December 31, 2015

2015: Loves, lessons & lots of adventure!



These are the feelings I desired most in 2015. Back in January, I wrote each of my core desired feelings on pink Post-It notes and stuck them to the wall above my desk. I’ve looked at those four words – expression, bountiful, holy, freedom – every day for the entire year. They’ve been sacred reminders to create my life consciously, always steering me towards that which I find most meaningful. Now, as December draws to a close and I reflect on the past 12 months, I realise I have experienced these feelings intensely, though not quite in the ways I expected.

For me, 2015 was a year of extreme contrasts: Frenzied busyness, and deliberate mindfulness. Loved-up connection, and heart-crippling isolation. Ego and essence, control and surrender… I felt it all. 

Celebration was also a big theme this year. I’ve had a lot of fun, and lived each season to it’s fullest. But the main thing that made this year markedly different is that I became more ME than ever before. Paradoxically, I have a sense of coming home – of returning to the person I’ve always been, at my centre – but also of emerging completely anew.

Here are the most powerful ways my core desired feelings manifested in 2015:

EXPRESSION n. The act of expressing, or setting forth in words; indication of spirit, feeling, character, etc.

When I set the intention to be more expressive in 2015, I thought it would show up privately in new creative pursuits. And though I thought a lot this year about the ways I could be more creative in day-to-day life, it was in my professional life that I really unleashed my self-expression. For me, expression is, and always has been, intrinsically linked to writing, and this year brought lots of it. 2015 was my most successful year yet as a freelancer: I began contributing to new publications, and generated more income than the previous three years combined.

BOUNTIFUL / adj. Liberal in bestowing gifts, favours or bounties; generous; abundant; ample.

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I’d intended ‘bountiful’ to be a year-long lesson in giving, but – to my surprise – it became more about learning to receive life’s gifts with grace and gratitude. 2015 was rich with health and opportunity. We were fortunate to travel a lot as a family, and it is our adventures together  – precious time to enjoy each other’s company and explore – that made me feel most bountiful. 


Rehoboth Delaware


DuckNorth Carolina

Charleston-South Carolina


DISNEY WORLD, FLORIDA (A surprise trip for Evie to celebrate her 5th birthday!)

MONTAUK, NEW YORK (This time to celebrate Thanksgiving.)

Juxtaposed with all of this lovely togetherness were long stretches of loneliness. Chris spent weeks and weeks of this year working abroad, and though I’ve gotten used to his frequent travel, it doesn’t necessarily get easier. His absence was compounded by us living in a foreign country, far away from family and our closest friends, and at times the isolation was overwhelming. Being on my own so much (and parenting solo) forced me to cultivate fierce independence and renewed my appreciation for the simple, everyday moments we share as a family. 

FREEDOM / n. Civil liberty; exemption from external control, interference, regulation; absence of, or release from ties, obligations, etc; ease or facility of movement or action.

Freedom is a value Chris and I share so deeply, it has become a cornerstone of our marriage. (If two people don’t have the freedom to grow individually, how can they expect their relationship to evolve?) In 2012 we implemented the following structure: every year, Chris and I both take a trip of our choosing, either on our own or with friends, and we alternate who travels overseas and who travels domestically. Each trip lasts between seven and 10 days and gives us a chance to explore the world and ourselves, beyond the confines of our usual daily responsibilities.

2015 was my turn to go abroad, and I took the opportunity to go home to Australia to attend a friend’s wedding. Leaving Evie at home for nine days made me anxious (even though she was in fantastic hands with her Dad!) and required a lot of letting go. But the moment I handed my passport to the airline staff and strolled down the aerobridge to board the plane, I was overcome with a wave of wild, unabashed freedom

My trip to Australia was particularly special because it was the first time I’d been home on my own in years. Not only did I get a chance to celebrate the wedding of two wonderful friends in Byron Bay, one of my favourite places in Australia (pictured above), I was also made aware of the many ways I’ve changed – and remained the same! – since I moved away from Brisbane, my hometown, more than a decade ago.

Other things that made me feel wildly free this year:
* A three-night girls’ trip to Boston at the end of summer
* Being outside, anywhere, but especially barefoot on the earth, swimming in the ocean or under the light of the moon
* Finding stillness and transcending the GO, GO, GO of my ego mind with regular meditation
* Enjoying goddess-like health thanks to regular yoga and interval and weight training

HOLY / adj. Specially recognised as or declared sacred; consecrated; dedicated or devoted to service. 
So much resonance here for me this year. First and foremost, ‘holy’ was about honouring my body with fresh food and frequent movement, and attuning to its unique needs. Certain foods, like refined grains (bread, pasta) and most dairy, make me bloated and lethargic. I cut them out of my diet at the end of last year and haven’t looked back. And, even though I had zero desire to go to the gym in my 20s, it turns out my body thrives in high-energy group classes. I love the collective vibe of working out with a bunch of other people (especially when my friends are there!); I find my flow, and smash through my comfort zone in a way I wouldn’t if I was just jogging on a treadmill. I’ve also come to recognise that there are days when my body simply isn’t interested in such aggressive exercise. Those are the times I retreat to a yoga class, go for a walk or get some extra sleep instead. 

