Year Of The Pig

Year Of The Pig

Tet

Chúc mừng năm mới / Happy Lunar New Years! It’s the Vietnamese New Year – celebrating the Year of the Pig.

I really enjoy this time of year because it’s about honouring traditions and spending time with Family. During this time, we make an offering to the Gods and honour them along with our ancestors (all referred to as Ong Ba) to bring us prosperity, good health, and fortune. Days leading up to the New Year or Tet (in Vietnamese), the house should be clean and tidy as it sets the tone for the upcoming year. Deep cleaning shouldn’t be for days after as it may wash away your good luck and fortune.

I always remember my Momma talking to the spirits as she sets out elegant paper meant as money and fabric for clothes along with fruits and flowers on the altar (of Ba Quan Am – an all encompassing God that takes on many forms and roles).

On New Years Eve, we cook a huge feast and offer it to the Gods, burn incense and bow our head to show our respects. Only after the incense has fully burned is when we can eat. Now that I have my own home, I wanted to keep the traditions I grew up with and cook a full meal for Tet.

Tet

Chúc cả nhà một năm mới luôn vui vẻ hạnh phúc, thuận lợi trong công việc, gặp nhiều may mắn trong cuộc sống.

Tet

May peace fill all the empty spaces around You, your Family and your Friends and your Colleagues at this special time of year, and in you, may contentment answer all your wishes.

Here’s to yesterday’s achievements and tomorrow’s brighter future.

May the coming year show you that every day is really a first day and a new year.

Let abundance be your constant companion, so that you have much to share.

Let new beginnings signify new chapter filled with pages of success and happiness, written by the ink of hard work.

Here’s wishing you all the gift of peace and prosperity throughout 2019.

Locks

Working Quietly

I’ve been pretty quiet here lately.

I feel like the universe is asking me to do many hard things, challenging me to move away from everything in my life that has kept me from my true self; to cut ties, break cycles, let go of things I once thought I never could.

I feel pulled from the comfortable dwelling places I’ve frequented and propelled into something that feels hard to explain, something I don’t really understand myself. I just know I can no longer stay in these places once so familiar to me.

It’s exhausting work; this metamorphosis, this deep work of the soul. It’s why I haven’t been here much lately; I feel swaddled in the darkness of my cocoon with no idea of the outcome of this transformation but having an inherent understanding that I need to step back from the world at this time and trust this process, honour this process, and give myself the space needed to heal and change and grow without explanation or justification.

So while the rest of the world emerges into the new year with goals and plans and guns blazing, I am choosing to stay true to my own journey; to know I am not dictated by calendars, by clocks, or by society’s definition of timelines and success.

Instead I am allowing myself the permission and grace to surrender to this process; like nature: gently, gently changing with the seasons.

My baby

L.O.L Surprise Birthday Party

My daughter turned 9 this month and every year she looks forward to having a theme birthday party. She absolutely loves LOL Surprise and wanted a party surrounded by all her favourite characters. We kept it low key but I still persisted to dream up ways to make this birthday memorable for her.

Sophia’s birthday was on a Monday this year. So we started her birthday festivities on the weekend. The morning started off with homemade funfetti pancakes with exactly 9 cherries on top. Then we spent the whole day at the local arcade afterwards. Sophia insisted.

Monday morning Sophia woke up to LOL Surprise timbits for breakfast before school. Normally I don’t let her have “junk food” for breakfast but I had to break the rules just this once.

While Sophia was at school I started getting the house ready for her birthday party. As you all know by now, I like adding my own personal touch to everything I do. So this year I made homemade pink funfetti macarons for Sophia. She absolutely loves them and would probably eat them everyday if I let her. The macarons were a bit tricky to make and definitely required some patience. But I’m happy with the way they turned out and it was all worth it when I saw the biggest smile on my precious daughter’s face.

I printed out LOL Surprise Dolls and Animals to decorate the dining room, living room, dessert table and used as toppers for the mini unicorn cupcakes. A great budget friendly way to jazz up any party! Finished off with matching LOL Surprise birthday banners, confetti and balloons.

I put together a simple dessert table for the party. Which consisted of pink and blue cotton candy, strawberry cream filled wafer sticks, fruity marshmallows twists, sugar cookies, mini unicorn cupcakes and pink funfetti macarons.

