My Favorite Photo of 2015

It's safe to say that I took a lot of photos in 2015. And I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I bounce between living in two of the most insanely beautiful and photogenic cities in the world- Edinburgh and Boston (I'm not biased at all, guys!).

The photos that I'm most proud of almost always end up on Instagram where they can be properly appreciated. But it's not too often that these photos make it into print. Since personal photography all went online, the feeling of actually owning printed out photos has disappeared. I remember when my mom used to print out all of the photos of us growing up and put them into albums with little captions with the date and location- but those days seem to be long gone.

That's why I'm so excited to be partnering with Social Print Studio this week, an app and website which takes your digital photos that you share on Instagram and sends them to be printed in a snap! They even go beyond your average photo paper to create metal prints (obsessed!), magnets and more to gift to your loved ones (or yourself!).

I was challenged to pick out my favorite photo of 2015 and share the story behind it (I say challenge because it's difficult to pick just one!). I think it's far too often that we post photos on social media with short and sweet captions and don't ever share the experience that the photo captured.

This photo was taken somewhere near and dear to my heart- the Boston Public Gardens. Situated right in the center of the city, the Public Gardens are a sanctuary amidst the bustling city. 

I took this photo in June while I was touring one of my friends from Edinburgh around Boston for the day. We had just taken a ride around the lake on one of the swan boats- a bit of a touristy attraction, but when in Rome, right? The swan boats always bring back memories of my childhood, and of my mom reciting the William Butler Yates poem Leda and the Swan, part of the inspiration for my namesake.  

I snapped this photo without much planning, in fact. And I think that's what made it so perfect in the end. Sometimes the best photos just happen to be the ones you take on a whim. What I love about this photo is how the tree branches frame the upper corners ever so slightly, how the grey-white backdrop makes the silver-blue Hancock skyscraper stand out that much more, and how the beauty of the buildings is reflected in the pool. Most of all, I love how the swan boat takes center stage despite how much it's dwarfed by the surrounding trees and city skyline. 

To me, this photo shows Boston at its best and most authentic. It's with pictures like these that I'm reminded how incredibly stunning Boston is, and how much I miss it! 

I hope you all enjoyed the story behind my favorite photo of 2015! Now all that's left to do is have it printed with Social Print Studio. Make sure to check out there website and app- you won't be disappointed! 


More Than Just Cookies: Why being a Girl Scout was one of the most important experiences of my life

I know what you're thinking from reading the title: Leda, you're such a nerd. Let's be honest, though- those of us in Girl Scouts weren't exactly the coolest girls in school. I know that because I was one for 12 years. But what does that matter? Being a Girl Scout was among the most significant experiences of my childhood and adolescence. It helped to shape the woman I am today. And I don't think I ever fully realized that until now.

Let's rewind to the early years of elementary school. Everything was new and exciting, everyone was friends with one another, and everyone was a Girl Scout. It was the thing to do- at least, as far as our parents were concerned. We sewed quilts for charity, we sold cookies in the freezing cold, and we sang silly songs that I can still remember to this day. It was like school without the homework, where the fun parts of learning earned you badges that you could wear on your oversized vest with pride.

Sporting our ever-so attractive vests in Savannah- the home of the Girl Scouts!

But then middle school came around. In this vulnerable transition, cliques became the overriding social structure, and all that anyone cared about was how many bar mitzvahs you got invited to. Being a Girl Scout quickly became the "uncool" activity of choice, and my troop's numbers dwindled to less than ten.

But despite my avoidance of selling Girl Scout cookies to my non-scout school friends at the risk of seeming lame, I realize that my preteen years in the troop helped me to form some of the strongest friendships I would ever have. These girls, while not always in my core friendship group, were the ones I could count on when the going got tough (and, sometimes even in middle school, it did get tough).

Necessary Starbucks (most likely hot chocolate) on our way to Savannah.

My reserved demeanor was challenged when I knocked on the doors of neighbors I had never even met before to ask them if they wanted to buy cookies. I was greeted with smiles for the most part, but also had to learn to deal with rejection when someone wasn't interested. When we sold cookies in the freezing cold, I learned to manage money through some very tricky transactions (shoutout to the guy who gave us a $100 bill that one time).

Singing along in the blazing heat at the Washington Mall for the Girl Scout's 100th anniversary. 

By the time I had entered high school, I had gained enough confidence to take my business skills (something I'd never thought I'd have or enjoy) to the next level and make use of social media to sell Thin Mints and Caramel DeLites to the masses. And boy did they sell- over 500 boxes to be exact. Suddenly, being a Girl Scout was cool again, because selling the coveted treats out of the trunk of my car certainly made me popular.

Between selling cookies to my hungry classmates, my troop and I (now down to about 5 girls) did what Girl Scouts are truly meant to do- teach and mentor other girls. This came in the form of organizing the campout we had been attending for years. Our chosen theme was Disney Princesses- and that was before all the gender-political hype surrounding them was trending on Buzzfeed. We dressed up as the Princesses we most closely resembled (#typecast) and set off to teach younger girls that you can be a beautiful princess, have a job, and be successful. We were clearly ahead of our time.

Pretending to be princesses at the annual campout- I was Snow White of course.

But perhaps the most rewarding experience I ever had during Girl Scouts was doing my Gold Award- an independent project in which we essentially sought out to solve a problem within our community. I chose to create a running camp for elementary school kids because I felt that not many kids that age even knew running was a sport. It was a lot of work to even get the project off the ground because there aren't a ton of parents out there who wanted to send their kids to a makeshift camp run by a bunch of high schoolers. But the nine kids that did join us were absolutely phenomenal, and I'll never forget the smiles on their faces while they ran around the track on our "Olympics Day."

My Gold Award meant I got to employ my friends as counselors.

In the end, I was glad that I stuck it out through Girl Scouts for 12 years. It may not have been the most popular after school activity for an 18 year old, but I genuinely loved it. From selling cookies to running my own summer camp, being a Girl Scout brought out a confidence in me that I don't think would have surfaced without going through those experiences. I owe a lot to my incredible troop leader as well as the Girl Scout organization as a whole for making me the person I am today.

So if you're a Girl Scout now, or you were one at one point in your life, I want you to know that being a Girl Scout is important and it does make an impact. The Girl Scout Law sums it up perfectly, because it really is about "making the world a better place and being a sister to every Girl Scout."

Our last ever booth sale!


Life Updates: Volunteering, gown-hunting, and staying put.

To me, blogging is a bit of a "cheat" way to keep in touch with people from home. I'm not writing directly to anyone, but I feel like my friends across the pond can take a glimpse into my day-to-day life through my blog. And that way, when I talk to them on FaceTime or see them in person they seem to be totally updated with most aspects of my life (you know, aside from the really personal stuff that I choose to keep off the blog).

So today, I thought I'd take the time out to answer the question that I ask and receive so often: what's new?

For one thing, I've started volunteering at a charity shop on a weekly basis. To be honest, it's sadly not as altruistic as it seems because I'm not just volunteering out of the goodness of my heart- I'm actually doing it for an assignment. My Social Anthropology class called Ethnography is based around one big project that we work on incrementally throughout the term.

For those of you not familiar with the term ethnography, it's basically the process of studying a space over time through passive observation as well as participant observation (aka getting your hands dirty). This means that my groupmates and I have been behind the till and behind the scenes of the charity shop- making transactions, taking donations, and designing window displays. All while attempting to make anthropological observations, taking notes, and conducting interviews. It's a totally different experience for me- I've somehow managed to get by in life having never worked retail. But I really think it's something that everyone should try at least once!

Another activity that has become a rather significant part of my life lately is going to black-tie/white-tie affairs. Since November, I've been going to one fancy event per month, which means I have to do a lot of shopping for full-length gowns. While you'd think this would be fun 100% of the time, I promise you it's not- especially when you nearly fall into the height category of a midget and have quite possibly the most disproportionate body in the world.

I don't think I'll ever get over how pale we both look in this photo. 

But what I like most about picking out new gowns and going to these balls is that it feels like prom all over again. Except, without all the drama (my prom story is actually hilariously bad) or the pressure of finding a date. In high school, I probably would have claimed that my prom dress was absolutely the most important gown I would ever wear. But now I have ample opportunities to dress up. Now that I think about it, my prom dress is my least favorite of all the gowns I own!

So many good lookin' friends... But which one is the real prom??

Finally, and this may be a little bit premature to say... but I'm so happy that next year I'll be staying in the same beautiful flat as I've been living in this year! We're re-signing the lease tomorrow morning, and we're crossing our fingers and toes that things don't get muddled up any further. We have a new flatmate moving in since one of the gals is studying abroad in Italy and France next year, and I honestly couldn't be more excited about staying put. Our flat is not only stunning design-wise, but I think it's going to be a lot easier to transition into the notoriously difficult third year of uni if we don't have to worry about getting used to a new place.

You can see what our flat looks like in this post in case ya missed it.

So that's what's new in my world- congratulations on making it to the end of my rambly post!  


You Are Responsible For Your Own Happiness

Even as someone with generally good mental health, it's not uncommon that I find myself stuck in a bit of a rut. There are times among the deadlines, the "have-tos," and the social obligations where nothing seems to be going right. Or even if things are going right, sometimes it doesn't quite feel like it is.

I was having one of those days/weeks recently where I was sitting in the living room and was just feeling "blah" and had been moping about all week feeling sorry for myself for no reason. I had absolutely no idea why I felt that way, but sometimes I find that I feel grumpy for no reason. And to make matters worse, the important people in my life were asking me "what's wrong?" and I just didn't have an answer. 

So instead of frustrating myself by racking my brain for a reason to be in a funk, I remembered something that my mom tells me time and time again- and no, it wasn't "make sure you walk home with someone at night." One of my mom's favorite pieces of advice to give is that "you are responsible for your own happiness." It's plain and simple, but I think it's also particularly profound.  

We are all too often depending on someone or something else to bring us happiness. We wait on a boyfriend to give us flowers to brighten up our day. We wait on an Instagram photo to pass the 11-like barrier as a sort of social affirmation. That's not to say that those things don't or shouldn't make us happy, but we have to stop depending on them to lift our spirits. 

By taking on that responsibility for ourselves, we're better able to key-in to how we're feeling and how we can make ourselves feel better. Personally, I think that I'm not always as aware of myself emotionally as I should be, which leads to unwarranted reactions (aka me snapping at someone I care about for no good reason). 

I've realized that this shift in emotional responsibility has a lot to do with growing older. We can't expect our parents to fix all of our problems anymore- whether it's a financial problem or something more personal. I'm not saying that it isn't right to seek out help if you're feeling down, but it's totally unfair to expect help without asking for it. Asking for help or for comfort is a part of being actively responsible for your happiness, after all. 

At the moment, I'm trying to make it a personal goal to communicate any unhappiness with the people I care about, rather than going through the usual guessing game of "Are you okay?" and "Yeah, I'm fine" and then expecting them to read between the lines. And if there's no actual "problem" that's causing me to feel blue that I can pinpoint? Well, then I think that's perfectly fine too. 

So last week when I was feeling a bit down, I made a decision: stop being so mopey, and stop feeling so sorry for yourself. I had already allowed myself to be sad for long enough. And I knew that if I changed my attitude, and did a few little things that made me feel good, I could climb out of the rut that I had put myself in. I put on a casual little black dress that I felt pretty in, grabbed my favorite necklace (the one with the giraffe on it, obviously) and listened to a cheery playlist on my way in to class. And the best part? It was sunny out! And if that's not a miracle in Edinburgh on it's own, then I don't know what is.

There's always something that you can do to change the way you're feeling. It doesn't matter what it is, but the most important thing is that you are the one to take on that responsibility. Because in the end, the only thing that you have control of is yourself. And once you realize this, you'll learn that you can find happiness on your own no matter what. 

A little side-note: I think that this advice applies to anyone with a "normal" level of mental health. Of course if you have experienced depression or any other form of mental illness, this advice may not apply to you, as this is not professional advice. 


Recent Eats: Plus, recipes and cooking tips!

If you follow me on snapchat- or really any form of social media for that matter- you know I love to constantly post pictures of food. I know some people aren't a fan of that sort of thing, but I honestly enjoy seeing what other people are eating. Having a little bit of #foodenvy always motivates me to cook something delicious and beautiful or try out a new restaurant.

But there's one other, slightly more embarrassing, reason why I tend to take a lot of photos of my food- because my mom and I basically have full-on text conversations that consist of sending each other pictures of what we're eating. If you think I'm kidding, here's proof:

I kid you not.

See? And that brings me to exactly why I'm writing this post: all of my most recent photos on my phone are of food. So, I thought it would be both easy and helpful to share some of my best recipes of the past few weeks, as well as a couple of extra cooking tips, as I come into my second academic term of fending for myself.

Before I share my recent eats, let's start out with a few things I've learned that make cooking (particularly as a poor/starving student) a whole lot easier.

1.) Buy a cookbook from a charity shop: I know that literally every recipe you could ever need is online and free of charge nowadays. But how many times have you gotten water, flour, or any number of other unpleasant substances on your phone while you're scrambling to read the next step in a recipe? Phones + kitchens = a recipe (haha, get it?) for disaster. But buying a brand new cookbook can be expensive. That's where charity shops come in. A lot of the time, these cookbooks are not only gently used, but they're good quality and come from well-known chefs (think, Jamie Oliver). And you can usually pick them up for around £1-3.

Building up my collection of early 2000s British celebrity chef cookbooks.

2.) Cook with others: Cooking for one is notoriously difficult. Trust me, I've tried. Making a normal sized batch of anything will usually leave you with days worth of leftovers. And eating the same thing every day can become pretty boring. Your solution? Cook with someone else! You'll end up saving money in the long run, wasting less, and you'll probably learn a thing or two from one another.

3.) Be creative with your leftovers: As I said, cooking for just yourself can leave you with a lot of leftovers. But those leftovers won't seem so monotonous if you repurpose them. For example, this Sunday I roasted a whole chicken (you'll see this later in the post) and used what was left- which was a lot- to whip up a chicken salad to use in sandwiches. I just shredded up the leftover chicken and mixed it with about two tablespoons of mayo, one chopped up apple, one stalk of celery, and some white wine vinegar. And the best part is, I already had all of those ingredients in the flat!

Alright, now that I've essentially told you how to live your life (isn't that what lifestyle bloggers are supposed to do?), I'll entertain you with some photos and link you to some fab recipes.


This is actually a pretty typical breakfast for me: overnight oats with honey and banana. I don't use a recipe for this and usually wing it. Just fill a small to medium sized mason jar halfway up with rolled oats, then add about 3 tablespoons of yogurt, plus a splash of milk. Mix it all together with as much honey as you like (I like a lot), and a pinch of cinnamon. Leave it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, just plop your oats into a bowl and top with sliced bananas. Easiest. Breakfast. Ever.  


Who says you need to go out for an instagram-worthy brunch? This colorful egg dish is full of healthy vegetables and is taken to the next level with some added sundried tomatoes and a sprinkling of parmesan (as per my own improvisation). Get the recipe here.


I feel like I've been fully indoctrinated into the quintessential British lifestyle upon the completion of cooking my first ever Sunday roast dinner (using a whole chicken!). But not one to keep strictly to tradition, I opted for a lemony chicken recipe that had a bit of an Italian twist with the addition of rosemary and garlic. The roasted potatoes, carrots, parsnips and brussel sprouts couldn't have been easier as I just threw them on a tray with olive oil, salt and pepper, and popped them in the oven for 40 minutes. Get the recipe for the lemon roast chicken here.  


As dessert is my forte when it comes to cooking a meal, I couldn't help but share two different recipes. The first is a ricotta cake with caramelized peaches and man was it good. It was so simple to make as well (no crazy baking techniques here), and resulted in one of the richest cakes I've ever had. Get the recipe here

The final recipe I'll be sharing today was the dessert that accompanied Sunday's roast dinner- old fashioned apple crisp. Much less fussy to make than an apple pie, this dessert was the perfect comfort food. I think this particular recipe goes a little bit heavy on the orange, so I'd probably omit the orange peel next time. Get the recipe here.   

I hope you've enjoyed reading this post as much as I love drooling over photos of food. Speaking of which, I'm kind of hungry now... And there's definitely some leftover apple crisp in the kitchen...  

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