Literary London Travel Guide

As you all will have recalled (because I expect you to memorize everything I write on this blog goshdarnit! — JK.), I set intentions for each leg of my travels this summer. My intention for England was to explore literature, as I was there to do a creative writing programme at the University of Cambridge. My three days in London allowed me to make the switch from writing to reading (to do a literary refuel if you will) by visiting copious amounts of bookstores and literary monuments…in other words, this is a post about why London is an English major’s heaven.

Daunt Books

Daunt Books is organized by country, which is insanely cool. I love a well-organized bookstore!

Persephone Books

Persephone Books is a publishing company with a storefront that sells books by Twentieth Century women writers. Their storefront also has an adorable section entitled “Books We Wish We Published.” (A feminist literary must!)

Cambridge, England Travel Guide


I got to know Cambridge pretty well this summer through doing the University of Cambridge’s two-week-long creative writing intensive. I fell in love with this manageable, yet extremely cosmopolitan city. The historic colleges, enchanting bookstores, expansive shopping centers, and excellent coffee culture drew me in. Here’s my guide if you ever find yourself in this lovely scholarly city.

CamYoga

It’s a yoga blog so I must begin with the yoga. I went to a Jivamukti class at CamYoga my second week there, and the lovely flow hit the spot!

Sweaty Betty

Sweaty Betty is a British yoga clothing brand and while they have amazing stores in NYC, they preview a lot of their clothing in their British stores, and also have an underground yoga studio where they offer free classes on Mondays.

Heffers Bookstore

I am obsessed with Heffers. They have a whole section of the classics with special beautifully-crafted covers. Sadly, my carry-on couldn’t fit two different gorgeously-covered Pride and Prejudices, but alas, I left with a beautiful copy of Villette by Charlotte Bronte.

Fitzbillies

It took less than 24 hours for me to become a regular at Fitzbillies: a restaurant + bakery + coffee and tea shop that is everything fantastic about Cambridge compressed into a lovely bustling cafe.

Outdoor Market in the Square

In the middle of the most urban area of Cambridge is a lovely outdoor market with incredible (and cheap!) dumplings, more books, jewelry, and crafts.

The Fitzwilliam Museum

This museum has a fantastic collection of Impressionist and Fauvist art. It’s under construction for the next year, but it’s still a must-do.

Where in the World

 

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I am writing this at an old wooden table, sitting on an old wooden chair, with the above lush landscape directly in front of me. Gorgeous doesn’t even begin to cut it. Breathtaking might.

I recently realized that in the midst of the working two jobs, test-taking and friends-visiting madness of July, I haven’t made it super public that I’m spending this whole month of August out of the U.S. of A doing the things that nourish my spirit: yoga, writing, and exploring new places. So I’m using this post partly to brag about being in Italy right now facing the picturesque view and also to articulate just what it is that I am doing during a full August off, and why.

The best way to explain this is also my favorite way to plan for a yoga class: through themes. Each leg of this five-week trip has a different theme. I’m sharing them below.

Italy: Pleasure

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photo via cocceto.com

I am currently in Tuscany on a yoga retreat with the talented Francesca Bove and a dozen-plus lovely yogis. It’s only day two and so far, I went on a run / walk through the hills surrounding the villa we’re staying at, dined on a breakfast of fresh-cut prosciutto, eggs and muesli, took an hour-and-a-half-long yoga class, and sat by the pool to read and nap. The theme of this trip is pleasure because too often pleasure gets misused in the work-hard, play-hard culture New York City immerses itself in. Pleasure, in a relaxed way, means (for this trip) not only drinking a glass of wine with dinner, but going on a wine tour. It means eating slowly to taste the most subtle flavors of artisan olive oil…and attending a tasting at the vineyard it’s made at. It means practicing yoga with an abundant view of the Italian countryside, and it means putting sunglasses on during savasana and letting the sensuous sensory experiences Italy is so known for marinate so that there can be space to take it all in.

England: Literary

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photo via britishtours.com

Right after this retreat, I’m going to England to take two continuing education creative writing courses at the University of Cambridge. This year, when I took Teaching of Writing as part of my graduate program, I had a lot of feelings surrounding wanting to make sure that I am a teacher-writer / writer-teacher, and not only a teacher of writing (I’m studying to be a middle school English teacher). In other words, I want my practice as an educator and as a writer to disrupt the narrative of “those who can’t do teach” and change it to “those who can do teach.” I also have an extraordinarily hard time writing in New York City, and I’m sitting on quite a few works in progress. I would say that I need to carve out the time, except for the fact that with my working-grad school schedule, the time just simply doesn’t exist, and I’m starting to think that small geographic changes to encourage creativity can be a good thing. We can do it all…just not all at once, after all. But back to my plans for the trip! While I am spending the weekdays intensively writing and attending plenary lectures, I’ll spend the first weekend in Oxford doing a tour of the medieval literature that was born there and hopefully getting enough free time to go to the Bodleian Library for the Jane Austen exhibit! That second weekend, I’ll be in London (yay!) and plan on going to the British Library, as well as both Daunt and Persephone Books!

Finland: Design

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photo via finland.fi

I’ll be spending my last 10 days of this trip in Finland with my boyf who’s moving there for the academic year. He’s moving there to study wood architecture and I’m traveling there so that we can experience Finnish culture together before his courses begin. Finland has a magnificent history and practice of design in both broad and specific ways. Finnish society seems to set itself up for success using infrastructural and architectural design. During this trip, I want to attend some art festivals going on and explore the amazing architecture throughout. I want to focus on something that I really do believe is the backbone of how society functions: design. I want to be able to carry that knowledge with me into all that I do because it can only help when we see the world through a variety of lenses including though not limited to pleasure, literature, and design.

My #the100dayproject

One of the first blogs that I read the entire archives of was Kimberly Wilson’s Tranquility Du Jour. This month on her blog, she is stressing the importance of a passion project through pursing a #the100dayproject challenge. The idea of the challenge is simple: for 100 days, you commit yourself to doing a little something of a creative act each day. Wilson writes,

Elle Luna, author of The Crossroads of Should and Must, hosts a 100-Day Project encouraging participants to commit to 100 days of doing a creative project for 5-10 minutes. No fancy tools or training needed. Just a desire to try  and commit to something for 100 days.

unnamed-2.jpgIMG_4323.JPGI have wanted to to take this blog more seriously (in a #livelightly way, of course) for quite some time now. This #the100dayproject feels like an ideal way to commit, in a manageable way, to honing my blogging skills through consistent practice. My goal is to, for the next 99 days (I started yesterday) work on my blog for ten minutes a day. As is my belief with my yoga practice, consistency matters so much more than quantity in the formation of meaningful habits. Because I started four days after the above start date, I will end four days after it as well and will track my progress through a chart I set up in my new bullet journal (post on that forthcoming!).

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Here is what I would like to accomplish through this project (because writing it down is the first step in making it happen in my book):

  • I want to develop my photography skills on social media and through incorporating original photographs into blog posts.
  • I want to curate content that inspires people to lead meaningful lives. I want to blend in all aspects of my own life into the posts.
  • I want to grow my readership…by a lot, if possible, and start to form virtual relationships with this blog’s audience.
  • I want to update the overall look, style, and layout of Growing Up On OM as a brand for 20-somethings who are trying to lead balanced, nourishing, holistic and sustainable lives with yoga in mind.

Do you have an idea for a passion project you can do consistently for one hundred days, for only 5-10 minutes each day? 

10 Ways to Work in a Relaxed Way

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Illustration cred goes to Julia Drachman, from the book Yoga U: The College Student’s Tools for Balanced Living.

Hello from Florida, where I am taking a break from my NYC overwhelm to celebrate my grandma’s 94th birthday. That said, I came with a backpack full of work. (And the backpack is my latest obsession that I purchased last week to aid in my grad school + work + yoga triple life: a STATE bag.)

From now until June 17, it feels like I have an inordinate amount of things to accomplish (report cards, promo for my yoga workshops, graduate school summer session, the list goes on!). I wanted to use this three-day weekend to get ahead on these important tasks, or at least to feel less like I was drowning in them.

So…during my Uber ride en route to the airport, I set an intention: “I intend to use this weekend to work in a relaxed way.” This feels fairly revolutionary to me; I am used to working under deadlines, with stressed-out coworkers, in cluttered offices, all while feeling like, no matter how much I try to work, the hum and buzz of the city I love so much seems to distract me.

My intention has ended up in this list, for your enjoyment, and calm work habits. Without further ado, here are 10 ways to work in a relaxed way!

  1. Bring your laptop to the nail salon and write, write, write while your toes get polished, polished, polished.
  2. Take readings to the pool so that you can lounge back and contemplate those important texts.
  3. Use exercise as a way to contemplate your work. Go for a run with the intention of, for example, thinking up a blurb for that next workshop.
  4. Do mindless tasks that still allow you to cross a lot off that to-do list while watching TV.
  5. Chunk It Up. Make a list of small tasks you need to get done…maybe the ones you dread doing, and then, after accomplishing each one, treat yourself to doing something super fun!
  6. Listen to music while you work.
  7. Make your work fashionable. Find brands that you love to tote your work in. I personally love Poppin office supplies, and looking at them makes me excited to do my work (I judge a book by its cover!).
  8. Stay inspired. Similar to “chunk it up,” after accomplishing each task, read a piece of what I like to call “professional development literature” by people you admire to inspire you to do more.
  9. Go to a coffeeshop. Order a latte, or a drink of your choice, savor it, and get inspired by those working around you in their own relaxed ways.
  10. Pair work with another activity. In Better than Before, my favorite tip from Gretchen Rubin was to pair habits together. For example, pair coffeeshop work an exercise class, so that you know that one signals the other. This makes you feel like you have a fuller life, which in turn translates into happier work time!

On Blogging, Portland + Vulnerability

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This morning, I did something that reminded me of why I moved to Portland in the first place. I went to a positively chic and adorable blogger meet up brunch at a publishing headquarters in an industrial district of the city that was only 20 minutes away from my house. At ten past ten, I walked in with my DIY “business cards” (i.e. strips of paper where I wrote the URL to this blog), tinted Burt’s Bees on my lips, wide-rimmed glasses and WordPress pulled up on my iPhone. A fabulous food platter was out with New York bagels (oh, how worlds collide) and Black Rock coffee.

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I filled up my plate, chatted with these fabulous bloggers and got down to the highly enjoyable business of speed networking (i.e. speed dating, but – I assume – way less awkward because there are set questions to help everyone identify and fine-tune their passions). I learned so much from this event in much more of a qualitative way than – and this was what I had initially expected to get out of it – a quantitative way. We didn’t discuss the information you could find online on how to boost numbers or ratings or followers. No, we discussed the heart of why we do what we do and what about what we do makes others’ hearts tick.

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Here are five lessons I learned and realizations I had while in good company:

1. Vulnerability, which was the dharma talk theme of the yoga class I took yesterday, is what makes our messages powerful. One of the networking questions we were asked to answer was on which posts surprised us by being so successful. One woman shared that she didn’t expect her most successful blog post to be about depression yet it was. Another shared on writing about her struggles to find time. My answer was about all those blog posts about me and my broken leg. Vulnerability…it’s the connective tissue between all us humans.

2. Focus your time on where you get the most traffic. This little tip will, I believe, prove to be a large time-saver in the long run.

3. Networking – meeting people in person – is where the online work is done. It is all about that personal connection.

4. Instagram, baby.

5. The beautiful thing about blogging is that it encourages self-expression in an informal yet inspirational way.

This post was written at The Dragonfly Coffee House, an utterly blissful new find in NW Portland that has poems by Rumi on the wall, energy bars made with almond butter and no-sugar goodness and classical music playing in the background.

Setting Self-Care Goals

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taken at powell’s books

There are some people that make one ask, Where did you come from and how did you enter my life at exactly the right time?! My roommate A is one of those people. In all of life’s transitions, we’re confronted with a myriad of choices: where to live, what to do, how to get from point A to point B. There is one choice that is the undercurrent for how we approach all our decision-making: self-care. I’ve often heard that change is the only constant. I would actually argue that change is the only guaranteed constant. Self-care, however, can be a constant that accompanies us – a floating device – in a sea of change.

Self-care is a less obvious choice and we tend to make it or not without even realizing it. This decision is a subconscious and insidious one and its consequences effect everything. That said, there are ways to make a choice in favor of self-care an active decision for the betterment of ourselves and our interactions with others.

So where does my roommate come in, in regards to self-care? Discussions of self-care pepper my home because of her. She has a tradition of setting monthly goals that she follows through on with deliberate intensity. She also talks about self-care, making the implicit explicit. When you live with someone, their habits tend to naturally rub off on you. It is luck and grace when those habits are those of health and wellness.

And why goals? Goals hold us accountable to our wellbeing. Here are my self-care goals for March:

* Meditate.

* Practice yoga and do my physical therapy exercises to break up the day.

* Take lunch breaks at work.

* Journal.

* Cultivate healthy boundaries in my relationships (goes with journaling because writing boundaries down holds us mega accountable).

* Wear a little makeup…make a joyful effort!

Now, please tell me: What are your self-care goals? They can be anything and utterly unique to you!

This post was written at St. Honoree Patisseriein Portland, OR

Svadhyaya (Self-Study) NaNoWriMo Edition

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While I am hoarding my plot like the words in my seventh grade locked-up journal (remember when journals had a lock and key? Now, my six-year-old sister uses a voice-sensitive password to open hers; the times they are a-changing!), I am not hoarding all that I learned about the writing process from successfully completing National Novel Writing Month.

I have been interested in doing NaNoWriMo since high school, but knew that if I did this during the school year, while I had other demanding creative writing projects going on, I would be setting myself up for failure rather than for success. NaNoWriMo had to be purely a gift I would give myself during a time when creativity was sparse and writing was not as much a part of my day-to-day life.

So I approached November as a creative self-study in time management and caffeinated efficiency.

The following graphs (I shall work on updating this post with…prettier graphics – I am new at this, but aware that these are kind of horrendous) show where I worked based on efficiency measured using two different variables: time and word count. Both these variables were dependent on place and I thought it would be fun to make this post into a kind of coffee-shop tour of Portland.

Below is a more graphically pleasant representation of where I wrote according to coffee shop and word count amassed while drinking whatever yummy coffee beverage they had (usually just regular old coffee with almond milk). Click after the jump for the graphs.

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October Link Love: Fall Is Here!

From last month’s introduction to this kind of a post: One of my favorite blogs (and a total blogger role model of mine) is Gala Darling. Every month, Gala Darling publishes a link roundup in a narrative form of what she’s been reading. Lounging in bed on lazy Friday mornings (when I was in college) or Sunday mornings (now that I’m a working lady), I open up the links Gala posts like presents on Chanukah evenings. I want to create a similar experience for my readers…with the added bonus of documenting these reading gems so I no longer have 17 tabs open on Google Chrome. So, without further adieu, thank you Gala for the inspiration. Here is a delightful (Central Park) link carousel of my own.

Last time I saw Ella Dawson, we were about to graduate college. Now, she’s working For TEDx and has lots n lots of experience (sex-writing included) to share!

Alanna Kaivalya tells the yoga community (is that a thing writ large??) to stop talking about body size and image.

MyPlate teaches health and nutrition to kids.

Nicholas Sparks movies that are better than the notebook?!

Writers all over Facebook are ogling the 5 best writers sheds…and now that NaNoWriMo is here, I want one of my own!

My roommate J and I have been arguing over The Mindy Project and its feminist intentionality ever since it began. Turns out, The New Yorker was debating it too and I love what they came up with using input from the source herself.

You mean there are offices cooler than those of Facebook and Google?!

Oh, hay, my high school made the cut!

I already mentioned that I am doing NaNoWriMo this month and this and this and this is how I’m planning this crazy-ass month.

My stepmother is attempting to raise my littlest sister without Disney princesses.

Carly from The College Prepster essentially handed all bloggers a true mecca of a blog post: 50 Ideas for Blog Posts.

Through this article, I found out that my style uniform should probably consist of: “tank or cropped t-shirt + a high-waisted A-line skirt + boots.”

There is a lot of research surrounding the fact that we only have so much decision-making power alotted per day, and the more decisions you’re forced to make about trivial things (what am I going to have for breakfast/lunch/dinner? What am I going to wear? Should I work out today?), the less energy you have for creativity. It’s better to have your everyday life structured and organised, so that you can expend that energy on being innovative.

Also via Gala Darling, she tells us what to do when we’re burned out.

In the realm of my favorite bloggers, Kimberly Wilson gives some writerly inspiration.

This Portland writing group definitely sounds like something to check out!

Now that I am supposed to teach gardening to the kiddos, this idea sounds like a go-to.

A truly deeply hilarious and tragic well-written take on the book us New Yorkers grew up loving: Eloise (a take by none other than the New Yorker itself).

A plethora of synchronicities led me to this article again and again on teaching mindful studies to teens in Oregon public schools.

And finally, I spent many hours this month listening to Lena Dunham’s memoir on audiobook.

Now tell me, what did you read this last month?

On the Difference between Finding Community, Creating Community and Joining Community

written at world cup roasters at powell’s city of books

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I arrived to Portland just over a month ago and am grateful for how this city does prioritize a sense of community and camaraderie: Sunday night potlucks, music jams, AcroYoga meetups in parks, biking alone and then suddenly finding oneself surrounded by bikers. One of many. Yet I came here with the intention of joining three distinct communities: AmeriCorps, a writing group, and “the” or “a” yoga community.

The first was easy. It is where I put most of my time and where I was sort of handed a community on a…compostable platter. I realize now that I am used to being handed communities on platters (Wesleyan, with its wealthy campus, just happened to be a silver one). My yoga community was there for me to join in New York and for me to create at school. These communities were abundant and, while I put a lot of effort into creating and joining them at the time, I forget about them now, as they are established and rather than still being a part of them, I am now seeking community elsewhere. I was an English major at school and part of Girls Write Now in high school so my writing communities were relatively implemented for me.

And now I am searching.

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I remember a pivotal phone call I received from a friend my sophomore year of high school as I lamented leaving all my NYC communities and returning to school, where I felt like a lone ranger. It’s funny to think about now, as I’m in a similar boat, though this time school is what I sometimes lament leaving (though don’t get me wrong; I am above all thrilled to be here!). Walking out of the student center and checking my voicemail, I heard her response to my predicament: “You’re a yoga teacher. You’re you. Create your own community.”

Now, as I sit here in Powell’s City of Books, looking out the window over Northwest Portland on this rainy Wednesday morning enjoying my second cup of delicious coffee and catching up on blogs, I am reminded of these words of wisdom and how they shaped so many of my experiences.

Today, the Wednesday after my weekend of “failed” attempts to find a yoga studio to teach at regularly and a writing group to join, Gala Darling published a post entitled, “Stop Waiting to Be Picked; Choose Yourself.”

There was something in the title that sounded familiar to me. And with that familiarity came that Third Chakra comfort of knowing myself and the potency of what happens when we fully commit to starting something. Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. Here are some gems from that piece, which I would like to keep with me:

You could spend years refining your book proposal, honing your elevator pitch, or mastering your demo, when you could simply be CREATING. Making more stuff, trying new things, growing as an artist and as an entrepreneur.

It doesn’t matter what you do: you know your audience, your clients, your people, better than anyone. You know their needs, and you know how to help them. So don’t let someone else’s lack of vision get in the way of serving them. Do what you need to do!

I agree with Gala Darling, but at the same time, the critical thinker in me still believes that community and helping hands are vital. With AmeriCorps, I am serving at a community school and that, combined with being raised by a single mama makes me know one thing at the core of my being: it takes a village. That “it” for me now consists of me creative and professional passions: writing, yoga, applying to graduate schools and service work. But this can be extended to whatever we all do. It all requires balance. So, without further adieu, here is a revitalizing three-pronged approach to the different ways we find ourselves In Community:

FINDING COMMUNITY: This is when we join a community that already exists, but is loose in its formation…like a potluck group or generally-structured meet-up. We stumble upon it, but we don’t decide right then and there whether or not we are going to join it. It doesn’t feel like totally our own and that’s okay; it doesn’t have to. Sometimes it’s nice to simply be a part of.

JOINING COMMUNITY: Found that community that already exists that you want to be a part of? Join it and become an active member. In my experience, there are few things more comforting than realizing we are one of many and not alone in our passions.

CREATING COMMUNITY: This is what me and my wellness-enthused friends R and L did at Wes when we created WesBAM!. We innovated because we saw a lack and our ability to fill it. We created the community we wanted to be a part of. It’s like the piece of advice I received when I contemplated writing Yoga U: “Write the book you want to read.” This one is very much in line with Gala Darling’s advice above. This takes a lot of work. A lot of help. And an abundance of creativity. But it’s possible!

And above all, thank you for letting me write the post I needed to read this morning.

Namaste,

S