Mon, 27 November 2017
By default we choose comfort over a better life, but we don’t think that is what we’re doing. We think we are choosing the better life. Why? We don’t know what or how the “better life” will unfold, but we do at least know what is somewhat okay.
For example, we may have gathered up the gumption to let go of a partner because the person we were becoming or the life that was evolving was shrinking or limiting or unhealthy in a myriad of ways, but after a few weeks or months or maybe even a few years, we think, well, at least I know how it will unfold. At least I know.
Another example is the job that doesn’t excite us, but it pays decently or enough and at least we know we have a job; we have a rhythm, even if that rhythm includes complaining more than we are cheering.
Yet another, our weight is not what we know it should or could be, but we are comfortable with our daily eating and exercise habits. We like the food we are eating, and yes, the food we eat brings comfort, even if we know it doesn’t bring us the best health for our body and mind.
Let me share two more examples: the location on this planet we call home. Yes, we can make wherever we are home, but maybe it is too much or too little. Too unkempt or too parochial. Too noisy or unstimulating. But, we think to ourselves, at least we know how the days will unfold, who we will run into in the streets, how to drive on the left or right side of the road, how much are property taxes will be each month or how much our rent will be from month to month.
Lastly, our attitude. The words we utter, the thoughts we allow to pop up unsupervised often become a default, and because we know how to navigate in our world with these thoughts, we keep allowing them to have their way. Even if we know we may be a bit too snarky, sarcastic, cynical or negative about the likelihood of unknowns, at least we won’t be made a fool. At least those around us know what to expect, and we know what to expect of their reaction.
Since it is the holiday season, I would like to say, and feel free to join me in doing so, bah humbug! Bah humbug to each of these comforts and most certainly more that I could share that limit us, that stand in the way of living a better life that allows us to experience reaching our fullest potential.
How can we step out of the comfort zone of each of these? By giving ourselves permission to feel awkward.
As many of you know who virtually came along with me on my weeklong trip to England either via Instagram, Facebook or here on the blog, the trip was full of beautiful experiences. And many of these experiences were opportunities to feel awkward.
Never before had I rented a car in a foreign country, let alone drove on the left side of the road and in the car. Never before had I traveled internationally during the holiday season, never before had I ventured outside of the metropolis of London.
Now for those of you who may have had the opportunity to do any or all of these opportunities, they may seem simple, easy, and/or nothing to stress one’s self about. But to others who have never done them, the response may be quite different. Why? Because we see the comfortable life, the good life, the better life, through our own experience.
Some readers who have always wanted to get out of the city and explore the countryside may be daunted by the idea of having to drive in a foreign country in order to spend time in a lovely rustic cottage, or others may dismiss international travel at all, but the truth is, if the only reason you don’t do what you wish to do, long to do, is because it will be uncomfortable and full of unknowns, most likely putting you in a position to feel and appear very awkward, that is actually the sign you need to see. Because that is precisely the new venture that will open your world up and reveal to you a better and more amazing way of life that you couldn’t have imagined if you only kept dreaming.
While my experiences in England are timely for me and with the fresh feeling of feeling awkward (I drove quite slow on the narrow, beautiful country farm-lined roads), this is just one example of how giving yourself permission to feel awkward is the right choice.
Let’s go back to the list of examples I talked about at the top of the post.
Relationships. If you are used to being in a relationship, having a partner, and after months or years of being together, you are no longer in each others’ lives, for some it will be awkward to be alone. I would argue for most of us it will be awkward depending upon how long we’ve been with our partner. But again, allow yourself to feel the awkwardness. Revel in it, dance it, laugh about it, journal about it and then step into it and eventually you will step through it. After time passes, you will look back on your old journal entries, recognize the discomfort you were feeling, but also see that such feelings, while natural, were simply part of the process of growing, of expanding into the life you wanted to live, were capable of living, even though there were many unknowns in front of you.
Yes, it would have been easy for me to say, nope, I cannot go to England, stay in the dream country cottage I discovered (more on the details of this cottage on December 15) during the holidays because it isn’t fair to leave my dogs with a dog sitter, who travels alone on the holidays and I don’t want to worry about driving as the English. But instead I said yes. I said yes, and as someone who does know the experience of things not going as we might have hoped, I was truly fortunate for my plans to unfold beautifully and even exceed my expectations.