LOL Surprise bingo and Pin The Bow on the LOL Surprise Doll kept the kids entertained. I found both games online. Score! I found a super cute LOL Surprise backdrop with props at Party City. So we took some fun photos and had a blast pretending to be our own LOL Surprise Doll.


Sophia wanted to try the new buffet restaurant that opened in town for her birthday dinner. After dinner we came back to the house, opened presents and she blew out her Birthday candles.

A huge Thanks to Queen City Cakes for the absolutely amazing birthday cake. She couldn’t believe that the LOL Surprise Doll and LOL Surprise Cat was edible. You made Sophia’s day extra special & sweet.

Sophia,

For as many things as I want to teach you, there are just as many things that I want you to keep just the way you are. Forever. As people grow up, they change. They have to. But there are certain parts of you that I hope you hold on to because they are precious.

My nine wishes for you:

  1. May you continue to wear pink kitties with tropical flowers and sequins and do so unabashedly. In this world of tiny tank tops and “booty shorts” for little girls, may you continue to rock your own style. Since you could first get dressed, you have always picked out the most eclectic, dramatic sets of clothes. You have always thought that the brighter, the better. And that has made you (and others) smile.
  2. May your willingness to take a chance to make a friend last into high school activities, college parties, and the complicated world of adults making friends. Since you started speaking, you’ve had no trouble talking to people. When you were two-years-old, your go-to conversation piece was “Play?” It has now progressed to “Wanna play?” when you find someone your age at a playground. The words may change, but the skill remains the same.
  3. May you never lose your beautiful open heart. You have always been compassionate. When we watch America’s Funniest Home Videos, I love how you hide behind my shoulder when people fall and how you say, “I just can’t laugh at these parts. My heart feels bad for those people.” As you enter the years when friendships become trickier and kids are sometimes mean, I hope that you are always sensitive to others.
  4. May your laugh always goes straight to your belly and never become simply polite. When we go to the movies, you are the one whom people can hear laughing above all others. When you laugh, people laugh with you.
  5. May you still be thrilled when you see a squirrel in the backyard, a starfish in a tidal pool, or a cardinal at the birdfeeder. I love the way that you continue to delight in the little things, the way that many younger children do. You still squeal over a sprinkled donut, say that each French fry you eat is the “best French fry you’ve ever had,” and cannot believe your luck when you find a feather.
  6. May you keep your belief that you can change the world. You have not been deterred because you believe that you can make all of the difference. And you can.
  7. May you continue to love wholeheartedly. Please keep flinging yourself into our arms like you’re three-years-old, despite the fact that your legs are almost as long as mine.
  8. May you always share what you love no matter what people think. Sometimes, kids your age start becoming more hesitant about sharing their passions because they worry about what’s cool. Don’t ever be afraid to show your passions. I love that you tell anyone who will listen that you hate eggs and love mac n cheese.
  9. May you continue to be brave when you face your fears. I am so proud of the way you have faced all of your fears. You are strong!

So while I work on helping you to grow up, I will also work on helping you to keep the essence of who you are.

I love you with all my heart. XOXO

Mommy

Happy Birthday Sophia

Happy 9TH Birthday To My Sweet Little Girl

You are nine years old today. Nine. How is it even possible that we’ve already come to the last single digit year? Especially since we just brought you home from the hospital like two days ago.

I think the thing that has hit me the hardest about nine is when it dawned on me that nine is the halfway mark. In just nine more years you’ll be eighteen and headed off to college or whatever adventure God calls you to as you begin your adult life. And I have a feeling the next nine years will go by as fast as these first nine.

Excuse me while I go cry in the back of my closet. You are an extremely smart and caring young girl. You are inquisitive beyond your years and you never settle for surface answers but always explore to go deeper in your thoughts. You have a sweet nurturing quality inside you that likes to take care of others.


I want you to know how much Mommy loves you with all of my heart! I’m so grateful that God gave me such a wonderful gift and that he trusted me to raise you.

I read one time that the magical years of childhood are from age six until ten. So I guess if that’s true then you have one year left of the magic. But when I look at you I see someone who will always find the wonder in life. You will always find the magic because it’s just the way God made you. You live life with joy.

And you fill our lives with that joy.

Every day.


Mommy is so proud of you and think the world of you. I love you to the stars and wish you a Happy 9th birthday sweetheart!

