiency – or more importantly, peace – is to filter it all through your soul. The world, and your mind, is telling you to do only the things they desire from you. But right now, you need to figure out what it is that you desire. Not the pipe dreams and what-ifs and quietly envious imitations, but what you truly, really, actually want to do with your very sacred time. Stop worrying about if anyone else is going to like it and think about whether you do. That fear and frustration, that knot in your belly, is definitely not any fun, but it is up to you to look deeper and understand which parts are telling you to let go and which parts are telling you to dig in, which parts are obligation and which are love, which are the voices of others and which is the voice of your own true self. Yes, it feels like a war is being waged within your own inner spaces. And as with any war, there will be some loss. But listen, and you will finally hear what your intuition has been whispering through the chaos: You are actually on the verge of gaining it all.

I think that confirms it. That confirms everything.  ♥

What does this mean for this space? All good things. Stick around and you can expect more loving, more sharing, more cheerleading. And now that I’m free to be me, I’m hoping there’ll be a little more consistency.

What’s holding you back? How could you be more true to yourself online and off?

April in review

Last August, I started to publish a list of things we’ll do this month in an attempt to mix a little fun and adventure into our boring old to do list. We spend so much time at work and sometimes it feels like we spend the rest of our time running errands and shopping for groceries, taking out the trash and folding the laundry. I thought that if I had some entertaining tasks on my list, it would make pleasure a higher priority and separate work from play.

April feels like a lifetime ago, but it’s fun to look in the rearview mirror and remember the fun we had. Here’s a report card on the things that were on my list of intentions at the start of last month.

  • Talk about version two of our wedding and *try to* come up with an answer for everyone’s second question: so, what are you going to do now? (Their first is: “is everything okay???” – I barely got a post about version one written so this was definitely a no go.
  • Carve my soapstone bear (Barb, you are on my agenda!) – I got so close! but now I feel like just giving up.
  • Plan my summer gardens (Three this year – our balcony garden, my remote garden and our garden plot at the apartment!) One is well underway. The other two are questionable at this point.
  • Plant seeds – Tons. As usual, way more than I will need for my balcony. Interested? Let me know!
  • Hang all of our artwork – Nada.
  • Fill all of our picture frames (Am I the only one who is terrible at printing photos in this digital age?!?) – I had such great intentions and even started on them, but never followed through. Hmph.
  • Host an Easter celebration Yesssssssssss!
  • Plan a trip to watch baseball – Not *yet*
  • Meal plan – Nope
  • Go hiking – I thought we did, but I can’t find any proof!

Here are some things we DID get done.

What made April special for you? 

The podcast I wish I’d created

I wrote yesterday about how I’d listened to Elizabeth Dehn on the Being Boss podcast episode 123 last week and that I really liked her vibe. The truth is that words can’t really describe how much I mean that. From the very start of her intro, I knew that she was someone who was going to have a big influence on me if for no other reason than that we are so very similar. Now, we certainly don’t have the same roots (she is the founder of a very successful beauty website while my interest in cosmetic products is of the strictly functional variety) but we got to the same place which is a pretty mainstream lifestyle with a seriously non-traditional wellness bent. Or, as she puts it in her bio on BeautyBets.com, “a hippie disguised in J.Crew.” I identify with that so much and have for so long. I was friends with all the super jock dudes in high school who called me Moonbeam because I could talk sports with them in class, but the rest of the time, I was their little flower child. An interesting dynamic to say the least, but one I’ve cherished as it’s come up from time to time throughout my life. Kevin loves that Moonbeam story and I think it’s because he can totally identify with it. Though I never dated those guys. You know, just for the record.

So, yes, Elizabeth Dehn launched Beauty Bets and it became and continues to be a huge success. Her most recent expansion took her into the world of podcasting and a sharp veer from the discussion of brushes and lipsticks. (Although, she really is so darling that even a non-makeup person like me can actually enjoy reading her makeup stuff.) It’s with the first season of her show called HEALERS where she welcomes a different guest onto each episode and gives the audience a thorough introduction into their particular specialty.

She had me at hello.

The day I made my discovery, I went home and downloaded every episode of the podcast. I was so thrilled that I made a sacred ritual out of listening and only played it when it could have my undivided attention (i.e. on my way to and from work, but not in the office or at home while I was doing something else and could get distracted.) Still, I was through the whole ten episode series in little over two days. It was fascinating and fantastic and I could have listened to one hundred more episodes. From each one, I learned, I was inspired and I had at least one takeaway.

There was an astrologer, a nutritionist, a, intuitive medium, a therapist, a pagan priestess, an aura photographer, a colonic therapist, a breathworker, a money & happiness guru and a home & life organizer. Doesn’t all of that sounds so great? Well, it does to me. And throughout each episode (35-45 minutes per) I felt – and I know it sounds hokey to say it, but – home, at peace, surrounded by people like me. And I don’t feel like that all that often.

Almost all of my medical care is naturopathic and I feel blessed that the specialists that I deal with are not only supportive of that, but actually encourage it. I’m open to many things and I usually jump at the opportunity to try something new. Acupuncture? I’m a regular. Floats? I love ’em. Hypnotherapy? I’ve even tried that. I think one thing that really excited me about this podcast was the chance to be able to add a few more things to my bucket list.

I loved the astrology episode the best (and I am actually in the process of booking a meeting of my own with Stephanie Gailing.) The episode talking to the founder of Less Mess. More Life. gave me some inspiration to tackle the bedroom that I haven’t really unpacked since our recent move (while giving me a lot to chew on about why I haven’t already…) and the chat with the founder of Move Colonics even has me seriously thinking about colon hydrotherapy.

As the world of functional medicine grows and we hear and read more and more about different kinds of non-traditional treatments and therapies, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and not know where to begin. HEALERS opens the door to new things and makes it really comfortable to go inside, learn more and, most importantly, answers the question: where do I start?

BONUS: Don’t miss the Healers Handbook that breaks down show notes from every episode while adding actions and activities to enhance the topics and make it easier to bring them into your life.

What kinds of non-traditional care do you use? What kinds are you curious about?

Want to start a blog? Just write.

How was your Mother’s Day? Did you do something to celebrate either with your mom or as a mom with your little ones? Or both? Is Mother’s Day a day that brings up some complicated feelings for you? I found this image floating around my social media and I wanted to share it because I know that it’s a day that isn’t easy for many and for many very complex reasons. Whatever your relationship is with Mother’s Day, I send you compassion and hugs. ♥♥♥

We took the Skytrain over to see my folks in the morning. We used a brand new extension to the existing lines and this was only the second time we’ve been on it, but it was pretty convenient and it made me feel deeply envious of the kids growing up near where we did. It would have been a dream for us to have such quick and easy access to so many areas when we were young! They’re done a great job so three cheers for Translink!

Many moms want to go to brunch to celebrate Mother’s Day or they want a new book or jewelry or perfume. Mine? She wanted to climb a mountain. So that’s what we did.

It was a pretty challenging hike, but the scenery was certainly worth it.

***

I’ve been talking to a few people lately who’ve expressed that they’re interested in blogging. As someone who has blogged on and off for many, many (early thirteen!) years, my immediate response is: YES! DO IT! YOU’LL LOVE IT! I love blogging and I tell everyone they should have a blog. Even if they’re not expressing an interest, I’ll sometimes bring it up. You know, if they have a cool story (who doesn’t?) or if they’re tackling some really interesting feat… “Hey, have you ever thought about blogging?” I nag encourage all of my friends who used to blog back around the time when I started to take it up again and I try to force motivate others to get started. The returns from blogging have just been so rich that I want to share those rewards with everyone. I’ve met new people, established decades long friendships, I’ve learned about myself and about others, developed new skills. Heck, I’ve been published in a writing textbook at Ole Miss! Since I discovered blogging, I’ve rarely (if ever?) not had one on the go.

So, on my way to work one day last week, I was catching up on my podcasts – and thank god I walk for a couple of hours each day because I would never keep up with them if I didn’t – I listened to a new episode of a podcast I hadn’t heard in a while: Being Boss (a podcast for creative entrepreneurs.) They talk a lot about interesting aspects of the sometimes delicate balance between business and creativity, lots of marketing stuff and topics the personal side of running a business.

