Decluttering and Sharing in Isolation!

For many of you who know me well, there is nothing I love more than decluttering. Despite the fact that I already keep a minimalist approach to my belongings, I am still surprised by the amount of things in my home I do not use! Not to mention, the amount of food, perishable and non-perishable, which goes to waste. A little adds up. over time.

Almost a year ago I came across an app called ‘OLIO’. It was advertised as a food-sharing app meant to be used in your local neighbourhood to redistribute foods you would not be able to use before the best before date or otherwise were throwing away. I also discovered that you could share non-food items such as toiletries, kitchen gadgets, clothing and so on. At the time, I was living closer to the city and did not find there to be that many active users. However, I did have a great experience giving away some non-perishables and received freshly baked cookies from a local who retrieved some of my items! This was a pleasant surprise as Olio is entirely FREE and prides itself on this. Needless to say, this kind gesture went a long way.

Fast forward a year later and now I am a little further north of the city. I recently started a new diet and therefore had many things to share from my pantry. As I started to share I was so impressed with how large the community had grown. There are 28,503 users in a 2km distance from where I live. All of my items are requested within hours and then retrieved within 48 hours! Given COVID, I have resorted to contactless pick-ups by leaving things outside and this has worked well (I was worried that people may steal things!). After having such a positive experience with sharing food, I started to share several household items that I was no longer using.

5 Reason I love OLIO

  1. It feels good to share!
  2. It is great for the environment
  3. It is simple – you don’t even need to leave your home
  4. The app and community are full of like-minded people
  5. I can benefit from getting free things without having to purchase

What a great idea for an app and way for us to quickly and easily eliminate the things we no longer need/use without sending them to the landfill! This is only one of the great things Olio does. They also partner with local shops, restaurants, grocery stores etc. where Olio users like myself will retrieve and redistribute food. The more I learn about OLIO and their impact, the more I want to support the cause. Check out the impact they have had so far! https://olioex.com/about/our-impact/

What do you think – would you use this in your neighbourhood/city/country? If so why or why not?

6 things I am doing in isolation.

All the things we would love to do if we only had more time. Love to do if only we were not so busy living our lives. During isolation, with no commute and no need to venture more than a few mile radius for anything but groceries and exercise, I have made time to do some of these things below.

1. Talking on the Phone

I know, such a simple thing, yet so hard to find time for especially when you friends and family live in different time zones (Thanks, Canada and Australia!) Now that I am working from home, like many of you, I am finding a lot more time to talk with my Mom and others. I am enjoying this and love that I do not have to worry about missing a call because I am sleeping or having to ‘scheduling’ time to talk with friends and family. Being home 24/7 means finding time to talk with loved ones becomes easier.

2. Waking up at 5am

I know, crazy, right? Maybe for you but for me it has been great. I though it it would become too easy to sleep in, get sucked in to Netflix etc. and decided that getting into a regular sleep (earlier) habit could not hurt me. I find I am more productive in the morning and get in my exercise before I find excuses later on in the day not to. Lastly, I love the quiet in the morning. Being most people, hearing the birds outside and if I am lucky, seeing the sun rise. I wake up in the morning, make a tea and light candles before curling up on the couch to a good book.

Waking up to Crouch End and pretty pink sky.

3. Read a Book (And actually finish it!)

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am terrible for starting and not finishing books. I could also probably win an award for the worlds slowest reader! More likely, I am easily distracted and can not focus on a book without my mind racing to ten other things I could/should be doing. While in isolation, with plenty of time and fewer distractions I have read these three books which I recommend.

4. Yoga at Home

Several years ago, a good friend of mine told me about an online Yoga class on YouTube, Yoga With Adriene. We did one video together and while I enjoyed it, I never found the time or made it a priority to do after that day. Since starting running last year, I have enjoyed the benefits of yoga a lot more. Several times a month I would go to a yoga studio in Shoreditch with my friend, Roxane, and have a coffee afterwards. Not ready to give up this habit, I decided to give home yoga another go. I am currently doing Adriene’s 30 Day ‘Home’ series each morning and am loving it. The videos are only 20-30 minutes each and a great way to stretch before spending hours sitting at the desk with minimal activity. Before I got started I bought myself a pretty new yoga mat for inspiration. Very please I did as they now appear to be sold out!

5. Cooking and Meal Planning

I think this has to be the number one pass-time in quarantine as we are all now having to eat 100% or close there to of our meals at home. And of course, with all this time on our hands we want to eat well! My friends having been video chatting and baking together each Sunday afternoon which has been fun. The only downside – not being able to share our baked goods with each other! Personally, I have been working my way through all the recipes in these two cookbooks I own.

6. Exploring My Community

With just one form of exercise per day, there is only so far you can walk and/or run! I have been switching it up between my local park (Priory Park), an abandoned railway (Parkland Walk) and some nearby forested areas (Queen’s Wood and Highgate Wood). What I find the most enjoyable is my walks in Priory Park where I am starting to recognise my neighbours and pass the same people each day. I tend to go early in the morning at the same time to avoid the crowds and enjoy the park when it is calmer.

What have you been doing? I would love some suggestions in the comments below!

Some further ‘things to try’ for me include:

  • Planting and growing herbs
  • Baking bread
  • Puzzles
  • Sewing (this one is a long shot!)
  • Cycling

I Saw the Northern Lights!

Looking back now, little did we know that our trip to Tromso, Norway would be the last for quite some time and what a great memory to end on before self isolation. Our trip was filled with snow (lots and lots of snow), snowmobiling, hot soups, hot chocolate and hours gazing up at the sky wishing and hoping for the Northern Lights to appear.

Getting There. Flights to Tromso, as you could imagine, are a lot less frequent than other destinations. As a result, we had a very early wake-up to catch our 6am flight from Gatwick airport. On the positive, we landed around 9am in Tromso to a beautiful snowfall, I mean proper snowflakes, the kind for building snowmen and snow-women!

Getting Around. We picked up our rental car, snow tires and chains in tow, and can you guess who did the driving? The left-side of the road driving Australian, not the right-side of the road driving Canadian – logical! This seems to be a bit of a trend for me, as a year ago in Iceland, my Canadian friend Bethany and I also let our Aussie friend Nat do the driving (and we are very glad we did!). Sean did not have an opportunity to drive in the snow in Canada so he was keen to get some practice in, in Norway. And he got lots of it! We did plenty of exploring around the area from Sommaroy (known as the ‘Summer Islands’) to the Lyngen alps. Needless to say, my Mom will be happy I was a passenger and I was perfectly content to stare out the window at the incredible views.

Getting Rest: When we arrived at our AirBnB I took great satisfaction in watching Sean use a snow shovel for the first time, helping the Air BnB host clear out our parking spot. He has also now experienced the snow brush! There was lots of snowfall the first 24 hours so we were constantly brushing snow and ice off the car. We headed into the city to get a good look around and gather groceries for our stay. Tromso is an expensive city, so we did our best to cook dinners and breakfasts in. One cafe we did try and loved in the city was Riso food & coffee shop.

Snowmobile Adventure. Sunday was the day we went snowmobiling and had an absolute blast (despite looking like the Michelin man). We wore full body snow suits, snow jackets and a massive overcoat. Needless to say, the tour company were very concerned for our warmth and comfort! We took the tour with a company called ‘Chasing Lights‘. They have a shop on Storgata making it easy to drop by and learn about the tours on offer. We were so pleased with the snowmobile adventure that several days later, determined to see the Northern Lights, we went on their Northern Lights minibus chase.

We started our journey from Tromso, driving several hours towards a small northern town of Finland, called Kilpisjärvi. The views were very beautiful, every part of the landscape covered in snow. Our snowmobiling journey took several hours and by the end, my fingers were feeling numb! Our main destination was the most peaceful border in the world at the border (Treriksröset) of Norway, Sweden and Finland (marked by the big yellow spot you see below). Part of the way back, we stopped in a wooden hut which had a big fire roaring inside and our dehydrated salmon stew, hot chocolate and cookies waiting for us. It was a small chore just to get off all of our gear to eat our food but well worth it. Who knew dehydrated food could taste so good?

Getting further away. Monday and Tuesday was our adventure to Sommaroy Island where we stayed at Sommaroy Arctic Hotel. The trip was worth it just for the views on the way there alone, with many spots to stopover and take in the surrounding mountains and blue skies. On our way there, we checked out this very cosy shop and cafe (Bryggejentene AS) which we liked so much, we stopped on the way back as well. The soup was delicious, the fjord views spectacular and we even grabbed two bowls to remember or trip.

Northern Lights Adventure. Tuesday evening was the highlight of our trip! We had been looking at the apps all day, the sky was perfectly clear, no precipitation in the forecast. We lucked out and had a perfect formula for a show of the aurora borealis. This time we drove further north in Norway to find a spot away from light pollution. They kitted us up in Sorel boots, snowsuits head to toe and out we went in knee deep snow. After a little while of waiting, we lit our fire, had our hot chocolate, cookies and soup. We were interrupted to what felt like an eternity (more like 30 minutes or so) of an incredible light display stretching across the entire sky. As time passed, they became more vibrant (closer to what you see in pictures) and the shapes were incredible. Our guide explained everything and continue to answer our questions. Most of the time we had our heads up in the sky or some lay on the ground to get the best view. We had reindeer skins to put on the ground to keep our bums warm. Our group could not stop ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘ah-ing’ and pointing to different spots in the sky as the lights moved around. After this display, we were all pleasantly satisfied, having ticked off this bucket list item, not to mention very cold after several hours standing outside. Around midnight, we headed back to Tromso with big smiles on our faces.

C’est finit! And just like that, it was Wednesday and our trip was almost over. We spent our final day driving around and exploring the Lyngen alps. In search of breakfast, we instead discovered a delicious local pastry called Lefse here. It is a pastry with cheese inside, fried up on a pan and lightly sprinkled with sugar. Even today, we still have leftovers in our freezer which we eat to bring back memories of this amazing trip! This and our wonderful blue bowls which we eat out of everyday.

What things have you brought back with you from your trips to remind you of the great experiences you had?

Oslo “Meadow at the Foot of a Hill”

The first weekend in February we took a chance on the weather and made our way to Norway’s capital, Oslo. Having already travelled to Bergen, Norway in November (considerably colder!) we figured we could manage. Not to mention, we could not pass up the £37.82 flights.

Delicious norwegian pasty from Godt Brod Grunerlokka.

We almost always stay in airbnb’s however due to our late arrival in Oslo, we went for one of a self check-in hotels, Citybox Oslo. It was well priced and conveniently located in the centre of the city (not always the case for airbnb). This was perfect given our very short trip, we did not want to waste too much time getting into the city centre.

After some much needed coffee we started the morning walking the Akerselva River. We eventually made our way to Mathallen Oslo where we stopped for some delicious local fish soup – my new favourite in each scandinavian country I visit. We ate at the Vulkanfisk Seafoodbar.

Besides eating their delicious seafood, we managed to get in a lot of walking. We walked all the way to the rooftop of the Oslo opera house for fantastic views over the city (we had to imagine how nice it would be with the sunshines out!). Don’t worry, it is designed for people to do this! We had to be extra careful with the icy patches on the roof. I imagine if you had a magic carpet up there after a snowfall you could have a lot of fun.

On Saturday evening we found a cool cocktail bar called HIMKOK Storgata where we had some delicious cocktails before making our way to dinner. For dinner we went to a traditional Norwegian restaurant, Den Glade Gris. Pictured below is the delicious pork knuckle which was roasted for 5 hours.

Sunday’s weather was not on our side and its was even rainier and colder. Nonetheless, we were determined to get out of the city and see some outdoors. We had planned to go check out the corkscrew, where people so tobogganing down a corkscrew shaped track outside of Oslo, however there was not enough snow and it was closed. Instead, we took the public transit to Sognsvann Lake north of the city. We could not believe how many people were out running or walking given what appeared to be terrible conditions. With the rain spitting and the wind blowing strong, we made our way all around the lake. An hour or so later, a bit soaked we had completed the circle and finished with a nice hot chocolate!

Back in the city it started raining even harder. We did our best to stay warm but instead had frequent escapes indoors for warm drinks. Eventually we made our way down to Aker Brygge area for dinner at Rorbua, another traditional Norwegian restaurant. Inside was very cosy with big open fireplace and cabin booth dining areas. The perfect spot to end our trip to Oslo.

What do you do when it is pouring rain on your holidays? What type of activities do you like to do? The rain and cold temperatures did not scare us away as in a months time, we would be on our way to Tromso, Norway. We can not get enough of Norway!

Back to nature at Swallowtail Hill

What better way to relax and unwind than a weekend wearing rain-boots, burning fires and roasting marshmallows! At the beginning of February we went to a wonderful conservation area in Sussex countryside which we discovered through a site called canopy and stars. We had a weekend of glamping and explored the nearby seaside town, Hastings.

We set off right after work on Friday and after escaping several hours of traffic in the city, we arrived and were greeted by Sarah at Swallowtail Hill. We were taken in a buggy over to the ‘Long View’ where we stayed for the weekend. I was particularly grateful for the ride as it was pouring rain and the path to the Long View was very muddy! Once there, we started our fire so we could sleep well.

In the morning we braved the mud back to the main farm on our own and made our way into Hastings, another seaside town that I really enjoyed. The farm is also very near (in fact closer to) Rye, which I had visited a previous weekend with some girlfriends so we decided to check-out Hastings instead. After exploring several cute shops with homewares, plants and so on, we went for a pub lunch at First in Last Out (the ‘Filo’). Apparently this building dates back to the 1500s! Inside was a large roaring fire which for me is always a sign of a good pub.

We made our way back to the Long View for the evening where we started light the fire to the hot tub and got the outdoor fire pit burning for our bbq! Lots of patience required on my side as the wind/breeze kept blowing out my lighters. We had a tasty dinner on the open fire and even made some marshmallows (unfortunately no s’mores as graham crackers do not exist in England!).

The next morning we made a quick visit to Rye for breakfast and walked the high street as the sun was out. I went back to my favourite breakfast spot there called The Fig. Another favourite homeware store in the area is Pale & Interesting, however it was unfortunately closed. Instead we checked out some antique shops. Last but not least, a trip to Rye is not complete without a glimpse of Mermaid Street. From here, we headed straight back to London feeling rested, smelling of fire and with our fix of countryside. I look forward to visiting Swallowtail Hill again, perhaps in summer with some friends at on of their log cabins.

Where is your favourite spot in the countryside? Back home in Canada, I love driving to Port Perry with my family for Hank’s bakery breakfast – nothing beats their $3 breakfast.

Four girls in ‘Belle Bordeaux’

I cannot think of a better way to escape the winter blues than a girls weekend eating and drinking our way through Bordeaux. Late last year, Hannah, Sara, Louise and I snagged £20 flights to Bordeaux, France (If you are trying to do the conversion, that is less than $35CAD!). Mid January, we set out on our weekend getaway in hopes of tasting some great red wines and delicious french food. Our first dinner did not disappoint! We went to a newly opened restaurant, Arcada, and loved every bite of our meals. The restaurant even had a wine cellar in the basement.

Saturday morning we woke to a bustling market outside our window, where vendors were busy setting up their stalls before sunrise. We lucked out with a boulangerie just outside our doorstep, so we grabbed fresh pastries before catching a train to Saint Emilion. A mere half an hour later, we arrived in quaint Saint Emilion where it seemed there was nothing but wine shops to explore (Not that we were complaining!). We wandered around the quiet medieval city before a nice country walk to our lunch and wine tasting destination.

Turns out (surprise, surprise!) January is not a popular month for wine tastings which worked to our advantage as we had a private lunch and tour of the grounds. We visited Château Tour Saint Christophe, one of the 7 Vignobles K Group wine properties. We had a delicious lunch followed by a tour of the chateau where we got to ask lots of questions about the winemaking process and what was unique about wine making culture in the Saint Emilion region. Several tastings later, we became Wine Club members and are expecting our first delivery in March! Until then, we will be brainstorming tasty meals to pair with our newly discovered Saint Christophe wines.

We spent Sunday morning exploring the city of Bordeaux trying to keep warm (There was no snow but it was extremely windy!). Turns out, Bordeaux is a sleepy city on Sunday’s and many things open late or do not open at all. Nonetheless, we still enjoyed wandering the streets without any crowds and a delicious french breakfast before heading back to the hustle and bustle of London. Until next next time…

Where is your favourite place to escape for the weekend?

An extended Christmas at Kew Gardens

Me enjoying the lights show and trying to sneak a picture in amongst the crowds.

While I normally dislike anything ‘Christmas-y’ post new years eve, this year I made an exception to visit ‘Christmas at Kew Gardens’ in January. I missed out earlier in December due to a work trip to Jersey and after seeing friends photos, I had to go see it for myself.

London has many amazing Christmas markets, beautiful lights displays, iconic shops to explore and it is hard to see them all in one season! Kew Gardens Christmas lights display had been on my list for a few years and I was determined to go this year. January was surprisingly a busy time, however I can only imagine slightly more enjoyable than the December rush.

One of my favourite displays was Temperate House, the recently restored and largest surviving Victorian glasshouse in the world. The lights show on it was spectacular.

The finale was very impressive. Festive projections played across a giant screen of water in the centre of the lake and across the iconic glasshouse itself. I admit, it was a bit chilly with the water spraying in our faces from the breeze, but very enjoyable nonetheless! We could make out images of snowman and Christmas scenes – a very impressive display considering the images were projected on mist. After several minutes of displays, my hot chocolate was long gone and it was time to take cover inside (on the long tube journey back home).

While I have many Christmas favourites, from the Toronto Christmas Distillery Market, to the beautiful lights on London’s Regent and Oxford Streets – Christmas at Kew is a new favourite for me.

It is now the end of January and I am a true believer that it is never too early to start planning for next Christmas (even if it makes me unpopular with my friends!) I would love to know, what is your favourite Christmas outing?

A not so sunny seaside NYE

New year, new decade and a new, new years eve experience! This year I spent my first new years eve in the UK. A few of us made our way to Whitstable, a small seaside town roughly 1 hour from London to escape the city.

I first visited Whitstable back in June of this past year. My friend Nat and I went for the day, to run the board walk, enjoy some delicious seafood (lobster!) and to do some shopping on the quaint high street. I liked it so much that I decided it might be the perfect spot to get away from the hustle and bustle in the city on new years eve.

Sean and I drove to Whitstable and were greeted by our friends (Sara, Louis, Roxane and Steph) who had been cooking up a storm all day. Delicious appetisers, lasagne, homemade apple pie – what more could you ask for? Of course…….. wine. We had a cosy airbnb with a fire place and welcoming home to hang out in. Even better, the owners had chickens in the garden so we had fresh eggs for breakfast!

On new years day, the boardwalk was arguably busier than it was that hot summer day in June. There were lots of families, dogs and kids out for a walk – despite the dreary grey weather. After a few hours of walking, some coffees and few pints later, we went for a tasty seafood lunch (lobster bisque – sensing a trend).

We could not have asked for a more chilled out new years! How did you spend your new years eve? Did you make it past midnight? Comment below.

welcome.

If you have found my page, it is likely because you are a wonderful friend or family member and you have come here because I told you to! Ever since I moved to the UK in April of 2017, I promised myself I would (one day) blog about all of the wonderful (and perhaps some less wonderful) experiences I was about to have. Fast forward to January 2020 and I have yet to start a blog – until now that is.

Why now?

  • New decade new me. Hello 2020 and to my 30s.
  • To stay connected. More of my friends and family are going ‘sans’ social media and I want a way to stay connected with them and with those who I do not get to see as often as I would like.
  • To share stories. I want to share more about my experiences than just my photos and in a space where I can interact with friends and family and not have it broadcasted on social media.
  • To be creative. I want to do something productive in my spare time. I’ve enjoyed blogging at work and think it would be a lot more fun to blog about my personal life!

Two thing that I love to do are organise plans and bring people from different parts of my life together (I know, a nightmare for some). Living in the UK has given me many opportunities to bring both friend and strangers (aka likeminded expats) together through common interests. For a lack of creativity or originality – I have decided to call this blog “the glue that holds us together“.

You can expect to hear about:

  • Travels. From small villages in the UK to Iceland to Marrakech, I want to share and document the memories of experiences I have had.
  • Hiking adventures. Since moving to London, I created a hiking/walking group (Almost 2000 and growing!) and have met many expats from all over the world. Roughly once a month we set out to explore somewhere outdoors in and around London.
  • Ever-changing interests. Whatever subject or thing has recently caught my attention – sensory yoga, minimalism or training for 1/2 marathons!
  • Connection. I would love to connect with my friends and family. Everyone else is a bonus!

If I blog successfully over the course of this year, I hope to improve my writing skills and hear from many of you through my comments.

“The most basic and powerful way to connect with another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.”

Rachel Naomi Remen
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