Why Getting to Know Your Neighbours is More Important Than You Realise

Hello Lovely,

While I was in London, I got a phone call from my mum telling me that our neighbours house had burned down. She said everything happened so quickly there was nothing they could do to help. Panicking, I asked her whose house had burned down and immediately began my process of elimination with the only neighbours I knew. The name my mother gave was so foreign to me. I had never interacted with them. I couldn't point them out in a line up. I couldn't even tell you what colour their house was. I genuinely knew nothing about these people. And that's what made me feel bad. Yes it was terrible that they had just lost their home and all of their belongings, but when I had no idea who they were, that made me realise how important it is to know my neighbours. If your house were on fire, wouldn't you want your neighbours to stop what they're doing and help you? I was reminded of how helpful my neighbours were after Hurricane Matthew. Natural disasters aside, there are many benefits to to getting to know your neighbours.

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1. You get access to information and resources.

Your neighbours can sometimes be the best people to go to when you need something. I'm not talking about the stereotypical cup of sugar. Maybe you need a contractor and your neighbour is a contractor. Looking for restaurant recommendations? Your neighbour may know the best spots. Neighbours hold a wealth of knowledge on where to go and supplies. From extension cords to feminine care items. 

2. Your neighbourhood becomes safer.

Neighbours look out for neighbours. If your neighbour has a phone contact for you, they can call you if they see someone suspicious hanging around your house. Many people rely on their neighbours to “keep an eye out” when they’re travelling or at work for any suspicious people or activity on their street. You don’t need be technologically savvy to do this; all it takes is a simple hello once in a while to foster a small connection, which can form a later sense of being part of a bigger “family.” And in case of emergency, it is much easier to go to someone you know rather than a complete stranger. And if you really trust your neighbour, you can leave a spare key with them in case you ever lose yours.

3. You receive support and help.

While I was living in Miami, I hit a fence. My neighbour noticed my bumper hanging one day and fixed it for me. When I came outside and saw it was fixed, he told me he had fixed it. He was close to my aunt whom I was staying with so by extension, he took care of me as well. I was even able to ask him son to wash my car for me for only $5,

And if that’s not enough reason to meet your neighbours, consider this: When I was in high school, my Spanish teacher met a guy on an online dating site and called him up one day. While on the phone, a plane flew over and they were surprised that they both heard it so vividly. When they stepped outside, they learned that they lived on the same street for years and never knew each other existed. They even had the same last name (no relation). They’re now married. So it just goes to show, you never know where your next “hello” will take you.

Have you met your neighbours? Is it important for you to know who lives next door?

5 Tricks I Use to Save Money at The Food Store

Hello Lovely,

While I was in London something that really impressed me was the cost of groceries. It was probably why I didn't eat out as much. Lidl was within walking distance of my flat. It reminded me Aldi's, which I was happy to see is also in London. You have to bring your own bags, otherwise bags can cost 5P and up. But everything was cheap. I got desserts for 60-90P and enough groceries to cook for nearly 2 weeks for under £30. But when I got back home and had to restock my fridge, I was outraged to see my groceries come to over $30 for items I could check out in the express lane. I knew immediately that I was doing something wrong. Especially because I had to go back twice afterwards over the span of two weeks. So after giving it some thought, I realised I needed a better strategy for saving money at the food store. I put my strategy to the test and it worked! So here are the 5 tricks I use to save money at the food store.

1. Make a list based on meal plans

It may seem cheesy but I save more money when I make a list based on meals I plan on preparing. I look at recipes, look at which ingredients I already own, then write down the ones I need to buy. You can use pen and paper or your cellphone. I get extra organised by writing the name of the recipe and then the necessary ingredients underneath. How does this save money: Choose recipes that use the same ingredients so you won't have to buy too many different ingredients. Also choose recipes you would realistically make during that week. And once you have a plan it's easier to stay on target.

2. Use a Reusable Tote

While it may take some of the local packing boys some getting used it, there are many benefits to using a reusable tote bag. Not only is it better for the environment, but it helps to keep you on task because you can't buy what you can't tote home. Lately I made a vow to use my tote bags instead of plastic so I always carry two tote bags with me to the store (they're not that big) but I can fit $60 worth of groceries in those bags.

