My little blog turns five!

Taking some time at the end of a busy weekend full of birthday celebrations, a trip to the beach and my daughter’s first toddler sensory class to write a quick post as this weekend also coincides with the fifth anniversary of my little blog. A quick tally reveals that since I nervously hit publish on that very first (and slightly cringesome) post, I’ve shared over 220 posts including 19 recipes and almost 100 book reviews. More than anything else though, my blog has always been a record of life and I’ve written about my family and cat, our home and garden, the places and events we’ve visited.

I don’t share everything that goes on but I also don’t feel the pressure to pretend my life is perfect as I’ve found that it’s often the frustrations and sorrows, the challenges and changes that give me a sense of perspective for how much I still have to be grateful for.

When I first started blogging, I had no idea I’d still be writing it five years later or how my life would change in that time. I love being part of the blogging community, I’ve found so many inspiring and entertaining bloggers writing about so many different topics that I’m still slightly surprised that others are interested in reading what I write, but I’m always thankful to everyone who takes the time to like and comment on my posts. Thank you for reading, and wishing you all a lovely week. X

‘Braving the Wilderness’ by Brene Brown

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I often read books with themes that mirror something I’m¬†going through¬†in real life at the time, and I recently found myself picking Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown off the shelf. I first learned about Brene Brown’s research through her TED talks on vulnerability and shame, and over the last few years I’ve drawn so much comfort and inspiration from her books that have helped me to navigate difficult transitions and encouraged me to be more authentic, vulnerable and courageous in my personal life and career.

Braving the Wilderness builds on Brene Brown’s previous books but has a distinctly political edge as she explores how we hide who we really are in order to fit in, and how political¬†rhetoric has become increasingly intolerant, dehumanizing and divisive as leaders call upon their followers to oppose anyone who disagrees with their opinions or values. This book is very much about being curious and listening to¬†other perspectives, as well as being¬†honest about our own,¬†but it’s also about having the moral courage to stand up for what we believe is right even if it means standing alone.

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I find it so easy to relate to Brene Brown, and this is written with the same honesty, humility and humour as her other books, yet it’s not an easy read as it challenged me to reflect on the times when my own fear of criticism, conflict, loneliness and rejection lead me to settle for fitting in instead of belonging, and how sometimes the things we do to avoid feeling pain end up causing¬†us more heartache and suffering in the long run.

Braving the Wilderness didn’t have¬†the profound impact on me¬†that I Thought It Was Just Me or Rising Strong did, but it still feels like a pertinent¬†discussion on how to overcome some of the barriers to communication, understanding and connections in the current socio-political climate. Have a lovely week. X

On the road around Iceland

Over the years my husband and I have had some wonderful holidays together from our first city-break to Budapest a few months into our courtship to our honeymoon in Japan, but this year we decided to return to Iceland for a second time. We first visited Iceland in September 2014 and though we spent most of our time in and around Reykjavik we fell in love with the vast, volcanic landscape, and this time we hired a car to explore the ring road.

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We travelled clockwise around the ring road, taking it in turns to drive, mixing our favourite songs with a few Icelandic artists like Bjork, Of Monsters and Men and Sigur Ros, and watching the landscape change through the windscreen. Iceland is sparsely inhabited, beautiful and full of contrasts from crashing waterfalls, winding roads, snowy mountains and frozen lakes to moss covered lava fields, craters, bubbling mud pits, black sand beaches, colourful houses and quirky churches.

It was such a memorable adventure that it’s hard to pick my favourite moments ‚Äď some of which weren’t even captured on camera. In Akureyri, we had the option of pony trekking or whale watching and my husband chose the former as he pointed out there was no guarantee we’d see a whale but 100% chance of seeing a pony while trekking. I was a little nervous as I hadn’t been riding since I was a child, but it was a lot of fun and the ponies were full of character.

We visited the fairly new Into the Arctic museum in Akureyri and as we had the place almost to ourselves, the curator gave us a guided tour. Both times we’ve visited Iceland, we’ve really enjoyed chatting to the locals, as most people speak English and they’re polite, friendly and funny, and it’s a great way of learning about the country.

We also spent a couple of blissful hours soaking in the Myvatn nature baths and we emerged feeling relaxed, refreshed and wrinkly as prunes.

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The first time we visited Iceland, we were lucky enough to see rainbows in the waterspray at Skogafoss, and this time the sun hit the spray in front of Svartifoss creating a perfect rainbow just for a moment.

We ended up spending longer than we expected at Jokulsarlon as we were fascinated by the contrast of the blue icebergs washed ashore on the black sand beach. It is truly one of the strangest and most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.

The Icelandic diet is heavy on meat and fish, but we didn’t have any trouble finding tasty vegetarian food, and the highlights were vegan curry-wurst from a little farm cafe called Havari near Breiddalsvik and tomato soup from Fridheimar, a farm where they use geothermal energy to grow fresh tomatoes.

It was an incredible adventure and although we saw almost everything we wanted to on this trip, there is still so much more to see and do that I hope we will visit Iceland at least once more. Have a lovely week. X

Happy Chinese New Year!

 

As it was Chinese New Year at the weekend, my hubby and I decided to visit the Giant Lanterns of China that have been on display at Edinburgh Zoo over the winter.

As darkness fell over the city, we wandered along the mile long circuit marveling at over 450 handcrafted silk lanterns illuminating the zoo. The beautiful displays featured elements from Chinese culture as well as various animals, birds and insects to be found in the zoo (though all of the real animals were kept inside overnight).

As with any outdoor event in Scotland, we were glad it was a dry evening, especially when we stopped to watch a twenty minute performance by Chinese acrobats who impressed the audience with their feats of strength and balance.

It was a wonderful way to spend a winter evening while learning a little bit about Chinese mythology and some of the conservation work that the zoo does. Have a lovely week. X

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Counting Our Blessings at Christmas

 

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As much as I love Christmas and all our festive traditions, December is also a good time to reflect on all the achievements and lessons, the joys and sorrows of the previous year, and to start making plans for the year ahead. In many ways 2017 didn’t turn out like my husband and I hoped it would; our year has been dominated by health issues, estrangement and home renovations, and some of our dreams are still as far out of reach now as they were twelve months ago, yet it’s also been a time of counting our blessings and appreciating what we already have.

It was a year ago today that we bought our house and I’m grateful to call this little house home, it’s been our safe haven sheltering us from so many storms.

Everyone in my little family suffered some form of illness or injury this year, and there’ll be no greater gift waiting for me under the Christmas tree than having my loved ones safe and well around me at Christmastime. I may write about my own health issues in more detail another time, but taking better care of myself by eating well, exercising and resting will be high on my agenda next year.

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Our cat, Mara, has been a constant source of affection and companionship since we adopted her, and after a difficult year health-wise, we’re so relieved that she seems healthy and still full of mischief and purrs. We’re very thankful to our local vets and the oncologists at the small animal hospital for everything they’ve done for Mara this year.

I’ve written before about some of the difficulties we’ve had establishing boundaries with a few demanding individuals in our lives, and it’s taken my husband and¬†me a few years to disentangle ourselves from the webs we were caught in. While it’s sad we were unable to reach a compromise or resolve our differences, after years of conflict and heartache, it was a relief to let go and move on. Although our circle may be smaller now, it is infinitely kinder and more loving, and I’m so grateful for the family and friends who brighten our days and lighten our burdens.

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I also feel very lucky to be married to my best friend, and over the last few weeks my husband and I have been talking about our work, hobbies, travelling and our hopes for the future.

This isn’t the Christmas post I intended to write,¬†but I wanted to share the most valuable lesson I’ve learned this year, that life doesn’t always turn out like we hope it will, and we don’t always get what we want,¬†yet we can still count our blessings and find reasons to smile every day. Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who takes the time to read my little blog. Wishing everyone a peaceful winter solstice and a joyful Christmas. X

A Peaceful Day at Samye Ling

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A little while ago, my husband and I spent a day at one of my favourite places, Samye Ling. Founded in 1967,¬†Kagyu Samye Ling was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Europe, and the red-robed monks with shaved heads were an incongruous sight in the little¬†Scottish town where I grew up. I’ve been visiting Samye Ling since I was a teenager, and over the years I’ve come with friends to buy books and prayer flags from the shop, chat over cups of tea in the caf√© or sit peacefully in the temple. Nine years ago now,¬†I suggested¬†visiting¬†Samye Ling as one of our very first dates as my then boyfriend (now husband) had never been before, and we’ve returned several times throughout our relationship.

In keeping with the Buddhist belief that everything is impermanent and ever-changing, Samye Ling is a work in progress and there is always something new or slightly different every time we visit. Nevertheless, I’m always struck by how calm and unhurried the pace of life at Samye Ling is, yet somehow the work still gets done.

I often write about slowing down because it is not something that comes naturally to me. Like many of my peers, I’ve rushed through life treating significant milestones like items on a to-do-list to be ticked off one by one, instead of achievements to be celebrated or precious moments to be savoured. Many of us are so impatient to reach our destination that we barely experience the journey itself, yet watching the monks mindfully – and joyfully – going about their daily routines and chores always reminds me just how calming and restorative it is to immerse ourselves in the here and now.

This has been a turbulent year for us with illnesses and injuries – as well as daily news reports of terrorist attacks, natural disasters and political unrest –¬†reminding us just how fragile and fleeting life is, but I feel very grateful for the people and places that help me to find peace and contentment in the present moment. So much has happened since the first time we visited Samye Ling together, and so much has changed, yet some things have remained constant, like the serenity of Samye Ling and the steadying presence of my husband as we walk hand-in-hand through life together. Have a lovely week. X