• cherry blossom tree outside hotel
    STORIES

    Meet Me At The Cherry Blossom Tree

    Meet Me At The Cherry Blossom Tree: Part 1 of 3

    When you find yourself in a storm, don’t stop on the edge, push through to the eye where you’ll find peace and rest from the chaos.

    ‘Are you kidding me, Sir?’ Enraged at the airline representative calling to deliver the bad news. ‘Why won’t you let me on this plane, I need to get home for my sister’s wedding dress appointment,’ I’d never really been this late home before. I’m due to fly out tomorrow, but I’ve just been informed that’s not likely to happen. Normally when I fly to Europe for work it’s a few days there and home, minus a few delays but nothing like this. This time I’m stuck in the trendy Hammersmith bar in a mid-range budget hotel in central Berlin, in the middle of a global pandemic where nobody knows what’s happening. 

    ‘Miss Janey, I’m sorry but there’s nothing else we can do right now. Give this number a ring and this team will be able to assist you further’ said the politely spoken customer service agent from Panair.   

    Forty-five minutes on hold for a five-minute tale of rejection from the British Airways as word gets out that the United Kingdom has officially gone into lockdown. All flights have been canceled and anyone outside of the UK will now be ferried in on a filtered special booking and screening system that seems long and convoluted. 

    The kind barista from behind the plush cafe bar inside our hotel said,’Can I get you another coffee?’

    ‘Oh, yes please.’ I suddenly noticed my half-drunk coffee was now stone cold. Just before a text comes through from Lilly. 

    Don’t worry sis. We’re talking with Ben’s parents and thinking of moving the Wedding to next year. Ben’s stressed about it, but we’ll be ok. Let me know what’s going on with your flight home. Ring us when you can. Lilly. X 

    The irony of it all. Lilly by far was the most angst of our family group of four and here she is calm as a cucumber. 

    Things haven’t quite slowed down on this side of the continent yet. I’ve got an emergency meeting at 5 pm with our design team. Working for a digital marketing agency with offices in five countries across the world has its perks and a fair few pains. 

    ‘Excuse me,’ said a tall handsome man with pristine shabby chic hair, smartly dressed with piercing brown eyes making his way past my table and out of the cafe bar. Suddenly the world stopped in motion as I caught my breath in the moment distracted by his beauty and at the same time surprised that he looked so familiar and made me look twice. 

    The walk to the office was a beautiful stroll and calming despite the news I had this morning, surprisingly all I had on my mind was that mystery guy from the hotel. 

    ‘Janey, did you pick up the project file for Elf?’ Elf is the code name for a big high-end client the agency is working to win over for next years Christmas TV ad, but I managed to wangle my way in at the Christmas party. ‘Yes…’ I tried to reply before Tim Brady, who is heading up the project, jumped in and interrupted. ‘Who wants food today? Remember we’ve got our working lunch at 12. If you are in can you let Cassie know your order before 10 am please,’ shouts Tim with his Aussie accent. He is about the same age as my dad, with grey hair and thick-rimmed glasses, slim with the whole art director vibe going on. 

    After the meeting I did a quick self-tour of the open-aired office, things have changed around here since my last trip. The walls are covered in brightly covered post-it notes with a new couch and reading nook at the bottom of the office floor. As the lights started to go dim, I realised that this may be the last time I see this office for a while, considering what’s going on. So I slowly leave and make my way back to my new home in what is a strange environment for me. ‘Gosh, I hope the Airline pulls their finger out and they give me a flight tomorrow’ I thought.

    I hope you enjoyed part one of my short story. Can’t wait to read part two? Join my Patreon community for exclusive access and read the next instalment today.

  • women on laptop with dog lying next to her
    LIFESTYLE

    Lessons From Lockdown

    Inspired by the lovely Lottie Map who wrote a blog post on her lockdown habits experience from a positive perspective, I thought I’d share a few positives I’ve found in this season too.