On this particular episode, they were interviewing a woman named Elizabeth Dehn, the creator of a website called Beauty Bets. She’s a woman I’d never heard of running a website I’d never seen. But, hey, that’s why I listen to this stuff, right? To discover new things. Long story short, Elizabeth runs a successful beauty blog (she took a pretty interesting path to get there so I do encourage you to listen to the episode) and I really dig her vibe. (But more on that tomorrow…)

She started as a blogger just casually writing reviews of makeup and cosmetic products and grew it into a much bigger project. Her site now includes a few more contributors and covers a variety of topics primarily beauty, style, spirit and wellness. When talk on the podcast turned to blogging, whether for the first time or reviving an old one (as one of the hosts revealed she was considering) Elizabeth had a few things to say including:

First, I want to commend you on doing something purely because you want to do it and not because it has some sort of quantifiable productivity driven end game.

To which she added:

The act of doing something that you enjoy for no other reason is a beautiful thing.

And, most notably, was this simple advice:

Just write.

There is so much truth to those two simple words. If you want to start a blog, just write. It’s really easy to get caught up in overthinking themes and schedules and topics and tones and all of that can be exhausting. It is worrying about the future and thinking too far ahead when what you really need to do is just write. And keep writing. And writing. And writing. It comes together. It works itself out. Your voice becomes clearer. Your theme emerges as does your voice.

This is advice that I wanted to share with people who have told me they’re considering starting their own blog and those who have told me they are stalled with the one they’ve already got. I feel it, sisters and brother. I really do. My stumbling block is having a theme. I don’t have a neat common thread that weaves its way through my posts. I don’t do the same thing all the time, nor do I want to. That isn’t me and I’m a firm believer that you should be yourself in your online space (this is my blog – if I can’t be me here, where can I?!?) but at the same time, all that I am can’t always be tidily filed into an existing category. And I get hung up on that. It paralyzes me. And then someone tells me, “I love how you cover so many different topics on your blog” and I don’t believe them at first, but then I think about how that’s what I would want to read, too. Huh.

Other hang-ups?

  • Not having a name/title. I get this. I’ve been there. The great thing is, you can always change it. Trust me, I’ve done it. A thousand times.
  • Nerves. This comes out in procrastination and excuses (no time, no topic) or just honest fear. It’s totally understandable, but it’s also getting a little ahead of yourself. When you publish, you’re going to have a few readers. Probably just your family and a handful of friends. In most cases, it takes a heck of a long time to build up a readership that is going expose you to real live strangers. By that time, you’ll be rocking this blogging thing.

I’ve found that the real key to overcoming any of the obstacles that are keeping you from writing or growing your badass blog is really very simple and Elizabeth Dehn nailed it:

Just write.

What gets in your way of blogging? Have you thought about starting a blog? If so, what’s stopping you? Let me if you do have an up and running blog – I’m looking for new ones to read!

Spring Sweet Progress Box Swap Reveal

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen tweets and retweets from me getting all excited about the Sweet Progress Box Swap. Even before I could participate, I was enthusiastic about getting others involved. I mean, honestly, what’s better than happy mail?

Organized by and for bloggers to connect and get to know one another, the Sweet Progress Box Swap is hosted by Dean from Mrs AOK, A Work in Progress and Ashley from Happy. Pretty. Sweet. A few weeks ago, we were all matched up with another blogger and told little more than our partner’s favourite colour and email address. From there, we were to get acquainted, learn more about one another and, of course, exchange addresses.

As I mentioned above, I wasn’t always able to participate. A few swaps back, the exchange was limited to only those bloggers living in the US. I was thrilled to discover that this one was open to Canadians as well (thank you, Dean & Ashley!!!) and I was so lucky that I found out the night before the cut-off! Phew!

I was paired up with Dean, one of the hosts. We’d already followed each other on Twitter before we were exchange partners and I’d visited her blog a couple of times, but being paired up with her gave me the opportunity to explore her site even more. This “30 Something Mama to Three, Wifey to One” blogs about her life including large doses of creative projects and one of my favourite topics – positivity. She has a really great, fun and upbeat vibe and I’m really thankful I got the chance to get to know her better. Check out her Instagram and also her Etsy store!

We exchanged a few get to know you emails and then we filled our boxes. They went into the mail and we crossed our fingers that both packages would make it to their destinations safely and on time. Borders and customs have a tendency to interfere with things. And even though we found out we actually live quite close to one another, that didn’t mean that the postal system was going to make it easy on us.

With reveal day (today!) looming, we exchanged messages last night and I shared the sad news that there’d been no sign of my box yet. Lo and behold, what showed up just after I got home?!? You bet. It was my very first Sweet Progress Swap Box!

Take a look at what was inside!

This was the first look I got at everything inside the box, but first glance made me even more excited than the anticipation of receiving the mystery box had! A beautiful notebook, a gorgeously labeled card (I’m not going to lie to you – I’ve already put it in a frame in my office) and a water bottle filled to the brim with goodies! This is exactly the style of gift giving (and receiving) I love, remember?!?

Let’s take a closer look.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • I CAN. I WILL. I DID. water bottle
  • the springiest of spring looking lined (YES!) notebooks
  • adorable bracelet x2
  • instant coconut water, you guys!
  • flower seeds – I’d spilled to her that I was super into gardening
  • a mix of many (way more than pictured above) delicious chocolates that are locally (to her) made
  • the most convenient little Tiger Balm ever – it would fit in any pocket ever made!
  • Lindt – hold your hats – Hello, My Name is SWEET POPCORN bar *swoon*
  • hugs & kisses rubber stamp
  • glittery pink nailpolish
  • stickers – but not just any stickers – emoji stickers, yes, but even cooler are – check out the stickers that are a blank woman’s face with beautifully drawn braided hair – SHE DREW THAT IMAGE

So, needless to say, I am thrilled that I was finally let into the Sweet Progress Box Swap and that I am so happy I got the amazing partner that I did. Thank you for everything, Dean! Your box was full of delightful surprises and wonderful treasures!

To check out the box I sent to Dean and to find links to the other reveals, visit Dean’s post. If you want to join us next time, follow Dean and Ashley on Twitter or tell me and I’ll make sure I let you know in time for the summer swap! 🙂

Things we’ll do this month: May

May! Can you believe it?

Evidently, I’m not the only one.

The last day of April was really beautiful and warm here and that’s a really nice way to get motivated for some springtime health-related goals: getting moving often, eating better, sleeping more, etc. Here at our house, we are taking advantage of that short-lived sunny inspiration (it was raining again today) and challenging ourselves to meet some goals of our own as well as some shared goals for the month.

Let’s get right into it. Here are the things we’ll do this month.

  • Minimal use of the car – we moved literally an elevator ride away from the Skytrain so we wanted to challenge ourselves to take advantage of that and use the car as little as possible this month – Kevin gets a bit hung up with lacrosse travel (and trust me, nobody wants to encounter him and his equipment on a long bus ride) so that will account for some exceptions as the seasons get underway
  • 10k steps per day – 310000 steps in total
  • Run 25km – regular routine has continued to be a challenge
  • Finish five books – finishing two has been a breeze so far this year so I’m going to up my game for this month
  • Create an altar – I have this great space in our office/den and I really want to take advantage of that by getting spiritual
  • Develop morning ritual – including the above-mentioned altar
  • Study tarot – I haven’t spent much time with my deck this year
  • Focus on weekly food prep – it just makes this so much easier and with local veggies and fruits coming soon, there will be more to choose from
  • Ride our bikes!
  • Start up our Walking Vancouver explorations again for the summer
  • Start planning a summer road trip
  • Unpack our final few boxes

What’s got you excited for May? Do you have exciting plans for this month?

#minsgame – final report

Four hundred and six things were purged from our lives during the month of February. I started with one thing on day one, two things on day two and I progressed throughout the month all the way to twenty-eight things on day twenty-eight. It’s probably obvious that the start was easier than the finish and it certainly did get more challenging along the way. By the end of it, the Rebel in me (check out the Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin if you haven’t already) was so tired of the daily commitment (I don’t do well with routine and doing the same thing every day so that made it an even bigger victory for me) that I guess I forgot to write about the final week (days 23 through 28) and the process as a whole. (Hahahaha. Two whole months later…)

In week four, I got rid of a mish-mash of one hundred and fifty-three items from all areas of the house including:

  • magazines
  • sports equipment
  • baby gates we’d used to separate the cats when we moved in together
  • books
  • writing utensils
  • clothing
  • old remotes
  • jewelry
  • bags
  • scarves
  • shoes
  • cat scratching post
  • Easter baskets
  • seeds
  • board games

So. Now that it’s over, would I do it again? I can answer that with a solid MAYBE.

Things I learned:

  • I’m actually much less of a packrat than I thought. I don’t feel bad about the number of things that I have no matter how minimalists try to shame people like me for it (and minimalists looooove to shame people for their opposing habits.) My stumbling blocks are sentimental: cards, letters, photographs, souvenirs. But, borrowing from the Kon Mari thinking and keeping things only if they “spark joy” I was justified in hanging onto the things that I do.
  • I am not a minimalist. I don’t get satisfaction out of having less and I don’t feel a great charge from getting rid of things. Do I like having less clutter around? Yes. But I also like having some well-chosen clutter, too.
  • This would be a great annual exercise or pre-moving routine. When I talk to people who live in single family homes or who have not moved for a long time, they often talk about how daunting it would be for them to have to leave the place that they’re in. This is a good way to practice and not get overwhelmed. Doing this over several successive months would have a HUGE impact on a large house that has sat collecting *stuff* for decades.
  • I could use this someday is a tough habit to break. I’m not super hung up on this in all areas, but in some (ahem, craft supplies) I am sooooo guilty. Again, this is something that I hear a lot from people and listening to others and sharing advice on just letting go is real motivation to come home and do some more of that yourself!

Doing the minsgame definitely helped us prep for moving and it certainly helped me get rid of a number of things that I’d probably already carried around for too long. I’ll pencil another in for next spring and maybe then you can join me. 🙂

Take a look back at my weekly reports:

Or check out all the photos in my #minsgame Facebook album.

What happens when you cancel a wedding

So, since we decided to cancel the wedding plans we had made, I’ve learned a couple of things. First, I need to find a better way to say that. I need to be more sensitive. When people ask how the planning is going, I laugh and blurt out, “Oh. Hahahahaha. We cancelled it!” and this deep look of pain and concern crosses their face and they get all awkward and they don’t know what to say and I let it go on for about a second longer than I probably should before I clarify “Oh, no. We’re still getting married, we just aren’t getting married when we were planning to get married.” They say, “So, you postponed?” Sure. Okay.

We were in the midst of planning the wedding so I still think cancelling is the right term, but postponing seems to make other people feel better and, let’s be honest: the less I have to talk about wedding planning, THE BETTER.

Did I give you a different impression? Here? Or maybe here? Yeah, I can see that. When it came to the details, I was interested in them and I had fun considering them, but I still wasn’t sold on the whole actually having a wedding part.

I never dreamed of having a wedding. Not in all my life. In fact, I was the opposite. I remember saying to myself at a very young age – perhaps inspired by the wedding of Charles and Diana, but more likely by one of my mom’s episodes of All My Children – I am never getting married because I will NEVER kiss someone in front of all those people. (Evidently, I had strong feelings on PDAs early on as well.)

I learned a lot in the process of planning half of a wedding and I learned a lot in the process of tearing one down. Things like:

You lose your deposits. 

We were lucky with this one. We’ve surrounded ourselves with amazing and talented people who were willing to step into some of the heftier costing roles involved in making a wedding happen just for the honour of being a part of ours. We had a super talented photographer and a warm and loving commissioner who we know personally and, though it was sad to have disappointed them, both understood when we told them we weren’t going ahead with our plans.

As far as our venue goes, we got lucky with this one, too. We had signed a contract and in our contract, we were committed to pay 50% of the estimated revenue from our event. That cost increased to 75% if we crossed the 90-day prior to the date mark. When we initiated this discussion, we were about 94 days out. That made it that much more important for us to commit either way and to do so quickly. In the end, the kind and generous manager at our venue, offered to knock it back to 25% again. Bless your heart, Kacia.

