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.

Wheat Field

Vacation From Writing

As some of you know (from being subscribed to my email list), I have taken a bit of a break this summer to refresh and refocus. I have had a lot going on in my personal life these past few months – and I was also in the middle of several commitments – and I just began to feel overwhelmed at the idea of keeping up with this blog.

Simply put, I was putting way too much pressure on myself to grind out a particular number of posts each week. And, every writer knows that when you have a deadline (even if it’s self-imposed), it can be extremely difficult to produce quality content. I felt like I had all of these wonderful post ideas, but I would run out of time to write them well. I wasn’t completely happy with some of the posts I published because I wrote them in haste. I don’t like that feeling one bit!

After much thought and prayer, I decided to take a break from hitting the “publish” button. I would continue to write as I felt inspired, but I would tuck the drafts away for later use. I just needed some time to sit back, enjoy my summer, spend time with Family, put 100% into all of my commitments, read an insane amount of books…and, well, breathe.

So, in a nutshell, that is what I mean when I say I needed to “refresh.” You may also recall my use of the word “refocus,” and you may be wondering why I felt the need to refocus…

When I first started blogging, my purpose was to use this little corner of the web as a place where I could share the lessons I am learning in my walk with life. Over the  past year, however, I began to take notice of what other bloggers were doing, and I felt like what I was doing was inadequate. So I began to explore opportunities and do what other bloggers were doing.

And then I began to ask myself: Why am I blogging? Why do I do what I do? What’s the purpose of this? Am I happy with the content I am putting out there for the world to read?

I realized that I don’t want to be the sort of blogger who posts about all these brands on a continual basis. Promoting the products of others is just not what I am here for. I have no interest in making money from blogging itself. (I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m saying it’s just not me).

Once I realized what I didn’t want to do with blogging, I naturally had to ask myself: What do I want to accomplish by blogging?

After playing around with different types of (non-sponsored) content, and after a break from publishing anything at all, I came up with the following answer:

First and foremost, I am here to encourage you. Anytime the Lord lays a lesson on my heart, you can bet I’ll be right here share it with you. It could be about love, Family, trials…anything at all, really. This has been true from the moment I began blogging, and it will continue to be the case as long as I am blogging.

Secondly, I am here to inspire you to live life well, no matter what season of life you find yourself in. I aim to accomplish this by sharing my life with you – this includes sharing my life’s big moments with you, encouraging you to make your house a home, inspiring you to read more and helping you have some fun/not take life too seriously!

When I write these lighter types of posts, I simply draw from things that inspire me and speak life into my soul! Farmhouse decor, food…food and more food, interactions with people from all walks of life, Family, music, travels, books, recipes…these are all things that I love and want to share with you.

Lastly, I am here to share my skills with you. I am a small business owner. You will find that I use this blog to share my experiences and lessons from time to time. But, I have absolutely no desire to make you feel pressured to buy my products. However, I need a place to share what I am creating with the world. I hope you don’t mind.

If any of that sounds remotely interesting to you, I want to Thank You for being here. For sharing this little corner of the world with me. And, most important, for waiting as I took my break this summer.

As the fictitious character Benjamin Button once put it:

“It’s never too late…to be whoever you want to be…You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing…I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

I really love this quote, and this way of looking at life. It’s never too late to do anything. And if there is one thing I know about myself it’s that I have the courage to adjust, adapt and start all over if necessary in order to live a life I’m proud of, a life that makes me happy.

Until next post!

Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day

Life is a precious gift. There are no guarantees.

This Father’s Day hug your Dad a little tighter; savour the moment a little longer. If you have grievances, let them go and return to love. Appreciate the time together, because you never know how long you’re going to get.

To all the awesome Dad’s in the world…I am sending you a wave of love from my heart. Thank You for your steadfast presence, and fatherly love. Thank you for having our backs, and being our rock! We see you, appreciate you, and love you.

To my Dad,

I recently realized the true depth and breadth of your presence. You may not have been as vocal as Momma, and you may never have been the parent who escorted us around from activity to activity, or even the first parent we called in times of despair – all of that has always been her job. But, I’ve realized that your spirit, your influence, your character, and your quiet, yet strong presence are invaluable to me.

In our Mother’s flurry, you remain calm, together, firm and gentle. And, while I tend to naturally lean more towards my Mother’s worrisome nature, I have the privilege of even a drop of your cool mystique woven into my being.

You’ve taught me to be fair, humble, kind, independent; to be a rebel, a free-spirit, and to be open. In you I see the gift of inherit, impeccable intelligence and the richness born from a devotion to order. I strive to replicate your seemingly effortless dedication to self-love and personal care. You’ve been far from perfect, but I’ve watched you grow and become a better version of yourself, which not only makes me proud, but has given me deep knowing about the gifts life brings with time and maturity.

You are the stick from which I measure the greatness of a man. I am grateful for your love and devotion and my greatest teacher of giving and receiving.

I love you forever and miss you everyday.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

From your daughter with love,

I Love You Mommy

Happy Mother’s Day

Flower Border

Happy Mother’s Day!

So I know we love them dearly all year round, but today is the day to really show it. Shower her with love and attention, spoil her rotten and of course abide by the number one Mother’s Day rule – she’s off duty and banned from lifting a finger.

Unfortunately, I will not be spending Mother’s Day with Momma this year but fear not she will be thoroughly pampered on my next visit to BC on her birthday.

She’s my best friend, my guardian angel, and one of the strongest women I know. I couldn’t live without her.

Look, she’s forever taking care of me…

Mommy

When I started writing this post, I was thinking about how inspiring and amazing Momma is. She has managed to put up with me for 34 years for a start.

But it got me thinking about all the incredible things she’s achieved – raising four children, working hard every single day, living in another country that isn’t the one she grew up in, caring for her own Mom, who is a world away when she became unwell and still being one of the most selfless people I know. She will move mountains for me, my siblings and her grandkids. In fact, she’ll try to move mountains for just about anybody.

We have also just celebrated International Women’s Day, which, at its heart, is about celebrating the achievements of women, past and present, from all around the world. It’s about praising those women who have broken through boundaries, inspired younger generations and given others a voice.

For me, my Mother is my strength, inspiration and support. She has been one of my biggest cheerleaders since I started this blogging adventure. During the times when I have stopped believing in myself, she has unlocked my strength within and encouraged me to keep on going.

Today we celebrate Mothers. But it’s equally important for us to celebrate ourselves.

Whoever you are, wherever you are reading this – you are capable of incredible things.

We can achieve anything we put our minds to. So, let’s continue to break through glass ceilings, chart new adventures, dream big dreams and lift each other. Because when we lift each other, we rise together.

And in the moments of doubt and uncertainty (which are bound to happen), our Mothers will always be there believing in us.

Mommy

Momma, I want to Thank You for helping me to grow into the strong woman I am today and for always having belief in my dreams. I am always thinking of you. Your encouragement on all of my endeavors is all that I hope for and my main goal in life is to make you and Dad proud.

We have been to hell and back and I can never repay you for everything you have done for me. You mean more to me than everything in the world.

When I grow up, I want to be like you – kind, beautiful, strong, wise and just pure awesome.

I LOVE YOU AND I CHERISH YOU MOMMY.

BIG BEARS HUGS, ALWAYS.

And BIG bear hugs to all Moms! I hope you enjoy a glass of Prosecco or two.

Have a cherished Mother’s Day!

Sunset

Living Simple Is Simply The Best

One of the greatest things I’ve learned from travelling is that most people want the same things in life. They want to be happy and healthy, and they want their families and friends to be happy and healthy, too. We all work and laugh and love. We all bleed the same blood. And the truth is, despite the endless barrage of bad news in the media, most people around the world are good. Most people will help you out if you’re in a bind, and most will go out of their way to do so. I’ve met people from all walks of life who have opened up their doors to me (or their arms, or their bottles of vodka, or whatever it is that I needed at that moment in time). While not every single experience I’ve had has been peaches and cream, for the most part the human race helps itself out, and I love that about us.

TraditionsThis photo makes me smile. New friends from all over the world wearing traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai with matching head piece and conical leaf hat.   Dog Lover“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner” ~Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

Good Eats And Beautiful People

“For Vietnamese people, food is our life; we are forever eating, cooking and talking about food. Food is communication – food is culture” 

Vietnamese FoodSome of the best hidden gems are tucked away in the alley ways – don’t judge based on looks, as they are forever deceiving.

Banh MiBanh Mi on the streets of Vietnam. I have eaten these every day sometimes twice a day, always with different ingredients and always just as good as the last!

Banh CuonThis is one of my all time favourite Vietnamese dishes – Banh Cuon! Enjoying all the street foods Vietnam has to offer.

VietnamMy kind of place…cooking a nice meal for the ones I love and for new friends I’ve grown to adore.

VietnamQuoc starting his work day at his Banh Mi Bakery at 3:00am every single day.

Cafe Sua DaCa Phe Trung – Vietnamese Coffee With Vanilla Egg Custard.

Vietnam EatsSweet Lady enjoying her breakfast.

VietnamIsn’t he just the cutest – so precious!

Food Making99 years old and still making Banh. I want to be just like this beautiful woman when I’m 99…

Colourful Beach

Livin’ And Lovin’ Life

Door

The key to every door lies within you

Everybody is on their own path. There is no right or wrong way to travel, and everyone has their own reasons for choosing the path they end up on. While we were motorbiking through Southern Vietnam, some people were enjoying a luxury Mekong River cruise. There is nothing wrong with that. You do not have to backpack across the Congo to truly experience the world or be the next Indiana Jones to ‘live life to the fullest’. You just need an open mind and open heart. Accept everyone for who they are.

Beach

A smile is the same in any language. It doesn’t matter if no common language exists between people – a smile means the same in any culture. It is amazing how far a smile can really take you in any part of the world. We’ve made entire friendships with people we cannot communicate with simply by smiling and laughing a lot. There really is a universal language in this world, and it doesn’t take a lot to learn it.

Beach

I never want to stop traveling…for as long as I live.

One More Year

Birthday

Every year close to my birthday I like to look back on the past year and reflect. I am big on not dwelling on the past, but acknowledging it is a great learning tool, sometimes looking at a bigger picture helps to see things I may have otherwise missed. As I look back on the past year there are two huge themes I see over and over; surrender and change.

I tend to suffer from something I like to call “Christmas Eve Syndrome”, meaning that as a child I would always have something big and exciting coming up and somehow manage to get grounded or lose that privilege right before it would materialize.

Similar to a kid so excited on Christmas eve that become antsy to the point of misbehaving or becoming impossible to deal with. Patience is a virtue that doesn’t come easily to me. I make up my mind and then I go for it. Sitting, waiting, preparing; all fairly new concepts in my life. I suppose it may be out of fear of things not happening if they don’t right now. You know the best way to overcome fear?

Yep, walking through it in spite of it.

Luckily, being an adult, I am a little better at communicating when things are going on. Limbo is super uncomfortable giving me tons of opportunities to grow in my faith and who I am. Deep down it is probably rooted in a place of me needing to trust the process and understand that I really do not have control over anything outside of me.

Being present in the moment is the best place for me when I am in any sort of transition. I am a dreamer, I like to speculate, and rarely do these dreams and speculations come anywhere close to what the outcome ever really looks like leading to disappointment, missing out on the beauty of the experience, or just plain disbelief.

When I am centered in the moment, not looking too far ahead, I am able to see the beauty in each moment, the silver lining in each otherwise seeming disaster, those little signs that tell you that you are exactly where you are meant to be. Transition has been non-stop in almost every area of my life this past year and staying centered has been a challenge.

I am not making any plans because something I have learned is that the entire direction of life can change in a blink of an eye. I am simply opening myself up for universal guidance on where my next step is, and I will deal with that when I get there.

Another thing I have learned this past year is that life doesn’t slow down. If you keep your plate out, life will keep piling it on. I am responsible for taking care of myself, having boundaries, knowing what I am and what I am not capable of taking on, or at least admitting when it is too much. I have never been in a position where I have more opportunity than I have time. It is an odd and foreign place.

I am learning balance. I am learning that I don’t need to feel guilty for taking time for myself, taking time for leisure, even when there is still work that I could be doing. I am learning to accept my past without shame or guilt, to accept myself for who and where I am now. I am also experiencing first hand that progress is not linear. I have always heard it, experienced it on a level, but this past year there are some areas of my life that I had always considered solid that I feel like I have major work to do in now, and other areas that I have never seemed to grasp that come easily. Now I truly understand that life is more like a dance.

I am really excited to see what this next year holds for me. I am truly blessed for the life I have today and all of the love and joy that fill it!