    There have been so many real and difficult moments for myself and friends, family, and pretty much the entire globe. My friend, Debbie, described this so eloquently when she said that whilst we are all in the same storm, we are all in different boats. Isn’t that so true! 

    I say that mindful of the challenges and pain many are feeling right now, and I don’t want to be insensitive to that. In the midst of it all, I wanted to share a few of the positives and lessons I’ve gathered as a good reflective exercise to help me remember those moments and if by sharing that helps inspire you to look for those nuggets in your world then hey presto, let’s go! 

    YOU WILL FIND WHAT YOU LOOK FOR

    I’ve noticed in the moments where anxiety has ranged for me that it started with a thought. One thought leads to another and the pattern continues until the penny drops and I find a new perspective. 

    BUSY DOES NOT EQUAL SUCCESS

    Being in lockdown for me in some ways felt busier than before. Whilst I treasure the easier mornings with Oxford traffic resembling London traffic more than ever. It still offers up a few challenges when navigating your work, home, and social life from one square space. 

    It wasn’t long before my calendar would stack up with zoom chats and lots of activities that were great to have but overwhelming as I struggled to keep up with the sheer amount. That being said, being able to work from home has given me time and space to think and sow into both this website and my eCommerce business Frame Your World. For that, I am so grateful. In the first few weeks, I spent some time redesigning my website and dusting off some art skills of mine as I began to broaden my inspirational prints to include my hand-drawn illustrations and grew my product offerings to stationery, stickers (more on that later), postcards, smaller prints, and bookmarks. 

    TAKE TIME TO CELEBRATE THE WINS… EVEN THE LITTLE ONES

    This has been a very recent lesson that I’ve had to revisit as I write this. I planned to create and play about with my new Cricut machine to create some new die cut and planner stickers for my Etsy shop and print some orders that have come through, but my printer has run out of ink and so I have to wait another day before I can print again. This lesson is still in progress, but I’m getting better at making time to stop and reflect.

    JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DO SOMETHING, DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD

    This is a big one too and I’ve not mastered this one yet either, to be honest. Being entrepreneurial there are times where opportunities will present to me and I get so excited about the idea in the moment I have said yes to it, but in the end, the work that that one yes requires can lead me to feel drained and potentially feeling anxious which is no good so needless to say I’ll be moving forward saying no more so that I keep saying yes to those things in my heart.

    What are some of the lessons or takeaways for you in lockdown?

     

  • Coffee & Trainers
    LIFESTYLE

    Why it’s ok to be different

    I wrote this blog in April, and I never published it. I don’t know why, but I wanted to share this with you now.

    I have never been more inspired than how I feel right now. It’s Saturday, it’s sunny, and I have a lot to be grateful for. I’ve spent most of the working on my latest project, The Perfect Fit. I’m hoping to work with one of the agents I’ve reached out to, but if they feel it’s not for them, then I’m gearing up to go direct and share my novel with you, the reader. I’ve never been more excited about the novel as I am now. I guess I’ve had time to mature and grow as a writer and as a person. I have never been more convinced that there is a time for everything than I am now. Why? Because I wrote this novel in 2009 around the time I was getting paid off as the world entered an economic crash. Now here we are, 11 years later, and I’m about to release this novel to the world.

    As I write this, I’m inspired by a documentary called This Is Football playing in the background. It’s been one of those days that required grit to keep writing through the distraction and temptation to clean, call friends and family, and head out for our one exercise a day. As it happens I am glad I made it outside for a short walk to allow a little sunshine on my face. I even got dressed up to feel a little more normal in these abnormal times.

    Since meeting my other half, Matt, I’ve grown interested in watching football. As I watch this documentary, I’m in awe of the gift and talent of Leo Messi, “a once in a lifetime player” who shows incredible skill, creativity, and passion not only for the game but for his team.