3. Wait for the price to drop

Just because something is in season doesn't mean the price will always be low. One week the price of strawberries were $5.99, I went back the next week and the price dropped to $3.99 (which let's face it is the cheapest it's going to get here). They're always changing the price of fresh produce so keep an eye out.

4. Don't do all of your shopping in one place.

I recently started shopping at Solomon's Fresh Market again because of the wider variety and comparable prices, but there are still some items that are considerably cheaper elsewhere like SuperValu and Meat Max. However, I would never buy fresh produce from Meat Max or any Chinese food store and I would never get berries from SuperValu because I can buy mixed berries at Fresh Market, much cheaper. So learn which store sells what at the best price and plan your best gas route.

5. Use your stamps

In the Bahamas, we don't really have coupons or rewards cards. But SuperValu stamps are a godsend. I enjoy collecting them and saving them until I have about $20 worth of stamps. There's something exhilirating about watching your total be cut in half. Some people are more extreme than I am and save $60 or more in stamps. I always keep an eye out for stamps on the ground in public and once found almost 12 stamps just lying on the ground. Also if you go to SuperValu on Sundays, you get double stamps!

BONUS TIP: Buy in Season: Have you ever noticed that strawberries are cheaper in the summer? When you buy what's in season, you buy food that's at the peak of its supply, and costs less to farmers and distribution companies to harvest and get to your grocery store. It may seem like common sense, but it's one of those things many of us ignore when we're shopping.

I hope my tips have helped! What kinds of tricks do you use to save money at the food store? Share your expertise in the comment section below!

How to Know When to Move On

How to Know When to Move On

Whatever the situation, we’ve all been faced with this decision...Maybe you’ve just fought with your significant other about the same shit for the thousandth time and you’re genuinely concerned that you may end up on a real-life Orange is the New Black. Whatever the situation, a decision needs to be made and it’s probably to move on, but how? Your metaphorical suitcase may already be packed. But where are you going? What’s your plan? Maybe you’re still deciding. Well then, this, is for you.

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Coffee Talk: Let's Talk About Hobbies!

Hello Lovely,

I’m the kind of girl that loves to stay busy, but gets burnout very easily. But I can’t sit around and do nothing. Even in my tiredness, I still have to be doing something. I’ve learned long ago to chalk it up to my superhero complex and short attention span. So when things get a little stressful, I like to unwind with various activities to take my mind off of things for a while. I’ve picked up a lot of skills from these activities and the more I stick to it, the stronger I get. Some of these skills have proven useful in my career, and some are just for me to enjoy. Today we're gonna talk about the private ones (which means the obvious ones like photography and baking need not be mentioned). The ones that make life better and help me to decompress at the end of a long day.

1.     I’m not so secretly a Sims addict

My internship hasn’t left me with much time to play the sims, but as I’m nearing the end, I have more personal time again. One of the hobbies I’ve gone back to, is playing The Sims 4. Now when I say addict, I also mean collector. I have the Sims Complete Edition, every expansion pack made for Sims 2 – 4, as well as stuff packs and game packs. My custom content folder is 1.02 GB in size with 839 items. Not to mention the Sims 2 on PlayStation and the Sims 3 on Wii. I’m sure I’ve lost you somewhere in all of that bragging.

The point is, I enjoy playing the Sims because life is stressful and unpredictable, whereas in the Sims, it’s the only place I have complete control. I can create whatever fantasy life I want. I know it may sound a little sad, but this game really has its therapeutic aspects.

2.     I love to dance

Shake your bom bom! Anyone who knows me, knows I love to dance. Even at work, whenever they play music I really like, I jokingly go into hiding because I don’t want to risk losing my job by dancing in front of the kids. A few years ago, I learned how to salsa, bachata, meringue, and tango. In my mind, I could totally be a contestant on Dancing with The Stars (you know if I were a celebrity). Dancing makes me feel sexy and as long as I’m on the dance floor, nothing bothers me. I even did pole dancing for about 3 months and was getting pretty good at it!

3.     I’m trying to earn a green thumb

I’ll be the first to admit that everything I touch dies. Early this year, I was able to regrow rosemary and lettuce but they both died because I kept forgetting to water them. But this time, I plan on doing it right. I have planted Oregano, Sweet pepper and mint so far. I am also trying to regrow the rosemary. I bought Miracle Grow potting soil, I water once per day, keep my plants in the shade and wait. It’s really only been about a week, but I am hopeful this time around. I’ll feel so proud of myself if my veggies actually grow! My plan is to be self-sufficient for flowers, vegetables and herbs by the end of the year.

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4.     Painting is starting to become fun

I never thought of myself as a Picasso, but I’m starting to understand that this painting thing isn’t so hard. I don’t know why I was so afraid of it. I recently painted a wood pallet that I plan on turning into a bar for my patio. Up next is painting some more wood pallets that will then be the sofa. I’m also looking into ways to make my own wall art on a budget because canvases are so expensive. It’s so much fun to create my own work that would normally cost so much money.

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5.     I love fashion design but I’m not IN LOVE with it…

Once upon a time, I pursued fashion design. But once my Master’s degree began to consume my life, I just didn’t enjoy sewing any more. Even now, there are so many projects that inspire me but I’ll always find an excuse like the weather or I don’t want to ruin the fabric. I like being able to say, “I made this” but only time will tell if I ever return to this hobby.

Hobbies come and go over the years. I love the idea of always having a "current obsession". If you're in the market for a new hobby, here are a few tips to help you choose the right one for you…

1.     How much money will this hobby cost you?

No matter what, hobbies will cost you money at some point. Whether it’s the initial investment or continuing fees, ask yourself this, “Can I afford to do this?” Some DIY hobbies look cheap and easy, but depending on where you live, supplies and other resources can run a hefty bill. My suggestion. Try before you buy. If you're thinking you might like to try rock climbing, go with a friend and use their equipment before you dive in and commit to joining a gym or buying supplies. Use your mom's sewing machine and see if you like sewing before you buy your own. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I've definitely been guilty of making those impulse buys only to watch it later collect dust. Giving yourself freedom to explore different options is a great way to feel like you don't have to stick with something you end up not loving. Then there’s the time it would take to complete each project.

2.     Is this hobby more for down time or time consuming?

Just because the girl on YouTube said this is an hour long project doesn’t mean that it will take YOU an hour to complete. She’s an expert, you’re new to the game. With practice you’ll eventually be able to do this faster, but ask yourself, is this something you can learn quickly? And once you get the hang of it, is this a once in a while thing or something that has to be done on a consistent basis? Look at your schedule and figure out how much time you realistically have to dedicate to a new hobby. We are all busy, especially during certain seasons of life. So be honest with yourself about what kind of time you have to devote to a hobby and don't over-commit or try something that you just realistically can't accomplish. A hobby is something you should do for you and should make you feel good about yourself, not constantly sad that you aren't achieving as much as you think you should or are unable to really enjoy it.

3.     Finally, “Do you, boo”

Your hobby should match your personality. If you know you’re lazy, who are kidding by suddenly investing in running gear? Your hobby is your “you time” to express yourself. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Your hobby should allow you to forget about that crappy day and give you a renewed feeling.

What about you? What hobbies are you in love with right now? What helps you relax?

XoX,

Currently: Dating

Hello Lovely,

I'm not ashamed to admit that after a little over two years I made the decision to end my relationship. It wasn't so much the distance as the differences I could no longer overlook. After a very heated argument that we've had more times than I can count, it's like a light switch went off in my head. I just couldn't do it anymore. It had nothing to do with whether or not I loved him. I loved him dearly, but it just wasn't working. We weren't working. And we weren't going to work either. In that moment, I knew for sure that had we gotten married, I would've divorced him. So I did what I had to do.

I was fine with my choice. I know I made the right decision. All I had to do was move on. So I did. And I'm proud to say that next month, I'll be making my final presentation for my master's degree. I can't believe this moment has finally come! It took a lot of sacrifice but I did it!

 While this is a personal blog, I am very cautious of what I write and share. But whenever I experience something I feel is worth sharing, I want to share that wisdom with others. I've compiled them into mini chapters, so to speak, all based on my personal experience with dating. So this is what 2 years of a long distance relationship coming to an end, culminated with 3 months of dating availability has taught me about dating and myself:

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1.     Picky is not necessarily a bad thing.

Any time a guy asks me what I look for in a partner, I always lead with, “I’m picky.” I’m not ashamed of this. My pickiness is not unrealistic; and by leading with what I want it lets the “unqualified” know not to bother. Why waste time with someone who only wants to waste your time? Letting someone know you have standards that are non-negotiable creates an opportunity for respect and allows you to weed out the undesirables. Only weak people are intimidated by standards.

2.     Forgiveness is important

OMG! Who am I for even saying this? I am the master of holding grudges! I recently started dating someone who acted unforgivably. We stopped talking and it actually hurt me. But last week he reached out to me to apologise. I’ll be honest, I was ready to forgive him so I felt relief after we talked it out and now we’re friends again. That’s because I had to accept the advice two of my best friends gave me:

3.     Nobody is perfect; including yourself

People are going to mess up; it’s a part of life. There are no perfect boyfriends, just real ones. It’s still up to you to decide how much imperfection you’re willing to deal with, but remember that you yourself are also a work in progress and there are going to be things your partner doesn’t like about you.

4.     Always date your best friend

But none of that would matter if you date your best friend. That was my biggest regret in my last relationship. We got into a relationship after only two weeks of knowing each other. Take the time to really get to know the person you’re about to spend the rest of your life (or the next three months) with. Loving your best friend is much easier than loving someone you’re still getting to know. You won’t know everything about your partner, but it’s much more fun when this person has unconditional respect for you before romantic relationships become a topic.

5.     Listen to the warning signs

I can’t stress this enough. There were so many red flags in my last relationship; as early as one month in. even when I met him, I didn’t feel the butterflies I thought I would but chose to ignore that. There will be warning signs in any kind of relationship, some are minor but you know when it’s a biggie. Listen to your heart. If something feels off, it probably is. Address these issues head on so that everyone is clear moving forward.

6.     Pick your battles

Not everything is worth fighting for. Sometimes you just know that something will end in an argument or worse a fight. The warning signs are there and in that moment you have a choice. Fully commit to this sinking ship or walk away? If you’ve already made it clear where you stand on something minor, no need to keep nagging your partner if they don’t get it right. For example: your partner getting stuck in traffic and being late to a date, vs. your partner always ignoring your requests to do something that makes you happy.

7.     Be intentional

Someone can’t give you what you want if you’re not clear about what you want. Be upfront, honest and intentional. Go for what you want and don’t be apologetic. As long as you’re true to yourself, no matter the outcome, rest in knowing you made your needs and wants clear with no crazy mixed signals.

8.     Games are for kids

This ties in with the above note. No one likes the guy at the bar who takes your number then takes a week to call. And worse, he doesn’t call back for another 3 weeks and the only reason he did call was because you initiated a drop call to get his attention. While I already counted three strikes against him from the initial meeting (my friends though I was too harsh) it turns out I was right about him so it didn’t hurt me. No one has time for games so I simply didn’t make time for him.

9.     The ring didn't mean a thing

Last year when I went to St. Croix to meet his mother, I told him bluntly that I could spend over $600 on airfare to meet his mother and still leave him if I continued to be unhappy. When we did eventually break up, he threw in my face that I was throwing away two years of blah blah blah. While this may have been my longest relationship ever, no matter how long you’ve been with your partner, dissatisfaction in one area will lead to dissatisfaction in other areas of your life. You don’t have to stay if your needs aren’t being met intentionally. There’s only so much anyone can put up with.

10.  Change is good but don't change too much.

Everyone changes in some way during a relationship. Your partner can encourage you to be the best you possible but remember no matter what changes you make in life, don’t lose who you truly are. Don’t change so much to make someone happy that you can’t remember what makes you happy.

There are days when it really hits me that my long-distance relationship is over and for a few seconds, I get an empty feeling. I’ve never been a fan of the dating process because there are so many jerks out there. But with friends that are more like family, I feel more confident in getting back on the dating scene.

