March 10, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Along with the buy ban, I’ve been focused on the concept of simplicity lately. The serene, nature-filled days of Tulum brought on a lot of thought and inspiration since returning home around how much more simply I could be living… and how much more space I could be creating in my life for new ideas, new inspiration, new activities… new priorities.
It was hard not to notice the sharp contrast between worlds. Of course things will always be very different on a vacation when compared with every day living. However, there was something about getting power from the sun, water from the rain, getting up with the sun, and getting in tuned with the moon and tidal patterns that felt invigorating and pure. Life in the city means a whole other world of thought, decision-making, and priorities. The constant barrage of noise, cues of what’s important, things to buy, and conflicting things demanding for your attention and time.
Coming back, I want to simplify and maintain some semblance of the connection I felt while I was away to nature, the natural cycles and rhythms of nature, and more space for more inspired thought.
All very conceptual and abstract, so naturally, the first place I started was… my closet.
Why the closet. I see it as a material symbol of how much clutter I have in my life. It’s also something I have to see and make decisions about daily. As a physical, tangible thing, I felt it would be worth attacking as a step towards the larger effort to simplify. Not a shelf, rail, or drawer was left untouched. On average, I purged a third to half of what I had, and the result has been incredibly liberating and eye-opening. I simply haven’t needed all these things – but better yet, someone else may have use for it. So the bag of clothes and other accessories are going to a Mennonite-run clothing drop-off location, whereas I have more space already.
February 28, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I’ve been on a purge lately (more on that in another post), and opened my pantry to realize how much tea I have. Boxes upon boxes housing at least a couple dozen varieties. At least.
So the answer: obviously, I’m drinking a different kind every day now. None of this waiting until I’m feeling a little under the weather or saving it for a rainy day. Yesterday was the first one: a jasmine tea ball.
The best part to these beautiful little tea balls is the way they’re crafted. Tied together delicately and dried, but when you steep them, they slowly blossom. I love that. The aesthetic of the blossoming tea ball into a gorgeous floral pattern.
Here’s a short Vine video of the tea opening up:
February 10, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Happy Chinese New Year!
I had originally intended to write as we rang in the New Year on January 1st, but with everything going on, not only did I not write on the 1st, I missed January entirely. So here I am, posting in time for the Chinese New Year while it is still a time for new beginnings. For those of you celebrating Chinese New Year today and into this next week, Gong hai fat chow!
In preparation for Chinese New Year, many Chinese families go through a big pre-new year’s cleaning that’s symbolic of getting rid of the old and making room for the new. For myself, 2013 represents a reverse clean. I’ve decided to re-enter another buy ban year: a year of a self-imposed ban on buying. Keeping the old and making no room (at least as far as my closet goes) for the new. Conceptually, it’s my own tiny part in curbing the extreme consumerism our culture promotes at least in my own life, but also re-establishing more thoughtful, selective, and frugal buying habits in myself.
So, what this all means is that for this next year, I can buy nothing that is non-essential, or to look at it the other way, I only buy what is essential to my life. Of course, there’s room to argue that within those parameters, there can be loopholes such as needing that new dress – which would completely defeat the purpose of a buy ban. So, to spell it out more deliberately for myself, my rules are the following. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 5, 2012 § 5 Comments
This year has been the year of weddings. My man and I had our own, and were happy to be there for the unions between some of our closest friends.
The unifying perception of wedding planning is that the event is synonymous with “stress”. To that end, there are an abundance of options on planning weddings – whether it’s a full DIY, or an elaborate affair planned by a professional. In our case, we opted for a middle of the road option: someone to help with the “day of coordination”. That meant we would still plan the event, but a planner would help us execute our plan on our day. The vendor we went with, EventDecorator.com (not to be confused with Flourishes Event Decorating, LLC which we had no experiences with), required us to also go through them for event decor and rentals, which at the time was fine with us. They seemed professional and experienced enough.
As it turned out, the help we thought we would be getting from Event Decorator, ended up being the opposite. Our Event Decorator became the sole source of high stress and frustration leading up to our event. In the end, we made the difficult decision of having to ditch our day-of-coordination plan with only two months to go and essentially redid our planning on the fly – the definition of high wedding stress, but far better than the alternative. At least we would get what we wanted. In the end, we had an incredible day. Everything came together beautifully, thanks to our other vendors and the support of our wonderful friends and family.
I thought long and hard before writing this post – did I want to wade back into an event now past? In the end, I decided to write it with the hope that it could save someone else some of the pain we went through. So here it is. Our top ten list of warning signs that your vendor is not the one for you… and it may be better to cut your losses and walk… or run. The earlier the better usually, as in our case, we lost a sizeable chunk of change that would have been avoided had we paid attention to our gut feelings to begin with.
