Monday, July 28, 2014

The Greece Diaries - Lefkada

Porto Katsiki Beach, Lefkada
When planning my trip to Greece, I'll admit that I didn't do much.

Maria had it all mapped out, and my only request was that she take me to the ocean. I didn't care where we went. If anything, I wanted her to take me to where she usually goes. Before this trip, I've never heard of Lefkada. When friends or family visited Greece, they told me to check out Mykonos, Santorini, or Ios.

I learned that Lekfada is part of the Ionian Sea (most of the other islands are part of the Aegean Sea) and that it is one of the only Greek islands that can be accessed by car.

Driving to Lefkada was one of the most amazing experiences I've had on vacation. We drove on roads that spun off cliffs of lush forests where you could never tell where the sky or sea started. While there, we visited three beaches:

When I first got to Kathisma, I thought I hit the centre of an alternative paradise. The water was as clear as a man-made backyard pool, the temperature like a warm bath. Maria and Kostas barely fluttered an eyelid, assuring me that the next two beaches we'd visit would blow my mind.

I said I didn't believe them.

Cue Day Two. We arrived at Porto Katsiki. A beach that was carved out of speckled white and orange cliffs, the colour of a Tabby cat. The water here was clearer, and I spent the day dripping in salt water, climbing on rocks, and floating on my back, unable to process where exactly I was in the world.

I then told them, nothing could be better.

Day Three: the final escape to Egremni, a beach that could only be accessed by walking down 347 steps.

We left early in the morning, and as we arrived the sun was just starting to illuminate the endless stretch of sand and ocean. As my feet sunk into the rocky ground, the shore would spit up white, foamy bubbles like the mix of saliva and toothpaste in a sink.

Kostas found us a grotto to rest our stuff under, our own personal cave where we could hide from the sun when it got too strong (and the sun is no joke in Greece). The only caveat of Egremni beach is when you have to use the bathroom, you have to climb back up the 347 steps. I caved and made the trip up in the afternoon, a feat that I definitely don't recommend. Kostas and Maria, more seasoned beach professionals waited until we left to climb back up.

All I can recall from that day is the blue. The bluntness of the shade. The way I flung off my sunglasses to examine the colours. The deep ombre of the ocean, starting with an electric indigo, and ending in cyan. 

I've never seen blue like that, except maybe in the irises of my grandparents' eyes. That's all I remember. That's the most I'll ever be able to describe.

Below are some photos! Enjoy.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Greece Diaries - On the Road

I had no idea what to expect when I arrived in Greece.

The only Greece I knew was the one I've seen in photos and films. The one that is strictly white and blue, and exists only on an island. I didn't imagine green leafy trees, mountains or even lakes. (Naive, I know).

If you're an avid reader of Not A Model, you may remember Maria from my travel posts on Florence. She was my roommate last summer, while I was taking amateur cooking classes, and trying to speak Italian.

We talked about me booking a trip to visit for some time, but I never thought I'd actually do it. I remember talking to my mother who said, "Amanda, I know you. If you don't go, you will regret it. When will you have the chance to visit Greece through the eyes of someone who lives there?" 

Moms are always right.

So in exactly 14 hours, and two connecting flights, I made it to Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece next to Athens. Maria kindly met me at the airport, all smiles in her Smart car. When we got to her house, her family warmly greeted me at the door like I was a long lost cousin they've been waiting for.

We stayed in Thessaloniki for one night, and the next morning we were off to Agrinio, to pick up Maria's boyfriend Kostas.

It was a five-hour drive to Agrinio, and I was sitting in a car without a To-Do list, Wi-Fi, or emails to respond to. I stared into vast stretches of highway, and tunnels that darkened the sky. We made one stop in Ioannina, a small city that means "Town of John." We sat by the town's lake for an espresso break, and then went to see the local castle.

When we arrived in Agrinio, I met Kostas and his family (including his adorable dog Evy). In the afternoon, we went to visit Kostas' brother Nikos' perfume shop, where he gave me my new scent, Lolita. At night, we had dinner at a local restaurant by the lake. I mentioned that I needed a recommendation for olive oil as my Dad asked me to buy him some. When we got home, Kostas had prepared a large tub for me, fresh from his family's olive trees. The next morning, we got back in the car and began our journey to Lefkada.

I could almost taste the ocean...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Back in Business


Sometimes a vacation feels more than a couple of weeks away.

When I returned home from Greece, I felt like I'd been away for over a month. I came home to a completely different routine, to a different me. Before I left, I was a bit of a mess. I had tired panda eyes, and a slightly dropped spirit.

In Greece, I spent two weeks violently shaking my hair underwater like a happy sea monster. I relished in taking sweaty naps in the afternoon, and cold showers at night. I glued my forehead to car windows that took me down highways that snaked around cliffs of yellow flowers that smelled like a freshly perfumed French woman.

I carried around two notebooks, writing down everything I saw. I reconnected with my fictional characters that I sometimes set aside, like that game you played as a child, when someone yells "Freeze!" and you don't move until someone says you can. I thawed them out, and their stories started up again.

Before I left, I went to dinner with my best friend, and she took some photographs of me in Roncesvalles. While I stood in the cubbyhole she picked, she asked me to use the space around me; to embody the newfound freedom that I badly wanted to embrace.

So I did, and when we found the best shot, I hesitated to post it. She told me to own it, to stop caring about the rest.

While away, I began reading Dr. Brene Brown's, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. I first came across Brown's Ted Talk on vulnerability and I couldn't get it out of my head for days. I've always struggled with vulnerability. I've even been told that by a few people. But Brown believes that being vulnerable makes you stronger, even if at first, you feel weaker.

This week's mantra comes from her book. It is a quote I can re-read 100 times and still feel something. Hope you do too!

"Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don't exist in the human experience. We must walk into the arena, whatever it may be— a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation— with courage and the willingness to engage. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment and advice, we must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is daring greatly." 

I have a bunch of travel diary posts coming up. Stay tuned! x

Friday, June 27, 2014


This past month has tested my resilience in more ways than I could imagine. There is nothing I need more than a little R&R; a morsel of time away.

Here's to packing a bag, heading to the ocean and shedding a layer with every step.

Below is this week's mantra! Be back soon.

Source: Tumblr

To stay in touch, track Not A Model's travel journey on Instagram. x 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Life's a snow globe

Life's a snow globe.

We all live in them. We have our little worlds, in the circular bubble that surrounds us. They may be filled with jobs, relationships, apartments, mansions, huts, closets, possessions, family members, lovers, life partners, and bosses. We sit in them, womb-like, squishy in the water that surrounds us, like the first home we ever had.

And then one day, a giant toddler comes up to the globe and flips it over. 

A strange substance fills the air and alters the state of what once was. The continuous flow of peace and order is interrupted. You have to evaluate the change. Is it beautiful or horrifying? What is this constant shaking? Is it subtle drowning? What is happening? 

There are two types of change.

There is change that we choose; choosing to quit your job, choosing to break up with someone, choosing to move. Then there is forced change; getting let go from your job, someone breaking up with you, being forced to find a new place. I've been on the side of both forces of change, but mostly I like to choose change. Recently, I've been on the other side.

I believe that the universe will give you change when you need it even if you're not ready to choose it. 

I wrote a bunch of thank you cards this weekend and it reminded me that no matter how many shakes pop up in my life, there is always something to be grateful for. The list of reasons goes from the macro (family, roof, friendship, health) to the micro (soft pajamas, bare feet on summer grass, French press coffee).

You can't predict change. You can't hide in snow globes. One second there is stillness, the next it's a storm. Maybe the toss up is exactly what you need, or perhaps be grateful that the toddler just shook it, and didn't smash it.

There's always that.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Weekly Mantra - Shonda Rhimes

Credit via Pinterest
I love commencement speeches.

Maybe it's because I will never be 18 again, sitting in an auditorium, looking up to someone who can give me a glimpse into the future.

Commencement speeches do apply to new grads, but when I read them, I once again feel like I have the power to change any direction of my life. The lessons are timeless, and apply to everyone.

My favourite from this year was from TV writer, screenwriter and producer extraordinaire Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes is the brains behind hits like Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, and she owns her own production company. She recently spoke at Dartmouth for their commencement ceremony.

Below is a snippet that I adored. The whole speech is amazing. I encourage you to read it here. Enjoy! x

"Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral. Pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.

Lesson One: Ditch the Dream. Be a Do-er, Not a Dreamer.

Maybe you know exactly what you dream of being. Or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. Just…DO. You think “I wish I could travel” — you sell your crappy car and buy a ticket and go to Bangkok right now. I’m serious. You say “I want to be a writer” — guess what? A writer is someone who writes every day. Start writing. Or: You don’t have a job? Get one. ANY JOB. Don’t sit at home waiting for the magical dream opportunity. Who are you? Prince William? No. Get a job. Work. Do until you can do something else." via Medium

Friday, June 13, 2014

Everyday Beauty - Linda of Body Bijou

Meet Linda!

Linda is the 14 year old founder of Body Bijou, a company she started when she became interested in jewelry design, and a desire to help educate young women. After a trip to Kenya with her family, Linda and her sister Susanna realized they couldn't ignore the fact that not all women were as privileged as them.

Upon returning to Canada, Susanna founded Girls Helping Girls, a not-for-profit that helps girls in need attend school. Linda then decided that Body Bijou's business model would donate 50% of net profits to her sister's charity.

Linda is well-spoken, confident, smart and stunning (I mean, I remember looking like an awkward green bean in Grade 9!!). She's passionate about giving back to those less fortunate, and devoted to working on her designs. Last night she won Startup Canada's Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. I stood by as guest after guest came up to congratulate and listen to her speak.

Body Bijou has a wide variety of handmade jewelry, and unique pieces like body chains, ringalets and hip chains. The best part of purchasing a product is knowing that half of your contribution is going directly to improve the status of women all over the world. There has never been a time where education for girls and raising their social status has been more important.

In some exciting news, I'm happy to announce that I am Body Bijou's new PR Director! While I still have my day job, this project is very close to my heart. It has been a great experience working with Linda and her amazing mother. 

To learn more about Body Bijou, Girls Helping Girls and Linda's story, visit their website, follow them on Twitter, and reach out on Facebook

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The (Over) Worked Girl's Guide to Life

Remember when I posted last week about looking forward to picnics and hanging with the Duchess? Well, sometimes you have to cancel your plans and work through the weekend.

I work in client services, which means that when the client needs something, you work until 10 p.m. on a weeknight, or Saturday morning with your team to get it done. When I'm on a hustle-by-the-hour work schedule, the rest of my life seems to fall by the wayside.

I know blogging is all about showing the perfect outfit, the perfect cat-eye and the perfect Sunday brunch with peonies, but that's not always reality. I'm not ashamed to admit that sometimes I choose an outfit based on what's not wrinkled in my closet, or that I've fallen asleep with wet hair and a granola bar in my hand after a late shower. 

Anyways, for those who sometimes find themselves in the same stress boat, below are some products, tips and tools that I've turned to when work becomes werk.

I'm awake, I swear: When I'm working ungodly hours, I don't wear mascara. I know that by the end of the day it will be anywhere but my lashes. To achieve a "not dead" look, I try to focus on my brows. Strong, shaped brows can make you look awake, even if your eyes are bare. I use Benefit's Speed Brow to tame the hair, and Diorshow Brow Styler to fill in the spares.

Was your mother a raccoon? Even polished brows won't disguise sleepless nights or early mornings. While my mother isn't a raccoon, I have inherited dark circles from someone in my family. A few clicks of YSL Touche Éclat does wonders to look awake, and diffuse a bit of light in an area that only wants to hit a pillow.

Kitchen cobwebs: I enjoy cooking, but when I'm on a strict office schedule, the last thing I want to do is sit in front of a pot, or a chopping block. I try to grab carrots, apples and cucumbers to snack on in the day (if I'm not raiding my office cupboard) and if I'm really exhausted a granola bar can substitute for almost anything. Clif Bar sent me their new bars to try and I ate the Clif Mojo Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt in two bites. Made with 70% organic ingredients, the bars are also gluten-free. Throw a few in your purse to get you through a long meeting.

The 7 minute workout - When you're time starved, going for a run or to the gym just doesn't fit. I don't like completely falling off my exercise routine, so this 7 minute workout is my no excuse go-to when I can't find the full time. Trust me, it feels longer.

The real world: When I work this much, I cancel plans, I ignore my personal emails and I recluse. Sometimes calling someone on the walk home, or sending a text keeps you feeling connected to those around you when you're only a few days away from a normal schedule. My dad called me last night and laughed through my dramatic story about the stress of being in charge of pressing the clicker during a PowerPoint presentation.

Okay, okay, back to finding your peonies on Pinterest...