Amsterdam Bike Town

Amsterdam – Bike Town

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Amsterdam.

I’ve returned from my first journey overseas. While technically my first stop was Frankfurt, Germany for my layover and also my first passport stamp, Amsterdam was the first city in which I got a view of more than than just a runway.

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The weather in the spring can be fickle, and it proved so on our journey. Amsterdam was a little more wet and cold than we had originally thought that it might be. It worked out well for my photo of the I amsterdam sign. I don’t know anyone in this photo, but it was the only occasion on my 2 1/2 days there that the sign wasn’t swarmed with tons of people. That is the Rijksmuseum in the background.

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In case you missed it, we did not take only carry-ons. However, that decision was made 45 minutes before we got in the car to drive to D.C. and included dashing to the store to buy two medium suitcases and rapidly moving our clothing from two of the carry-ons…which meant I did not actually get to take more clothes, only that my camera traveled in its padded case. Priorities… ūüėČ

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The view of the Earth from the sky was beautiful. We watched the sun set and rise again, over the ocean. After we landed at the airport and collected our luggage, we decided to take the train and then tram toward our hotel. Amsterdam has a good public transport system. We purchased a 3 day travel ticket.  This was good for trains, trams, ferries, metros, and buses operated by GVB. I will note that this is 3 physical days, not 72 hours. We were there for 2 1/2 days and did try to see if it was valid to take the tram to the train station our final day, at less than 72 hours. It was not.

IMG_0743.jpgWe stayed at the Hotel City Garden, which is located on P.C. Hoofstraat. Finding accommodations for a family of five is never easy. Add to that fact that we were traveling during prime tulip and spring bloom season, wanted a hotel that made the city walkable, and did not want to stumble into the red light district (which we did anyway…but that is a future post) and this hotel worked well for us.

We had the room listed as Souterrain family 5 person. ¬†It has 5 single beds, although 2 are pushed together, so if it’s a friend group going, you should make sure you don’t mind feeling like you’re in a king bed together. Our room was located in the basement, with a window opening into an enclosed garden. Since it didn’t appear that there was air conditioning, the window came in handy.

Right at the end of these buildings is an entrance to Vondelpark, which is a beautiful 120 acre park that we spent a lot of time strolling through.

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I will tell you that this was the location where we most encountered the scent of marijuana, so if you are hoping to avoid that smell, this probably wouldn’t be a lovely stroll for you.

But then again, Amsterdam may not be for you if you think you will avoid the smell. We smelled it here… we smelled it near the I amsterdam sign…. we smelled it down at the fun fair in Dam Square… and probably tons of other places.

Personally, I think it smells better than cigarette smoke, the scent of which seems to be more prevalent in Europe than it does in the parts of the U.S. that I frequent.

And yes, Amsterdam is known for it’s legality of pot and prostitution. But I went there for its tulips, its architecture, its canals, and its friendly reputation.

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On the train from Schipol Airport to Zuid station, we were trying to make sure that we were going to get off at the right stop and this lovely girl informed us that this was the correct stop. ¬†When we got off the train, we were looking at the map that came with our ticket. The girl had walked toward her destination, and she turned around and came back to us and told us how to get to the tram station. It was a welcome experience upon my first interaction with a foreign country. We made it to the tram and were trying to figure out how far until the stop listed on the directions to our hotel. A gentleman offered to look it up on his google maps (and yes, I had this app downloaded, but was so overwhelmed that I hadn’t thought to use it yet. It would prove to be a lifesaver throughout Paris and extremely helpful in Amsterdam).

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Another thing that Amsterdam is well known for is…

Its bikes.

And there were bikes everywhere.  They have their own lane and lights.

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I took the photo above while on the canal cruise. ¬†It had just stopped raining so there were still raindrops on the windows. ¬†That’s an entire parking garage of bikes!

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The kids really wanted to rent bikes and go for a ride, but the weather was mostly drizzly and our time there brief.

What I found most surprising was how many children just rode behind a parent on the little metal piece over the back fender. I don’t tend to take pictures of strangers unless they happen to be in my shot so I don’t have any examples of how it appeared. One child was toddler age and the mother rode along with her arm behind as a back rest holding the child in place.

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Quite often there are baskets attached so they can carry the groceries or other purchases.

I have read that bikers get irritated if you are in their way. I don’t know if this is sometimes true, but there were accidental moments of stepping onto the bike path because it seems like a sidewalk. They would ring their bell as they approached and you would realize your mistake and move. Never once did I see anyone angry about anything.

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While most bikes are purely functional, there were quite a few that put time into making their mode of transportation unique.

I did not even capture a fraction of the amazing bikes or multitude of bikes around the city.

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Another sight that seemed so romantic were the girls who were probably in their early 20’s riding sidesaddle behind what I assume was their significant other. ¬†They were just sitting on the metal plates over the back fender. I wondered how in the world they could stay up there, but given the fact that they had probably been on a bike since infancy, it was probably deeply ingrained into their being.

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Amsterdam definitely stole a piece of my heart.

I’m only just beginning to process through my pictures and have so many more to share.

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I hope that you’ll check back as I share more about my excursions in Amsterdam and then over to Paris!

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions"

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Faves – European Vacation


Here we are at Friday!

Tomorrow I will catch a flight back to the United States.

All in all, I would say that my first vacation overseas has been amazing. I’m looking forward to sharing so much when I return home. I have lots of photos to process, with only the ability to share Iphone pictures today.

It’s closing in on 11:00 pm here, and we are mostly packed. I wanted to share just a few photos for my Friday Faves… because this weeks Faves were all about Europe.


Amsterdam was beautiful.


Paris was beautiful.


Integrity prevailed in Vondel Park in Amsterdam where items found in the park where hung to be found by their owners.

Arc de Triomphe Paris, France
Resilience prevailed in Paris. This capture of the Arc de Triomphe was taken this evening. Yesterday evening , there would have been chaos ¬†on this street. Today… strength. And not just on this street. We were near Montmartre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, and Champs de Elysses over the course of today.


We have formed a lot of memories during our travels. I look forward to sharing them when I get back home.

I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend and I will be spending next week playing catch up, both with editing non-phone photos and reading blogs! ūüôā

So lastly, a song:


Let your light shine!

Amy

Spring is here: Virginia

Spring is Here : Virginia

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No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow – Proverb

Thank goodness!

I’ve been waiting patiently for some green to begin sprouting.

And finally… Southwest Virginia has obliged.

 

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Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. – Laura Ingalls Wilder

There are vibrant greens reminding me that spring is a time of new growth.

This spring I am growing…. branching out in new ways…starting with my first overseas trip in a week and a half. Amsterdam and Paris are that much closer to having my all of my senses take in their beauty.

 

 

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In winter, I plot and plan.  In spring, I move. -Henry Rollins

Like the brand new shoots on a tree, I am determined to press through into new growth and emerge as an evolved creation.

One who doesn’t let fear create stagnation.

Who are you and what do you know of the world if you stay in your little box?

I understand that this is fine for some.  In fact, this is joy for some.

For me, I want to experience the world. To see things that I have only imagined. And this requires pressing outside of my comfort zone.

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To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Just as my yard retains the remnants of fall and winter, I too retain what those seasons have taught me.

Fall has taught me the wonder of letting old things go.  It taught me that change can bring about the most beauty.

Winter has taught me to be grateful.  Grateful for the warmth of a fireplace and cozy blankets. Grateful for the blanket of snow that covers all the ugly and makes it beautiful.

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No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. -Hal Borland

And now Spring.

With its tiny buds shooting forth here and there.  The vibrant pink that will give way to the green leaves that will emerge on this tree.

I will continue to grow.

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Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own. – Charles Dickens

The blossoms on the crabapple tree in my front yard. ¬†It’s weeping willow style branches ¬†reminding me of an aging grandmother . ¬†Standing there despite its decay, producing beautiful blossoms. ¬†Soon little apples will follow and the deer will come to feed. ¬†A circle produced before my time in this home. ¬†This tree who keeps offering what it can.

I want to be like this tree.  Changing the world in the most imperceptible ways just because I have done what I can to make a difference.

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The beautiful spring came; And when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also. -Harriet Ann Jacobs

I stood below this dense canopy of blooms, reminded that we are all a part of the whole.

Our choices have a ripple effect.

What do you choose?

Do you choose kindness? Generosity? Compassion?

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Where flowers bloom, so does hope. – Lady Bird Johnson

Each individual CAN make a difference.

Even if it is a smile you offer. Even if it is a helping hand. Even if it is a kind word.

You can make a difference.

You can make the world a little better.

What are you going to do to change the world?

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

I am afraid to show you who I really am, because if I show you who I really am, you might not like it...and that's all I got. Sabrina Ward Harrison quote

Nobody Said Parenting Teenagers Would Be Easy

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Nope!

I’ve never heard it said.

I had thoughts for this post that began to take shape during my shower.

Anyone else have this stream of thoughts when they’re in the shower? Or when you are awakened at 2 in the morning by thoughts?

Or is this just me?

The first two lines of my poem on Tuesday were 2 A.M. thoughts. There was probably more, but I cannot ever pull myself awake enough to grab a pen and paper.

I wasn’t going to write this post because I keep trying to put my blog into a box. And every time I try, my thoughts try to claw their way out of that box. And still, I wasn’t going to write. Until I read this post. I stumbled upon Dee’s blog early in my blogging journey. God has a way of using her posts to get right at my soul. And today’s was no different.

Any other day, I would have just nodded my head in agreement as I read along.

But today… it is to write… to be vulnerable.

Nobody says that parenting teens is easy.  Or even that parenting, in general, is easy.

But with teenagers the message is cryptic.  What do you mean, not easy?

Well I’ll tell you why it’s cryptic.

Because when you are parenting teenagers, there is this fine line between your life and their’s. ¬†And their life has an right to some level of privacy no matter what you’ve chosen for your own.

But I will tell that it is one of the most exhausting seasons of my life thus far.

Moments of being thrust back into the insecurities of my teenage years. Moments of “oh no, they are too much like me” and others of “oh no, they aren’t like me at all”.

When they aren’t actually deeming the need for you to be worried about them, you are worrying about when the next time will come that will deem your worry.

And I’m not talking about major life-altering situations. ¬†Just daily life.

The choices they make each and every day.

I’m not saying that this is everybody’s experience.

This is mine.

I work in a very internalizing way. ¬†I overanalyze. I have a need for control. I don’t like chaos.

None of these are wonderful elements to my personality when dealing with teens.

Teens with minds of their own. Teens who are trying to find their independence. Teens who are figuring out their place in the world.

Raising teens has also made me, at moments, feel like I am at sea…alone.

I feel this need to portray that everything in life is smooth sailing.

To brush off the moments when life feels overwhelming.

To hide the moments when I wonder if I will make it through this season.

I realize it¬†doesn’t have to be that way.

Pelicans in flight… Pt 2 . .Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too a high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. -Ralph Waldo Emerson . . . . . #fiftyshades_of_nature #sheisnotlost #wearetravelgirls #travelgram #travelblogger #travelawesome #instatravel #destinationearth #roamtheplanet #optoutside #birdsofinstagram #pocket_beaches #pocket_allnature #rsa_outdoors #ipulledoverforthis #naturehippys #naturelovers #livefolk #lifeofadventure #liveauthentic #stayandwander #visitnc #exploretocreate #beachvibes #staysalty #modernoutdoors #forgeyourownpath #thehappynow

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I truly believe it takes a village to raise children. ¬†In a lot of cases, that is your surrounding family. ¬†But when you don’t live near them, like in my case, you have to build a village.

Finding that village requires vulnerability. ¬†For a person who rehashes everything they’ve said and wonders if it “came across the way it was meant” or if they were “too open” or “not open enough” this can be very hard.

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And it takes time to build a village.

Because you need to feel like you trust the people in your village.

Trust them to care for you.  Trust them not to judge your parenting skills. Trust them not to judge you if your child makes a poor decision.  Trust them to share in your journey.

There are no perfect children.

There are no perfect parents.

Just imperfect people trying to figure out the world as they move along in it.

I love my children fiercely.

I am their biggest cheerleader.

I have no doubt that we will look back at this season and share many laughs.

Because even in the midst of the daily challenges, there is laughter and there is love.

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Your story is important.

There is a village willing to listen.

It may require you stepping outside of your comfort zone to find them.

But they are there.

Waiting to embrace you.

Waiting to walk alongside you.

If you haven’t found them yet, I wish you great speed in the journey.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

Rumi quote "Don't you know yet? It is your light that lights the world.

Atop the World

How’s the view from atop the world?

How’s the view when everything is going your way?

A smile on your face?

A kind word on your lips?

A light shining for all to see?

How’s the view when you’re all alone?

How’s the view when life is caving in?

Do you still radiate the light of a thousand suns?

-Amy Lyon Smith

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It’s springtime!

A time for new beginnings.  A time for new growth.

A time for being finished with being sick (I’m crossing my fingers for that one. ¬†I’m finally on the mend.)

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The loop road on the Blue Ridge Parkway that leads to Roanoke Mountain has finally opened again and daylight savings means later sunsets. ¬†I haven’t been up there yet, but I’m hoping to get back up there sometime in the next week so I can capture some more sunsets like the two above.

The first photo is from my hike to Dragon’s Tooth . If you missed¬†that post, you can check it out here.

I’ve realized that springtime will be extremely busy for me. Soccer…Vacations…Prom… Parenting teenagers in general. ¬†More than anything I need to be fully present during this time in their lives. My first and foremost job is mothering my children through this rocky, crazy, all-consuming phase of teenage years.

As such, I will probably be scaling back from posting ¬†3-4 days per week to 2 days a week, over the course of the spring. ¬†I want to leave enough space to still have time to communicate with all the wonderful people I’ve met through Blogging, Instagramming and other social media outlets.

If you aren’t already following me on Instagram, you can find me here. ¬†I usually post a photo a day over there. ūüôā

Looking forward to sharing my crazy, jam-packed spring with all of you.

And catching and spreading a little sunshine along the way.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

shop local shop green farmer's market roanoke virginia

Friday Faves “Green” Edition

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It’s Friday!!

And St. Patrick’s Day!!

I shared about my Irish heritage in yesterday’s post.

Today I’m sharing the “green” faves I found last weekend. ¬†I’m not perfect in my environmental choices, but I’m trying to take steps in the right direction.

Farm to Table Roanoke at Greenbrier Nurseries has a vendor’s market each Saturday. ¬†Last weekend was a Wellness Expo .

Tha Best! Kombucha hand crafted in Floyd Virginia

One of the items that I already shared in Tuesday’s post was this yummy Kombucha.

I’m ready for a refill!

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I also picked up this Elderberry Syrup kit. ¬†It has instructions on how to prepare it and add it to some raw honey to create the syrup consistency. Elderberry is supposed to be a healthy and effective remedy against the cold and flu. ¬†My friend swears by it. ¬†I’ll be making this very soon. ¬†All the nasties that the kids and hubby have had may be finally finding their way to me.

I have not been to the storefront of QueenPin Herb shop.  They said that there are herbalists there who can create custom formulations.  The awesome name comes from the fact that acupuncture services are offered through QueenPin Family Wellness.

I’ve never had acupuncture.

Have you?

One the booths was Earth Girl Wellness.  She is a holistic nutrition and wellness coach.  She told that she had been making various products and that her friends convinced her that she should sell them.

I’m glad they did.

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I picked up these toilet bombs and a shower melt.

The toilet bombs fizz in the toilet and make it smell wonderfully pleasant (a huge feat in a home full of teens).

The shower melt is an orange scent since orange is energizing.  I definitely need that in the morning!

I’m not a big fan of overuse of antibacterial items (the kind that lead to superbugs). ¬†I think they have a time and place, but don’t use them regularly. ¬†So I was very excited to see this Natural Hand Cleaning Spray. I chose peppermint because of scent preferences. ¬†The tea tree oil would have been the wisest choice because of its antibacterial properties. ¬†I don’t mind the scent of tea tree oil, but figured that I’d be sharing it with my daughter at her soccer games and she may prefer peppermint.

Speaking of soccer, Earth Girl Wellness, will be featuring her new Stinky Shoe Deodorizer at this coming weekend’s market. ¬†She had it on hand last week to share the scent. ¬†So much more heavenly than the rank smell that begin to permeate cleats partially through the sports season.

I will be returning for that one!

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I also picked up these three products from Essential Bliss Aromatherapy. ¬†I was mostly interested in the yoga mat spray, but they were running a special on three products and I couldn’t resist.

The cooling mists can be chilled to give you some refreshment, but also work as a natural room deodorizer.

They were also creating custom blends which I found intriguing.

Calming for stress… anxiety…

Yes, please!

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I can’t end my faves with out sharing this little guy!

A baby goat!

He was so soft and adorable.

Briar Mountain Farm makes 100% natural goat’s milk soaps, lotions, and other bath and beauty products. ¬†The selection was amazing! ¬†I didn’t get anything because I wanted to figure out which essential oil scents I wanted to add to the house.

There’s always this weekend!

Lastly, a song I’m loving this week. ¬†In case you missed yesterday’s post, I’m planning a trip to Scotland! ¬†I love Julie Fowlis’s voice and while she mostly sings in Scottish Gaelic [which I had Percy Jackson style fantasies about being able to magically understand], I am sharing an English song :

Have a GREAT weekend!

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Let your light shine!

Amy

In Search of Simplicity

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about simplicity.

Actually I’ve been thinking about it steadily for over a year.

I heard about the KonMari method around that time, even talked about it here. ¬†I’m a KonMari dropout… I made it through books and clothes, maybe even dabbled into the next section…and then nothing. I love it in concept, but I did not follow through.

I also have certain Feng Shui principles that I¬†have applied to every house since the early 2000’s when I learned them.

  • No mirrors in my bedroom (we started with the one that was attached to the dresser).
  • No TV’s in any bedroom (although the kids seem to have finally gotten around this one with laptops).
  • The bed positioned so that the feet do not align with the exit of the door (and placed in whatever is the commanding position for the room. Typically it is a place where you can see whoever is coming in the door).

There are similar principles that I apply to other parts of the house. Mostly keeping in line with you being able to see what is coming at you.  I think they make sense because I think our natural instincts are to be aware our surroundings and alert to dangers.  There are plenty of other principles. I mostly apply what I have found to create a more comfortable environment.

Feng Shui also relates to simplicity because clutter stops the flow of energy.  Clutter distracts.  Clutter creates disharmony in my spirit.

And yet, my house is still full of it.

I am not a good housekeeper.

It is not a trait of mine that I admire.  I have spoken about my lack of skill in the past. I have shared how easily distracted that I tend to become.

I’m always trying to weed out, to minimize, to simplify. ¬†I have this compulsion that I feel like it’s essential to my growth as a person to complete this task.

I don’t want to be a slave to my possessions. I don’t want to continually clean my home (and it still look like I’ve done nothing). I want to invite a friend over for coffee and not race around hiding debris (to be clear, I doubt any of my friends would care. ¬†This is self-imposed). I want to hang out more with my kids…spend more quality time with my husband. I want to find moments to “just be” and not feel guilty about all the chores hanging over me.

I can see why there is a tiny house movement. 500 sq ft or less is a little too intimidating for me.

But I could downsize.

Lower overhead. Less to clean. Less places for clutter to hide.

I could totally downsize.

Which is a huge eye-opener for me. I have steadily picked larger and larger homes…and now I want to revert to something more akin to a bungalow (with terrazzo floors and retro bathrooms if I were still by the Florida seashore).

I am not sure minimalism is fully what I’m aiming for, but it does give me ideas for my process. ¬†Since the beginning of my journey, I have been seeking simplicity and contentment.

 

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Hygge has become the new buzzword in simplicity.  And of course I only heard about it a few months ago, which I shared here. (As a side note: I was really hoping that my DNA test would show that I was more than 5% Scandinavian.  I was sure that my big hands, big feet, and broad shoulders were because I had an ancestor that was a Viking Princess!)

I decided that I would put some hygge and simplicity books on hold at the library.  Imagine my surprise when they all came in within a few days of each other.

This means that I will be stepping up my reading game.  The Hygge books and The Joy of Less are only two week loans because they are new.  Which also means that somebody else will probably have them on hold and I will not be able to re-check them out.

In what little I’ve read, I haven’t found hygge to be about the “less stuff” side of simplicity. ¬†It seems to me to be more about the “being present” and “content” side of simplicity.

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And cozy.

Cozy is a word that surrounds the concept of hygge.

I like cozy. ¬†Especially because I don’t like cold. ¬†The hubby bought me L.L. Bean slippers for Christmas so my toes don’t turn blue (like literally…I have Raynaud’s). They remind of little elfin boots…which I find hilarious since I have large feet.

I’ve read that bedtime rituals help prepare your mind for a better sleep. ¬†I still haven’t eliminated blue light time in bed (I check my phone…not so good for sleepy time), but I do put on a lotion that’s scent triggers my brain that it’s time for bed.

I am on the slow road to simplicity.  But I am moving ever forward.

Do you have any parts of your day(s) that help you to find more simplicity?

If so, be sure to share in the comments.  I love learning new things!

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Let your light shine!

Amy