Mommy

A Beautiful Start

Today is the very last day of 2018. Its been a good year, and I’m slowly saying goodbye. And tomorrow? Not just any tomorrow, but the clean pages of a whole year waiting for what we will write into our lives and what greatness we’ll pull from within. This next year, I want to give myself space to breathe and be. I’m anticipating a year of good, and I know there will be moments I won’t like…But in each, I want to be present, and authentic. I want to allow myself to be me, and to be happy in where I am and who I am. I have goals, yes…But I won’t sacrifice present happiness for the chase of something more.

As our current calendars turn their very last page and a new one is unwrapped, so are lists being made. But this list isn’t the kind you check twice and cross off. The rows scribbled onto paper and typed on a waiting screen are now resolutions, ways we resolve to live this next year better than the one before. Decisions we make and vows we take to be the best version of ourselves we can be on the blank canvas we’re offered in the new year.

While I’m a fan of making great choices and living intentionally, I don’t want to put myself under the pressure of a law for the new year. I don’t want to set myself up to let myself down, and don’t want you too either. Should we make goals? Yes. Should we give ourselves the very best opportunities to make better choices and right decisions. Absolutely!

Many times it can be so easy to get caught up in the whirl of a grand entrance into a fresh year, that we forget to appreciate the moment we’re in, the person we’ve become already…who we are right now.

You see, you already have in you all that you need to soar. And that is what is so exciting about a new year. With the turn of the calendar page, so goes the wide open blank space that is the next chapter in our lives waiting to be written…and we have the opportunity to fill those pages with greatness, the greatness that is already in us waiting to be pulled and worked out from within. It’s not about giving ourselves a list of rules, regulations and orders to follow this year…it’s about giving ourselves the opportunities to dream big, to spark the fire within, to let what’s in our heart seep out and saturate the life around us.

This year, my heart is to be present. I know there will be so much good this year and there will also be plenty of the not-so-good. I know I will have triumphs, and I know there will be times that I’ll drop the ball. There will be moments to celebrate, times of greatness to take pleasure in, and there will be no problem showing up for that…when a dream is realized or a goal is accomplished. I also have no trouble feeling those times where things don’t quite go as planned or I miss the mark. But what about the rest of the time? What about the moments of the in-between? Even with the most amazing of goals and intentions, there is still this thing called life, in which it’s easy to get lost in the “normal” and the schedules. Yet in being present in each moment of living, that’s where we can appreciate the beauty of the in-between, the times where the rhythm of life takes a beat. The moment where the pendulum is swinging from one tick to the next. It can be easy to get lost in the day-to-day of life, either buried underneath or looking out so far that we forget to enjoy what’s right in front of us.

This year, I know you can soar. I know you can reach for your dreams. I know you can write greatness into the pages of 2019. And in the midst of living it out, enjoy who you are…being present wherever you are.

I wish you all a wonderful, blessed and Happy New Year! One cool thing about blogging is getting to meet some great people and make some fantastic friends along the way, and that’s how I feel about you all.

Canadian Train

I Wish You A Merry Christmas

It is finally upon us – Christmas Eve followed by Christmas Day. My favourite holiday of the entire year. I am so excited for tomorrow. I stayed up late wrapping gifts tonight so that tomorrow I can enjoy my time with my family without stressing over the mounds of gifts waiting to be wrapped. 

I wanted to take a moment to share what I feel to be the most important part of Christmas – Christ. I think the following excerpt expresses it best:

“Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done. We find the real joy of Christmas when we make the Savior the focus of the season.

Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, He came forth from heaven to live on earth as mortal man and to establish the kingdom of God. His glorious gospel reshaped the thinking of the world. He lived for us, and He died for us. What can we, in return, give to Him?

Our celebration of Christmas should be a reflection of the love and selflessness taught by the Savior. Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. We feel more kindly one to another. We reach out in love to help those less fortunate. Our hearts are softened. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things. To catch the real meaning of the spirit of Christmas, we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the Spirit of Christ.”  -Thomas Monson

I want to wish each of you a very, Merry Christmas full of love and laughter and family and friends and wrapping paper and presents and happiness and joy. I wish each of you to have whatever Christmas miracle you have been praying for. I believe that magic happens at Christmas. I truly do. And may all of us remember the person whose birth we celebrate, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas to you all, and to all a good night.

Christmas Lights

Confetti

2 Year Blog Anniversary

When I first started this blog, I really did not foresee it becoming what it is today.