And that is the gift of giving yourself permission to feel awkward: you discover how beautiful the world can be in reality and not just in your dreams, you discover strengths and preferences you may not have been sure about regarding yourself, you begin to trust people and the world again (or at least a little bit more after considerable vetting – doing your homework truly does pay off), and you build a deeper appreciation for life and the clarity of the life you want to build.
So whether you are allowing yourself to feel awkward trying a new sport, taking a more challenging fitness class, stepping into a new career, meeting a new person or trying to become more comfortable with your own company, know that feeling awkward as you begin the journey is a brilliant sign that you doing exactly what you should.
~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
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Mon, 20 November 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #184
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube
~Natural History Museum Ice Rink, London~
The holidays can be glorious and overwhelming at the same time, magnificent and demanding, joy-filled and draining. And since the holidays of Thanksgiving for Americans and a handful of religious and non-religious commemorations will take place in December for people around the globe each year, it is best to navigate an approach that enables the annual celebration to be something to anticipate with excitement. It will be three times this Thanksgiving that I have enjoyed either the turkey holiday or Christmas in a unique fashion: on my own. Each time in the past it was a choice and each time it was an opportunity to explore or take part in something or a way of life I had not experienced. As a teacher, there are few times besides the summer months in which a vacation is allowed, and so I have become more and more inclined to use the week off for Thanksgiving and the two weeks off to end the year and begin the new year traveling, exploring and relaxing. My approach is unique as I have two furry children who will gladly celebrate the exploration of their stockings any day of the month or not at all as a calendar is not something they fuss over. And while I do have family and friends I enjoy visiting, I enjoy more intimate opportunities to spend time with them over the course of the year. Now, don't get me wrong, sitting down to gather with loved ones over a festive meal is something I not only enjoy being invited to but also being the curator of, but I also am very much appreciative of opportunity to take the hype and the expectation of "have-tos" and instead cultivate an authentic experience with people I enjoy spending time and lose track of time with. Inspired by the goal of cultivating a holiday season to eagerly look forward to and revel in from mid-November through the first of January, I came up with a list of ideas for a making a pleasurable holiday season.
1.Create your own traditions
As an adult, you may remember holiday traditions you loved and a few you begrudgingly went along with. However, now you are an adult, so why not reconsider what you want and have to do. Take a look at my thoughts on traditions here.
2. Ease into the season
If the festive season of ho-ho-ho seems to begin far too early, then set your boundary and gradually ease into the celebrations. Maybe there is a particular time when holiday music can be played or the first film can be viewed. As a way to build anticipation, make each occasion a special one: for the first movie of the season, plan a feast of comfort foods shared with close family or friends.
3. Try one new decoration idea
Michael of Inspired by Charm shared with his Instagram followers a couple of weeks ago how to decorate your holiday tree with ribbon. If this is something you've always wanted to try, go ahead and give it a shot this year. Trying something new is a challenge and an adventure and who knows what new memories and traditions it will inspire.
4. Find a wood burning fireplace and enjoy sitting next to it
Whether you are fortunate enough to have a wood-burning, cracklingly fireplace in your home or not, make a date at least once (more for me please!) to snuggle or sit next to a warm fire with something warm to sip and either an enjoyable conversation to share with someone or a book you cannot wait to dive into.
5. Locate warm gloves for everyday
Keeping your digits warm is a simple way to feel a little more cozy and soak up the snowy moments or freezing, crystal clear days. Enjoy shopping for them and trying them on as gloves are one of the easiest items we wear to try on multiplies of without spending too much time.
6. Follow Peter Mayle's Example
Having reread Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence, it was his decision to throw a holiday party for his workers just prior to Christmas in the middle of the day (his soiree began at 11am) that made me realize, why not? Not only do you have some time in the morning to prepare, but you also have time in the evening to relax and savor the gathering without the worry of the roads, darkness or freezing temperatures at night.
7. Take a walk through the neighborhood to enjoy the lights
Instead of hopping in your vehicle, even if you live far away from neighborhoods with lights, park your car in a parking lot and stroll the streets with a friend or partner. Just strolling along, all bundled up is a reminder to slow the pace of life down, take in the festive sights and become infused with the holiday spirit.
8. Keep the tree decorations simple
The boxes upon boxes of holiday decorating may be appealing to some, and at least some decorations for my home are a must to remind me each morning when I wake and afternoon when I arrive home that it is indeed the holidays, but too much can become overwhelming and turn the holidays' arrival into a chore. Keep it as streamlined, yet as festive as you wish, and don't feel bad for not putting out the set of reindeer that you feel you "have-to". Remember, you're designing a holiday approach that enables you to enjoy the holidays you are celebrating.
9. Keep the tree small
For the first time last year, I purchased a three foot tree. And the ease and pure pleasure it brought to my weekend was a change I am going to be adhering to for some time. I still paid careful attention to the ornaments and ribbon. I still strung white lights, but I saved some money and experienced no stress what-so-ever trying to put it up.
10. Learn a new holiday recipe
So many delectable, amazing recipes abound around the internet, from family members and friends that choosing just one may be difficult, but similar to trying a new decorating idea, it is a fun challenge and adventure to look forward to each year. Hey, and if it turns out, that's the icing on the cake!
11. Shop Small Business Saturday
Make a habit of shopping locally as often as possible and even on the designated Saturday after Thanksgiving here in the states. While yes, so much is available at the end of our fingertips as we peruse the internet, if we are able, why not build relationships with our neighbors as they work at their businesses and continue to strengthen the community we call home.
12. Perfect a simple holiday cocktail
Last year, I came up with a super simple cocktail recipe that is a show-stopper when it comes to looks as well. Whatever drink is your favorite, or you are looking for a favorite, always have the necessary ingredients on hand for those last-minute holiday invites of friends visiting from out-of-town to add that extra little holiday touch.
Whether you are someone who enjoys stepping into the kitchen and serving a holiday meal to your local citizens in need of a warm meal or you enjoy the ski slopes and can volunteer to tend to the local cross country runs which you frequent yourself, choose some way to give of your time as a way of showing gratitude and building a bond of kindness without seeking anything in return.
14. Select Favorite Holiday Comforts (films, music, candles, etc.)
Each of us has our holiday favorite comforts (Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack is my favorite - hands down), so make sure to carve out time to savor these comforts as a way to deepen the appreciation for this time of year. Do you have a luxurious hot chocolate recipe that you save as a special treat only to be devoured during these last few weeks of the year? Put aside any guilt and indulge. Being present in these moments of simple pleasures and comforts is a practice we can take with us throughout the rest of the year.
15. Find time to read one or two books you've been curious to read
Earlier this week I shared a list of 10 books to enjoy on your holiday travels or vacation. From novels to non-fiction, even a cookbook as well, I know during this time of year, I savor the extra minutes to enjoy more of the books I haven't found the time to read up until now.
16. Let go of the myths and expectations
The holidays are yours to make as you will. Choose to plan your calendar thoughtfully, knowing what you value, what is important and most importantly don't be afraid of saying "no". Yes, we would all most likely agree, the holidays have become far too commercialized, but we can change that with our habits. And our habits can change if we choose to do other activities that brings us the reward we associate with the holiday season: joy, contentment, love, pleasure. (Click here or here for two posts on cultivating good habits and how to break bad habits.) I recently shared with someone my plans for the Thanksgiving break (learn of my plans here), and they immediately said, "Well, that doesn't sound like Thanksgiving". But their response exemplifies exactly what was shared above, the holidays, Thanksgiving in this case, can be defined how we want them to be defined, celebrated how we want to celebrate them, but it is up to each of us to have the courage to examine why we do what we do and then allow ourselves to get excited about what works for us. I know that I am giddy to be where I am and will be on Thursday. I hope you will be too. (Discover where I am and will be this turkey day on IG - #tsllengland). See below a few pics from the trip so far.
~the skies upon arrival at Heathrow were a brilliant blue (as seen below)~
~took some time to walk and wander in the Victoria and Albert Museum~
~The Royal Albert Hall~
~My love affair with London's limestone~
~Enjoy 15% off all TSLL Notepads, Planner Pages & Signed Copies of Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman's Guide when you spend $10 or more with promo code HOLIDAY15, through Monday November 27th.
~Murder on the Orient Express
~Agatha Christie's original Murder on the Orient Express (January 1, 1934)
This episode was sponsored by the following:
Mon, 13 November 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #183
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
The arrival of the holiday issue of The English Home in my mailbox brought a larger smile to my face than previous years. As I flipped through the pages of recommendations by the editors of special holiday events in which to partake in London and around the city (Liberty London holiday windows, visiting the Borough Market, and strolling down Regent's street), I immediately began to add the ideas that caught my eye and interest to my itinerary.
After five years since my last visit to England, TSLL will be returning for the kick-off of the holiday season, and to say I am excited to do so in and around London is to only express a morsel of my eagerness to arrive in the land of Jane Austen.
As such, I am fine-tuning my preparation for international travel.
Five years ago I shared a three-part series on International Travel which is also included in TSLL's first book with further details not included on the blog. With each trip I have since taken requiring a passport, my travel experience deepens and prompts me to want to share what I have discovered.
1. Check Visa requirements and Renew Passport, if necessary
A simple check on this U.S. government website will confirm whether or not you need a Visa or merely your passport to travel to the international country on your itinerary. For example, if traveling to Australia from the U.S., you will need a Visa. A U.S. passport is valid for 10 years (five years for children under 16) and the renewal fee for an adult passport book is $110 (an additional $30 for a passport card). On the website, it states that renewals take between 4-6 weeks, but to be safe, do it at least three months in advance.
2. Apply for a TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry
One of the best $85 I spent was going through the process to receive my Known Travel Number (KTN). In fewer than five minutes in any U.S. airport, I was moved through security without having to take my shoes off or empty my bags. I do still have to run my carry-on through security, but I was able to remain clothed and not take out all of my personal items. The ease set the tone for the trip that was pleasurable and less harried. Remember to renew within five years.
Now for international travelers, the TSA Pre-Check works for our departures, but once we are abroad, we will have to go through international airport security unless we have a Global Entry number. While not all countries are a part of the Global Entry program (check here to see which are), there are certain travel frequency requirements to meet in order to obtain this status. The cost is $100 (also must be renewed every five years).
~the red smiley face was the note to the TSA security check that I was TSA Pre-Check, and I moved swiftly through the security line~
3. Reach out to your financial institutions (credit card and checking) to alert them of your travel destinations
Once you know which credit or debit cards you will be taking on your travels, call your bank to let them know where you will be traveling abroad and during which dates. Why? If you have a bank that keeps careful track of where you spend your money as to alert you to any fraudulent purchases, they could prevent your card from being used while you are in a destination you normally aren't. Simply let them know, and you will be set.
4. Pack the proper adapters and converters
In my first post regarding international travel, I recommended a brand of adapters that while they worked, I found them to be too flimsy after using them a couple of times and often they didn’t stay in the socket (the post has since been updated). So the hunt began for a new brand which I found and am happy to report is affordable and offers very sturdy adapters. Made by Ceptics and offering adapters for nearly any country you may be traveling to, I paid $7 for three adapters fit for the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. Check this post out for converters and for what purpose you will need them (most laptops convert automatically) - scroll down to #4.
5. Purchase necessary sleep aids to alleviate jet lag as much as possible
I have yet to not experience jet lag in some capacity. And even when I am convinced I am not experiencing it at the time, inevitably, upon reflection, I was. However, taking an over-the-counter sleep aid isn't a bad idea to try to sync your body on the plane sooner rather than later. Bring a sleep mask, and perhaps even change into pajamas if your flight is extra long.
6. Educate yourself about the culture
If you've never traveled to your destination, do your homework. Come to understand the customs and expectations, and if the country speaks a different language, learn the basic greetings (hello, thank you - see a more detailed list here - check out #7 on the list).
7. Check the driving license requirements
If you are planning on renting a vehicle, check to see if the country you will be driving in requires an international driving license. Some countries simply need your driver's license from the country you are from, but others are more particular. Rick Steve's writes about driving in Europe here and here is a link to AAA which will issue you an IDP for $20 (good for one year).
8. Purchase transportation passes in advance
If when you arrive you will be using the local transportation (subway, metro, tube, bus, etc.), consider purchasing in advance (if available), the necessary transportation passes. For example, London makes available in advance of your arrival their Oyster card for visitors, as well as offering discounts on the fare prices. I particularly like knowing my transporation from the airport and for the first day is taken care of as due to the lengthy travel itinerary, I am quite exhausted and merely want to arrive at my accommodations and settle in without more stress of the unknowns.
9. Pack a neat and well-stocked travel tote for toiletries
The 3.3 ounce rule applies to liquids and lotions if you are taking your travel tote in your carry-on, so pack thoughtfully. I just found these TSA approved squeezable liquid containers on Amazon which come with pre-made labels.
If you are bringing your travel tote full of toiletries and/or make-up, finding the perfect sized tote is the goal. It has taken me some time to find this item. Having gone through a rolled up cloth and mesh version and a plastic version just to name a few, I finally found a leather travel tote with a couple of different compartments and zipper pouches that fit the exact size I needed. (View my list of items for a travel tote here.) This striped toiletry tote also caught my eye.
10. Invest in sturdy and secure luggage
After going through at least three suitcases in which the handle would either be ripped off, the zipper broken or the collapsible handle becoming extremely loose, I realized I should have taken my own advice and applied it to travel luggage: invest in quality. Rimowa and Tumi are two top well-known and trusted brands making their luggage available in sturdy aluminum. I happend on a great deal last spring and purchased my Tumi at a fraction of the full-price from Neiman Marcus. Save up, and purchase what you can afford and you won't have to waste money on buying multiple pieces that don't do their job.
11. Reserve your taxis before you leave
If you will need a taxi to and from the airport as you leave your home, as well as when you arrive at your destination, make the reservations ahead of time. Peace of mind and not having to pull your luggage through the local transportation is a simple investment if you have more than a carry-on. As well, when you hop (okay, who am I kidding, after a transcontinental flight, it is more like lumbering) off the plane, seeing your name on a piece of paper with your driver waiting to take you to your accommodations with a nice soft bed is a welcome sight.
12. Prep your home
Depending upon the season and weather, tend to details of home care and home-sitting if necessary. As well, alert your mail carrier and newspaper delivery to be held or speak with a trusted neighbor to enjoy the newspaper while you are traveling.
13. Pack your carry-on
Whether you are taking an item of luggage with you as a carry-on or not, you will want to stock your travel tote that will be traveling with you on-board with the necessities. Below is a list of items to consider:
14. Confirm accommodations
Make sure you have the proper addresses, arrival times are clear, and the hotels, vacation rentals, know when you will be arriving if at a unique time.
15. Confirm Online Check-In for Flight 24-hours before departure
Most airlines allow you to check-in online from your phone/computer 24-hours in advance to expedite check-in should you just have a carry-on. Other airlines also allow you to choose your seating for free at this time as well such as British Airways.
16. Download helpful apps
From an app to help you find free wi-fi at many international airports around the world (only $1.99 - WiFox), to transportation apps for your city, as well as Uber and the airlines you will be traveling on so there will be no need for a paper ticket, download the necessary apps before you wake up early and head to the airport.
17. Now take a deep breath
You are able and ready to relax, open your mind to the many experiences that await you and enjoy your trip.
~VIEW SIMILAR TSLL POSTS ON TRAVEL HERE
~Why Not . . . Travel Internationally? Part Deux (what to pack)
~Why Not . . . Travel Internationally? Part Trois (how enjoy your visit to the fullest)
~click here for the recipe
This episode was sponsored by the following:
Mon, 6 November 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #182
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio
"Paris was always Paris, and the French were . . . well, the French. But because of what happened —j'avais mûri, I had 'ripened,' as they say." —David Lebovitz, L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home (released Tuesday November 7, 2017)
In today's episode of the podcast, food blogger, renowned pastry chef (having worked for 13 years at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse) and best-selling cookbook author David Lebovitz joins me to talk about his new food and Paris destination memoir L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home. Having called Paris home since 2004, it was after eight years of renting that he decided he wanted to put down roots, and thus the journey of delights and disasters began. Tune in to my conversation with David Lebovitz and discover:
Visit David's blog DavidLebovitz.com As mentioned in the conversation:
~images from David's Instagram, and be sure to check out his IG Stories as well~
~the French farmhouse sink worth the search as discussed in the episode~
More books by David Lebovitz:
~My Sweet Life in Paris, David's best-selling Parisian memoir
~My Paris Kitchen: Recipes & Stories by David Lebovitz (a cookbook to have in your kitchen and the cookbook he was working on during his apartment's renovations)
~Recipe for David's Quiche aux petits pois, lard fumé et estragon (Bacon, Green Pea, and Tarragon Quiche)
~Click here for the recipe
~Tune in to more French-Inspired episodes of The Simple Sophisticate below:
This episode was sponsored by the following: