The Simple Sophisticate - Intelligent Living Paired with Signature Style (lifestyle)
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #207
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | 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.

~This is one of my "sun" pots full of Creeping Jenny in the forefront, the spiller~

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:

~Why Not . . . Create a Mini Garden?

~Ina Garten's Gorgeous Garden

~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.

  • Monday June 25th will be this year's Ask Shannon episode where I get the chance the answer your questions directly on the air.
  • Submit by Tuesday June 12th
  • Email me at askshannon@thesimplyluxuriouslife.com
  • More information here

 

Petit Plaisir:

~Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, The Chef and The Rise of the Leisure Class by Luke Barr

~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

Direct download: 207YardandGarden.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #206
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube

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:

~11 Ways to Improve Your Life

~Why Not . . . Automate It? 12 Ways to Improve the Everyday

~How to Ensure a Bountiful Harvest (in life), episode #177

  ~Sign up for TSLL's Weekly Newsletter or the Book Release News Updates newsletter here

Petit Plaisir:

Ines de la Fressange's new style guide - The Parisian Field Guide to Men's Style, released May 15th

   

SPONSOR OF TODAY'S EPISODE:

  • Lyst.com
    • For all the latest fashion, make sure to check out the global fashion search platform Lyst.
    • Lyst brings together the widest inventory in luxury and contemporary fashion online
Direct download: 206lifehacks_copy.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 6:19am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #205
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube

"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

  • Don't fixate on the worst - instead envision what you are working to materialize. We create what we believe, and our energy is finite. Focus on what you desire, use your imagination to make it your reality, rather than envisioning what you do not what to have happen. What you look for, you are more likely to find.
  • Don't become stuck in patterns that didn't work in the past - learn from what didn't work and do it differently moving forward. Perceived mistakes are not failures as they often reveal to us how we can do better next time with the next idea, or the next project.
  • Don't see the unknown as a threat, rather see it as a mystery for you to solve. Become your own version of Hercules Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, or Nancy Drew, and be the detective who discovers how it can all work out.
  • Don't throw your hands up and try anything, hoping something will stick. Be a savvy adventurer into the unknown.  Know the past, understand how history has unfolded (the causes and the effects), and then take educated risks.

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:

~10 Things People Who Have Found Contentment Understand About Uncertainty, episode #100

~13 Life Truths to Remember About Making Progress

~7 More Signs You Are Moving in the Right Direction

 

~Ask Shannon Episode is coming soon!
  • Monday June 25th, the annual episode will go live and your question could be answered on the show!
  • Send your questions to askshannon@thesimplyluxuriouslife.com
  • Deadline is Tuesday June 12th
  • Ask anything about how to live a simply luxurious life (life inspiration, beauty, fitness, food, travel, France, books, etc.)

~Subscribe to TSLL's Weekly Newsletter, learn more here.

Petit Plaisir

~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~

   

Direct download: 205Unknowns.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #204
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube

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.

Operational

  • definition: people you need in your day-to-day life; whose work you depend to do your work; these individuals do not work for you, but the work they do for you is what you depend on (as you cannot do it yourself) for success.  Home experts: house cleaning, maintenance (plumber, contractor, lawn care, etc.)
    • Accountant
    • Web Designers
    • Illustrator
    • Editor
    • Lawyer
    • Real Estate Agentlandlord, loan officer, bank officers
    • Hair Stylist
    • Aesthetician (waxing, facials, nails, etc.)
    • Veterinarian
    • Dog Groomer
    • Dog Sitter
    • Babysitter/Daycare
    • House Sitter
    • Assistants (virtual or in office)

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.

Strategic

  • definition: it is all about tomorrow, looking to the future, creating opportunities or the fertile soil for opportunities to reveal themselves. Sometimes this network will overlap with operationalPersonal Trainer
    • Counselor
    • Financial Advisor
    • Doctor 
    • Dentist
    • Supervisor in your field of business (i.e. administrator, manager, CEO, etc.)

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)

  • definition: individuals to whom you can turn to for advice, to whom you can trust, a soft shoulder or sympathetic ear. These individuals help you consider best options for growth, improvement, reaching your full potential. 6 Types of Friends (a healthy social circle) - learn more here
    • Partner in life (spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend)
    • Spiritual Advisor (religious leader, meditation instructor, life coach, yoga instructor, etc.)
    • Mentor (also included in 6 Types of Friends, listed above)
    • Equals in your field of business (fellow colleagues: bloggers, teachers, CEOs, etc.)
    • Experts in other fields that don't compete with your field, but their business overlaps with yours
    • Resource for new information about anything of value (industry news, cultural news, etc.)

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:

~Why Not . . . Create a To Be List?

~8 Ways to Become the CEO of Your Own Life, episode #40

~25 Must-Haves for the Efficient Office Desk, episode #60

Petit Plaisir:

~Secrets of Wealthy Women via WSJ podcast 

Sponsors of this week’s episode:

~Image: TSLL's Office, via IG

Direct download: 204lifenetwork.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #200
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube

On Tuesday morning at 9:15 Pacific time in the western hemisphere spring will arrive. No weather prediction can change this reality. Even if it continues to snow where you live (the snow in England and France this past weekend have made me feel as a kindred spirit to the residents as we had snow this weekend as well), the calendar affirms, it will be spring at this time on Tuesday. But no matter when the snow decides to cease falling, we know it will (and even when it does, it melts nearly as quickly, non?). What I have found to be a wonderful activity during such times, along with indoor projects that must be completed, is to tend to spring cleaning of the home. And when the sun comes out, spring cleaning in the yard as well. So yes! Spring cleaning has begun! And oh, does it feel good! (Too cheesy?) Last week, my white burber carpets received their bi-annual thoroughly cleansing (see above), and in so doing returned a brightness to the house. Simply tending to these seasonal tasks, whether we do them or hire someone due to our time constraints, when we do, we begin to officially shift forward to the new season that is beginning. And as it is spring, a fresh start, a feeling of renewed opportunity and revitalized energy. Below are 22 spring cleaning tasks to perhaps welcome into your annual routine as you too say goodbye to winter and hello to the much anticipated spring season.

1. Let in the light! Clean the windows

As soon as you are able to get outside and the sun is expected to shine nearly all day (although a cloudy day is claimed to be best as the cleaning solution will dry less quickly, reducing the amount of streaks), take a couple of hours to clean the windows inside and out. My mom always made a point of washing windows in the morning to enable the ability to see better the streaks as the natural light is shining more directly through the windows (you can also do this in the evening, but again, we're usually tired or have other plans). And the approach is simple, grab a bucket of water and vinegar, the newspapers you just recycled from yesterday's or that morning's reading session and before you know it, you will be bathed in more sunlight. (Yes, newspapers are a great option instead of rags - they are not only cheaper, but will not scratch the glass and are quite absorbent - learn more here.)

2. The floors (and rugs, although not as often) get their special treatment

If you have carpet, welcome in a carpet cleaner, if you have hardwoods, follow the special instructions of care for your particular wood floors. Typically a damp mop (not wet mop) with a few drops of dishwashing liquid is all you need to do (in fact, some experts recommend doing this monthly). Here is a list of recommendations for wood floor care from RealSimple. If you have area rugs, deep cleaning them need only be every 3-5 years as over-cleaning contributes to too much wear and tear.

3. Tend to the window coverings

Whether you have blinds or drapes, dust, wash or send to the dry-cleaners for special careful cleaning.

4. Clean the dishwasher

House Beautiful in their annual spring cleaning guide recommended giving your dishwasher a deep clean, and with the amount of use most of us give our kitchen time-saving machine, it is a good idea. Using a special dishwasher cleaner pack (this one from Cascade will remove the grease, odors and limescale and includes two for fewer than $14), run it with an empty dishwasher and begin the new season with a "like-new" dish-cleaning machine.

5. The remainder of the Kitchen Triangle: the stove and the refrigerator

Give your refrigerator a thorough clean out and cleaning, something I like to do bi-annually as well. Not only does this enable an opportunity to see which staples you have regarding condiments, etc., but it also is a great opportunity to organize your refrigerator into sections. For example, keep your meat and proteins in one section, your cheeses in another, your fruit in one bin and your vegetables in another. Also, drinks have their designation as well. Especially if you are living with others, but even living by yourself, when you give the refrigerator a quick glance before you head to the market, you will know exactly what is needed for your weekly capsule menu shopping. And, do not forget the stove. I will admit, I do not like sticking my head in an oven (for many people who have self-cleaning, just turn it on to work its magic while you clean the refrigerator), or maybe that is just the English teacher in me, but since I do keep tin foil at the bottom of my stove, I find many messy clean-ups are avoided. So find a sturdy oven cleaner, put some gloves on and tend to this annual task. The more regular we do, the less daunting it will be each time.

6. The linens beyond sheets

While bed sheets are typically cleaned every week or two weeks, wash the duvet cover, the coverlets, the throws, the pillow shams and any other linen that does not get regularly weekly attention. Some of these items may need to be taken to the dry-cleaner, so allow for 1-2 weeks to be without. Perhaps you are going on a spring holiday, so plan on taking your linens to the dry-cleaner before you leave, so when you return your linens are returned as well as fresh and clean for the new season.

7. Flip and clean the mattress

A simple flip or rotation of your mattress is easy to do to prevent overuse in one area. As well, vacuum your mattress to remove any unwanted debris.

8. Sinks and faucet cleaning

If you have found you have lime deposits around faucets in your house, HGTV offers a simple solution: Lay a papertowel over the area, pour vinegar over the top and let it sit for an hour. After the allotted time, the lime should have softened, making it easier to remove.

9. Make the stainless steel shine

Now this is something that can be done each time the kitchen is cleaned, but its worth doing for spring cleaning as well. Again HGTV shared this gem: using a spray bottle full of 50% rubbing alcohol and 50% water, clean your chrome, glass or stainless steel finishes and polish to reveal their brilliance.

10. Assess and organize the pantry

In January I shared one of my winter projects which was to organize my cupboards, which for me includes my pantry items. Similar to cleaning out the refrigerator, when we know what we have, we know what we need. Here is a list of the 34 items to keep at all times in your pantry, or épicerie (episode #109).

11. The closet clean-out

Bi-annually, clearing out, assessing and reorganizing our closet is a wonderful idea to prevent overspending, but also enable savvy purchases as the new season begins. I have detailed how to approach this task in a dedicated post, so if you're curious, be sure to take a look.

12. Seasonal clothing swap

Now is the time to take your winter coats, sweaters and scarves to the cleaners for their annual maintenance. Perhaps you took your spring and summer items in the fall, but if you haven't take them now so they are ready to shine with the beginning of the new season.

13. The walls need your attention

This may sound odd, but while we are surrounded by the walls of our homes, we often do not see them. Cobwebs can form, dust accumulates especially if furniture is in front of them, and all it takes is a simple damp cloth wrapped over a broom stick (to reach high points by the ceiling) and an extra hour or so of a day. If you need to clean stains from the wall, use a few drops of dishsoap, then go over it again with a clean damp cloth to remove the soap.

14. Clean the cushions of your furniture

Pull the cushions out from your sofa and chairs and clean underneath as well as the cushions themselves. You will most likely just need to vacuum them both, but doing so will ensure that all is clean whether it is seen or unseen.

15. Put away the winter

Whether you have certain decor, wreaths, candles of a darker hued color or books that align with the winter season, take this time to swap them for the spring and summer editions. While you are doing this, you are also able to do a little extra cleaning that may not get your attention each week.

16. Bring forth the outdoor furniture

While this may be something you, as I, don't get to do until April, it is still a seasonal ritual to tend to. Bring out the lawn furniture, the patio chairs and tables and giving them a good wash with soapy water. Then the pots come out as well as soon they will be filled with fresh blooms from the nursery.

17. Clean the trash cans

Indoors and out, suds up the trash collectors and wash and rinse them out. A simple task that is quite satisfying.

18. File away taxes of 2017 and organize the office

Most of us have completed our tax returns or will be soon, so now organize them and place them where they need to be and move forward into the new year. As well, dust the shelves, countertops, desktops of your work space. Dust the screen of your computer, dust the top of your printer and other machines you may have and why not bring in at minimum a bud vase for a touch of spring to enjoy as you work?

19. Update your podcast subscriptions

I recently tended to this task as many of the podcasts I had on my list were no longer offering new episodes, so I went through and streamlined my podcast subscriptions to include only the ones that were still offering new episodes as well as episodes I continued to always select to listen to on my walks and travels.

20. Clean and organize your handbags

This may seem obvious, but our lives get busy and before we know it our totes are carrying receipts from two months ago, lipgloss that has been empty and who knows what else. This shouldn't take but a few minutes, but sometimes we have to be reminded of the simple organization that makes a big difference in our daily lives. As well, our wallets need our attention: why do you need so many of others' business cards in your wallet, do you use that particular rewards card anymore? Slimming down your wallet feels good as well.

21. Assess Makeup and beauty supplies

While these tasks can be done at any point in the year, the inspiration behind spring cleaning is an opportunity to start fresh and what better way when it comes to our beauty than to make sure our supplies enable us to shine our brightest. Clean your brushes as well with simple facial cleanser mixed with warm water until it is bubbly and dunk, dunk, dunk and then rinse.

22. Bad habits out, good habits in

Admittedly, when there is less sun, as there is in the winter, it affects our mood, some more than others, but either way, it does play a role in our emotions. Take a moment before you step forward into spring, as we continue to gain more daylight each day for the next three months, to assess what habits are working for you, and which are not. Sometimes simply having more daylight to tend to what is a priority makes a difference in our successfully acquiring the habit. Whether it is meditating in the morning, walking in the evening, eating more seasonally ripe produce or turning on classical music to start your day instead of the news (in episode #197 we looked at the benefits of classical music), spring gives you an opportunity to be more successful, because when our moods are improved, the confidence we have in ourselves to be successful with whatever we pursue also has a better chance for improving as well. Ultimately each one of us will tend to what we need to start fresh with this new season. Perhaps a handful or more, but maybe just one or two of the ideas spoke to you. Whatever you choose to do to welcome spring, and literally or figuratively clean out the clutter of the old season, be sure to take the time to do so as I am confident you will be giving yourself a bit or a signficant bounce to your step as the excitement of what the new year has in store begins to come forth. Welcome the spring season and may this first week (beginning tomorrow - Tuesday) be an auspicious omen for what is to come. ~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES from the ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~TSLL Spring Capsule Menu

~Why Not . . . Celebrate a New Year with Spring's Arrival?

~Why Not . . . Spruce Up Your Spring Wardrobe?

~Subscribe to the weekly TSLL newsletter

Petit Plaisir:

~A Taste for Provence by Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz

~Learn more about the author who is a professor emerita at Smith College here

Sponsors of this week’s episode:

Image: TSLL's Instagram

Direct download: 200SpringCleaning_copy.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 2:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #199
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube

"The best part of being single is that I get to know men and see what I love about them in a way that, when I was 19, I never afforded myself the opportunity. At 19, I would think, 'Oh, I got picked!' and I would just go along with it, happy to be picked by a man, instead of choosing, and now, I'm in the choosing seat." —Laura Dern on being 50 and divorced 

~Based on feedback from last week's episode (#198), I highly recommend tuning in to today's episode (audio) as much more is talked about than what is revealed in the show notes below. My thoughts on last week's episode are shared along with a review from a long-time listener that offered valuable constructive criticism that I wanted to honor.  Whether you are single and have never been married, or you are divorced or widowed, whether you have children or your only children are of the four-legged variety, when you step into a time of your life in which you are not romantically attached to someone, some will embrace the change immediately while some will dread the loss of a partner. Today's episode/post was inspired by multiple components. First, actress Laura Dern's above quote sparked my thinking about the misconceptions many of us when we are young unconsciously accept when it comes to dating due to a self-confidence that has yet to find its footing, and secondly, last week's conversation (episode #198) with Jenna Birth on the evolution of modern romance and how to navigate it well in order to find and cultivate a healthy, loving partnership. As I examine and savor my own singleness at the moment, I would not want anything else at this point in my life. I reflect on what the past ten years has revealed itself capable of when it comes to my career, and I know, based on my personality, had my energies been shifted, my life would be significantly different. And from my perspective, based on my dreams, desires and ideas of a quality life, I would not be content. That again, is based on knowing myself. Each individual will define their best life differently and that is where we must say "Good for you, but not for me" (thank you Amy Poehler for succinctly coining a phrase needed for us to understand and accept different ways of living well). As we step away from our twenties and into our thirties, forties, fifties and beyond I find single living can be ever more attractive, and due to this, make it easier to find a partner that we truly mesh with should we choose to do so. How so? Let's take a look at nine reasons being single can be a powerful time of growth, rejuvenation and clarification. 1.You become clear about what is and is not in alignment with your authentic self When you are your own company you become particularly clear and more understanding of what you say yes to without forethought, but at the same time, why you say yes (or no) to anything life presents you with. As will be discussed in #7, once we learn what is sincerely us and what is influenced by the outside world, we can then choose to understand why it is hard to break molds that are merely masks and finally remove them entirely. 2. You become able to differentiate between true connection and lust provoked purely by physical attraction Ah, the innocence of youth. The movies, the media, even everyday people we may find ourselves around at any given time, perpetuate the idea that physical attractiveness need be an primary ingredient (if not the most important ingredient) in order to build a relationship with someone. Oh, the silliness of this belief. Whether we learn this sooner or later, when we finally learn it, we can be far more conscious of why we are drawn to someone. And while it is absolutely healthy and natural to be drawn to someone because of their looks, we also become aware that we need more to pursue for the pursue of a lasting relationship. Celebrate this difference is growth, and makes life and meeting the myriad of people we meet, all the enjoyable. 3. You can invest entirely and build with your full energy a career you love As I mentioned above, the decade of my thirties has been an amazing gift. If I had been in any of the relationships I let go of during the course of this time period, I know for certain, my energy would not have been enough to tend to the goals I set for myself. Now, to find a partner that would support my goals would have been wonderful, as the support should be for both involved, but that was never the case (which is in large part, why we went our separate ways). 4. You date thoughtfully Case in point, you begin to learn what strengths and gifts would work well for you in a partnership and you begin to date more thoughtfully. I have found that as I get older, those people I date are more lovely in general, but my needs for a relationship to work are also more clear as well. 5. You can travel to destinations that pique your curiosity and yours alone Ah, the gift of traveling to and doing what you've always dreamt about. Whether it is venturing to destinations on your bucket list, or returning to the same place again and again, you can and you can enjoy every minute, stay as long or as little as you'd like and meeting amazing people along the way because you are traveling with the world. 6. You become comfortable in your body and understand the necessity of taking care of your overall well-being There is a love for your body that begins as you recognize all that it does for you and that it has enabled you to do thus far. And as we begin to yes, understand, our bodies are like nobody else's, we also begin to want to take proper and thoughtful care of it so that it can perform at its best. I especially have found this to be true the latter half of my thirties and am so grateful for the gift my body is. 7. You have more time to tend to areas of personal growth that need attention (insecurities, self-awareness, etc.) As mentioned in #1, when we become more in tune with who we truly are, we discover our tendencies, we reflect upon our past, come to understand what has been nurtured into our personality and what is truly innate. And when we don't understand something or understand and want to improve, we have the courage to recognize seeking out an expert is an investment in ourselves, not a sign of weakness. By investing in ourselves, we are investing in the overall quality of our lives not only will we enjoy our own company more, the relationships we choose to build will be healthier and have the potential to be stronger should we wish them to grow. 8. You focus on a passion project So much more time can be dedicated to what we are curious to dive into and explore when we are single. Working through the weekend or late into the evenings or waking up early to tend to tasks before we head to work, we can do any or all of these things, and we will be fueled by the results we begin to see and understand how important it truly is to listen to our passions and follow our curiosities. 9. You have a sincere understanding that another person will not complete you, as that is your responsiblity alone As you move through each of the previous eight points, you will begin to realize that what you have been searching for cannot be found outside of yourself; it can only be found within. Doing so does not mean you will be single forever if you do not want to be, but you learn the amazing gift you give yourself by letting yourself be with yourself completely. And depending upon what you unearth to be the life you wish to live, you will know how to proceed successfully forward into your future. The time that we have the opportunity to be single is a time realize that strength we already have within us whether we are in a relationship or not and carry that forward into our next relationship or into the life we will build for ourselves. Just as the image at the top of the post reveals, there is a bright and beautiful, sunlit side but too often we dwell on the negative, what we've lost or what we think we are supposed to have. The truth is, the greatest gift is to unearth our fullest potential and embrace and then share with the world what we discover. ~SIMILAR EPISODES/POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~episode #170, Being Single is Luxurious Living

~episode #94, Truths and Myths of the Single, Independent Woman

~Why Not . . . Be a Confident, Single Woman?

~Sign-up for the Weekly Newsletter

Petit Plaisir

~Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

~The blog where it all began, Daily Routines

Direct download: 199SingleGifts_copy.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 2:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #195
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube

The 43rd time was the charm. At least in the case for currently number one ranked women's tennis player Caroline Wozniacki. Winning her first grand slam title with the Austrialian Open at the end of this past January, Wozniacki, after 43 entries at grand slam events, earned her first in 2018 after 12 years on the tour. As Caroline's and many other successful dreamers have demonstrated upon finally reaching the summit they had in their sights from the beginning, it takes time. Often more time than one expected upon stepping forward toward their dream, but it is possible. The mindset that a worthwhile dream will be easy is often understood, but what isn't initially understood is what you will have to "pay" so to speak to attain your goal. Much like upkeep on a house, in order to accrue interest, in order to increase the value of your investment, time must pass. As we look at the real estate market today, some will not have to wait long in certain parts of the country while others wait decades to see a worthwhile increase should they wish to sell for a pretty profit. Along the way of living in our homes, there are certain bills that we expect to pay and some we do not. We expect to pay utilities, we expect to pay for upkeep of the roof, siding, etc., but we don't anticipate disasters such as broken boilers or a tree after being struck by lightening sliding down the side of your home and requiring a tree service to remove promptly from the street (the latter examples were both experienced at my last owned home and the tree service was my father). Each of these incidents, expected or not, are bills that must be paid if we want to maintain our home, if we want to someday be able to sell it and receive a return on our investment. Dreamers who set lofty goals are not to be laughed at because what they are choosing to do is courageous as it will require great tenacity, perseverance and willpower paired with clarity of vision. As you will see below, there will be some "bills" that must be paid along the way that most likely were expected by the dreamer, but there will be some that cannot be predicted until we set about on our journey. However, hopefully today's list of "bills" to expect will ease your mind as you run up against each one, reassuring you that such occurrences are not a sign to stop or give up, but rather par for the course. Your dream is waiting to be materialized and now you will know what to be prepared for.

1. The errant belief that it's not possible and the courage to dismiss said belief

Support along our journey toward our dream is vital; however, the catch is that because you are pursuing something that many people have not acquired, you may not have as much support as you would expect. Fear not. The first foundational form of support begins with you. So long as you have an unwavering determination and belief in what you are pursuing, that will reveal to the supporters that do stand by your side to stand tall with you. The supporters that stand with you need not be people who entirely understand what or why you are traversing towards; however, if they know you well, they are confident in your abilities. In other words, it is the quality of support you surround yourself, not a vast amount of supporters. Once you are clear as to why you are pursuing what you have set out to attain, the clarity will be the roots for courage to blossom when unknowns and confusing moments arise.

2. Stepping forward without seeing the tangible outcome

No one can predict the future, even people who are following a prescribed plan of their life based on what society, their family or their community has modeled for them. No one can know for certain what lays ahead for any one of us, but we can put the odds in our favor. We can investigate individuals who have while maybe not having pursued the exact path we are choosing to walk along, have, for example, chosen the entrepreneurial path. We can look to them for the obstacles they maneuvered around and outcomes they attained. Different times combined with different people and talents will render a different outcome each time, but you are the constant. And when you know with clarity where and why you are choosing your path, the outcome doesn't have to be readily visible, but your confidence to step forward does need to be present.

3. Running into obstacles

They will happen. Guaranteed. But as I shared in my conversation on Afternoon Live last week with regards to sticking to your New Year's resolutions, often the universe is double-checking to make sure you indeed want what you say you want. Be sure to have a look at that particular segment to hear more about this inevitable moment.

4. Evolution of your mind and habits

Last week I took a moment to contemplate what my life was like 10 years ago, and I immediately recognized that I could not have predicted in ANY way where I am today and what I am doing. It was only 9 years ago that I began the blog, but 10 years ago if you would have told me I would have not only a blog, a podcast, a vodcast and working on my second book while officially setting up my business as a corporation, I would have been perplexed (in other words, I might have said "what's a vodcast?"). This truth, this "bill" is an exciting bill to pay because it is growth. It is each of us stepping into our full potential and sharing with the world what we uniquely have to offer. We do not often know what it is the world needs and what precisely we can give when we begin, but we figure it out along the way and we figure out the growth we would like to undergo as well in order to achieve what we see as necessary and possible.

5. A trust in your vision that is unwavering

I was recently listening to the second season of the podcast "Making . . . " on WBEZ Chicago (their first season focused on Oprah). Focusing on Obama and his years leading up to the Presidency, the first episode dives into his time as a community organizer and why he chose from that experience to pursue public service. His decision was predicated on the reality that in order to help the people in the African American communities of Chicago and around the country, they needed a voice. From the time in 1984 (he graduated from Columbia University in 1983) upon taking the organizer's job (which paid $12K/year) through this three year time period, his purpose never waivered, he just realized he had to change the methods to making the change plausible. You too will adjust as you make your way toward your dream. You will come to realize that the initial approach you began with is no longer serving the purpose you had hoped it would, and so you will tweak your method. So long as you trust your vision, how you change it won't matter or that you changed it, what will matter is that you remained laser focused on why you are making the changes. The word "bills" is not one we enjoy seeing unless we are the ones being paid, but the truth is that whether we pay with our time, our tenacity, or our money, when we invest wisely with clarity of purpose, the dream will be realized in its own time. Hang in there and you too, like Caroline Wozniacki will find yourself in disbelief, but at the same time reassured, that your journey, your effort and your sincere desire was right on track and on time. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Give Yourself Permission to Be Awkward, episode #185

~The Benefits of Having a Mission Statement & How to Create Your Own, episode #173

~How to Build a Life for Ladybugs: Choosing Hope Over Fear, episode #154

 

Petit Plaisir

~The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love by Jenna Birch

~Look for her be a guest on this podcast, Monday March 5th, episode #198 ~Read many of Jenna Birch's articles and columns here ~Check out Jenna's website    

Sponsor of this week’s episode: Lifesum

~Visit the Top Ranked Health & Fitness app and receive 30% off the Premium Membership. ~Visit lifesum.com/simple

 
 

 

Images of Caroline Wozniacki via The Australian and Steve G Tennis; Jenna Birch author pic via JennaBirch.com

Direct download: 1955billsdream.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #193
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube

"Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be." —Shonda Rhimes

In order to feel good in one's skin (or to feel well in one's skin as the French state it, bien dans sa peau), we first must know what skin we are inhabiting. However, it is not about what we see on the surface, but rather what talents, curiosities and passions are within us waiting to be discovered. I clarify this distinction because the other day someone made the common statement about finding ease within oneself, and they described it as "becoming comfortable in one's skin". I immediately responded and shared that at least for me, it doesn't feel so much as a "trying to make something feel better", but rather an exploration of what and who I truly have the potential to become, what I truly value, what I innately am capable of, etc. And so it has instead been a journey of discovering "what my skin was" so to speak. The journey of discovery for each of us will have different lengths, different shedding of exterior skins placed upon us and even skins we placed upon ourselves as we believed we weren't enough just as we are. When I came across Shonda Rhimes' quote, it spoke to me immediately. Here is a woman who has built her own production company inspired by her passion to write, to tell stories. Who, as a self-described introvert, shares in her book Year of Yes how she transformed her life by stepping into it and enabling herself to be her own person. In her commencement address to the graduates of Dartmouth in 2014 she shared a speech titled "Dreams are for Losers", and she nailed it. She shares many anecdotes but her revelation about initially dreaming of being a Nobel Prize winning author ... Toni Morrison ... to be more precise, is a point that caught my attention. As she points out, Toni Morrison already had that job, and Shonda had to be who she was and was meant to be. Funny enough, Rhimes eventually had the opportunity to have dinner with Morrison. And do you know what Morrison wanted to talk to Rhimes about? Grey's Anatomy. Case in point, your journey is unique, so just keep striving forward and stop dreaming. Just do. The bigger question is how. How do we each become who we were meant to be?

1. Step away from your life

Often it can be difficult to give a true and helpful life assessment while we're in the middle of living it. Sonif it is possible, step away from the daily routine, step away even from the town you live in for a short duration - a weekend, but better yet a week, and if at all possible a good month (hello, a grand vacation!). I do often find that I am able to assess my life more fairly when I go on vacation. I come back with a clear perspective of what is a priority and what is not, the worries that I can let go of and what changes I need to make, as well as the relationships that matter and the ones that just don't. When we step away, we also step away from the people we hear on a regular basis telling us what they think and perhaps what we should think, and therefore, we begin to think on our own. Better yet, if you are in a foreign country and the language is not your own, you can't be influenced by what anyone is saying because you do not know what they are saying. In all sincerity, in order to clear the outside influences, even your own assumed preferences, step away and outside of your daily life and just be with yourself. Journaling out your thoughts is also something I have found that helps me make sense of what I am feeling. Not that I will find an answer, but I will have to think through what is going through my mind because I have to write it on the page.

2. Allow yourself to feel the fear and do not run from it

I can remember vividly when I went to France for the first time as a 20-year-old college junior. I was to be there for a month. It would be the first time in a foreign country in which I didn't know the language well (if at all), and my first time traveling by myself beyond just a day or weekend trip. I was ecstatic. I had been dreaming about this experience for months. Upon my arrival, once the jet lag wore off, I experienced emotions I had never experienced, and it was uncomfortable to say the least. Little did I know was that I was growing, I was stretching. And part of the reason it brought tears to my eyes during my calls home (of which were few as it was a different day and age) was because it was seemingly painful. Well, it seemed painful in the moment, but it was simply new and simply put, full of unknowns. I have shared before that sometime during that trip, even though I was extremely delighted to come home, upon reflection, I realize I was broken open. And I am so thankful I was.

3. Shed the layers

As I was watching an interview with Sharon Stone recently on CBS Sunday Morning, she shared an observation that hit home for me: Women of a certain generation (alluding to her own - the Baby Boomer and before her) were raised to be accommodating. And finally I understood why I was so perplexed by my parents' relationship and how their approach never felt right for me. While my mom and dad are the only two people who can say and know whether they are happy or not, for me, a young girl who was raised to do her best in sports and extracurriculars as well as school, there was a reason relationships didn't last long for me because the accommodating (which was the only model I had witnessed in my childhood) limited what I knew I was capable of as an individual, let alone in a relationship. Yes, it took me over 30 years to understand that this layer was one I needed to shed, but it's gone finally, and I can breathe much deeper now as I am aware of what values a partnership needs to embody for me to step into a commitment. Now this is just one example of a layer that needs to be shed, but there are many more. Upon closer examination we can identify them, but they are easy to miss if we just go about our lives as we are expected. As a woman here are a few more that have come to my attention: that I must be covetous, desired and sexually appealing, that I am supposed to have children because women supposedly are innately nurturing (please read this study by the American Psychology Association on the realities of how society conditions both men and women) and that career paths are better suited for certain genders. All of these and so many more are myths and layers that need to be shed so that your true and brightest light can shine, offering the world what only you can innately give. (Much more is shared in the podcast on this point. I would encourage you to listen if this issue caught your attention.)

4. Follow your curiosity

In many ways, our curiosity is our Linus blanket. In other words our security, our foundation that we can trust when it comes to knowing where to take our lives. As I shared last year in a post about our unique journeys and knowing how to navigate them successfully,

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.” —Joseph Campbell

We cannot know what hasn't been written. We write our journey to become who we are truly capable of becoming by trusting our inner compass, by trusting our curiosity. So follow the simple, yet significant wonders of your heart. Be brave enough to step out and try something grand that no one else you know as attempted. For when you do, you gain information about where to go next, and that is part of the journey toward yourself.

5. Read, experience, observe

I recently read an article encouraging more reading as an everyday habit. Speaking about Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, one quote that was shared was stated by Charlie Munger - self-made billionaire & Warren Buffett’s longtime business partner, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none. Zero” and he has a point. With regards to being wise in life, but also being wise about who we can become, we need to keep learning through the books we read, the theater we enjoy, the travels we take. Information surrounds us offering guideposts as to where to go next and what we are capable of achieving. We just have to be brave enough to say there is so much more to learn in life and each of us is only getting started.

6. Attain the skills necessary

Susan Hermann Loomis shared in episode #192 the reason she went to cooking school in France was that she wanted to learn from the best. If she was going to do something, she was going to do it right and well, thus France or Japan came to mind, and France was her choice.

7. Follow Shonda Rhimes' advice: Just keep moving forward

With each step forward, as we follow our curiosities, as we do what we have to do, as we let go of what no longer is serving us, we bring ourselves ever closer to where we are meant to be. Let go of the desire to have absolute control of your life and you will unlock the greatest gift of discovery: who you were truly meant to be. The world swirls around us, seemingly at breakneck speeds it can seem, but we are the constant in the whirlwind. When we ground ourselves in our truth and understanding of who we are and what we can offer to the world, we may bend every so slightly, but we will be strong enough to reach our destination even if we don't know where we are heading as we put one foot in front of the other. I too am stepping what feels like somewhat blindly forward. However, I am following what provokes my curiosity, I am following the creative ideas that pop up when I least expect it or can't explain to the outside world as to why they arrived. And with each step, with each book, with each experience, the exterior layers that are not me are being left behind and the journey is all the more enjoyable and my confidence gradually strengthens that I am traveling the right path. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Give Yourself Permission to Be Awkward, episode #185

~The Importance of Finding Contentment, episode #181

~How to Let Go of Self-Imposed Limitations, episode #186

Petit Plaisir

~Remodelista, The Organized Home: Simple, Stylish Storage Ideas for All Over the House by Julie Carlson and Margot Guralnick

~Remodelista blog post worth reading . . . The Organized Pantry: 8 Rules for Decanting Dried Goods ~See how I put some of the ideas shared in the book to work in my kitchen: 9 Ways to Organize Your Kitchen, Improve Your Health & Help Out the Planet

Sponsor of this week’s episode: Lifesum

~Visit the Top Ranked Health & Fitness app and receive 30% off the Premium Membership. ~Visit lifesum.com/simple Download the Episode

Direct download: 193BecomeYou.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 1:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #188
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

"But I love New Year's Day, because I can never get over the generosity of the fact that we all get a BRAND NEW YEAR, totally for FREE — with no dents, or dinks, or mistakes yet. It's the ultimate REFRESH button." —Elizabeth Gilbert

With 2018 just two weeks away, I am, as I am with each new years, inclined to be quite excited for a fresh start. No matter what the current year shared with me, surprised or delighted me with, the gift of a chance to improve is a priceless opportunity that only arrives once every 365 days. And so, I readily choose to seize it and apply what I have learned over the past 12 months and put it to practice, to improve upon who I reveal myself to be the previous year. As I look ahead to the new year with plans to finally get back to France since far too long ago (2013), I couldn't help but look to my collection of French living and culture books which I didn't fully realized is as plentiful as it turned out to be in my personal library (a sampling captured recently of many of my French themed books) for inspiration as to how to step forward into 2018. Below I've gathered 18 quotes of wisdom, insights and inspiration for beginning anew, renewed and brilliantly rested and ready to make 2018 the year we wish it to be.