1. Your Event Decorator / vendor only addresses one of you and ignores the other.
When a vendor only addresses or speaks to one of you and dismisses input from your partner, it may be time to reconsider. From the start, someone who respects both of you as equals will respect you as a client. If you decide to have one person be the main point of contact or the final decision maker – that’s different – but a vendor shouldn’t start by acting on that assumption.
Our experience: From the start, my (now) husband’s opinion was ignored. We tried to give the benefit of the doubt thinking that perhaps it was a wedding industry thing. It was not. It was just our vendor. Apart from all of my husband’s questions and suggestions being overlooked and ignored, our repeated requests to include him in copy on emails going forward were not carried out time after time despite multiple reminders. Later, that same attitude and treatment expanded into how I was also dealt with. Also not good.
2. Your Event Decorator / vendor’s quote far exceeds your intended budget outside the bounds of reason.
A wedding planner is an expert in the wedding industry. What you should be able to expect is for them to have a sense of scale and proportion in terms of how much of a budget should reasonably go towards different aspects of the wedding (like flowers). Most planners, depending on your arrangement, will even work with you to generate your wedding budget with advice around how much you should expect to pay for each service.
Our experience: As we were planning our own day, we did the portioning ourselves based on research and advice received. We were open to shifting funds around to make things work. However, when the quote we received from our Event Decorator took up a third of the entire wedding budget, landing 2-3 times more than our anticipated floral and rentals budget, we were shocked. Particularly as the form we had filled out for Event Decorator included our wedding budget. Not a good sign. Rather, it’s a sign your vendor may not be paying attention to the details or to what you want. As a footnote – it shouldn’t matter what size budget you have. Some vendors will tell you upfront they only work with a certain sized wedding budget – that’s fine. Find someone who will work with yours.
3. Your Event Decorator / vendor handles differences of opinions, questions, and requests poorly.
It will be inevitable that you will have questions about your day, what you’re getting, as well as suggestions of new things you’re considering that you may want to add or remove. The important thing about any of that is the open conversation and discussion you’re able to have with your expert vendors. It’s fun to discuss and brainstorm. What you want is someone who is open to those conversations, questions, or requests. It makes for a very frustrating and stressful time when the opposite happens – and frankly, the wedding stops being your wedding.
Our experience: The first sign that Event Decorator was closed to questions or inputs was in the discussion of our quotation, and was the first of many closed discussions. I had questions about some items that seemed unnecessary, duplicated, or not adding the right proportion of value to our day compared to the price tag. This conversation (and all others of a similar nature) quickly become difficult, defensive and even aggressive. My fiance and I were blamed. Our budget was “impossible to work with”. Oddly, when we decided that we would regrettably not engage Event Decorator for our planning services and decor under those circumstances, the story was completely different and all of a sudden, there was room to discuss… what we wanted to begin with. « Read the rest of this entry »
August 20, 2012 § 2 Comments
Several months ago, we were invited to go spend a weekend at a friend’s cottage on Amich Lake. As is often the case, the weekend was planned so far in advance, we had no idea what might be demanding of our time and attention when it finally came. As it turned out, the timing of our cottage get-away landed squarely in the midst of a particularly busy week amongst a slew of colliding deadlines. I found myself struggling. To go or not to go?
The need to pause for a recharge usually goes without saying after a particularly busy spell, but it often goes ignored in the midst of one. The busier the time, the bigger the drive to postpone the break until later… when you can afford it. But sometimes, the less it feels possible to take the time, the more it’s probably needed. It was definitely the case for me. In the end, I went, and I am so glad I did.
We were warned the drive would be long. An estimated 3.5 hours from Toronto. Our friend wasn’t bluffing. Between the usual cottage traffic and a must-stop at the infamous Webers burger joint on the way, we arrived at nearly 1AM after four hours of driving… but was it ever worth it.
The long-time family owned cottage compound awaited us. And yes, I said “compound”. Upon arrival, we quickly saw that this wasn’t your average cottage on a lake. The property housed several cabins of varying arrangements that could sleep anywhere from two to eight, plotted in close proximity of the lake, washrooms, and the main house. A boathouse contained a games room and several more rooms and bunks. All in all, we were told the property could sleep up to twenty-four people comfortably.
The main house itself was a beautiful three-storey lodge with roomy ceilings, a spacious family-centric kitchen and dining room, and small hide-away nooks built into different parts of the house. Large windows let in streams of sunlight, and the top floor acted as a natural ventilation system with windows that drew out the warm air from below and pulled in the cooler air from the outside. Decor was a tasteful rustic: everything from the enormous elk antler chandelier in the living room (which was made by collecting shed antlers, by the way – no elk were harmed in the making of the chandelier) to the birch bark lamps and beams.