One of the things I’m most proud of over the last two years is how I’ve managed to maintain my privacy and integrity, whilst also finding the balance of writing honest and genuine posts. And looking back over my posts from the past two years, it is slightly emotional to see how far I’ve come…geographically, but also personally. So much has happened, both good and bad, but overall I feel an overwhelming sense of gratefulness at all the opportunities I’ve had over the last two years.

I’d like to Thank You all for reading along. I love reading your comments and connecting with you. You have inspired me not only to keep writing but to be more open, more genuine in my writing, and all of that has carried over into how I live my life!

Here’s to another year of blogging. XO

Winter Snow

Be Kind To Yourself

The thought of writing about oneself may stir some anxiety due to fear of being judged as narcissistic, self-centered, self-absorbed, conceited, etc, etc. However, our inner critic can be the worst critic of all. And as cliche as it sounds – if we can’t love ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to love us? For me, promoting a healthy sense of self-worth outweighs any risk of judgement.

I vividly recall having to write an acrostic name poem during elementary school and struggling to come up with words that described me. So, as I sit on my couch tonight full of regret for eating pastries brought home from clinic and guilt for not waking up early enough to hit the gym this morning, here goes my attempt to write a positive ode to myself:

Thoughtful, caring, interactive

I’m reliable, proactive

Down for an outing or adventure

If something new, you’ll be my mentor

Comfortable with leading

Will call you out if misleading

Advocate for those in need

A dog lover of many breeds

A perfectionist constantly inspired

Motivated to grow by those I admire

Smart, sarcastic, smiley

Environmentally-friendly, candid, kindly

Family comes first

Friends down to earth

Finds beauty unrehearsed

Always something to converse

Discount shopping in bursts

Will gladly help unless you’re curt

Spiritually immersed

So hardworking that it hurts

I know what I’m worth

Pumpkins

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

As we dive head first into our turkey pants, deep conversations with loved ones, and all things fall/cozy/rustic…remember just how good it feels to give all the Thanks.

I’m Thankful & Grateful for my beautiful Family, gorgeous Friends near and far and all my Readers – Thank You for being part of my journey.

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving – sharing and creating memories with the ones you love.

Happiness

A New Way Of Life

Hygge – the Danish not-so-easy-to-define word for happiness, coziness, nostalgia, and contentment – is a big part of why Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the happiest places in the world. We, as Canadians, on the other hand, seem to be on a constant pursuit of happiness, yet don’t rank anywhere close to the Danes. What gives?

Maybe – just maybe – instead of pursuing the classic Canadian dream, minimalism, capitalism, or whatever new fad is trending, we should instead pursue the tried-and-true notion of hygge. We know it works, so why not? We’ve got nothing to lose.

Luckily, incorporating aspects of hygge into your life is easy because you get instant gratification. That’s because one of the most important principles of hygge is living in the moment. So all of these things will make you feel good right now.

Ready to embrace hygge and live like the Danish do? Here are things you can do to add hygge to your life:

Dim The Lighting

Hygge is all about the lighting – warm, deep, dim lighting. The fluorescent and intense overhead lighting that has worked its way into our Canadian homes and offices just doesn’t work for the Danes.

In fact, for them, the ideal lighting comes from fireplaces and candles. The yellowish glow, the flickering, even the noise adds to the feeling of hygge.

So open up the fireplace tonight and pull out some candles! And if you’re an anxious worrier like me, don’t stress! There are battery-powered candles that give you the exact same effect, but without the fire hazard…and they’ve got timers!

Make More Soups

Hygge is achieved through simplicity and indulgence. If it makes you feel cozy, even better. If time and thought has been put into its preparation, you’ve got triple the hygge! So what better way to experience (or intensify) hygge, than by making a homemade soup.

So pull out your crock pot and make a stew that will simmer all day. The smell will be amazing, the soup will taste delicious, and you will be indulging without getting too indulgent (if you know what I mean).

Dress To Impress And Be Comfortable

We, as Canadians, are obsessed with dressing to impress and too often it comes at the cost of our comfort. So time to put your thinking cap on and find a way to embrace comfortable clothing without making yourself feel like a slob (because you need to feel comfortable too!).

If you really want to channel your inner hygge, you can start by investing in a really, really comfortable pair of socks. The kind of socks that almost classify as slippers. The ones that you can’t wait to get your feet into after a long day. Those are hygge.

Read A Real Book

Your comfy socks are on, your stew is simmering in the crock pot, so now it’s time to read by yourself…the old fashioned-way.