    I’m captivated, but not because it’s football and I enjoy watching it occasionally. I’m captivated because I’m watching someone who is using their gift and in my opinion having maximum impact. The truth is we all have gifts inside of us. Some of us use them to the full extent that they were meant for and some don’t. I’m sure it’s easier for me to form this opinión from where I’m sitting on my couch, but just imagine… imagine that you were laser-focused on enjoying where you are on the way to where you are going. Using your strengths and your skills, taking risks, helping others, and refusing to let fear or any other excuse stop you from living the life you were meant to live. Whether you are a writer, footballer, mother, artist, costume designer, bricklayer, chemist, doctor, lawyer, or any other profession, skill, and passion you can think of. The whole point is surely to be operating in your sweet spot. Not making decisions to fill your time with the wrong priorities or living without boundaries. After all, we are limited with energy and if you spend your time looking at what others have, or wondering why you are not where you think you should be, or worrying about the critics in life, then you are wasting your own precious opportunity to be effective where you are. I know I’ve gone off on a tangent, but what I’m intending to say, to inspire, and to write is that our definition of success should be to fix our focus on being effective where we are, with what we have.

    I learned something this week. I learned that when one door doesn’t open, knock on another and keep on knocking.

    “In a world where everyone is trying to look the same. Be different.”

    Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.

  • BLOG,  BUSINESS,  COMMUNITY

    PACK ORDERS WITH ME & painting with watercolour

    Filming #WeeklyLee has been so much fun. I’m now eleven episodes in and I am so grateful for the support I’ve received over the last few months with Frame Your World. This week I pack orders and pull out some old art materials to have a go at painting watercolours for the first time in years.

    Tomorrow it’s officially one month till I took the plunge and registered to become self-employed as I began to test and birth my eCommerce shop @frameyourworldco. I’ve never really celebrated those birthday and milestone dates before, but I’ve decided to make a change this year. ⠀⠀  ⠀⠀

    Starting a business at any stage of life is no small thing, but when you are in a full-blown identity crisis and hundreds of miles from home… well, little did I know that it would become my saving grace. This wasn’t my first business venture or idea, but there is just something about this one that stole my heart. This has toned and built my inner muscle strength more than any gym I know or attend. These last four years have been far from smooth, but I wouldn’t change them for the world. I love that I get to use my passion and strengths to serve a community every day. Every sale, every comment on a post, or even a share means the world.

    As I continue to grow and learn, I am more sure than ever that “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

    Last month I launched my Patreon account with the goal to raise enough support to create more content and raise enough funds to rent a little art studio.

    I love that I get to create content that I hope will bring you lots of value, whether you are thinking of starting your own business, or interested in behind the scenes of running a business, art, or short stories I hope you like and subscribe for more. ⠀

  • New Year, New Beginnings
    BLOG,  FOOD,  LIFESTYLE,  TRAVEL

    Life Update: New Year, New Beginnings

    Happy New Year!

    Can you believe we are two weeks into 2020 already? It’s been a whirlwind from christmas shopping to buzzing around running running christmas markets with Frame Your World, and taking up opportunities in London and speaking opportunities in Oxford.

    LIFE UPDATE

    I am still working on filling out the reflect part of my new 2020 bullet journal, and working to build in some exciting goals for me to form habits around this year. This is something I’ll share a lot more of in the future weeks and months as my new self care plan unfolds.

    MY PLAN FOR THIS BLOG

    I have so many platforms and channels going on at the minute that I just wanted to let this be a place where I pop in every so often, and let you know what I’m up too. If you’d like to be kept in the loop just enter your email in the newsletter and I’ll keep you posted.

    Being creative and entrepreneurial means I’m always up to something so I hope if anything you find some entertainment and at times inspiration as I share some insight and real transparent thoughts around life and my journey.