As far as flowers, cakes, everything else was concerned, we had already picked our providers, but hadn’t yet committed to anything so we were off the hook there. I do still have my dress which I’ll have to decide whether to wear or to sell (or to both.)

You have invitations to recall.

Recalling the invitations is etiquette’s cute little way of avoiding saying that you’re canceling your wedding.

If you’ve sent invitations or even save the date cards, consensus says that you have to go through the process of recalling them. You are not required to explain why or even to go heavily into the details of whether it will happen at another time or not at all, but etiquette says you can’t just leave already invited guests hanging.

At the time when we cancelled, we had sent save the dates, but I was in the process of agonizing over ordering invitations. (Phew!) We had such a small invitation list (22 in total, six of them children) that we mostly told everyone ourselves, but since we had sent a formal communication, it only felt right to send one correcting the original. Our save the date cards had been pretty casual (deep sigh – how I loved our save the date cards…) so our recall cards were equally low-key. We sent these thank you cards (because we truly were feeling grateful) with a photo of us and the following printed on the back.

Thank you for your love and support while we planned our wedding in Long Beach. We have since decided to rethink our plans – not our marriage, just the ceremony. Our wedding for June 11th has been cancelled and we will update you when we know more about how, when and where we will proceed. xo

If your wedding was more formal, a more formal recall might be in order. (For example, something from your parents vs from you directly.) There’s a lot of information online. Here are some of the most comprehensive and helpful posts I found.

A few things we didn’t do: make a public announcement (although, maybe this counts) and return the wedding gifts we had received. I followed up with the gift givers and told them that we would be returning them, but all insisted that we keep them. (Pleasure delayer that I am, they are all on a shelf in the closet because it doesn’t feel right to use them until we are actually married.)

You have a lot of explaining to do.

People ask without really asking. And once they knew that we were still going to get married at some point and there hadn’t been some catastrophic revelation about our relationship, they asked outright.

The truth of it was that it wasn’t shaping up to be what we had anticipated. Our vision was of one where our families would meet for the first time, spend time together, get to know one another and develop some relationships. We anticipated spending time with this mesh of my side and his side and making these amazing memories with our blended family.

Time revealed that, while my side was planning to travel and spend a whole week with us leading up to and following our Sunday afternoon wedding, his side was not planning on spending more than a day or two with us. We calculated the amount of that time that we would lose for wedding preparation and nonsense (because there is always nonsense) and if we were really lucky and timed it perfectly, we *might* get to spend one meal with everyone together. From there, the calculation of cost – for us and for travelers and every single person involved was traveler – it didn’t meet that standard everyone lectured us on from day one to uphold: WHAT WE WANTED.

So, we let go. And everyone understood.

You will feel better about it. 

I mean, if you’re like us you will. Though, it was under very different circumstances, this bride-to-be wrote the following in her account of the things she wishes she’d been told when she cancelled her wedding. I couldn’t agree more.

The important factor is the wave of relief that washed over me when I thought about canceling my nuptials. Relief is different from excitement…

I felt relieved. Honestly. When we made our decision, we had a much better gauge on how we wanted our wedding to play out – the things that were wants and the things that were needs, the whos, the whats, the wheres, the whens. We still don’t have that all figured out, but when I asked Kevin what he learned, he replied with the following (over several text messages.)

That you really have to follow what you want and envision and if doesn’t feel like that’s what you’re getting then don’t settle. Because it should be a one time thing and it’s about the two people getting married not about anyone else.

Plus, no matter how tiny, it’s way too much  – emotional and financial investment – to not have the memories you want to have.

You have to decide what to do next.

Oh, man, this is the tough one. We still aren’t there yet. We look at elopement and tiny wedding packages at all kinds of destinations all the time. We go to places and say, “we could get married here.” It’s equally possible that we’ll end up at a courthouse – in BC or somewhere else. I think the biggest lesson we learned was that the minor details weren’t really important to us. All that really matters is that we are there together, that the setting is one that we both enjoy and that we are happy. Considering that’s basically how we’ve lived the last six+ years of our life, I’m confident we’ll figure it out on our own time.

Ginger mock chicken

When people talk about comfort food, I mostly understand what they’re talking about, but I don’t really get it, to be honest. I don’t know – I think I’m just not someone that really values food in the same way I see others value it. I have friends who truly LOVE food and I love going on foodie adventures with them and trying new restaurants around town and I truly do appreciate when food tastes really good, but they just have a totally different kind of appreciation than I do. They fall into worship for it, but I just kind of move on. Sometimes I wish I was more like them – that I could love the food the way they do or that I could feel the way a good meal appears to make them feel, but sometimes it’s plain old depressing. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t had a good meal in ages and I chalk that up to not having deep feelings for the food that I eat.

Here’s something about being vegetarian/vegan. There are some amazing and wonderful recipes out there, but there are also some pretty lame ones. I’m for ingredients lists that contain whole ingredients no matter what I’m cooking. I get it from my mom, but I’m not really into the whole can of mushroom soup, packet of french onion soup cooking style. I’m also not big on subbing in those processed stand-ins like veggies burgers, dogs, salami, pepperoni, etc. Most of the time.

There is one recipe, however, that gets me every time. I make it maybe once a year because it isn’t all that healthy – I mean the main ingredient is JUST THE GLUTEN after the starches from wheat flour have been washed away. But it serves as such an amazing stand-in for chicken or any meat, really. (If you’ve heard of seitan, this is it.)

I can’t claim this recipe as my own. Back in March of 2009, Sarah Kramer sent me this recipe to test. I have no idea if it eventually made it into one of her cookbooks or which one, but I’ve continued to use it ever since. And to this day, I have no idea who Linda is.

Linda’s Ginger “Chicken
This recipe has served as comfort food in the Sperling/Cuddington household for many, many years. It is good for colds, stomachaches, and bruised psyches. Enjoy! – Linda

The Mockchicken” can be made in advance of the Ginger dish to save on time and will keep in fridge for 6 days or freezer for 6 months.

MockChicken
1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
1 cup water

Broth
4 cups water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery salt

Ginger Dish
3 – 3 inch pieces of fresh ginger, washed and sliced paper thin (approx 1 cup)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup dark soy sauce
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2 green onions, finely chopped (garnish)

In a medium bowl, stir together the wheat gluten and water until it becomes elastic. Knead for 5 minutes and set aside. In a large saucepan, bring all of the broth ingredients to a boil. Slice gluten into 1-inch chunks and drop carefully into broth. Reduce heat, cover with lid, let simmer for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until broth has reduced. In a large pot on medium-high heat saute the ginger in oil for 3-4 minutes or until ginger starts to soften and change color. Add “chicken” and saute 2-3 minutes more, stirring often to prevent sticking.  Add the soy sauce, cover pot with lid and turn down heat to medium. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the sauce evenly coats the ingredients. Once “chicken” is cooked, in a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and water. Add into pot and stir together well until sauce is thickened.

Makes 4-6 servings.

This is a recipe that I’ve kept entirely to myself until recently. The first time I made it and offered some to Kevin (or at least the first time he actually braved trying it) he was astonished and said, “that is REALLY good.” Um, yeah. When I made it again last night, we devoured it.

I serve it with rice and a side of broccoli. Perfection.

My gift giving style: bits & pieces

When I was in grade seven, I went to another girl’s birthday party. It was at her house and I think she had a pool so that was probably the main event. We got through some kind of meal like hot dog and chips, cake, etc. then onto the gift opening. There were a lot of us there, more than any birthday party that other girls our age were throwing. I don’t remember the present I brought her or any of the others except for one. Her best friend (at the time – of course, bestie status is fluid in seventh grade) gave her a deep square box that rattled when she handled it. When she opened it up, it was filled with bits and pieces of grade school girl treasure: scented erasers, barrettes, bracelets, earrings, cute pens and pencils. It was a box full of baubles and trinkets the likes of which I’d only seen in one place before: my Christmas stockings. And my Christmas stockings were (and still are) my favourite of all the gifts I receive. I love how all the tiny little pieces fit together to make something bigger. I love that there are so many bits that combine to show thoughtfulness and care.

2017 Easter bucket-baskets

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to more thoroughly enjoy the act of giving and that includes creating these multi-layered gifts for the people I am close to. I jump at any excuse to contribute to someone’s Christmas stocking and I’ve started putting mini versions together and into baskets at Easter. A bunch of little things satisfy my giving and receiving joy perceptors more than single bigger (or smaller) things. (I could expand on how this theme presents itself in other areas of my life/preferences, but that’s ore for a therapist’s couch than a blog post…maybe. I like lots of things more than I like single things. So sue me.)

So, I’ve started to give bunches of small things by packing them into Christmas stockings and Easter baskets (or buckets, as you can see in the photos), but also gift bags, plant pots, fancy boxes, basically anything that can serve as a vessel for presents. I used a diaper bag at a girlfriend’s baby shower last year. It’s so much fun to give and (I find) it’s so much fun to get!

One challenge, however, is in being aware of your recipient’s preferences. For example, I have a number of people in my life (fiance, mother, brother’s girlfriend, friends) who are on the cleaner side of health conscious. Also, I am. It’s tempting to choose candy and junk food fillers to make up the gaps, but for them it just isn’t suitable and I don’t really like to promote that. (As you can see, I can never resist tucking at least a few treats in…)

Another big challenge can be managing the cost. Little items aren’t necessarily cheaper and especially not when you collect a bunch of them together. I always try to keep a target cost in mind through the process, but I’ve found that it’s been possible to keep the costs within budget.

Here are a few of the ideas I’ve been excited to come up with over the years. Self five. (Awwww. National High Five Day was April 20th. This is four days late.)

  • Fold-up reusable shopping bags
  • Lip balm
  • Hand cream
  • Travel sized toiletries
  • Aromatherapy rollers or blends
  • Single serving packs of almond butter, honey, etc.
  • Sport gels
  • Energy bars
  • Gum or mints
  • Travel packs of tissues
  • Packets of seeds (for gardeners and for beginners)
  • Gift cards (I like the seasonal ones from Starbucks)
  • Golf balls (only for the golfers in your life – I would hate you for this)

For bigger containers, here are a few of my go to additions:

  • Books – for reading or for writing or for colouring
  • Pens, pencils, markers or other writing utensils
  • Small piece of clothing – t-shirt, socks, scarf, gloves, hat
  • Photo frame (with sweet personal picture, of course)
  • Bottle of beer, wine, sparkling water

2016 Easter bucket-baskets

As I was writing this, I was reminded of a podcast I listened to yesterday afternoon. It was episode 113 of Happier with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft (my favourite) and one of the topics was Is Your Birthday Important to You? For me, the answer is yes. My birthday is important to me – I want to do something special that day, I do NOT want to work on that day and I want to spend it with people who are close to me. I do NOT, however, want to be wished a trillion happy birthdays from people who only remember my birthday because they saw a notification on Facebook. Nope. No, thanks. Without going too far into their discussions (listen here) I will say that they got to a point where they were talking about birthday parties and surprise birthday parties and they cautioned listeners to know their audience when planning the latter. Basically, a surprise birthday party is great for a person who likes surprise birthday parties, but there are plenty of people who would hate the idea of a surprise birthday party.

Why was I reminded of that this morning? Well, because I wondered if my gift giving concept above is something that I am so enthusiastic about because I love it. Am I not considering a broader audience of people who don’t want a bunch of useable things, but instead would prefer to be given a single, bigger gift.

What do you think? Do you like the gift bag idea that appeals to me? Or would receiving something like that drive you nuts? 

Somewhat on topic…

I’m super stoked to be a part of the Spring version of the Sweet Progress Box Swap put on by Dean at Mrs AOK and Ashley at Happy. Pretty. Sweet. It’s my first time participating in this swap, though it has been on my radar for a while. It has only just opened up to Canadians and, I believe I am the first. As you can guess, I love a good swap. (Laura and I have kept in touch ever since we were matched up on a foodie swap back in 2012!)

I’ve spent the morning putting the finishing touches on my swap package and having a great time doing so. I’ll take a trip out to the post office this afternoon and it will be on its way to my partner by the end of the day.

If you’d be interested in joining us, let me know! I’ll be sure to connect you with the group next time a swap comes up!