Netflix Documentary Review: Audrey

The inspiration behind my engagement shoot was the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Audrey Hepburn’s classic style is not only of elegance, but transcends all generations. I remember excitedly planning for this shoot with Ahmad and Farah Taam of Signature Design and Photography. She was the muse of our shoot: I wore a modern twist of the famous black Givenchy dress (mine was from Zara) and donned my mother’s pearls. Although we weren’t in New York, the Detroit skyline served as our backdrop. We took pictures in front of the historic Paul Martin building in downtown Windsor and some other notable hotspots, including restobar Panache.

Director Helena Coan examines the life, the struggles and the triumph of Hollywood actress and humanitarian, Audrey Hepburn. Although Audrey Hepburn was a mega-star, she endured many hardships in her life, including malnutrition, divorce and war. Audrey Hepburn first rose to stardom after her role in the film Roman Holiday alongside Gregory Peck. Her timeless style rose to prominence as she famously collaborated with French designer, Hubert de Givenchy, who became one of her closest friends.

The life of Audrey Hepburn was told through the lens of her son, Sean, as well as many close friends and people she had worked with, making it for a genuine yet candid account of the starlet’s life. Director Helena Coan eloquently tells the story of Audrey Hepburn’s life in such a beautiful manner that as a viewer, you are left intrigued and inspired.

My greatest takeaway from this account of Audrey Hepburn’s life was her dedication towards humanity. Her story was extremely moving and and provides us with a teachable moment: to never stop caring for one another. Her exemplary dedication towards the welfare of children (as made evident with her many missions with UNICEF) is a testament of her love for humanity. Audrey’s own childhood experiences most definitely influenced her passion for advocating for the world’s poorest children. Although she is predominantly known for her classic beauty, I would argue that her compassion, kindness and generousity are her most prominent features.

Audrey had once publicly stated that “taking care of children has nothing to do with politics. I think perhaps with time, instead of there being a politicisation of humanitarian aid, there will be a humanisation of politics.‚ÄĚ Although Audrey Hepburn will forever be remembered as a Hollywood icon, she is most importantly, a role model for each one of us to follow.

Audrey the documentary by filmmaker Helena Coan is currently available on Netflix. Enjoy!

It’s okay to cry: why it’s okay if you have to sometimes

One mother’s perspective on the challenges of raising spirited children and debriefing after a challenging situation

Parenthood is full of ebbs and flows, and on this particular night, I was done. I walked away to a dark corner and needed that space to be alone. When I went down to the floor, so too did the tears.

I had used all my energy to try and calm an inconsolable child down, and I couldn’t anymore. I tried so hard to console him, but the tantrum sucked every ounce of life out of me. Despite all my best efforts to try and calm him down, using all the strategies I learned from books such as the Whole Brain Child and Raising your Spirited Child, nothing was working. I tried our breathing exercises, which he flat out refused and then counting down to ten, but nothing worked.

So I had to turn around and walk away.

Let me back track the scenario: He was upset because he was asked to go to bed early. He started to be a little cranky and my husband said it was time for bed. He then started to cry and scream. My husband simply ignored all this and kept saying, “I think you are tired, let’s go to bed.” The screaming escalated as my son did not want to comply, so he started to bang the floor with his feet and hit. My husband said “hands are not for hitting,” but it didn’t work.

After some time, I stepped in to relieve my husband. I went down to my son’s level and said, “you seem really frustrated that it’s bedtime, don’t you? I know it’s fun to stay up late, but it’s time to get some rest.” He obviously did not like that answer. I then asked him to count to ten and he yells back at me “NO!” I said, “let’s breathe out the angry moster three times,” which he kept screaming “NO!” I then said, “I can’t understand you when you talk like that..” Normally, these strategies would have worked, but tonight, nothing seemed to have worked. Perhaps it was because he was overtired that made the tantrum even worse, or the fact that we have a full-house right now (our in-laws are living with us temporarily). He did not want to give up his fight and towards the end, I had to walk away.

Eventually, it was my father-in-law who was able to calm him down. They had a little chit-chat about what happened and he was able to emotionally regroup himself. They talked it out and he came out of his room. He looked a little sad and almost embarrassed for how he behaved. He apologized to both my husband and I for how he treated us. He said he just wasn’t ready for bedtime yet. I explained to him why bedtime is so important, that sleep is healthy and we need sleep to help us grow. I told him that I forgave him, but then said that for your consequence, you get no TV privileges tomorrow. He accepted his consequence gracefully and I ended the moment by telling him that “I love you, no matter what. Tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start.” He agreed and finally fell asleep.

When he went to bed, I sat towards the end of the hallway, I found a dark corner and I started to cry. I felt as if all the energy I had was completely sucked out of me. I also felt like a huge failure because I wasn’t the one who was able to calm him down. During that moment, I felt defeated because I tried everything I could to help him and it wasn’t me who was able to calm him down, but someone else.

So I needed that moment to cry and let all my emotions out…..and you know what? That is totally okay.

Why?

Because over the years I learned the following three things when it comes to motherhood:

1. To acknowledge my feelings and to own up to them;

2. To accept that sometimes its okay to ask for help;

3. To remind myself that I am human, too.

Raising kids, let alone spirited children is hard, especially when kids are experiencing huge emotions. It can be challenging navigating how they feel during those moments. But as I have learned, sometimes we as adults forget that children too have good days and bad days and that on the bad days, they may have a more difficult time expressing how they feel. During this scenario, my son had a hard time communicating that he was just not ready for bed. Definitely we could have all done things differently, but in the end, it worked out because we as a family worked as a team to resolve the situation.

For a long time, I had a hard time accepting that it’s okay to ask for help, but in a situation like this one, sometimes it’s good to have extra hands on deck. Whether its the other parent, or a grandparent, or whoever, sometimes we need that extra person to help turn the situation around. No wonder why experts often say that it takes a village to raise a child.

On the other hand, knowing that as much as parenthood is rewarding, it is also requires a lot of hard work, sweat and tears. The other thing that took me a while to accept was knowing that it’s okay to walk away and cry if you have to, or to debrief in some other form (sometimes I will jot my feelings down in a journal, which is also very helpful). Sometimes we as mothers (and parents in general) need to let our emotions out. Parenthood is difficult and accepting that it is healthy to let our emotions out is a physically and emotionally good thing. Whether its a good cry, a good laugh or a good run….whatever it is, just do it. It’s all part of that process of coping with a difficult situation.

Overall my message is, that we as parents are human like anyone else. Accepting that it is okay to walk away and cry after these challenging moments is totally okay. Crying isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather of humility and great strength. According to Medical News Today, crying has some soothing benefits and can help relive stress during difficult moments.

My advice to all you mom’s out there: if you need to cry, just let it out. If you need to go outside and get some fresh air, do it. If you need to fill up a tub and soak in some epsom salts, just do it. I can’t stress enough that it’s okay to feel frustrated sometimes when things don’t work out how you wanted them to. It happens to even the best of us. I think it’s always good to regroup after a difficult moment. After all, as I tell my children after a challenging moment, tomorrow is always a new day.

Photo credit: Three Little Birds Photography

Reference: Medical News Today, “Eight benefits of crying: Why it’s good to shed a few tears.”

Was it really a cruel summer? My recap of summer 2020

A parallel universe

The summer of 2020 will go down in history as one of the most difficult summers our generation has ever had to endure. Typically, my family and I spend our summers in Croatia, however, we (regrettably) decided not to go due to the pandemic. As you may recall in earlier blog posts, 2019 was a very difficult year for me after my uncle’s sudden passing and 2020 was supposed to be a breath of fresh air. Like many of you, I experienced both emotional highs and lows, but at some point I told myself to not give in to negative feelings and try to make the most of this summer.

Was this the worst summer to date? Looking back, it wasn’t really that bad at all. It was very strange in the sense where we did some “normal” things but within the realm of social distancing. In other words, I felt as if we were living in a parallel universe. But for the sake of our kids, we tried to keep things as “normal” as possible: attending Sunday misa (church) at our parish in Oakville, weekly soccer practice in Hamilton, getting together with friends at the park on play dates, going to the zoo, visiting my parents in Windsor and so on. M. and I went out for a few dinner dates as well. As strange as this summer was, we found things to do and made the most out of it the best way we know how: through good food, wine and company.

The holy trinity of food- steak, pizza and fish

In our household, we are definitely foodies and no one can describe it better than my oldest son, T. At his annual check-up at the doctor’s office recently, the doctor asked T. what his favourite food was and he proudly replied “steak!” The doctor was delightfully surprised and sort of taken aback that a six-year-old’s favourite food is steak done rare. Fortunately, our kids like everything we make, from mahune to fish. Growing up in a Dalmatian household, my mother would always ask what we would eat the next day; my aunt used to own a restaurant in Germany, so food is definitely in our genes.

When the lockdown started, my husband made it his life’s mission to re-create the perfect pizza Napolitana as pizza is his all-time favourite food. He spent hours researching the best outdoor pizza oven for it’s value, so low and behold he purchased an Ooni Koda Gas-Powered Outdoor pizza oven. He justified the expense by stating that within 6 months the oven will pay itself off and so far it definitely has (nb: we used to order Pizza Nova like every Friday). During the first few weeks of lockdown, my husband would spend his spare time visiting various local Italian bakeries to find the gold standard of pizza flour- Caputo 00. We even planted Roma, cherry and hothouse tomatoes as well as basil for our pizza in our garden this year. Gardening in of itself was a very worthwhile and memorable experience. We got so into pizza making that we spent hours watching different dough recipes on YouTube. After testing a few different recipes, we decided that the one from Vito Iacopelli’s YouTube channel was best for us. How it works is that I make the dough and M. makes the pizza. This recipe from Vito makes approximately nine 12-inch dough balls; we make about 3 pizzas a week so the rest I just store in the freezer. Weekly pizza making is definitely a family affair as our kids get involved too. Overall, pizza making has become a newfound family tradition for years to come.

Another tradition we started in our home was fish Sundays. We decided to bring the shores of Dalmatia closer to home by making seafood and blitva on Sundays after church. If we remember, we order brancin from the local market and M. grills it on the barbeque; but if we don’t get an order in on time, then its either salmon or scallops. Definitely a nice, light lunch to end the weekend paired of course with my favouriite PoŇ°ip from Saint Hills.

good things grow in ontario

The pandemic sort of forced us to “think outside of the box” without really going too far. Being a little bit of a wine snob (Brunello being my all-time favourite,) I must say that Ontario wines really surprised me this year. There truly is a pleortha of wineries, markets and restaurants to discover in the Niagara Escarpement and Niagara-on-the-Lake regions. In July, a few of us embarked on a small wine tour with dinner at Treadwell to end the day. Simply put, just being out on the property brings a sense of peace and tranquility. In a COVID world, many of the wineries and restaurants that I have visited have taken the proper steps to ensure safety but still provide an enjoyable experience. Some notable wines/wineries that really stood out to me and worth checking out are Five Rows, Domaine Queylus, Westcott Vineyards, Kabaca, Leaning Post and Pearl Morissette.

Pjesma i vino

Croatia has a long-standing history of producing wines dating back to Ancient Grecian times. In today’s world, Croatia is home to many world-class and unique wineries. Although Zlatan Plavac Sveta Nedelja Plavac Mali will always be my favourite Croatian wine, some notable favourites of mine that were imported from Croatia Unpacked are Korta Katerina’s Ros√© and Plavac Mali, Saint Hills “Sv. Roko” Plavac Mali and “Posh” PoŇ°ip and finally Stina’s Plavac Mali. Try one of them and you may be pleasantly surprised!

krv nije voda – keeping it in the family

My parents always told me, friends may come and go, but in tough times, we always can rely on family. Although the last six months have been very difficult, there have been moments of complete joy. No one can ever take away that precious extra time I got to spend with my two little boys. This summer was definitely a memorable one, where we became closer as a family and got to explore a bit of Ontario and try some new things out. We visited my family in Windsor a few times and explored Windsor’s Via Italia. Daytrips to zoos were worthwhile, but I found with kids, sometimes the most simplest of activities are the most enjoyable. Walks throughout downtown Burlington over ice cream and exploring new splash pads and parks were probably the most memorable for us.

In summary, although this is a strange and albeit difficult time, the key to making memories are the ones with the people that matter most to you – your loved ones.

Spa-day any day: my top picks for a spa-day experience at home

Disclaimer:  This post was initially written in June.  Although spas in Ontario have opened, not all services are available in stage 2 of the reopening process.  However, these are great things to try when you want a spa day any day at home.  Enjoy!

On Mother’s Day, a few ladies and I were supposed to go to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a spa day.  We had booked it months in advance and were looking for some time away from our kids and husbands.   Then the pandamic rolled around and decided to cancel most activities for 2020.   Sadly, we did not go as planned as lockdown is still under effect, but I did not let it stop me from having a spa-day.   So I decided to bring the spa home.

I want to start off by disclaiming that I am not an esthetician or a skin expert, but these are some of my “must-haves” for a spa day in the comfort of your own home.

1.  Setting the mood

I think its really important to set the tone for your at-home spa day to feel completely relaxed.  You may even want to “schedule” a time of when to do it around your kids’ schedule.   I typically have my “spa nights” in the evening when my kids go to bed.   I start off with diffusing some lavender oil or Balance essential oils (from Doterra) into my diffuser.  I have the Petal Diffuser from Doterra which lights up.  Sometimes I’ll even put on relaxing music to set the mood along with a glass of water with lemon slices or a glass of wine!

Wine pairing: Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio or G√©rard Bertrand C√īte des Roses Ros√©. 

I love face masks but prior to putting one on, I like to give my face a good cleanse with a facial brush.  There are tons of different facial brushes on the market at different price points but I like to keep it simple.  I use the Dual Action Facial Brush by Quo Beauty and its available at Shoppers Drug Mart for $12.00.   One side is for cleansing and the other side is for scrubbing, so I’ll start by cleansing my skin with a cleanser on the cleansing side and then scrub my pores on the other side.

composition of cosmetic bottle with pink rose petals and wooden plate
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

3.  Mask up

Following my face scrub, I’ll proceed to placing on my facial mask.   There are tons of different facial masks available on the market for every skin type.  You can use the traditional face mask or a sheet mask, but this comes down to personal preference.  I have used both and had the same results.   I typically like a nourishing mask or a mask with hyaluronic acid.  While I wait for mask to set, I’ll take a warm a bath or relax on my bed with a heating pad on.

SEPHORA COLLECTION Face Mask
Coconut facial mask from Sephora

5.  Final steps

Following the face mask, I’ll place face serum and eye cream on my face and then use a rose quartz facial roller for lymphatic drainage.  Whether or not it works, I find it a very relaxing way to complete this skin-care regimen.  I then conclude my mini-facial with a good moisturizer.  For my eyes I use AluminEye eye cream and HydraCalm face moisturizer by AlumierMD Canada.  I just recently started using these products and I have already noticed a difference!

Herbivore Facial Roller

How COVID-19 got to me: stress, fear, uncertainty and self-care during a global pandemic

Friday was the first day that I cried….a lot.

I felt exhausted from homeschooling the kids, trying to get some work done as well as regular chores and I just couldn’t handle it anymore.¬† I buried my head into a sea of tears and had to walk away into a different room in my home to be alone.¬† I felt guilty for doing this, because I did not want my boys to see me cry.¬† My husband told the kids that mommy needs a few minutes to herself.

Before the pandemic, if I was ever stressed, I would go to the gym or go out to a local coffee shop to diffuse, but due to the current lock-down there is no where to go, which adds an extra layer of stress.

I never in my life imagined that we would live through a global pandemic, yet here we are.

It is currently week 6 of the lock-down here in Ontario and everyone is starting to feel it in different ways.

Up until this point, I was making the most of this situation.¬† I embraced the idea of slowing down.¬† I even wrote a blog post about it.¬† I started to do things that I normally wouldn’t have time to do:¬† participating in the wave of baking bread and sharing it on Instagram; drinking fancy wines on the weekends, pinning arts and crafts ides for the kids on Pinterest and purged a lot of old clothes and toys for donation.¬† I started watching foreign dramas on Netflix for fun and even contemplated downloading TikTok and get in on the bandwagon, but changed my mind because I am too old for it.

For the first time in years,¬† I had a break from rushing home from work to soccer practice and I really enjoyed this idea and yet, time went on…..

There is still that fear of catching the virus itself.  As my oldest has asthma and was born with a heart condition, I am extra vigilant.   I barely leave the house and if I do, its just for necessities.  On top of all this, I still worry that my husband may bring it home from the hospital where he works at.

As the lock-down here in Ontario continues on, it started to hit close to home for me.¬† Knowing that it will be months until I see my parents, my friends and colleagues again started to weigh heavily on me.¬† 2020 was supposed to be our year.¬†¬†Our family has been through so much over the past 6 years- premature birth, high-risk pregnancy, my husband’s residency and a sudden family death to name a few.¬† I know, many of you had plans cancelled too, so we aren’t alone, but I just felt like this was a big and crewel joke.

Now, I am starting to worry about the financial implications of the pandemic too.  Like you, many questions are going through my mind:  will there be massive job loss?  Will our taxes increase to support these benefits?  Will we ever recover from this?  

This created a perfect storm which culminated in me breaking down on Friday night.¬† However, this in of itself brought a huge relief as I let all that fear, worry and guilt out.¬† I’ve been positive throughout this whole process and on Friday night, I was extremely overwhelmed.¬† Trying to balance everything at home just got to me and I reached my boiling point. I needed that release.

What I can tell you is that I am learning more about myself and how to cope with such situations.  This time has also given me time to self-reflect and I gained a new perspective. My grandfather lived through three wars, Spanish flu and communism, yet he lived a wonderful life and passed away at age 101.  He endured and saw a lot in his lifetime but he survived.  He had hope and appreciation for life.

What I have found helpful during these times is reflection and mindfulness.¬† I have been journaling since I was 8 years old and I have found journaling so helpful during this time.¬† Staying connected on social media has become a blessing and watching all those good memes (the guy toasting to himself in the washroom is my all time favourite).¬† Self-care and taking breaks from homeschooling and work is so important too, I’ve had a few nights where I just had a face mask on while reading a good book.¬† I also find exercise quite therapeutic.

My advice if you are feeling overwhelmed, upset or frustrated, take that energy and turn it into something positive.  Find your niche.  Find something that sparks you, that makes you feel like you, no matter how difficult the circumstances are.

If you feel overwhelmed like I do, I want you to know, it’s okay, because you are not alone.¬† It’s okay to cry and let your feelings out.¬† We are all feeling this and is even getting to the strongest of us……and it’s okay to feel vulnerable.¬† I keep reminding myself to count my blessings and that this will not last forever.

As I have learned with experience, the human spirit is resilient, but this is a choice:  you have to choose that path and firmly believe in it because your mindset is what will get you through this.

Quarantine and chill: What slowing down has taught me

We are now entering week three of self-isolation here in Ontario, Canada and I must say that despite all the insecurity and fear surrounding the pandemic, for the first time in a long time I feel peace.

I feel peace away from the traffic.
I feel peace in the neighbourhoods and in the streets.
I feel energized.

For the first time in a long time, I don’t have to worry about rushing home from work to get supper ready on time.  I don’t have to worry about planning my day around the kids’ activities and worrying if I’ll be on time or not because of the traffic.  I am no longer exhausted from staying up  late at night to finish chores as I have a bit more extra time during the day.  I can finally enjoy that cup of coffee warm in my own home, in my pyjamas while cuddling with one of the kids.  It’s great.  img_6792Although the implications of the pandemic are scary, I feel somewhat at peace knowing I am at home, safe, with my little ones.  My anxiety levels have definitely decreased knowing that we don’t have to rush to go anywhere.  It’s a welcoming break.

I must say, its not perfect:  homeschooling the boys has not been easy; we have meltdowns and we have tantrums.  Sometimes they just aren’t that into it.  I am currently in the process of trying to get set-up to work from home. Like everything though, I’ll figure it out. With that being said, the kids’ bedtime routines have been a bit off, and I am working on creating some type of routine.  But overall, the big reward to all this is that we are spending more time together.  We are doing things that we would not otherwise have had the time to do and we are starting to get creative.  We spend time exploring the backyard in search for nature’s treasures.    We started baking almost everyday and it’s been a delight and sense of pride for the kids.  I made bread for the first time and a decent Croatian apple strudel.  Not bad for a novice baker.

In an odd way, the pandemic has taught me a bit more about myself and how stressed I really was.  Trying to balance a career and motherhood is exhausting.   But for the first time in a long time, I feel as if I am finally in tune with myself.  I adapted a more gentler and slower lifestyle, which is the complete 360 to the life that I was used to.  I found that since the pandemic started, I am exercising even more, despite the fact that the gym is closed.  The fact that I am getting an extra hour or two of sleep as well is another added benefit.  In addition, with malls being closed and whatnot, I found that I am less tempted to shop and waste money unnecessarily.  Since being at home, I’ve adapted a minimalist wardrobe and I actually think its suitable for me and my taste.  Perhaps living simply is the way to go.

Slowing down is a blessing in disguise.

We all need it from time to time.

 

 

 

 

 

Fear, resilience and hope: reflections as we enter an unknown world

Since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 virus a pandemic, I was silent.  I did not know how to process this information.  A few of my close friends described this as a real-life “Contagion.”  I am not a medical expert, but what I do know is that the worst here in Canada is yet to come.  I also know that it will be a very long time until things are back to “normal” again.  Like many of us, I entered a state of shock.

woman looking towards the sky
Photo by YURI MANEI on Pexels.com

The hardest thing for me to process was watching my husband’s demeanor change over a course of a few days.  My husband is a respirologist and like his colleagues, has been monitoring the situation quite closely.  When I asked him what this all meant, he looked at me and said that life will be different for a very long time.  The events happening throughout China and Italy paint a grim picture of what could happen if we don’t act fast to “flatten the curve.”  Within a week the number of positive cases in Canada have jumped to just over 1000.  

Not only are there an array of health issues and questions surrounding the management of the virus itself, but it touches upon so many other facets of life:  the economy, the workforce, the way government works, education and overall, our lifestyle.  Schools across the country and around the world have closed down.  Employers are asking their employees to work from home if at all possible.  Places of worship have asked their membership to pray/reflect at home; restaurants and bars have closed down, although some are remaining open for take out or curb-side pick-up just to keep afloat.  People are asked to self-isolate and keep their distance until medical professionals and governments can come up with a solution.  Life as we know it has stopped for a while so we can self-isolate in hopes of containing the virus and give the medical system some more time.

Probably the hardest thing society will face is not just the virus itself, but the financial implications that come with it.   In addition to that, I fear a mental health crisis is to follow

Humans are social beings and I know from experience that being on lock down is difficult.  I’ve had some experience on being on some sort of lock down:  my oldest son was born prematurely and the first winter home we could not leave the house (except for medical appointments) as his immunity was compromised.  I remember screening all visitors for colds because a common cold could harm his premature lungs.  He obtained an antibody shot called Synagis every month during cold and flu season to protect him against RSV.  As parents, our goal was to keep him safe.    

When I was pregnant with my youngest child, I experienced a form of isolation again. I was considered high risk due to my history of preterm labour.  This meant extra medical appointments and physical restrictions.  I  was placed on strict bed-rest for 2 months following a one-week hospital stay for short cervix.  I remember how difficult those times were-  not being able to go out, not being able to go to work, to pick up my toddler son, I couldn’t do anything….it was hard, but I had one goal in mind:  to keep my pregnancy safe and deliver to my baby to full-term

You see, there is a common theme here with this isolation- being safe.  In this present moment, our duty is to keep our loved ones safe; to protect our grandparents, our parents and our children.  It’s our duty to stay home and to protect the elderly and the vulnerable.  Our governments are asking us to do this and our medical professionals implore us to do it.  I don’t have a crystal ball, nor will I speculate on what is to come, but I do have hope that we can get through this.  It won’t be easy, but we have to stay positive.

It is clear, the effects of this pandemic will last years to come.  I’m sure our children and our children’s children will be learning about it in their history classes.  But as history has shown us, humans are resilient, time and time again.  We will grow strong and learn from this experience.   I am sure the best and the brightest are working on different treatments and solutions to bring this pandemic to an end, because there is hope.

We all have a role to play in this, by self-isolating, by helping the elderly, by being connected with our loved ones virtually, by staying home when you are sick and by washing our hands.  In the meantime, lets show our gratitude to all of those on the front lines:  doctors, nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians, hospital staff, custodians, grocery store workers, delivery drivers and so on.  Together we can overcome this virus.  Together we are stronger, for our future depends on it.

silhouette photography of grass
Photo by Darwis Alwan on Pexels.com

 

Natalie’s beauty insider for 2020

If there is anything I enjoy more in life is trying out new skin-care products and cosmetics.  I have always been a “girly girl” in the sense that I love a nice, sheer lip gloss and an even better moisturizer.  My signature look is simple:  clean, classy and polished.  I think self-care is so important; not only does it make you look good on the outside but it also makes you feel good on the inside!

I wanted to share with you some of my top picks for Winter 2020.   I like to try a range of products that are available from department stores to your local drug store.  Sometimes you can be surprised with the things you can find at places like Shoppers or Rexall.

I also wanted to reiterate that this is in no way an advertisement, nor was this blog post sponsored by anyone.  I am simply a girl sharing with you some of my favourite products and essentials from my make-up bag that I have been using this season.  Consider this tried, tested and true!

img_5518

From left to right:

  1. YES Studio Lip Balm “Uh Huh Honey” – I happened to find this at Indigo over the holidays and picked it up as some stocking stuffers for some friends.  I thought why not try it out myself?  It’s probably one of the best lip balms I have tried to date.  It feels like you are putting a serum on your lips and is very moisturizing and not too balmy.  Approximately $10.00 at Chapters/Indigo.
  2. Bobbi Brown Skin Long Wear Foundation – I thought nothing could top Lanc√īme’s Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation but then I happened to find it.  My brother gifted me Masterclass for Christmas this year and I chose Bobbi Brown’s make-up class.  What I have learned thus far from the class is that beauty comes from within and Bobbi’s take on cosmetics is to enhance your beauty; not to alter your beauty.  Well thats basically what this foundation does is enhances your skin and just gives it a nice finish.  You can find it at the Bay for about $58.00.
  3. NYX Precision Brow Pencil – sometimes I love a good drugstore find and this is definitely one of them!  I love the flat tip on the applicator and makes for a smooth and easy finish.  It also comes attached with a brow brush on the other end.  I would think this is somewhat comparable to other brow pencil’s I’ve tried in the past such as MAC and Anastasia.  For $12 bucks this product is great for your brows!  Available at most drug stores such as Shoppers.
  4. PUR 4-in-1 Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 20:  I do not like heavy coverage and some days all I want is a nice, clean, sheer finish.   I also suffer from seasonal allergies to the point where my skin does not tolerate products with heavy ingredients well.  The beautician at Shoppers Drug Mart suggested I try PUR.  I absolutely love this product and wear this on most days.  It’s light and easy and a little bit goes a long way.  Available at Shoppers Drug Mart.
  5. Christian Dior Lip Maximizer Hyaluronic Lip Plumper – nothing feels more luxurious than this!  This product really does deliver good results.  I am not much of a lipstick person, but I do love a good gloss and this one does not disappoint.  In addition, I find it does not get sticky and it also does give that plumping effect.  I picked this product up at Sephora.
  6. Vichy Mineral 89 Skin Fortifying Daily Booster – as stated in the previous paragraph, I have really sensitive skin, especially around the eye area and for years I have been using Vichy’s skin care line.  I love this product and it really does deliver and make your face nice and plumped.  One to two pumps of this product is all what you need followed by some rolling motions from my Hadaka Quartz Face Roller that I picked up at Angel’s Beauty Bar in downtown Hamilton.  I do this routine twice a day and I have noticed some pretty good results.
  7. The Colossal mascara by Maybelline – I also suffer from eye allergies so I have to clean all my brushes and change mascaras quite regularly.  It can get quite expensive.  One day I was in a rush and stopped at a nearby Rexall and came across this mascara which was on sale.  I thought I would give it a try.  I was quite pleased with the results.  I like that it is not a plastic brush.  When I applied the mascara to my eye lashes I truly thought they looked pretty real (the jingle “maybe its Maybelline” came to mind!). I also like that it is not clumpy. Maybelline is known for making pretty good mascaras, specifically Great Lash, but I personally think this one is better.
  8. Aveeno Absolutely Ageless Moisturizing Cleanser – I literally just started using this yesterday and I love it.  My skin felt nice and smooth and did not dry my face out like most cleansers do.  I found it to be quite gentle and it basically did the job.  Available in most drug and grocery stores but Walmart has the best price for this product online.

What are your favourite cosmetic and beauty essentials?  Share in the comments below!

Much love,

N.

A Croatian Christmas in Canada

To me, Christmas is more than opening presents and decorating a tree.¬† For me, it has, and forever always will¬†be about tradition.¬† Being Croatian, it was important for my parents to pass down their traditions from their homeland to my brother and I.¬† It’s about getting together with friends and family.¬† It’s about faith,¬†charity and spreading love.¬† It’s no joke when they say that Christmas is the most wonderful time of year because it truly is.¬† Christmas is a very special time of year, not just for Croatians but for Catholics and Christians worldwide.
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As I child, I was always amazed by my parents’ stories of¬†¬†their Christmas celebrations in Croatia.¬†¬†My parents grew up in the inlands of Dalmatia, in a small village called Ruda in the municipality of Otok, located by nearby Sinj.¬† The Christmas my parents experienced was very different than the one I had:¬† there was no tree, there were no presents, but there was a home full of family, faith, food and love.¬†¬†¬†During the Christmas season, hay would be laid throughout the house and children would receive special treats such as oranges, figs and if they were very lucky, chocolates.¬†¬† Certainly this was a humbling experience!

Advent
The Christmas season officially begins four Sundays before Christmas, called Advent.  Most Croatians will place a wreath in their homes with four candles which symbolize hope, faith, joy and peace.

Feast of Saint Nicholas – December 6
On the Eve of Saint Nicholas day, children will leave boots by their front doors in hopes that Saint Nicholas will visit them and bring them a treat.  However, if the child was naughty, then they will receive a lump of coal from Krampus instead!

In the Croatian diaspora, it is common for local Croatian Catholic parishes to present¬†a Saint Nicholas luncheon or banquet, with children performing a special Christmas recital for their loved ones.¬† Other traditions ¬†include the sale of ornaments, baked goods and pŇ°enica bowls during these events.

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Baking
It is quite common for Croatians to bake traditional bake goods during the holidays, specifically Ň°trudla od jabuka (apple strudel), breskvice (peaches), MańĎarica¬† (Hungarian lady) and orahnjańća (walnut roll).¬† My mom’s orahnjańća is my absolute favourite (and I promise to share her recipe and test it out again!) and is great with coffee in the morning.
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The Feast of Saint Lucy – Blagdan Svete Lucije
Another special ¬†Croatian tradition is the planting of wheat (pŇ°enica) in commemoration of the feast of Saint Lucy.¬† The planting of wheat during the Christmas season symbolizes new life.¬†¬† Once the wheat has grown, most Croatians will tie it together with a red, white and blue ribbon (the colours of the Croatian flag) and/or place a candle in the middle.¬† Typically, this plant is then the main centrepiece for the dinner table on Christmas day.

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Christmas Eve – “Badnjak”
I remember the sight of a bakalar (cod fish) ¬†hanging in my parents’ fruit cellar.¬† Its basically a dried-up cod fish used to make a bakalar stu with potatoes.¬† This tradition is specific to Dalmatia as well as parts of Istria.¬† Croatians, like most Catholics in Europe will enjoy a special fish dinner on Christmas Eve.¬† Although fasting on Christmas Eve is not mandated by the Catholic Church, it is a tradition Croatians, and other Europeans, share.¬†¬† One of my fondest memories growing up is my mother and my late uncle cooking this wonderful bakalar stu together.¬†¬† We would then attend midnight mass (polnońáka) together and enjoy Croatian Christmas carols.¬† Following this, we would come home to the smell of sarma (cabbage rolls) and fresh figs.¬†¬† Sometimes, people will get together after midnight mass to celebrate over drinks and music.¬†

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Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

Christmas Day – “BoŇĺińá “
The big day arrived, it is Christmas day or BoŇĺińá!¬† It is the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.¬†¬† If you did not make it to midnight mass, then most Croatians will attend mass on Christmas day.¬† For most Croatians, Christmas day is the day when we get together with close family and friends over¬†a big feast of cabbage rolls, schnitzels and much, much more.¬†¬†¬†On Christmas day, presents are exchanged with loved ones and stories are shared with young ones.

