New Year, New You

This New Year’s Eve I had an epiphany whilst on the dance floor at the Minneapolis Black and White Ball. In between navigating pools of spilled beer, over-zealous revelers in 3” heels and a ballgown I had a sudden realisation. The reason I am so determined and focused with my New Year’s resolutions is that whilst most people are waking up with a sore head on the first day of the year I wake up the day after that a whole year older as my birthday is on January 2nd.

I’ve never been a fan of giving anything up for New Year. I find setting an intention to take something up is far more proactive, fun and achievable. I took up yoga seventeen years ago and still practice to this day. I remember having to take up Facebook when it eclipsed MySpace as the social media platform to be seen on. I find it exciting to step into a new year as a new version of myself and defining who I want to be. This year has been particularly special as on Saturday 21st January I had been in Minneapolis a year to the day. 365 days earlier I had stepped off a plane with just two bags and didn’t know a soul in the State of Minnesota outside of the Evine family.

Fast forward to January 2017 and my Saturday couldn’t be more different. My day began bright and early at my Miracle mornings discussion group in a local coffee shop where we watch a short YouTube video on a topic and then discuss it. This week was the philosophy of Stoicism. After the group, I drove to brunch with a writer friend whom I met when I volunteered at the Minneapolis Saint Paul International Film Festival last Spring. I just read the lead in her play and now wants me to resume the role in a short film she’s writing.

Afterwards I burned off my brunch at salsa class. My friend and fellow Evine host, Fatima, has given me the bug for salsa but she is one of, if not THE best dancer in the Twin Cities. I, however, am still stepping on people’s toes and turning the wrong way, which is incredibly frustrating as I’ve always loved to dance but that’s a whole different experience to learning to dance!

Next, I went to Uptown Minneapolis for a Soul night with a friend. It was a strange coincidence as we’d both found out about it months before from totally different people but just as I was about to ask her if she wanted to go, she mentioned it to me. Soul night was not about the musical genre but a gathering of people wanting to connect on a spiritual level. There were hugs, crystals, sageing (an ancient practice where people burn sage to clear energy) and some positive live hip hop. Lastly, my friend and I grabbed dinner before I headed home.

The reason I want to share this with you is to show what’s possible in just one year. Even as I write this I just went to an outdoor Shanty art festival on my way home from buying groceries.

As a life coach, a common question I ask is, ‘What’s stopping you?’ So often the answer is ourselves. It’s not that we consciously hold ourselves back but more that we don’t give ourselves permission to ‘colour outside the lines’ so as we get older our worlds get gradually smaller.

Something I’ve done differently this year for myself and my clients is to mind map my 2017 goals. It’s really simple. Print out a photo of yourself that you like (or photos, if you’re doing a family one). Get a big board – the foldable science fair ones work well and they’re about $5.

Paste your face into the centre of the board and then just get busy with the Sharpies and BIG ideas. Draw lines coming from you and begin to create categories like, ‘Family’, ‘Creativity’, ‘Fun’, ’Fitness,’ Community’, ‘Vampires’. OK, so not vampires, I was just checking you were still reading but, YES – vampires! Think outside the box, nothing is off limits and have fun.

Then put it somewhere where you can see it every day and keep adding as ideas pop up.

Putting your face next to, ‘Win Nobel Peace Prize’ is literally aligning yourself with it in front of your very eyes.

An even faster way that takes up zero space and you can do when you’re half-watching TV is to create Pinterest boards for your goals. I have one called Fashion Goals 2017 to achieve the perfect capsule closet (Prince Harry’s new girlfriend Meghan Markle is my current style crush!).

I can’t guarantee it will stop me from buying random things like neon pink PVC boots (but to be fair the mileage I got out of my Mum howling with laughter when I couldn’t get them off in the shop far outweighed the cost and the fact I never wore them) but it does give me a structure for when I go shopping.

I also want to travel across America this year and I’ve created a board called Bucketlist USA.

