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I read the news last night. I knew it was too late to be in front of the computer, but my family and I had just finished watching a movie and I wanted to check the weekend weather forecast before heading to bed. I read about Paris and my heart tightened. I experienced a similar sensation several times in the past, including an occasion when an attack had taken place close to my dad’s workplace. Last night, overcome with sadness, unable to find the words to express the heartbreak that millions felt at the same moment, I tiptoed into the bedrooms of Wanderlust Juniors, ensured that they were asleep, and leaned in to give them kisses, to whisper ‘I love you.’ I repeat this ritual every night, but some nights are more emotional than others.

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Mr. Wanderlust and I visited Paris and other cities in France on our honeymoon in July and August 2006. Today, we are praying and sending love to everyone affected by Friday’s tragic events.

This morning, with bittersweet determination, I guided my Saturday morning yoga class through Metta (Loving-Kindness) meditation. I turn to this meditation practice when I feel instability and unease in my life or in the environment around me, when I experience conflicting emotions and struggle to tune into a compassionate space. Metta meditation helps to build community by reminding us to let go of judgment toward ourselves and others, and to focus instead on acceptance and kindness. Today, I will share this meditation with you.

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Feel free to light a candle and settle into a comfortable position in a quiet space. Take several deep breaths to invite yourself to tune fully into the experience.

Start by sending love and compassion to yourself. If this feels challenging, start with one aspect of yourself that you admire and build up from this space. I naturally gravitate toward the image of myself today embracing myself as a young child. Stay with this stage for as long as you need, breathing smoothly and evenly and radiating kindness and compassion. Next, send loving-kindness to a person whom you love deeply. This can be a good friend, your partner, sibling, child, or a pet. Visualize yourself embracing that person and radiating love toward him or her. The third stage is to send love to a person toward whom you don’t experience any strong feelings of like or dislike. The four step can be somewhat challenging, as you are invited to send loving-kindness to a person with whom you do not get along. Instead of focusing on judgment toward the person, work to strip away all those layers to find the being within, who is very much like you, who wants to love and be loved, to experience personal safety and peace. Stay here for as long as you need. The final step is to send Metta to all the four individuals whom you visualized earlier; then, continue to expand your beams of loving-kindness to the entire world, to every being on the planet, sending healing kindness and compassion. Visualize every being on the planet feeling healthy, peaceful, and joyful.

Close your meditation with a few centering breaths and thank yourself for your time and attention.

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I would love to read your thoughts and experiences with this meditation. Please leave a comment below. I would also like to read about how you navigate turbulent experiences. Where do you turn in times of need?

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“So, where are we going, exactly?”

“It’s on West 89th Street, past Broadway,” I told Mr. Wanderlust.

We had inadvertently taken the express subway train north toward Bronx, and had missed our stop. After getting back on a southbound train to backtrack, we walked along Central Park West and then continued our pleasant sunny stroll through Upper West Side, admiring the brownstone buildings on our way to search for Kathleen Kelly.

I first watched You’ve Got Mail in the year 2000. My mom, sister and I had rented the movie on a Saturday night. I was riveted by the beautiful New York setting of the film; the precious children’s bookstore, The Shop Around the Corner, central to the story; and the old school-style romance between the two main characters, with a modern day twist. I also became fascinated by Meg Ryan’s adorable character of Kathleen Kelly, her love of literature, and particularly Jane Austen; her optimism; her understated style; her quirky mannerisms; and yes, even the decor of her apartment. I wanted to be Kathleen Kelly, or at least to have her as a BFF. This wasn’t the first time I wished that a fictional character were real, but I remember how strongly I felt the inspiration to be like Kathleen Kelly.

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Mr. Wanderlust and I enjoyed a wonderful quick getaway to New York City over the weekend for some couple time. I had previously visited Queens and Long Island, but had never been to Manhattan and felt elated at the opportunity to enjoy a few days in the city. Of course, I also wanted to pay a visit to an old friend.

Approaching the house in which Kathleen Kelly ‘resides,’ I looked up at the front door to see it open. I actually let out a quiet gasp as I watched a woman in her mid-30s exit the building, dressed in a yellow cotton tank top, black cropped leggings and running shoes, with two large canvas bags slung over both shoulders. As she walked toward her car, parked at the curb, to deposit the heavy bags in the trunk, she glanced at me briefly with a blank expression on her face. I image she must see many tourists like me on a daily basis as they approach the building timidly, snap a selfie, giggle self-consciously and walk away, muttering quietly about how nerdy they feel.

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I crossed casually to the other side of the street and took a photo of the building from the sidewalk. In my periphery, I watched as the woman drove away, then sprinted back across the road and up the cement stairs toward the brown wood and glass door, channeling my best impression of Kathleen Kelly returning home after a busy day at The Shop Around the Corner. Mr. Wanderlust directed me through a few more poses and I gingerly stepped down the stairs again, shaking off the feeling of intruding in some way upon the privacy of the residents upstairs. I imagined them sitting at the front windows above me, glaring at me and shaking their heads with a bored expression on their faces, thinking, “There goes another one.” I had to steal a quick glance toward the third storey windows. No one there.

Before walking west toward Riverside Park, Mr. Wanderlust offered to take a photo of two women who, like me, had quietly stopped in front of the entrance to take a selfie. He directed them to walk up toward the front door for a similar picture of the one he took of me.

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The following morning, after breakfast at the beautiful lounge of the boutique hotel where we stayed in Midtown East, at 7:30, wearing the little black knit dress I had packed for the trip, I paid a visit to a favourite spot of another dear BFF, Holly Golightly. This time, we didn’t have to travel far. After a five-minute walk along an almost-empty 5th Avenue, Mr. Wanderlust and I had the street to ourselves, just like Miss Golightly, greeting the sun’s sparkle as it bounced off the perfect diamonds in the window of Tiffany & Co.

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“I should have stopped at Starbucks to buy a coffee and croissant, just for the sake of the photo,” I half-joked.

“It would have been your second breakfast of the morning, at Tiffany’s.”

“I suppose you can cross two items off your wish list,” Mr. Wanderlust announced to me several minutes later, as we walked toward Rockefeller Center. I sighed in response.

“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” I smiled up at him. “It’s been a perfect weekend.”

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I woke up at 7 a.m. on Sunday with a faint feeling of heaviness. Inhaling deeply, I turned to look at our two boys asleep in the middle of the bed, a halo of serenity around their faces. As my eyes rested on Mr. Wanderlust, on the opposite edge of the bed, the bitter taste of yesterday settled on my tongue once again.

 

The memories of Saturday floated back all too quickly: the standstill traffic on the highway on our way to the long-awaited dinner and show – a birthday gift for the eldest Wanderlust Junior; closed full parking lots at the location where the show was scheduled to be held, due to the Canadian National Exhibition (read: a giant end-of-summer fair that, apparently, drew ¾ of Toronto’s population to the venue this past weekend); the desperation of a heavy bladder while driving in loops around the venue; the anxiety-ridden harsh words exchanged between the two adults present in the car, in response to which one of Wanderlust Juniors covered both his ears with the palms of his hands; followed by tears that streamed from my eyes in-between forceful deep breaths.

 

After driving for 2.5 hours, having accepted that the show had started without us, we drove to a nearby beach in desperation. Walking hand-in-hand with the youngest Wanderlust Junior along the path that led to the restrooms, I gazed at the happy picnicking families on the grass.

 

“Mommy, can we have barbecue for dinner tonight?” the question’s blatant innocence pricked a sore spot in my chest as the tears stung my eyes.

 

“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” I squeezed his hand a little tighter in mine. “We were supposed to be having dinner right at this time.”

 

“Can we have a treat after dinner?” He pointed at a small ice cream stand. It’s the least I could do, attempting to make it up to my family.

 

Sitting in traffic again 15 minutes later, our bladders comfortably empty, the children joyfully licked at the chocolate-covered vanilla pre-dinner ice cream while I telephoned our favourite local pizza restaurant to place an order for pick-up.

 

“Yay! Pizza!” they exclaimed unanimously.

 

Then…

 

“But Mommy, why did we not go to Medieval Times?”

 

This time, the question came from the eldest Wanderlust Junior, in whose honour we had purchased the tickets that were now void. I attempted to explain that we left our home early, having considered possible traffic delays and allotting sufficient time for us to arrive at the venue well before the start of the show. The tension between me and Mr. Wanderlust in the driver’s seat was thick. We both tried to accept the situation. I kept repeating the old cliché, “It is what it is. There’s nothing we can do now.” Yet, I felt guilty; guilty for wasting money and time; guilty for not overestimating the time delays; guilty for disappointing my family.

 

“I’m sorry,” I kept repeating, amid tears.

 

Somewhere within, a soft, sweet voice kept whispering, Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. I brushed it away. The voice of Guilt – my own and that of Mr. Wanderlust – was louder. That voice continued to haunt me through the night. It was the first sound I heard again upon waking.

 

Cautiously, awkwardly, feeling shy, Mr. Wanderlust and I met just outside our bedroom door the following morning. The silence was stifling, unbearable, leaving us without many options. I told Guilt to shut up. I took a step forward and wrapped my arms carefully around his waist. He responded in kind, drawing me closer toward him with an audible exhalation. Yesterday no longer matters, its upsets erased, the hurt and guilt replaced by something much more powerful.

 

Disappointments happen sometimes, especially in circumstances beyond our apparent control. We could have. We should have. We would have. Empty words. Hurtful words. Sugar-coating for children only results in stifled anger. We may not have handled the situation with grace or even maturity, but we can always work to be better people today than we were yesterday.

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We vowed to make the most of the day ahead. And we did, with a road trip resulting in plenty of time spent outdoors and a visit to a museum that included a tall ship. We returned back home at well past the children’s bedtime, feeling complete.

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Also at the museum, I just had to  have a photo with a scribe’s instruments, including a charming quill pen.

 

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Several days ago, my family and I recently returned from a beautiful beach holiday on the shores of one of our favourite lakes. We spent a fun week building sand castles, SUPing, enjoying sunset walks and an exciting day trip that included a cruise on a glass-bottom boat to see shipwrecks. When away from home, our habits tend to change somewhat, as can be expected.

Did I drink beer several times throughout the week? Did I enjoy many s’mores by the bonfire and just as many servings of ice cream / gelato? You bet I did. And I savoured every moment. Not for a minute did I reprimand myself for letting down my guard. It was a choice I made mindfully, allowing myself to soften into the experience while trusting my intuition and maintaining a lifestyle of wellness.

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Here is how I navigated three of my regular healthy habits while on vacation:

Eating

My nutrition habits are relatively healthy, keeping to the typical 80/20 rule and enjoying dessert from time to time while making mindful choices about the nutrients that fuel my body. While on vacation, I continued to eat healthy foods but we did eat out in restaurants several times throughout the week. We balanced this out by visiting the local grocery store and farmers’ market and stocking up on fresh produce. August is a time of gorgeous fresh, local fruit and vegetables, which were in abundance everywhere we went. We packed those as snacks for ourselves to take to the beach and enjoyed salads for dinner.

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Sleeping

At home, I typically am in bed by 10 p.m. and wake up at 5 a.m. to work out and practise yoga. While away, we naturally put the kids to bed later, after enjoying the sunset on the beach or sitting by the fire. The parents’ natural bedtime was closer to midnight and we all woke up quietly, slowly at around 9 a.m., feeling refreshed and recharged.

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Exercise

When I sleep in, which doesn’t happen often, and wake up at the same time as my children, I tend to write off my workouts and yoga practice for the day. However, while away, I simply shifted my physical exercise to the siesta hour in the afternoon. An hour or two after lunch, the children would spend some time watching a favourite DVD while Pawel read a book, and I would head out into the backyard of our rental cottage to roll out my mat. Working out outside encouraged me to be resourceful, using whatever I had close by as props. The owners of the cottage left two skipping ropes for the children guests. However, I was the one who ended up putting the skipping ropes to good use for cardio. I utilized the wooden benches on the patio for tricep dips and the wooden stairs for lunges. Typically, my morning workout and yoga practice last approximately an hour. My siesta-time workouts on the grass were about 30 minutes in length. I didn’t try to time myself. I naturally moved in a way that felt good. Some days were slower, softer, and others left me sweaty, happily walking into the shower after a morning at the beach and an afternoon on my yoga mat. I also did a lot of running on the beach with the boys, walked everywhere, and SUPd.

It feels liberating to let go of a rigid schedule and preconceived notions about routine, giving ourselves permission to live in flux, allowing ourselves to put life on hold for a while but still maintain a healthy lifestyle. In fact, when I feel relaxed, with no major responsibilities that I normally have at home and at work, I find that I naturally feel better and healthier, which leads me to make healthy choices. The key is to carry the calm mental and emotional state with us back into our regular post-vacation routine.

What healthy habits do you uphold while on vacation? Please share your tips in the comments below. You can also connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter for additional pictures of our holiday.

Several days ago, I celebrated my 33rd birthday on a beautiful beach with my family. In the recent years, I learned that this is my favourite way of celebrating. My birthday is the start of a new year for me, and I view it with great significance as I continue to write my story, adding on to the journey and learning more about myself.

The number 33 is one of my favourites, and here are three quirky ways in which the number holds personal significance for me:

  • My life path number is 33, signifying a deep connection to humanitarian causes, altruism, and leadership. I have never thought of myself as a great leader, but neither have I ever been a follower. As a Leo, natural leadership is also in my astrological chart, but I have always been more of a wallflower, quietly exploring my inner world and feeling deeply curious about the people around me.
  • I remember my mom very clearly at 33. I was 8 years old when she was 33, always a vision in beautiful feminine dresses perfectly tailored by my grandmother, with her hair piled elegantly in a perfect chignon. She never consciously tried to attract anyone’s attention, but she couldn’t help it. Once, when I introduced myself to a girl who lived in our neighbourhood and mentioned that I have a sister, she remarked, “Oh, I saw you and your sister walking together the other day. Your sister was pushing a baby in a stroller. Was she babysitting?”

“Um… No,” I replied. “The baby is my sister. The lady pushing the stroller is my mom.” I giggled as I watched my friend’s jaw drop in disbelief.

  • At 33, my father uprooted with us, his family, to a different country, leaving the rest of our family behind and embarking on a journey that has shaped our future in a remarkable way. Our world was turned upside down and I had to learn early on to navigate an extremely extroverted middle eastern society as a quiet introvert homebody. These days, I am a homebody who craves nomadic adventure, no longer terrified of speaking my mind and chatting with strangers.

Also, just because I’m a big Tolkien nerd, I am giddy at the thought that for hobbits, 33 is considered to be a ‘coming of age’ year.

I hope you will continue to follow along with me as I continue this journey and the lessons it offers. Sending gratitude to you, dear readers, for your loyal support!

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I woke up a bit later than usual this morning, at 5:30, and watched the fiery sun rising over the rooftops of the houses across the street as I sipped my warm lemon water. I love the meditative quality of a quiet sunrise in a still-asleep household where the only ones awake are the cats and I. That is precisely what keeps me coming back to this routine. In the spring and summer months, when the sun rises earlier, it’s easier for me to connect to this motivation as I rise to greet the sun. And so, as I sat at my kitchen table, reflecting on my enjoyment of the morning sunrise routine, it suddenly dawned on me (pun absolutely intended) that today is the last day of April. The year is zooming by.

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Here are a few of my highlight lessons from the month of April:

  1. No Drama!

Last week, as I was returning home from a business trip, I was held back at airport security when the metal detector wand beeped many times during a routine scan. If you’re like me, you might start to feel nervous when dealing with security and having to go through an extra scan of any type. I immediately started to feel as though I had done something wrong, knowing all the while that it simply was not so. My mind started to race, thinking of the myriad absurd reasons why the detector would beep around me. Then, I reminded myself to drop all those thoughts. I took a deep breath, mentally told my mind to shut up, and with a smile, approached the scanner machine. The female officer who guided me through the scan turned out to be very nice and had a fantastic sense of humour, making hilarious comments that may have sounded inappropriate to some but made me giggle and quickly soothed my nerves. I still do not know why the metal detector went off, but instead of creating drama out of the situation, I laughed it off and proceeded to Starbucks near my boarding gate, where I bought myself a grande mint tea and relaxed until my flight.

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Drama starts in our minds when we allow ourselves to overthink, to worry. When we consciously choose to drop the negative thoughts, the result will be a non-event. That’s right. Nothing particular will happen. Why? Because we will not allow ourselves to process what is happening. Instead, by going through the situation with Presence and Grace, breathing deeply and simply acknowledging what is happening right here in this moment, we allow ourselves to simply experience and stay open to whatever comes next. That experience is liberating. Imagine staying so open to any experience that it almost feels as though you are moving through a dream, just watching life happen to you, with curiosity, without trying to control it. We are naturally drawn to the desire to want to be in control of most situations, but when dealing with a challenging scenario, I find that what works best for me is to let go of trying to change the situation. In fact, I find it takes less energy to pray and trust that I am always going to be okay than it does to try to fight, to argue. As the saying goes, “Everything will be okay in the end, and if it’s not, it’s not the end.”

  1. Balance Lessons

I am continuing to work on my handstand, feeling more confident with each practice. There are days when I feel a bit low on energy or simply not interested in working too hard. On those days, I fall out of the inversion. Instead of persevering and continuing to force myself into the pose, I move on to a gentler practice. My yoga practice is starting to resemble my life off the mat, and my life off the mat is very much reflected in my yoga practice. I love the sense of expansive freedom I feel each time I follow my intuition and allow it to guide me to move the way I need to move on any given day. I used to be very rigid in my approach to exercise. Recently, I kicked all those old, non-serving rules to the curb. Some days call for a sweaty kickboxing workout and a vigorous Vinyasa flow. On other days, my mat, bolsters, blankets and a lavender-scented flax eye pillow summon me over for a soothing restorative practice. No guilt. No regrets. No counting calories. Just listening to my intuition and going with the flow. That’s my balance.

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  1. Detox Wonders

In addition to my digital detox, about which I wrote recently, for the past week, I have been going through my own version of a spring detox. I try to follow an Ayurvedic detox framework, so no strict juice cleanses for me! Instead, I design my own program that works for me at this time. I will reveal my main reason for undergoing this detox: My goal is to bring my adrenals and hormones into a healthier balance. I am a very private person and my health is usually not a subject that I discuss openly in this manner. However, the reason I am sharing my story is because I believe many women in our society are dealing with similar issues.

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Prior to my detox, I was dependant on caffeine to allow me to get through the day. I didn’t get enough sleep at night, then had to deal with fatigue and cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. I felt sluggish and tired all the time. I kept borrowing my energy from caffeine, sugar and carbs, but then ended up dealing with terrible PMS symptoms every month. I got plenty of exercise every morning, but my eating habits needed some tweaking.

On my detox plan, I have not been eating meat or dairy (I already follow a mostly plant-based diet, for health reasons, so I don’t miss meat, seafood and dairy at all), sugar, and caffeine. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to quickly become dependent on sugar and caffeine. I recently discovered that I do function best by abstaining from those substances altogether, instead of trying to moderate my consumption. So, I thought that the detox would be the best time to test that theory. My first four days without coffee were challenging, because I had a dull withdrawal headache through the entire day. However, I noticed that at that time, I did not miss the taste of coffee, nor did I crave chocolate as I normally do. I did have a small piece of my sister-in-law’s birthday cake on the second day of the detox. Birthday cake is considered to be an almost sacred ritual and we all know we have to have at least a small slice. Right? I still have to figure out how to navigate the birthday cake etiquette in the future. If you have any tips, I’d love to read them.

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Now, on Day 7 of my detox, I am feeling fantastic. I have been making a commitment to be in bed before 9 p.m. every night in order to get my eight hours of sleep. I no longer miss sugar or caffeine, though I miss the idea of drinking coffee as a social ritual and I sometimes miss the idea of crème brûlée , my favourite dessert. My energy has been soaring. I have been enjoying this new routine so much that I intend keep it for as long as possible. Thankfully, because my diet was already relatively ‘clean’ prior to starting the detox, I didn’t have to change too many of my eating habits. The way I eat now is the way I used to eat before, without heeding to unhealthy cravings. If you want to learn more about my detox, let me know and I will dedicate a new post to it.

  1. When In Doubt, Go Outside!

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Now that the days are warmer in Ontario, we have been trying to spend as much time outside as possible. This is the perfect time of year to ground ourselves and reconnect to the Earth by going out for walks, sitting near trees (tree hugging works wonders), and maybe even spreading a picnic blanket and eating lunch outside on the lawn. Last weekend, we did some horseback riding, thanks to my sister-in-law and her beautiful horse, Wave.

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Pawel spent half a day doing some volunteer work by planting trees at a local conservation area. After-dinner walks are also a welcome ritual to which we have been returning. So, go outside, reconnect and recharge!

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I’ll stop here. If you would like to learn more about my detox or if you have any other comments, please leave them below. Thank you for sharing this blog with a friend!

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I started knitting a honeycomb stitch cowl neck (the pattern is free over here) in early December, using beautiful three-ply chunky wool yarn in a gorgeous raspberry shade that I purchased from a charming farm-based shop called The Philosopher’s Wool, located in Inverhuron, Ontario. We chanced upon the store while cruising around the countryside during our stay at a nearby cottage last summer. I love knitting cowls and have a small collection of them in my wardrobe. I keep coming back to them because a) they are quick to knit, b) fun, and c) can really showcase the yarn and the stitch used.

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I used to knit larger pieces and have a few favourite sweaters in my wardrobe that I made for myself. However, these days I prefer to knit accessories. The reasons for this are: a) a sweater would take me probably about a year to complete, since I don’t currently have enough time to dedicate to the activity and b) I’m working on making my wardrobe more minimal. From a practical perspective, I don’t need many hand-knitted sweaters, but I love to play up an otherwise grey, brown, and black outdoor winter wardrobe with splashes of colour and pretty accessories.

Since early December when I first started working on the cowl, having spent those 30-60 minutes per week on the project and completed it on March 8th, I would estimate that the project took me a total of eight hours to complete. This estimation is solely done for entertainment purposes, as I don’t usually count the number of hours a project requires. Instead, I choose interesting projects on which I enjoy working, and for which I can use gorgeous yarn.

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You may notice the pattern is for a longer cowl that can be wrapped around the neck twice. I chose to make it shorter, simply because I prefer shorter cowls that showcase the stitches. Since I used chunky three-ply wool, the stitch on my cowl is more open than in the original photo. I also used a cable needle to knit this piece, but you can get away with a third straight knitting needle, if you wish.

I’m curious… Do you have a project (and it doesn’t have to relate to knitting) to which you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate, yet you persist to work it into your schedule whenever possible? How do you stay motivated?

In other news…

Now that the weather is a bit warmer and spring is trying to make its way over the threshold, Pawel has been working in the garage workshop again, creating new pendants. This is the latest piece, to be added to our website within the next few days:

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Over the winter, Pawel has been daydreaming of sandy beaches, but since we haven’t had a chance to travel, he has been living vicariously through our travelling family members and friends. In lieu of the usual souvenirs — and sometimes alongside a few treats — they have been bringing back small samples of sand for us. Pawel has been taking macro photographs of the sand and creating a map of the sand’s origins.

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The sand project is a work-in-progress, so check back to see various new photographs of samples that Pawel will add to the site as he receives them from generous world travelers.

July and August are our favourite months of the summer season. Yet, there is that certain something about August, specifically. Perhaps it’s the reminder that the warm, lazy weeks of summer are numbered before the autumn breeze starts to make its appearance, with the turning leaves, inspiring us all to run out and buy new pencils, notebooks, and start new projects. Until then, we remind ourselves to cherish these fast-moving days and make special memories with the people we love.

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We recently returned from a week-long getaway with the kids to Kincardine, Ontario. We spent our days visiting a few other small towns and the beaches along the shore of Lake Huron. And of course, we loved the countless hours of playing on the waves, some outdoor yoga, and evenings spent by the firepit.

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Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has become one of our favourite summer activities. Although we are still working to keep a steady balance on the waves, we prefer calm waters for now. Thanks to Pawel’s parents, who stayed with us for the first couple of days and generously offered to watch the kids, we didn’t miss our chance to get on the boards to enjoy the spectacular sunset, as well as the sunrise the following morning.

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Now that we are back (and missing the beach immensely), we have been stirred by views of the charming lighthouses and beautiful seashells to create nautical-themed jewellery pieces.

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Here are the first few designs:

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We will add these pieces to our website within the next few weeks. So, stay tuned for updates! We will publish our blog once a week, on Tuesdays. To ensure that you do not miss any updates, please take a moment to subscribe to our blog. Also, ‘like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram for additional updates. In the meantime, we hope you also will have a chance to get outside and enjoy these precious days, regardless of the weather.

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