To the Hills – Part I

On Tuesday, June 13th at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time / Wednesday, June 14th at 12 p.m. NZ time, I will be LIVE on Facebook, talking about how we can practise mindfulness and rediscover joy every day. I look forward to chatting with you.


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The sun’s rays broke briefly through the low moody clouds as we sat on a bench that was missing its third plank. The Wanderlust Juniors ate mandarins and granola bars, then the eldest boy fine-tuned his binoculars, a family antique gifted to him by my dad, to better observe the sheep grazing on the hillside. The gloomy clouds reflected our thoughts and emotions, having said goodbye to Mr. Wanderlust the night before at the airport. On Day 1 of his week-long business trip, we felt his absence.

I gently encouraged the Wanderlust Juniors to continue walking up the track to the summit of Papamoa Hills. Reluctantly, they agreed to my idea with the promise that they would later relax at home with a movie. Given a choice, in a manner not at all resembling their usual enthusiasm for adventure outings, they would have spent that entire day indoors, coming up with ideas that would inevitably lead to some kind of trouble. In the interest of self-care, and in trying to keep a copacetic state in my household, I could not have agreed to such a proposition. We needed to leave our small beach bungalow, with its stuffy misplaced emotions. I needed to clear my head of concern about Mr. Wanderlust as I waited to learn of his safe arrival at his destination after a 16-hour flight. I also needed space to breathe after having stopped too many mischievous incidents within the first hour after the boys’ too-early rising. Shortly after 8 o’clock, having packed a small picnic and my camera, we took a short drive to the hills.

The crystal-clear air beckoned forth as we walked the inclining path. The low silver pillows of clouds hovered menacingly overhead, yet we solemnly continued our trek. One boy would stop after every few steps to play dreamily with stones that he picked up along the way, or to collect a couple of sticks. The other would race ahead, then halt and wait for us to catch up. It would be dishonest of me to say that I did not at times feel a pang of frustration at the snail’s pace of our walk. That feeling would arise every time I noticed that another person who had passed by us not long ago on the way up was already returning down the path toward us. I reminded myself to enjoy the flow, however slow it may feel at times, to stop when they stop, to move when they move, to forget my agenda and give up control. Besides, I shrugged, anything is better than trying to entertain two bored boys inside a small home. Before long, we had reached the summit but did not linger. The triumphant ascend reminded my two excitable boys of their adventurous enthusiasm and they raced each other along the winding track to the parking lot.

Later, at home, following a comforting Skype chat with Mr. Wanderlust, the atmosphere felt significantly lighter. The sky released its own heavy weight as the rain came after lunch, making our afternoon at home with a movie and banana-chocolate chip cake all the more cosy.

A week later, Mr. Wanderlust and I returned to the hills for a morning date. Come back on Friday to read part II of the story, in which I tell you of our outing with an unlikely tour guide.

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Favourites from around the web:

Wisdom from Anne Lamott

In defence of slow fitness This is my approach to exercise.

Networking 101: Make Friends Not Contacts

Five ways to survive entertaining as an introvert This is always a good reminder for me.

Something quirky for the fellow grammar nerd: The Oxford Comma’s Online Dating Profile

Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend.

Kites and community

Thank you to everyone who responded to last week’s post about homesickness / expat sadness and shared tips and stories. As I seek community in my new home, I also continue to find comfort with my friends and loved ones in other parts of the world.

More on that in today’s blog post…

On Sunday, my dear friend Shlomit was present in my thoughts as I watched the beautiful bluebird kite she gifted to us before we left Canada soar high in the perfect azure sky. The gentle breeze was just as perfect, allowing the brilliant blue kite to hover peacefully in the sunshine among so many others! Standing on the grassy field in the park of Tauranga’s Matua neighbourhood, we had joined many other families who had come to take part in Matariki Kite Day, a festival that celebrates the Maori new year.

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We stood transfixed, gazing attentively at the bird with what I acknowledged to be a sense of tranquility as it dawned on me that I had never flown a kite as a child. As I listed to the rolling laughter of the Wanderlust Juniors, I wondered at how I grew up without having ever stepped onto a grassy field or the sandy beach to experience the sheer pleasure of holding in my hand the reins of something so pretty that transforms the darkest of moods, that plants a rainbow in our hearts.

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I have been pondering the symbolism of kites in literature, thinking of The Kite Runner, where the image of a kite resurrects memories of carefree childhood and innocence. Ziggy Marley, in Love is my Religion, sings, “I don’t want to fight; hey, let’s go fly a kite.” In Maori cultures, the kites of Matariki symbolise a connection between the heavens and earth. While peacefully gazing up at the kaleidoscopic textiles dancing in the gentle breeze, we forget about the ‘to do’ list of the day. Kite meditation — what a brilliant concept! We forget, for a while, about our agenda for the evening as we stand still, smiling in the magic of the moment, surrounded by so many others in our community who have united with one simple desire, to marvel at the peaceful beauty of something so simple and at once so powerful.

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When was the last time you flew a kite?


Favourites from around the web:

Why Everything We Know About Salt May be Wrong

More mindfulness: The Japanese skill copied by the world

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Wishing you a marvelous week with unlimited potential!

The homesickness phase

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Before I share with you a story about a serendipitous meeting that took place earlier this week, I would like to ask for your opinion. I have been rethinking the publication frequency of this blog. Please leave a comment below to let me know whether you would like to continue reading Mindful Daydreamer once per week, or if you would prefer twice weekly updates. 

After leading a Tuesday evening yoga class at one of the two fitness clubs where I teach, two women who had come to practise with me stopped me to ask for a recommendation regarding yoga apparel. If, dear reader, you think that I felt flattered about this indirect compliment regarding my style, you might be correct. Unfortunately, I had to disappoint them by letting them know that the shipping cost might be steep, given that the company is in Canada.

“Ah, I knew you are Canadian,” one of the women smiled at me. She then introduced herself as L

“Yes, but you weren’t born in Canada, were you?” her friend M looked at me with a curious twinkle in her eye. “I detect a hint of another accent.”

I laughed.

“You would be right again,” I admitted. “I’m Russian-Canadian.”

My friends and family know how much I dislike the question Where are you from? Yet, lately, I find that my reaction to similar questions hasn’t been as strong as it has been previously. I don’t mind sharing with the locals a few stories about the places where I have been fortunate to live.

We continued our exchange and my clients were pleasantly surprised to learn that I have only been in NZ for just over a month. We briefly discussed urban planning in Vancouver vs. Auckland and the steep prices of condo apartments in both cities, then the conversation drifted to the challenges and triumphs of relocation overseas.

“So, are you in the homesickness phase, or do you still feel like a tourist?” L could not have guessed how deeply this question sank its claws into the thoughts that had been troubling me for the past few days. Suddenly, the thoughts had a term: homesickness. Although I feel comfortable travelling, and while we love living in Tauranga, a sadness has been nagging me. Do I miss Canada or Toronto? Not especially. Do I miss family and closer friends? Of course, though we are doing our best to keep contact via email and Skype. Is homesickness the correct term? Perhaps so, since our family members and loved ones are our home.

L proceeded to tell me that she has moved several times and that on average, every time, it took approximately six months for her to start to feel comfortable in her new home.

“Until then,” she continued, “there is always a vague sense of something being not quite right.”

Serendipity has played its magic yet again, bringing forth a conversation that reminded me that although I might sometimes feel lonely, I am never alone. There are others who have gone through similar experiences after relocating. Mr. Wanderlust and I have read stories about the lives of expats, and we were aware of the various psychological stages through which emigrants progress as they settle into their new homes. Mr. Wanderlust and I also each went through two emigrations as children and teenagers, and we remember the challenges that our parents had faced. We had done our research and were armed with facts. We were prepared for what was to come. Is it naive to admit that I had hoped that the typical transitional stages would somehow allow us to pass by unnoticed, to integrate seamlessly into life in NZ? Okay, perhaps it was a bit over-idealistic of me to hold such hope.

The first wave of expat sadness has passed, and it just might have allowed me to emerge on the other side feeling more resilient than before. Although I am still very much the idealist, I continue to practise staying present with what is taking place, accepting the fluctuations.

If you have gone through a big move, perhaps you might have a few tips to share with me to help me deal with periods of expat sadness. Please leave a comment below. Please also share this blog with a friend for whom the topic might resonate.

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Favourites from around the web:

If you are planning a trip soon, here is some interesting advice: 5 Ways Total Strangers Can Make Your Trip Better Of course, this advice is also transferable to anyone who has recently relocated to a new place (ahem).

A great prompt for self-introspection and journaling: 3 Purposeful Questions I Ask Myself Each Night

Here’s to a beautiful weekend!

Start slow: A Monday morning date

Last week, we were feeling miserable, resting in bed with a cold that knocked us off our feet. This week, we are starting to slowly, gently reawaken to greet the sunshine and restore our energy reserves. A morning walk in the sunshine up Mount Maunganui was just what the doctor ordered.

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The view of Mount Maunganui, referred to as ‘the mount’ by the locals, from the boardwalk of Pilot Bay

We had a busy first month in NZ and now that we are away from our families, couple time is not easy to carve out. Mr. Wanderlust wasn’t due to start work until lunchtime, and after taking the Wanderlust Juniors to school, we decided to make our way toward Mount Maunganui. We had walked up the mount once before with the boys, and although the trek was challenging, it did not feel overly difficult. This time, our experience was not the same as before.

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Not even 15 minutes into our hike up the mount, we felt short of breath.

“I can’t believe the terrible shape I’m in,” I complained while blowing my nose and tugging at my clogged left ear.

“You are recovering from a bad cold,” Mr. Wanderlust gently reminded me. “You can’t expect to be as strong as you normally are.”

A few days ago, we were feeling too weak to walk around the block, let alone walk up a mountain. Our next thought, as we stopped to catch our breath, was that if we’re feeling weak, at the very least we were in this together. We had to crack a few jokes along the lines of, “If I ever make it up the mount…”

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We made a few more stops on the incline, each time taking the opportunity to snap a few photos of the spectacular vistas in-between coughing and clearing our noses — okay, it was me blowing my nose while Mr. Wanderlust ensured that I did not have bits of facial tissue left on my face. What started out as a frustrating and humbling trek left me with a reminder to start slowly and be kind to myself, to be patient as I continue to regain my strength. This was our opportunity to go gently, without feeling the need to rush toward a destination. We reminded ourselves that while we were working to catch our breath, we had the perfect excuse to stop to enjoy the sights on the way up.

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Putting one foot before the other, we made it to the summit sooner than we had expected. Our walk was silent, in the comfortable manner of long-time lovers who have lately had too much on their minds and hearts. Sitting down to recharge before coming down from the mount, I rested my head on my husband’s shoulder and, closing my eyes for a few moments, leaned into the comfort of home.

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Adorable residents of the mount.

Updates from Instagram:

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Previously on the blog:

Chez Kathleen Kelly and Holly Golightly

Skipping the Small Talk

Wishing you a week of gentle beginnings!

Compulsory minimalism, or living out of a suitcase

Monday mornings are simpler, and smoother, when we don’t spend time standing in front of the wardrobe, trying to decide what to wear. Oh no, instead, I reach under the bed and pull out my red suitcase to retrieve one of my two favourite pairs of jeans and a t-shirt.

We first started decluttering our home three years ago, slowly giving away items that we did not need or use on a regular basis, sometimes replacing several items with one more compact version suitable for multiple purposes. With clothing items, we started practising the ‘one in, one out’ rule, only replacing an item with a new one when required. This process has been highly successful for us and has taught us to discern between our needs, nice-to-haves, and what we can most certainly do without. All this has proved to be useful in preparation for our move overseas. Today, we are living out of a few suitcases while patiently waiting for the arrival of a container with the remainder of our belongings.

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Once, many years ago, I would have dreaded the mere idea of living for several months with only a small selection of clothes. In reality, I alternate daily between two favourite pairs of jeans and several high-quality t-shirts and sweaters. For footwear, I rely on a pair of espadrilles, jandals (flipflops, for the non-kiwi crowd), training shoes, and comfy ankle boots. I also have my favourite Hunter wellies and wear them with great pleasure on rainy days, though I have observed that wellies are only popular here with children. Then again, this northern girl also only wears jandals to the beach; Birkenstocks are a different story and I’m waiting for those to arrive in a couple of months.

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I suppose it also helps that my makeup and skincare routine are fairly simple — all my skincare and makeup products fit into a small bag. When it comes to yoga and other forms of fitness, I’m using my thin travel yoga mat, which I have previously folded and placed in a carry-on suitcase when packing for short business trips. Fortunately, stretchy yoga clothes are compact and can be rolled haphazardly into a tiny ball, then stuffed into the aforementioned Hunter boots.

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Altogether, our compulsory lifestyle of suitcase dressing does not feel at all straining and by now, I love the simplicity of a capsule wardrobe and the creative options it allows while reducing the risk of decision fatigue. That said, we are looking forward to a reunion with the chosen items that we have shipped in a container due to arrive in a couple of months, but that’s a story for another post.

Thank you, as always, for taking a moment to share this blog with a friend.

Mindful Motherhood

This week’s blog post arrives one day early. The reason for that is simple. It is Mother’s Day in NZ, Australia, Canada, the U.S., and numerous other countries in the world (yes, I looked it up).

In preparation for this week’s blog post, I brainstormed a few ideas. I could tell you about how my children, Mr. Wanderlust, and I have been adapting to our new environment, what with the Wanderlust Juniors starting school in a new place. I could also tell you about recent mistakes I have made as a mother. I could follow those mistakes with stories of celebratory moments after which I wanted to give myself the proverbial pat on the back. In truth, this has never been a parenting blog because I do not have an interest in writing detailed stories about my family. The information I share via this blog and social media is carefully edited.

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Exploring the beach near Devonport, Auckland.

I will confidently say, however, that as with various big moves and transformations, there are inevitable challenges, disappointments, and triumphs, and in most cases we hope that the magical moments will by far outnumber the ones we often wish we could sweep clean from our memories. I can also confess that although I am continuing to work to remain a mindful, present mama, some days and scenarios create hurdles in this practice. As my children continue to grow with each new experience, so do I. My role as a mother is forever changing and evolving, and it keeps me curious. The great days remind me to acknowledge and praise the work I do; the not-so-good days inform my future steps. And so the ebb and flow continues, keeping me humble yet empowered, tentative yet self-assured. I’d bet many of the parents reading this will relate; we walk this road together.

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A beloved moment from our cottage getaway to Sauble Beach, Ontario in August 2015.

Today, I celebrate my Mama, as well as my mother-in-law and my grandmother, the beautiful mother figures whom I am fortunate to have in my life. I bow to them in deep gratitude. I also celebrate myself, and express gratitude for all those triumphant and not-so-pretty moments on this incredible journey. May those experiences continue to remind me to stay present and be the best mum I can be, every day. This morning, I raise my mug of peppermint tea to all the other mothers who walk this brilliantly crooked path.

The week in review: May 12th

It’s a rainy and windy day, with a reminder of Autumn. We are spending the evening in hibernation, made more cosy with a few good books, a hearty chickpea stew, and freshly baked brownies for dessert.

A collection of favourite moments from the past week:

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Delicious kale from a local permaculture garden yielded these perfectly crispy chips.
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More fresh, organic goodies.
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Spectacular Piha Beach.
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Walking along the beach near Devonport, Auckland, I brought my gaze up from the seashell-sprinkled sand toward these beautiful giants.
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The perfect rainy day companions.

Favourites from around the web:

I’m fascinated by neuroplasticity and this article offers interesting insight. Could your thoughts make you age faster?

For the bibliophiles: Reading is Forgetting.

Getting stuff done with the pomodoro technique. Thoughts?

A different take on the Little Free Library. Thoughts?

Wherever your travels might take you this weekend, may it be beautiful in every way!

May 5th / 6th: Simplicity, and local exploration

Here is a small selection of favourite moments from the past week:

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A breezy Sunday afternoon on Leisure Island, with a view of Mount Maunganui.
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Cilantro (coriander in NZ) catching a few cosy rays on the windowsill.
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Posting mail to a few special recipients overseas.
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Joy is a new-to-me beach cruiser that feels like it’s always been mine.
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Simple and delicious.

Favourites from around the web:

We have been doing plenty of sightseeing, but we are also working to balance it with quiet time and simplicity. Why simplifying may protect our children’s mental health.

Quirky. How reading makes our lives better.

This resonates. How to make and keep friends as an adult.

Self-care. A YogaLand interview with Tiffany Cruikshank regarding self-care idea for spring’s transitions.

Here’s to a pleasant weekend!

A visit to the Shire

I am overwhelmed by the enormous support and encouragement I have received following the publication of the story of our big move to NZ. Thank you, dear readers!

Last week, we had the immense pleasure of visiting the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata. As a devoted fan of Tolkien, this excursion was at the top of my list, and I was not the only one who returned home elated that day. Read on…

Tranquility reigns in the Shire. A hushed spell blankets all visitors to the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata as they cross the green pastures on a bus that transports us to Middle Earth. To walk through the hobbit countryside is to slip, unnoticed, down a rabbit hole, only to find ourselves standing at the bottom of the hill, gazing past charming vegetable patches toward Bilbo — and later Frodo — Baggins’s house, the one with the emerald door left just ajar, a plump pumpkin near it, and a sign that almost shouts, “No admittance, except on party business.” The signs serves its purpose; the stairs leading up to the front entrance beckon forth and the open door lures me in to take a peek. Our tour guide assures us that there is nothing to see inside, but I refuse to believe him. In my mind’s eye, I’m already sprinting up the stairs, then gingerly pushing open the door to step into the warm wooden interior, calling out to Bilbo — or perhaps this is Frodo’s house at this point. Oh, wait a minute. I see, they have deserted their beloved abodes in favour of reluctant adventure.

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The neighbourhood is sleepy this morning. Perhaps the neighbours conspired to take their elevenses at the Green Dragon pub by the water, the ideal spot to sip some ale or cider while keeping a close eye on the spectacular hillside village and their humble and dizzyingly charming abodes. Meanwhile, the golden butterflies and bubbly buzzing bees are in charge. They circle the sensible hobbit-sized clothes drying on the washing line outside the homes, taking care not to fly quite too close. A few daredevils among them wait for a swift gust of wind before dashing in-between the legs of a pair of trousers. Do you hear their zesty laughter as they buzz past, filled with cheeky enthusiasm for having escaped danger? Before long, they reluctantly return to work, seeking pretty puffs of pollen.

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A monarch butterfly alights on a crimson daisy in Sam Gamgee’s tender garden, whereupon it eavesdropped on the conversations of the visitors with mobile phones and fancy cameras in hand.

‘”I feel like spring after winter, and sun on the leaves; and like trumpets and harps and all the songs I have ever heard!”*’ quotes one man, and the others smile surreptitiously.

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I follow the sign toward The Green Dragon, past the waterwheel and across the bridge, guided by the cheerful sounds of folk music and — why yes, I can almost hear them — the barely audible rhythmic stomping of hobbit feet upon wooden tables as they dance the jig. Walking into the cosy pub, I almost expect to be greeted solemnly by Gandalf, seated by the toasty fireplace, sipping Sackville Cider in-between drags from his pipe that send lazy swirls into the air. The fire is much too warm and I step out into the noonday sun to enjoy my own drink while swatting away thirsty, annoying wasps. They should take lessons from the chummy bees that somehow figured out the right idea of work-life balance, having learned from the locals who will soon go off to enjoy a bit of siesta, feeling fortified following their tea that turned into a lunch.

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Following our tour guide back to the bus, feeling somewhat lightheaded, it occurs to me that perhaps I, too, require something more in my belly than a mug of beer. Yet, I do so wish that I could simply lie down in the grass, in the shade of the party tree, and continue to daydream of hobbits, dwarves, wizards, and elves until my eyelids should become heavy and the magic will continue to weave its tapestry. Wistfully, I walk away, making a silent promise to myself to continue to explore my fantasies, to re-read beloved books, and to make space for everyday magic in my life, even if the most exciting event of my day is hanging out the washing to the buzzing song of the bees in a nearby floriferous bush.

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* Quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King.

Are you enjoying this blog? Please share it with a friend. 

April 29th: Family. Adventure. Discipline. Home.

After 11 days of sunshine, today is our first rainy day in NZ. I see this as an invitation to slow down the pace following our week-long sightseeing adventures, to stay close to home and take care of a few mundane but nonetheless important housekeeping duties. After all, adventure must be balanced with everyday discipline.

Here are a few of my favourite moments from the past week:

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Redwoods giants rising above us.
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Hobbit-sized clothes on a line.
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Fluffy clouds on four legs.
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A beautiful illustrated edition of a beloved book, and a comforting flat white. These are a couple of my favourite things.
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This boy and his delight at the sight, smell, sound, and feel of the ocean as it beckons.
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Autumn colours reflected in the tranquil water.

Favourites from around the internet:

Why we make things

For the fellow traveller: Simple ways to feel at home when you travel.

On a similar note to the above. Finding home wherever you are.

For those in the northern hemisphere, 20 ways to savor springtime.

Compelling. Why you should read books you hate. I’d love to read your opinions on this. Would you like to leave a comment below?

Magic and science mingle yet again. Meet the biologist who says trees have their own songs.

Celebrate who you are right now.

Favourite words:

I loved this advice from Helen Mirren on femininity, strength, and the freedom that comes with ageing.

Wishing you a weekend of adventure and/or focused discipline — you choose what you need, then seize it!