I hope my experiences help with whatever decision you’re facing or need to face. What is the best dating advice you’ve ever gotten? Share it in the comment section below.

XoX

How To Be a Boss Without Being a Bitch

Hello Lovely,

I’ve never thought of myself as a boss. Sure I see myself as a leader, but I never liked the title “boss”. It could’ve been due to the narrative I heard as a child that “bossy girls” are bad and no one likes them. Another part of it is I believe that leaders are meant to inspire, while bosses simply order you around without concern for your wellbeing. Lately I’ve been loving how women have reclaimed the boss title and now many women are proud to be called a “Girl Boss.” However, being a girl boss means that sometimes you’re going to have to say or do some tough stuff that may rub some people the wrong way. Yesterday was one of those days for me. As the creative producer in my church, I had to give some tough feedback to fellow volunteers. If you ever find yourself having to make hard-hitting decisions regarding employees, co-workers etc. here are 3 tips to help you to be a boss without being a bitch.

1.      Revise your language

The way you word a sentence marks a clear distinction between boss and bitch. You want to make a point, not alienate a crowd. Now is the time to be direct without being overly critical. Your tone should be even, not harsh; so that the person knows you’re coming from a good place and not on a Prozac withdrawal.

2.      Be constructive, not destructive

Okay, so they messed up. Like really messed up. And maybe you’ve tried to help them in the past but they’re insubordinate and insist on going off script. This is where your language can either help or hurt. Body language plays a role in this too; watch how you hold yourself. That lets the person know what you think about them. Remember you want to inspire them to do better, not kick them while they’re down. If there are any strengths you can point out, include that. Maybe their performance is being affected by personal struggles. Give them some pointers so they’ll know how to improve. If this is the last straw for you and there’s no room for improvement, let them know what it was about their performance that was so disappointing for you and how it has affected the team and the company. Even if you’re terminating this relationship, the constructive criticism will help them in future positions (if they take anything you say to heart).

3.      Learn how to trust

I added this point for myself. This is an area I am genuinely struggling in. If I know something needs to be done, I tend to not tell someone else in detail because I assume they won’t do it the way I want it done. I always struggle with letting go of control and trusting that my team really can do the job. The best way to ensure your vision is brought to fruition is to train those around; this will eliminate the need to micro-manage and correct anyone.

Being a Girl Boss is all about being true to yourself. We all have struggles and we all have moments where we cross that fine line into bitchland. The key is to know when to reel it all back in, re-evaluate and always knowing how to accept when you yourself have messed up. Because no matter how important what you have to say is, no one is going to hear you if it comes out wrong.

XoX,

27 Never Looked So Good

Hello Lovely,

You know you're doing well when you go to your pastor for your birthday blessing and he says, "So how old are you today? 20? 21?" And when you tell him you're actually 27, he's genuinely shocked! I'll admit, I had some anxieties about this birthday (like I do every year) for a number of reasons. Getting older means, I'm one year closer to the age I promised I'd settle down at and that is frightening because some days I'm still burning the coffee. No one is ever perfect at this thing called life. Most days I make it up as I go, and I'm glad it's worked out thus far. That's not to say I don't have a plan in place, but if it's anything I've learned, it's that NOTHING in life goes according to plan.

My social circle has changed a lot since moving back home 5 years ago. This year I spent it with some friends from church (just like last year) with a few different faces, but I felt nothing but love. It all started last weekend at my friend Telia's birthday party. She rented a party bus and that's all I can tell you because what happens on the party bus, stays on the party bus!

Last Friday, a friend of mine took me to AquaFire Grill, which I now know is not the same as the Aqua restaurant in The Hilton. It has a gorgeous setup, perfect for a romantic date, so it felt a little odd to be there with my married friend. But it was quaint and quiet, with nice service and exceptional food! A little pricey, but totally worth it if you ever want to treat someone. That was the nicest part of the evening. We spent the rest of the night getting tipsy in Compass Point with a few friends and then sharing a few laughs in the parking lot after they closed. I needed a good laugh so this was the perfect start to my birthday!

I was supposed to go a party on Saturday night, but I ended up being so hungover from Friday night (best sleep I've ever gotten though) I cancelled with my friends and went to the Greek Festival on Sunday instead.

It was my first time going to the Greek festival which I learned happens bi-annually. Upon entering the festival, my friend Krista and I got two free Aliv sim cards. I already have an Aliv phone so I plan on using the free one as a gift. I met up with three other friends and we had a great time exploring the Greek culture through it's food and music. I fell in love with the Loukoumades. Don't ask me to pronounce it, but it's delicious! If you've never had it, it's delicious fried dough (like a doughnut) topped with honey, walnuts and cinnamon. I don't even like nuts and I didn't know nuts were in it. I tried another dish with grilled octopus and chickpeas, calimari (that was a little too fresh for my taste) and spinach rice. I also tried another pastry that looked like a mini twist, which was actually a cookie with chocolate and regular sugar cookie intertwined. It was delicious! The food was way too expensive, but my friends and I shared. I'm still upset that I spent $6 for one beer, but even the beer was good!

I loved the bargain stalls. My friend Krista bought a ring for $2, my friend Glenise bought a mortar and pestle a and wooden salad tongs for $1 each, while I bought four cookbooks at $1 each! I'm literally at the age where cookbooks and glassware excite me. But  I can't wait to try all of the recipes in them!

I got so much rest this weekend, I didn't know what to do with myself. Granted it was because I was physically incapable of doing anything else, it still felt good to sleep in and sleep all day. I had forgotten how good it feels to just do nothing! I haven't slept on a weekend in months! I had a great birthday! I am so grateful to everyone who wished me a Happy Birthday and all of my friends and family who worked so hard to make my birthday very special!

XoX,

For Unto Us a Child is Born | Christmas Newborn Photoshoot

Hello Lovely,

Photographing a newborn is a unique experience.It’s amazing how quickly they grow up and how quickly you forget their little stages. One of the most important stages in a baby's life, is baby's first Christmas! As you all know Christmas is my favourite time of year, so I feel it's extra special for our little ones. Their innocence and exploration is so precious you never want to miss a second! Let's face it, these kids are practically born with their own personalities and agenda's. 

Meet Makhlyee Haven! This little bundle of joy was only 4 weeks old at the time of our shoot! She has grey eyes and the cutest little cheeks! It wasn't until the end of the shoot when I realised that this candid shot was my favourite and trumped all of the staged shots. There's something so simple about it, that's still so striking, that makes it hauntingly beautiful. Even these ones below were a crowd pleaser because we didn't expect her to smile. These candid shots really showed her playful personality. Moments like these I happened to capture because I kept snapping.

Baby Photography is the most unpredictable of all if you ask me (right after wedding photography). Even when I'm working in your home, so many things can happen that throws us off schedule and sometimes we'll have to scrap a shot altogether. Remember when newborns just laid there and never really did anything impressive? Not any more! The most amazing part of this shoot for me was seeing Makhylee hold herself up inside of the Christmas box. I mean at first, she slumped over and to be honest, it was hilarious (I now totally understand the drunk baby memes). But after a few minutes it was as if she put on her big girl pants. But of course after awhile, all of the excitement wore her out and she needed a beauty nap.

When it comes to shooting baby's, I like to focus on the details. They grow so quickly, something that was there this week, may be bigger/smaller/gone next week. These little things can easily be taken for granted. It's important to capture these moments so you can look back at them once the child is older.

Some of the best shots were also because of the added human element: mom.

We didn't show all of mom, just bits and pieces, because it was really more about Makhylee.

I hope you enjoyed meeting her! If you're interested in booking your own Christmas photoshoot, you'll have to act fast as I leave at the end of next week. Fill out the form below and specify if you want a Christmas shoot or something that can wait until next year. I can't wait to hear from you!

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7 Types of Clothing You Should Get Rid of Immediately

7 Types of Clothing You Should Get Rid of Immediately

With this ruthless closet edit, you'll learn the elements of your personal style - something you probably had difficulty articulating before. And, armed with your trusty triggers list, you should be able to stop yourself from making the same shopping mistakes that forced you to embark on this epic closet cleanse in the first place. Oh, the money you'll save and the stress you'll avoid. It's gonna be smooth sailing from here on out.

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