 

When I travelled back to the UK a few weeks ago, I sat next to a guy called Mike from Minnesota who is stationed in the Air Force in London. He was telling me I must visit the Boundary Waters – I’ve Googled it and it’s on the list. I have friends in San Diego, Portland, Hawaii so they’re all must-sees and the Grand Canyon has been on my bucket list forever. 2017 is the year!

 

With technology as sophisticated as it is now we’re all visual people even if we don’t consider ourselves creative. Pinterest makes everything look pretty for you but having a visual image – especially if you can put yourself next to that beach in Costa Rica – is sending your brain a powerful message of possibility! In 2006 I went on holiday to the island of Ibiza with some friends and when I came home I made my screen saver the view of the sunset from the very popular Cafe Mambo. Two years later I moved to the island, got a job at Cafe Mambo and on my first night looked out and had an emotional moment as I realised that what had become background – something I didn’t even notice on my laptop – was now not only my reality but my ‘office’ view every night when I went to work. In January 2015 whilst on a coaching course I spent 3 days being coached around the topic of moving to the US. Six months later without having done anything else, I got an email from Evine offering me a job. Don’t question the ‘how?’ just trust this stuff works!

I would love to hear your goals, plans and dreams for 2017. What do you want to be looking back on this time next year? And if like Minnesota Mike you have somewhere you think should be on my Bucketlist USA, let me know and I’ll add it to the board.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

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Deck the Halls!

For me the sounds of Christmas from my childhood are my sister Kate excitedly clapping because she can’t sleep or the sound of my Little Nanny whispering to both of us as we cuddled up on the sofa and she told us how Christmas would begin; who would arrive, what they would bring. The clapping isn’t something my sister does anymore – as she’s a full grown woman with two kids. But I do. I love Christmas so much that I can’t help but clap spontaneously at the thought of it and every Christmas starts with decorating. I love nothing more than getting up when it’s still dark and gazing at the magic and beauty of the twinkling lights.

One of the most exciting things about spending my first holiday season here in the US is how many people but up their decorations right after Thanksgiving. I usually wait until the 1st of December – mainly because I like a real tree and I want it to still look good come New Year’s Eve (we used to have some epic parties in London!) but as any of my former flatmates would attest, I continue to decorate and add more every day until then. It’s basically like living with Buddy from the movie Elf.

This year is my first year alone at Christmas time. Usually I get to trim my tree with my flatmates and then my family. We ice gingerbread cookies with our names on them and trim the tree together. I once went full Elf and made popcorn garlands – it took me all night to make one that only went once around the tree and then the whole house smelled like a stale cinema – #christmasfail.

The last real tree we had was called Eric. My flatmate Rowls and I got up early to go and get the best tree in the whole of London. As we stepped out of our apartment building we were greeted by two rather worse-for-wear elves selling Christmas trees right outside the pub at the end of our street. We got the best tree we’ve ever had for a steal of a price but the Elves insisted we name him, so he became Eric. If you’ve ever had a real tree you’ll know, some don’t drop down, or they’re too wide at the bottom or too tall and skinny at the top. One dark night I bought a tree that was so lopsided I had to decorate every night because it would always fall over whilst we were out at work. Eric was, and will for ever be, the best Christmas tree ever. In fact, I’ve just realised I haven’t had a real tree since then.

He was perfection!

My Mum and Dad always wait for me to come home for Christmas for me to trim their tree.

We put on Johnny Mathis ‘When A Child is Born’ which has been THE Christmas album all our lives and it’s like I’m five years old again. Last year was really emotional because I knew that I wouldn’t get to spend Christmas with them next year. I decorated the dining room but made it my mission to use every single decoration in the box. It was an awesome Christmas grotto by the time I’d finished. Christmas is the one time of year when more is more!

When I moved to Minnesota at the end of January this year every house was covered in snow and still had their decorations and lights up. It was like touching down in the North Pole! So this year I’ve decided to keep my theme generic and seasonal (so I can keep it up for as long as possible!;) I’ve decorated my balcony with a swag and Mother nature herself has gifted me icicles.

Inside I’ve kept my theme festive but versatile so I can keep it up for New Year and beyond into 2017.  I’m off to the UK in January and I’ll be too excited to spend a belated Christmas with my family to be putting the decorations away. I’ll be listening to Johnny Mathis and looking forward to eating mince pies!

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Here’s my quick guide to creating a seasonal theme that will last all winter:

The message of the season

Peace, love and joy. Signs that capture the spirit of the season work all year and remind you what’s it all about!

img_0707Be bold!

If you want to create a contemporary theme that extends beyond December 25th step away from the red and green. I LOVE pink! Think outside the box and embrace your favourite colours. I just used some spare glass jars I had in the kitchen to create this look.

 


Stars & snowflakes

They are an easy way to create a theme that gives a Winter Wonderland feel for the whole season and that you can add to easily.

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Metallics & holographics

Metallics maximise your lighting to create more magic and are perfect for parties.

 

 

Poundshop, dollar stores and party stores

Some of the most effective decorations are the cheapest. Ikea are great for fun pieces that won’t break the bank and party stores for ceiling decorations you can re-use every year.

img_0701Fruits of the season

Pine cones, cinnamon sticks, oranges slices and berries are a feast for the eyes and fill your home with a wonderful, welcoming smell. This is an easy how-to guide I found online that I used to make these orange slices.

 

Lights and candles

Twinkling lights look magical all year-round. I have a timer on my balcony lights so I don’t have to brave the cold and it’s lovely to come home to.

Keep it safe with battery operated candles. These are great value at 6 for less than $20 and are remote controlled!

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Fun and the Games

With the 2016 Olympics in Rio now drawn to a close I want to share with you my experiences of the last Olympics in my home city.  When London won the games in 2012 the whole country was elated, shocked and then worried the whole thing would be a giant fiasco we’d have to live down until the end of days.  It wasn’t just a case of self-depreciating Britishness.  We’d never held anything of that scale in London (not since 1948), and hosting the games in a city where public transport was already stretched with 8 million Londoners seemed to be a flawed plan before we even got onto the logistics of holding events in venues never used before all over the capital.

ss-blog-4-bbAs the games dawned, the newspapers were filled with horror stories and living in London you heard many of them from friends; like how they’d ordered a set of speakers big enough to blow the back doors off a rave for the announcements at the ladies sycronised swimming.  The whole thing seemed destined to fail. Then, gradually, the mood started to shift, and people started to get excited.  The parks in London put up big screens so we could come together, drink our favourite beverage and sit on the soggy grass to watch the opening ceremony, and the world watch us.

ss-blog-4-flagWhere I lived in East London was a bike ride from the Olympic Park.  Everything that happened on TV we could see and hear first.  There was controversy over the choice of film director Danny Boyle to direct the opening ceremony, but he knocked it out of the (Olympic) park.  It was dramatic, it was funny, it went off with out a hitch.  And by the time HRH Queen Elizabeth walked through the palace with Daniel’s Craig’s James Bond, Twitter was having a meltdown and Danny Boyle was the toast of London.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AS-dCdYZbo

Despite the success of the opening ceremony I, like many Londoners, had decided to escape months beforehand and had booked myself on a yoga retreat in Turkey.

I packed my mat, forgot about the games and woke to the sound of goat bells and the call to prayer high up in the mountains.  But, when I came back, ‘Super Saturday’ had turned the whole country upside down, the entire nation was in love with Jessica Ennis and Team GB, and was glued to the television in homes, pubs and parks across the country.

ss-blog-4-flagged-ladiesImmediately feeling a sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out!), I dived into every event I could.  I went to Jamaica house to watch Usain Bolt win the 200 metres, and go nuts with one hundred Jamaican fans when he did.  Hyde Park opened its gates to thousands every day and we went to watch Mo Farah in his highly anticipated second race.  The security lines at the park gates were so long that, once people got through, they’d start legging like they were in a zombie film . . . not looking back, leaving behind loved ones and anything they couldn’t carry because watching Mo win was more important.

ss-blog-4-flagged-dressBut the highlight for me, and the first time I stepped into the Olympic stadium, was for the Paralympics.  Being inside for the first time, I actually blinked my eyes like a cartoon character – I literally couldn’t believe my eyes.  The roar from the crowd was electrifying.  The sound actually moved around the stadium like a wave and, when your section was cheering, you couldn’t hear anything at all.

ss-blog-4-stadiumWatching from the stadium got my TV brain buzzing as to who directed what and how because they’d move from event to event seamlessly.  Even when someone was injured, the live commentary directed your attention somewhere else and to the next event.  The seated Javelin was a humbling feat of strength and bravery.

ss-blog-4-sitting-javelinBut the one I remember most was the sight impaired runners who run with a buddy who keeps them on track.  One runner was much slower than everyone else in the race.  I can’t remember the distance, but I do remember he was lapped quite early on and still just kept going.  At some point the crowd took over and, every time he went past, this heroic roar went rippling around the stadium, cheering on the people’s champion no matter how long it took him to finish.  It made me realise how team GB had stormed to victory in so many events because, with the sound of that crowd behind you, any one of us could believe we’re capable of anything.

ss-blog-4-runningAnd so the games came to an end. At the closing ceremony (when DJ Fat Boy Slim dropped, ‘Right Here, Right Now, if any of you know it!) it felt the whole world was watching us and we were part of something bigger than ourselves.  We joined thousands of other Londoners and characters in Trafalgar Square for the final procession of the athletes on open top buses through the city.  We stayed long after the procession had gone.  Most people did.  The games had been a magical moment in London’s history and we’d been lucky enough to be part of it.

Here are a few photo memories I’d like to share with you:

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Get out of your comfort zone!

As many of you know I’m the newest host here at Evine.  Taking the job a year ago followed many months of uncertainty and a visa process so lengthy it probably deserves a blog of its own!  I finally moved here from London in January this year.  Arriving in Minnesota in the middle of winter might sound like the worst time of year, but I had done my research, got some good boots and a big coat. With the beautiful houses and the snow it was like landing in Christmas-land!

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When most people talk about stepping out of their comfort zone, they think about doing something extreme like bungee jumping or leaping out of a plane.  But those are short, sharp shocks that are over quickly.  Moving to a new country, everything you do is new. New, job, new home, new people.  Even the car I drive (and the side of the road!) and where I buy groceries have all changed, so it takes a while to come down back to earth because there’s nothing familiar to come home to.  Plus, as there are so many decisions on a daily basis there’s no time to procrastinate!  You have to seize every moment, a way we often talk about in terms of living our lives but rarely get the chance to.

I’ve always had a love affair with America.  When I was little I used to watch Moonlighting from my bed and imagine that New York was outside my curtains.  I first went to New York when I was twenty years old and, in 2005, worked on the BBC documentary series ‘Soul Deep: The Story of Black Popular Music’ where we traveled the country interviewing some of the most influential names in soul music.  On my travels I’ve visited San Francisco, Las Vegas, LA, New York, New Orleans and Connecticut.  I’ve always found people in the US to be open, friendly and even an exchange with a stranger in a elevator can brighten my day.

Right place, right time..

Moving your whole life is a huge, but I had so many signs that this was the right place to be.  I’d lived in London for 10 years and always thought I would move after a decade but just hadn’t decided where yet.  Then my apartment building was sold and I’d be talking to my coach about moving to the States.  I was working in Dublin and walking down a street that could have been straight from Minnesota, thinking to myself that I always thought I would live in America one day and just weeks later I was approached by Evine!

In Minnesota, people are always curious when they hear me speak. “I love your accent”  is a daily thing, or “I could hear you talk all day” to which I say that can only be a good thing as I talk for a living and tell them they can watch me on Evine!  The question I get asked the most is, “What the biggest difference?” or “What do you miss the most?”  My advice to anyone going to live in a new country is to say your goodbyes to what and whoever you’re going to miss before you set foot on the plane, and look for connection rather than what’s different.

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When I first arrived I did miss being able to walk everywhere, as well as the architecture of London.  Unlike most Brits, I don’t crave PG or Tetley tea (British tea brands); I’m more of a Pukka girl when it comes to having a ‘cuppa’.  There aren’t any TV shows I can’t get online or live without.  In terms of fashion, I was sad to leave was my beloved Topshop.  I actually cried when I saw they’d come to Nordstrom’s – to see the familiar logo I’ve loved and worn for years in an unexpected place brought up unexpected emotions!

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There’s a French expression, ‘Vive la difference’ and ‘long live the difference’ is how I feel about living in America.  I love the four seasons that we have in Minnesota, I’m a water-baby (which you can read about in my last blog) so very well suited to lake-life.  I’ve also enjoyed the challenge of making new friends with the interests and person I am now.  I adore the weather here because, although Minnesotans refer to it as a short summer, three months is a cause for celebration and very different from our wet summers in the UK!

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Here’s my advice if you’re thinking about taking plunge and moving somewhere new:

Embrace the new

One of my mottos has always been ‘I’ll try anything twice’.  I hated sushi the first time, now I love it!  If you’re somewhere new you’re not the same ‘you’ so, be adventurous – you might surprise yourself!  When I came over last year, I went to the State Fair to sample the many foods on a stick and then drove to St Paul to hit up the yard sales.  A few months ago, I volunteered at the Minneapolis film festival; both to meet new people and so that I had to drive across Downtown in rush hour!  I often set myself ‘missions’ just to get myself up and out and about.

Laugh at yourself

Taking yourself too seriously can leave you feeling overwhelmed.  Another motto of mine is ‘Lighten up and let go’.  I like to try and laugh at situations and notice my negative self-talk.  Telling yourself, “I’m such an idiot” doesn’t serve you.  Try laughing at the situation rather than making it your fault.  We can’t all be comedians 24-7, but sometimes cracking up at a situation lightens the mood and gives you a new perspective.

Let yourself mess up

Things will go ‘wrong’ but, as a life coach, I’m a great believer that the only mistakes we make are the ones we don’t learn from.  Allowing yourself to fail allows you to grow.

*Pssst! I failed my written Minnesota driving test the first time and then spent two days revising the whole Minnesota drivers handbook!*

Make it your own

I’ve practiced yoga for 16 years and love to swim, dance and work out in the gym.

I bought my yoga mats with me and joined a studio the first week.  If your life is feeling all over the place, try and create your own routines to feel grounded and move your body to get those feel good endorphins.  I love the quote, ‘If Oprah has time to meditate you have time to meditate.’ (Even if I don’t always find time to meditate! 😉

Get out there!

Don’t stay in and wait for life to happen. Meetup.com is a great way to meet people with the same interests as you.  If you’re feeling you can’t go alone, post a message to say that you’re feeling nervous!  A lot of meetups wear wrist bands or something to make it easy for you to find the group. Go for it!

 

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Life’s a beach

You’ve probably never heard the song ‘Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside’ and it’s highly unlikely you’ll find it on iTunes any time soon, but it’s quintessentially British and sums up who I am when it comes to summer. I heart the beach – big time!

For me, summer is an experience for the senses. After we’ve been bundled up from the cold inside our houses and our big coats, it feels celebratory to shake it off and salute the sun, the sky and sea. I adore the feeling of warm sun and a cool breeze on my skin, the sound of the ocean, the sensation of sand between my toes as I walk through the waves. From the bleak midwinter, summer comes with a beauty so perfect it brings a sense of anticipation that anything is possible.

When I was little our annual holiday home was a tiny cottage called ‘Binsey’ in Cornwall that was owned by my Great Uncle Fred and Auntie Mae. I have the utmost respect for my amazing parents making a four hour (or was it eight hour?) journey with three small children, no air con and a constant wail of “Are we there yet?” But once we were there – what an adventure! We lived on the beach; surfing on wooden boards, eating peppery Cornish pasties and clambering on the rocks with our nets in one hand and buckets in the other looking for salty rock pools and the wondrous sea creatures they held within.

When I was five, we moved to glorious Sussex-by-the-sea. First, to historic Hastings, where my Dad would take us climbing on the cliffs and tell us stories about the great battle that took place there in 1066. We’d watch the glassblowers on the pier making colorful creations whilst eating hot donuts fresh from the pan.

Next, we moved to Elmer Sands, which couldn’t get more British seaside because we had a Butlins holiday camp in nearby Bognor Regis where hoards of Brits would flock year upon year to sit in deckchairs eating ice-creams and getting suburnt. Our house was so close to the beach I could see the sea from my bedroom window. We went to the beach every day after school and I even remember one day bringing a tray with a teapot, a jug of milk and cups for all the Mums and Dads after one of them said, they were, ‘Gagging for a cuppa’. Some days an ordinary walk on the beach could turn into an adventure when a trawler had become grounded or we found an unexploded WWII bomb that had washed in with the waves!

In 1999 I fell in love. Not with a person but with a place. It was the first time I visited the Spanish island of Ibiza. I have been lucky enough to work and travel all over the world but there is something quite magical about the island and it holds so many great memories for me from seeing the moon rise to many a sunset. In fact, in 2009, I ditched the city and moved there for the summer. A favorite memory that year was when I was steering a friend’s yacht (as you do!) and, as I looked out at the glittering ocean, I had the thought that this couldn’t be any more perfect. At that precise moment, five dolphins popped up out of the waves right by the side of the boat to say hello!

Still on my bucket (and spade?) list is the Maldives. In our host room, my screen saver/vision board is a stunning picture that appears every time I turn on my computer.

I’ve visited many places and many beaches but, wherever I am in the world, the sea brings both a sense of excitement and peace. The ocean can be as still as a mill-pond or a swirling all-consuming torrent. It is a reminder that nothing in life is constant apart from change.

Here’s just a small snapshot of snapshots from some of my seaside adventures that I’d like to share you with you:

 

Cornwall

Cornwall – the start of my love affair with the beach on one of our family holidays

 

Provence

Provence 2009 – this was a holiday with my parents and my grandmother we had a gorgeous villa up in the hills in the South of France. If I can’t be at the beach you’ll find me at a pool!

 

Capetown

Cape Town 2011 – I shot an American commercial (yes, I can do other accents!) in Cape Town, and the whole trip was magical – from flying Club Class, scaling Table Mountain and even a Hollywood celebrity sitting feet away from me on the flight home! 

 

KoChang

Ko Chang 2012 – one of my BBFs lives in Bangkok in Thailand and when I went to visit in 2012 we caught a boat to the island of Ko Chang. I love this picture as it looks like it’s from a brochure – that’s how beautiful Thailand is – no filter required!

 

Croatia

Croatia 2013 – Croatia has incredible sunsets and the Adriatic sea is like no other. A friend and I went to a festival there and it rained every day – apart from this one!

 

Ibiza

Ibiza 2013 – this is from a holiday with the girls. I procrastinated for ages about whether to pay extra for a room with a sea view but I was so glad I did. This was the view from our balcony. Pure bliss!

 

Brighton

Brighton 2015 – Brighton is very near to where I grew up in Sussex and always has a place in my heart. This is the shell of the old pier that burned down in 2003.  I took this photo last year when I working in Brighton for a few days.

I’d love to hear about your ocean adventures. If you could only go to one beach in the world for the rest of your life, where would you go and why? Which hot spots in the US would you recommend I visit? And what’s on your beach bucket list?

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