Most profound of all, though, was reigniting my spirituality, a part of my life that has been dormant for years and years. In the first half of 2015 I started mentoring sessions with Elayne Kalila Doughty, an ordained Priestess and psychotherapist in northern California. With her guidance, I began learning about Divine Feminine Archetypes and reawakened to a mysterious world full with ancient wisdom. Our work together was intense – I spent many of our Skype sessions with my eyes closed, immersed in imagery and shadow and emotional muck from the past. The process was cleansing and healing, and deeply transformative. In October, I entered Elayne’s online Priestess Presence Mysterium with hundreds of other women around the globe. For three months we attended virtual weekly temples to join in ritual and meditation. We celebrated intuition and beauty, sisterhood and sensuality, and honoured the seasons and lunar cycles. It was salve for my soul – a place to slow down, connect and enter the realm of the sacred. 

Other highlights of the year:

*Watching Evie learn to swim + ride her bike (without training wheels)!
* Traveling to Boston in February to complete the core curriculum of CTI’s life coaching course
* Celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary
* Australian family + friends coming to visit us in Washington DC
* Hearing Elizabeth Gilbert speak about living a creative life on her Big Magic book tour
* Completing Wanderlust’s ‘mindful triathlon’ – a 5km run + 90 minute yoga sesh and meditation
* Live music: Florence + the Machine at Merriweather; Flight Facilities at the 9.30 Club
* Movies that moved me: Amy + Still Alice
* Books I couldn’t put down: The Conscious Parent, by Dr Shefali Tsabary + The Motivation Manifesto, by Brendon Burchard

So there you have it, my 2015!

What were your most memorable moments this year?

With love,

September 23, 2015

5 kick-ass books for little girls


“Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read for yourself.”
– George Bernard Shaw

A couple of weeks ago, after Evie asked me to read Frozen for what felt like the millionth time, I went on a kids’ book-buying rampage. I’m not adverse to princess stories – Evie’s bookshelves are filled with fairytales, as well as classics by wonderful children’s authors (Eric Carle, Mem Fox, Dr. Seuss, et. al) – but still, I wondered: Where are the kids’ books with intelligent and fearless female characters? Which books will encourage my little girl to celebrate her uniqueness and courageously follow her heart? After hours of online research, I discovered a bunch of empowering books for girls that are really fun to read (for grown-ups too!). Here are five of our favourites:

Rosie Revere, EngineerROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER by Andrea Beaty
Rosie Revere dreams of being a great engineer! Night after night she stays awake building gadgets and gizmos from odds and ends, but shy Rosie is terrified to share her creations with the world. That is, until her bold great-great-Aunt Rose shows up and helps her see that failure isn’t something to fear – it’s something to celebrate! I especially love the historical references to women in aviation, including Amelia Earhart (the first woman to fly over the Atlantic Ocean in 1928) and ‘Rosie the Riveter’ (remember that pin-up gal who wears a headscarf and flexes her bicep next to the slogan, “We can do it!”? That’s Rosie Riveter, a fictional character created in the US during World War II to represent the millions of women working in factories to support the war effort). 

miss-rumphiusMISS RUMPHIUS by Barbara Cooney
Inspired by her grandfather, an artist who lives by the ocean and tells stories of adventures to faraway places, Alice Rumphius decides that when she grows up, she too will travel the world and live beside the sea. But there’s one more thing, her grandfather tells her: “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.” A magical book to get little girls thinking about the many ways they can make a positive impact on the world. Whenever we read Miss Rumphius I ask Evie about the things she would like to do to make the world a better place. Her answers often include “be kind to my friends”, “pick up trash” and “make art”. #heartexplosion

The-paper-bag-princessTHE PAPER BAG PRINCESS by Robert Munsch
A brilliant twist on the usual princess storyline! When a dragon smashes her castle, burns her expensive princess clothes and kidnaps Prince Ronald, Princess Elizabeth sets out to rescue her man wearing the only thing she can find: a paper bag. She’s a brave and bold heroine, who emphasises: 1) courage and kindness have nothing to do with what you wear, and 2) never tolerate anyone who speaks to you disrespectfully (turns out, Prince Ronald is a “bum!”). 

The-little-old-lady-who-was-not-afraid-of-anythingTHE LITTLE OLD LADY WHO WAS NOT AFRAID OF ANYTHING by Linda Williams
A great book for Fall and Halloween. The little old lady is brash and brave, and – when she encounters some very strange things on her walk in the woods – helps youngsters appreciate the beauty of facing your fears head on. Evie and I love doing all of the repetitive actions, which are a great way to get little ones engaged in the storyline. 

Spaghetti-in-a-hotdog-bunSPAGHETTI IN A HOT DOG BUN by Maria Dismondy
When a boy at school starts teasing her, little Lucy is miserable. Why is he being so mean? Then one day, the boy finds himself in trouble and Lucy must decide whether to show kindness and help him, or look the other way. A truly special book about celebrating people’s differences, treating others the way you wish to be treated and having the courage to be who you are. Evie asks to read this one over and over, and it’s prompted some great conversations about making friends and being kind – even when it doesn’t feel easy. 

What are your favourite books to read with your littlies?

With care,

September 14, 2015

Wild Mama: Faith Evans-Sills

Faith Evans-Sills

This time last week I was sitting in a quaint Charleston café waiting for Faith Evans-Sills, a local artist and mama I’ve been admiring on Instagram for the past couple of years. Faith’s beautiful IG feed gives a glimpse into her greatest loves – her family, art and adventure – and, as I expected, she’s even more radiant in person. Over coffee we spoke about everything from travel and creativity, to the everyday challenges of parenthood and the recent passing of her beloved Dad. Faith is all heart. She is also unflinchingly real and honest, and I left our meeting feeling so energised and inspired. Here, she talks openly about her experience of motherhood, how she prioritises her own needs and the self-care rituals she uses to nurture her mind, body and spirit. 

Tell us a little about you…
Hi there! I’m Faith, painter, wife, mother, world traveler. I am in the midst of a very busy season of life and I wear many hats often in the same day. While being a mama is always my main focus I also have 20+ years of personal painting experience and I enjoy inspiring others to manifest their most heartfelt ideas through creating art. My art has been exhibited widely, included in multiple publications and I’m very excited to now be fulfilling my longtime dream of offering creative workshops and retreats. I live with my husband and three young children by the sea in Charleston, South Carolina, where we enjoy exploring southern beaches and maintaining a close connection with nature through frequent trips to wild places.

How would you describe your experience as a mother so far?
I love being a mother. Since I was a child I knew that I wanted to be two things: an artist and a mother. It is my highest calling to do both of those things the best that I possibly can. It has not always been easy, especially when I was a new mom. I felt very isolated at the time and it took me a while to figure out who I was as a mom and even to learn to do things with a baby, like get out of the house! Some of my hardest times where when I just had one baby!

Having been parents for 10 years now we have gone through many stages, each with its own trials and rewards. With three children we have learned that lots of the old sayings are really true…. it does go SO fast, each child really is very different, living in the moment is the only way to appreciate the present since life moves at light speed and children change so often when they are small! Overall my years as a mother have been the best of my life.

In fact, actually going through the experience of birthing my children naturally was something that completely transformed me in a powerfully positive way, showing me my own strength both physically and mentally in a way that I had never experienced. It was the experience that made me not only a mother, but also brought me into my power as a woman. FaithFamily

{Faith, 41 with her husband, Frank, 40, and their children, Jasper, 10, Carys, 8, and Griffin, 3.}

What does self-care mean to you?
Self-care to me is all about making sure that my own needs are met physically and mentally so that I can perform my roles as mother, artist and wife in the best, most wholehearted way possible. If I am suffering mentally and physically I’m just not present and focused, so everyone close to me suffers. Self-care is something that I neglected before I became a mother, and then once I was a mom it was hard for me to learn that I actually had to schedule time in to take care of myself and ‘refuel’ my own tank so that I could be my best self. Focusing on self-care is something that I have had to practice and get better at! When I turned 40 last year I think I again have reevaluated my ideas about self-care and am starting to focus even more intensely on streamlining my life, getting rid of things and habits that are not working for me as well as adding in ways of eating and thinking that will keep me healthy in the long run.

What practices do you use on a daily/weekly/annual basis to energise your body, calm your mind and spark your spirit? 
One big one for my husband and I has been attempting to have a bi-weekly date night, where we go out without our children. Having my parents move close by has really helped to make this possible. Having that time to connect one-on-one and chat without being interrupted by our kids has been such a key to our mental health and strong marriage. 

As far as my body goes, I am a person who requires a lot of self care. I take supplements daily, especially vitamin B & D along with herbs that my acupuncturist gives me. I do yoga stretches as many mornings as I can, and try to stretch throughout the day too. Painting in the studio I often forget my body for long stretches of time and then realize that my shoulder has a crick in it or something similar, so I try to re-connect with my body throughout the day.

We also buy all-organic produce and I make as many healthy food choices for our family and the planet as I can. We try to eat, cook and live as sustainably as possible. Weekly I do a detox bath with essential oils, Epsom salts and baking soda. I also use Young Living essential oils daily, they have helped my whole family’s health in many ways, I’m a true believer. Even this past month when I experienced the death of my father, the essential oil blend called Forgiveness really helped my grieving process; I can’t say enough good things about them. Once a month, or more often if I am stressed out, I go to my acupuncturist for a treatment, she is amazing and does a treatment that is a blend of massage and acupuncture with lots of cupping and moxa therapy. It completely resets me. 

How do these rituals make you feel? How do they impact your parenting?
Any time I make space for myself, whether it is my thoughts, my art or caring for my body, it has such a positive impact on my day as a parent. Reconnecting with my best self makes me want to be my best self all the time, and reminds me that I am my children’s best teacher. Through my actions they learn how to be in the world, when they see me caring for myself, making my art, choosing healthy options, then they learn to make those choices too.
Faith artwork

{See more of Faith’s beautiful abstract artwork at}

It can be hard for busy mothers to prioritise their own needs, day-to-day. How do you carve out regular ‘you’ time’? 
The older I get the more easy it is for me to set aside time that’s just for me. I know how much I need it for my own sanity and health. The biggest game-changer for me in setting aside time for myself and my work after having kids was to start slowing adding a babysitter into our days. When I just had one child, I organized a babysitting co-op between two other moms and I who had young ones the same age. Every week all the kids would spend the morning over at one of our houses and the other moms had the morning off. It was brilliant, and gave me a little window into finding myself again within motherhood. Over my parenting years this has evolved, but finding a babysitter who my kids love and I trust remains a hugely important thing.

Finally, if you were given an all-expense paid weekend on your own to relax and recharge while the kids were cared for safely at home, where would you go and what would you do?
This is such a great question and really gets my mind going in all kinds of extravagant ways! I would definitely invite a girlfriend to come along with me to a Caribbean island, since that’s a short flight away and no jet lag to get over! We’d go to an all inclusive resort so we wouldn’t have to think about money while we were there, get massages every day, do yoga, snorkel, sleep for 9 hours every night, and lay on the beach and talk a lot. Talking helps me so much to get out of my head and find my focus again, and there is nothing like a trusted friend to mirror things back to you and help you gain insight.

Read more about Faith on her blog, or check out her Insta feed – it’s one of my faves!

With care,

July 26, 2015

Travel traditions & why I love our family adventures

MONTAUK2015A new tradition has emerged in our family.

On the eve of the summer solstice, we load our Volkswagen with bathing suits and beach toys and drive six hours north of our home in Washington DC to Montauk, a laid-back surfing town at the end of Long Island.

It’s a week of simple pleasures – languid days spent building sandcastles, searching for shells, napping and reading and splashing in the pool. Dusk is almost always celebrated with a bonfire on the beach, marshmallows at the ready, our toes dug in the sand. (You can read about last year’s visit here.)

We’re back home now, our Montauk adventure over for another year, but my post-holiday happy vibes have me thinking: Beyond the obvious benefits – relaxation, new scenery to explore – what are the deeper, more meaningful reasons our family adventures are so important to me?

Quality family time is in short supply. We try hard to make the most of our time together, but the reality is that most weekdays we share a couple of hours in the morning before Chris leaves for the office and I take Evie to school, and then we get a few hours together in the evening. Much of this time is spent relaying our individual experiences: “How was work today?”, “What happened in art class?”, “Did you meet your deadline?”.

Family vacations, on the other hand, give us a chance to create shared experiences, because we’re not bound by many of the regular responsibilities of day-to-day life. In Montauk, Chris and I took Evie for a pony ride around one of the oldest ranches in America. The three of us went on a spirited mission to find the biggest, most delicious pizza in the Hamptons (Astro’s Pizza, FYI). One grey, misty afternoon, we searched for fairies on the beach. In a world of increasing busyness, a family holiday is one of the best ways to create memories and connect with the people you love most.

Routines are beneficial (if not essential) when you’ve got littlies, but it’s easy for boredom and monotony to sneak in when every day looks identical to the one that came before it. Travelling gives everyone a chance to break free of the usual schedule and embrace spontaneity. 

Take the Tuesday night we were in Montauk, for example. Instead of the familiar dinner/bath/bedtime routine, we ventured out to a family-friendly bar and restaurant with the best ocean views in town. A band began to play on the outdoor patio and Evie asked Chris to dance. I watched them twirling around barefoot on the grass, the sun sinking into the sea behind them, and I was struck with overwhelming feelings of freedom and happiness. 

Holidays are the perfect time to ditch your ordinary family routine and mix things up. Surprise each other. Do your day differently. Delight in the unexpected.

For me, engaging in the here and now can be challenging because I’m always trying to do a squillion different things at any given time. Too often my mind is busy replaying the events of yesterday, or fixated on the tasks of tomorrow. The result? I miss some of the beautiful moments unfolding right in front of me. 

A holiday is no substitute for a daily mindfulness practice, but time spent away from everyday distractions helps you become more present and focus on what really matters: each other. There’s so much love to be found in seemingly small moments! Feeling Evie’s heartbeat while she naps peacefully beside me, or seeing the joy on Chris’s face while he builds sandcastles on the beach – tiny moments like these give me a heart-swell of gratitude that revitalizes my spirit and strengthens our connection to one another. 

When was the last time you took a family vacay? Where did you go?

With care,

June 8, 2015

Mandala Colouring


Are you searching for creative ways to experience more calm and peace? Do you want to be more present when you’re playing with your littlies, and help them experience more calm and peace too?

I AM. I DO! 

So I was stoked to stumble across Fifth Element Life’s 111 Mandala Meditation Magick Colouring e-BookI downloaded it straight away, thinking it would be a super fun activity for Evie and I to do together, and BAM! Now we can’t get enough!


A mandala is a geometric design that usually appears as a series of concentric circles (mandala is a Sanskrit word, meaning ‘circle’ and ‘centre’). Mandalas are sacred symbols of wholeness and unity; they exist everywhere in nature – the sun, snowflakes, spider webs, even the shape of your eye is a circular form!

Many cultures use mandala art for meditation, self-expression and spiritual transformation:

  • Tibetan monks create mandalas in the sand to demonstrate the impermanence of life;
  • Navajo Indians incorporate mandalas into healing ceremonies;
  • Psychoanalayst Carl Jung used mandalas as a therapeutic art tool, describing them as “a representation of the unconscious self”.


There’s something delightfully child-like about colouring, and mandalas are infinitely more inspiring than most kids’ colouring books. But it’s more than just a fun art activity – mandala colouring is a powerful form of meditation. The rich symbolism in mandala designs appeal to the subconscious; meanwhile, experts say colouring is an effective way to reduce stress because is activates different parts of the brain related to creativity, logic and motor skills.  

Evie and I are obsessed. When the mood strikes, we each select a mandala from the colouring book and set up our art supplies on a table in the back garden. For the next hour or more, we colour peacefully side-by-side – content, focused and totally immersed in the process. Other times, when Evie is searching for something to do, she chooses a mandala design out of the book and starts colouring on her own, without any prompt whatsoever. 

{You can find Fifth Element Life’s 111 Mandala Meditation Magick Colouring eBook here.}

How do you de-stress? What creative stuff do you love to do with your littlies? 

With love,


May 24, 2015

Morning rituals for mamas


“Let us use the morning to remind ourselves what we are after and write any specific goals for the day, dedicating time in that first golden hour to planning out our schedule. That precious first hour must not be squandered, for our evenings dreams can be easily forgotten in the daylight. We must use the virgin morning to shape a schedule that is ours before the world shoves its corrupt needs in our direction.” – Brendon Burchard, ‘The Motivation Manifesto’

I’ve never been an early riser. Losing control of when and how I start my day was one of the biggest changes I struggled with in motherhood. It’s only in the past year – and Evie’s four (!) – that I’ve learnt how to reclaim my mornings so I can start each day energised and inspired for the adventures ahead. Here’s five things I wish I’d known from the beginning:

A productive day starts the evening before. Give yourself a head start by spending a few minutes each night planning for the next day. Your to-do list doesn’t have to be too detailed, but it helps to be deliberate. As Annie Dillard says in The Writing Life, “How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” Ask yourself:

  • How do I want to feel tomorrow? (Excited? Zen? Super-organised? Brave?) 
  • Which two or three things do I have to get done, no matter what?
  • Who do I want to connect with?
  • What will I do for myself so I am healthy and present to each moment the day brings?

You might be thinking, ‘Why would I want to get up earlier when I already feel exhausted?’, but waking even a few minutes before your littlies gives you precious time to yourself to consciously prepare for the day ahead. In this Forbes article about the morning routines of 12 successful female leaders, each of the women with children reveals she gets up BEFORE her kids to exercise, eat a healthy breakfast and get organised for the day. 

Now, as I mentioned, I’m not a morning person. It doesn’t come naturally to me to wake at 5.30am, a full hour before Evie gets up, and yet, for the past few months, that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do. Why? Because it’s increasingly important to me to start my day on my own terms. While the sun comes up, I practice the morning rituals I love most: gentle yoga, a quick guided meditation and journaling. Then I check emails/prepare breakfast/make lunches (or jump back into bed for a family cuddle).

I’ll be honest – I’m still learning to do this every day. For me to be up that early and still get enough sleep, I need to be under the covers by 9.30pm the previous night, and that’s not always possible. But the mornings I do manage to get myself out of bed? They’re the days I feel calm, centered and purposeful – on my parenting A-game – and that’s all the motivation I need to keep trying until getting up at 5.30am becomes effortless.

Taking a few cleansing deep breaths is one of the best ways to manage stress and start the day with ease and clarity. Deep breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system and ignites the ‘relaxation response’ (the opposite of ‘fight or flight’), which reduces blood pressure, decreases heart rate and creates a feeling of calm. It’s a particularly useful relaxation technique for busy mamas because you can do it anywhere, any time, in as little as a few minutes. Try breathing in through your nose for a count of four, holding the breath for a count of seven, then exhale through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat a few times and you’re good to go! 

A couple of months ago I interviewed a dietitian who shared this simple, game-changing piece of advice: eat breakfast before you make it for anyone else. If you want to feel energised and level-headed throughout the day, it’s essential to fuel your body with water and and nutritious food when you wake up. Mornings can be manic for mamas, and if you leave it till last to fix yourself something to eat, it’s more likely you’ll run out of time and skip breakfast all together. 

Recently I noticed a pattern: Each morning, I was so focused on getting everyone else ready for their day that when it was almost time to leave the house I was still stuck in my pyjamas – with only a few minutes to throw some clothes on before we had to walk out the door. I was getting increasingly irritated in the mornings, until I realised I was doing things back to front. When I take a sec to have a quick shower and get myself dressed first, I feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day, and I’m able to be more present with the people I adore most.

Which morning rituals do you use to get you excited for the day ahead? 

With love,

January 21, 2015

Tulum Travel Guide


As our taxi zooms along the narrow road, past palm trees crowded with coconuts, eco-friendly beach bungalows and the bright blue Caribbean Sea, I look at Chris and Evie and grin:

Paradise, found.   

Located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, an hour and 20 minutes drive south of Cancun, Tulum draws intrepid sun-seekers year round with its beautiful beaches and bohemian vibe. I’d been in Tulum less than 24 hours when I declared it one of my top three destinations in the world – it’s that magical. 

We spent a week worshipping sun and sea (a happy change from DC’s arctic winter), exploring the sights and biking up and down the playa in search of the best shops and restaurants. 

If you get a chance to go, GO. Go-go-go-go-go. And check out these places while you’re there – they’re too good to miss! 



There are no gigantic, all-inclusive resorts in Tulum; instead, thoughtfully designed beach bungalows and wellness retreats are dotted up and down the shoreline. We stayed at Luv Tulum, an eco-hotel with 12 individually designed rooms right on the beach. We could see the waves breaking from our four-poster bed!

A daily breakfast of toast, fresh fruit, juice and coffee is served every morning beneath the palm trees, and it came to be one of our favourite parts of the day. Birds chirp loudly. Lizards meander by. It’s simple and peaceful and perfect. Luv Tulum also serves lunch and dinner, and while the menu is limited, the food is really fresh (I think I ate the fish tacos at least five times during our week-long stay).

Most days after breakfast we’d walk the few steps to the beach, claim a huge sun lounger and spend the rest of the morning reading, jumping waves and building sandcastles with Evie. I’d definitely recommend Luv Tulum if you’re looking for a romantic setting that’s also family-friendly and close to everything.



Being my first trip to Mexico, I didn’t really know what to expect of the food in Tulum, but it surpassed my expectations in every possible way. The food is insane! Here are my favourites:

La Zebra: Worth a visit just for the view. We had breakfast on the open-air terrace on the beach, and it was the best coffee I had all week (also one of only a couple of places that serve soy milk for dairy-free folk like me).

Casa Jaguar: When we found out Hartwood was already booked out for the night, we went to Casa Jaguar on a whim to celebrate our final evening in Tulum. Eating at Casa Jaguar is like eating in the jungle – plants and vines are everywhere. The tables are lit with candles and Moroccan lanterns hang from the trees. I loved the music so much I googled ‘Casa Jaguar playlist’ when I got home so I could download some of it myself. The food’s tasty – I ordered the whole fish with goat cheese, pine nuts and passion fruit – but the real draw here is the ambient surrounds. (Beware, it’s not cheap – dinner and wine set us back $175 US.)

Casa Violeta: Located right next door to Luv Tulum, Casa Violeta’s chic restaurant has breathtaking views. The food is so good we visited twice (the wood-fired pizza was a favourite, and the sweet potato and honey dish on their dinner menu was one of the best meals of my life).

Simple: More amazing seafood… this place had an authentic, fun atmosphere, and our waiter went above and beyond to make sure we were looked after.

Tacombi: Two words: lobster tacos. And they don’t come fresher than this. A cheaper option on the northern end of the playa, Tacombi serves up tacos from a paint-splattered combi van all day long.

Vegan Juice Bar at Residencia Gorila: A cute little hole-in-the-wall serving killer smoothies and healthy breakfast fare. 


Mayan RuinsThe ancient Mayan city of Tulum dates back to the thirteenth century and is a must-see when you’re in the area. The ruins are perched on cliffs overlooking the Caribbean and the views are spectacular. We biked there from our hotel (about 45 minutes each way), only to discover the entry line was over a mile long. With an antsy four year old on our hands, we decided come back the next day when it opened at 8am and the queue was much shorter (moral of the story: unless you’re happy to wait in a rediculously long line, visit the ruins before 10am).

Cenotes: These fresh-water swimming holes are formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock, and often contain vitamin-rich algae that nourish your skin. We’d hoped to swim in an open-air cenote in Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, but other swimmers warned a baby crocodile was lurking below (!) so Evie and I watched safely from the bank while Chris went for a dip.

Yoga: Lots of places offer yoga in Tulum, but I loved the 75-minute morning class at Casa Violeta’s open-air yoga pavillion, held daily at 8.30am.

Pampering: I stopped in at the Mayan Clay Spa for a mini-facial with mayan clay, which is said to have a variety of healing properties and left my skin feeling silky-smooth. If you want some serious pampering and you’ve got cash to burn, check out Yaan Wellness, one of the top spas in the world.


I actually didn’t buy that much (though I seriously considered jamming one of those beautiful hammocks into my luggage). Shopping in Tulum is expensive – many of the stores sell items that cost hundreds of US dollars. Here’s my pick of the best boutiques:

Mixikfor traditional Mexican art, craft and homewares (there’s also a number of roadside stands nearby that sell hammocks, blankets, clothes and more);

Bendito Pie: for bohemian-inspired style – think embellished dresses, lace tops and flowy skirts;

Mr Blackbird: for unique handmade jewellery that incorporates natural elements like raw crystal and pearl;

Coqui Cogui perfumery & boutique: for lush, unisex scents that capture the tropical beauty of Tulum (all perfumes are made locally in Mexico) and designer jewellery, bags and homewares;

So there you have it! Some of my favourite spots in Tulum. (It’s snowing as I type this at my desk here in DC, and I’m already dreaming of our next beach vacation.)

Have you been to Tulum? Any places you think I should add to my must-see list?

With love,

August 23, 2014

Self-Care, My Way: Amy Zempilas


Kind-hearted, genuine and oh-so stunning… these are just a few of the ways I would describe Amy Zempilas, a full-time mama and blogger living in Perth with her TV reporter hubby, Basil, and their two daughters, Ava and Chloe. 

Amy and I ‘met’ online about 18 months ago, and I’ve admired her every day since. She dotes on her family, always looks incredible and finds beauty in everything and everyone. Between caring for her two gorgeous girls, Amy writes the popular lifestyle blog, Absolute Amy, and shares generously with thousands of followers on social media.

Recently, when I mentioned on Instagram how much I miss my favourite Aussie chocolates, she boxed up a bunch of treats and posted them to me here in the US. This beauty is truly one-of-a-kind (and not just ’cause she sent me Tim Tams!).

Here, Amy tells us about the self-care practices she uses regularly to feel happy, healthy, and parent at her best…

Tell us a little about you…
I’m a proud wife and mumma living in Perth, Western Australia. I’m a wanderer and in my twenties I spent four years living in Dubai and travelling the world as a flight attendant. It was one of the most exciting and amazing times of my life and I’m so glad I did it because now I have a treasure trove of spectacular memories to keep me company on my parenting journey. Life with two little ones means I enjoy taking my girls on adventures a bit closer to home these days.

How would you describe your experience of motherhood (so far)?
It’s been both my greatest joy and biggest challenge. We’ve really struggled with sleep up until very recently and for a long time I was in survival mode, just getting through each day on only a few hours sleep. It was really tough and I often felt quite isolated and alone as lack of sleep has such a knock-on effect in all areas of your life. Apart from that, I’ve never felt more content, grateful and deliriously happy as I do now!

Amy-ZempilasWhat does self-care mean to you?
It means taking time out to do things just for you. It means realising what’s important and what you can let go. For the longest time I had such high, and often unrealistic expectations of myself to do everything perfectly – cooking meals from scratch, keeping my home immaculate, staying on top of all the laundry and still keeping fit and looking presentable. I realised that I have to be more realistic and if I’m feeling really tired or frazzled, I’ll pick up some sushi for dinner rather than cook and it means I can enjoy time with my family rather than be stuck in the kitchen preparing meals and cleaning up.

What practices do you use on a daily/weekly/monthly/annual basis to energise your body, calm your mind and spark your spirit?
I go to a clinical Pilates session every week and this allows me to switch off from mumma duties and focus on my health and wellbeing. I also have dinner with a group of close friends every few months and we laugh all night long – it reminds me how important it is to laugh and have fun! If I’m starting to feel really exhausted or stressed out, a few hours at a local park or beach with my girls makes me feel so much better.

How do these rituals make you feel? How do they impact your parenting?
They make me feel fantastic! It’s so important to take time out to do the things you love and make you feel rejuvenated and in turn make you a more effective, content and happy parent.

It can be hard for mothers to prioritise their own needs, day-to-day. What tips and tricks do you use to carve out regular ‘you’ time?
It has to be just as important as everything else. You have to remember that if you’re not okay, the whole family suffers. Usually when life gets busy or the kids are sick, we sacrifice our own time out in order to take care of our family but we have to remember to make time for ourselves a top priority.

Finally, if you were given an all-expenses paid weekend on your own to relax and recharge while the kids are cared for safely at home, where would you go and what would you do?
I’ve just returned from a three-day mini break in Bali with some girlfriends and I would go back there in a heartbeat! It was so relaxing and uplifting – I really loved having time to enjoy everyday events like watching the sunset and walking along the beach.

To read more about Amy, head over to her blog, Absolute Amy, or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

With love, and care,

August 6, 2014


DOCUMENTARies-to-change-your-lifeHow did I ever live without Netflix?! In the past couple of weeks I’ve watched three TV documentaries that have made me rethink everything I know about health, happiness and humanity. If you’re searching for a movie that sparks your soul and challenges the status quo, check ’em out – you’ll be changed forever after.


What it’s about: Featuring interviews with happiness researchers, positive psychologists and real-life case studies of some of the happiest cultures on the planet, The Happy Movie explores the science of happiness and how human beings can cultivate more joy in their day-to-day lives.

Why I love it: According to scientific research, 50 percent of an individual’s happiness is genetic; 10 percent is based on circumstance (money, status, career); and a whopping 40 percent is dependent on behavior and choices. The Happy Movie reveals that happiness isn’t reserved for a fortunate few; rather, it’s a skill that can be developed over time, and by integrating specific practices into daily life, including exercise, gratitude and helping others, all people can enjoy genuine, long-lasting happiness.


What it’s about: Hungry for Change exposes the secrets of the booming diet and weight loss industry and explains how organic, nutrient-rich foods create vibrant health, abundant energy and help you achieve your ideal body weight. This film is a must-watch for anyone who’s serious about their health, and includes interviews with best-selling authors and medical experts, including Dr Christiane Northrup, Kris Carr and Jamie Oliver.

Why I love it: I spent the first 28 years of my life completely clueless about nutrition. I didn’t understand the harmful effects of processed foods, additives and artificial sweeteners, I had no idea how to read food labels, and I sure as hell didn’t know why I constantly craved carbs and sweets. I wish Hungry for Change had been around when I was a teenager to teach me how to nourish my body from the inside out. This movie is a big wake-up call to be more mindful about how you fuel your body – the foods you eat, the thoughts you think and your overall approach to life.


What it’s about: Blackfish tells the tragic tale of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that has killed three people while in captivity. The movie explores the extraordinary nature of these majestic creatures, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity and the realities of the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry.

Why I love it: Did you know that orca whales possess an extra part of the brain that humans don’t have? It’s heart-breaking to learn how these highly intelligent, social mammals are removed from their families in the wild, only to spend the rest of their lives isolated in a shallow cement pool, performing circus tricks for ignorant audiences. Blackfish opened my eyes to the big business of sea-parks (I’ll never set foot in one again) and made me think seriously about the devastating impacts humans are having on other animals and the environment. 

Have you watched a documentary lately that you got you thinkin’? Recommendations very welcome! 

With love, and care,

July 31, 2014


Guide-to-montaukDriving along Old Montauk Highway, a roller coaster of a road that winds above the southern coastline of Long Island, the shimmering blue of the North Atlantic comes into sight. 

“We’re going to like it here,” I tell Chris, who’s happily driven the seven hour trip from our home in Washington, DC. In the backseat, Evie and Hercules the pug are snoring. Our car is laden with bags and beach towels, and our bicycles are strapped to the rear hatch. This is family road trippin’ at it’s finest.

We’ve come to Montauk for a week-long summer holiday, and by the time we pull up outside our accommodation we’re in love. Montauk reminds me of my favourite places back home in Australia: It’s a no-fuss beach town, with a friendly local community, a thriving fishing industry and much-loved surf breaks. Despite being just a few miles from the wealth and luxury of the Hamptons, most of Montauk’s natural beauty remains untouched by large-scale development.

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