Monthly Archives: March 2016

A Few of My Favourite Things ~ No. 2


As March draws to a close, I find myself dragging some, both emotionally and physically.  While spring officially arrived in the Northern Hemisphere last weekend, the weather in Southern Ontario has been anything but spring-like.  The last week in particular has been dark, dull and cold.

I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait for spring – it is by far, my favourite season. Everything awakens from a deep slumber, seemingly more vibrant and alive than ever before.  The smell of fresh blossoms, the feel of warm sunshine, and the sound of birds serenading – I love it all.

Lately, I have been turning to a few of my current favourites to not only will spring into existence, but also lift my mood.  As mentioned in my previous “favourites” post, turning to one’s favourite things, especially in times of difficulty or challenge, really does make one feel better.

In the second instalment of this series, I offer you a glimpse into a few of my current favourites, one to satiate each of the senses:

A Night In With Audrey Hepburn – Lucy Holliday

After seeing this book several times over the past few months, I decided it finally needed to come home with me, and if you love Audrey Hepburn and books by authors like Sophie Kinsella or Lucy Diamond, then this is the book for you.

As I have just started reading this book, I will defer to the book’s jacket to give you a snapshot:

“Unlucky in love, failed actress Libby Lomax has retreated into the world of classic movies, where the immortal lives of the screen goddesses offer so much more in the way of romance than her own life.

After a terrible day on the set of a cult TV sci-fi series where she has proved herself to be the antithesis of feminine poise and embarrassed herself in front of heartthrob actor Dillon O’Hara, she plonks herself down in front of her trillionth viewing of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Relaxing on her battered old couch, salvaged from the props department by her best friend Olly, Libby is gob smacked to find actual Screen Icon, Audrey Hepburn, sitting beside her. Dressed in her little black dress, wearing her trademark sunglasses, Audrey proffers advice to the hapless Libby between ladylike puffs on her vintage cigarette holder.”

With a few days off this coming week, I look forward to curling up with a cup of tea and getting lost in this gem.

P.S. If you are a fan of Marilyn Monroe, then you may want to check out the second book in this series, entitled A Night In With Marilyn Monroe.  I have already picked up my copy and also look forward to Ms. Holliday’s third instalment, A Night In With Grace Kelly, coming out this summer!

The Simple Sophisticate Podcast – Shannon Ables

Those of you who know me, will attest to my love for The Simply Luxurious Life and its creator, Shannon Ables.  I have been enjoying Shannon’s content for years and was thrilled when she decided to produce a weekly podcast.

Each Monday, Shannon enriches her listeners with inspiring information, ideas and insights on how to curate their own simply luxurious life.  I especially enjoy the weekly Petit Plaisir, where Shannon will spotlight a recommended book, play, recipe or film.

I throughly enjoy Monday mornings with Shannon and look forward to all of the simply luxurious inspiration to come.  If you enjoy a life of quality and refinement, then be sure to check out The Simple Sophisticate podcast, as well as the wealth of wonderful wisdom found on Shannon’s blog and in her fabulous publication, Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman’s Guide.

Teavana Shaken Iced Peach Green Tea – Starbucks 

One of the simply luxuries I look forward to at the end of a long week is a hand-crafted beverage.  In the winter, I love trying all sorts of hot beverages, but as we move into the warmer months, I find myself craving beverages of the iced variety.

My favourite drink of the moment is the Teavana Shaken Iced Peach Green Tea from Starbucks.  A blend of green tea, sweet peach and ginger, this drink has the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and is sure to quench your thirst and satiate your tastebuds.

Nectarine Blossom & Honey Cologne – Jo Malone

The right fragrance can do so much for the soul.  Not only can it boost your mood, but the right scent can also relieve stress, ease the mind and conjure fond memories.  While I appreciate a variety of fragrances, over the last few years, I have fallen in love with the scents of Jo Malone.

Whatever your preference, be it floral, fruity, spicy or woodsy, Jo Malone has a signature scent for you.

Feeling a bit blue as of late, I visited my local Jo Malone counter at Holt Renfrew to get a boost, and fell in love with the scent Nectarine Blossom and Honey.  Described as “London’s Covent Garden early morning market”, this scent has notes of nectarine, peach, cassis, acacia honey and delicate spring flowers.  It is absolutely delightful and I’m certain it will be in regular rotation this spring!

Silk Scarves

As a Canadian, each spring I gladly tuck away my thick, cashmere scarves in favour of lighter, silk ones.  While I lust after silk scarves al la Hermes, my budget doesn’t always allow for such extravagances; however, the wonderful thing about silk scarves is that they are available at every price point.  In spring, I particularly gravitate to pastels and floral prints.  Check out of a few of my current favourites:

Abstract Print Silk Scarf – White House Black Market
Floral Silk Scarf – Ralph Lauren 
Long Silk Floral Scarf – Kate Spade New York 

These days, one can also find budget friendly “silk-like” scarves, that are equally beautiful and elevate any outfit.  Le Chateau has a lovely collection this year, with many under $30.

In the coming weeks, I look forward to hanging up my parka and putting away my winter boots until next year, and while I await those blossoms and birds, I will continue to make time for my favourites everyday.

Whether it’s a new find or an old goodie, I encourage you to make favourites a part of your everyday as well.  Wishing you a lovely weekend.

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The Value of Authenticity


“This above all: to thine own self be true.” ~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Have you ever wondered what authenticity and Barbie have in common?  Well, let me tell you.  Last week at work, my colleagues and I were discussing Barbie.  Ok, if I’m being authentic, I admit to having a few conversations about Barbie last week, but I digress.  This particular conversation focused on Barbie’s Corvette.

The year was 1990, and I had just received Barbie’s Magical Motor Home for my birthday – you know, the van that turns into a luxury home?  Of course, in true Ashleigh fashion, I was not content with my motor home for long, and set my sights on Barbie’s pink Corvette.  I asked for that beauty for Christmas and when I saw it under the tree, I could not contain myself.  I had reached the pinnacle, I thought, my life could not get any better.

Also, in true Ashleigh fashion, I could not wait to show it off.  The next chance I got, I was at my friend’s house with Barbie and her Corvette in hand.  “Look what I got”, I excitedly announced to everyone.  A hush fell over the crowd as I unveiled my new ride and everyone basked in its pink glow.  “You’re so lucky”, said one of my friends, “Make Barbie drive it.”

It was rude to keep the crowd waiting, so I proceeded to place Barbie into her car, where I quickly realized she didn’t fit.  Struggling to remain composed in front of the masses, I attempted to stuff Barbie into that car several different ways.  “What’s wrong”, asked my friend?  “She doesn’t fit”, I replied.  Another friend piped up and said, “If she doesn’t fit, then that’s not the real Barbie Corvette.  That’s a fake!”

A fake?  Pardon et moi? It was in that moment, I realized two very important things:

  1. Real friends don’t call you out publicly and I immediately cut ties with that little brat
  2. The value of authenticity

Mortified, I took Barbie and her phoney car back home and tore a strip off my father.  “How could you do this to me”, I screamed?  “You gave me a fake!” “What do you mean a fake”, my father asked?  “Barbie doesn’t fit”, I cried!  “Barbie is supposed to fit into her Corvette, Dad!”

During our next trip to the toy store, we compared the two cars and sure enough, they were different.  My Corvette was not made by Mattel and when the two were side by side, mine was a far cry from the real deal.

I never did get Barbie’s official Corvette, nor did I forget the value of authenticity.  You see, the problem with inauthentic things – be that a toy or a person, is simple – while they may look and act like the real thing, they aren’t.  Ultimately, there is always something missing, something that just isn’t right.

Authenticity is defined as something that is “real or genuine: not copied or false”.  In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit or character, despite external pressures.

Let’s be real (no pun intended), very few of us are immune to these external pressures and in turn, we walk around with a persona.  We are socialized from an early age to present ourselves in a way that others will approve of, even if that’s not who we truly are.  Arguably, it is to our benefit to behave in a socially acceptable manner, as it affords us the opportunity to belong, and belonging is crucial to our survival, or at the very least, our social survival.  What kind of world would this be if we completely disregarded social norms?

Conversely, is a world where we mask our true selves, a little or a lot, in fear of being harshly judged, really any better?  Should you hide who you love because society says you shouldn’t?  Should you mask the quirks and characteristics that make you unique, in fear of being seen as abnormal?  Doing so seems both sad and unhealthy, don’t you think?

Psychological literature on this subject supports the notion that living an inauthentic life is unhealthy.  This type of denial often leads to anxiety, depression, addiction and a lack of meaning and fulfillment in one’s life.  However, the literature also suggests that, when we have the courage to look within and discover who we truly are, we can achieve a sense of wholeness, a confidence that we are living as the best version of ourselves.

I won’t lie (in an effort to be real), finding your authentic self can be a long and difficult pursuit.  In the world of picturesque Instagram photos and reality television, it can be challenging to wade through that thick persona in search of the truth.  Also, when one finally discovers that truth, there is no guarantee they will like what they find, a fear that scares many of us from ever really trying.

Above all, becoming authentic is a personal mission, as each individual has their own unique “way of being”.  Ultimately, what is authentic for one will not necessarily be authentic for another; however, don’t you owe it to yourself to explore further?  It is a risk I’m willing to take if it means I can move closer to the best version of myself.

In an effort to move us all closer to our authentic selves, pour yourself a cup of tea or a glass of wine, grab a pen and paper and consider the following:

Your Values

Values are those principles and standards that govern your behaviour, and identifying yours can shed light on the person you really are.  Knowing your values helps you behave and make life decisions that are in line with what you hold paramount.

It is important that you truthfully identify these values, rather than list values based on what society thinks is worthy.  So, ask yourself:

  • What are the three words I live by?

Once you have decided, write those words down and define what they mean to you.  Then place them in a spot where you can easily view them every morning.  Reviewing your values, before the pressures of the day have had a chance to muddy the waters, gives you a better chance of staying true to yourself.  Better yet, hang those words above your desk at work, in your kitchen, or carry them with you in your wallet or cell phone.  Several reminders throughout the day will only help you further.

Your Strengths

Your strengths are those unique qualities and characteristics that make you stand out; those things that come naturally to you.  We are so quick to identify our weaknesses, or have them identified for us by others, that it can be difficult to really pinpoint our strengths.

Maybe you are a strong leader; you encourage individuals or groups to get things done.  Maybe you have solid interpersonal skills; you can understand yourself and others well.

Whatever your strengths, write them down and then find a way to continue to refine them in your daily life.  We have all been given unique gifts and understanding what those gifts are and pursuing them is an important part of living authentically.

Your Passion

Your passion, not to be confused with your strength, is equally essential to living an authentic life.  Your passion is what excites you, what gives you energy and what makes you feel alive when you do it.  Having trouble identifying what your passion is?  Ask yourself the following:

  • If money were no object, what would I do with my time?
  • What makes me happy?
  • What excites me?

Once you have identified your passion, find a way to work it into your everyday.  While few of us are fortunate to make a living doing something we are passionate about, I am a firm believer that including your passion in your daily life has incredible worth.

If you are happiest when painting or sculpting, then take a course at a local art studio or gallery, or go to your nearest art supply store and buy a set of inexpensive paints.  If writing poetry is your passion, then buy yourself a beautiful notebook and pen, and set aside 15 minutes a day to let the words flow.  Who knows, one day your passion may become your job, or at the very least, keep you connected to your authentic self.

While these three items may not magically reveal who you truly are, they will certainly help you become more authentic.  Remember, as we evolve, so too can our true selves. Therefore, I encourage you to revisit this exercise as your life changes.

After some introspection, you may come to find that your authentic self is complex and diverse.  I have found this to be true for myself, but I believe there is a beauty in that complexity.  While I have much more exploring to do, I take comfort in knowing that I am closer to my authentic self then I was five years ago.

Maybe one day, I will finally wade through all of that persona and reach “authentic self nirvana”.  I can almost see that place in my mind now.  It has a sort of ethereal, pink glow, and what is that in the distance? Is that a Corvette?

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