The Birthday List: Go to a morning rave.

morning-glory-1morning-glory-2morning-glory-3As a teenager, I was perfectly at home in the throes of mosh pits at punk rock shows or flailing my limbs around to ska music, but I didn’t get into raving. Techno has never been my style of music and it just wasn’t my scene. And these days it’s pretty rare for me to stay out all night dancing. I’ve come to relish small gatherings of my favourite people (preferably with champagne and lots of shimmying) and relaxing evenings by myself, so if I do stay up past my bedtime, it’s usually by accident – because I’m having so much fun, and not because I’ve gone looking for a party that never stops.

And I’m really not a morning person. I’d like to be and I’m trying, but my bed is so cosy and sometimes it’s hard to pry myself out of it.

So why on Earth would I want to go to a morning rave?

Because my birthday list is all about trying new things. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Growing. Expanding.

And it sounded like fun.

Morning raves swap the alcohol for coffee. Toss the drugs for green juice. But keep the wild dancing and glittery, neon-infused aesthetics. Except instead of partying until the wee hours of morning, you wake up in the wee hours to shake your buns before work.

On the last Wednesday of every month, Morning Glory descends on the Oval Space in East London. Known as “conscious raving,” the phenomenon seems to have started in London but there are now events across Europe and North America.

I had a day off in lieu last Wednesday, but instead of having a lie-in, I hopped reluctantly crawled out of bed  at 5:45, slipped on a tutu, donned a pair of Crown & Glory ears, smeared my face with glitter, and got ready to dance.

When I arrived, there was already a long queue out the door and the mix of people in work clothes, kids in Halloween costumes (coolest. parents. ever.), and partygoers in elaborate, glittery costumes instantly put a smile on my face. The Morning Glory unicorns were there to greet us, glitterfy faces, and make sure everyone was having a good time.

Once inside, I grabbed an Americano and joined the revelers while we all shimmied to the Ghostbusters’ theme song.

I hadn’t been able to find anyone to go with me, but it didn’t matter. I quickly met a group of women who gifted me with a pair of glasses that make light look like rainbows and pulled me into their ranks. And being on my own pushed me to meet new people and get comfortable twirling on my own.

I stayed for about an hour and a half. As the music changed from cheesy dance numbers to drum and bass I decided to make my way home and prepare for the rest of my day off.

Despite being up much earlier than normal, spending my morning surrounded by colourful, friendly, sober ravers perked me up. I found the whole experience really fun and uplifting. It would be an especially quirky way to start a work day and I’m looking forward to doing it again in the new year.

How about you, have you been to a morning rave? Would you ever?

With stars in my eyes,


Photographs by Nicole Latchana.

The Birthday List: Watch Psycho.

psychopsychopsycho3I’m far from a film buff. If one of my favourite authors is releasing a book, I’ll pre-order it on Amazon but I’ll often give new blockbusters a pass at the cinema, presuming that I’ll catch them on “video” before forgetting about them completely. And growing up I usually watched the same films over and over again (hello Peter Pan, Bambi, and Dumbo as a child and Empire Records, Clueless, and Fight Club as a teenager).

Needless to say there are more than a few classic films that I’ve never seen. So when compiling this year’s birthday list and thinking about what new experiences I wanted to have, I decided to watch a classic film that I’d heard referenced countless times without ever seeing for myself. I chose Psycho. I’d only seen three Hitchcock films previously, so I knew some serious catching up to do.

Luckily Matthew has a copy on DVD. One evening we cuddled up in bed to give it a watch. We actually ended up watching it in two parts – because that’s what happens when you put on a film right before bedtime.

In case you’ve never seen it, Psycho is the story of Marion Crane, who steals $40,000 from her employer and goes on the run. She disappears after checking into the Bates Motel and having an encounter with its propietor, creepy mama’s boy, Norman Bates. Marion’s sister Lila and boyfriend Sam Loomis, along with Detective Arbogast, set out to find out what’s happened to her.

I’m surprised that years of pop culture references hadn’t spoiled the ending for me. And while the film wasn’t quite what I was expecting (that shower scene is way overhyped!), I really enjoyed it. Psycho has that unsettling suspense that builds slowly (very slowly sometimes) and there was at least one moment near the end that almost made me jump out of my skin.

Have you seen Psycho? What classic film is on your must-watch list?

Love, thunderstorms, & the silver screen,

The Birthday List: Go to The Blogcademy.

The Blogcademy BerlinAround the mid-year point I decided to do some reflecting on my birthday list and to swap out any items that I’d decided I really wasn’t interested in. I completely agree with Danielle LaPorte’s writings on letting go of dreams that are no longer jiving and choosing feelings over objectives. If it doesn’t feel good and light a fire in your heart, then what’s the point? So I chose to strike off three of the goals from my list and picked new ones that I was actually excited for (you can see the amendments here).

One of these items was “Completing B-School.” I initially signed up in the winter, but after wading into the content, I decided it’s not for me. While I’m still working to create financial independence and do my own thing full-time, I’m not ready to leave the job I love and a lot of the material wasn’t well-suited for blog-based, digital entrepreneurs. I wanted an intensive learning opportunity that was aligned with my goals and plans for world domination (cue maniacal laughter).

Enter The Blogcademy.

This two-day workshop seemed like exactly what I needed to get the focus and expertise required to take my blog to the next level. I’ve been following Gala’s blog for years and her work was pivotal to my own self-love journey. All three of the headmistresses have inspired me to create a beautiful, helpful blog and it seemed like a dream come true to learn from three women who are all so uniquely talented at their crafts. So I was elated when my scholarship video was selected and I was offered a spot in their Berlin class.

the-blogcademy-berlin-2At the end of July I got in a plane and flew to Germany. I settled into my AirBnB apartment and got ready for a weekend of rigorous learning, laughter spiked conversation, intense brainstorm sessions, and constant note-taking. In between classes I gorged myself on Vietnamese food and vegan burgers, oogled colourful street art, was brought to tears by the V&A David Bowie exhibition, and caught up with old friends over beer. I absolutely adored my time in Berlin and, most importantly, left The Blogcademy bursting with inspiration and new ideas. Here are the five most important things I learned:

Have a plan. Anyone can start a blog and so most of us do it without much planning beforehand. But we accomplish more when we have a plan. This can just be a short document that outlines your mission and goals, how you’ll measure them, and how you plan to achieve them. Allow it to evolve organically, but putting some thought into this gives you something to refer to when you’re feeling lost or unfocused.

Consistency is king. Quality content is always important but if your readers can’t rely on you to be around when you say you will be, eventually they’ll stop checking in. It’s better to post less frequently but consistently, then to plan to post every day and then find yourself constantly behind. If you end up being able to post more often, this will be an extra special bonus for your readers.

the-blogcademy-berlin-4Be distinctive. Choose words that paint a detailed portrait and make people’s eyes light up. Design photo elements that make each post look undeniably like yours. Wear a statement piece that makes someone want to come over and talk to you (case in point: my new, faceted United Nude shoes from AllSole). Write posts that make people think and look at an issue from a new angle. Take photos that show off your point of view. Standing out from the crowd makes you interesting. It gives people a reason to follow you rather than the millions of other blogs out there.

Write for someone specific. Know who your reader is. What she likes. What she wants. What her hopes and dreams are. Create a vivid picture of her in your mind and write every post for this person. It’s a lot easier to write compelling content when you know who you’re trying to reach, rather than writing for everyone and creating something totally mediocre.

Create value. People are looking for content that teaches them something or helps them in some way. Your blog might provide inspiration on how to dress or instruct people on how to make amazing food, but if you’re creating something useful, you’re more likely to get people coming back for more.

the-blogcademy-berlin-3The headmistresses emphasize from the first minute of class that The Blogcademy alone is not going to make you a superstar blogger; only years of dedication can do that. But I walked away from the weekend with renewed focus, more confidence in my brand, a better understanding of how to monetize my website, and an imagination brimming with new ideas for content.

Of course it’s important to consider carefully before investing in any new venture, but I think beginner bloggers would benefit from getting so much knowledge in one place rather than learning everything through trial and error, while more seasoned bloggers can gain valuable insights on how to up their game.

If you’re planning on becoming a blogcadette, these are my tips for making the most out of your experience:

Be realistic about your expectations, but also know what you want to get out it. There’s only so much that can be covered in two days, but the headmistresses are more than willing to provide guidance about your individual situation. Come armed with questions and don’t be afraid to ask them.

the-blogcademy-berlin-5Get your blog up to scratch. Make it as good as you can before the workshop so that when you get your individual report card you’ll be getting feedback on your very best work and then you can make it even better.

Follow through and review. The Blogcademy blues are real. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with ideas, so break up what you’ve learned into actionable items and start chipping away at them one by one, day by day. And don’t forget to review your notes regularly because you’ll find new ways to implement this knowledge the more you progress.

Take advantage of the community. I love that The Blogcademy connects you with badass babes, not only in your class but around the world. There’s a private forum and monthly Google hangouts for blogcadettes, and all of the other women are so willing to provide their feedback on everything from design and content to newsletter formats and digital product ideas. One of the best things about blogging is making new friends across the globe and The Blogcademy makes it easy to become part of a community.

And of course if you have any questions about my experience, I’d be happy to answer them!

Thank you so much to Shauna, Gala, and Kat for sending me to class – it was definitely a life-changing experience.

Love, glitter ears, & rainbow confetti,




Photos by Shell De Mar.

The Birthday List: Go On A Picnic

IMG_4836When writing a birthday list, I think it’s really important to include some items that are quite simple. Make sure they’re things you’re itching to do, but that they aren’t going to take you all year to check off. “Going on a picnic” was one of those items for me this year.

I added it to the list, not because it was something I’ve never done (we used to go on one nearly every week of the summer when I was little), but because I haven’t done in so long.

My choice of picnic foods has certainly changed (grown-up Sarah thinks Cheese Whiz and mayonnaise sandwiches are disgusting), but my desire to feast on the grass with some of my favourite people hasn’t.

Last Saturday I rounded up a group of friends and we made our way to London Fields to do just that (no Cheese Whiz sandwiches allowed). In typical British fashion, the weather was a little bit dodgy, but we managed to avoid getting rained on and had a really nice afternoon.

London Fields on a Saturday in the summer is one of my favourite places. It’s crammed with people BBQing in everything from disposable tinfoil contraptions to full barrels that they had brought hitched to their bicycles. There was colourful bunting hung from trees and one group celebrated a birthday wearing pointed hats and elaborate get-ups. There’s often music playing, people dancing, and it’s always a good time.

Our picnic was definitely on the low key side of things. We snacked on hummus and crisps, popcorn from Broadway Market, vegan potato salad, and grilled portobello mushrooms. For dessert there was Prosecco and homemade chocolate chip cookies – perfection!

It was a great chance to catch up with some of my favourite ladies and for them to meet my boyfriend. We chatted about everything from the ins and outs of Tinder to our upcoming holidays and the meaning of contemporary art.

I think those are the ingredients of a perfect picnic: delicious food, great friends, and interesting conversation. It doesn’t need to look like something off of Pinterest. Simplicity is key.

What about you: have you had a picnic lately? What are your favourite foods to bring on one?

Love, sunny days, & checkered blankets,

The Birthday List: Become confident using my camera on manual.

unnamedI’ve owned my DSLR for 2.5 years and up until last weekend I was still taking all of my photos on auto. It felt like this was a big Birthday List goal to tackle, but I was determined to tack it on and make this the year I finally flipped that little dial over to ‘M.’ I’d done some research and learned how to change the settings on my camera, but I still wasn’t  sure how to bring it all together. Luckily the light bulb finally went off last weekend when I attended an event sponsored by Simply Health.

I joined a group of other bloggers at the gorgeous Greenlight Marketing offices (they have foosball AND a jukebox!) for a photography workshop taught by Paul Hames. It was an amazing day filled with how-to’s, tips, and tricks for capturing great images. Paul walked us through the basics of using the manual settings on our camera before we headed out for a walk through Kings Cross to try out the techniques on our way to KERB Market.

IMG_3872Before hitting up the food trucks we stopped to do a mini portrait session. I teamed up with Jess and Emma and we took turns taking photos of each other. The harsh sunlight was working against us, but we managed to find a bit of shade to take cover in.

IMG_3886IMG_3885It was a tough decision figuring out what to have for lunch (I wanted to eat all the things!), but I ended up settling on spicy tofu noodles with veggies, peanuts, and crispy shallots from Hanoi Kitchen. It was definitely a good choice!

IMG_3895And I couldn’t resist a few doughnut bites from You Doughnuts. You get to choose your sugar (vanilla), sauce (salted caramel), and toppings (sprinkles). These were over-the-top decadent, but oh-so good. I don’t know if I can ever go back to regular doughnuts!

After eating (and photographing our lunches), we headed back to the office for tips on getting the most out of our cameras and taking great photographs.

IMG_3904I’ve been taking photographs like crazy since last week and I haven’t taken my camera off ‘M’ since. I still have a lot to learn but I’m finally feeling confident using my camera on manual. Here are my top takeaways from the workshop:

heartTaking a photograph means considering sensitivity (ISO), light (aperture), and timing (shutter speed) to correctly expose the image, or create the effect you’re looking for.

heartStart at the lowest available aperture setting on your camera and work your way up to get a feel for its effect. The lower the aperture setting, the more light is getting into your camera.

heartLook at your light meter and adjust shutter speed to find the correct exposure (moving the arrow to the centre).

heartWhen taking a portrait, concentrate on getting the person’s eyes in focus above anything else.

heartTo get something in focus that’s not in the centre of your frame first centre it in your viewfinder, hold your shutter button down halfway to focus, and then pan your camera to compose your photo before taking the picture.

heartSalvage a shot that’s not crisp by making it black & white and adding blur to make it more atmospheric and emotive.

heart“Perfectionists are not happy people are they? … Be flexible. Make it real.” There are a lot of rules for taking the ‘perfect’ photograph but the most captivating images are often created by breaking them. Focus on capturing moments, rather than always taking perfectly composed photographs.

heartBe prepared. Always have your camera with you and don’t be afraid to take that once in a lifetime photo (in other words: if you see Ryan Gosling walking down the street, get that camera out and click, click, click!)

Thank you so much to Simply Health, Paul, and Greenlight Marketing for a really fun and informative day…I even won a bottle of Prosecco for sending the ‘best’ tweet!

Do you use your camera on manual? What are your favourite tips for taking a good photo?

Happy Thursday, shutterbugs!




Top photo courtesy of Joes Bloggers, edited with PicLab HD for iPhone.

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