Mon, 18 June 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #213
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"Alone, we can plumb local markets and examine their wares closely. We can breathe in and relish the flavors in a sauce, or the coolness of a pitcher of cream. We don't necessarily take time to do these things in the presence of company, particularly during lively conversation. A solo meal is an opportunity to go slow; to savor."
—Stephanie Rosenbloom, Alone Time
Discovering an enticing book and being delighting with the contents even more than expected, wanting the pages, vivid images and revelations to continue beyond the last chapter. Experiencing a day long anticipated that unfolds seamlessly, exceeding expectation. Sitting down for a meal bursting with precisely paired flavors which make it all but impossible not to solely absorb and beg your memory to remember each moment of the experience. Savoring, as Stephanie Rosenbloom shares in her new book about solo traveling, has been long recognized by social scientists to be one of a number of ways to enhance our levels of happiness. And psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky shares the benefits of becoming skilled in savoring, "People who become skilled at 'capturing the joy of the present moment', are also 'less likely to experience depression, stress, guilt and shame." Okay, the skill of savoring, count me in! Now let's talk about how exactly to invite more opportunities to savor into our everyday lives.
1.Become acutely aware of all of the goodness in each moment
Citing Fred B. Bryant's book Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience, we must come to be able to recognize when we are experiencing an positive moment. And in the moment "aim for the most joy to be found". That is the definition of savoring.
2. Utilize all of your senses
Rosenbloom cites Julia Child enjoying her first meal in France at La Couronne in Rouen and Poilâne founder's granddaughter as precise examples of becoming aware of what each sense is experiencing. From what something not only looks like, but smells, feels, sounds and tastes like.
3. Take your time
When we rush, we miss out. We miss the butterfly dancing around our nose, the passersby's exquisite sartorial taste displayed in the most subtle, but creative manner, and the scent of the boulangerie's freshly made bread in the morning as we walk to work. Savoring requires of us to slow down, to reduce the amount of "to-do"s and prioritize what we truly need as well as want to do. When we edit well, we live well as it permits us time to be fully present. And when we are full present, we are able to pause, observe the detail in the pastry we are looking forward to enjoying, but appreciating the artistry and attention to detail that was spent.
4. Give your full attention
Case in point, in order to savor, we must be in the moment, we must not be distracted. Not only must we not be distracted by our phones, but our minds and the ideas and thoughts that swirl about. Of course, we should use our minds and when we get lost in our minds, we can discover the most creative ideas we never thought would be possible, but when we are experiencing a positive moment, choose to set the thoughts aside and soak up all that the current experience is offering you.
5. Let go of habits that don't enhance opportunities for savoring
In some instances, adhering to habits can be a truly beneficial concept to welcome into your life, but it is imperative to examine closely the habits you follow. Rosenbloom suggests letting go of "multi-tasking, worrying, latching on to what's wrong or negative, and ruminating about the past or future."
6. Focus on what you want and you'll find it more often
In order to find something to savor, we must look for it, desire it, imagine it, come to understand it. And if we are thinking about positive outcomes and experiences, we are more likely to come across them in the present moment.
7. Limit how often you let your mind wander
According to a study conducted by Matthew A. Killingsworth, A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society scholar, and Harvard psychologist Daniel T. Gilbert, "one of the strongest predictors of happiness is whether or not your attention is focused where you are in the present . . . people are substantially less happy when their minds are wandering than when they're not."
8. Appreciate every moment as finite
When we recognize that any moment is precisely that - a moment - the skill of "temporal awareness" Rosenbloom states heightens our ability to savor and thus our enjoyment of said moment. For example, today we have three more days of spring. Why not do something in the next three days that you will not be able to do when summer arrives? Drink up this activity, relish it, get lost in it, so that when summer arrives you can know you drank up all that spring offered and are ready to be fully present in the new season.
9. Plan ahead to appreciate the event even more
Studies have also revealed that planning well ahead of any trip or event heightens the appreciation when it arrives as well as our happiness leading up to it in anticipation. The recognition of the work and effort paid to make the plans and either bring people together or attain a particular experience. So upon being in the moment (the trip or the event), we are more readily prepared to be present and savor the experience. While Rosenbloom's book is focused on travel, and specifically solo travel, when we welcome the skill of savoring into our everyday lives, we begin to enhance the quality, reduce the need to cling and trust that we will be able to find something to savor each day - some may be grander than others, but each offers a gift to experience happiness. Ultimately, when we acquire the skill of savoring, we are creating a memory in our minds, a file of sorts of our experiences from each day, trip or event, so that when we want to get lost in our past in a positive way, we can recall the beauty that we had experienced, and thus be encouraged about how amazing our life has been and will continue to be. And so last Friday on the concluding day of school and the commencement of summer holiday, I put into practice the skill of savoring. The boys and I went to a local bakery, found a cozy seat and table outside, ordered tea and pastry, and just took in the beautiful weather, the temporal company and a very good book. It was something I knew I wouldn't experiencing for another 12 months and I did my best to soak it up in its entirety. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
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Mon, 11 June 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #212
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Lessons learned and applied. Often it is what we have done in the past that informs us how to do a similar task better in the future. Whether the mistakes were small or large, upon reflection we can be reminded of what didn't work, then examine more closely why and improve in those areas moving forward the next time. Tending to our health is a journey of discovery, of trial, of success, of I-wish-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now, and because we are creatures of biology, our bodies and minds are changing thus requiring each of us to remain a student of our health. Recently I was reminded, upon reflection, why certain tasks and situations had gone well as of late and why others had not, but it wasn't until a guide in my own life (my counselor) brought it to my attention. Immediately, I recognized it and knew how to fix it. And the frustrating, but truly fortunate thing about this realization was that I had this knowledge already, I had just needed to be reminded to apply it. Similarly, today I'd like to talk about the six pillars of good health - of mind, body and each of our unique spirits - and while the list may be something you recognize, if you're like me, there may be a moment as you are journeying in your life when you need to be nudged to take a quick self-check to see if each pillar is functioning well. Here we go!
Just as our overall health has pillars, so too does an effective exercise regimen. And in this case the physical health pillars are aerobic, strength and flexilibity. While the amount of days per week, even the amount of time each time we exercise varies from expert to expert, what they do have in common is insisting that it is regular and is at least moderately challenging. In episode #201 I detailed my approach to tailoring a strength training program, and in this post, I shared in detail how to get and stay in shape. The flexibility aspect is often the detail that is forgotten about, but as someone who for a period in my twenties did neglect this detail, it is one of the most enjoyable without less time and effort required (not to say certain yoga classes aren't challenging, but that is when they incorporate the aerobic aspect as well), and while I incorporate a weekly yoga class into my regimen, pilates or simply a stretch routine your follow at home (check out SELF magazine's list of the 21 best stretching exercises) would work just as well. ~To Get & Stay Fit: Keep It Simple, episode #190
As we settle into the twenty-first century, as a population we are becoming more aware of how food works (or does not work well) in our bodies. The subsequent locally sourced restaurants that are on the rise around the country are challenging long-loved food chains to step up their game. At home, we too have more choices and more information to enable us to eat well each night of the week all the while amping up the flavor. Such a topic is something we've talked about quite a bit here on TSLL and the podcast (and in September TSLL's new vodcast is dedicated to sharing how to eat well while incorporating seasonal fare), so this isn't a big surprise. However, it is important to remember to listen to our bodies, be kind to our bodies and enjoy exploring with new flavors as well as becoming aware when our minds and bodies have become accustomed to something, such as sugar, that isn't serving us well. Below are just a few of past posts/episodes on this topic.
~Love Food, Love Your Body, episode #8
A few weeks ago in TSLL's Weekly Newsletter I shared I was reading Arianna Huffington's book The Sleep Revolution, and specifically chapter 7 which focuses on master our sleep. In 2013, I shared nine benefits of enjoying a good night's sleep regularly, because aside from being absolutely pleasure-filled, it is the cheapest preventative medicine we can take to improve the quality of our lives.
Often our skin, once we've moved through puberty, is a mirror of the quality of our overall health. It reveals if the body needs more hydration, more rest, less alcohol, just to name a few tell-tale signs of how we live our lives. On the flipside, it also demonstrates to the world when these factors are balanced and tended too: a good night's sleep, protection from the sun, effective hydration and a balanced diet. Below are a few posts/episodes that dive deeper into creating a skincare routine that works and enables your best health to shine.
~8 Ways to Create Glowing Skin, episode #13
5. Social Connections
Our relationships do not need to be many, but we do need to have them and they need to be healthy. Depending upon your temperament, you may have a multitude of friendships, familial relationships and connections you tend to in your career network that with each one strengthen your overall health. For others, it may be fewer, but each is deep and intimate. Whatever your preference, whatever works for the quality of life you need to be your best self, having a strong and healthy social life is fundamental for an overall good life. In episode #92, the concept of a strong social well-being was discussed. I encourage you to listen/read it as it simplifies our social life into three compartments: the relationship we have with ourselves, the platonic relationships we have with others and our romantic partnership. All three are unique, but each involve similarities seen in the others.
6. Mental Strength & Agility
All five of the above pillars are essential, but without an awareness of how our mind works and how to ensure we are exercising it so that it works for us, not against us, we must keep it healthy. In episode #20, how to master your mind is explored in detail as 10 specific ways to do so are shared. From becoming fluent with our emotions, to understanding what you initially believed about what goes through your mind and the reality of what is going on to recognizing that the mind is a muscle and in order for it to function optimally, we must execise it regularly. Most likely, most, if not all of the pillars of good health are known to you, but as I was reminded last week, sometimes when our life is becoming frustrating in one arena, it can affect other arenas unconsciously. Sometimes all it will take to get back on track for our overall health is to take a moment and check each of the six pillars: How are they working? Have each been tended to recently and regularly? Perhaps today's episode will be the reminder to check, readjust if necessary or applaud yourself for how well you are doing and reward yourself. As the French say, à votre santé (to your health). May we embrace what is fully in our control and enable it to elevate the quality of our lives. ~Subscribe to TSLL's Weekly Newsletter ~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~How to Create an All-Around Healthy Life, episode #208
~Why Not . . . Live a Long, Healthy Life? (3-part series)
~RBG, documentary film
Images: TSLL captured of the boys on a recent walk
Mon, 4 June 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #211
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In America we have the story that ... your sex drive evaporates. ... Nobody wants to sleep with you, but you don't want to sleep with them either. ... And it turns out that that is really much more of a cultural story than a biological story, and ... people's behavior responds to this cultural story. ...
In France there's a slightly different narrative. ... Women in their 50s and 60s in France are much more sexually active than women in America are. So I don't think you can ... snap your fingers and switch cultural narratives. But just knowing that it's not biologically inevitable I think gives you some power over it." —Pamela Druckerman, author of the new book There Are No Grown-Ups: A Midlife Coming-of-Age Story (read the entire NPR interview here)Over the past four or five years I have taken notice of how women step into each year of their life after forty. Whether women who are in my inner circle or women in the media spotlight, I listen to how they speak about their physical capabilities, their physical beauty, their curiosities, their chapters in life, the roles and careers they wish to stay or become a part of. As someone who is 39 and has truly let my age just be a number, not centering my identity around my age as it is one detail I cannot control (sometimes I forget my age, does that happen to anyone else?), I am intrigued in the shift in what is expected of women by women - and thus society - as they age through the decades. Because our message to each other has power, and that message in large part tells the world what will be accepted or ignored. As someone bringing up the tail-end of Generation X and partially straddling into the Millennial Generation, I certainly have seen a shift in the knowledge and thus attention to good health when it comes to fitness and well-being as opposed to my grandmother's generation. A tremendous shift in society in the late 20th century brought to our attention what our bodies and minds are truly capable of so long as we care for them well. I think of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her whip-smart, savvy prowess on the Highest Court in the country at the age of 85. I think of Dame Helen Mirren who at the age of 72 continues to playfully immerse herself in her acting career and her life as she explores the world. I think of 52-year old Oscar winning actress Viola Davis and her determination and talent on the big screen and small screen, as well as her physical good health and Sandra Bullock as well as Cate Blanchett and Michelle Obama and Diane Keaton and and and and . . . the list goes on. Each one of these women marries knowledge with curiosity and applies it to their mental as well as physical health. Physical maladies can certainly befall us due to genetics, but there is far more health obstacles that are avoidable so long as we provide ourselves with the information and live in such a way to be preventative. Two situations happened over the past couple of years that found me responding in frustration internally, but saying nothing in the moment. The first was a situation with my own mother and my young pre-teen niece in which my mother said something about what was physically inevitable when you hit "her age". In actuality, what she shared was false, and I later did say something in private to my mom as I am someone who has heard such "untruths" from older women when I was young. I know now that what they shared was their ignorance regarding how the body grows and ages, but I didn't want my niece to have to navigate toward to the truth when the knowledge was readily available. The second situation is an ongoing one as I have a dear friend who refuses to say her age or acknowledge her birthday as her husband told me she is "sensitive about her age". While I respected this wish, I also want her to know how much I want to celebrate her because I think she is absolutely amazing, talented and uber intelligent. The truth is if we as women will let go of identifying ourselves with our age, then half of the world will stop seeing us through the narrow lens of assumption regarding what "should be" happening at a particular point. We all know that with different people, different things happen at different periods of our lives. Case in point, actress Rachel Weisz is pregnant at 48, yet press in the U.K. is fearful it may be nearly too late for Meghan Markle to conceive. Are you kidding me? What we consume or accept as a culture can either limit us or liberate us. What we allow to be accepted because we do not contradict it when we know it is utterly false will continue to be perpetuated. We can either speak up or act in such a way that demonstrates the falsehoods are indeed false. Each of us will choose what is most comfortable for us - speaking or acting, but I implore you to not shrink to fit inside the limiting box that society would have women at any age stay within. Part of the difficulty with staying relevant, man or woman, is staying apprised of the dynamic world we live in. With each year we are layering more information on top of what we already know and in so doing we become acutely aware of how much we still have to learn. It can become overwhelming. It happened this year as a teacher who began teaching at 22 and knew how to relate culturally with the students - the music, the films, the colloquialisms, each far simpler to grasp and understand because I was partially still in their bubble - that I acknowledged and took note that I could be considered two generations removed from my students. While I still understood some of the references made by students, there were cultural allusions that no more my students grasped (the 80s hit sitcom Cheers, for example). While some cult classics are returning and being devoured by teenagers thanks to Netflix and YouTube - FRIENDS, The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross on PBS, etc. - but after listening to different podcasts my students will bring my attention to or music my students will mention in class, I am reminded that we all live and will always live in a dynamic world. And the key is to understand how to remain involved, knowledgable and curious instead of quailing, shrinking or removing ourselves due to fear or confusion or exhaustion.
How to remain a part of the ever-changing world:
1. Build a social network of all agesOne of the benefits of teaching is that there is youth everywhere each and every year. While yes, it's kind of like Groundhog's Day (the film), the benefits far outweigh the negatives as I am reminded that learning is always available if we choose to seize the knowledge and therefore change is perpetually constant. Progress is always possible and staying the same is never a good idea if we wish to reach our full potential. And so why not build friendships, acquaintances, mentor or mentee relationships with individuals of all ages? When we do and do so with an open mind, our perspective is broaden, our understanding deepens and we come to appreciate where we've been, how far we've come or become even more excited about where we are heading.
2. Refrain from ageist comments (younger or older)The quickest way to shut-down an opportunity to get to know someone is to make assumptions about what is expected at a certain age. When we do this, instead of seeing the individual and being patient enough to get to know the individual, we are telling them (consciously or unconsciously), who they truly are and who they are capable of becoming is not all that important to us. As well, when we make ageist comments we perpetuate limitations that we ourselves will eventually be subjected to. In other words, we have the power with the words we do or do not utter to change how society views anyone at any age.
3. Master your mind and cultivate a positive mindset
“When it comes to staying young, a mind-lift beats a face-lift any day.” ~Marty BuccellaProvidence, St. Joseph Health shares, "Negativity saps vitality and creates stress, which affects your health and well-being." So literally, by being cynical, negative or close-minded, we are exacerbating the aging process and making ourselves physically older unnecessarily.
4. Let go of the word "should"Whether speaking to others and expressing what you think they "should" be doing or the internal dialogue that runs through your head saying you "should" be doing something in your life at any given point, stop. Nobody wants to hear what they should be doing. Instead inspire others to do something with how you live your life or simply let them navigate their way in their own way.
5. Seek out diverse experiences that stretch youWhether with the places you travel to, the food you eat, the books you read, the podcasts you listen to or the people you engage with in conversation, let your curiosity be fed. Often the reason individuals regress into what they've known and the "way it has always been" or "when I was younger" constructs and wish to stay there is because they are fearful of the unknown. What they know is comfortable, and we all somewhere along the continuum want comfort. However, too often, when we don't know about a particular culture, a particular way of life that becomes more prevalent in society due to news coverage or a change in economic structure, until we explore, prompts people to make limiting assumptions that shrink our world. The world is big, vast, amazing and from my experience here on the blog and in my own travels meeting people from around the world, the majority of us are seeking contentment, love and peace. This may sound over-simplified, but truly, our general goal is the same, it is a matter of having the courage to keep asking questions, keep making ourselves vulnerable and recognize that we do not have all the answers and respecting all people as they too are trying to figure it out.
How to enjoy each passing year more than the last:
1. Learn something new regularly
“For the unlearned, old age is winter; for the learned, it is the season of the harvest.” ~Hasidic sayingI have seen the deterioration of one's mind in late age when a particular octogenarian who prided himself on having only read one book in his life gradually sees the quality of his life diminish. Knowledge is power in not only understanding how to live, but in keeping ourselves vibrant and able to engage with the world fully. Studies have recently been shared that regular cognitive challenges - problem-solving, learning a new skills, in other words brain exercises - are good for brain health. It is something we keep alive or by not giving it "homework" passively let wither away. Once we have the knowledge and understand how to continue to acquire it as we move through life, then we can apply it and see the benefits of the efforts we've made - thus the harvest. So keep planting seeds and continue to see your harvest become richer and richer with each passing year.
2. Choose to understand the worldProviding context as to why events happened, why people made the decisions they made and why people reacted as they did deepens not only our understanding of the world but also how to move and live successfully in it so as to live a life we are proud to share with the world as well as reflect upon. Never settle for one person's version of events, explore, ask questions, pick up a biography of someone else who lived in that time, read a historical account from multiple perspectives and come to understand that the world isn't simple, events aren't a singular cause and effect, but more often a confluence of causes that create the outcome that after some time has passed becomes simplified into a singular soundbite. As well, come to understand the social sciences - psychology and sociology and how people interact with others, how our minds work, how our bodies work regarding hormones, endorphins, adrenaline, etc. Choosing to understand the full human experience paired with the events of the world that led us to where we as a world are today is empowering and can assist us as we figure out how we wish to move forward.
3. Contribute to the worldIn another study, it demonstrated that we must live in such a way that goes beyond giving, or "feeling useful"; we must take action so as to do something that leaves the world better than when we found it. Taking action will be different for each of us, but just giving of our time to help the next generation isn't enough (it's a start). Sometimes taking action will not be comfortable for those around us. Sometimes it will not be comfortable to us as we will have to push ourselves to learn something new, shift our views and understanding about something we had become accustomed to but now we realize we were wrong, misled or misinformed. But when we find a purpose that fuels us, that we truly have a passion for, we will find the fuel to push forward. And in pushing forward, the example we share with the world will potentially alter how society comes to understand what is possible at any given age. 4. Let go of negative stereotypes and stop perpetuating them regardless of your age
“Age is no barrier. It’s a limitation you put on your mind.” ~Jackie Joyner-KerseeA study conducted at Yale revealed that "older adults who held more positive age stereotypes lived 7.5 years longer than their peers who held negative age-related stereotypes". Not only should we shift away from negative age stereotypes we should stop burdening others with these beliefs as well. Whether it is our observation and commentary about strangers on the street, in the store or mere acquaintances, refrain from defaulting to ageist remarks (about those older or younger than you). When we assume, we limit what we are willing to explore as we get to know people, and I am confident none of us would want to be limited.
5. Revel in each year
“The trouble is, when a number—your age—becomes your identity, you’ve given away your power to choose your future.” ~Richard J. LeiderRight now I am soaking up all that the remainder of my third decade on this glorious planet will share with me. As well, I am excited to enter into my fourth. When we choose to be present in our lives, we create memories that will always be with us. No we cannot go back and relive them literally, but we can in our memories and that is a gift we can take with us for any age we reach down the road. Each year has the opportunity to be your singular definition of what it is to be [pick a number]. And it is important to remember that that is your definition and yours alone. To place it on someone else and expect them to live the same as you is to limit what they may be curious about. On the flip side, embrace what you are curious about each year. Embrace what the universe has given to you in this particular year and drink it up like it was water in the desert. When you revel, you enliven your being and you share with the world your exuberance. That is how we shift age stereotypes.
6. Take the riskMaybe you've had a dream in your mind for years, but you have never known anyone who took such a risk. At least not anyone in what you perceive to be your "situation". Let go of needed a model to follow. Let go of thinking the dream shall remain a dream and instead take the risk. Do the necessary homework and then give yourself permission to get so absolutely excited about living the life you have dreamed about. Yes, you can live that life. And that will enliven you like you never could have imagined. From time to time I will catch myself pushing back against progress when it finds me quite comfortable with where I am in my life (a state that is not always easy to attain for any one of us as we strive toward goals), and then I poke myself. It is at that moment that I remind myself that progress is good as it demonstrates to all of us that we are alive, the world is alive and has the capability of improving. Even when we think we are comfortable (as I have felt in those moments), we often are limiting what we understand to be possible in the quality of our lives. Often I do think part of the push back to progress is exhaustion (which is why it is imperative to get a regular night's sleep - I kid only slightly). Perhaps not physical, but emotional exhaustion as we have seen and experienced and worked for so much and we don't know if we have the energy to continue to strive, shift and improve like we have in the past. But that is when we need to seek out others who see the world and all of its potential as we do, and then we can find the energy we think has been lost. Thus another reason to build a social network of all ages. The world is greater with more diverse voices, lives and experiences. And with each year of our lives we deepen what we bring to the world so long as we continue to truly live each year we are given. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~fresh seasonal fruit, in my case most recently - Oregon strawberriesRecipes to try:
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Mon, 28 May 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #210
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube
“It is always the simple that produces the marvelous.” – Amelia Barr
You react in anger when a moment of frustration arises only to have to take more time (once you realize you shouldn't have reacted in such a way) to apologize and rebuild a relationship. The best decision, the simple decision, would have been to say nothing at all in the moment, step away from the situation, and decide what, if any, response was necessary. In a hurry to clear your inbox, you scan through emails too quickly, miss important details and end up having to respond twice or three times to correct the initial response. In an attempt to create a relationship, you cling or hang on to someone who doesn't fully welcome you into their lives. The simple truth regarding relationships is if people want you in their lives, they will make room for you and not create guessing games, just as you have opened your life to them. There are many ways we can complicate our lives when it is absolutely unnecessary to do so. While we often hear that we must struggle in order to reach the goals we desire, while there is much truth to the duration, there are many details along the way that do not have to be complicated. In fact, to complicate them, discourages our journey toward success. I was reminded that even those who value simplicity in order to elevate our lives (me!) can make the mistake of creating complication where they need not be. Over the past month I have been putting off a task that I knew in my good conscience needed to be tended to do. The delaying only built up more stress and fear that would have been assuaged or negated had I simply took action, discovered what the solution was and put my energy toward reaching the solution rather than putting my energy toward stressing out about the unknown. Often we complicate because we don't want one more thing to fill our plate. Ironically, we are putting more than one more thing on our plate; we are at least putting two: the task that needs to be tended to and the worry that we expend wondering. In other words, we accrue interest, and in this case, not the good kind. Today I'd like to take a look at 1o simple ways we unnecessarily complicate lives with the goal of avoiding these mistakes. Because once we recognize our mistake, we can simply correct our course.
1. Small, regular steps, to reach great success
When we see our goal at the end of the long journey, there is a natural assumption that a grand step must be made. And while, yes, the distance is long, the journey is simple. So long as you are clear about what needs to be done and break it down into mini tasks, then all you have to do is the daily tasks each day on a regular basis. Whether it comes to improving your health, saving for your dream trip or earning the degree, be clear about your plan and then let go of the longview and trust that your daily habits will carry you to where you wish to arrive.
2. Contentment is in our control
"It's only when you add the infinite battles of yesterday and tomorrow that life gets overly complicatd."—Getting Back to Happy, Marc & Angel Chernoff
Much of the world would have us believe that contentment lies outside of us. Described as happiness, in a semantic sense, I would agree - happiness does lie outside of us, but contentment is entirely within our control. And it is through understanding how to cultivate contentment that we are more available to appreciate moments of happiness. But because we focus on what is outside of us - what must happen that involves others, what they should do, who should be in our lives, etc. we give our power away. Simply, our power for contentment, everything we need, is in our control because it is a matter of the mind. Ahd when our mindset is in order, we become at peace with ourselves and more engaging and charismatic with the world, drawing to us what we most love and appreciate.
3. Sleep Well, Live Well
When I think about going to bed each night, I smile. I smile because my bed is soft, comfortable, and a true luxury to slip into after each day. Sleep is good. In fact, sleep is vital to living well. From how well our brain functions, to improving our health as the toxins are flushed from our bodies, to improving our mood, sleep even supercedes exercise. So protect your 7-8 hours of sleep each night and see the quality of your days improve.
4. When we complain, we aren't problem solving
It is easy to complain and it is very tempting. And while we do need to vent because often we don't know what we are truly upset about until we release the frustration either verbally or on paper, complaining is a waste of energy as it takes away the precious time and brain power that is needed to either solve the problem or move on to something that better uses our time.
5. Learn to say no - focus your attention
For nearly ten years, my focus has been my passion that is shared every week here on this blog. I continue to follow my intuition, trust that it knows what I cannot see at that moment and keep striving forward to inspire readers to have the confidence to reach their full potential, to shed the limiting views and societal confinements that would hold us back when what the world needs is what we each can uniquely give if only we could unearth it and share it with the world. In so doing my life has taken on its own construct: my daily and weekend schedules are full but much enjoyed, the sights of the world I have had the opportunity to see fill me with inspiration and I continue to arrive closer at understanding how living well, the art of living well, actually works. Because I know precisely why I am continuing to pursue my goal, saying no is quite simple. Whatever you are passionate about, whatever you discover gives you purpose, a deep, driving purpose, once you hone in on it, saying no is simple and the complications that arise from saying "yes" much more than necessary lifts.
6. Feeling loved, begins with loving yourself
The love stories depicted in cliched rom-coms or traditional fairy tales would have us accept the love we seek resides outside of ourselves. The truth is actually the reverse. As we flip this notion on its head, it sounds too simple, too on the nose to be true, but the truth is you have had the love you have been seeking all along. We cannot truly find someone to love us well if we do not know how to love ourselves. And in order to love ourselves we must get to know ourselves, and when we show the world the self-respect we have for ourselves and thus the world, we attract to us those who appreciate who we are and thus opportunities for quality and lasting, loving relationship. For many, the complicated part lies in understanding how to love ourselves because doing so has been conveyed as being selfish. Once we see someone around us who exhibits self-love, we come to understand that self-love is a form of self-respect and when we respect ourselves we protect ourselves and strike a balance between what we can give to others and what we need to keep to give to ourselves whether it is our time, our energy, or our patience.
7. Reduce excess decision making
From the clothes you wear each day (create a capsule wardrobe), to the flavor/varietal of tea/coffee you drink to start your day, once you know what works for you and if it a foundational decision that needs to be stable so that the other tasks you go about doing throughout your day will be successful, stick with it. During my work week, I drink black tea or green tea. There are many amazing teas to drink, but to ensure the foundation of the start of my day is sturdy I drink tea I know I will enjoy. It's not that I won't try different teas when I travel, enjoy brunch on the weekend, etc.. All it means is that too often we choose coffee to try something new (as a tea drinker) on a work day that needs are focus. And if the coffee does not sit well with us, we just complicated our day unnecesarily.
8. When we worry, we waste our days away
Worry is a depletion of two precious commodities - our energy and our time. As I shared a few years ago, there are many benefits to be had when we banish worry (20 to be exact). And one priceless benefit is a return to a simpler way of living and thus improving of our everyday lives. As I shared as the #1 of the linked post, often it is the "how" to banish worry that is hard. So let me share with you a four-step process you can follow to just that - banish unnecessary worry - (1) write down exactly what you are worried about, (2) write down what you can do about it (3) decide the best course of action (4) start immediately to fulfill the course of action you’ve decided upon. In other words, action is the choice you want to take when you don't know what the outcome will be, rather than worrying.
9. Tell the truth (about what happened and who you truly are)
"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." — found in Mark Twain's notebook, 1894
On a surface level, as Twain points out, when we tell the truth, we don't have to remember which story to whom, but on a much deeper level, when we tell the truth about who we are and reveal to the world who we actually are, we do not draw to ourselves those who think we are someone else. In other words, not everyone will be drawn to us in our authentic state, but those who are are individuals with whom we have a far greater chance of connecting in such a way that has the opportunity to last, deepen and lift each party involved to their fullest potential. 10. Respond rather than react As I shared in the introduction in one of the examples of unnecessary complication, when we react, our emotions have us by the throat, but when we respond (while it may take more time), we are being thoughtful and inviting logic to join the conversation so to eliminate having to make apologies later. The key to living simply throughout our everydays is to make sure where we can simplify, we are. Because when we reduce the complications that need not be in our lives, we open up vast, beautiful windows for the opportunities we seek to introduce themselves. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~13 Benefits of Seeking Out Quality, episode #174
~Getting Back to Happy: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Reality and Turn Your Trials into Triumph by Marc & Angel Chernoff
~SPONSORS of Today’s Episode:
Mon, 21 May 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #209
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube
"Your home knows your past, it directs you toward your future, and it gives you the comfort of ritual. There is nothing on the planet that knows you and nurtures you like a home. You simply need to give it the tools to take care of you." —Home Sweet Maison: The French Art of Making a Home by Danielle Postel-Vinay
Whether we've lived in our home for years or only months, tending to our sanctuary is a near priceless gift we can give ourselves when it comes to our inner peace and well-being. Earlier this year author Danielle Postel-Vinay's new book Home Sweet Maison was published offering readers a tour of a home, room by room and how to incorporate what she has incorporated as inspired by the French culture and her French husband. The book is a personal journey, exploration and revelation of how by turning our attention to harness the power of our homes, we, as she shares in the above quote, give ourselves a most wonderful and powerful gift to elevate our everyday and ultimately the overall quality of our lives. Today I have selected 10 ideas that captured my attention, but there are many more within the pages of her book. As she shares in her introduction, "Take what you like and reject what you don't until you create a French-influenced home that is perfect for you."
1. Create a thoughtful entry/foyer
Make it unique. Introduce yourself to the world as this is where you greet the world and the world greets you. Choose a shelf or small table top to display your "memory theater" enabling guests to pause, look around and get to know you, if even to create a bit of mystery about the inhabitants. Your personal story and hints at dreams for the future can also be revealed. As well, make it functional - a coat rack or stand - to immediately allow guests (and yourself) to enter the home and begin to relax. 2. Give each room a purpose
"Fluid spaces introduced by the open floor plan [by Frank Lloyd Wright] create a sense of endless freedom and light in your home, the appearnce of unity and togetherness. But I wonder if this appearance of togetherness translates to actual togetherness?"
When we choose to give each room a purpose, we also communicate to ourselves the ideals we aspire to, a place to practice our values and share them with those we love. Whether it is the dining room being a space to gather tech-free and stay in touch with the lives of those we share the home with or our bedroom (le chambre) in which we share with most intimacy those welcomed into our personal sanctum, similar to our sartorial choices communicating without saying a word, our rooms communicate, encourage and support what we hold dear.
3. Embrace hunger and dine together at designated times during the day
Postel-Vinay sprinkles anecdotes of her French husband's foray into American cuisine and approach to food. Between the larger portions and not waiting to eat until a specified time so everyone can gather and the food can be appreciated, he encourages and reminds how feeling hungry is not the same as feeling starved. Hunger is not bad, he reminds. In fact, it elevates the appreciation for the next meal when it is time to sit down and enjoy.
4. Celebrate the food that has been prepared
Similarly to the point above, her husband is dismayed by the Americans' lack of appreciation for the food that was thoughtfully and with great time created to be enjoyed. An appreciation allows for an understanding of where food comes from and how it was prepared enabling diners to slow down, consciously enjoy the the food and thus not overeat. I also applaud this approach as it nudges us all to eat well and intelligently. In other words, what is it you enjoy about the food? What are you tasting? And you can then carry this into the kitchen to better understand how food is made, prepared, seasoned and its full flavor brought to the table.
5. Encourage all to participate and all topics to be discussed
While some may adhere to the edict of not talking about politics or religion at the table, I would propose, it is how we talk about these topics at the table that ensures that thoughtful, yet still impassioned conversations on any topic can be had. When we ignore our audience and choose to commandeer the table as our bully pulpit to share our opinions, then we have relinquished respect for fellow diners, but if instead we engage in thoughtful, elevated, conceptual conversation, all people can consider, some may learn, some may accept and some may rise to the challenge to offer another thoughtful opinion demonstrating that so many ideas have many shades of grey. As well, Postel-Vinay shares that the French encourage all guests at the table to speak, even the children. Practicing conversation and listening skills, but also demonstrating how to participate in a conversation which leaves no one out and recognizing when someone is monopolizing the conversation is a life skill for any situation involving effective communication.
6. Cultivate a boudoir (which is not the chambre, or bedroom)
"a place of refuge, somewhere to go when the world [is] too cruel, a safe place to let one's guard down"
I too learned more accurately what a boudoir is I mistakenly equated it with the bedroom. But while tangent to le chambre, it is the room or space which leads or precedes the bedroom. Perhaps the lounging area of private gathering complete with a chaise lounge or dressing table or a meditation room off to the side of your master suite; however you want to decorate your boudoir is up to you. The key is you. While Postel-Vinay shares, such rooms are not found as much anymore in France; however, to create a space in our homes for "personal retreat" and a space to "reflect your personal taste" seems to be a worthwhile return to the past.
7. Keep the bedroom private
In other words leave the bedroom off the home tour.
8. Choose neutral high quality cotton sheets for bed linens and avoid of fancy patterns
Simple, timeless, sensuous and beckoning. Our bedrooms need to be a place of refuge, escape and where restorative slumber takes place. Here is a detailed post about curating a bedroom for comfort and tranquility.
9. Choose a boutis quilt for summer bedding covers
Often found in the south of France, Provençal traditional quilting offers boutis "in which a thin layer of cotton, silk or wool batting is covered on both sides with thick cotton fabric, then quilted."
10. Take the television out of the bedroom
For sleeping, reading and intimate moments with your partner. That's it. That is all that is needed. Keep it simple, keep it brilliantly lovely and a space you look forward to returning to at the end of the day. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVE YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~11 Ways to Make Any Home Your Sanctuary, episode #105
~Subscribe to TSLL's Weekly Newsletter
~Submit ASK SHANNON questions for the June 25th episode (email by June 12th)
~Stop by on June 13th for the reveal of TSLL's 2nd book and the beginning of preordering.
~SPONSORS of Today's Episode:
Mon, 14 May 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #208
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube
"Health is the outcome of the small choices you make on a daily basis." —Dr. Frank Lipman, author of How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy LifeThe pillars of a healthy life have been enumerated by many an expert, but it was in Frank Lipman's book How to Be Well that delineated and described them in such a way that found me nodding my head in agreement throughout the entire book. The concept of living simply luxuriously adheres beautifully with Lipman's six pillars: what we Eat, the Sleep we get, the Movement we engage in, how we Protect and prevent, finding regular time to Unwind and quality opportunities to Connect all contribute to build a life of good health beyond our physical, but as well including our mental and social lives as well. At the core it is about knowledge and understanding, and just as importantly, it is about understanding the propaganda that swirls around us claiming to offer health hacks, but in reality prevent us from truly living a life of true wellness.
What ideas, products and beliefs should we let go of to live well?1. Counting calories ~Love Food, Love Your Body - 10 Simple Tips, episode #8 ~Why Not . . . Learn How to Cook? ~Why Not . . . Treat Your Body Like a Temple?
2. Sugar~From altering your hormones so that your body is not registering hunger correctly which then makes you eat more as well as increasing your cravings for sugar, sugar as Lipman calls it is "public enemy number one". With 80,000 processed foods on the market, 58% of them contain added sugar and that includes items you would never have thought to contain such an ingredient (granola, pickles, baked beans, protein bars, etc.).
3. Processed FoodsCompared to malware on our computer that jumbles the information in order to confuse, Lipman recognizes that most of us know that processed foods are bad, but we can be bamboozled into eating them never-the-less. When I read Michael Moss' book Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, I was mortified by their antics, but then felt empowered to eat smarter and not fall prey.
4. Prioritizing exercise over sleep
"Sleep is not a luxury; it is an absolutely esential act of daily mainteance, and it is your ally in keeping your brain sharp and youthful."
5. Remove toxic cleaning productsForget most labels, such as "green", "natural" or "with essential oils" as they often do not adhere to U.S. federal law when it comes to hazardous compounds. As well antibacterial products for hands and household use can contribute to drug-resistant bacteria. In lieu of fabric softeners and dryer sheets, Lipman recommends using a little vinegar in the rinse cycle instead.
6. Grooming products with toxic chemicalsCheck out the "Never List" at beautycounter.com to determine which products to look for and to never purchase products which contain them (they also have a downloadable pdf which is pocket-size for easy reference).
7. Multi-tasking~4 reasons to stop multi-tasking
8. Chasing blissInstead pursue a purpose. While it will take time to figure out what gives your life purpose as you come to better understand yourself, your gifts, the world, etc., choosing to pursue a perpetual state of happiness is a fool's pursuit. ~From Seeking Happiness to Cultivating Contentment: A Shift in Pursuit, episode #162
What ideas should we embrace?
1. Fat (healthy fat)Fat does the opposite of added sugar; it is something we need in our diet and it gives us stable, longer-lasting energy, controls hunger and helps to regulate our metabolism. Lipman's rule of thumb when it comes to fats: If it comes from nature, it's probably healthy, and if it's made in a factory, be it feedlot or process plant, it's probably not.
2. Become a savvy food shopperJust as in life it is important to be a critical thinker about the information we receive, this also encompasses the food we purchase. First and foremost, eat whole foods when possible. When fresh produce, local meats and dairy are available, support your local farmers and ranchers that way you know how your food came to be on your table. Lipman shares, "We have an industrial food supply that has favored profit over health for so long that it's made disease-causing foods mainstream and health-giving foods fringe." Food for thought - pun intended.
3. Enjoy brothLipman shares that the collagen in broth is gentle yet nourishing, healing and supportive for overworked and damaged digestive systems as well broth delivers healthy fats, fat-soluble vitamins and minerals to our bodies, counters inflammation and supports the joints and skin, as well it boosts the immune system. A recipe is included in his book for bone broth as well as pairing ideas.
4. Salt (just not highly processed table salt)~As an essential micronutrient, it plays an important role in our body helping it to regulate muscle, heart, nervous system and brain function, as well as blood flow and fluid balance. Lipman reassures that so long as you are "eating a clean, whole-food diet and our seasoning your food with salt to taste, your body makes the adjustments to maintain equilibrium". Just make sure to eat unrefined salt, rather than regular table salt (highly processed salt). ~Listen to my conversation with American expat living in France and cookbook author and cooking class instructor Susan Hermann Loomis in episode #192 as she gives some insight into cooking and eating salt.
5. Simplify cooking~Why Not . . . Keep It Simple in the Kitchen? ~Discover a Capsule Menu: What it is and how to create your own ~Watch the pilot episode of The Simply Luxurious Kitchen, TSLL's new vodcast. Let go of recipes, use a slow cooker, let the quality of the food bring the flavor.
6. Eat the stalksFrom broccoli to cauliflower, even the woody asparagus stalks, these hard-to-digest carbohydrates give good bacteria a feast (the is a good thing). Lipman shares that the prebiotic benefits include ensuring a thriving microbiome. Munch on these chewy options raw or cook them along with the rest of the vegetable.
7. Go to bed when you are tiredOur sleep cycles are smart (which is why jet lag is brutal). When we listen to them, we are listening to a wise sleep sage.
8. Investigate when your sleep goes awryOften when we are unable to sleep, it is a sign that something in our lives needs to be addressed, adjusted or effectively dealt with so we can move forward.
9. Follow a strength training programSince most of us do not work at jobs that require physical exertion, it is important we welcome this healthy stress to onto our physical bodies regularly. Offering protection from disease as well as enabling our bodies to "meet the demands of and carry the loads of life (joints, tends, ligaments, muscles, etc.), strength training can also reduce the risk factors for diabetes, heart disease and cancer. ~Have a look at what I learned when I scheduled time with a personal trainer earlier this year to set up my own strength training routine, episode #201.
10. MoveAny opportunity you have to move, seize it. From the exercise routine you follow, to walking to the market, taking the stairs or getting outside on your lunch break to take a stroll, do so. ~To Get and Stay Fit: Keep It Simple, episode #190
11. Use a foam rollerLipman recommends using a foam roller five to ten minutes a day to massage the tired muscles and tendons we have kept quite sedentary throughout the day. Also, using a roller helps with circulation and kneading sore muscles which also increases the oxygen flow to the brain. ~Shop foam rollers here.
12. Shop at farmers markets when you can~How to make the most of the farmers market no matter where you live ~David Lebovitz Talks About Making Paris His Home, episode #182
13. Dry brush your entire bodySimilar to using a roller, dry brushing your body from head to toe improves circulation. Making strokes with your brush that all run to your heart, making this a habit will also improve your body's glow as dead skin cells are also being removed. ~Shop dry body brushes here and here
14. Become mindfulBeing mindful is the opposite of choosing to multitask. When we choose to be mindful, we are choosing to be present, to be self-aware, to respond rather than react. While being mindful is not something we can do once and make it a default that we do without thinking, it is something that requires of us to be entirely present thus improving the quality of everything we do throughout our days. ~11 Ways to Live More Mindfully
15. Say no to overcommittingOne of the benefits of being mindful is that we are aware of what we are capable of and respond in kind rather than by default. Saying no could be literally saying "no thank you" to invitations or creating "no work zones" in your home. ~Discover how to let go of the busy mentality
16. Rest~An Everyday Necessity: Deliberate Rest, episode #139
17. Commit random acts of kindnessKindness in our behavior, in our words, in our expression of sincere appreciation. When we choose to commit random acts of kindness, we experience what Lipman calls the "helper's high". Physically our bodies do change as serotonin levels rise and cortisol (released when we are stressed) goes down, as well as our blood pressure.
18. Learn something new each weekNot only is it exciting and confidence boosting when we learn something we weren't aware of previously, we are actually helping our brain out as well. By learning new tasks and information, we are creating new neural pathways which "can prevent degenerative diseases like dementia". ~3 part series - The Benefits of Reading
19. Celebrate small victoriesPerfection can be the barrier that stands in our way of celebrating along our journey. Lipman states "This anxious pursuit of perfection can be a hindrance to getting and staying healthy because it denies the reality of nature: Health is a dynamic state, constantly changing and in flux, and it is different for each person. There is no 'perfect point' of guaranteed balance, and striving for it can drive you crazy." I wanted to end on this point because even though the book offers how to live well, we are always on the journey toward refining our lives. We will never reach a point of perfect health and be able to stay there. We must be diligent and regularly apply the knowledge we knew which was reaffirmed today, apply the new information we discovered and continue to learn more about our unique bodies, lives and selves. The first step is understanding and once we know how, we can then go about living well so that we can enjoy our lives to the fullest. ~Perfectionist vs. High Achiever: The Difference
Petit Plaisir:Discover the many benefits of enjoying an avocado Download the Episode
Mon, 7 May 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #207
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." — Marcus Tullius Cicero
Claude Monet's gardens at Giverny, Butchart Gardens near Victoria, Canada, or the grounds of Versailles in France. Each and many more outdoor masterpieces which utilize the gifts of Mother Nature to enchant visitors are as glorious as they are intimidating to those of us who are curious to welcome similar beauty onto our own properties and sanctuaries. Having grown up with a mother who has a sincere love for gardening and whose canvas is more than a few acres, I watched as she painstakingly watered by hand all of her flower beds, raised garden boxes for years until automatic sprinklers were put in. During the winter months she still goes through the garden catalogs and plants seeds far in advance of the spring season, nursing them in her sunroom and then in her green house before planting them in their final destination in the yard or garden. Needless to say, the effort master gardeners put into their plants, flowers and landscapes can easily be a full-time job. And while many of us may want and appreciate the gifts that spending time around such natural beauty brings into our lives, we may not all either have the space, property or ability due to renting or the time or devoted passion. I find myself a little in both camps for my reasons for not having a bountiful garden and yard. While in my previous home, of which I owned, I invested much money installing automatic sprinklers, planting new trees, installing a cedar fence, along with the seasonal attention that is required, part of me is quite relieved to not have to rake 40 bags of leaves each year or worry about investing in a landscape architect to mold my yard into an oasis because I am currently renting and do not know the cottage I call home at the moment. However, on the flipside, I derive great pleasure from being outdoors, enjoying the vegetables, herbs and somtimes fruit from my garden as well as arriving home to a bevy of daffodils in the spring, lavender in the summer and lush hostas tucked into the shade in my flower beds surrounding my front porch. Mother Nature is an elixir, a form of comfort and a destination to unwind, relax and appreciate the natural beauty that can surround us should we choose to welcome it into our lives. So today I wanted to share with you how you too can welcome the gifts of a yard and garden into your life without being someone who has the Master Gardener credientials or even wants them. Rather by adopting a few or all of these ideas shared below, you can cultivate the simple, yet powerful gifts a thoughtful approach to tending to your garden and yard can bring.
1. Keep it simple
As with other areas of our lives, keeping what is necessary and valued and letting go of what is not enables simplicity to be the guiding principle. Even if we are in awe of our neighbor's yard, our space, time and budget may be different. Taking an approach to welcoming more color and fresh plants as well as a gardening space must work for you. So take a look at what your space and time allow (each spring I know I will be planting five pots, looking for one hanging basket and planting my garden which is 4 feet by 8 feet), and enjoy the process of enriching what you have and celebrating, not comparing what you have createed with others.
2. Find your Hardiness Zone
Depending upon where you live, you will have more success with some plants than others. For example, as IG followers know, I am a fan of hydrangeas, but I have never had luck growing them in either of the locations I have attempted due to the zone in which I grow them. While yes, there are often hardier variations available, the classic hydrangeas with the huge mopheads are not something at the moment, I have the opportunity to grow. Therefore, I do not invest in them. If you live in the states, check out this website to determine your hardiness zone based on your zip code, if you live in the United Kingdom, check out this website, and if you live in Canada, check out this website. For all other countries, simply type in "hardiness zone and your country" and you should be able to find a similar website.
3. Shop smart (when and what)
Now that you know what types of plants to buy (good news, often the local nurseries will primarily stock what does grow well in your area), keep in mind that shopping early in the nursey season will ensure you have the best selection. As I shared a few weeks ago when my favorite local nursey opened its doors for the first time of the season, I made sure my list of annual plants was ready based on what I needed, and stopped by within the first 48 hours. Now, keep in mind, shopping early is key for those particular items you are going to want that often sell out quickly and are not restocked. For example, Creeping Jenny plants (see here) tend to be hard to find later in the spring as they are quite popular pot drapers. And flowering bulbs such as dahlias, cannas and lilies can be planted in spring as well. But other plants or bulbs will not become available until, for example, late summer and fall such as daffodils as you plant the bulb in the fall so that they will flower in early spring. ~Check out the Ultimate Flower Calendar here for which flowers to shop for and when to plant.
4. Grow an herb garden
No matter how big or small or even whether you have outdoor space or not, you can always have an herb garden, and I highly recommend that you do. Especially if you are someone who enjoys cooking, you will be saving yourself a decent chunk of change by having, for example, a basil plant (and paying $3-5) than paying $4-5 at the grocery store each time you want fresh basil leaves. In 2013 I wrote a detailed post on how to create your own mini garden, and part of the mini garden details having an herb garden, as well as the herbs to include. If you do plant an herb garden outside, some of your herbs will not need to be replanted each year. Sage, rosemary, flat leaf parsley and even oregano have demonstrated in my own garden to be quite hardy.
5. How to pot a pot: Basics that Work
There are three components to shopping for the plants to put in your outdoor pots. Whether they will be in the sunshine or in the shade (hanging baskets can follow this prescription as well - although I often buy a basket full of one plant to simplify), include these three components (just three different types of plants - you can buy multiples if your pot is large enough) thriller (for height), filler and spiller Successfully Grow Plants in Containers. Paul Allen Smith is my garden guru and his terminology of what to put in the pots is easy to rememember. Read his detailed post about how to . For example, in my front porch which is in shade for most of the day my basic formula is a hosta for the height (thriller), coleus for the filler, and sweet potato vines for the spiller (they are very delicate, so while I bought them in April, I kept them inside until just a few days ago when the last frost was well behind us). When summer and early fall has past, I plant the hosta (which is a perennial plant) in my flower bed to continue to bring more green, lush filler to the front of my house.
6. Add a few perennials to your yard each year
Perennials can be expensive, but part of the reason their price tag is higher is they last for more than one season. Whether it is a shrub, a hedge, the bulbs for tulips or daffodils, roses, or anything thing you determine would complement your yard and survive in your climate, gradually bring a few more into your yard each year as your budget allows. Take time when making decisions about perennials and watch how the sunlight falls in different areas of your yard to determine exactly what plant or tree would be best.
7. Follow an expert or a few who offers ample inspiration and information
TSLL blog is not a gardening blog as readers know, but I am regularly encouraging time spent with nature as a means for a more content life. If I can do anything to assist you in your journey to welcome more Mother Nature into your home, it is to offer the encouragement to indeed welcome her with open arms. There are many fantastic gardening blogs available to read and follow. Some offer expert advice (as I mentioned Paul Allen Smith above is my trusted go-to), some offer visual inspiration (I love Sharon Santoni's home and yard), and some offer it all along with the ability to purchase the flowers they grow such as Floret's Flowers (her dahlias are her rock-star product, but her daffodils are amazing as well).
8. Water regularly
As with anything we want to grow, regular watering is a must. Now for those of who travel, this can become difficult as we want to travel during the summer, but we've also invested some money in our plants and we want to return to a home with living, beautiful blooms. Consider carefully placing your pots so that your automated sprinkler will reach them or ask a trusted neighbor to water your pots once or every other day as necessary.
9. Use good soil
Quality matters as well when it comes to gardening. This year I purchased a yard of organic soil builder - compost - from our local county recycling business for $15. Now I also had to pay for them to deliver it, but I wanted to give my garden an extra rich, nutritious foundation. You can also buy something similar in bags at your local nursery, but price per pound, this was an amazing deal, and I didn't want to pass it up. "Feeding" your soil and ensuring it is of good quality is the key to building a successful garden. There are other ways you can tend to your soil organically as shared by Better Homes & Gardens - add shredded leaves, animal manures or cover crops. Read more here.
10. Make a plan and map it out
Whether it is planning for which plants to put in your pots, how your landscaping will look or the layout in your garden (which vegetables and fruit go where), plan it out first. Better Homes & Gardens offers a Garden Planner which is simple and easy to use, but you can also simply pencil it out on a pad of paper. I find myself over-buying of one plant and not purchasing enough of another, only having to make a second trip (which I don't mind, but it would simplify the process to get what I need in one trip).
11. Visit your local farmers market
Whether you have a garden or not, flowers or not, an outdoor herb garden or not, knowing you can always slip away to your local farmers market to pick up fresh produce, a beautiful seasonal bouquet of flowers for the home and perhaps a potted basil plant for the window sill, is a perfect way to soak in Mother Nature's gifts and welcome them into your home. When we take the time to savor the seasonal bounty having pulled the carrot from the soil, plucked the fresh strawberry from the vine or picked the apples from the tree, we are respecting what Mother Nature has provided and tending to our health and wellbeing along the way. I hope you have discovered a few tips and ideas for beginning or enhancing your home yard and garden experience. For me, having an outdoor space, no matter how small, has always been soothing and necessary to find the balance of my days. However, initially all of the decisions made available when I stepping into a necessary put me in sensory and selection overload. While I still delight in visiting nurseries, I more clearly trust my decision making and enjoy the experience knowing that when I bring home what I have found, my space will become more welcoming and more of a sanctuary than it already is (all the while saving my budget). SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Farmers Markets: How to Make the Most of Your Visit No Matter Where You Live (Bend's Farmers Markets are Shared as well)
~Watch the pilot episode of The Simply Luxurious Kitchen: Seasonal Fare to Elevate the Everyday (season 1 begins on Satuday September 8th)
~ASK SHANNON 2018, Submit your questions now.
~other books by Luke Barr - Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard and the Reinvention of American Taste
Sponsor of this week’s episode:
Images: (1) from TSLL's home in Bend, Oregon (potted plants, fuchsia, Japanese maple, hostas, coleus and sweet potato vines) (2) pics captured at Bend's first day of the farmers market
Mon, 30 April 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #206
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I am all about simplifying life's daily routines and events, and especially when our schedules become full, our time is precious. As of late, my spring has been bursting. From finishing TSLL's 2nd book, finalizing my summer travel plans, preparing my students from AP testing in May, tending to my pup Norman's mini leg injury and well, just living everyday life, knowing that the necessities that enable life to run well are tended to is way to strengthen the core of our lives. When these necessities are neglected, we can just feel "off", out of sync or unable to fully rest in the little time we have to do so. I have gathered a few of the "life hacks" or simple approaches to ensure no matter how harried a day or week becomes unexpectedly, we can successfully find ourselves feeling rested, calm and free of angst.
1. Take a day off
While this may sound impossible initially, take a moment and consider the quality of the life you are living. The key to living well is to ensure how you are navigating your life is savvy. And if you do not have the energy to do so well, take a day to recharge. Some call such days "wellness days", but no matter what you call it, they are necessary from time to time. Last week, and for the past few weeks, my motor has been geared in high. With unexpected events, finishing up projects and stress levels that didn't have time to descend, I found myself in need of a day to just do nothing. So this past Saturday, that is all I did. Staying at home for me was a necessity that I recognized I needed to fully reboot.
2. Fresh Bouquets that Last for Weeks
Having flowers around my house just make me happy. The house doesn't feel complete without a fresh bouquet of either hydrangeas (yes, they seem to be my year-round flower of choice - #tsllhydrangeas), or any other seasonal bloom I find in the store at a great price. And when they arrive home, I do my best to enable them to last as long as possible. How? Trim stems and add fresh water every 4-7 days. Slice up the stem about 1/4 -1/2 inch to enable the stem to absorb the water. I do my best to buy the most freshly cut flowers, and while sometimes it is hard to tell in the store, look for tighter buds that haven't fully blossomed. Within a day or so, they will be in full bloom and your house will have their full life.
3. Facial masque, put on before stepping into the shower
I try to give my skin either a moisturizing masque treatment or a pore-cleansing treatment 1-2 times a week, but my time is limited. The best advice my long-time estetician gave me was the go-ahead to simply apply my masque (after cleansing), then step into the shower and let the steam work its magic. Rinse in the shower (less mess to clean up), and voilà, two for one!
4. Express gratitude
As a child I had heard the advice that giving and expressing thanks is a powerful ingredient to feeling contentment and finding peace. However, at the time, it didn't compute. Don't get me wrong, I observed this behavior in my parents and those around me, but it wasn't until I was an adult that it truly was understood. When we feel as those much of our lives is out of our control or overwhelming, one of the aspects we do have control over is how we interact with others. When it appears that very little is functioning as it should, or your energy level is depleted, looking around to see what see what we are thankful for and expressing that appreciation not only will paradoxically fuel us with positive energy, but build a stronger, positive bond with those in our lives and community. The purpose is not to gain adulation or something in return, but it is the exchanging of good energy, paying recognition to others and their lives and how they are living and giving of themselves that assuages any negative energy in our lives. The two need not have any connection, but when we focus on the good, we have less time to worry about what we cannot control.
5. Exhaust your physical being
While we all know that adhering to a regular routine is important, it is vitally so when we are overwhelmed to do something to get our blood pumping. Even when I do not have time to work out, I remind myself that it is essential for me to feel better at the end of the day, it will help me sleep better and it will be one less thing to stress about that I did not do. Sometimes the workout can come in a different form such as working in the garden to set up for the spring season or making love with your partner. Whatever exhaustion you prefer, make it a priority. Part of the reason working out is effective when our lives seem overwhelmed is that our minds are forced to be in the present moment. We have to focus if it is an intense strength training session to keep our form correct, or hold Warrior Poise #3 in yoga and not fall on our nose. When we turn our minds off for even 30 minutes, we encourage our bodies to destress.
6. Read a book without a plot or how-tos
I recognized recently that if I am having an particularly stressful week, the last thing I want to do is get absorbed by more drama in the plot of a novel, or feel I need to add one more "to-do" to my self-improvement list by reading a non-fiction self-help book. What I have found to be some of the best reading for such weeks are books about food or travel. An escape into a pleasure that is blissful, relaxing for the mind and an opportunity to unwind. I highly recommend Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries (a diary of his meals through the season) or any of his books/cookbooks.
7. Take a detoxifying bath
Simply add two cups of Epsom salt and let the day wash away. Epsom salt offers sulfate and magnesium, both of which can be absorbed through the skin and magnesium is what stress reduces from our body, so we do need to replenish. As well, epsom salt easing muscle soreness, softens skin and the sulfate helps to flush toxins from our bodies. When I began my strength training program with my trainer, my body had intense muscle soreness, and I was immediately advised to take a bath with epsom salts. Needless to say, sometimes the relief we need can be simple and pleasurable. (Read more about epsom salt here from mindbodygreen.)
8. Reduce unnecessary time using technology
I am just as guilty as the next person for looking at my screen (phone or computer) when it isn't necessary and is simply out of habit. However, it was clear to me that constantly having my eyes on a screen was something that was not helping my stress levels. Put down the phone, plug it in to be charged and walk away. Once we find a spot in our day when we have completed the necessary tasks, and we do not need to be available for a text or phone call, put it in another room. Having it close by increases the likelihood that we will check it, just to see.
9. Talk to someone who is trusted and calm
When we talk to someone who knows us, understands our life, but at the same time can recognize when we need to breathe, reboot and not be so hard on ourselves, we are reminded why we need to connect with others. However, we also come to see the power in the types of people who are in our lives. It is during these stressful moments in our lives that we can be thankful we have built and nurtured such loving, supportive relationships because sometimes we cannot give ourselves the advice we know we need.
10. Turn on a relaxing playlist and turn off the news
Yesterday I shared an Everyday Jazz playlist which is often my music of choice when I want to take a deep breath and unwind. Whether at school, home or traveling, jazz, as well as classical is the remedy to lower my stress-levels and just get me tapping my toe, swaying my head or slowing letting go of anything that came before. While staying abreast of the news is important (we talked about how to find the right balance in this episode/post), too much can be detrimental. Finding an alternative that offers the comfort and pleasure that you are looking for is a simple click of a button away.
11. Sip some tea
The type of tea you choose will be up to you, but for me, since I have a high tolerance for caffeine, I always go to my black teas. The something hot, something delicious and something to sip slowly, slows me down and calms me down as well. Read this post from the archives regarding the many benefits of tea, as well as see my list of favorite teas. SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~How to Ensure a Bountiful Harvest (in life), episode #177
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Ines de la Fressange's new style guide - The Parisian Field Guide to Men's Style, released May 15th
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Mon, 23 April 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #205
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"Today's accomplishments were yesterday's impossibilities." —Robert H. Schuller
I was recently watching a documentary on Julia Child, and prior to meeting Paul, falling in love with French food and becoming the revolutionary figure she became in the food industry, there was a point in her life where she felt "ordinary", and not as special as she had assumed. It was shortly after the death of her mother to whom she was quite close and also during a time when a man she had been deeply interested in, married someone else. She returned to her parent's California home despondent and not sure of which way to go or with a clue of what to do with her life. Then World War II occurred and she chose to take part in any way she could. The rest is history in many ways, but this lull in her life provided a time of uncertainty about the future and a recognition that what lay ahead for her wasn't something she could predict or foresee. If you are someone who listens to their life, but also does all that you can to plan and put the odds in your favor, you, like me, have no doubt realized that there are still moments, some short in duration and some quite long, that seemingly give no clue how our lives will unfold. Such times are excruciatingly uncomfortable. Excruciating because we do not know if what we are doing is a lost investment or a wise investment. In such moments we begin to question whether we should have perhaps just "played it safe", not stretched so far, dreamed so vastly and swam so far from the shore. While I cannot sit here and write to each reader and confirm without a doubt that all of your dreams will come true, I can confirm that I am on such a ride right now and have been my entire life in many ways. But I have arrived on the other side of many of my worries in the past to see a beautiful reality that at some point along the way only seemed a dream, and in many cases, an impossible dream. Today I'd like to share with you eight things to either do or ways to shift your mind that will help you travel through these inevitable times that we will be introduced to along our journey should we be strong enough to walk away from the "safe" route. I put it in parenthesis because nothing is assured or 100% safe. In fact, when it comes to our mind, I have come to realize that we often have fear that our dreams won't manifest because we want them so badly. If we didn't, we wouldn't give them a second thought. In this instance, we are creating a sense of anxiety that we can actually let go of which leads me to my first point.
1.Make a plan and keep striving forward
It's one thing to be worried your plan won't materialize if you haven't done the work. It is an entirely different scenario when you have done the work. Now this is not to say that there is a cookie-cutter approach and then voila! what you want will appear. But the key is to do what you can, keep steadily moving forward, each day, little by little tending to the necessary business and tasks and let go of the "when".
2. Seek meaning
In Andrew Soloman's TedTalk regarding one's identity, he shares, "Forge meaning, build identity. Forge meaning, build identity. And then invite the world to share your joy." Another key to the success we seek, the goals we wish to attain is to strive toward something that is meaningful to you. Make sure you are seeking something that is of great value to you. If a particular political issue draws your ire as to how it is being handled, step forward in a manner you are comfortable with and work for the change you seek. As you begin to do so, you will be able to step into areas that you never thought you'd be comfortable going, but it will be your passion for the cause, if it is sincere, that will armor you from the most common doubts. Whatever you are working towards, so long as there is deeper purpose that is fundamental to how you live life or wish to live it, you will have infinite fuel to carry you along the journey.
3. Find the answers to the unknown questions
While we may not be able to find all of the answers we seek, the primary reason we are fearful is because of the ambiguity. When we know, we can relax. And based on my mistake of not fully understanding the benefits of taking my business to the next level (LLC or an S-corp), I wasted years and much money because I didn't ask the questions from people who know the answers. When I finally did as the questions from my now business lawyer, I could have kicked myself. My fears were assuaged because I had the answers, and the answers gave me back the power to make better decisions to determine my financial and personal future.
4. Reflect on your past
As I look back over my past and consider the other uncertain times and what eventually unfolded, I am reminded that so many unknowns that I could not have predicted eventually revealed themselves. So long as I refused to stop striving forward, opportunities presented themselves. The key is to keep striving forward, putting forth your best and most sincere effort, being present and being excited about what you will find. Use your past as a confidence boost and apply the lessons you learned along the way.
5. Leave the familiar path
Even if the crowd or others in your field have been successful doing something a particular way, it doesn't mean you have to travel in kind if that doesn't work or sit well or feel authentic to you. While it is always a good idea to look around to see what inspiration others can spark in you, as Oprah teaches, stay in your lane. Do it your way, do it well. I like to think of it as taking the time to learn the rules, but then breaking them as necessary as you move forward along your own journey.
6. A quick list to remember
7. Become more comfortable with a little messiness
If every day each wheel of your machine called life was working smoothly, every email was answered in fewer than 24 hours, the house was always spick and span clean, every bill was paid in advance without a tinge of worry, and debts were paid in full each month even while we were investing, I would be dancing with glee the rest of my life. Some readers may be saying, but that is possible. Having seen what was going on in my life when such a vision was a reality, I can say only from my experience that I saw it as an opportunity to grow, to stretch, to see what else I was capable of, and so I took risks. I invested in my dreams. Now, as I advance in life, I do hope to become more settled, but the reason I kept stretching was because I knew there was more I wanted to experience, more ways in which I wanted to grow and more I wanted to explore. Because of these pulls and interests, I needed to take risks. And when that decision was made or being considered, my mind and my office (and inbox) were sometimes a mess. Not a mess to clean up, but a mess to work through, a mess that needed to materialize in order to strive toward a dream that I could not have made sense of at the time. But with time, each of us can see the beauty of what the mess can give us. We just have to stop thinking everything must be perfect all of the time. We need to allow our lives to be messy temporarily, sort through it, toss and keep what we should and then see the beauty that we were meant to find.
8. Become more comfortable with not knowing
Julie Benezet, who in 1999 was working as a director of global real estate for an online company called Amazon as they sought advice on how to best survive and grow their business, in her book The Journey of Not Knowing shares, "I noticed that when people take chances, they get farther ahead. Too often what happens is people go a more conservative route, because they don't want to deal with the uncomfortable feeling of trying something new when you don't know how it's going to turn out." The key to being willing to take these risks without knowing how they will work out is to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. In this article she shares four approaches to further yourself in business when it comes to risk taking, and while you don't want to jump head-first without doing your homework, it is important to know that when you have already done the necessary work, you will still feel a bit of fear. Recognize this truth, become more comfortable with this truth, and it will set you free to soar. Whether it is the economy that we wish we could predict, the future of the government we live under, or whether or not our boss will say yes, or the weather will cooperate, the unknown is actually a norm in our lives. What lens we see this unknown through will determine how we navigate through the ambiguity, that while temporary, is inevitable. So take a deep breath, get out of your own way, follow the above eight ideas and enjoy the unique journey you are on. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Ask Shannon Episode is coming soon!
~Subscribe to TSLL's Weekly Newsletter, learn more here.
~Independent Bookstore Day, the last Saturday in April (April 28, 2018)
~Visit an Independent Bookstore in your community or wherever you find yourself traveling.
“Consumers control the marketplace by deciding where to spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read the book. This is how we change the world: we grab hold of it. We change ourselves.” ― Ann Patchett, bestselling author and co-owner of Parnassus Books
~Roundabout Books, Bend, Oregon~
Mon, 16 April 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #204
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The Harvard Business Review pointed out in 2011 that there are many networks we each need in our lives to be successful. Looking at this concept from a business perspective, HBR shared that a manager and leader needs three networks to be successful: operational, developmental, and strategic. As I shared in this post written in 2014, whether at work or at home or while playing, we are our own brand. How we live our lives is a message to the world at large and more powerfully to those we share our lives with, so I wanted to incorporate these three networks into both our professional and personal lives. In successful entrepreneur Julia Pimsleur's book Million Dollar Women, she shares that while women tend to have strong personal networking skills, it is their professional networking skills that must be strengthened. Modeling what she encourages readers to do, Pimsleur's nonprofit and for-profit earnings of more than $20 million dollars demonstrate she knows how to network and network well. Offering masterclasses, coaching and workshops, understanding how to network and the importance of doing so is a skill, and we can all learn how to master it. It is important to note, in order to be successful in our careers, we must have our personal lives well-structured as well. And we cannot do it all if we want to do it well, so we must build what I am calling a Life Network that will optimize both our professional and personal lives. Today, I'd like to break these three networks down, and while using the definitions of each given by HBR, I will be applying them to both aspects of our lives. As I examined my own life, I made a list of all of the people, businesses, groups I interact with through any given year. Some I will see more often than others, some will only be once a year, but all of them are essential parts of my Life Network. I then added a few more to each list that may be individuals most people in certain walks of life need to thrive. Now there may be other networks you need or have in your life, so I have included the definition of each of the networks so that you can decide in which group they would fall based on what they bring into your life.
Even if you are not currently in the market to buy a house or maybe you are not working on a project with the contractors you will hire, maintaining that relationships, being cognizant that it is a relationship and being appreciative of it is the strength of your network. Whether it is the holiday extra tip that is given to your hair stylist, paying your bills on time when it comes to your accountant, editor or lawyer, being respectful of the reality that they are running a business, and having paying clients is what enables them to live and work and thrive, reveals how much you respect and appreciate the work they have done for you.
No one can predict the future, but the longer we are in our fields professionally, and the longer we live in this world, the more we understand the causes and effects of events that occur. While we may not know precisely when or exactly how they will unfold, we can know that the economy will ebb and flow. We can know that people retire and new team members will be added; we also know that our good health doesn't just happen and interest doesn't accrue unless we invest. Putting the odds in your favor by being preventative with your health, saving intelligently and early for your retirement, building strong relationships with people within your work environment is being aware that there will be a tomorrow and you want to put yourself in the best situation possible.
Personal (HBR calls this network Developmental)
The premise of living well is to remain curious and continually seek new information. We are dynamic as human beings, and our world as well is dynamic. As much as we may want things to stay exactly as they are once we find a way of life that works best for us, we know that everything else is changing, and so too must we stay privy as well as a student of the world. However, the world can knock us down sometimes, so we must know where to replenish our strength as well as contribute positively to others' lives. So long as we remember we are always a work in progress and will always have the opportunity to grow should we choose, this network will enable us to do so in both our personal and professional lives. As someone who appreciates clarity where it is possible to have it, this list helps me not only be clear about what is necessary to reach my dreams, live securely and enjoyably, but also enable me to recognize that we are a part of a web of other people in this world, and we truly do not succeed on our own. While we may be have the dream, we need the team to help it come into fruition. While we may bring home the salary that pays the bills, we need to handle the money we work so hard for well, so that it serves us the best it possibly can. Lastly, so long as we are aware and appreciative, we will begin to build networks in all three areas that will improve the quality of our lives. ~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~8 Ways to Become the CEO of Your Own Life, episode #40
~25 Must-Haves for the Efficient Office Desk, episode #60
~Secrets of Wealthy Women via WSJ podcast
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~Image: TSLL's Office, via IG