You Know More Than You Realize

1."a quarter to a third of all English words come from French, and good thing; otherwise, learning this language would be even harder than it is." —William Alexander in Flirting with French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me & Nearly Broke My Heart  

Read Books Like You Need Them to Breathe

2. "France retains a reverence for the printed book. As independent bookstores crash and burn in the United States, the market here is healthier, largely thanks to government protections that treat the stores as national treasures . . . in France, booksellers —including Amazon —may not discount books more than 5 percent below the publisher's list price." —Elaine Sciolino in The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs  

The Gift of a Balanced Life is a Beautiful Life to Savor

3. "So here is a trilogy: food/movement/know thyself. Again, these are important elements in my life and also in the lives of French women who don't get fat (and perhaps do not want or need facelifts)." —Mireille Guiliano in French Women Don't Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style & Attitude   

Trust Your Journey, and As You Travel, Just Be Yourself

4. "'Seize the moment . . . pay attention to your life right now' . . . What I failed to see, sitting around the coffee table on those nights, was the possibility that I didn't have to keep looking for a family to belong to; I could create one of my own. I had conflated my deep need to belong to something bigger than myself with a more superficial need to fit in, to look and dress and act like others. But fitting in is not belonging. This seems so clear now, but at the time I didn't understand the difference. I was still floating between New York and Paris, at least in the sense that my identity was tied to both cities. I lived in New York and worked at a New Yorker's pace, but I couldn't let go of Paris —Paris, which had shaped me more deeply than college or even my Manhattan childhood. Returning to Paris felt as if I was reawakening some part of myself that had been asleep since I'd left." —Kate Betts in My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine  

On Style: Mix It Up

5. "Forget the 'total look.' Frenchwomen love to mix and match. Pascale Camart, womenswear buying manager for the Galeries Lafayette, told me that having designer labels next to ordinary ones on the same floor was 'on purpose. The Frenchwoman likes to put different things together.' The Parisienne, she says, doesn't buy evening dresses. She sticks with basics and then finds the one distinctive jacket or scarf or top that will make the ensemble a knockout." —Harriet Welty Rochefort in Joie de Vivre: Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing Like the French  

The Importance of Elevating the Everyday

6. " You don't go overboard, exhausting yourself over the holidays when you make every day an occasion for friendship and family, fun and celebration." —Jamie Cat Callan in Bonjour, Happiness: Secrets to Finding Your Joie de Vivre  

Choose Quality in Your Food and in Your Life to Elevate the Experience

7. "Édith Piaf famously sang, Non, je ne regrette rien ('No, I regret nothing'). Although I have my share of regrets, using good chocolate to make a soufflé is never one of them." —David Lebovitz in L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home  

Let Your Body Tell You What It Needs and Listen

8. "She knows exactly what she has 'a taste' for, and once she's had enough, that's it. She eats what she wants, when she wants it, until she is satisfied. Food is not a moral or emotional issue for her. She does not describe foods as good or bad; to her they are neutral, just food." —Carol Cottrill in The French Twist: Twelve Secrets of Decadent Dining and Natural Weight Management  

The Essence of Real Beauty Goes Beyond the Surface

9. "Style without substance is unacceptable, largely because it's boring, one-dimensional. In France, it's inadmissible to provoke ennui. Real style is built upon a solid foundation of informed intelligence, quick wit, and an impressive panopoly of culture references. One must hold her own in a lively conversation. The essence of beauty is to continue educating oneself and constantly to learn something new. Simply put: these are the keys to eternal youth." Tish Jett in Forever Chic: Frenchwomen's Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance  

Keep Persevering to Create More 'Luck' in Your Life

10. "Persevering is often not simply a matter of working hard and refusing to quit; often, by trying again, failing again, and failing better, we inadvertently place ourselves in the way of luck. Yet another reason to keep on keeping on." —Karen Karbo in Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life  

Cooking Need Not Be Complicated & Thus an Necessary Element of Socializing Well in Everyday Life

11. "Yes, Parisians have more fun when they go out. But they're also ten times less likely to eat out. And in Paris, there's no ordering in —you cook. It's simple cooking, really: You can have five friends over, create a fast, delicious pasta with zucchini and mint. Or you just buy cheese, figs, wine and call it a night." — Garance Doré in Love, Style, Life  

Opening Your World to Other Languages & Cultures Deepens Appreciation and Perspective

12. "Linguists call America 'the graveyard of languages' because of its singular ability to take in millions of immigrants and extinguish their native languages in a few generations. A study of thirty-five nations found that 'in no other country . . . did the rate of the mother tongue shift toward (English) monolingualism approach the radity of that found in the United States.' Immigrants to America lose languages quickly; natives of America fail to acquire them. Only 18 percent of American schoolchildren are enrolled in foreign language courses, while 94 percent of European high-school students are studying English." —Lauren Collins in When in French: Love in a Second Language  

Incorporate the Arts into Your Life

13. "As often as you can, take an evening off and seek out the arts. Attend the ballet, visit an art show at your local coffee shop, go see an independent theatre, attend a symphony performance or a rock concern. These moments are often too few and far between, especially when family and work life seem to always come first. Indulging in the pleasure of the arts feels decadent and is a magnificent way to recharge your soul. Purchase your tickets in advance. Knowing that you are going to attend the ballet in three weeks gives you something delightful to look forward to." — Jennifer L. Scott in At Home with Madame Chic  

Luck is Hard Earned

14. "In truth, her luck was not yet finished. Not even close. These two daring shipments were to make her one of the most famous women in Europe and her wine one of the most highly prized commodities of the nineteenth century. As Louis told her, it was a succes born out of 'your judicious manner of operating, your excellent wine, and the marvelous similarity of your ideas, which produced the most splendid unity and action and execution — we did it well, and I give a million thanks to the bounty of the divine Providence who saw fit to make me one of his instrument in your future well-being . . . certainly you merit all the glory possible after your misfortunes, your perseverance, and your obvious talents.'" —Tilar J. Mazzeo in The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It  

On What Is Worth Appreciating and Savoring

15. "The weight of history means that the French don't wipe the slate clean to make way for progress the way Americans do. Because of their centuries-old attachment to the land, restriction is their second nature, not expansion. The French have completely different ideas about what's public and what's private, and those ideas influence how they think about money, morality, eating, manners, conversation, and even political accountability. The French glorify what's elevated and grand, not what's common and accessible. They value form as much as content. And finally, they created many of their instituions to try to deal with the after-affects of two major wars. These factors don't add up to a neat picture that diametrically opposes French and Anglo-Americans. They just explain a lot about why the French think the way they do. Unless Americans recognize these differences, they will never understand the French." —Jean-Benoît Nadeau & Julie Barlow in Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong: Why We Love France, but Not the French  

Stop and Nourish Your Body & Mind Daily

16. "No matter how fraught our workload, we stop and have a proper meal. It helps us calm our brains and bodies, and we know we will work more efficiently afterward." —Mathilde Thomas in The French Beauty Solution: Time-Tested Secrets to Look and Feel Beautiful Inside and Out  

The Importance of Quality Living for the Individual Living It, Not for Outward Applause

17. "Ambition—another virtue that becomes a vice when taken too seriously. Time is not money for the French. It's an ephemeral currency and should be spent doing the things that make life worth living. Remember, the French woman might have an acute sense of breveity of time and the immediacy of pleasure; that said, she also has a strong predilection to enjoy not only the finer things in life but the things that make life fine." —Debra Ollivier in What French Women Know: About Love, Sex and Other Matters of the Heart and Mind  

Let Your Dreams Lead the Way and Never Stop Striving Forward

18. "Willa Carter believed that if you have a wish for something from a young age and you nourish it, if you continually make an effort to nurture this wish and stay connected to this dream, then you will live a fulfilled life. If you believe in something, it invests everything you do with meaning. Paris has always stayed with me, close to me, and I've continually felt nourished by it." —Kate Betts in My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine   At the core of living well is appreciating the value of now and tempering longings and future hopes so that we are soley living in the future. Our lives are indeed right now. Just for a moment, examine where you were in your life one year ago today, now five years ago, now 10. Could you have precisely known where you would be when looking toward the future as your younger self? The future is exciting, but as many of the sage words remind, it is often the simple, the patient and present that make life truly fulfilling. Thank you for stopping by, and remember to stop by next Monday when the Top Episodes of 2017 will be shared. A new episode will return on Monday January 1st with Francophile author Jamie Cat Callan (her new book Parisian Charm School: French Secrets for Cultivating Love, Joy and that Certain je ne sais quoi will be released on January 2, 2018) as well as an excited giveaway for listeners and readers (hint: it is something for your kitchen). ~Tune in to French-Living inspired posts/episodes from the Archives: ~#4: 10 Ways to Unearth Your Inner Francophile ~#23: The French Way: How to Create a Luxurious Everyday Life ~#32: The Francophile Style Guide: The 14 Essentials ~#96: Everyday Living in France - My Interview with Sharon Santoni ~#127: 20 Ways to Live Like a Parisienne ~#144: 20 Ways to Incorporate Your Love for the French Culture into Your Everyday ~#151: 10 Style Tips to Embrace the French Woman's Approach to Effortless Chic ~#155: 6 Life Lessons for Living Well from Julia Child ~#167: My Good Life in France: Author Janine Marsh ~#168: Everyday Living with Author & Blogger Sharon Santoni ~#169: Understanding the French Culture: My Interview with Géraldine Lepere of Comme une Française ~#182: David Leibovitz Talks About Making Paris His Home   ~Check out the new addition to TSLL destination: The Simply Luxurious Kitchen. Have a look at the pilot episode below and learn more about this new venture into vodcasting in which we will focus on "Seasonal fare to elevate the everyday meal" here.

 

 

Petit Plaisir:

~Salmon en Papillote (Salmon in Paper) - view the entire recipe here

 

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Download the Episode

Direct download: 188FrenchLessons.mp3
Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #187
~Subscribe to The Simple SophisticateiTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio

~The following episode/post is part of the year-long series Welcoming in the Quality in 2017, One Month at a Time. To view other monthly topics touching on all arenas of our lives from style to money to eating well, click here Upon stepping off the plane at Heathrow last month and wandering into the Devon countryside for a week, I also drastically limited my access to American news. My focus was initially on successfully arriving at my destinations, not missing my train, exploring desired sites and soaking in all of the beauty of the landscape and the culture. While I did turn on the BBC from time to time out of curiosity of what Britain's culture was focused on and their observations as an outsider of American news, I did so for brief windows of time each morning and evening. Stepping out of my routine of regularly having news radio on in the background while working and scanning my social media, which prior to my trip contained a long list of news sources that I would frequently check out throughout the day happening without conscious intention initially, and going about my days with this new unconscious habit revealed a lightness about my day that I haven't experienced for some time. Due to this observation upon arriving back in the states, I set out to revamp how I took in the news. Now at this point in the post, some readers may be nodding their heads and going so far as to say, "I never read/watch/view the news. It's so depressing." And while, yes, it can be tempting to refrain from all sources of news and go about our days in our own bubble, I would advise that it would be dangerous to do so. As I have shared in 2012, staying abreast of current events is, at its core, crucial to being an informed citizen. And to toss away the power to be able to think critically is a foundational component of living well and creating a world for ourselves and around us now and in the future that we wish to live. In 2020, the United States will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment (women's suffrage), and to understand the struggle and suppression women fought to rise above should never be forgotten. Our voices are reflected in our vote and with such a powerful responsibility, we must stay informed. However, there is a healthy balance to be struck, and while I do need to stay abreast of the news for my teaching curriculum as well as for my own knowledge, I became determined to find a better way of staying informed without decreasing the quality of my life. In a study by the University of Sussex, researchers found that indeed viewing negative news has a negative effect on our well-being. However, as it is important to remain an informed citizen, how does one balance the two? The effect of negative news:

  • exacerbates personal worries and anxieties
  • begin to catastrophize your worries — when you think about a worry so persistently that you begin to make it seem much worse than it was at the outset and much worse than it is in reality
  • begin to think and talk about your worries far more

As mentioned above, I wrote a post regarding the benefits of staying abreast of the current events of the day, and the last reason is a point I want to break down and examine today: become an educated citizen. It can be tempting to ignore news all together. The positive effects on your mind, and lightness of being will be immediately felt as I discovered during my week long holiday in England. But, when we say no to all news, we also say no to progress, not only improving our own lives, but the lives of those we love, the lives of the generations which will come after us and the quality of life and the quality of the world and the environment of which we call home. There is a reason the founding fathers chose to organize a representative government rather than a direct democracy. They didn't trust the common man (or woman as it eventually became her right) to choose well when it came to elections. In other words, they didn't feel the public was educated enough on matters they would be making decisions. And while we should all have the right to vote as free and fair elections are the cornerstone of a democratic society, we wouldn't want ignorant voters to place a vote based on lack of understanding of how a particular system of government works. Below are a few reasons to not run away from the news all together:

  • improve critical thinking skills
    • observe bias
    • determine credibility
    • begin to think objectively
    • understand most issues involve a lot of grey and are not merely black and white
  • change can only occur when we know what is actually going on and thus understand what and how to change it
  • enables you to form your own opinion
  • cast a vote that supports the world you want to see materialize
  • holds those in power accountable

So while yes, the peace I so deeply enjoyed while traveling was something I wanted to return home with, I also knew a balance needed to be struck, as there are many benefits: The Benefits of a Healthy Balance:

  • reduce stress
  • broaden perspective
  • more emotional energy to focus on priorities
  • better sleep
  • healthier relationships
  • confidence in decisions in upcoming elections

Each of us will make different changes, so it is important to understand ourselves and how/why we do welcome excessive news into our lives. With the first suggestion, we will drill down to the core of the shift that needs to be made and then follow with eight more ideas for striking a healthy balance that elevates the quality of your everyday without leaving you in the dark.

1.Become aware of the changes you wish to make and why

Come to understand the cue and why you respond the way you do. What is the reward you think you are going to receive? Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Charles Duhigg wrote The Power of Habit, and within the book he explains how habits occur and how to break them if they are not serving us well. It comes down to understanding the three part cycle: Cue, Reward, Routine (see the detailed graphic here). Part of why I turn on the radio, the news, or scan my social media to stay apprised of current events, is that it is part of my routine. Within in that routine, I am seeking a particular outcome. In other words, I am craving something that I think this habit will satisfy. Once I identified that I wanted to learn, and knowing that this routine is not procurring the outcome I actually desire, I can shift the routine. But first, I needed to understand the cue that shifted my attention to feeling the need to stay aware or learn something. Also, in some moments during the day (because he suggests looking at the time of day in which the habit takes place), it was merely to have background company while I worked. Understanding these three components is a significant step toward altering the habit that you've discovered, in this case watching, reading or hearing too much news. In the following steps we'll talk about how to create new habits that satiate the craving.

2. Understand the tactics and all the purposes of the news business

While yes, the news is meant to inform (find the who, what, when, where and the why), the networks/channels need to keep you watching as each station is funded by advertiser dollars (BBC and PBS being exceptions) and thus, need to keep your eyeballs on the television for as long as possible. Often the "why" is something that cannot be answered immediately; however, the anchors would like you to think they can find the answer: the answer will reveal itself with the next guest that will be chatting in the next segment, and that is one way to keep you tuned in.

3. Adjust the sites, channels you view

Either view a neutral news site or challenge yourself to view the opposing columnists, news sites, opinions and commentaries to better understand their argument. One assignment I give my rhetoric students each year is to read a columnist who leans to the left on political issues (domestic and international) for the first semester, followed by reading a columnist from the opposing side the second (have a look at the list here - I am always adding to and tweaking it). I too continue to read columnists from the left and right to better understand the issues at a level that is far deeper than the short talking points shared in headlines, comment sections, etc. Often, what I find is that I become a bit calmer after reading the opposition (credible source is a must) as the fear mongering has been reduced and I am able to better understand why the other side adheres to their ideology on a particular topic. Another site I would recommend you checking out to view multiple sides of issues is a source our school's librarian has shared with our staff: AllSides. As you will see, it is organized just as the name alludes: each column is placed on its respective place on the continuum, so you can have at your fingertips, multiple sources and opinions about a current event topic.

4. Welcome a deeper understanding of history into your reading repetoire

Part of the fear and angst that intensifies is due to a lack of knowledge of what has happened in the past. A deep understanding. The cause, the effect. It's one thing to memorize the dates of events, but its another to understand the catalyst that led to the event occurring and the outcome that followed. This takes time. This requires more than a viewing of a three minute segment on the news. Pick up a book on a topic that interests you that has parallels to the issues that matter to you and dive deep into the archives of history.

5. Adjust how you receive the news

Perhaps turning off the notifications on your phone is the first step toward change that will limit your stress. Then look to how you are receiving the news: social media or newspapers; radio or television? Often we take in news without being prepared to receive it. In other words, we are passive receivers of the news - we are letting the news come to us when it wants to arrive. Instead, choose to be an active receiver. Choose when and how you will receive the news of the day. I prefer the radio and the newspaper as I have more control as to when I am ready to learn what is going on in the world. I recently went through my Twitter account and unfollowed nearly 100 different people who were associated with news or world events that typically shared information that stressed me out to read. Now my feed contains primarily inspiring, trusted and less inflammatory sources of individuals. I also have chosen to receive a daily news email that arrives in my inbox each morning (rather than alerts), so that I can determine when I see the news and prepare myself for it, read it, and move forward with my day. Most major news sites have an email subscription service like this. Some even have daily podcast episodes: short and current - such as NPR's Up First app (10 minute rundown each weekday morning with the Morning Edition team).  The Daily Skimm is another great news source to receive the headlines of the day upon waking up to start your day. Another idea that will also tickle your interest of other cultures is to read the news through the lense of another country. Part of the reason I enjoyed the news a bit more in England was the distance and perspective an outsider gave to the perceived pressing issues of the United States.

6. Set a time limit

One show I thoroughly enjoy each week is Sunday's Weekend Edition on NPR: the puzzle with Will Shortz, the music and book interviews, as well as a glance at world and domestic news and politics. Also, CBS's Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley. However, once I've heard or viewed them, the radio and television goes off and I enjoy my leisurely or project-driven day to do as I please without rachetting up the worry.

7. Satiate your need for learning with other non-news sources

As I mentioned at the top of the post, part of the reason I sought out the news was to continue my learning, but as I knew but didn't apply, there are many other ways and sources to garner knowledge. Perhaps you have a list of blogs you read each morning or once a week, or maybe you view a particular show or public television program that tickles your fancy for travel or history or antiques or art or the list could go on for some time which means there is a wealth of ways we can welcome knowledge into our lives. Carve out time for these activities as they are a healthy choice for living well and staying informed.

8. Take action

Often part of the reason the abundance of news we receive overwhelms us is that we feel helpless. And while we may not be a politician or an individual who holds a seat in government at the moment, why not do something that supports the cause or causes you believe in. Begin by donating or volunteering your time, but in all sincerity, why not consider running for an office locally? Or if you are someone who prefers to stay behind the scenes, investigate who is running for offices in your local community, state or your state's federally elected senate and representative seats and see how you can support them.

9. Find alternatives to replace previous news viewing/listening/reading moments

Classical music, walking, reading a different section of the newspaper, reading deeper more investigative articles rather than viewing snippets on the news, all of these are ideas I incorporate into my life and now I have added a few more. I recently shared on Instagram Stories that I found the app I have been looking for for months: WRTI, a classical and jazz music station based in Philadelphia (an NPR affiliate). The primary reason I am most a fan of this app is that it has an alarm clock to enable me to wake up to classical music rather than the news radio app I used to use or a beeping sound (it also has a sleep timer). I tend to listen to classic music in the morning and jazz during my work day. If you have found alternatives that are working for you, please do share, as each of us will design the balance of staying informed and reducing stress thereby elevating the overall quality of our lives in our own unique way, and the more ideas, the more options to see what might work best. While my shift is fairly recent and I will continue to share my progress and the changes I observe, I have already noticed a return (or maintenance) of the lightness I so enjoyed while exploring and relaxing in the English countryside. I am certain we all can strike the right balance so long as we know how. And in so doing, continuing to fine tune the dial, we will find the precise spot that works best for us individually.   ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~A Thinking Life = A Happy Life

~Why Not . . . Spend Time in Nature?

~15 Everyday Habits to Live a Life of Contentment (episode #93)

 

Petit Plaisir:

My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories by David Lebovitz

~read this post by David of the process of My Paris Kitchen finally coming to publication ~Listen to my interview with David Leibovitz (episode #182) about his recent book L'Appart in which the purchase and renovation of his now Paris apartment which took place while he was trying to write and publish My Paris Kitchen.  

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Category:lifestyle -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

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