Get a real book – not your Kindle, phone, or iPad – and read in your favourite cozy nook. Turn your phone off. Let this just be time to relax your body and stimulate your brain.

Read whatever you want. Fiction, non-fiction, romance, suspense. Whatever YOU want.

And don’t feel like it has to be a new book! Pull your Harry Potter collection off the shelf and reread your favourite parts. Grab your favourite classic and reread it one more time!

If It Brings You Joy, Add It

By now, we all know the Konmari Method of cleaning your house – if it doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it.

Well, the hyggelig (Danish for hygge-like) way of cleaning your house is similar, but with one very important twist – if it brings you joy, add it.

Yep, you heard me right. You now have permission to pull your cat figurines back out of hiding, find those horrible pants with holes that everyone (except for you!) hated, and fill your home with things you love.

Be Active Outside

We all know that exercise is good – it makes you healthy, happy, clears your head, blah, blah, blah. So we schedule an hour here or there to go for a run or take a cardio class.

Unfortunately, that’s not the key to happiness…or hygge.

To add more hygge to your life, you need to make exercise fun – like, so fun you don’t even call it exercise. And it needs to happen outside.

So go for a hike, make a snowman, explore the beach, ride your bike.

Doing this doubles your hygge. Here’s why:

There’s something special about being outside. Fresh air and nature are important elements of hygge, so spending a lot of time outside doing something fun will create instant hygge.

The doubling occurs when you come home. You’re tired, but satisfied, so your mind and body will want nothing more than additional hygge. You won’t even have to think twice. Just put on your comfy socks, make a cup of hot cocoa, and settle into your cozy nook for the next chapter of your favourite book.

Make Your Gifts

Giving someone a gift is always a good way to bring happiness to your life as well as theirs. To take that happiness to the next level (the level of hygge), make a gift for them.

I know this is intimidating. Even more, I know this is time-consuming. But THAT is what makes homemade gifts so hyggelig – for both you and the person receiving the gift. A ridiculous amount of time is typically put into making homemade gifts, which adds a lot of thought to the present, but also gives you time to do something out of your normal routine. It’s a break for your mind and body.

Start A Tradition

One of the biggest components of hygge is that warm and cozy feeling that comes with something nostalgic – like waking up on Christmas morning or spending the day preparing for Thanksgiving. These traditions pair naturally with hygge…so why not make more of them?

Whether you start a completely new one (like a special family vacation in the middle of spring) or just build off of one you already have (like adding a mid-day family movie to Christmas), adding a new tradition to your life will definitely increase your hygge exposure.

And the absolute best part of this hygge addition is that you’re spreading the hygge-love to the family and friends that will be joining you.

Attend More Social Get-Togethers

One of the easiest and quickest ways to add hygge to your life is to simply attend (or hold) more social get-togethers.

Strong relationships help make hygge happen, so spending time with friends and family sets you up for more and more happiness.

If you want the most hygge possible, try to keep the gatherings to a small number of people (4-6). This makes the get-together more intimate and you’re more likely to let yourself relax.

Vacation More

I know this is easier said than done, both because of the cost and the time. But THIS (paired with the next section below) is possibly the biggest – and most impactful – difference between the Danish and us.

You need to vacation more. Your hygge depends on it.

It does NOT need to be expensive. It does NOT need to be elaborate. You don’t even need to necessarily go anywhere! Just take time to vacation.

This doesn’t mean take a few days off from work to catch up on chores, finally get your car detailed, and schedule that doctor appointment you’ve been pushing off.

You need to do something fun, new, and relaxing. Something with your family, friends, or just alone. Something that will give you a warm and fuzzy feeling when you look back on it.

Work Less

I know – you can’t vacation more if you work less. You can’t even work less if you don’t vacation more.

Except that you can. And you have to…at least, you do if you really want to create hygge in your life.

What I mean by “work less” is this:

Leave when you say you are going to leave. Don’t stay late. When you’re home, stop working. Prioritize your non-work life the same way you prioritize your work life. Take sick days when you are sick. Set clear expectations with your employer (they may surprise you!).

This may not happen overnight, but again, it is one of the defining characteristics of the Danes and one of the biggest reasons they experience so much more happiness than we do.

So for the sake of hygge, don’t blow this one off! Even if it can only work its way into your 5-year plan, it will be worth it.

I hope you’re able to incorporate at least a few of these hygge ideas into your life! Come back and let me know how they work out for you.