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Photo by Todd Trapani on Pexels.com

The days following Christmas…
The Christmas season does not just end on Christmas.¬† For many Croatians, the Feast of Saint Stephen the Martyr (Blagdan Sv. Stjepana Prvomuńćenika) and the Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist (Blagdan Sveti Ivan Apostol i EvanńĎelist) is celebrated on December 26th and December 27th, respectively.¬† If your name is a variant of Stephen or John, traditionally, a celebration would be held in your honour of your name-sake day (or imendan).¬† I like to call it Christmas day parts 2 and 3.

The Christmas season traditionally ends on January 6th – the feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day, to commemorate the day when the Three Wise Kings visited baby Jesus.

“Seven year itch” only got me itching for you

Reflections as we enter year seven of love and marriage and some babies in the carriage

I will never forget when I first got engaged my Strina Ika told me that “marriage is not all roses.” I couldn’t help but laugh at that statement. ¬†For those who know my beloved aunt well know she gives the best advice.¬†¬†Perplexed¬†by her comment, I didn’t quite understand what she meant by that statement. But what I can tell you for sure is that she always has the best intentions.¬†¬† At the time I thought, ah,¬†she’s just being a little silly.¬† Little did I know then….

Back “Then” ¬†Photo credit: Signature Design Photography

And then over the course of my marriage, I slowly started to understand what she meant by those words “marriage is not all roses.”

It was her way of telling me, it’s going to be hard work.¬† Like super hard work.¬†

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to scare you out of marriage, but I’m letting you know now that marriage isn’t easy:¬† it comes with ups and downs, highs and lows. ¬†Once you get married, your life changes dramatically, especially when finances and children are involved. ¬†Marriage takes a lot out of you and it consists of a lot of sacrifice and a ton of compromise.¬†¬† But in order for it to work, it has to go both ways.

In the many conversations I’ve had with my close girlfriends over the years is that marriage is tough.¬†¬† I mean, whenever I talk to my girlfriends it’s always the usual complaining about our husbands (and I’m sure they complain about us too).¬†¬†¬† However, I do believe that there is a way to survive all these little things (i.e. complaints, bickering, etc.) and still love each other and be a couple at the end of the day.¬†¬†Perhaps that’s the romantic in me but I do strongly believe that.¬†¬† With that being said, I know marriage is not for everyone and that’s okay too.¬†¬† I also understand that some marriages can’t continue through (for an array of reasons) and that is okay too.¬† Please know that I am just speaking from my own, personal experience.

I do consider myself extremely blessed because I did marry my best friend; we are so different and yet so alike in many ways. ¬†We do push each other’s buttons, we do have our disagreements…but at the end of the day, we mesh together so well!

I don’t believe in perfect. ¬†I don’t think any relationship is perfect. ¬†It can get messy, it can be hard. ¬†I admit, we do butt heads time to time, but over the years, we’ve learned how to talk things out and find a common ground. ¬† We still know how to have fun together. We still laugh, even when things get tough.¬†¬† Life throws you many curveballs at you and that can cause stress on a relationship. ¬†We’ve definitely had plenty thrown our way- residency, premature birth, high risk pregnancy, moving multiple times, major house renovation and a sudden death in our family, to name a few. ¬†We went though a lot ¬†in such a short period of time…. but we got through it together. ¬†

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Despite all the ups and downs, I wouldn’t have it any other way. ¬†Nor could have I gone through all these obstacles if he wasn’t by my side…and even though we get on each other’s nerves, we get through things together. ¬†We still hug each other every day; still kiss each other goodnight every day and make an effort to be ourselves around each other. ¬†It’s not easy, but what I’ve learned from seven years of marriage is that couples need to find a common ground: ¬†it’s about building trust, showing forgiveness and humility, and most importantly establishing good communication with one another and above all, being good role models to our children.¬† I also think tons of vino after a long day and cuddles on the couch helps too!

The other day we met up for lunch and I couldn’t help but look at him the same way I did during that first encounter we met well over 15 years ago. ¬†It’s that fire that still ignites in us and despite many challenges that come our way, we’ve become stronger together.

ŇĹivjeli sto godina…i viŇ°e…

“Now” Photo credit: Yellow Pear Studio