However, perhaps the best part about the property was the nature and ability to immerse in it. The nights suffered from none of the light pollution of the city, and the sky was deep with millions of stars. The air was crisp, fresh, and rich from the oxygen pumped out by the trees in the area, and the lake pristine. Complete peace. I believe I slept more in the one weekend than I had for weeks. Incredible.
For our puppy, the weekend meant her first encounter with a body of water. Days were filled with new sights, smells and endless exploring through the trees, running in the grass, sniffing the waters edge… rolling in beaver poop. In other words, doggie heaven.
Does life get better than this?
I really don’t think it does. And it really can’t help but bring a certain perspective. Something about pausing to breathe and allowing the body to recharge. And when it seems like you can’t afford to take the time to slow down to recharge – it’s likely the opposite is true. You really can’t afford not to. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you. And if nothing else, your puppy will.
August 3, 2012 § Leave a Comment
My man and I recently got married and from the beginning of our planning process, we knew we wanted a laid-back country barn wedding. It meant big open space, family-style food, beers all around, and décor and table dressings that oozed rustic comfort. What else to say rustic than burlap?
Somewhere along the line, I got the brilliant idea of sourcing our burlap and cutting it down for our table runners, favours, and other things… myself. So, a few months before the wedding, I started my search. Who knew there were so many different types and weaves of burlap! After getting a pile of samples in, I chose one and did the calculations of how much we’d need, then visited a few fabric stores in our area. Nadda. No one had what I wanted. So, I tried a few online wholesalers. The burlap tended to come from too far away and the shipping costs were quite steep – for the amount I needed, shipping nearly cost more than the burlap.
August 2, 2012 § 4 Comments
I am a host with AirBnB, and have had the misfortune of accepting a bad guest. That said, my experience with this guest is nowhere as terrible as the experience of another far more unfortunate host that had her San Francisco property vandalized, looted, and destroyed.
No, in my case, it is merely a case of a human behaving badly. But still, what I’m astounded by is how disruptive one person is still able to be and how easy it is for communication to break down when one person is not open to anything external to their viewpoint.
As a little context, this particular guest was traveling to Canada from Australia. My error was in accepting her booking directly, without asking for additional information and communication. And because of my error in judgement, my last 24+ hours has become infinitely more challenging… and I have another nine days to go.
June 19, 2011 § Leave a Comment
My post today is a tribute to all the dads out there who may not be with us anymore, as well as those who are.
Talking to a friend recently who had also lost his father some time ago, we both mused at how much we realized our dads had taught us after they left us. Methods and philosophies that are now emblazoned in our minds, hearts, and actions. I never noticed it when he was alive, but I definitely notice it now – and now, I carry those things as a mantra and a guide in the way I live my life. And that is the best possible gift he could ever have given me. His personal compass.
So to all of you whose dads aren’t around anymore – a toast to them – who left us with more than we realized. And to the dads that are with us still: Thank you. We love you. You’re amazing.
Happy Father’s Day.
March 3, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Ever since Hong Kong allowed weddings to be held outside City Hall and places of worship in 2006, residents are getting creative with where they can say their “I do’s”. One couple who had met and dated at a McDonald’s location later decided to have their wedding there last year. Their special day triggered Hong Kong’s McDonald’s to start to offering wedding packages for other McDonald’s fans.
As CNN reports, the first packages were made available in January of this year. And the response? You’d be suprised. Already, between fifty and sixty couples have started their McWedding planning with McDonald’s. Couples can order a full McDonald’s catered meal, an apple pie stacked wedding cake, and have an assortment of wedding games for the bride and groom. No alcohol is allowed. Instead, toasts are made with soda pop or milkshakes, but no one seems to mind.
In a recent article by The New York Times, the cultural reasons for the McWeddings are discussed by anthropologist Gordon Mathews.
“The generation getting married today grew up doing their studying at McDonald’s,” Mr. Mathews said. “That was one of the chain’s prominent roles in the 1980s and 1990s — as a safe haven where students could study and stay off the streets.
“In the U.S. and other places, middle-class or upper-middle-class people look down on McDonald’s,” he said. “But Hong Kong is different. A McDonald’s wedding wouldn’t be seen as tacky here.”
The article points out that “if anything, McDonald’s is seen as a relief from strict cultural rules”, and a greater emphasis is placed now on just having fun. Whatever the cultural underpinnings, young Hong Kong brides and grooms-to-be can now get married under the golden arches for a mere $1,280. If that’s not another selling point, I don’t know what is.
So what say you? Would you opt for a McWedding?
February 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment