The Expat Diaries: 6 Months In

piclab (6)A few weeks after I moved here, one of my flatmates showed me an article by a Spanish man who had moved to London looking for work. He described a common expat experience: The first month your savings account is cushioned and you run around the city starry-eyed, visiting free museums and snapping snapshots of landmarks to send back to your family.

But quickly your savings account looks a lot less cushy and the reality of living in a huge, unfamiliar sets in. You worry about whether you’ll ever find a job – how will you pay your rent if you don’t? You’re constantly lost. The tube is too crowded. You don’t know people to make plans with on the weekend. You wonder, can you really make it here?

The author of that article moved home after four months and I was so worried that that was going to be me. A lot of my time was spent worrying. About finding work. Having enough money. Making the most of my time here, in case I didn’t end up having that much of it.

The first week of April marked my 6-month anniversary of living in London.

I’m finally starting to feel settled and that’s one thing I didn’t expect: how long that would take.

There are still many moments when I stick out as the token Canadian. Like when I order “over easy eggs” (just fried eggs here). Or call “Stropshire” “Strope-something-or-other.” Or I have to ask someone to repeat themselves three times because I’m still a bit muddled by their accent. But that’s part of being an expat: finding your way somewhere new, even if it means fumbling a lot of the time.

I cherish those moments when I feel a part of this city that I’m so in love with.

When a man at a market across the river recognises me from work.

Couriers who wave and know me by name.

The barista who remembers how I like my coffee on a Sunday, which is different than during the week.

Creating traditions with new friends.

The little signs of familiarity that we disregard when we’ve lived somewhere for a long time, when we’re naturally in sync with the rhythms of a place, become precious when a city is just beginning to unfold itself for you. When you’re just beginning to make it your home.

It feels silly now, all of those things I was worried about.

It’s like going on a first date and wanting to step out of it in the throes of a long-term relationship.

These things take time to cultivate. And they always require allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.

Some expats will move home much sooner than they’d hoped. Some relationships will self-destruct, even though we thought they were “the one.” That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. Because we learn and we grow and we try something new. And sometimes we are absolutely triumphant.

Sometimes the dream comes true, in all of it’s messy, unexpected glory, and it’s time to start chasing the next one.

Here’s to plunging in headfirst,

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Girlfriends know each others’ favourite flowers.

Fch_pop-69Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to an event put on by Funny how flowers do that. Jessie and I went down to their pop-up shop in Clerkenwell to learn about spring flower trends while trying our hands at floral arranging and cupcake decorating.

I really loved the concept behind this event. Flowers are almost exclusively marketed as something that men are meant to buy for women. Something we’re supposed to want but never get for ourselves, as if that would ruin their beauty. Instead the Holland Flower Council is mixing things up a bit, suggesting we buy flowers for our friends, and gave us the opportunity to spend the day learning new ways to incorporate flowers into our own lives – all while being served by the beautiful Flower Boys (see below).

Fch_pop-55Admittedly, they were hardly shaking up traditional gender rolls given the planned activities for the day. But luckily it was all right up our alley. We had a lot of fun and I learned a few things as well.

Fch_pop-22IMG_2766After meeting everyone, we went downstairs to have our hair styled. I asked for something vintage-inspired and was given this amazing victory roll with cute flyaway curls at the front. I’ve never received so many compliments on a hairstyle – I can’t wait to learn how to do these myself (this video by Pinup Doll Ashley Marie looks really helpful). And I was definitely inspired to start pinning fresh flowers into my hair. Surprisingly, they survived for the rest of the day and a night out.

Fch_pop-56IMG_2769Next up was cupcake decorating. This perfectly coiffed beauty showed us how to make teeny tiny roses out of fondant (we used a method very similar to this one). We piped icing onto our cakes (like this!) and then went mental decorating with candy, sprinkles, and edible glitter. Working with the icing was really tricky and while most of the desserts I cook up are of the vegan, whole foods variety, it was fun to create something so colourful.

flowerarrangingPerhaps my favourite part of the day was creating our own hand-tied flower arrangements. I buy myself flowers every week, but being budget conscious I usually opt for a £3 bunch of roses or whatever’s on sale at the flower market. Instead we were given free reign to incorporate whatever flowers we wanted into our creations. I opted for roses, ranunculus, and shredded tulips.

We learned that the key to a beautiful bouquet is holding high up on the stem in the crook of your thumb and keeping it at an angle, turn the stem, add another flower at the same angle, turn, add, etc. When you’re done, wrap a piece of string around where you’ve been holding and tie it tight.

I’m hardly ready to be a florist, but perhaps these tricks will help me turn my flower market bargains into gorgeous bouquets.

So tell me, when was the last time you pinned flowers in your hair? And the question of the hour: do you know your best friend’s favourite flower?

To pastels, petals, & glitter…
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With the exception of photos 4 and 6, all photos courtesy of Funny how flowers do that.

What I Wore: How to Dress Like an Urban Pixie

IMG_2862When SammyDress offered to let me choose an item from their website, I was instantly drawn to this flowy mint green skirt. I’ve worn this outfit twice now and each time a complete stranger has told me I look like a fairy. Being an urban pixie, that’s a major compliment in my books.

On this particular day I’d originally styled my hair in tight ringlets, but I was lucky enough to attend the Funny how flowers do that event and they styled it into this amazing vintage roll. Here’s a look at what I wore…

IMG_2800IMG_2809ootdIMG_2853I’m wearing a striped top from H&M, a tulle skirt from SammyDress, a thrifted glitter belt, vintage shoes, tights from H&M, bag from Joules, necklace and ring from GalaxyRoxJewellery.

So how does one dress like an urban pixie?

It’s all about mixing soft, feminine pieces with edgier garments. Pair combat boots with a pale pink, ballerina-inspired dress. Wear bold patterns with your favourite tutu (don’t own one? SammyDress is a great place to look for low cost options). Add fresh flowers or glittery headgear to your hair. Adorn yourself with sparkly accessories. Be brave with mixing colours. Prepare to dazzle.

Here’s to dressing magically,
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Bloggers London Fashion Week

IMG_2752Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to attend Bloggers London Fashion Week. I wasn’t able to make it down for most of the events, but on Wednesday evening Jessie and I headed to central London to partake in the fun.

The whole thing was organised by Bloggers Love, who do an amazing job of connecting brands and bloggers. I have to admit, we were spoiled rotten.

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The event took place in The Penthouse, which offers an amazing view of central London and we were given the opportunity to chat with representatives from some of the UK’s top beauty brands, sample their wares, and even take home a few goodies.

Bass Budds had teamed up with award-winning manicurist Roxanne Campbell, who was on site giving mini manicures that matched the company’s new fashion line of earbuds (studded with real Swarovski crystal!) I took home a pair in fuchsia and I’ve been using them everyday. I’d been using over-the-ear headphones for the past couple of years and found them bulky to carry around. These are so much easier to stash in my bag and I can’t help loving that they double as a vibrant accessory.

I picked up a bag of samples from Bravura London, a skincare company that creates natural but very effective products. Having just been on holiday, I’ve put my skin through a lot – drinking too much, eating lots of dessert, falling asleep with my makeup on, etc. etc. But using these products has been making a big difference to keeping my skin clear and glowing.

I was also treated to a few freebies from Umberto Giannini. It was perfect timing as I’ve been looking for a new shampoo and their Mend My Hair collection is specially formulated to rejuvenate coloured hair without causing any fading.

And my glittery makeover was courtesy of The Parlour (look for them if you’re heading to a festival this summer). I felt very David Bowie and am tempted to try my hand at recreating the look for a big night out (it screams NYE, doesn’t it?)

There were quite a few other brands there that I didn’t have a chance to chat with and as the fashion show was a bit delayed, I had to miss it. It was still wonderful to connect with such great brands and to start planning some exciting future collaborations. I had a really excellent time and can’t wait to see what Bloggers Love comes up with next!

To sequins & designer marshmallows,
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The Self-Love Book Club Reads Man’s Search for Meaning

franl“He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.” - Nietzsche

This month the Self-Love Book Club read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, which was chosen by my good friend Eric.

This was a much different book than those we’ve read already, which were explicitly focused on spirituality and self-improvement.

While Frankl touches on these subjects, the book is a powerful memoir of his experience surviving internment in a Nazi concentration camp and an explication of the branch of psychotherapy he practices, logotherapy.

Throughout the book, Frankl comes back to this quote from Nietzsche again and again. It sums up the underlying principle of the text, which is all human life is meaningful. There is meaning in suffering but when we perceive our lives as meaningless, they deteriorate. This can cause sickness and mental disturbances, or in extreme circumstances, even death. But by orienting ourselves towards the meaning in our lives we’re able to overcome even the most appalling of circumstances.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Man’s Search for Meaning was named one of the most influential books of all time. And I can understand why. I often read on my lunch break and during the week that I was reading this book, I often found myself in tears over the horrors he was describing. But woven throughout the narrative is a clear message. We always have a choice in how we take up our circumstances.

This is even more explicitly clear in the second half of the book, where he goes on to detail the principles of logotheraphy and the techniques he used with patients to help them overcome their neuroses. Essentially, it all comes down to choice to recognize the unique meaning of our lives. Whether you view this meaning through secular or spiritual terms seems inconsequential. You don’t have to believe in destiny or necessarily even a higher power, but to recognize your life as meaningful, even in the face of suffering.

He gives the example of prisoners who found meaning in the thought of one day being reunited with our loved ones or in the spiritual growth offered by the experience. Meaning orients us towards the future. It gives us something to live for.

I found Frankl’s words so rich with wisdom and it left me with a lot to think about. About what we choose to find meaningful. How we choose to interpret the circumstances we face. The things we choose to think about and place value on.

If you’ve read it as well, I’d love to know what you thought.

In April we’ll be reading This I Know and in May, Personal Development for Smart People. If you’d like to read along with us, it would be great to have you join the Facebook page.

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