    LESSONS AND REFLECTIONS FROM

    One of the big things I’ve discovered about myself in 2019 was how much I loved the sea. Upon landing myself the best boyfriend in the world (I know I’m bias), I got to spend a lot of time last year near or by the beautiful scenery of Dorset on the South Coast. I find it so nourishing and recommend that whether you love to get lost in a field or go hiking on the mountains, to find something this year that inspires you and allows you time to reflect and reset.

    NEW YEAR 2020

    This year I spent christmas with friends and family back home in Scotland, and for new year returned to spend time with Matt and recovering from the hustle and bustle that December consistently brings with it. For new year I opted to stay home and make a buffet and watch the London fireworks from the comfort of my own sofa. It was delightful but I was also still recovering from the drive and busy period that it was touch and go whether I would even stay away to see the bells or fall fast asleep as I’m in the habit of doing right now, on my couch.

    Due to last year’s epic New Year that led myself and Matt pop down to the sea and stroll around his local town whilst everyone was still strolling home or fast asleep from the glitz and glamour of new years eve, I just had to long to capture that moment once again.

    ROAD TRIP

    We started off on a different route this year, and since we weren’t as close to the sea we drove down from Oxfordshire to the New Forest and Matt took us along some of the new villages and back roads to get a bit of something new in our new years day. It was a little rainy but in the end we had a lovely day. I stopped by a cute little cafe called the Beachcomer Cafe in Barton On Sea New Milton, and it was jam packed! It felt magical to watch the different conversations and taking in the wonder of a fresh new year and new decade. Despite tradition and plan to head home in time to make traditional Scottish steak pie, we ended up grabbing food from Turtle bay, which is one of our favourite date spots and headed home in time to watch the football. I still can’t believe how much I have grown to enjoy watching the Premier League on special occasions.

     

    Scottish Breakfast

     

     

     

     

     

    P.S. I didn’t get to make steak pie, but I did make an epic Scottish breakfast.

  • BLOG

    Hope for the New Year

    So I’m sitting job Starbucks listening to the Michael Buble or Chris Martin singing ‘have yourself a merry little Christmas’ with my toffee but latte, Nora Ephron book “I feel bad about my neck” and some free coffee capsules for an espresso machine I don’t have yet. Still, I speak it into reality and when I do have one I have capsules ready to go!

    It’s New Year’s Eve and as I look up from my red cup to see girls studying, I’m surrounded by friends gathering and individuals engrossed in their laptops and books. As I stare at the Chinese girl across from me with a full spread of water bottle and coffee cups and a cute little iPad stand I am admiring her studious ways. What is she studying, I wonder? She’s clearly dedicated to be sitting in a standard coffee shop on New Years Eve with Christmas music playing overhead to be almost oblivious to her surroundings. It got me thinking about the purpose of studying, and indeed the purpose of life?

    What is the purpose of life? What is the meaning to study and apply one’s self? Is it for a dream job? A car, a house? To what end would anyone study and want to study so much so that they would find themselves sitting in Starbucks on New Year’s Eve? I have yet to find the answer.

    Me, Wednesday 31st December 2016

    I am trying a new approach this year to take a break and to be content with myself rather than running myself into the ground to do or achieve something that may need a bit more time to produce. Don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating myself to be lazy, but as a very good therapist, I know made a very good point that we are so consumed in our culture with rushing around trying to be or achieve a certain status in life and success. I wonder if we were to really think about where we are in the journey of our life and what our definition of success is, what would that look like? If we were to inspect our motives do they derive from comparison or fear, or a secret addition to obtaining approval from those we are trying to imitate or impress. What would life look like if we actually stopped for a second to be ok with who we are, where we are?

    “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
    ‭‭PHILIPPIANS‬ ‭3:13-14‬ ‭AMP‬‬

    I often have big elaborate plans for the next year at this point, but to be honest I’m trying to take a sabbatical right now from doing anything except being comfortable in my own skin. That’s harder than it looks y’know. However, in the last few hours of this year, I have come to the conclusion that my word for 2017 is surely hope. Without going into the obvious challenges this year has presented for all of us, I think it’s more important to focus on the present and how we move forward in the best way possible. And for me, hope is the only way to do that.

    “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” HEBREW 6:19

    marble-2017-2

    So what’s going to happen with this blog and will we ever read your book? Yes, of course. I am currently juggling work, Frame Your World (my inspiration stationary and prints collection which you can check out here), and my long in the pipeline novel. This year I will be working to get that out, but in the meantime, you can feast on this blog. On the 1st of every month, I will be posting an entry on here that will either be similar to this post (random thoughts on life) or a chapter from a new online story, which I will open up and allow you to get involved in writing… if you want, of course.

    Starting with the title, which I envision to be either:
    1. Notes from Cherry Tree Lane
    2. Hope writes
    3. Year of Hope

    Pop your preference below, or on any of my social media channels. I can’t wait to get writing because next month is February – the month of love!

    Thank you for every second you’ve spent reading my posts, stopping by this website and supporting me. I wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year!

    img_2992

    P.s I am aware of the spelling errors written above such as toffee but latte, written for humour effect. 

  • BLOG

    Oprah’s top tips on how to stay positive

    I loved these top tips from Oprah on how to stay positive!

    What are you passionate about? What makes you come alive? When you are in your highest positive state you are free to create, to build, to grow whatever is in your hands.

    I don’t know about you, but I think it’s so easy to get so caught up with life and the day to day situations that they become a distraction (sometimes a steadfast distraction at that) to who we really are, and what we are on this planet to do.

    She hits on a great point that we all want to be seen, but the true reality is that until we truly take time to discover ourselves, love ourselves, and develop our gifts and talents, then we will always be chasing empty shadows. It’s not what ‘they say’ about you that counts, it’s what you say about yourself. And people will ‘see you’ when you see yourself. It’s too easy to focus so much on the external situations and circumstances that are constantly changing, and neglect looking after and nurturing our own souls. It’s ironic when the reality of it all is that we really only have the power to change ourselves.

    I’m probably going off on a rant here, so I’ll stop, but it’s so refreshing to have this conversation on British TV. I feel that it’s an area we seem to shy away talking about on our daytime chat shows.

    I’ve been doing some self-evaluation recently on a few areas of my life, and if there is one lesson I can say that has stood out for me this year is to stop running from what we fear. To stop running from what we think we cannot handle, because we cannot overcome what we will not confront.

    Ok so a deep topic for Saturday morning, but I hope it encourages you to enjoy yourself today and take off some of those pressures your shoulders to be seen. Just be you beautiful!

    It’s bank holiday weekend, and I am off to visit the market! Do share if you like the post, and image I created. I’ve been teaching myself Illustrator lately, and it’s so much fun. I love this colour of pink in the quote above.

    Do let me know what you think about Oprah’s comments below, and have a fantastic day!

    Love ya!

    xox

     

     

     

  • FOOD

    Saturday kitchen: chilli con carne  

    There’s nothing better than a bowl of homemade chilli when it’s cold and grey outside.

    Thanks to my friend I managed to make the best chilli I have ever had to the joy of making. I had to make a few adjustments as I didn’t have 500g of mince, so here’s what I went with.

    250g mince

    2 cloves of garlic 

    1/2 chopped onion

    1 chopped pepper 

    1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes 

    1/2 tin of kidney beans 

    1 beef stock cube 

    300ml boiling water

    1 tsp chilli powder 

    1 tsp coco powder

    3 tsp tomato purée 

    Pinch of cinnemon

    Chedder cheese to sprinkle 

    Basmati rice 

    Voila! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If you did, please let me know me@leannemacduff.com, and also any other variations of this yummy Mexican dish then please do share!  

     Enjoy! Xox

    Oh I took a snapchat too. ?

     
      

  • BLOG,  LIFESTYLE

    Where’s our great British summer?

    You could say this is the question on everyone’s mind? It’s not exactly been the Indian summer we were promised, but then again I am Scottish and I come from a land where the sight of grey sky, rain and wind is of regular occurrence.

    Sorry to my Scottish friends, and family out there! 🙂 I love you all dearly, and truth be told it sounds like you have seen more of summer than London this year!

    Still, as it is Wednesday and I missed the Great British Bake Off tonight. #GBBO I’m going to have to watch that one on catch-up, so  I thought I’d share some of my favourite pictures from a moment of sunshine in one of my favourite spots in London… the park.

    FullSizeRender

     

    This spot in particular was stunning. Despite being deep in conversation, eating M&S cake and drinking coffee – The sunshine, blue sky, park buzz and sound of birds singing softly in the background was bliss. I took a Vine of this moment too.

    *Warning* I hear it’s not good to tilt the camera, so sorry in advance. I was a little excited.

    https://vine.co/v/eTqUp176vI5

     

    I think I have a filter on my iPhone 6 phone…
    FullSizeRender (2)

     

    I had a really cool picture of the sunset from my room window tonight. It’s not been as warm as it looks, but I feel these pictures have brought back a moment of sheer bliss and cheering me up this evening.

    So that’s it for me today. These are just a few of the beautiful moments I have captured recently. I’m not sure where the great British summer has gone this year, but if all I had was this one snapshot, I’d be pretty chuffed with this one.

    I hope you’re having a good week. If not, make sure you stop and look for the opportunity in your week and day to appreciate. If the dream or circumstance you’ve been waiting to see seems slow to turn up. Remember the process of growing like the tree above. As long as you’re sowing the right seed into good soil, the harvest will come.  As one of my hero’s today said, “You can’t sow a seed and reap a harvest at the same time. There is always a natural delay in between.” Just because something hasn’t happened yet, or fallen into place, doesn’t mean it won’t.

  • BLOG,  LIFESTYLE

    Valentines love

    Hello!

    Happy eve of Valentines!! I hope this finds you well. Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good chick flick. If you’ve been close enough to read a snippet of my current novel, you’ll know I like to write love stories too.

    Besides starting a new job, meeting new people, and venturing into a world of new opportunity. I have been given the absolute honour writing for the wonderful stationary designers (Jack, and Lorna) over at E.y.i.love.

    I asked folks across social media to share their favourite, funniest, most romantic, or biggest fail Valentines story with me. The result was this… Sweet Valentine! I hope you enjoy!

    Oh, and a BIG thanks to all who shared their stories with me. Here’s a bonus story (that arrived after publication) to give you a little insight to the post over at E.Y.i Love. This is a wonderful woman’s valentine fail… It’s also important to say that she really does believe in LOVE.

    As Valentines Day rolled around each year, I literally put my heart and soul into my creative card and gift I gave my husband year!  I have to say that even though my effort was never fully reciprocated, I still fell in love all over again with each 14 February.
    Until… Valentines Day 2009!
    Having been quite smitten by the first ‘Sex and the City’ movie, I decided to use words from the Ludwig van Beethoven letter, read out by Carrie to Big from the book ‘Love Letters of Great Men’.
    There I was with my gift all wrapped and the most beautiful, simple card all written and my excitement lay not in what I would receive, but in the reaction I’d hope to get from my valentines to him!
     
    Inside the card Beethoven expressed my love:
     
    ‘Only by a calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together –  love me – today – yesterday – what tearful longings for you – you – you – my life – my all . Oh continue to love me – never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.
     
    ever thine
    ever mine
    ever ours’
     
    The card gets opened. He reads, and my heart beat fastens. And then those immortal words…
     
    ‘Have you developed a stutter?’
     
    WHAT ?!?
     
    That was it – A STUTTER?!?
     
    Valentines Fail of the highest degree!
     
    Needless to say that we are now divorced, but I still hold true to my belief in L’amour – in the end it’s all we have.