Tue, 20 December 2022
The holiday of Christmas is a festive time that arrives a mere one week before the new year begins.
The arrival of Christmas stirs up nostalgia for some, angst for others, seasonal stress for most of us and a stream of quiet hope for perhaps nearly all of us that a Christmas miracle will occur. And regardless of what we imagine it to be as November arrives and we look ahead to the final two months of the year, it is a holiday capable of being exactly as we most wish it to be when we approach it with a conscious and loving heart and mind.
Discovering and then honoring what brings us joy is a step in the direction for a most enjoyable holiday.
Nigel Slater reminds in his The Christmas Chronicles that "many of the festival's observances date from pre-Christian times, and those who celebrate it as a purely religious event might be surprised to find out how much of the festivities hails from pagan times." The celebration of the winter solstice just days before the 25th, the beginning of more light to our days was, again as Slater shares, celebrated long before Christmas was celebrated "Saturnalia was the Roman festival of honor of the God Saturn, with feasting lasting from December 17th to the 23rd". And so in many ways, while religious or not, spiritual or atheist as Slater shares he is happily, we all borrow from each of the reasons to celebrate during this Christmas time of year, and that too is something to celebrate.
I had planned on posting on an entirely different topic for today's episode/post, but in the days and weeks leading up to curating this episode, I found myself becoming increasingly excited about my own plans for Christmas. Knowing that how I am choosing to celebrate is a less celebrated approach by the culture, I wanted to share because as I wrote in the December chapter of my book The Road to Le Papillon, it is imperative that we celebrate all holidays that come with traditions in such a way that brings us true joy. I acknowledge that not everyone lives alone by choice as I do, but even in a household of a couple or a family, knowing and voicing and observing what brings true joy to those we love and then honoring this need in some way as you design your day of celebration is a priceless gift to give.
So day, as the final episode of 2022, the holiday episode it will be, and along with the ideas for savoring Christmas home alone simply luxuriously, today's Petit Plaisir will be holiday inspired as well and ties in quite nicely with the theme of our conversation. While alone typically signifies one person, it can also include you and your significant other/partner/spouse or you and your household - family. Let's take a look of how to savor Christmas by focusing on quality rather than quantity thereby elevating the entire experience.
~Note to readers: More is discussed in detail in the audio version, so do be sure to tune in. ?
1.Choose to celebrate alone
During the past three years, more than most of us had no choice but to celebrate Christmas alone, so understandably, doing so yet again, may not be enticing or desired. However, I was one of those people during the pandemic who enjoyed spending some of the holidays in my own company, but this is also coming from someone who prior to 2020 chose to spend both Thanksgiving and Christmas in my own company more than a couple of times and had, hands down, some of the best holidays in my adult years I have ever had.
Knowing you have chosen to spend Christmas Day in your own company gives you time to plan, to anticipate, to prepare and thus to then savor the day when it arrives.
Especially if we are changing our plans from previous years of spending this day with family, knowing we have communicated and perhaps shared some holiday time together earlier in December, will make the change into a holiday tradition you desire more enjoyable knowing you have prepared well, so that your conscience can be at peace.
2. Savor other holiday social outings/gatherings/volunteer activities leading up to Christmas
Christmas Day has always been a day I don't want a grand dinner, nor do I want to dress up and throw a dinner party; however, as many of you know, I love hosting a dinner party, so it is rather how I view what Christmas Day is - cozying-in, getting snuggly and just having a wide-open day to savor the joy that has culminated over the past month or so. With all of that said, we need not wait for the actual date of the 25th to arrive to celebrate Christmas. No, no, no, no!
As I know many TSLL readers do, plan a special lunch or dinner date with your dear friend or friends to exchange gifts. During the past couple of years, my dear friend Veronique and I have done this, and dined at a favorite European-cuisine restaurant here in Bend, enjoying sparkling wine and oodles of conversation as the hours pass by, only remembering at the end to exchange our gifts because we've been talking so much! :)
3. Do something special on either the 23rd or the 24th
Every year I have done something slightly or significantly different, but these two dates are the special ones for me when it comes to soirées, hosting a dinner, going out to dinner and splurging, seeing something special with family or dear friends.
Every year as a child, Christmas Eve was the BIG dinner at my parents' house in which we and our guests would dress up for and we kids would do so obediently because we knew soon we would be in bed awaiting Santa's arrival. Now as an adult, the energy of the season is palpable and spending time with others, more than a handful is something even this introvert enjoys because it only happens once a year.
One year, in fact the last Christmas season I was in my house in eastern Oregon (Pendleton), I threw a soirée and more people came than I imagined, and it turned out to be one of the most beautiful memories of my time living in this home with the people attending from my neighborhood, my colleagues at school and my brother and his wife. It was held on Christmas Eve Eve (the 23rd), and it was perfect timing as then I had time to decompress on the 24th and look forward to a quiet Christmas Day.
This year, I am excited to be able to enjoy a full five course meal and share the meal at my neighbors', along with my own, respective houses as we will be enjoying a progressive dinner, and since we all live either next to each other or on the same street, we need only walk a couple house-lengths to enjoy the next course. The clean-up is less, the cost for each of us is more affordable, and as the weather looks to be snowy, it will be safer to imbibe and thoroughly just enjoy the evening. I cannot wait!
4. Plan your Christmas meal - brunch, dinner, dessert, etc.
As you will be in your own company and can dine whenever you prefer, decide what meal you want to enjoy and then do so at your leisure. Brunch is always a must-have on Christmas with pastries, eggs, a meat of choice - sausage or bacon, perhaps a Bellini and paired with The New York Times annual Puzzle section, I will be enjoying a good long meal in my pajamas, of which doesn't take that long to cook. Speaking of pajamas . . .
5. Select your favorite pajamas and have them ready to be worn
As it is quite cold in Bend, I enjoy wearing linen pajamas, and make sure they are freshly laundered and pressed. Just knowing you are wearing something comfortable and warm that you will likely be wearing part, if not all of the day, eliminates the guilt of doing something that is quite foreign to most of us, but something to savor on this special day.
6. Stuff the stockings for your four-legged companions
My pups each have their own stocking, and while Nelle doesn't know the fun that is in store for her just yet, both Norman and Oscar loves/d their stockings, and as you can see below, waited patiently to explore the contents each year.
7. Don't forget to give yourself a gift
While no doubt you have already shopped and wrapped and delivered your gifts for loved ones, even filling out holiday cards to send to personal and professional contacts and acquaintances you are grateful to have in your life, be sure to remember to include yourself on Santa's list to shop for.
Whether the gift to yourself is tangible (a nice Trudon candle) or not (purchase those tickets for your trip next year, or put the deposit on the vacation rental), give yourself something you've been dreaming about and maybe wouldn't purchase freely any other time of the year.
8. Make plans to do something unique/special on Christmas Day
Whether you stay home and take part, attend an event locally or pop up to the mountain to go skiing if snow is in your backyard as it is mine, have a plan to do something special on this day. This will get you up and give you an opportunity to move and perhaps exercise and just looking forward to enjoying this special something is a joy in and of itself.
9. Plan a special evening ritual to savor
As shared above in #4 if you have already planned on either a brunch, a lunch or a dinner, I would encourage to also include a delicious evening-into-the-night treat. What I will be up to after having a good brunch, then a jaunt to the mountain or a long walk in the snow somewhere nearby, is enjoying a slice of homemade Bu1che de Noël that I will be making a few days earlier, paired with hot cuppa or maybe a sip or two of cognac and enjoying whilst sitting by the fire, reading a bit from a book that is calling my name to suit whatever mood I am in, and then watching a bit of the new series that is this week's Petit Plaisir (see below).
A preview of what I hope I can recreate in my own kitchen. This was my mother's Bûche de Noël made, and we all enjoyed, last Christmas Eve.
Wishing you a wonderful, happy and merry Christmas this coming Sunday (and a Happy Hanukkah as well). Thank you for stopping by and look for a new episode on Wednesday January 4th, 2023.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
~A Storm for Christmas, Netflix limited series
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #347
Tue, 6 December 2022
346: Parisian by Design and the Gifts of trusting the Stirrings of Your Heart, my conversation with David Jimenez
Those who know David Jimenez and his life journey often take a sigh of adoration followed by a smile and comment, “He is living the dream”. And indeed to us Francophiles, he is indeed.
Having called Paris home for the past six years, American interior designer living in Paris David Jimenez partnered with Diane Dorrans Saeks to bring to readers Parisian by Design: Interiors by David Jimenez.
David Jimenez captured by photographer Xavier Béjot whilst going about his day on the Île Saint-Louis in Paris.
Parisian by Design: Interiors by David Jimenez by Diane Dorrans Saeks
Parisian by Design showcases the seven residences he has called home over his life journey of decorating, beginning in San Francisco, moving to Kansas City, then to his apartments in Paris that lead him to his now sanctuary on the City of Light, his apartment on Île Saint-Louis, as well as his design atelier on the same petite Île and, what I think is my favorite of all of his abodes, although each is inviting and quintessential European in its aesthetic with a strong affinity for Parisian touches, his apartment in the French countryside (see pics below from David's IG account).
In our hour-long conversation, David will introduce readers to what they will find in the book which includes a 10-page source list for you too to enjoy and peruse first-hand David’s personal recommended shops, artisans and destinations, not only in Paris, but beyond, and we will also dive deeper because David made his dream a reality - calling Paris home. Exploring how he trusted his journey from a very early age along with sharing what he has learned along the way to be the best life advice for knowing what to do next, we talk about nudges from the universe, trusting yourself and so much more.
Oh! And his Petit Plaisir is Petit Plaisirs! Yes, David shares multiple Petit Plaisirs in the middle of our conversation, painting a picture for our minds through the senses that, if you are anything like me, will inspire and remind how powerfully rejuvenating savoring everyday seasonal pleasures can be. But I don’t want to give too much away. ?
As well, our final question speaks to the winter holidays in Paris, and how we too can bring a touch of the charm into our own homes.
I do hope you will tune in and thank you for stopping by.
SIMILAR EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
15 Ideas for Savoring Paris, episode #328
36 Ways to Welcome Joie de Vivre into Your Everyday Life, episode #253
~Explore more French-inspired podcast episodes on The Simple Sophisticate
Tue, 22 November 2022
The concept of luxury at its core is what brings you comfort.
A space, piece or item that brings ease, calm and perhaps a sigh of letting go and being able to fully relax and savor the present moment. In 2013 I shared a list full of ideas exemplifying what true luxury is; the items on that list are worth exploring as we become more in tune withwhat luxurious living is. It is important to note that a fundamental element of what constitutes something as being luxurious is the effort and dedicated intention to bring your idea to fruition. In other words, you have taken the time, expended the effort, energy, investment, so that when whatever it is that has been reached (tangible or intangible), you appreciate it and will by no means toss it aside blithely for the next 'new' or 'better' model, version, trend, etc.
When it comes to decorating our homes to create luxurious living spaces, while most certainly, luxury when it comes to interior design can be expensive, it need not always be that way, and it is important to note that size - a grand, large abode doesn't guarantee the space will be luxurious if the details are not tended to well.
To walk into a luxurious space, small or large in scale is only part of being truly luxurious; it is when you engage with the space, live in it, sit down in the chairs, sleep in the beds, pour yourself a hot cuppa, that you then discover whether or not the home is truly luxurious.
In today's episode/post I want to tend to those simple ideas that when you tend to them can elevate the luxury in a room immediately upon a guest or yourself living in the space.
Three years ago, I began this series with a post sharing 10 Simple, Significant Decor Ideas to Add Luxurious Touches to the Home inspired by interior designer Cathy Kincaid's new book at the time, The Well Adorned Home. And as you will discover in that list, while the simple touches may be investment decisions, they significantly elevate the luxurious presence of the room, beckoning the inhabitants to relax and stay awhile.
Part Une, 10 Simple, Significant Decor Ideas to Add Luxurious Touches to the Home, episode #260
In part two (deux) of this series, I am sharing 13 ideas that while simple are also quite affordable and don't require a contractor or even the expert eye of an interior designer (all except #12). There is something almost impossible to describe with words but felt by our nervous system when we step into a decorated space that to our eye is luxurious, as well as to our other senses. Immediately there is a noticeable decrease in our stress levels, dopamine may even be released, and we let our guard down and sigh, exhaling a deep breath as though we are 'home', we are safe, comforted, we have found a place to unwind and be rejuvenated.
Tue, 8 November 2022
"I am sure there are [trends], but I don't really like them because I think trends come and go very rapidly." —Nina Campbell
Creating a sanctuary takes time.
But it need not take the same amount of time each time you set up a new home.
Similar to getting to know ourselves, unconsciously from day one we may be drawn to certain tastes, preferences, aesthetics, etc., and this is where we can begin both in understanding ourselves and in curating a sanctuary that rejuvenates, comforts and welcomes us home, even if the location of our home changes over the years.
However, unlike our wardrobe, the sizes of the types of furniture or décor items we are drawn to will not change, even if the colour palettes do which is good news because that means you can begin investing in the items for your sanctuary before you even have a penny in your bank account saved up for a down payment or the first month's rent.
Decorating our homes doesn't have to begin from scratch each time we move into a new home; in fact, if we are starting from scratch each time, we are wasting money, time and harming the planet (unless we are leaving all of our furniture for the new buyer). And you actual liberate yourself when you invest in quality décor pieces initially which enables you to never have to start from scratch again. Why does it liberate you, especially, you might be saying, because you just spent all of your extra money on a custom sofa for example? Well, that is exactly what today's episode is all about, sharing the many reasons why investing in key décor items will help you curate a sanctuary that is tailored to you and the life you love living.
1.Endurance to last a lifetime or at least a few decades
"[It was] good in the first place, and [is] still good today." —Nina Campbell
Similar to well-made clothing with high quality fabric, furniture that is made well from the inside out - structurally sound sofa, chairs, beds, tables, etc. will go the distance, many lasting your entire lifetime. I will include stoves in this as well because if you are someone who spends regular time in the kitchen, invest well in a stove and yes, it can last your entire lifetime.
The quote above was shared by renowned British interior designer Nina Campbell in a podcast episode in which she shared an experience of working with a client for the second time, about 10-15 years removed. Many of the primary pieces did not need replacing because they were made well. Below in #5 we will talk more about the benefit of having high quality furniture and large appliances, but generally speaking, you save yourself an extra step of having to go shopping for yet again another item. If you purchase a cheap item that looks good today, but isn't made well, no matter how many times you recover it, it will still not work nor last, or be comfortable.
The idea of starting from scratch is eliminated when you buy well, yep, paying more, up front for the first time purchase, so that you don't have to pay for it again down the road when your tastes change, or what is more likely, the piece falls apart or you realize it doesn't fit well or is not comfortable.
The sustainability choice in buying a quality piece of furniture or large appliance for your home ensures you won't be clogging up landfills. Mass produced furniture that is typically inexpensive also enables us to be less attached to the items and thus make the item easier to toss. Granted some may take their items to Goodwill or have a garage sale, but when you purchase furniture you love and is well made, and that you need as it provides a function in your home, you are able to keep it and use it for decades to come and also often become invested in it to take care of it well.
As I will share in #7 on our list in detail, part of why buying antiques and consignment and vintage is worth doing is because of the sustainability approach, and while it may take more time to find what you need, when you find it, again, you will become more invested in taking care of it well, thereby keeping it in your home for a longer duration.
3. Saves Money in the Long-Term
The price you pay for the high quality armchair today will be the cheapest price that armchair will be sold for if you were to shop for it again 10, 15, 20 years down the road. A well-made piece of furniture, if cared for well, will actually increase in value, a cheap sofa or chair will do exactly the opposite. In other words, it is not easy to plunk down a large sum of money on a dining room table for example, but if it is well made, fits your home and lifestyle, you will have it with you for your lifetime and perhaps hand it down to the next generation, only needing to have it refinished or re-stained when it exchanges homes.
Try to think long-term if you are struggling to pay the price tag of a custom Howard & Sons London sofa or armchair, and instead think about how you will be able to have a trusted and loved piece of furniture for decades to come, even being able to hand it down and doing so with it in great condition even if the upholstery changes.
~Read British interior designer Rita Konig's advice on buying the perfect sofa (Konig is Nina Campbell's daughter)
Learn How to Be Your Own Interior Designer with Rita Konig (Create Academy course)
4. Potential to change exterior, but value is retained due to high quality craftsmanship
When you invest well in furniture you both love, as it speaks to your aesthetic tastes and lifestyle, and that is made well, as mentioned in #1, when your life changes, when your color preferences change, all you have to do is change the exterior as the skeletal, foundational components are doing just fine. Even if you have to replace and refurbish the seat cushions, you still have the well-built original frame which will save you money.
From changing the upholstery or refinishing the wood of a beloved desk, dining room table or side table, this is where you save money and time, because you already have what you love, now you are just taking good care of it, which reduces stress to have to find something that works for what you need.
5. Pay no mind to trends
"I am sure there are [trends], but I don't really like them because I think trends come and go very rapidly." —Nina Campbell
To repeat Nina Campbell's quote from above, as someone who began working under the wing of John Fowler, I will heed her wisdom when it comes to trends. Sure, we all have an aesthetic we are drawn too, but that is separate from a trend. Nina Campbell, for example, has a particular aesthetic that draws clients to her, but what she does is not trendy and each client's home, when complete, will be different. The difference is when an interior designer creates spaces for different clients that all look somewhat similar but neither reveals an individual, then that is trendy. In other words, an interior designer brings their expertise, but listens to the client's needs (lifestyle) and what brings them comfort and rejuvenation (personal tastes and life journey), and designs a home that reflects their client.
You want to see yourself and the people who live in your home in the interior design you create in your sanctuary. This most definitely takes time, but from day one you can begin including something you love, that speaks to you. For me, I have always been drawn to cozy, deep armchairs and sofas, wingbacks and wallpaper. I can remember going to the interior design store in our small town with my mother when I was a young girl, being able to select the wallpaper for my bedroom for the first time. I was so excited to be able to have a say in the decision making and flipping through all of those wallpaper books was a joy and most curiously good time. As well, I also know what I am not drawn too, and that also plays a role in where we begin. When we don't know, we try out things, and we learn along the way. I once thought a blue painted bathroom would be a great look, feel and aesthetic, but for me, I learned it was not. Lesson learned and carried forward to my next apartment or house.
With each home we step into, or each new redecorating project we begin, we bring with us the knowledge and experience from our past projects, homes and interiors. To be guided by a trend, as was mentioned in episode #341, is not entirely a bad thing. "If an aspect of a trend speaks to you, there is a reason, and that is how we hone our understanding of what will work for a long duration of time in our homes as we decorate for the life we love living, [but] if you are not decorating in an approach that honors you, but rather following what others approve of, and in such an approach to life in any arena – decor, fashion, life choices – this is never an approach that will lead to true, lasting contentment."
6. You can move to other rooms or arrangements, and expand upon what you have, rather than starting from scratch
Having furniture you love and that is well-made gives you the liberty to change where the piece is placed in your home. Perhaps a chair that was in the office now is moved to the new bedroom for guests. Or maybe the bed frame in your primary bedroom is moved to the guest room of your new home as you have one more room to furnish and as your tastes have changed, you can welcome in a new frame.
Ultimately, what you are doing is giving yourself options and saving money, reducing what you need to add to your space because you already have very nice pieces to work with.
7. When you cannot purchase custom yet
"I strongly believe that people may not want, or may not be able, to start again from scratch, so giving old furniture a new lease of life is at the heart of my philosophy." —Nina Campbell
When we begin furnishing our homes, beginning in college for many of us, buying new and high quality is just not possible. Often we begin with hand-me-downs from family members and that is just perfectly fine. As you begin to purchase items, you likely still will not be able to purchase high quality brand new, let alone custom pieces, so head to the consignment and vintage shops and go treasure hunting. Scour the estate sales in your new hometown, but be patient, ask questions, and don't be afraid to barter. My first antique purchase was in college, an oak pub table that at the time cost a fortune for me - $400. I still have that table and it has been well cared for and functions and looks beautiful.
Purchasing consignment and/or antiques when we can and want to is a sustainable approach as well to decorating our homes. It may take time to find what we are looking for, but remember, you can always update or adjust certain finds. If the items I made well, but the upholstery needs to change, that is easy to do, and you've saved money and helped the planet.
What Décor Items to Invest In
The first two items are recommended by Nina Campbell as most definitely worth investing in from the start:
Decorating our sanctuary in many ways resembles putting together an incredibly large jigsaw puzzle, and over the years I have come to thoroughly enjoy putting together my own puzzle. Knowing what the right pieces are takes less time, but because I don't want a mass produced item, or know where what I am looking for might be found but it is not where I am at the moment, the time it takes to acquire these pieces takes longer, and that is okay. Because in the moment that we find and purchase and then welcome home the piece that fits just as we had imagined, it was worth it and our comfort and pleasure in our home deepens, and we become more rested and rejuvenated.
Of course the journey of decorating our homes is forever on-going just as our capsule wardrobe is and knowing ourselves and learning about the world and how we partake and engage with it, but that is the fun part of being alive, and our homes stay alive because of this regular awareness of how to live well, tweaking, adding, layering, editing, etc.
Wishing you a wonderful and most enjoyable journey of curating your sanctuary, and may your puzzle tickle your mind and bring many smiles to your days as you discover what would be right at home in your abode.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
Tue, 1 November 2022
"Creating healthy boundaries is how you ensure that you're happy and well in your relationships and in life." —Nedra Glover Tawwab, Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself
To have boundaries that are respected is to give your life and your days peace of mind.
Just as a sovereign state provides the foundation for its citizens to thrive instead of merely surviving due to the absence of worrying if what they need to live well might not be theirs tomorrow, so too do the boundaries we assert, communicate and actively uphold. But as is alluded to, we must engage consciously, intentionally and consistently.
Licensed therapist for more than 14 years, Nedra Glover Tawwab wrote a book, a highly successful and praised both by readers and critics book, titled Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself, that is exactly what her book provides - a guide. A guide sharing the tools, but also the reasons to motivate readers to welcome boundaries into their daily lives, whether with their friendships, work, children, parents, romantic partnership and even regarding our use of social media and technology. Boundaries, healthy boundaries, as she explains the non-healthy boundaries and why they are destructive and deteriorate the quality of our lives, are an essential piece of our everyday life if we wish to live a life of contentment. And her book is a hands-on step-by-step guide teaching you how and which boundaries you need.
Upon reading this book, I immediately knew I had found a valuable resource, one to not only utilize now for different aspects of my life, but no doubt in the future either when I want to be reminded or discover what I need to do, how to communicate and validate my decisions to honor my needs. As well, just as importantly, is to understand and honor what others needs as well and to not take their boundary setting personally.
In today's episode/post I would like to share with you how setting the right boundaries contributes, and exclusively contributes an essential ingredient that elevates the quality of our lives, thereby deepening our true contentment experienced in our everydays. If what is shared today speaks to you, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the book where you will find the specific examples of what to do/say, what not to do/say in very specific, as well as different situations.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #343
Tue, 18 October 2022
Having what we need in our closet as each season changes into the next brings a peace of mind that when reached is often forgotten about as it frees us to engage fully and comfortably (and confidently) in our daily lives.
In my own life, it was this October when I had plans to go to the symphony that I relaxed knowing I had an outfit fitting for the autumnal weather that was timeless, yet comfortable and upon wearing it, eased my mind in quiet confidence knowing I was dressed well and respectfully for the event. It is this feeling that, as someone doesn't necessarily enjoy shopping, but finds pleasure it in when I find something that speaks to me and works with my lifestyle, motivates me when I look at my capsule wardrobe for each season and guides my decisions as I invest after considering the three qualifiers to nudge me to click purchase -high quality, fits my style and functions well.
Today I would like to share with you 10 items that I have or am purchasing this fall season as part of my capsule wardrobe that I wear with confidence knowing it supports the life I love living and enables me to feel confident that I look my best so I can forget what I am wearing and just be present.
~Note for readers: the audio version of this episode goes into detail on each of the points listed below, so be sure to tune in as well as read through today's post.
1. Oversized blazer/jacket
~Iris & Ink Gray Hope Mélange woven blazer (more colors)
2. Oversized Pullover Sweaters
~Banana Republic Luna Cashmere Sweater Polo (four colors)
~wool-blend, Banana Republic's Cavo Half-Zip Sweater (two colors)
~La Ligne Bastien Sweater, Stripes (multiple color options)
SHOP MORE PULLOVERS:
3. Chelsea boot or Bootie with a heel
~Stuart Weitzman Yuliana 60 mm Bootie (four colors)
~Stuart 75 mm Stretch Bootie (taupe, more colors)
4. Cashmere Gloves
~Theory's ribbed cashmere fold-back gloves (four colors)
5. Contour Down Coat for walking with the pups
~Lululemon's Down for It All Jacket (four colors, removable hood)
6. High-rise leggings with pockets
Lululemon's Align High-Rise Pant (three different lengths), with pockets (many colors)
7. Midi-length straight skirts with a high waist
~Vince Crimped Wool Midi Skirt, Navy, use promo code 50OFF350 to save $50 when you purchase $350 or more
8. A scarf for warmth while walking or errands or travel
~Eric Bompard, cashmere voile scarf, many colors
9. A small wallet for stand-alone use or placing in my clutches and crossbody bags
10. Oversized v-neck and turtleneck sweaters with straight-leg high-waisted jeans
Joseph's black striped ribbed merino wool turtleneck sweater (on sale when place in bag)
~Agolde black Freya high-rise slim-leg stretch organic jeans (on sale when placed in cart)
Each of the items in today's list are merely an idea of inspiration as components in what creates the foundation for a fall wardrobe to fit my day-to-day schedule and events. Over the years my style hasn't changed tremendously, but what I have noticed it that is has been honed as I become more clear and thus become more confident to invest in high quality items that I will reach for again and again year after year. Whether going about my daily work, attending an event indoors or walking my dogs outside in the chillier weather, I feel comfortable in what I am wearing on a variety of levels. And I hope you do as well with the items you have in your closet for years to come.
Wishing you a stylish autumn season.
~Annika, tv series on PBS Masterpiece Mystery
Tue, 4 October 2022
“In a simple and a peaceful cottage with a beautiful view, you will not be dreaming about the palaces or the heaven, because you already have a perfect thing!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan
To feel welcomed, to feel deeply at home in a sanctuary, to feel 'cozyed in', almost as though to be hugged without confinement and instead inspire infinite curiosity to explore and play. To me, all of these 'feels' are what comes to mind when I think of the classic English cottage, both inside and out.
Over the next many months and years, I look forward to exploring and sharing elements of the English Cottage aesthetic, the interiors, exteriors and the garden of a cottage because as many of you know, my home, Le Papillon, is what I consider to be a cottage. Perhaps it began with watching Nancy Meyers' film The Holiday and the cottage I later learned she had built especially for the movie, Rose Hill cottage, or maybe it was the interiors of the many homes profiled in The English Home magazine that I have subscribed to for over 10 years and continue to eagerly await the arrival of each new issue. Whatever precisely drew me to the English Cottage aesthetic I cannot pinpoint, but I always take notice of how I feel in a space, whether I am traveling and staying at vacation rentals, bed & breakfasts, hotels, or even at friends and family's homes. What makes me feel most at ease? What details attend to my needs to bring me comfort? Where can I truly relax and feel at home even if I am not at home? And mentally I took note, and finally, with my house here in Bend, Oregon, Le Papillon, I have been able to customize, paying attention to all of the details - grand and small that, to me, whilst adhering to the fundamental components of English cottage, create a sanctuary I feel at home, deeply at home when I am here.
There are oodles of interior décor components that contribute to creating the English cottage aesthetic, so I wanted to begin with where I began and what is in my own home, Le Papillon. Below I will be sharing pictures and images that offer the vignette, a close-up look at the details discussed here in today's episode/post, and for each image, you will have the option of clicking through to tour the entire space and how I pulled it together (explore becoming a TOP Tier Member to gain exclusive access to all tours of my home, Le Papillon). As shared in the title of today's episode/post, this is part un, and I look forward to sharing many more elements that are in my home in future postings/episodes.
First to begin with the history of the English Cottage and Cottage Garden. As Christopher Lloyd and Richard Bird share in their book about Cottage Gardens, "It has come down to us through the ages [to be] a bountiful yet regulated informality." While they are specifically speaking about the cottage gardening approach, the same can be said for the interiors as well. Everything that is chosen is thoughtful, intentional, but it may not appear to be so to the untrained eye. They go on to say, "[The Cottage and Cottage Garden] has evolved through common sense, combines need with enjoyment and is entirely unpretentious."
With that definition in mind, let's take a look at the first 15 Key Elements I included in my English Cottage-inspired home, Le Papillon.
~Please note, while I give quite a bit of detail in the written post below, I also share even more in the audio version, so please do feel free to tune in wherever you listen to podcasts.
1.Ignore all trends of the moment at any moment
"Ultimately, good taste is a considered point of view, and the courage of conviction even in the face of dissent." —Fiona McKenzie Johnston
Before we dive in to today's topic, it is important to differentiate between classic English cottage and Cottagecore, the latter becoming a booming décor trend during the depths of the pandemic, but they are not the same, and the latter is a trend. Similar to the more recent trend that began on social media, the Coastal Grandmother style (both décor and fashion), a trend; however, if something offered by either one of these trends speaks to you, hold on to that. Explore that element and that becomes part of your good taste suggested above in the quote.
The problem with adhering to a trend is that by definition, it will go out of style, and a new trend will replace it. The primary (perhaps more unconscious) reason both of these trends rose to popularity when they did has a lot to do with the times we found ourselves: we were seeking comfort, we were seeking something that brought us calm and certainty during some of the most uncertain and unprecedented times we have ever seen across many different generations. This is not a bad thing. Again, if an aspect of a trend speaks to you, there is a reason, and that is how we hone our understanding of what will work for a long duration of time in our homes as we decorate for the life we love living. Secondly, regarding the problem with trends is that you are not decorating in an approach that honors you, but rather following what others approve of, and in such an approach to life in any arena - decor, fashion, life choices - this is never an approach that will lead to true, lasting contentment.
So we let go of trends and dare to trust that what we know makes us feel good, feel at home, even if magazines or social media says 'huh?', and what we also do, and this is key, is understand how good design works. The reason I mentioned the need to not just acknowledge what speaks to us about a trend, but also explore it, is because we must understand the décor principle that makes such a decor detail work in that particular way. We'll talk about this more in #2, but I have always been drawn to the expertise mixing and matching of prints the English seem to know how to do intuitively, except I know it is learned, and so I took online décor classes and discovered exactly what works and why, along with many other insider tips and tricks, before I invested in items I wanted to have in my home for a lifetime.
2. Wallpaper, prints, large and/or small
The power of wallpaper with prints is that it is an illusion to the eye and actually makes the space feel larger than it is. Unlike with solids either regarding wallpaper or your typical paint job, a solid wall of any color stops the eye. We will talk about this more with upholstery as well, prints while beautiful and artistic, also serve the powerful and necessary purpose in what typically are small in square footage/yards that cottages are.
Long-time readers of the blog know I have wallpapered multiple rooms in Le Papillon (six rooms as of this posting), and I have done so all by myself. I didn't begin by doing this task on my own however, but am grateful I had a good teacher. So yes, you can wallpaper on your own, just make sure, as I share in this detailed post, you purchase quality wallpaper, and you are half-way to creating an amazing space.
With that said, sometimes the wallpaper will be the guiding detail that determines all other decisions in the room, such as my guest bathroom below. It was my dogged determination to find a space in my house to bring the classic Willow Bough print by William Morris, one of his first creations in 1870, and so when I decided on my guest bathroom, all of the other details had to complement the room that was bathed in willow boughs. However, the wallpaper can also simply complement, and that is what I have done in my foyer by using grasscloth as it provides a warmth due to its texture, but is not the star of the show.
As well, small versus large prints, the large prints as you might imagine lead the way, but the small prints complement what the other stars in the room are. Choose the same color tone as those star pieces, but they need not be the same color, although they can and likely should play off of at least one color in the wallpaper. For example, my next project when it comes to curtains is to add roman shades to my kitchen, but as my house has an open floor plan, I need to pay attention to the colors in the Boot & Basket room as well as the dining room which are situated on either side of my kitchen, so my friend, Veronique, an interior designer, saw the green in the wallpaper, noting the color tone that I need to adhere to in order to work with the Provençal blue in my dining room curtains, and told me to find a print with some in green. That gives me direction of what to work for as the curtains will not be the star of the show, but must complement the details around it.
~Here is a detailed post of 12 British Wallpaper Companies to Know
3. Mixing antiques, vintage, consignment finds with new, but thoughtfully considered new pieces
This detail of cottage decorating is one of my favorites, and perhaps yours as well, the treasure hunting! Of course, and yes, we need to underscore, that clutter is never a comfort, so always letting yourself purchase what is drawing your eye just because is not a great idea unless it serves a purpose and has a home in your cottage along with being something that caught your eye. Cottages are small, and just like the cottage garden, each item does two things - provides beauty and functionality.
Part of the reason it takes time to decorate a cottage is because just because something is beautiful doesn't mean it is functional and just because something is functional doesn't guarantee that it is attractive to your eye, i.e. all of the technology and gadgets available for modern living.
Think of it as a treasure hunt and then this searching becomes more pleasurable because when you finally do come across say a newspaper rack/holder that is desperately needed to keep the papers from being strewn across the floor on Sunday morning while you cozy into your reading nook, you will also be welcoming in something that is pleasing to the eye but exercising a function that you need for a tidy home.
Overarchingly, this is why it is necessary to mix old and new items. Yes, you will likely have more old in the form of vintage, antique or consignment, but there are just some things that have to be new, certain chairs or furniture to fit the size or height of people in your home. For me, I needed a long sofa and a deep one, so I customized one as it is the star of the room, and the investment was worth it for years, decades even, of cottage style I love but also comfort I needed. (You can see my sofa in many of A Cuppa Moments video chats.)
4. Remove the over-head lighting
This rule is not exclusive to cottages, but rather how to create a welcoming home. Nobody looks their best under lighting from above (unless you are young and perfect and blissfully ignorant to the benefits of youth). Overhead lighting also creates a harsh effect that is not warm nor soft on the eye. Yes, there will be places in the home or in your working areas depending upon what work you will be doing where overhead lighting is necessary, but even then, customize it so that you can dim it to your preferred brightness.
The only two places I have overhead lighting that go full-tilt bright are in the kitchen and the garage. And in my kitchen, my overhead lighting is on a dimmer. In fact, all of the new light fixtures I have put into my home during my 2-year renovation/customization are on dimmers (advice from British interior designer, Rita Konig - always put lights with dimmers when installing the electric outlets). Even if your home has overhead/ceiling/can lighting, do what I do, and don't use it and better yet, take the lightbulbs out so that they are never used by mistake. This sounds extreme, but you want to feel comfortable in your house, so add the lamps (we will talk about this in a later point below) that create the lighting you want that is in your control; this possible with table lamps, floor lamps, picture lights and semi-flush, pendant or chandelier lighting.
5. Relinquish the idea of perfection and avoid matchy-matchy
The beautiful puzzle of the English cottage is that when it comes together delights me to no end, and it is the ability to match seemingly different prints and colors in a manner that fits together perfectly, as though they were meant to go together. How do they do that?!
First, let's talk about avoiding the matchy-matchy. It is completely understand why people (and I count myself among them) do this, it's safe and it doesn't 'break' any rules or is not harsh to the eye. However, if you are decorating your cottage, you have broken the rule because a cottage is meant to look almost accidentally put together when really it was quite intentional, but there is a playful element, a daring element that reveals a bit about the inhabitants, what you love, what makes you smile, where you've been, your favorite color, etc.
Avoiding the matchy-matchy doesn't mean you can't do it everywhere, but when it is what you rely on in every room, it doesn't reveal you. For example, I have two pairs of matching lamps, one in my living room and one in my primary bedroom. For me, they create balance, a solid, subtle foundation because they are placed (especially the living room lamps) in a space that has a lot of different prints, details and non-matching furniture.
So essential, use matchy-matchy not to play it safe, but when it actually provides a value for the décor aesthetic you are trying to create in the cottage. Which brings me to letting go of perfection. A cottage never looks partnered off or symmetrical, but yet it feels balanced. How do you do this? It is easier to learn this skill by looking at whole room pics, so I highly recommend picking up copies of The English Home magazine, but you might have two armchairs (as I do in my reading nook), but they don't match and have entirely different prints. To the casual eye, this appears imperfect and off balanced, but its in balance because they have the same color tone, and that tone is married in the curtains that stand between them. I still have two chairs, but they don't visually look the same, but have the same 'weight' to the eye.
The perfection is what you want to let go, but what you create that establishes the balance will be perfect to you.
“Be faithful to your own taste because nothing you really like is ever out of style.”—American interior design Billy Baldwin (1903-1984)
A cottage beckons you to sit down and relax. How do we create an aesthetic that speaks this language? Well, ottomans play a powerful role in the symphony of details in a cottage. I once had two friends come to dinner, a couple, and when they walked through the foyer and into the open-plan, after I asked them to pick any seat they'd like to sit in, they said, "I cannot choose, they all look so comfortable. Each one is asking me to sit down and relax." That is what I hoped I could create. That was the goal even if the English cottage style isn't their preference, there is a feeling I want to create for everyone who walks in, and that is the feeling when it comes to choosing my furniture.
Ottomans by nature ask you to put your feet up on them, to essential stop doing, and just be. There are so many different styles and sizes, so have fun finding the right ones (yes, plural) for your home. As I look around me, I can count four ottomans or hassocks (smaller and lower to the ground) that are in my house. They all perform a function, but their fabric or finish also work in the space aesthetically. One matches the chair it is paired with but it also is the hassock so my pups use it as a stepping stool to climb up into the chair. I will admit an error on my part because I have another armchair and purchased its matching ottoman. I love having the ottoman, but moving forward I might someday have it reupholstered to not be so matchy because there is too much of that one fabric in that corner. This is how we learn, and if we purchase quality pieces of furniture then down the road when we want to change it up, all we have to do is reupholster, not purchase an entirely new piece. Saves money and is a sustainable approach to decorating.
7. Reupholster furniture you love
Speaking of reupholstering. ☺️ One of the best arguments for purchasing high quality furniture is because of what we just talked about in the conclusion for #6. Likely your tastes will evolve a bit or a lot, but when you have a favorite well-made piece of furniture, you can have it for life. The upholstery may change, but having an ideal cozy chair or sofa or dining room chair is near priceless for an item that you will have to pay well for.
I have reupholstered a chair I inherited from my late Great Aunt and Uncle's home, a chair made in the 50s, had the cushions redone as well as the fabric to one that worked in my office, and each time I look at it, yes, I love the look, but it also holds many wonderful memories that make me smile. I have also purchased consignment furniture that I love structurally but not the fabric (often this will save you money because sometimes the fabric is what is keeping it from being purchased), and had it reupholstered (my office chair for example that you can see in September '22's A Cuppa Moments).
8. Have fun selecting or customizing your pillows, put them nearly everywhere
I once heard a man, he happened to be American, but I think that is important to note, say he would never want pillows anywhere in his house (he had recently finished entirely remodeling his house). Indirectly, he was insinuating that they were feminine and he didn't want to appear 'weak'. Long story, but needless to say, I wanted to say (but bit my tongue), you are missing the purpose of pillows dude. Admittedly, when pillows are used just to 'look good', then yes, by all means get rid of them. I agree on that, but there is a purpose to having pillows if they are well made and in the right shape for the piece of furniture they are placed in.
For example, on my George Sherlock sofa, which is incredibly deep, you cannot sit upright without having a large 22" square pillow behind you, and it must be a somewhat firm pillow. So over the past summer, after more than a year of figuring out which fabric would work best in the space of my living room, I had six 22" square pillows made with five different fabrics. They serve a purpose - the ability to sit comfortably, can be rearranged if you want to lay down, and they also are covered in fabrics that work with the sofa and the space.
~Tour my primary bedroom and learn about the three different sizes of pillows I chose and why I chose them.
9. Curtains, tall, complementary curtains for rooms of cozy-ing-in
There are a variety of different curtains to explore adding to your cottage, and I look forward to touching on many of them in future postings, but today I would like to share with you where to add tall drapery in your cottage: anywhere you want to relax and unwind. Tall curtains, some ceiling to floor, but at least as tall as you and likely taller, and then draping to the ground, soften the space, enable you to change the amount of light that streams through, and finish a room. What rooms am I talking about? Bedrooms, reading nooks, some bathrooms - near a soaking tub perhaps, dining rooms. Keep in my all that was shared about fabrics and mixing and matching prints above, as the same rules apply to finding what is the best fabric for your curtains.
~Learn more about the wool, semi-sheer curtains in my primary bedroom.
~Discover why I chose the linen curtains that hang in my primary bathroom.
10. Table lamps, invest and have fun
As shared in #4 above, once you have removed or no longer use the overhead lighting, you need light coming from somewhere if you don't have enough natural light, and this is where table lamps and floor lamps come in. Of course pendant and chandelier and semi-flush work well also, primarily in the kitchen, entry/foyer, mudroom, hallways, offices, but additionally to all of these rooms and especially to living rooms and bedrooms, add light that is at slightly above eye level when you are sitting, then add a shade that works in the space aesthetically. Don't feel you have to use the shade that the lamp comes with if that is the case.
One rule of thumb Rita Konig teaches is wherever someone can sit down, make sure they have a place for their drink and light to read. Again, add dimmers if that is an option with your lamps, but this design detail has been a conscious choice upon moving into Le Papillon, and I have now added 3-4 lamps to the previous other lamps I have had for many years, some I have since changed the lamp shade to work in their new space.
11. A fireplace, wood or gas, adorned with thoughtful classic, signature attention
If you are fortunate to have a fireplace in your cottage, whether it is a traditional wood-burning or a gas fireplace, even if you don't use it very often or at all, decorate around it thoughtfully keeping all of the ideas shared above and below in mind.
I recently redid my mantle around my gas fireplace because it was modern in its aesthetic. I changed out the title, using a classic cottage choice - Delft tile - added a wooded frame and even added two scones because again, following Konig's advice, wherever you are going to sit, have a place for a drink and lighting to read a book, as I have two chairs that sit next to the fireplace, I needed a place for a lamp and there is not enough for a table, so I placed the light in the form of scones by each chair.
On top of the mantle, be thoughtful, trying not to clutter, but don't let it be too sparsely adorned either. Have fun, and change it up when you are inspired to do so which leads me to #12 . . .
12. Strike a balance of intentional bountiful decor, yet not excess
Sometimes cottages without an understanding of how to create cozy without clutter can become overwhelming in too much upholstery or too many 'cute' details. That to me is claustrophobic. Be bountiful by the way of, avoid being minimalistic, and so long as each item fits the two requirements - beautiful and functional - you won't have an excess.
13. Invest in a quality goose or feather down sofa
I mentioned above that I have a George Sherlock sofa. This was a big investment item, but after having lived with a consignment sofa that was not well made for many years and before that a sofa, the best I could afford at the time, for 15 years, I wanted to purchase a lifetime sofa that was both comfort and aesthetically appealing in the cottage aesthetic that I love, so I invested and customized with fabric that works in my space. What does that mean? Plush fillings of down and feather to the firmness of my preference and a structure that will last my lifetime. I may reupholstered at some point waaaay down the road, but I will always keep this frame. It is sturdy and provides the comfort (i.e. space and length) that I need for someone who is tall and hosts dinner parties where many people need to find a seat in a small space that is my house.
14. Upholstered chairs of all types
The upholstered detail is a must, but not everything needs to be upholstered. This is where that balance must be struck. You will want some wood and hard structures - whether in the entire make up of the piece of furniture or in the feet or arms or the chair, table or sofa. Balancing soft and hard surfaces, appropriate to each space calms the eye and also communicates what the use of that space is.
15. Design a cottage that considers what makes your dogs and/or cats feel at home
A cottage without a pup or a kitty is like living life without smiling. Our pets are just part of what makes our cottages feel like our sanctuary. Of course there will be times in our lives when we do not have pets because we know how much they take of our heart and it takes time to grieve and know when or if we will welcome a furry four-legged companion into our lives, but either way, knowing we have a home that our pets will feel as though they are welcomed as well is part of the key essentials to decorating and customizing a cottage.
The first 'customization', as I shared in my new book The Road to Le Papillon was for my pups: a dog door installed into an existing solid door. Over the first year of my living in Le Papillon I also added a screen door to my garden porch and small fenced yard that also had a dog door, and there are so many other ideas to consider when making the human home be a pup or cat's home as well. From having cozy beds for each pet placed in a spot in the home that is with people while we go about our daily routine, creating their dining area to be inviting, attractive to the eye and in a safe but still part of the house spot where they can eat in peace, visit the water bowl at their leisure and not feel rushed, and something that is vitally important to their mental health, just as it is for humans, is to have ample natural light streaming into the cottage as much as possible.
A priority when I purchased my now home was knowing that my pups had direct access to the fenced lawn, although they are never kept outside, and can always come in through the dog door. As well, having a garden for them to toodle about in with me is as much for my mental health as it is or them as we spend many hours between February into early November (if the weather permits), sitting outside, sometimes on the porches, but also on the grass in the shade or out in the sunshine, cutting flowers for bouquets, picking berries together (the strawberry pots are our favorites), and just genuinely feel as though we have our own 'entertainment center' of sorts because we have our own garden, no matter how small it is. As I keep it organic, I know they can poke around safely, and always know which plants are poisonous should they want to chew on plants which typically is only when they would be pups.
Needless to say, a home for me is not a home, and in my case, my cottage is not a home without my pups, and it is a true joy and delight to know that they feel just as comfortable, safe and welcomed especially when we arrive home from a long trip, and I observe how they move about almost in a sense of relief to be back in their space because they are a big part of my life and joy.
Norman enjoying his new bed as shared in the episode directly next to my office chair, so in easy reach of petting and staying apprised of where Mom (me) is going.
Decorating the interior of our cottage is a process that takes time, and if the goal is to create a cottage where we feel most at home, that means we must be patient. Perhaps we don't have a house that is technically a cottage but hope to one day, as I shared in this post, you can always begin purchasing items that will be perfect for a cottage you will live in some day. So many of my current pieces I use and love were purchased years ago (the tulip chair that I reupholstered for example, was purchased more than 20 years ago), and it is this time that creates the cozy, because the pieces are more than just 'things'; they hold memories and remind us of either people, or times in our lives that were pivotal, powerful and deeply personal to our life story. Such a feeling cannot be purchased on demand to create a cottage that is our sanctuary.
As I sit and type this episode/post, my two pups are snuggled up in the living room with me, yes, after one year since the passing of my sweet boy Oscar and with much thought, examination and especially consideration for what would be best for Norman, we welcomed a little girl into our lives. Not to replace, for she is beginning her own unique life story and journey just as Oscar had his and he will always be held dearly in our hearts. I will be gradually sharing more about her in the coming weeks and months, but if you are a TOP Tier Member, look for a proper introduction in next month's A Cuppa Moments. Now to this current moment where I find myself in my cottage on a sunny fall afternoon, my gentleman boy Norman is in his favorite chair that was handed down to me from my parents and to them from a friend, and my sweet little girl is nestled next to me on the English sofa I spoke about above draped with blankets I have had from many different chapters in my life and the pillows created after working with my dear friend Veronique and fabric from a small business based in England whose fabric when I saw it, I said, I will find a place for it as it brings a smile to my face when I see it. This is home. This is comfort and cozy and calm, and it took years to reach this point, but it feels as a cottage should, personal to the people who call it home, as though it is made for them to just be, nap, read, rest and enjoy the everyday.
Today's list was hard to keep to just 15 items, so rest assured there are many more items I will share that focus on the interior décor of a cottage along with the exterior and garden. I look forward to sharing them with you so that you too can create a cottage you love living your life and savoring your everydays. Thank you for stopping by and tuning in.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #341
Tue, 20 September 2022
"The best day in your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. It is an amazing journey, and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins." —Anonymous
We wake up each day, often in our own bed, in the home that is ours whether directly or indirectly, and our mind too begins to wake up as well. The wheels turn by habit, and it is the habits we have cultivated that determine how we perceive the world, its possibilities, therefore our possibilities, the possibilities that the day will bring. Not expectations, mind you, which are different and actually distinctly subtly ruinous as when we have expectations, we close our minds off to any other possibilities that may delight, enliven, and deepen the beauty of the day. To awake each day and to hold our minds open to what could be, rather than narrowly focusing on what must or should be, our lives begin to change in the most amazing and beautifully wonderful ways.
So how do we give ourselves the best chance to make today the best day of our lives? Well, it all begins with each of us, as we have the leading role in our story that is our life journey.
Today I would like to share with you 7 ways you can give the best chance to making this the best day of your life.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #340
Tue, 6 September 2022
"The paradox of [contentment] is that it doesn't matter about our situation of life as meditation gives us freedom in the mind, but [when we cultivate contentment] we want to try to create an environment that is good for our body and mind." —Andy Puddicombe, Headspace
Welcome to the premiere of the 9th season of The Simple Sophisticate podcast.
In September 2014, the podcast debuted, and continues to premiere a new season each subsequent September. If you are new listener, be sure to explore all of the past episodes located on the podcast page here on the blog, and if you would like, begin with episode #1 which is the most downloaded episode of the entire show.
I want to take a quick moment to thank the more than 1,050 listeners from around the world who have written a review for or ranked the show on their preferred podcasting platform. I try to share listeners' reviews on episodes of the show as my way of thanking you for taking the time for sharing what you enjoy about the podcast because it genuinely makes a difference, and new and potential listeners read what you share, taking note to find out what this show is all about. And most importantly, I know you have many things that occupy your attention, and ranking and especially reviewing takes time, so thank you very much for giving of your time. (below is a snapshot of the past couple of weeks of the show, and you will see in the upper right-hand corner the total number of reviews and rankings)
The Podcast has moved to Wednesdays!
As you no doubt have noticed, today's podcast episode is appearing on a Wednesday and that is not by accident. Moving forward as I began sharing this past summer, the podcast will share new episodes on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month. The reason for moving the show from Monday to Wednesday is to accommodate a work week that honors when I have the most creativity and time to give to writing and producing the show. For the first 6-7 years of the show, I wrote, taped and produced the show over the weekend due to my teaching schedule during the work week; however, now that I am exclusively writing and can design my own schedule, I want to dedicate my Mondays to writing each new episode and Tuesdays to taping and producing so that I can bring a fresh new show to you every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month.
With that said, there is still inspiring content to kick off a brand new week on the blog in the form of the weekly Monday Motivational post that will be shared every single week so long as there is a Monday in it (which there always will be!;)). Be sure to check out this week's Monday Motivational post here, Saying No to a Culture of Non-Truths and Finally Finding Inner Calm.
Now to today's episode which concludes with two Petit Plaisirs as we celebrate the commencement of a new season.
"The paradox of [contentment] is that it doesn't matter about our situation of life as meditation gives us freedom in the mind, but [when we cultivate contentment] we want to try to create an environment that is good for our body and mind." —Andy Puddicombe, Headspace
To live a life of contentment is to live a life of inner steadiness, a feeling of being grounded and self-assured (not to be confused with arrogant and all-knowing) no matter what is swirling around you outside of your mind and body. I share on the homepage of the blog and again on the Introductions page of TSLL the definition of True Contentment which is not a term most people are familiar with. Happiness, yes, most people think they know what happiness is, but Contentment, rarely uttered and therefore rarely understood, and therefore, many are less likely to understand the awesome gifts and elevation to the quality of your life it can bring.
I took extra time when we were redesigning the blog last year to be very clear about communicating what Contentment is to new and current readers, explaining how Contentment, while different from happiness, is absolutely related. Take a look below at the distinction.
For today's episode, exploring the paradox of contentment, I am going to zero in on the first bullet of the list above in the green box: when you invest in cultivating contentment within yourself (which is entirely within your control), you can navigate every day well no matter what the external events may be.
But first, let's talk about what a paradox is.
The definition of Paradox:
a seemingly contradictory statement involving two (or more) ideas that initially are perceived not being possible to exist simultaneously, but upon investigation and further examination, state a truth.
The paradox of contentment begins and requires that we begin with becoming a student of mindfulness. Through meditation (of which there are many ways to practice - you don't have to be sitting down, you can practice walking meditations and many other styles, so be sure to find one that suits you), you begin to gain more awareness of your thoughts, and are then, with consistent practice and time (i.e. patience) begin to step away objectively from your thoughts and assess them rationally, noting why they arose, what needs are not being met, etc. because you become a more honest student of yourself.
Fundamentally, living a life of contentment doesn't just happen; it is a choice, and a choice we choose over and over again, but because we are consistent in our choice, we gradually begin to see the benefits of doing so and the choice becomes easier and easier and then becomes a healthy, constructive habit that is foundational to living our lives well. A more peaceful and rested mind; a mind for decision-making that has more clarity; a kinder, less defensive engagement with the world and to ourselves; and many more benefits (explore TSLL's Archives in the category of Contentment to discover them all).
Let's break that down.
Contentment is all about cultivating inner peace and calm regardless of what is going on around and outside of us, of which we have no control. It is when we begin to live a life of contentment that we begin to, as Andy Puddicombe's quote above states, "create an environment that is good for our body and mind." The latter half of this paradox is that our outer world begins to improve, change and reflect the peace and calm we feel inside. Directly, this change in the outer world, is not guaranteed, because we don't have control over anybody else's choices but our own, but how we bring ourselves to the world, how we engage, the decisions we make, what we prioritize, how we think and thus how we communicate, what we say, how we say it, if we even choose to say anything, is the energy that determines what we will experience in ways we cannot predict. And as you will begin to see, that constructive brave and loving energy is given back to you, and you begin to experience the living of your life in a more joyful way.
Gradually, through meditation which strengthens the mind, Puddicombe shares, "you begin to create the conditions both internally and externally, for peace of mind."
One of the most difficult parts of choosing to live with contentment and accepting the above paradox to be true is that we cannot know when or how all of this will occur. As humans, our Lizard Brain wants to know. And if we cannot know for certain, we don't want to dare waste our energy, but here's the irony in the refusal to invest in contentment. By choosing to live a life of contentment, you actually fuel yourself instead of drain yourself. You won't be wasting energy by learning how to cultivate contentment. You will be giving your life a deep breath, an energizing boost that on great days will take you even higher and on difficult days will sustain you and help you to healthily navigate through.
Immediate versus distant results. Or more directly, short versus long term results. Let's take a look at the difference.
First of all, I'll be honest, as humans, and especially in our culture of immediacy and shortened attention-spans, we want results immediately. I do as well. Count me on that list. We want to know if something is going to work before we invest. Of course, it will depend on what you are looking to invest in, but when it comes to your peace of mind which is a core component in your mental health and well-being, relationships and how you engage with the world in your place of work, community and home, it is hard to imagine anything more important to invest wisely in. And most substantive, deep life affecting investments take time to render their benefit. Sometimes the benefits are what never have to experienced because they have been mitigated by making the wise choice, and other times, the benefit of having clarity about what our heart and true self needs takes time because it asks us to be courageous up front, to take a seemingly huge risk up front without any promises, and then stay the course and continue to be a student, continue to apply the skills, continue to practice healthy daily habits, but then all of a sudden, you stop and look around you, and you are expressing gratitude for having cultivated loving relationships, a career that gives you purpose, a life you enjoy living each day and a world that is progressively improving. These awesome things take time, but they also take conscious effort and a brave person to ground themselves first to discover how to live well, and that starts with living a life of contentment.
The paradox of contentment demonstrates that the most difficult part of living a life of contentment is at the beginning when you are just starting to dare to trust that cultivating the necessary skills of self-awareness, mindfulness, etc. Why? Because likely the environment you live and/or work in, the relationship (maybe not all) that you are engaged in, don't nurture the values you are trying to strengthen. However, with consistent, intentional effort, because you are living a life of true contentment, you begin to have the strength and trust in making different decisions that build relationships and an environment that does support how you want to live, and because you are surrounding yourself with such an environment, it becomes easier to live the life you had envisioned when you began the journey.
Below are a few examples of how our outer world begins to change and as a result of living a life of contentment, further nurturing the values of our choice.
As we all step into a new season, and in many ways a new year, as I shared in Monday's Motivational post, while it takes time to see the benefits we consciously wish to welcome into our lives, it seems that far quicker than we might predict, the beauty of our days and life present themselves and we are experiencing them every day, in everyday moments.
Thank you for tuning in to today's episode and the first episode of Season 9 of the podcast. I have two Petit Plaisirs to share with you, and look for a brand new episode (episode #340) on Wednesday September 21st.
Don't forget that the 5th seasons of The Simply Luxurious Kitchen cooking show kicks off this coming Saturday, September 10th right here on the blog. Look for a trailer of the new season to be shared later this week on TSLL.
~The Split, BBC series on Sundance
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #339
Wed, 17 August 2022
It's been said that taking the Eurostar (which runs under the English Channel, connecting London to Brussels, Paris, Lille, Rotterdam and Amsterdam) is much more like taking a plane ride than taking a train ride, and in many respects, I would have to agree.
Why? It's swift, it's non-stop and there is wonderful service and amenities for comfort as you drift along in either direction.
Today's episode/post is for the first-time traveler choosing to take the Eurostar and especially for those of you like me, who don't live in Europe or Britain and want to see as much of the two countries that you love during one trip with ease.
I booked my first ticket on the Eurostar in 2012, boarding in London, destined for Paris. Riding Standard (aka Coach) with my traveling companion, the ease of having your luggage with you, sitting in comfortable seats with spacious seating arrangements all the while knowing the only stop will be your stop eased my mind as it was the first time I had traveled abroad to Europe since 2000.
Fast forward to 2022, and I booked our Standard Premiere tickets (there are three classes - Standard, Standard Premiere and Business Premiere), leaving Paris, departing for London. The upgrade was lovely and worth the additional space, a bit quieter (although Standard was fairly quiet as well), and the upgrade in dining service was oh, so good. But I am getting ahead of myself.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #338
Sun, 14 August 2022
Since the beginning of TSLL blog in 2009 and with the podcast when it began in 2014, I have regularly shared French-inspired ideas to incorporate into our everyday routine (be sure to check out Podcast Bundle #2 for many of these episodes). And the more I observe and savor how such choices elevate my life, as they become habituated, mature and marinate so to speak their way into my way of living, I discover how consciously welcoming such details deeply affect a positive change in how I move through my days.
For example, the muscle of savoring is strengthened, and I see more readily minute details to appreciate whether in my own home life or when I am out and about. I now more easily and without apology delight and exude my excitement without editing because it is not others' approval I am seeking when I, for example, get a good night's sleep that is in large part enabled by breathable sheets - à la linen! or when a flower blooms from a seed sown years ago, sitting next to an herb or a berry, planting inspired by the idea of cultivating a potager.
After more than a decade of welcoming such changes into my life, there are many that remain and feel a part of me, as though I could not imagine living any other way because it simplifies as well as adds a touch of luxury to my life as well as functioning just as I hoped it would and then some. While some on this list may not be exclusive to the French culture, it is in my exploring the French culture that I was introduced to the idea (for example, #1 on the list). Whenever we come across a way of living that speaks to us, in whichever culture we may find ourselves, that deepens our appreciation for said culture, and our affection seems to organically strengthen and take root.
Let's take a look at the list.
~Please note, I go into detail for each of the items below on audio version of the podcast. You can listen by clicking the 'Play' arrow above or download wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts.
1. A floppy straw sunhat for gardening or visiting the market
2. Brocante finds
Online Brocante shopping:
3. Focus on skincare, and thus, minimal makeup
episode #258, 22 French Beauty Secrets Worth the Investment
4. Linen everywhere - clothing, sheets, curtains
5. Simple hair style, less perfect, more healthy and loose (even when in a chignon)
6. Un croissant on the weekend
French Croissants et Pain au Chocolat, step-by-step (cooking video included), Season 2, episode #6 of The Simply Luxurious Kitchen cooking show
A recent breakfast on the garden porch, enjoying one of the croissants
7. French thé
~Stop by tomorrow as a new giveaway will be posted (the 3rd) and a bag of French thé will be paired with something quite luxurious to enjoy your favorite cuppa.
8. Mix and match favorite décor aesthetics
episode #228, 21 Parisian Décor Ideas from Ines de la Fressange
9. Savon de Marseille soaps
Enter the Giveaway here (it will be posted at 4pm Paris time, Monday). Be sure to enter by Saturday August 20, 2022
10. Growing a potager
However you choose or are inspired to welcome the French culture into your everyday life, let your curiosity guide you. I am confident you will discover even more appreciation of the everyday moments and routines, and your 'savoring' muscle will become quite strong. Thank you for stopping by and tuning in. Be sure to explore all of the posts and the second podcast episode shared this week during TSLL's 7th Annual French Week.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #337
Sun, 31 July 2022
336: How to Live a Life that Nourishes Your Brain, Thereby Elevating the Quality of Your Entire Life
"In the same way that a car that is well-maintained will last longer and be more reliable, you cannot hope to get the lasting high performance you want from your brain if it is not properly cared for and protected." —Kimberley Wilson, author of How to Build a Healthy Brain: Practical steps to mental health and well-being
Here on TSLL blog and the podcast, I have explored many topics within the first two subjects whether pertaining to emotional intelligence, relationships and communication, so when I came upon nutrition-trained Chartered Psychologist Kimberley Wilson's book - How to Build a Healthy Brain, I was intrigued and wanted to explore its contents. In so doing, I found what she had to share to be founded in a vast amount of supportive research from reputable institutions (in the United Kingdom and the states) as well as written in an approachable prose for readers, like myself, who do not have an educational background in the field of neurology, but genuinely wish to understand how their brains function and how to care for the brain well in order to live well.
Today's post/episode is an introduction, a tasting menu of sorts to explore the wide ranging areas in our lives that contribute to the health (or malnutrition) of our brain and thereby, its capability to work to its full capabilities.
Upon sitting down to read the book, once I began, once it was in my hands and I was reading it, it was hard to put down, and annotations now decorate nearly every page. Having completed my first reading of the book, I went back through and took detailed notes summarizing the key points that spoke to me and that I wanted to incorporate or strengthen in my own daily life. I will be sharing those here, but by no means is the list complete. The science of how the brain works, the parts of the brain, etc., are detailed in the first couple of chapters, and are worth reading prior to reading the entire book on your own as she lays a clear foundation of the parts of the 'engine' that make up the brain.
While I will be focusing on what to do to strengthen and nourish your brain, reading her book details what happens when the brain is not nourished properly. For example, what chronic inflammation does to the mind and the effects witnessed in our daily lives such as depression, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other neurological maladies. However, because I want to lift today's conversation to focus on preventative and constructive habits we can add to our lives to create a stronger sense and state of well-being, I will be focusing on what you can begin or continue to do and how it nurtures the brain, thereby elevating the quality of your entire life.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #336
Sun, 24 July 2022
Of all summers, the summer of 2022 understandably beckons us to travel, explore and leave our homes and the towns and cities we have been staying close to for nearly three years due to the pandemic. Perhaps even our homes want us to leave so it can have a breather from us!
However at the same time, with demand high, prices for travel fare are driven ever higher as well, so it may not be in the budget to travel during the summer season, or simply it just may not be of interest to travel as it indeed will be busy, at times chaotic and even stressful which negates the purpose that most of us align with traveling for a holiday.
With all of that said, if you have chosen to stay put this summer, just as I have, I wanted to share ideas for savoring this time of year at home and in your home town wherever that might be. After all, we spend the majority of our lives in our abodes and in the town where our home address is found, there is most definitely a reason we remain, and hopefully a reason founded in appreciation for where we have the good fortune to call home, so let's explore how to make it even more special.
1.Permit yourself the luxuries during the summer season you discipline yourself from when working
If you are spending your vacation time at home, be intentional about permitting yourself to wake up when you are ready (put away the alarm clock), take a nap if it calls you to do so, make your favorite meal, say yes or no as you please to invitations and opportunities - only partaking if you truly want to. Create rituals that you love and enjoy them throughout your vacation at home.
2. Turn off your phone or limit who you let contact you
To immerse yourself in the mindset of being on holiday while staying home, remind yourself that part of getting away is to be less available. Set clear boundaries for a week or two, however long your holiday at home will be, as to whose calls you will take, what messages you will respond to and how often and when you will check your email. In other words, let yourself be free from being requested, needed, and required to do anything that does not let you wholly relax. Do not feel guilty about this. You need time to just be and do as you are drawn in order to reap the benefits of what a holiday is all about.
3. Tend to a garden and revel in the beauty that comes forth
As the temperatures rise, when you are home, you can easily ensure the garden is watered well and regularly, whether you have plants in the ground or in pots. And it is during the summer months that the work in the garden decreases and time spent outside luxuriating in the beauty that begins to share itself is a priceless, evanescent treat. Knowing such beauty only lasts for a short period of time makes it all the more special. Seeing the butterflies dance about from flower to flower, witnessing the cherries ripen into their ruby red splendor in a blink of an eye it seems as July arrives, and waking up to blackberries blossoms nearing their transformation into fruits to nibble on are moments that can only be savored in summer, making it all the more difficult to ever want to travel during these precious warm months.
With my schedule now my own as I work from home, no longer having to only have my summers off as was the case when I was teaching, I am looking at the calendar and considering when would the best time be for me to travel, and I must say, because I love to savor the garden that receives so much planning and preparation during winter and spring, it will be hard to travel during the summer months as the years unfold. The garden during the summer is less in need of attention, and is now more a space to relax and savor the hard work you have given to it. With each year's passing, the garden matures and begins to present the vision you had in your mind, but it takes time, so most definitely, spending time in the garden is a highlight for me when I choose to stay home during the summer months.
4. Create an outdoor area to relax
While for half of the year in Bend, it is too cold to sit outside on the porch without a coat and other bundling accessories, the other half of the year is pure bliss outside, so I have intentionally created three (and hopefully in the future will add a fourth) outdoor areas that invite me or my guests to relax, slow down and just savor the natural beauty not only of the garden, but of the beautiful weather and long summer days.
Perhaps you have a porch where you can add a swing?, or is there a nook where you can add an Adirondack and foot rest to while away hours reading in the shade whilst the birdsong fills the air? Add a small bistro table and chairs to enjoy dining al fresco, or add a lounge chair or settee upholstered with outdoor fabric to withstand the sun and elements and relax in true comfort (and maybe close your eyes for a bit and take a nap).
~explore becoming a TOP Tier Member to take the tour of rooms, indoor and out, at Le Papillon~
5. Explore new recipes in your kitchen after visiting the local farmers' market
With open-air markets in full swing, the fresh seasonal produce is abundant and invites us to try making a dish we may have never given a go in our own kitchen. Find a cookbook that shares recipes aligned with each season (I have shared a few below), and find a recipe for the produce you find at the market. Give yourself permission to invest in necessary ingredients to make the dish what it has the potential to be, and then have fun bringing it to your dinner table (or dine alfresco under the lights).
Seasonal Cookbooks I recommend:
6. Pick up the weekly or summer entertainment guide for your town/city
Here in Bend the summertime offerings have returned and the entertainment is aplenty and then some. From concerts in the amphitheater, events downtown, multiple farmers' markets now open, trails to hike and high lakes and rivers to explore with the paddle or kayak. Whatever you most enjoy, let yourself do so. Take your low-back chair and find a spot at the concert of the performer who is coming to your hometown. Revel in the opportunities right at your doorstep and partake. Even if you have to go alone, which I often do to the concerts at the amphitheater here in Bend, you know your hometown, you will likely run into acquaintances or people you know and discover you have something else in common - the same preference in music!
7. Watch a movie outdoors in your garden or lawn
Perhaps inspired a bit by Home Again starring Reese Witherspoon, but it really is as simple as draping a light-colored sheet over a line strung from two parallel points, purchase a simple projector to connect to your laptop or tablet and enjoy sprawled on the grass or in your lounge furniture, sipping a glass of wine, and nibbling on something scrumptious and fresh. Just remember to be mindful of the sound/volume and your neighbors.
Outdoor portable projectors:
8. Enjoy breakfast and/or dinner al fresco regularly
9. Explore the many parks and walking areas in your town/city
10. Give yourself permission to slow down and take time to just be, regularly
Especially when it is hot outside, let yourself relax somewhere cool without feeling the need to be doing something. If you take a nap, let it happen, and let yourself rest.
11. Host a garden party, small and intimate or large
Whether for aperitif or a full meal complete with courses, invite friends and/or neighbors to enjoy an evening in your garden and outdoor spaces.
12. Find the water and enjoy it how you want
Depending upon where you live, the type of water you have access to will vary. Here in Bend, we are fortunate to have rivers, lakes, swimming recreational centers and even a white water surfing park. As many readers of TSLL blog know, Norman and I like to stand-up paddle, so during the summer, we try to do so at least once a week at a variety of locations either in town or just out of town on the road toward Mt. Bachelor.
Being close to, in, or on top of water is soothing. If you live near the ocean, take walks, sit on the sand, take a book to read, whatever nurtures you, do so and savor being near water. However, the access to water need not be vast bodies of water. Consider adding a bird bath or a small DIY water feature with a solar generated fountain (find one here for fewer than $20). Simply being near water can be incredibly soothing and calming which again is the essence of going on holiday, to bring a feeling of calm into our lives.
13. Read, read, read to your heart's delight
Often summer gives us more time to read what we want, rather than work materials that while we may enjoy them, are still required reading. While in the summer months what I read doesn't change, it is how much time I have to read that lengthens, and I savor this time, gobbling up more books, which leads to more books, and new authors and titles to explore.
14. Schedule outings to be pampered
If you don't already have regular facials scheduled in your calendar or a regular massage, any self-care pampering that is out of budget to enjoy on a regular basis, schedule your favorites during your holiday at home. This will not only give yourself something to look forward to, but the pampering itself will feel as though you are on vacation.
15. Hire someone to clean your house/car/mow the lawn/etc.
In other words, any have-to chores you don't enjoy, spend the money you may have had to use for travel to have someone tend to your chores so you can fully relax around your home and in your daily routine. I personally look forward to someday hiring lawn-care (mowing and edging) as the noise and jarring to my hands is uncomfortable. Such chores, whatever they are for you, look to delegate them and look at it as buying yourself time to do as you want rather than as you have to.
16. Invest and complete a project in your home to create an even more beckoning sanctuary
The project need not be something you hire a contractor for which would likely take more than the three months during the summer. But whether the project in your home décor is something you can do yourself - painting or wallpapering or swapping out new light fixtures, or giving yourself the bathroom you had always dreamt about, why not explore creating a space in your sanctuary that elevates the comfort you feel when you step into it.
Just this past week, the curtains for my living and dining room were installed. This detail of adding window treatments to the open-plan living spaces immediately transformed the space in my eyes - providing warmth, separation of designated areas and sophistication - softening the light, as well as letting more light in, providing privacy, but also creating more welcome. The image at the top of today's post offers a petite glimpse at the curtains in my dining room, and I look forward to sharing a full video tour in this coming August's A Cuppa Moments video chat with TOP Tier Members as well as sharing a detailed post on the blog for TOP Tier Members in August to source as well as share tips for customizing your own curtains, an investment that for me will be with this home for the lifetime of my residence here at Le Papillon.
Finishing a project that changes the space in your home, creating a different mood from what you felt at the beginning of the summer is a reminder that the advantage of taking time off and staying home during such time that we give ourselves can yield powerful benefits to our daily lives the rest of the year.
17. Add a sartorial detail of preference to your summer capsule wardrobe
When we are planning for a typical holiday getaway, we will often access our wardrobe to see what we need for a comfortable and enjoyable trip. Why not do the similar assessment for your summer holiday at home? What do you need to enjoy spending more time in your garden, wandering the markets, visiting your hometown haunts? Whether it is one item or a handful, doing so will again set the tone that staying home is a choice and doing so whilst feeling good in what you are wearing does make a difference.
Staying home during the summer holiday season can be thoroughly enjoyable. It begins with a mind-shift to keeping an open mind to explore all of the possibilities and then asks you to shift your habits and approaches to everyday living: doing more of what brings you pleasure and delight and being determined to step away from guilt society or ways you were raised or nurtured drilled into you as wrong. There is nothing wrong with taking care of your well-being; in fact, quite the opposite, and if it begins by just taking a week or two in the summer to permit yourself, perhaps you will notice the benefits it brings into your life and explore ways to integrate what works best for you throughout the entire year.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday. Bon Voyage!
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #335
Sun, 10 July 2022
Bonne Fete Nationale!
To those of us celebrating outside of France, we may be celebrating France's national holiday with an exclamation of Happy Bastille Day, but within the borders of France, as I have been reminded more than a few times, it is Bonne Fete Nationale or Le Quatorze Juillet! Whatever you prefer to utter, it is a day of celebrations for Francophiles, and while TSLL entire premise when it comes to living simply luxuriously draws much inspiration from the French way of life, today I have lined up 24 ideas for you to celebrate July 14th in your own way.
The above vineyards in Provence take me back to my trip in 2018, and oh, how I long to return. Soon, I reassure myself, soon. But whether we have the opportunity to stand on the terra firma of France at the moment or pay homage from afar, we can absolutely partake in the annual celebration.
I am looking forward to even more deeply celebrating today's events in the simple activities that fill my day: a sipping of French thé in the morning, watching the 17th stage of Le Tour de France, making herbed gougeres for apéro time in the evening and bringing them with me to gather with a dear friend who grew up in Belgium at her home here in Bend to dine in celebration of today being Le Quatorze Juillet. Parfait!
Now to the list with many links for further exploration on many of the items shared.
1.Watch Le Tour de France
Vicariously travel throughout the countryside of France for three weeks as the annual cycling event takes place. Watch on Peacock (ad-free, $9.99/mo or with ads, $4.99/mo) if you live in the states, and for all other international viewers, read this detailed post on VeloNews for exactly where to stream for your country. Peacock also offers the option to watch the international broadcast rather than NBC's broadcast which I flip back and forth from every other day from time to time.
2. Plan and then shop for a favorite French meal (check out TSLL's many French-inspired recipes here)
3. Don't forget the cheese and salad course (before dessert and after the main entrée)
4. Play a game (or two) of pétanque
(this game was being played in Paris just outside of the window of Hôtel Particulier Montmartre near Sacre Couer)
5. Gather with fellow Francophiles for a French meal beginning with apéro time
6. Pack a picnic and go somewhere amongst Mother Nature (don't forget to pack the wine and bistro wine glasses - sturdy, but lovely)
7. Visit a local farmers' market, and be sure to bring your market tote
8. Begin the day with a fresh baguette picked up at your local bakery
9. Une croissant s'il vous plait!, pair with cafe au lait or hot cup of thé
~explore how to make your own croissants here in episode #6, Season 2 of The Simply Luxurious Kitchen cooking show.
10. Select a bottle of wine from your favorite French region or the next region of France you hope to visit as inspiration to bring your next trip to fruition
~explore Châteauneuf du Pape wines (I pick mine up at both Trader Joes - they carry one varietal at a great price for this vineyard, as well as my local wine shop for more varietals and vintages)
11. Seek out French thé and sip a hot cup in the morning to begin the day - pair with your croissant perhaps? :)
12. Cook a classic soufflé au fromage avec fresh herbs
13. Organize a cheese and wine gathering
14. Watch a French cozy mystery series
~explore the latest This & That weekly post which includes additional Francophile Finds, including more French television shows I recommend.
15. Look around your home and discover how you can add a touch of France to your sanctuary, or yet another touch :)
16. Shop and purchase French lingerie to update your lingerie capsule wardrobe
~Chantelle is one of the French brands I highly recommend for high quality everyday lingerie (and they are currently in the middle of their annual summer sale). As shared on this podcast episode Aubade is a quality French lingerie brand I also shop.
17. Make a Clafoutis Aux Cerises with the cherries just now ready to harvest!
18. Conclude the evening by watching a favorite French film
19. Listen to TSLL's Escape to France playlist - over an hour of French music to enjoy
20. Prefer lyric-free music? Listen to TSLL's French Jazz Cafe playlist
21. Make a simple French crêpe for dessert - Lemon and Brown Butter Sweet Crêpe
22. Speaking of crêpes, make a Buckwheat crêpe (or galette) with prosciutto, gruyére and egg
23. Read a French book to explore further the French culture
~Explore all of TSLL's Francophile Finds for books here.
24. Add a French cookbook to your kitchen library - add one each year to further inspire your culinary journey into French cooking
~Explore all of TSLL's recommended cookbooks here.
25. Fall asleep enveloped in French linen sheets
***EXTRA**** Mark your calendars for the 2nd full week in August as each year TSLL celebrates all things French during the Annual TSLL French Week here on the blog. (explore all posts and giveaways shared in previous French Weeks here on the blog)
~Explore becoming a TOP Tier Member of TSLL Community to not only enjoy ad-free reading blog-wide, but also be able to enter all the giveaways presented during the Annual French Week (and access to exclusive content - tours of TSLL's home), as well as be able to curate a library of your favorite blog posts.
Of course there is much French-Inspired content to peruse and explore on TSLL, so be sure to find all of the French-themed posts here, French-themed podcast episodes here, and TSLL's Best Selling book in the category of France Travel The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment, as well as TSLL's 1st book (with an entire chapter dedicated to French-Inspired Living and France Travel and 2nd book. Thank you for stopping by and santé!
~Délicieux, the film
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #334
Sun, 3 July 2022
"When it comes to jet lag, there ain’t — I report from the window seat of a bustling café in Montreal, hence this paraphrasing of Leonard Cohen — no cure." —Mark VanHoenacker, a Boeing 787 pilot for British Airways and the author of Imagine A City: A Pilot's Journey Across the Urban World
The first time I flew abroad from Oregon to Europe (in my case France), concerns about jet lag were far from my mind; in fact, because I had so many other questions to answer and unknowns dancing in my mind, I didn't think about. I was 20 and planning to study abroad during my junior summer of college in Angers, France. I saved up for the $800 round-trip economy-class ticket (2000) by working three part-time jobs, took the necessary prerequisite courses, conferenced with my professor de Français, and along with not knowing I would need an adapter and converter to at the very least blow-out my hair and curled it, I also didn't think to investigate what jet lag was. Being the first member of my immediate family to travel abroad to Europe, I was figuring it all out for the first time on my own, and jet lag was never a word that popped up in conversations.
Fast forward to 2012 and my second trip to France that included England as well. Thankfully I had a close friend who having lived in England for a time and thus traveled back and forth from the west coast to England often, had a few suggestions for combatting jet lag. Nothing worked superbly, but none of the advice hindered my thorough enjoyment of visiting London for the first time, and then returning to Paris. Jet lag persisted, but if it meant I would be able to be in the two countries I loved, it didn't matter a bit.
Each trip following the two shared above, 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2022, I have gradually tried to tweak, adjust and determine what works best to mitigate jet lag's effects, and while I have come to the same conclusion as the British Airways pilot above, as he too shares in his recent article in The Financial Times, there are ways to lessen the discomfort and the prolonged effects.
But first, it is important to note what jet lag is — any time you travel quickly across two or more time zones and is caused when rapid travel throws off our circadian rhythm - the biological clock that helps control when we wake and fall asleep (source)
The more readers I hear from and fellow travelers I meet, the more I realize that where you are traveling from (home departure city), thus the amount of time difference you are undergoing, makes a difference, and so I decided to write specifically from my experience as a traveler from the west coast of the United States venturing to Western Europe where most of my excursions take me. With that said, as many readers/listeners of TSLL blog/The Simple Sophisticate podcast are Francophiles and/or Anglophiles and our destinations are the same even if our departure city is different, it is my hope that some of the tips shared today may be applicable when tailored to your flying itinerary.
~Note to readers: More details are discussed in the audio version of this episode than are shared below, so be sure to tune in.
1.Depart in the early afternoon
When scheduling past trips, excluding my most recent trip in 2022, I selected early morning flights to give myself more time at my desired destination. As well, often earlier flights in the day were a bit less expensive (I have not noticed this to be the case as of late, but in the past). However, when taking the most direct flight possible, leaving in the afternoon on the west coast has the arrival time in France or England in the early evening the following day which lends itself well to having a nice meal before exhaustedly going to sleep in a comfortable bed.
As well, leaving in the afternoon gives you time to gradually begin the day, go through your regular routines, partake in a healthy 30-minute or hour-long exercise routine, and generally, prepare to sit for a very long time. When I am able to exercise and not feel rushed, the rest of the day and any unknowns that pop up are easier to navigate, and I can more easily relax since my body has had the opportunity to fully move, stretch and receive what it needs.
2. Arrive in the late evening in Europe
If leaving in the early afternoon is not an option, at least try to schedule your arrival time in Europe in the early evening for the reasons shared above. Whether you were able to catch some sleep on the plane or not, your mind as well as your body is tired and after being fed well in your destination city, wants to stretch out and relax. Rather than fight trying to stay awake until night arrives should you arrive in the morning or early afternoon, when you arrive in the evening, you don't have to fight your body and just let it do what it yearns for.
3. The fewer connecting flights the better
If at all possible, scheduling-wise and/or budget-wise, choose a direct flight, or the closest thing to it (I have to take a short hop from Redmond to an international airport, typically Seattle, Portland or San Fran, and then my international flight departs to Europe from there). Not only do you save time, but it is less stressful, thus it doesn't exhaust your mind unnecessarily which is already going to be confused when you arrive due to the time change. Mind exhaustion on top of jet lag prolongs your ability to adjust, and the shorter the hop, the less stress incurred.
The many farms seen in the countryside in Normandy.
4. Try to sleep on the flight
Even if for only a few hours, do your best to find a way to experience real sleep. Real sleep where the hours invisibly whisk by and you wake up feeling somewhat, if not quite a bit, rested and energized. In my experience, the fewer hours I am able to sleep on the trip, the harder/longer jet lag is to recover from on that particular end of the trip.
5. Invest in Business Class if/when possible
In episode #329 I shared my experience flying Business Class on British Airways during my recent trip in April 2022 to Britain and France. Needless to say, even if it takes a bit longer to save up for each subsequent trip abroad in order to fly in such comfort, I will do it. It is worth it, largely because of the reduction of stress and my ability to sleep well. And as I shared in #4 above, when you sleep well during the flight, you reduce (not eliminate) jet lag.
My flight to Europe in Business Class provided more than 4 hours of sleep, and while I did feel the effects of jet lagged for about two days upon arrival, this was far better than it has been in the past. No doubt my excitement being back in Paris helped to overcome some of the feeling, but as I assessed what else may have contributed to an easing of this expected feeling of exhaustion, confusion, malaise and inability to sleep naturally, the one primary variable that was different was the flight I chose and the amount of sleep and quality of sleep I received.
My seat in Business Class on British Airways, bedding products from The White Company
6. Hydrate as much as possible while flying
While toasting with sparkling wine as the journey begins is tempting and certainly something I enjoy doing as well, refrain from too much alcohol as it dehydrates you. Instead, seek out as much water as you can, and even the multiple bathroom-runs are good for you as it gets you up and out of your seat which is an activity that sets your circadian rhythm. The more you can do to set your circadian rhythm to knowing when it needs to be awake and when it needs to rest (the reason why airlines dim the cabin light uniformly for everyone and set the meals as they do), the more quickly your mind will be able to settle into the new sleep schedule.
7. Take a hot bath before bed
Whether at your travel destination or when you arrive home, just before you want to go to bed, take a hot bath as this helps to relax the body and interestingly enough, drop the body temperature which helps you fall asleep.
A deep soak of a bath at The Savoy while staying in London. Take the tour of our stay in this detailed post.
8. Begin to simulate, ever so slightly and gradually, the new time zone before you leave
While a subtle shift at home may not seem beneficial, for me, this is actually quite possible as I like to go to bed early, and an excuse to go to bed one hour sooner, wake up one hour earlier is not a detriment. Of course, this will depend on your work and home schedule, but if you can, it may reduce jet lag a bit so it won't last as long when you arrive.
9. Be gentle and patient with yourself, gradually shift into the new time schedule
Our brains are wonderful tools, but it takes time to change them, and that includes its sleep schedule. When our sleep schedule becomes disrupted, our mind is confused as to what it is supposed to do, so be gentle and patient with it.
When I returned home this past April, it took about 7-10 days to get over my jet lag. Finding myself falling asleep on the sofa at 5pm with eyelids I could not bribe to stay open at any cost, I let myself fall asleep, and pushed myself to stay awake an hour later each night until I was finally back to my regular bedtime routine.
With all of that said . . .
10. Understand there are many jet lag remedies, but honor what works for you
I won't list the suggestions I have received over the years I haven't found helpful for me, or the beliefs from other travelers about what is most difficult (direction of flight) because what is true for them is true for them. However, sharing what has worked and why I have discovered it does work, had I been able to understand these truths, is something I would have loved to have known earlier in my travels but likely could not have known. Knowing that I needed to, for want of a better phrase, 'feel my way' through jet lag to figure out what happens and how I respond to it gave me the tools to figure out how to reduce its effects that most negatively affected me. Self-awareness not only helps you live a life you love living in a general over-arching way; it also affords you helpful insights in how to work well with jet lag to best fit your needs to ensure the best trip and experience possible.
For example, as an HSP (highly sensitive person), sleep is especially important, whereas for non-HSPs being able to function well on 5-7 hours of sleep may be no problem. Not so in my case, so now that I know the value of sleep for my well-being, I invest in ensuring I receive a good night of sleep when I travel as I want to enjoy my trip as much as possible, and that includes on the flight.
When we have the fortunate opportunity to travel abroad and cross many time zones, the price of jet lag is a small price to expense, but being aware of how it affects our minds and physical well-being is helpful so that we don't blame our mental lag on the destination but rather our mind's gradual settling in to the new time zone we have taken it to.
Wishing you many wonderful trips and stamps in your passport! Bon Voyage!
~click here for the full recipe.
~Top image: arriving in London, looking out over Kensington Gardens and Royal Albert Hall
Thu, 23 June 2022
"He who comes home with the most money doesn't win. He who comes home with the most experiences wins." - Steve Smith, contributor with Rick Steves in Rick Steves France 2015
The Simple Sophisticate, episode #23
One of the most exquisite pleasures in my experience has always been having time at home without a to-do list. To enjoy my sanctuary that comforts me, rejuvenates me and allows me to dream so that when I do step outside into the world I can do, seek and produce, is one of the things I most treasure about living simply luxuriously.
And so it began when I was a child, no doubt, as my mother always cultivated a warm home, but as I grew up and became responsible for establishing my own abode, it took much exploration, dead-ins from time to time and investment to create a space that allowed the everyday to be just as stimulating as new experiences brought about by travel.
And in so doing, paying attention to my home environment, I began to pay attention to how I spend my days. Was I exhausted and unfilled at the end or exhausted and feeling productive? Did I have time in my day to spend it with those I loved, converse with those who engaged in creative, uplifting and thought-provoking conversation or care for myself in such a way that respected my overall health? And depending upon my answer, I would tweak, eliminate, maximize or designate more or less time to those activities that improved the quality of living.
"He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much."
As the quote reminds us, living well is truly about prioritizing how we spend our days. Did we make time to enjoy the day, spend it with those we hold dear, take time to respect what our minds and bodies need or did we cram everything into our waking hours in order to fit a mold that we weren't asked for input regarding its creation? Everyone's path to living well will be different, but the key is to know what you want - more loosely rather than specifically. Because as we know, our lives intermingle with the rest of the world, but if we bring our best selves, have good intentions and are willing to be true selves, success is possible when it comes to living well.
Recently, I was watching the travel guru Rick Steves discuss on PBS his explorations through the countryside of France. While staying at Chateau de Pray and dining on their outdoor terrace, his dining companion shared the quote listed at the beginning of today's post. And I couldn't agree more especially when it comes to travel, but why not bring a similar way of living into our everyday? Why not . . . live well each and every day? Why not use the nice china in the middle of the week? Why not treat ourselves regularly to dinner or lunch with a dear friend at a restaurant that piques our interest or tantalizes our taste buds? Why not sleep on silk pillowcases each night?
Many may quickly scoff at such ideas as being too indulgent, thus deflating the exhilaration that is felt when they are only experiences from time to time, but what I hope to bring to your attention today is that with patience and careful planning, everyday life can indeed be lived luxuriously and can actually enhance the quality of our lives. Below are 20 ways to foster a simply luxurious way of living, but these are just a taste. If you would like the full list inspired by the French way of living, check out chapter 10 "Indulging Your Inner Francophile" in Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman's Guide.
1. Cook at home. Find simple, yet delicious recipes and discover the pleasures of cooking on your own schedule for your own dietary needs and preferences. (View TSLL recipes here.)
2. Indulge in café time. Once, twice or three times a week depending up on your schedule and enjoyment, select a favorite local café and stop in for some reading time, moseying through magazine time, or chats with friends. Indulge in one of the patisseries delicious sweet treats and lose track of time.~Les Deux Garcons cafe in Aix-en-Provence, cours Mirabeau~
3. Wear luxurious lingerie everyday. As I talk about in my book, lingerie is a necessity for the woman who wears it, not for those who might see her in it. Why? Because simply knowing we are wearing beautiful, comfortable, luxurious lingerie feels good. And everything begins with our thoughts. If we feel good, we smile more readily, we are more open to new experiences and our attitude is lifted.
4. Let go of busy. A powerful decision that will change your day-to-day living drastically for the better. Busy doesn't mean better or more productive, it simply reveals a life that perhaps could be managed better. After all, living well means living a life of quality. A life that focuses on what is necessary and lets go of the rest. And when you let go of busy, you have more time for moments of simple leisure and luxury that cultivate an everyday life to savor. (Click here to dive into this topic.)
5. Cultivate a capsule wardrobe for each season. Knowing you have in your closet clothes that will make you look and feel your best is a very powerful tool to possess as you begin your day. While this takes time and never really ends due to lives and bodies changing, it is worth our attention. (Click here to learn more about building a capsule wardrobe.)
6. Follow your own schedule. Perhaps it's Friday or even Saturday night, everyone must be out doing something, staying up late, right? Wrong. Your daily schedule is one that works for you and those you spend your time with. Perhaps you prefer Wednesday evenings out because Thursdays are lighter days at work and you enjoy spending your weekends waking up early and getting things done. Whatever schedule works for your goals, intentions, health, family, etc - adhere to it and don't apologize. After all, our lives, needs and desires change, listen to what is nudging you, calling your name and that is where you will find the unexpected beauty.
7. Discover a personal scent. Similar to knowing you are wearing luxurious lingerie is the choice of scent you layer upon your skin before stepping out the door for work or for play. A luxurious decision and investment, but one that will reveal your attention to detail.
8. Subscribe to daily/weekly/monthly periodicals. Running throughout the philosophy of living simply luxuriously is being well-read. Depending upon your lifestyle, curiosities, locale and interests, you will select reading material that interests you. Most importantly, gather knowledge, choose to learn something new each day, read a review of a new play or restaurant and be encouraged to give it a try. Become in the know of current events in order to strike up a conversation with anyone. Reading in truth, is a way of tickling your brain and refusing to live each day the same even if the events may be routine.
9. Save time and don't wash your hair everyday. Purchase a dry shampoo and have on hand for the days you don't lather up. Shampoo less often, thereby saving yourself more time in the morning, and believe it or not, improve the condition of your tresses. (Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk)
10. Invest in quality skincare products. In episode #13 of the podcast, specifics are shared on how to create glowing skin, and by investing in quality skincare products, your most beautiful skin will shine. The power of prevention is real, and while it takes time and a bit of investment, the pay-offs are tremendous.
11. Design a workout regimen to look forward to. Whether you enjoy exercising outdoors in Mother Nature or attending classes lead by instructors that inspire you and classmates that boost your mood, explore your interests and community to see what is available and what captures your needs and proclivities. Most people after having exercise will tell you that they feel better, energized and less stress, and if you can bring that into your everyday life, everything will be affected in a very positive way. (Revolver Yoga Studio, Walla Walla)
12. Find time to treasure hunt. Even if you are not necessarily going to buy, poke around in local consignment shops, yard sales, second-hand shops, antique boutiques and even boutiques that catch your eye. If nothing else, you will walk away with ideas on how to design, style and mix and match what you already have.
13. Be sincere, yet kind. While everyone has days that you are simply grumpy for any list of reasons, taking it out on others is something you will most likely regret. And even if you have to deliver news that isn't favorable, there is always a way to do so with kindness. Being conscious of how we treat people and our delivery will almost always be appreciated, and even if it is taken for granted, at least we can go home at night and feel good about the energy we put out into the world.
14. Shop at local vendors and boutiques. Perhaps you live in a town that you hand-selected for the community it offers, but what if you didn't? Either way, supporting local vendors when it comes to food or local boutiques when it comes to shopping for gifts, necessities and products not only builds good-will, but strengthens the economy of the local community. And additionally, when it comes to buying food locally, you benefit your overall health as most foods are free from pesticides and hold more nutritional value that your body craves.
15. Eat real food. Full of flavor that will satiate, real food is a choice your body will thank you for. Processed food may be more convenient and help you reduce the shopping trips to the grocery store, but in the long term, it is a bad investment. Returning home after a long day knowing the food you will be incorporating into your meal will be satisfying and nutritious will remove guilt and properly fuel your body for whatever it may be asked to do next.
16. Elevate the conversation. Easier said than done when we are exhausted, stressed and frustrated, but when you do your best to refrain from complaining and gossiping, you are less likely to go home in the evening regretting or feeling guilty about partaking. In fact, when conversations are full of curious information - books, local events, news, etc - you can walk away inspired, motivated and eager to do something new. Why not bring such a conversation to those in your world?
17. Create an evening routine to look forward to. At the end of the day, your body and mind may be entirely taxed which is why making time (even 15 minutes) for unwinding with a favorite pastime is crucial. Being able to look forward to this simple routine can be the silver lining no matter what your day has unearthed.
18. Schedule regular spa appointments for beauty and health maintenance. Much like exercise, caring for our bodies is a means to caring for our health, overall beauty and mind. So be sure to schedule your facial, massage, hair cut/color, waxing and any other must-dos before you walk out the door from your last appointment. They can often be the respite in a busy week and will no doubt leave you feeling rejuvenated.
19. Stock a bar cart for spur-of-the-moment entertaining. Whether you drink alcoholic beverages or not, stock a bar cart that has drinks and nibbles at the ready for last-minute guests. Even for one or two guests, having a bar with wine, beer or if it's morning - croissants and hot tea keeps the food with the conversation in the living room or sitting room. Luxurious and ready for any everyday occasion. (A glimpse of my
20. Fill your home with inspired music. For techies or retro audiophiles, have your turntable or playlists ready for any occasion. From leisurely jazz tunes when you return from work and wish to read the daily news to beautiful Bach in the morning as you get ready for work, set up your music station, turn off the television and forget about time, even if for a moment.
Whatever inspires you in your travels or remains memorable to you from your past, why not bring it into your everyday life if at all possible? Cultivate an everyday life that perhaps no one would believe is possible, but rest assured it is. After all, as Annie Dillard reminds us, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Why not spend your life living well each and everyday?
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~10 Ways to Unearth Your Inner Francophile (episode #4)
~French-Inspired Living: Books to Enjoy
Befriend a local wine shop to ensure great wines no matter what the occasion.
~Liner & Elsen "One of America's six great main street wine shops." -Bon Appetit
2222 NW Quimby St. (off 22nd Ave.)
~Chateau Du Grand Bos (2005) Bordeaux, France (wine enjoyed in the photo to the right).
~Images: (1) a cafe in Paris in Montmartre captured by TSLL
Sun, 19 June 2022
"Your soul needs time for solitude and self-reflection. In order to love, lead, heal, and create, you must nourish yourself first." —Louise Hay
Whether you have ten minutes or an entire afternoon or day to give to quiet contemplation, otherwise known as reflection, when you choose to do so, you ground yourself, ensuring the next "step" in your life journey will be far more constructive and in alignment with a life of contentment.
I happened upon an observation made by Paul Child, the husband of Julia Child, while reading Warming Up Julia Child: The remarkable figures who shaped a legend, while traveling the west coast during the first book tour for his wife, sharing in a letter with Avis DeVoto about the bustle in Southern California whose population was skyrocketing at the time,"'So busy w/material consumption & social whirling,' that they neglected reading and reflection." It was his concluding clause of what he felt was lacking that immediately drew my attention: His prioritizing and valuing of reflection as a regular pastime for a deeper appreciation of art and science, and well, living well, in his opinion.
Unconsciously, it has been my nature since I was a young girl, to reflect often. Likely associated with being introverted, but because it was unconscious, overthinking could occur which was unproductive. However, because I knew and had many examples from my life journey that resulted from being reflective, thinking deeply about a project, life choice, or temporary dilemma, I knew there was great power in being reflective. The skill I needed to learn was how to harness it for constructive purposes and to recognize when it became destructive (when my mind would regress to its Lizard Mind tendency and spend time in the land of worrying and catatrophizing).
“Most true happiness comes from one's inner life, from the disposition of the mind and soul. Admittedly, a good inner life is difficult to achieve, especially in these trying times. It takes reflection and contemplation and self-discipline.” – William L. Shirer
William Shirer, an American journalist and war correspondent, and notably, the first reporter hired by Edward R. Murrow, acknowledges the need to attain the skill of self-discipline, and the understanding that a strong and healthy inner life is a conscious effort that is not easy, but powerfully rewarding when achieved. In 2010, I shared a list of benefits when we acquire the skill of self-discipline, and over the years I have found to be true that it is when I have clarity about my priorities, about myself and how best to nurture myself so that I am deeply content and at peace that self-discipline becomes easier and isn't a battle with bad habits I wish to eliminate.
It may at first seem antithetical to slow down and be still to gain a better life, but as was discussed in last Monday's Motivational post, it is through subtraction that we increase the quality of our life.
Silence and the act of Reflecting go hand in hand, as we need to provide the space to recall, remember, examine and consider. As artist from the 16th and 17th century Francis Bacon states, “Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” In order to understand, we must slow down. In order to find peace with our direction, we must find the time to be still and ponder all that we have experienced during the day, the week, etc..
Confucius as well prioritized the importance and value of reflection when he said, "By three methods we may learn wisdom. First, by reflection, which is noblest. Second, by imitation, which is easiest and third by experience which is bitterest." To reflect enables us to avoid unwanted outcomes, events, loss, pain and hardship. Similar to a pickup that has found its way into a sinking water-logged mud puddle. To continue to spin one's wheels literally, only digs the pickup further into the ground, making it more and more difficult to be pulled free. It is through pausing, reflecting on the situation, ascertaining a plan that is not identical to the one that brought you to the mud puddle that will enable a desired outcome.
As my own daily life has become far more quiet, I have found myself experiencing moments that remind me of my childhood when I would while away entire afternoons or mornings, completely enthralled with an excursion with my horse or other animals, writing or reading, or simply toodling about letting my curiosity lead the way. Absolute bliss. And such moments were made possible because I gave myself time the year and two years prior to reflect on what was and what was not working in my life, what made me feel fulfilled, grounded and at peace, no matter what others said I should be doing to attain such desired outcomes. In this turning point in my life, reflecting was a vital tool that gifted me with the trust in my decision I had for so long been too scared to make.
As I know there are many fellow introverts as well as HSPs in TSLL community, reflecting, as I mentioned above, is likely already part of your everydays. The struggle I consciously have identified to be a barrier I need to work through (or around) in order to get on the other side of is acknowledging and finding peace with the truth that I thrive in an environment and approach to living my everydays that many people I had surrounded myself with or been surrounded by (due to teaching) don't find to be comforting or nourishing. For so long I expended energy, with my family, with colleagues or friends trying to explain, defend and becoming frustrated sometimes to the point of exasperation as though I was banging my head against a wall, that how I enjoy living my days is the real deal. It genuinely brings me deep satisfaction, elation and it is my place of true contentment. Some of these people I would try to convince extended pity, some assumed their way of living was superior because it wasn't their way and so I must be unhappy even though I claimed otherwise. And so what I am in the process of doing is finding peace with the reality that they may never understand, finding courage to speak my truth in a loving yet strong way, being at peace with the reality that my truth may cause some of these people to feel discomfort in the moment when I share, but I avoid feeling resentful later which is a destructive and unhelpful feeling as I move forward building and nurturing relationships with people who accept a truth they may never understand, and lovingly acknowledge there are many ways to find contentment and thus many moments of happiness.
I share the above journey first because all of my ahas discovered came about through regular reflection. The ahas didn't come instantly, but they did come. Often assisted by reading, as Paul Child paired with regular reflection, because none of us has all the answers to the questions we will come across while we reflect, and so in areas where I didn't understand, I looked to those who knew far more than I did. And the second reason I shared the above journey is because I wish I had heard someone say this to me, to tell me how you live your life, what brings you peace, calm, exuberance need not be validated by others. In the introduction of the November chapter (chapter 11) in The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment I speak about an aha I had about savoring my joy and not asking permission or validation from others to acknowledge that my joy was okay. Once I became conscious that I was actually unconsciously seeking others approval to feel joy, I then gave myself the approval from within and stopped seeking it outside of myself regarding how I enjoy and find peace in my everydays. So if I can give any amount of peace of mind to encourage you to continue to enjoy your days as you do regardless of whether others in your life currently understand, I hope I can do that today and here on TSLL blog.
What exactly does 'reflecting' look like in our daily lives?
Well, let's first take a look at what it is not. It is not meditating. Meditating is a valuable skill and practice, something I wrote a detailed post about sharing six benefits and how to meditate daily, but reflecting requires you to use the mind, to contemplate, to examine, and meditation asks you to observe your mind, to step back and strengthen your ability or simple awareness so that you engage with each day with more mindfulness, being able to hold yourself fully in the present moment.
(1) Reflecting asks for you to find a quiet space. This could be in one spot or on your walk while you either listen to your favorite music, anything that doesn't ask you to think about the content you are hearing, so in order to reflect, you will want to turn off the podcast episode (counter-intuitive direction coming from a podcaster, I know :)). Maybe it is while you are taking a bath, taking a shower, sitting in your favorite cozy chair or outside on your porch or working in your garden. You can be doing something while you are reflecting, but it needs to be quiet which enables your thoughts to wander without influence or distraction.
(2) Journaling often helps us to understand what our thoughts are trying to help us understand. As I shared a couple of weeks ago, often it is when I put what I am thinking about on paper that I make more sense of what I am actually trying to work through. The process of manually telling my hand to write a certain word or idea helps me solidify what I am actually feeling, wanting, or what is causing frustration.
(3) Reading can help prompt reflection, but only if you stop to let yourself ponder and mull over what it is that was sparked in your mind while you were reading. When I was teaching, I prompted my students to annotate while they read because it helped them to actively engage with the writer. And while it did slow their reading down, it also strengthen a closer reading of the text. My description of such reading and writing on the page was that they were having a conversation with the author - questioning, sharing ahas, challenging, understanding, etc..
(4) Regularly engage in reflecting and thus it will become a practice that not only becomes easier to do as you will find great benefit as you go through your days, but you will want to return to this comforting space in your day. Reflecting becomes a space where you are conversing about the day's and life's events, making sense of them as best you can and if you cannot, presenting questions for your mind to mull over in the days and weeks to come. I find the latter to be unexpectedly powerful because our mind is there to help us if we let it. We can sometimes pose a question to our mind, sleep on it, and wake up with an amazing aha we had not thought of but because so much stored information is in our long-term memory, it took our mind time to find where it was located. :)
(5) Practice meditation. I know, I know, I just said that meditation is not reflecting, and I am sticking to what I said, but in order to have an effective and beneficial reflective practice, you must have control of your mind. You need to be able to tell it where to go and where not to go, and how you do that is by strengthening the muscle that is the mind, and you do that through meditation.
The Benefits of Regular, Frequent Reflection
Now that my days have breath, in other words, regular 'white space', something Mozart reminds is how the music is heard and thus appreciated (here is his actual quote, “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”), I reflect every day and have found great strength received, grounding steadiness and a more sturdy confidence in my journey moving forward which is full of so many unknowns. Often the reflecting is in my journal, but it can also occur while I am taking my long morning walk with Norman or our short stroll in the evening. I have had to consciously remain vigilant that my mind doesn't let the reflecting wander where it doesn't need to go - worry, catatrophizing, etc. - places it would go without my knowledge previously of how to stop it or acknowledging that doing so was unnecessary and definitely not helpful, but such bad habits have been significantly reduced if not eliminated. I find this bad habit arises when I am tired, have not given myself enough time to recharge, and so I am being more mindful of my daily schedule as well.
The key to ensuring your reflection is beneficial is to always be focusing on constructive actions and progress rather than ruminating on negative events. The latter is where 'overthinking' and catatrophizing can happen, and there is never a benefit in such mental habits. This is where strengthening your mind gives you the power to direct your mind's attention. This is where meditation is a skill that contributes to reflection as meditation strengthens the muscle that is the mind. Now let's look at the benefits of regular, frequent reflection.
"Honest self-reflection opens your mind to reprogramming, change, success, and freedom."- Vikas Runwal
As well, in order for any of the below benefits to be experienced, you must be brave enough to be honest with yourself. You may not like what your mind discovers upon reflection during certain instances as you realize you behaved or acted or spoke in a way that was not in alignment with who you want to be. You may discover you need to apologize and accept the consequences of your choices, but in so doing, you will learn, and because you are reflecting you are beginning to create positive change.
"Time and reflection change the sight little by little 'til we come to understand." —Paul Cezanne
1.Deeper clarity of direction
2. Decision-making becomes easier
3. Deeper clarity of your needs, dreams and their roots of origin - are they yours innately or placed upon you by society
4. Better selections of which relationships to become a part of, to invest in
5. Improved relationships - you discover areas you would like to improve, better understand about yourself, and you also find your voice to communicate your needs, desires and interests.
6. Reduction of stress and anxiety as you become comfortable with your own company, strengthening your sense of agency as you trust your decisions and competence to navigate whatever the future presents.
7. Deeper and more restful sleep
8. Improved Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
In order to welcome a regular and frequent practice of reflection, you may have to rearrange your daily routine, but I assure you, the benefits, what you gain, will be more than worth it as you will begin to live a life you deeply love. Changes will certainly be a part of your journey when you begin to reflect in this way, but the changes will be made by you, and will be constructive.
So today, embrace your own company, befriend yourself, as Jane Austen describes the leading character in Mansfield Park Fanny Price, "Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions." Once you begin to confront behaviors and choices that do not contribute to the life you want to live, you will greatly enjoy the company that is your constant companion, you.
"The capacity to reflect is at the heart of what it is to be an effective learner."- Bill Lucas
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #332
Sun, 5 June 2022
"Our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to, whether by choice or default." —William James
To hold our attention on a singular point of focus exhibits a strength of being able to thwart the tugs of distraction. And to be able to thwart distraction takes conscious intention to notice, to choose to hold ourselves in the present and to be an observer.
An observer, contrary to what many may at first liken it to being, is not a wallflower or someone who is shy or passive in how they engage in life. No, an observer demonstrates awareness of the world beyond their inner world, beyond their own thoughts, worries, past experiences and biases. An observer acknowledges that the moment in which they find themselves is far more awesome when we step away from the past and choose not to look past today into the future and instead hold ourselves and our attention in the present without expectation of what we 'must' see or find.
There are many reasons for noticing of any sort - looking for the good, looking for the threat or simply observing - to become a honed, yet unconscious skill in our lives, and I will be addressing by the latter on this list of three can actually bring more awesomeness into your life.
Depending upon our childhood or our relationship with any caretaker during our youth, or in a culture where and if we were perceived as inferior or the minority, if the day's events unfolded based on how we engaged, what we said or didn't say, did or didn't do, we may have become very skilled at noticing others' moods, behaviors and tone of voice. Such 'noticing' was for survival, for a 'better', less contentious environment. However, it wasn't a noticing of what all that surrounded us, but rather a noticing in order to avoid threats, pain or belittling most specifically and solely.
If we were so fortunate to be raised and then as an adult live in an environment where joy was a regular and consistent feeling, good moments and peace-filled and happy feelings, even if different from those around us, were celebrated without judgment, then noticing the good is a muscle we have been toning and maybe didn't realize what a gift we were given.
I recently read The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker, and his introduction shares that the environment in which many of us find ourselves, if we aren't exercising our 'noticing' muscles, can detract our attention and thus prevent us from living well or fulfilled. Walker includes a quote from philosopher Georg Simmel who in 1903 wrote, "The stimulation of modern life . . . wears down the senses, leaving us dull, indifferent, and unable to focus on what really matters." That was in 1903 which while I know many may say, well, it has only gotten worse, I would counter an understandable remark by saying, its a perennial issue, an issue of whether or not to choose to notice the awesomeness, to notice when we need to turn off the noise (if we perceive it to be noise) and live more presently rather than just let what comes and what happens happen.
There is a reason stimulation of constant bombardment of noises - pings, quickly displayed images in movies, programming, advertisements and overlaying of music with films/shows/etc. - occur: to give you no space to think, and instead to tell you how to think. The only way such stimulation can work is if its creator knows where its audience is at the present moment. The advertiser, the media, the speaker has to meet the audience where it is, then they pull the audience (whose attention they now have) where they want them to go (or to think). If where they begin their messaging is too far removed from where we (the audience) are, their message or idea will not land and thus not be effective, so to this point, whether it is 1903 or 2023, the world around us will forever be trying to overstimulate us in order to wear us down to refrain from thinking and nudge us to just go along, letting us believe it was our idea. Our job is to be thinkers, critical thinkers, and choose to strengthen the skill of 'noticing' or as what is often described on TSLL blog, be fully present and thus mindful.
So how exactly do we become better at noticing all that is around us and thus witness, observe and savor the awesomeness in our life and the world? How do we see all that is around us clearly without the veneer of societal biases and norms? I'd like to share with you a list ideas for doing just that - seeing clearly, seeing the awesomeness and thus discovering how quite sweet everyday life is exactly where you live, call home and make your life.
I can already see some readers/listeners' response to this first item on the list. The reasons for their inability to slow down are on the tip of their tongue. 😌 I don't disagree that the life you are currently living will not slow its pace to match yours when you choose to shift to a speed that enables you to notice the world and yourself as you live in it. However, my first question is, Whose needs are not being fulfilled when you slow down? Likely, it is others' needs, not yours because if you are acknowledging you would like to slow down but cannot, you are already expressing a need to take your foot off the pedal.
We cannot change anyone else's behavior but our own if we wish to engage in healthy relationships, so we cannot know why others feel they must go at the pace they travel, but if the pace you are traveling leaves you unable to feel fulfilled, leaves you regularly trying to catch your breath, hitting the snooze button, drinking one more cup of caffeine, etc. then slowing down is the first and best way to be able to notice anything that will be beneficial and incorporate it regularly into your life to see significant change.
When our regular everyday pace slows down, much like a train that has halted at the train station, we can situate ourselves, read the signs clearly, take in the scenery without it whizzing by and really observe the detail in our lives. When we observe, because we have slowed our pace, we are able to take note of what is working, what provides comfort, genuine support, real love, and what does not. Then, with this clear information, we begin to make better decisions. Not being rushed, we choose with confidence what and whom to engage with or to refrain from and know in our minds why we are doing so, and that it is our true self that is making the decision, not an outside influence.
2. Celebrate this truth about being human - "more than any other creature, humans can outmaneuver our own base instincts"
Base instincts in humans deal with surviving. Not thriving, but surviving, so in other words, we are programmed to instinctively look for the threat, not for what will make us smile, not for what will make us feel at ease or happy or loved. Instincts are not intuition, so let's not conflate these too. Instincts are pre-programmed based on experiences we have never had, but as human beings living in a civil, modern world, our instincts are leading us astray and causing us more harm and dulling a life that could be so much more fulfilling and peace-filled. Intuition is honed; it is a skill that takes time to understand because each of our intuitions, while residing within us, is waiting for our true selves to emerge and for us to consciously understand who that is. Once we come to understand our own language, translating what our intuition is telling us becomes second nature.
So back to the outmaneuvering our base instincts as shared by Rob Walker in the above quote.
For survival purposes as a child or as an adult who has to be constantly looking out for threats due to variables beyond their control, noticing takes on a negative, but necessary connotation. Even when the threat is no longer - we have removed ourselves from that environment, that person, etc. - our instinct is to stay vigilant and only keep an eye out for threats. This is where we must outmaneuver what we have done in the past, and instead begin to observe all that surrounds us.
Walker astutely points out that it is no coincidence that a civil and modern society that feels overwhelmed by stimulation is simultaneously seeing a rise in meditation and mindfulness practices, teachings and routines. This is a beautiful and constructive example of 'outmaneuvering'. Humans can bring about that necessary change for a more enriching life when we acknowledge how we are currently living is not fulfilling.
3. Embrace solitude
Discover the gift and nourishment sharing time in your own company can be.
A TSLL reader recently and bravely shared that it wasn't until they felt truly lonely, that they found their true selves. Why? Because by looking the feeling of lonely in the face, they came to understand what made them feel lonely, and as this reader journeyed through the feeling (she didn't avoid it or turn away from it once she met it), she found ways of living her days that included time in her own company partaking fully having intentionally chosen for no one else to be there but herself and finding deep enjoyment. why? Because it wasn't her being alone that made her feel lonely. What she discovered was her true self, and this self-knowledge was aided by letting herself run into feeling that was lonely which then led her to understanding what her true needs were to feel fulfilled and nourished.
Loneliness often is misdefined. Loneliness is not being without other people. Loneliness is not knowing what fulfills you and thus not feeling connected to the world in which you find yourself.
It is when you embrace solitude, a necessity, not a luxury, that you give yourself the ability to be the student of yourself. You are forced to be honest with yourself if you choose to be courageous enough to stand in the space where you are the only human being.
It is my regular moments of solitude where I am refueled, nourished and find clarity. It is in my regular moments of solitude where I reflect on my feelings, events and thus come to fully understand myself so that moving forward I know clearly how to engage well with others, to apply what I now know and connect more sincerely and deeply when I step out of my solitude.
4. Let your curiosity be your guide
Being curious leads you to new discoveries. And each step forward prompted by curiosity strengthens your ability to be vulnerable. Your first steps fueled by curiosity may be small and appear insignificant, but they all add up to you becoming a person who knows how to be present and keep an open mind, open to what will cross your path, and instead of judging it, exploring it.
Whatever it is that stirs your curiosity such discoveries are much like the cookie crumbs leading you to and on a trail of fulfillment. You begin to discover what brings you to life, what enlivens you in a way other activities may not have. And while other activities may prompt curiosity in others, you begin to celebrate the differences and realize that following anyone else's path is not the route to true contentment for you. All of this is to say, each of us finds our way to true contentment on different paths, and this is something to celebrate. Because when we find our path, we're not looking at other people's route, but grateful they have found the grounding peace just as we have.
Concrete Ideas for Noticing
Choosing to be an observer means we are holding ourselves fully in the present moment, and rather than judging what we see, which involves our unconscious biases, we are simply noting. We see it. This is what we see, hear, feel - the senses become our translators.
5. Choose to engage in only one task at a time
By choosing to engage in only one activity, we are not distracted by another tug of the other tasks. Our attention is given wholly, our focus is on one thing, and so we can take it all in and are less likely to rush and thus deepen the quality of our efforts.
6. Reflect regularly - Make a list weekly, yearly, etc. of just what is
To note what has evolved, changed, is no longer, has begun make a list first of what was just last week at this exact time. If you would like to go further, make a list of what what happening in your life one year ago today, perhaps even two years ago or three years ago. When you create such lists, you are not passing judgement, just stating facts - truths of what was happening, was in place, how you felt and why you felt it, etc.. I enjoy this regular practice for weekly reflection and what I have found, especially when I make the yearly and bi-yearly lists is that the headaches and bothers at the time are no longer remembered, and thankfully, often the large headaches have been overcome and that gives me calm and confidence. Moreover, I am reminded that any harried or fretful thinking I had didn't materialize and that savoring all that was going well was the best thing to do so that better engagement occurred (whether I wisely heeded this advice them or not, upon reflection I am encouraged to do so moving forward).
7. Allow silence in conversation to be present
While in a conversation, often when there is a span of silence, one or both people try to fill it. Why not . . . let the space of silence be. In so doing, you let thoughts marinate, you give time for a response rather than a reaction and how you hold yourself in this span of silence has the potential to provide comfort to the other that indeed, such a silence is okay and you are not rushing and you are choosing to be right where you are and with them.
Begin to notice in such moments how you feel. At first you may feel uncomfortable, unsettled as you acknowledge you want to fill the space but is there really anything that needs to be said at that moment if you don't know how to respond to what has just been shared? Give time and see how you feel not rushing to speak.
8. Just listen
My mother does this very well. She will just listen to me. She doesn't insert her opinion, pass judgment or interrupt and thus I meander in my words until sometimes I discover something I had not realized simply by sharing. Of course, just sitting silently all of the time doesn't consist of a conversation, but the practice is to know when to just listen. When you do this you open up space to just notice. You take in not only the words, but their physical movements, facial expression and all that is going on around them. You also again give yourself time to observe and thus when you choose to engage verbally in the conversation, you are responding having given thought to what you will say and how it will be received because you have wholly taken in all that the speaker has presented.
9. Regular digital silence
Walker suggests taking a week of digital silence to not engage or 'connect' on your social platforms, but instead just observe. You can check your email, your social media accounts, but if you are trying to become more aware of the world around you and really see what does surround you, do not comment, like or anything else that is engagement on your part. Instead, just observe and see what you notice. What really does draw your eye, and why? Discover if you really do need to respond and why you previously felt you needed to. Walker goes further to entertain the idea that if we had a limit to how many times we could comment or respond each week, where would we place our energy and focus? Why would we do this?
All of this silence we choose to welcome into our lives as shared by #7, #8, and #9 give you the opportunity to become more aware and thus discover if you are engaging in the world in a way that is in alignment with the life you want to live and how you want to show up in the world.
10. Audit your daily sonic profile
This particular suggestion by Walker caught my attention, especially as someone who lives alone, and for any TSLL readers who tune in to the monthly A Cuppa Moments, Norman's snoring (something I adore) is more pronounced than I realized when it is captured on video. This always makes me smile because when we take note of all of the sounds in our everydays we might discover certain ones provide comfort while others dull our experience and still others numb us to truly feeling what we need to feel.
I have spoken about this before but I have realized that as I have grown, I am more and more comfortable with silence and prefer it as unnecessary sounds if not soothing to my ear (I adore birdsong for example and find it nurtures and encourages my writing, but the sound of a leaf blower drives me up a wall leaving me unable to concentrate). What I have also realized is that part of why I needed some 'noises' in my life - the television on or the radio in the background - was because I was unable to be mindful, unable to master my mind and where it would wander. As well, advertisements are always muted or turned off when they appear during shows I am watching as after having taught rhetoric for many years in school, I am now aware of the subtle influences of skillful advertising companies and don't want to introduce any ideas I don't choose to watch or explore mindfully and entirely into my days when all I want to do is relax with a quality program.
The auditing of your sonic profile also includes the small, everyday sounds such as the dishwasher's humming, the dryer's whirling, ice crackling when you pour the liquid over the top for sipping. Observe the natural sounds that surround you as well - the drizzling of rain, the gentle breeze and dancing of the leaves. When you begin to notice all of the auditory details of your days and how they affect you, you begin to pay more attention to how to build a life, a day, that nourishes you, your mind and your being.
11. Be alone in public
I sincerely enjoy doing this and because of how I live my life, I am alone in public often, and am quite comfortable with it. Being alone in public also makes me more deeply appreciate when I am spending time with others out in public as I engage differently as my attention is primarily on the conversation I am having and what we are doing together rather than the exterior going-ons.
When I am alone in public I notice details far more quickly, easily and deeply. I also notice how others are not noticing all that is going on around them which, as I shared above, is what most of us (including myself) do when we are with someone we want to be with - we give them and our engagement with them our full attention (this is a good thing :)). The balancing of both time in public alone and with others enables us to become more aware of our environment and how the community we live in engages, organizes, what it enjoys, explores, celebrates, etc. I also find myself being open to new and unexpected conversations and opportunities when I am alone in public because you see more, and if you are observing and not judging, you are open to whatever may cross your path. This doesn't mean you have to engage, but you see it and that is what noticing is all about.
12. Journal your days
This one is my practice and suggestion. One that I have found when I don't know what to do with my mind due to feeling restless or confused or at the beginning of shifting my days to a slower pace. When I sit down to journal, I begin to notice what just thinking about what I noticed could not accomplish. Putting on paper how I felt when I woke up and how the morning sun streaming through the reading nook window brought a smile to my face reminds me of the awesomeness that I may have forgotten about by the end of the day. Such seemingly trivial 'noticings' are actually, as Walker states in his introduction, vital. "[Paying attention] connects us with others. It makes you eager to find interest in the everydays to notice what everybody else overlooks—these are vital skills and noble goals." When you begin to really pay attention to the present moment and observe with an open mind, you begin to realize "what matters to you" and you begin to let go of what was told to you that you should care about, what your life should look like and what next steps you should take, because you now know what brings you to life when certain details, events, people, activities, time alone awakens your true self.
Today and moving forward, infuse your everydays with more 'noticing', more observation and by doing so you will strengthen your ability to hold yourself in the present moment which strengthens your ability to be mindful which all contributes to your discovering how awesome your everydays are and the world you choose to live in fully.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #331
Sat, 21 May 2022
The British culture is varied and vast and while one person's affection for the culture may include punk rock along with their love for the Beatles, another's affinities may gravitate toward the gardening and afternoon tea. While my predilections lean more toward the latter, whenever a culture speaks to us that is not the one in which we grew up in or were raised entirely, we owe it to ourselves to continue to explore because our intuition is speaking.
As many readers of TSLL and listeners of the podcast know, TSLL derives much of its content from two cultures, the French and the British, specifically the ways of life that invite us to slow down, savor and invest in quality moments and approaches rather than quantity and superficial living to gain approval. Instead the only approval we seek is from within.
In episode #144 I shared 20 ways for welcoming the French culture into your everyday life, and so it is well overdue that I should share a similar list for welcoming the British culture into your everyday life. After having now visited London on three separate occasions and the English countryside on two separate occasions, I enjoyed compiling this list as my life in Bend is a marriage of both my love of the French and British culture, incorporating from both the everyday rituals I love, savoring approaches, tastes, décor and ways of life that reminds me of two cultures that tickle my curiosity and nurture my true self most sincerely.
Inspired by my most recent visit, but also drawing upon all of my experiences and fortunate opportunities to explore Britain, let's take a look at how we can welcome different ideas into our everyday life the British culture.
~Note to readers: Be sure to listen to the episode as each item listed below is discussed in much more detail in the audio version.
1. Create a tea ritual in your everyday routine
The feline host at The Rookery in London, Bagheera, joined us for our morning tea.
2. Know, use correctly with confidence and be able to explain the difference in conversation between saying England, Great Britain/Britain and the United Kingdom
~tune in to the audio version for this episode where the differences are explained
Check out this detailed and easy to follow post about the clear differences.
3. Subscribe to either AcornTV or BritBox (or both), and enjoy multiple series, films and BBC programs, some within hours of their airing in Britain
4. Grow a garden no matter how large or small your outdoor space or balcony
Touring gardens was a primary focus on this most recent trip, and Sissinghurst Castle Gardens inspired many ideas as well as soothed the mind and being as I wandered the grounds for hours.
5. Invite others to 'tea' at your home or for a Cuppa
6. Celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee this year
7. Welcome cozy upholstered furniture (reupholstered an old favorite) into your home décor
~Staying at The Pig at Bridge Place introduced many ideas for cozy upholstery inspiration.
8. Watch football (aka soccer), or not and instead watch tennis or cricket or rugby
9. Have biscuits (shortbread cookies) or something simple to nibble on when having tea with guests at your home
10. Tune in via television or radio to the BBC
"The oldest national broadcasting organisation in the world with a global reach, covering world events 24/7 and producing world-class entertainment".
11. Watch Ted Lasso on AppleTV+
A new season will likely be released this late summer/early fall. The first two seasons can be streamed in entirety now.
12. Acquire a high quality umbrella (and use it when it rains)
~James Smith & Sons in London on New Oxford was a must-stop during my recent trip to London.
13. Layer with pillows, let go of matchy-matchy
Instead keep in the same color tone, and mix large and small prints with the occasional solid.
14. Find time to spend time at the oceanside
15. Make and enjoy scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam
16. Watch Come Dine With Me (on Channel 4)
Premiering in 2005 and running for 27 seasons, so far, this reality series is a hit across Britain.
17. Find your favorite color of a pair of wellies and have them on hand
18. Make and enjoy a traditional Cornish Pasty
19. Watch The Great British Bake-Off each late summer/early fall
20. Enjoy a proper English Breakfast
What exactly is a traditional English Breakfast (we're not talking about the tea here)? Sausages, back bacon (not a crispy version, but rather more hearty as it consists of a little bit of the loin and is smoked), eggs, tomatoes - pan seared and seasoned with salt and pepper, mushrooms, fried bread, and beans.
21. Practice your French
Did you know that the Queen looks over the weekly menu given to her by the chef who writes the menu in French, as has every chef dating back to Queen Victoria's reign? Yep, and just another lovely reason to incorporate both cultures in some way into your daily life. :)
22. Practice thoughtful manners
Give personal space (an arm's length distance), use both a fork and knife when dining, don't ask nosey questions, please and thank you, respect the queue, refrain from superlatives (i.e. the best, greatest, worst, tallest, shortest, most exciting, etc.)
23. Make and enjoy Yorkshire pudding (and it isn't a 'pudding')
24. Welcome trays into your everyday for serving tea, meals, courses, etc.
~Be sure to enter this giveaway to win a high quality, handmade rectangular tray with glass top.
25. Enjoy daily walks with your pups and say hello to passing pups
During this trip walking was done both in the heart of London (seen here with Big Ben in the background) and in the English countryside as we toured Sissinghurst Castle Garden. This photo was captured after just having departed from The Tube in the morning on our way to Westminster Abbey, followed by a visit to The National Gallery and then to Claridge's for Afternoon Tea. Needless to say, Norman was missed, and our reunion upon arriving back in Bend was quite sweet.
Enjoy English tea at home in Bend, Oregon, with Norman as my companion. Bliss.
SIMILAR POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #330
~Explore all of the posts shared during this year's Annual British Week. Today's episode wraps up all of the new posts that will be shared (16 in total), and be sure to enter to win all of the five giveaways by 4pm (Pacific) today. All winners will be announced in a detailed post tomorrow on the blog. Thank you to everyone who stopped by this week. What a fun week it was! To talk all things British's and reminisce and hear your stories of travel as well as future trips, I am excited for everyone as each of us welcomes the British culture in our own way of everyday life continues. Have a wonderful weekend.
Sun, 15 May 2022
To feel intrinsically connected with a culture other than the one you were raised involves the feeling of a coming home. A 'coming home' in a way that seems impossible until you feel it first-hand, deep in the marrow of your bones. As I share in detail in the introduction of the month of May in my new book The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment, my first trip and time spent in the English countryside spoke to my inner most true self in a way I didn't expect, but completely understood.
Returning to England this past April was life lifting. Noting not having visited since 2017, which I didn't realize consciously is nearly 5 years, ended a drought of British culture seen with my own eyes that I needed more than I realized. It was a figurative deep breath of fresh air that upon taking in, immediately brought a smile to my face and a calm to my being. While I didn't spend my time as I most enjoy for most of my days when I am in England, which is to rent a vacation rental out in the countryside and go about many days just savoring the everyday routines and visiting an occasional destination of interest, I was in Britain, and that was all that mattered. I saw places and spent time partaking in activities that further introduced a culture to me I had not done before, and for that I am grateful.
In today's episode/post, I'd like to share with you 20 Life Lessons learned during these 3 1/2 days in Britain - both in London and in Kent as we took a train ride out to the southeast countryside of England and spent the night as we were intent to visit Sissinghurst Castle Garden, and oh what a treat that was.
Let's take a look at the list:
~Note, if you tune in to the audio version, I share much more detail about each item on the list. Be sure to check out the podcast wherever you enjoy your favorite shows.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #329
Sun, 1 May 2022
Today I would like to share with you 16 ideas for savoring Paris fully no matter how short your stay may be. As I have written about in my first book and referred to in my third, the Paris Syndrome is real, but the magic of Paris is real as well.
Admittedly, I thoroughly enjoy the French countryside and appreciate and utilize my time in Paris for punctuating my visits as my trips begin and then as I conclude them before making my way to the airport or heading to England via the Eurostar. While in Paris, I give myself a day or two to soak up opportunities to explore exhibits, try new and different restaurants, step inside places I am most curious about as there is always something I have yet to see with my own eyes or simply sit on a terrasse and watch the city go about its day. The energy, the city itself is like no other, and it does seem to breathe new life, excite new ideas and bring them to the forefront for my attention to cease.
My recent trip found me traveling with my mother who I invited to join me as I wanted to get my feet back onto the terra firma of the two countries I adore and write about here on TSLL after the nearly three year hiatus. With this being my mother's first trip to either country (France and Britain), I decided against stepping outside of Paris and instead tried to give her a taste of what makes the City of Light so special. Seeing so much in the span of just under three days was a bit overwhelming, but each experience was quite special. However, with this being my seventh visit to Paris, it solidified even more concretely what I enjoy spending my time doing when I visit no matter how much time I have and what enables me to truly savor, appreciate and revel in any opportunity to be there in person. Let's take a look at the list.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #328
Sun, 17 April 2022
"Although your true nature may be hidden momentarily by stress and worry, anger and unfulfilled longings, it still continues to exist. Knowing this can be a great comfort."—Rick Hanson, PhD with Richard Mendius, MD, Buddha's Brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love and wisdom
The mind's default is dialed to 'survive', not to thrive. However, the wonderful 'gift' that our brain has within it is the toolbox full of tools (i.e. capabilities) to learn the skills to change the dial to 'thrive'.
There is a distinction, however slight between the brain and the mind, and while the two are often conflated, think of the brain as the physical entity within your skull and the mind, the conceptual idea maker that thinks due to the capabilities of the brain.
With that said, the title refers to the truth of what will change your life for the better. The author of Buddha's Brain, Rick Hanson is a neuropsychologist shares along with the contributor, doctor in neurology Richard Mendius, "If I know one thing for sure, it's that you can do small things inside your mind that will lead to big changes in your brain and your experience of living . . . you really can nudge your whole being in a better direction every day. When you change your brain, you change your life."
The secret that is often unknown unless we are taught, learn or observe it, is that we have to change the dial from 'survive' to 'thrive' and it is a muscle we have to keep toned. The question I have been asking for over two decades is How. And while I have been grateful to find books over the past twelve years, sharing so many of them and what I have here on TSLL, it was reading Buddha's Brain that provided the science that help me make sense of why my brain encourages my mind to default in certain ways that in hindsight are not helpful. (I will list the other previous books and their post/episodes below.)
1.Practice the three fundamentals of Buddha's teachings: Virtue, Mindfulness and Wisdom
Since our brain and how it functions is the reason we suffer, yet we can change the brain, then we can also cure the suffering. Hanson summarizes what Siddartha who over two thousand years ago, at the time not yet called Buddha, discovered as he trained his mind "thus his brain" while understanding the causes of suffering, also discovered the "path to freedom from suffering".
Let's take a look at what each of these three look like in everyday life:
2. Prolong feelings of happiness
Did you know that as "you become a happier person, the left front region of your brain becomes more active"? Yep. And this is a very good thing because the left frontal region of your brain is where your skills for communication and thinking abstractly as well as understanding abstraction are rooted. When we consciously prolong and hold ourselves in moments of happiness, in other words, savor them deeply, we are actually rewiring our brain, and "when neurons fire together, they wire together". When we do this regularly, savoring what is good, what makes us happy, we are gradually, yet steadily and significantly changing our brains, and thus 'how we think' for the better.
3. You don't need more resources, you already have what you need
The key to changing our brains is not to have more money, more time or well, anything outside of ourselves, which is very good news. The key is awareness, knowledge of how to change the brain, and the will and restraint to do so. So, look back to #2, that is a great place to start - savor the moments of happiness.
4. Understand why we 'suffer' when we step away from what we know
From ending a relationship and moving on, to changing jobs and thus the colleagues you surround yourselves with, the first year at college away from your family after having lived with them your entire life thus far, leaving your home to travel and experiencing home sickness or even the Paris Syndrome, your mind defaults to 'surviving' and is not concerning itself with what is best for you to thrive.
Within our brain, the Lizard brain as it is often called, when we separate from what we have done, when we choose to be independent and start something new or go somewhere new, our brain will push back and "produce painful signals of disturbance and see your choice as a threat". Thus the struggle with the mind, and the emotions, for a temporary period of time. Often, people don't understand such feelings are temporary and retreat to what they've known which is what the Lizard brain and brain set to the default of 'survive' wants you to do, but that is not thriving.
5. Understand how past negative experiences trigger the mind in the present more powerfully than positive memories
"The brain is drawn to bad news."
Velcro versus Teflon.
Since our brain is set to default to survive, "the hippocampus makes sure [negative events are] stored carefully for future reference", our negative experiences tend to have more of an impact than positive ones unless we live consciously and understand why the brain does this.
I found this section of the book incredibly powerful because once I understood why the brain kept pulling me back to worry, doubt, anger, sorrow, shame, any negative feeling to prevent me from stretching, changing, growing, progressing, even hoping, I could then take the wheel and pause its previously unstoppable progression toward an unhelpful state of mind. Keep the following quote in mind if you too have a mind that you might right now think cannot be controlled (the good news, and why I am writing this post, is that it can):
"[The brain] highlights past losses and failures, it downplays present abilities, and it exaggerates future obstacles. Consequently, the mind continually tends to render unfair verdicts about a person's character, conduct and possibilities. The weight of those judgments can really wear you down."
6. Stop living in simulations
Simulations are moments that the brain plays, or replays over and over again. Whether you are rehashing an argument or situation that didn't go as you had hoped, or thinking ahead to the future and imagining every possible outcome, every single one is a simulation and it pulls you away from the present moment. Hanson calls simulations 'mini-movies', and shares, "Mini-movies keep us stuck by their simplistic view of the past and by their defining out of existence real possibilities for the future, such as new ways to reach out to others or dream big dreams."
Essentially when we let ourselves get lost and wander about in simulations we are putting ourselves into an invisible cage, and as Hanson rightly reminds, trapping ourselves in a life that is smaller than the one you could actually have.
7. Practice regular self-compassion
We often know how to give compassion or extend compassion to others. It is important to note that compassion is not pity. Compassion instead involves extending "warmth, concern and good wishes". In 2016 I wrote a detailed episode (#122) sharing how to extend compassion to yourself, and why it is important. When you practice self-compassion you are creating a refuge, an island of calm as author Dr. Kristin Neff describes it for you to just be - stepping away from all negative and positive energy that you may have running in your mind, letting go of self-doubt and extending kindness to yourself.
When we practice regular self-compassion, we are exercising self-awareness as we give ourselves what we need, and we are in that moment, in a state of true contentment because no matter what is swirling around us - in the outside world or within our mind, we are stepping back and finding stillness, observing, but not engaging, and providing care to ourselves so that we can respond well when we are ready, rather than reacting.
8. Stop throwing the Second Dart
Oh, oh, oh! This was a big aha moment for me.
Since we're talking about a Second Dart, there must be a First Dart, and there is. As Dr. Hanson explains, the First Dart is out of our control - a negative or unwanted experience happens, but it is HOW we react to the First Dart that creates a Second Dart, and we can prevent the latter from ever being thrown in the first place by becoming aware of ourselves and choosing to respond rather than react.
The reason Second Darts need to cease being thrown is because they are often more hurtful, painful and destructive. And here's the best news of all, Second Darts are entirely avoidable and never unavoidable. In other words, we need to stop hurting ourselves in such a way that is entirely avoidable to do so.
An example of what a Second Dart looks like: Your boss or colleague gives you the cold shoulder at work or doesn't consider your idea, or even invite you to share (first dart); immediately, in your mind, you rush to doubt yourself, become angry for being ignored and immediately assume their treatment must be all about something you did/lack/didn't do/are not enough of/etc. (second dart). The second dart lacks any evidence and takes in no context for any other extenuating circumstances, and causing unnecessary suffering.
Dr. Hanson warns that sadly, some second darts can be thrown that are a result of a positive first dart that we, refuse to see as positive because we are doubtful and distrustful of ourselves. Example: you receive a genuine compliment and immediately question (in your mind) how it could be possible that someone sees something good, or you are fearful they will see through you. Again, you've caused yourself unnecessary suffering and you are creating neural connections that actually decrease positive growth in the mind.
Long story short, refrain from throwing a Second Dart, ever, ever, ever.
9. Consciously create a life of more moments and experiences to savor every day
Our brain has a negativity bias as discussed above. Understand this and you understand the vital importance of savoring, savoring, savoring. I often repeat in triplet this verb and it's not on accident. When we savor, don't just do it once, hold yourself in the moment, create an imprint of this awesome moment in your mind. Your brain is changing for the better, and thus your mind thinks better and your life changes for the better.
Hanson shares ideas that I have a feeling will look quite familiar to readers and listeners of TSLL blog and the corresponding podcast. (1) look around you, throughout your day and your life for what you are grateful for, look for the good news in other words and so much of the good news is seemingly small and insignificant, but it is not insignificant at all - it is fuel to focus on to improve your life - beautiful scents, steady steps toward a goal, your favorite weather forecast, a healthy body!, clean water; (2) savor the experience for longer than you may have thought necessary - hold it in your awareness, drink it up - the longer you do, the "more neurons that fire and thus wire together, and the stronger the trace in memory"; (3) recall the journey of challenges you overcame to arrive where you are and are grateful to be - this rewires the brain, deepens savoring and adds to our list of what we are grateful for; and (4) take in all of the good sensations from past good memories and current ones - the warmth of the sun, the peace you felt when you heard the good news, the first time you laid eyes on [insert destination/person/outcome].
10. Understand the process to rewiring the brain so that the mind can thrive
Begin the journey of mind transformation by keeping this truth in mind (pun not intended): it will take regular practice, but your mind will eventually change for the better. It will get rather difficult in the middle of the journey before it gets easier, so stick with it.
Hanson delineates the four stages we move through (the goal being stage 4) to reach a state of full awareness and awakening of the mind, in other words, strengthening our mind's ability to thrive.
Hanson explains that we often get stuck in Stage Two, thinking it is impossible to move forward into stage three. Why? Often because we have the incorrect idea that the life around us must change to suit us, but that is faulty thinking. Remember, we live in awareness and how we respond to what we cannot control will determine our ability to either simply survive or thrive. It's important to state this again (as much for myself as for readers/listeners), don't throw the second-dart. Simply don't do it, and you're already well on your way to Stage Three. The goal for growth is to aim for Stage Three and Four, but if you are living consciously in awareness and practicing the above steps shared, you'll get there and your life will be be full of more 'happiness, love and wisdom'.
"Over time, through training and shaping your mind and brain, you can even change what arises, increasing what's positive and decreasing what's negative. In the meantime, you can rest in and be nourished by a growing sense of the peace and clarity in your true nature."
There is far more worth understanding and exploring in this book, Buddha's Brain. Today I wanted to introduce you to the fundamental science behind why our brains are not our friend if we don't know how they work and just let it lead us where it will. We cannot let that happen or we won't find true contentment.
I think it is also important to point out, by focusing on the good, celebrating the awesome moments in life, Hanson explains, "[It] is not about putting a happy shiny face on everything, nor is it about turning away from the hard things in life. It's about nourishing your well-being, contentment, and peace inside that are refuges you can always come from and return to."
When we understand how our mind is initially designed, but at the same time understand what it is capable of, we set ourselves free to no longer be stuck in a cage we have the key to unlock.
Books, Blog Posts and Podcast Episodes previous shared about the Mind
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #327
Sun, 3 April 2022
"To attain wealth, the lasting kind, the kind that gives your life meaning, value and sustenance, base your daily existence on the generosity of spirit. Everything else you desire will follow of its own accord." —Deepak Chopra, Abundance: The Inner Path to Wealth
To experience great joy in our everydays is to experience bliss.
If ever you find yourself smiling in the middle of your everydays just because, if you are me anyway, you are experiencing a bliss-filled moment.
We may find it surprising or difficult at first to imagine the possibility to experience such a natural state going about a life routine that happens nearly everyday, but that is exactly the point to living consciously. This is exactly why choosing to understand what true contentment is makes all the difference.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #326
Sun, 20 March 2022
Spring kicked off officially yesterday, March 20th in the Northern Hemisphere, and as I worked out in my garden, ever so gently, signs of spring were definitely emerging.
Over the years here on the blog and podcast, there have been many posts celebrating the arrival of the spring season, and well, we all could be nourished by some brightness of spring, so I thought I would bring yet another such post/episode your way.
Below are 10 more ideas for reveling in the start of a season that arrives with the buoyant determination to grow, restart and find the awesomeness that surrounds us.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #325
View the Show Notes - https://thesimplyluxuriouslife.com/podcast325
Sun, 6 March 2022
“Since most of us spend our lives doing ordinary tasks, the most important thing is to carry them out extraordinarily well.” —Henry David Thoreau
It's morning, early in our house. Norman has finished his breakfast served in the mudroom which is adjacent to the kitchen, and I begin toasting my steel cut oats. The clanking of pans being chosen for the two egg omelette, the whisk of the eggs in the mixing bowl provide the soundtrack of our mornings, and Norman finds his way onto the rug in front of the stove to enjoy his daily dental chewy. An ordinary moment that happens every single morning and to me it is extraordinary.
"Be extraordinary at the ordinary." —Andy Puddicombe, meditation teacher
One of the common refrains I heard from TSLL readers over the past two years was while disheartened and pained by the reason for the slower pace of life, was that it was in fact a pace they appreciated. No longer did they have to fight back or expend energy to explain why indeed the slower pace suited them and nourished them. Now that lives and schedules and expectations are beginning to pick up steam and the ability to pursue, travel and experience those unique and intriguing occasions we longed for as we were unable to for some time return, the importance of choosing our pace in our everydays and how we hold ourselves in our everydays, having seen the difference in ourselves, a better time could not be had to continue to, or fine-tune so as to improve how we go about living in the ordinary moments.
Often the word ordinary connotes a 'hum-drum' energy, an energy not desired or seen as inferior especially when we think of its relation to the word 'extraordinary'. However, all ordinary means is that it, whatever 'it' is, is commonplace. And for our purposes in today's episode/post, ordinary simply refers to the ability to have a day without strife, to tend to a job or a task to make money so that we can live our lives, to eat our daily meals and move about our home and community engaging with our family and coworkers and neighbors as they too move about a schedule similarly including the same elements.
Why I gravitated to the quote I share above - be extraordinary at the ordinary - is because at its core we are choosing to focus on what is necessary, and so thereby we keep those necessities in our days, eliminate what weighs down or expends energy unnecessarily, and thus, we are choosing to focus on quality over quantity which is a core premise of living simply luxuriously.
An example from Shannon's life of making ordinary extraordinary in our everyday lives
As I type, it is early morning at Le Papillon. Norman is snuggled up next to me, softly snoring, and the house begins to warm up while the classical music plays softly providing a gentle easing into the day. The day, by objective definitions, is ordinary, but in this moment, it feels extraordinary. The companionship and good health of my pup, a home and thus a roof over my head to keep me warm and safe, the means (my computer) to do my work well, and the beauty of art (the music) to lift the day, yet keep it calm.
How exactly do we elevate the ordinary to the status of extraordinary? Start with how you move through your everydays.
While Henry David Thoreau's quote shared above is less known, it partners well with the quote that immediately springs to my mind, and more widely recognized, as is a mantra I display in my office as a way to ground me. I change the pronouns of course and do so as well here.
"I have learned this at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of [her] dreams, and endeavors to live the life which [she] has imagined, [she] will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
The awesomeness of life happens in the everydays, and guess what? The super majority of the days of our lives are everydays. Therefore we have so many opportunities to make them extraordinary.
Let's break it down a bit further. Here is a list of concrete practices to incorporate into how you live in your everydays to welcome the extraordinary to be experienced:
Each of the ideas suggested are merely a sampling of how we can elevate the 'ordinary' everyday to something extraordinary to experience each day. If you have been a long-time reader of the blog or listener of the podcast, you know that nearly all of the content you find shares inspiration, ideas and examples of how to do exactly this - live an extraordinary life in the ordinary moments.
A key component, something we've tangentially talked about in a variety of ways is to understand why we/you place so much value on the extraordinary moments celebrated by outside sources - the awards, the status symbols, the life markers set by society one must achieve. While we are social creatures, and we want to feel included, we want to feel seen, appreciated, applauded and accepted, when we seek out healthy sources of each of the A's as David Richo describes as the 5 Key A's in a healthy adult relationship (ep. #287), we can find them and savor them in our everydays.
So often we seek something that is already within each of us or capable of being nurtured with those in our everyday lives already. When we discover how rich we already are for living an extraordinary life in our everydays, the supposed 'grand' achievements become less tempting to pursue especially if doing so takes us away from what we know is quite special and we are quite fortunate to have - healthy, loving relationships, a career or calling that fulfills us, a home that gives us safety, shelter and security, a community that is at peace, small, yet significant opportunities to learn and grow.
When we choose to embrace the choice of living extraordinarily in our everydays as Thoreau advises, it becomes easier to hold ourselves in the present moment, and because we are doing our best in those moments that each day offers, we go to bed each night more at peace and thus slumber is deeper, more nourishing which makes the new day that we awake to full of all the more potential to be extraordinary all over again. The cycle feeds itself, and we hold the key in how we hold ourselves, what we notice, what we engage in, how we engage, what we let go, etc. . Expend energy on the things that bring value, find strength to let go of unhelpful, unnecessary or detrimental tasks, habits or relationships, and your life will begin to feel quite extraordinary.
Find inspiration for each day of the year, how to live well in your everydays in TSLL's new book - The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment (available now).
—Murder in Provence, BritBox (based on M.L. Longworth's Provençal mystery series)
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #324
Sun, 20 February 2022
~Note to readers of TSLL's 3rd book, The Road to Le Papillon. I have updated the Read Further link to bring you to this post for July 2nd's entry in the book. If you would like to reread the original link (it was also shared in April 19th's entry), click here to read Understanding Yourself by Taking Off the Blindfold.
The clock neared midnight, the candles on the table still flickered just at a slightly lower height than when they were lit only six hours ago, the kitchen was full of dishes and the platters of food offered crumbs and hints at the menu that had just recently been shared and enjoyed amongst friends.
The first dinner party at Le Papillon took place over this past weekend, and after being thoughtful about when to invite friends in a large gathering into my home, honoring each's comfort level and ensuring safety and health precautions were clearly communicated so all could relax and enjoy the evening (all friends were boosted, and tests were made available to ease everyone's mind), the date was set, and the menu began being planned as well as how to inaugurate Le Papillon as this would be the first dinner party ever held.
My friends said yes. Each showed up with an enthusiasm and welcoming spirit that warmed my heart and reminded me of so much that I missed during these past two years. As each course was served, each glass poured - sipped and held up to toast, the volume of the playlist was turned up ever so slightly as the ease of stepping back into the conviviality of seeing each other, talking intimately, laughing heartedly and listening closely felt second-nature despite the delay of enjoying such a setting.
As goodbyes were exchanged, fresh-from the oven cookies were given to each guest to enjoy on the car-ride home. I closed the door, turning around to look at my home and the visual reminder of all that just been shared and enjoyed. I sighed deeply and my smile grew widely. Gratitude washed over me, and I knew I wouldn't be going to bed soon. Not because there were dishes to be cleaned, but because I was energized in a way only such occasions can lift my spirits naturally. And so I reminded myself to savor.
In episode #213 in 2018 I detailed in nine steps and ideas how to savor any given moment in which you find yourself wanting to remain in the present moment, taking all that you are experiencing in fully so as to hold it in your memory, but as well, to let it be what it is, not forcing it be what you want it to be. Today I would like to further the conversation on savoring and share with you 6 everyday moments to savor or moments in which we may forget to savor well, giving ourselves permission to take it in, slow down and revel in the awesome gifts received by the moment that we are delighting in.
Studies have taught us that there are three different ways to savor life moments, and when we do consciously welcome the art of savoring into our lives, we improve our well-being. So while it may see indulgent, even selfish and at the very least unnecessary to engage in savoring, the truth is, to know how to savor, and incorporate doing so into our everyday life, is to increase the quality of our life.
As detailed through extensive research by Dr. Jordi Quoidbach of the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics, the three types of savoring depend upon when and what you are savoring as it relates to time:
Much of what will be shared in the list below are moments that we have long anticipated and hoped would go well, and upon such an event going well, we consciously choose to create space for a Peak-Theory moment as a way to fully savor what has just concluded and deepen the much appreciated event even more.
Following my first dinner party held in far too long, offered such such an opportunity to create a Peak-Theory experience.
For me, when any of the moments listed below occurs, I give myself permission to just be still. I edit out most if not all plans or consciously choose to not make any new plans, and give myself an hour, a morning, afternoon, evening or, if I can, a full day, to just let the good memories wash over me one more time. Partly I do this so that I do not forget a moment. I will even sit down and put it all into my journal as I know I will forgot those small details that made the evening/event/experience so special. Usually I am home for this carved out time, so I will make sure I have a fridge with food for a good meal to be enjoyed, I will snuggle up in my cozy pajamas or leisure clothes, make a pot of tea, soak in a hot bath at some point during the day, maybe (most likely) take a nap at some point and if I am not at home, but perhaps traveling, I will let myself just wander about the city, town or countryside I am visiting, give myself permission to then lounge about in the accommodations and drink in the momentary state of appreciation, calm and giddiness I may be feeling.
One of the key components and truths of savoring to remember is that savoring is all the more important because it will never be that all is going perfectly in our lives. We cannot wait to savor siting the need for there not to be any hiccups or stresses occurring - bills still need to be paid, jobs still need to be tended to, the world is still grappling with unrelenting pains. In fact, it is precisely because there will always be some kind of unwanted thing happening in our most intimate lives as well as the grander world that we must incorporate savoring into our lives.
When we teach ourselves that savoring is not indulgent but necessary, when we acknowledge that such awesome moments, as the ones listed below, but there are undoubtedly many more, do not happen every day, we are living in the present, we are living consciously and we are elevating the quality of our lives. We are appreciating being alive, being human and as our stress-levels gradually decrease, we become better able to navigate through unwanted moments and we find a deeper, steady, resting state of contentment. Simply put, savoring life doesn't require perfection, rather the art of living a life you love requires savoring.
Let's take a look at ten moments in life to encourage you to savor by engaging in a Peak-Theory moment in which you linger a little longer after the much loved event/moment/experience in order to hold it in your memory and deepen your appreciation.
1.The moments as well as day after a long anticipated event - dinner party, celebration
As shared above, whether you have just hosted a dinner party that went well, perhaps after a big event that required much coordination - a charity gala, a wedding, an anniversary party, a reunion, a birthday party, etc. - let yourself savor immediately after by doing whatever enables you to just take it all in again, reliving it, thinking about, letting yourself smile and doodle about, doing any task or no task at all that lets it all soak in even more. Take the next day, the next half day, whatever you need to let the awesome memories marinate so they won't soon be forgotten.
2. Upon seeing/reaching/holding in your hands the outcome you have longed worked so hard for
Whether a work-related project or a personal goal being reached, once you have reached your mark - holding the published book in your hands, shaking hands with your new boss on the new job you just landed, finishing the home project you planned and saved for, arriving at the airport for the trip you saved up for - once you've reached where you've worked so hard to arrive, create a moment, hours, whatever time you need to drink in all that you have done to arrive where you long wished to be. Let yourself rewind and play back all that you overcame to be where you are so that you never forget and thus appreciate your arrival all the more.
3. Seasonal weather long missed - the first rain fall in weeks/months, the long anticipated snowfall, the break in the clouds after days of rain, clear skies after smokey, hazy, or foggy oppression
Just yesterday, the snow finally came back to Bend. Even if for a few short hours, we have not seen snowfall in Bend since late December. I reveled in it. I stayed inside, let myself cozy in and just gazed outside and smiled, smiled and smiled a bit more. Mother Nature will bring what she brings, and each of us based our preferences and where we live have weather we most enjoy. When it has not happened in far too long, when it does arrive, let yourself savor.
4. Finishing a book that transported you, moved you, taught you something unexpected, deepened your understanding in a way you had never known before
Upon finishing the book, reading the last word, last page, last chapter. You close it slowly, looking up at nothing in particular, and perhaps you smile as your thoughts seem to have been renewed and enlivened. Sit with this feeling of great expansion, and let yourself savor the gift you just gave yourself. You are changed, you are growing, you are living and that is an exciting place to find yourself and realize about yourself.
5. The first daffodil in the garden to bloom, the first of any perennial, tree blossom, favorite flower to return since the previous year
Whether you sit outside and simply gaze in awe at the beauty that has revealed itself, let yourself delight in the awesomeness of Mother Nature. If the weather is warm, I will sit on my porch or somewhere nearby the bloom(s) and take more than a moment to be in that space with the natural beauty. Sometimes I read a book, sometimes I will sit with a cuppa, and sometimes I will just close my eyes and feel the fresh air kiss my skin. Savor such arrivals because they won't arrive in their first form such as this for another twelve months.
6. Stepping foot on the terra firma of a beloved destination, country, town, or home after a long absence
Perhaps you know you will be traveling soon or have just returned from traveling to a place you have longed to visit or return to after a much delayed absence. If so, think about how you will or can savor how it feels to see this place with your own eyes, feel the air of that place, the energy of that place, so you can hold it with you in your memory when you do have to eventually leave again. Is it visiting a favorite haunt and just sitting, taking all the going-ons around you? Is it taking part in a certain activity that you can only do at this locale? Or maybe it is a favorite food or drink you enjoy. Whatever it may be, let yourself savor the good fortune to have been able to return.
Knowing how to savor and why it is important to do so not only strengthens our muscle of mindfulness as it involves the awareness of our mind and where we let it travel and where we hold our thoughts, it also shows us how awesome our one and only life is. When we pay attention to how certain moments that make us feel good in a natural way, we are honoring our most true selves. When we honor our true selves the quality of our days improves and thus the quality of our lives.
The powerful truth of savoring is that it reminds us that whether the good moments in our lives are large or small, seemingly significant to the outside world or not seen at all, we become more in tune and aware as to how truly rich our lives are, and what we think we lack is actually far less than previously thought. In fact, we may have all that we need if we would only give ourselves permission to savor more regularly. The exciting truth is, everyday moments abound for us to savor if only we would have the courage to lose our inhibitions and revel in them and then hold them close so that we never forgot how great life truly is.
~Learn more about purchasing/pre-ordering a copy of TSLL's 3rd book - The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment
SIMILAR POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY
Happy Yoga: Simple Tools and Practices for Everyday Calm and Strength by Hannah Barrett
Murder In . . . (French mystery series)
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #323
Sun, 6 February 2022
Photographer and Paris blogger, founder of Everyday Parisian, Rebecca Plotnick joins me on today's episode to talk about traveling to Paris during the time of Covid. Travelers are gradually beginning to make travel plans abroad, and as Rebecca traveled to Paris this past October, I invited her on the show to share her experience as well as assuage travelers who may wonder exactly how to meet the requirements for testing and proof of vaccination.
This past August, Rebecca shared a detailed Q & A here on the blog during TSLL's Annual French Week; however, I purposely waited for her to join the podcast until after she returned from Paris as I wanted her to talk specifically about what travelers can expect and thus prepare for as they step back on plans to visit the City of Light.
I recently read that Paris is the #4 destination American travelers have booked flights to for their summer 2022 travels, and as you will hear in our conversation, while visiting any time of year is wonderful, visiting in spring may be quite a special time to take in the natural beauty as well as the other sites and favorite tastes of a city so many TSLL readers love.
~NOTE: Since the recording of this episode, France as updated their requirement of a proof of vaccination (US Embassy for France) (French (French website - in English). You will need to secure a Vaccine Pass, but their online site is temporarily unusable. Currently what you can do, is as soon as you arrive in Paris, visit a local pharmacy, and for $40, show them your proof of vaccination (CDC card), as well as your passport, and you will be able to attain the necessary health pass to ensure access to all of the sites you came to Paris to see.
Links shared in today's episode:
SIMILAR EPISODES/POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #322
Sun, 16 January 2022
December has the ability to take us out of our daily and weekly rhythms. With all of the joviality and celebration, we often excitedly step into the change and welcome the shift of energy and focus.
Similarly, when we have chosen a temporary project to focus our attention, our life routine, where we place our energies, what is prioritized and how we go about our days voluntarily changes. However, what we realize, is the routine preceding December or the commencement of the project, if we intentionally cultivated it, was created for a helpful reason.
As shared in episode #316, our lives need 'white space' as that is where we breathe, think, settle, found the ground and our balance before moving forward well into whatever is in front of us. To look at it another way, why is beautiful music so beautiful? Claude Debussy explains, 'Music is the space between the notes.' When our lives become too full, too jammed with demands, even if they lead us to supposed exciting results, our beings suffer, our peace of mind suffers and we ultimately end up exhausted gasping for space to catch our breath, unable to connect well or fully in a way that would actually foster the life we love living.
Inspired by my own life at the moment, the week ahead is my first week stepping back into the weekly and daily routines I have longed desired to be a part of my everyday life. The contractors are done. I have one job to hold my focus during the workday hours and I have five days in front of me to reset.
Resetting does not necessarily mean returning to what was. After all, the project has concluded bringing a result not previously part of your life, and if you are resetting after the winter holidays, you no doubt experienced either connections, conversations, or moments that deepened, awoken or informed you about something unknown prior to the month of December. You have the opportunity to apply what you are now aware of and enhance your way of dancing with your days and weeks.
How to reset constructively:
1. Let the rest and recovery happen
Your body is likely more tired than you realize as you have been traveling at a different pace and it has been carrying you with adrenaline to push through; however, this is not sustainable for clear thinking or engaging.
Often you know you need to give yourself excessive rest when you fall asleep far earlier than you ever would (7pm on the sofa - zonked out). Your body is trying to speak to you. This is not a bad habit because it is not a habit. It is a need, and when the body is fully rested, you will be able to return to your regular 7-9 hours of sleep, turning in at your usual time and waking up to begin your day well. However, in the meantime, honor what your body is asking for.
2. Reflect on your previous routine pre-project/holidays
What I have done and did do this past weekend was pull out my old journals as I keep a list of my daily schedules as they evolved over time. I read them closely to understand how and why I chose them, and even though you may think you will remember, often, it is the details of the day that make it harmonize with what you need, so read and look closely.
Bring back what you missed, ignore what was a headache, and then read #3 . . .
Now is the time to just put down on paper in a journal or talk with a counselor what you are relieved about, anxious about, hopeful about, excited about, etc..
Often we think by 'thinking about' each of these items in our head, we've helped ourselves out, but actually, they remain jumbled in our mind and we haven't sorted out the 'why' clearly or rationally.
When we see our thoughts on paper, when we hear our words spoken outloud and being received by another person who is objective, we can ascertain where we are being constructive in our thinking and where we are still stuck in the stress or jazzed-up, adrenaline fueled energy (that is unsustainable) caused by the project or holiday season.
Before we make any changes, additions or deletions, we want to make sure our mind is grounded, and our clarity of what we want our daily and weekly routine to foster understood without confusion by the previous temporary shifting of how we were going about our lives.
4. Don't do anything drastic
Often January turns into the month of extreme restriction - dry January or excessive working out. Essentially, reverting to extremes that are never intended to be a regular rhythm keeps us in a state of instability. No wonder we get out of rhythm easily and have difficulty shifting to a helpful pace if we swing from one extreme to the next. When we have a steady, grounding daily and weekly routine, we can savor those extras, those beautiful surprises, those moments that exceed our imaginations whenever they arise whether in January, December or anywhere in between for whatever reason.
5.Strengthen the foundation - food, exercise and mental massage
The tripod of health is something long talked about here on the blog. Make sure your three pillars of good health are tended to and brought back into rhythm in your routines - (1) what you eat, (2) your consistent physical exercise routine (aerobic, strength) and (3) regular strengthening of your mind.
In my case, my weekly grocery shopping became irregular as I usually shop on Mondays after reading through cookbooks and planning the week on Sundays. I look forward to returning to this weekly routine as the markets are quieter, often restocked after the weekend and the week becomes fresh and full of delicious meals waiting to be enjoyed.
My exercise thankfully does not need to be revamped as that was the self-care component that kept me steady throughout the regular changes and arrivals and tasks in the house happening - each week different than the next. The one thing the contractors did know was that Shannon would be out of the house in the morning with Norman taking a walk and would be back to answer questions momentarily.
My meditation and mindfulness practice wasn't perfectly steady, but it was inconsistently steady. So while I need to improve it, it will be easier to reset as I have been returning to it as often as my days allowed and always, without fail, felt steadier after each morning practice.
31 Ways to Practice True Self-Care, episode #242
6. Find space and time for your social connections
Begin to look outside of your work schedule, if the project that was all consuming was work-related, and connect with people and events simply because you enjoy their company and/or the activities you were not able to make time for. While truthfully, we should not extricate time with either as it reveals we have taken them a bit too much for granted, spend time and energy to acknowledge this awareness and step back or toward what you know is vital to your connection for social engagement.
From carving out time for visiting a local bookshop with no intended purchase in mind, meeting a friend for drinks, taking in a local theater production, taking a day-trip with a loved one somewhere that catches the curiosity for you both, make time and share time together.
7. Finding Your Financial Footing
After the holidays, often our budgets take a hit, and after a project we've invested in, the same too may be the case.
It may seem the best idea is to go to extremes, and really ratchet down your spending, but often this is counter-intuitive, similar to drastic dieting.
The best idea is to set a plan for, yes, reduction of spending, but also for paying off what needs your financial attention. Take the long-term, intentional approach, to slow your speed and find a rhythm with money that will last not just through January, but ensure you don't ratchet up the excessive spending or investment again next December or when it comes to projects, keep in perspective your appreciation for what you have put your money into and not rush to the next project just to keep your 'mind' busy.
If you do want to do a hard, but not excessive reset, simply take one full week off in January from spending anything. This will give you time to assess, find your footing and clarify any decisions moving forward.
8. Begin to think less about the future and more about today
Initially this may seem counter-intuitive, but likely as the year began you set either resolutions or revolutions or at least an intention for the year. I have included a post below full of ideas for creating a fresh start.
Once you have approximately 3 (but no more than 5) specific outcomes you wish you attain over the year, clarify the behavior, activities and small steps you need to tend to in your everydays. Then, let go of thinking about the future, and focus on how you move through your days.
If your intention is to learn specific skills on becoming a better master of your mind, or a better communicator or more loving, explore this list of books and instead of seeing them as a huge task to conquer, purchase one book and move through it in your own time, in your own everydays, without evening thinking about what will be next. You know where to look when you are ready to for the next book should you want to read it, but for now, focus on what you are doing now.
In other words, when you were immersed in the project, you were likely thinking about the outcome more than you wanted to, which pulled you away from your everyday focus, savoring the life you have the good fortune to live, investing well in certain relationships because you were all-in on the project. However, that needs to change, and the change needs to bring us back into the present. Trusting we've put into place the small tasks to tend to that will lead us where we desire to arrive, but along the way, keep us open to the beauty of the everyday.
9. Now, let go
When we are so hyper focused on one aspect of life - the holidays or a project we hope will change our lives for the better, we have planned, we have looked ahead, and we then are often so laser focused, but we often forget to just be, to just let go, to fully see what is presented by the people we happen to meet, the events as they happen to occur, the weather that dances around the days we try to structure so rigidly.
Let go, immerse yourself in the life you love living, savoring the simple pleasures along the way, listening well and sharing yourself fully, and see what happens.
January need not be the extreme month of deprivation or punishment it often becomes, but rather a month to reset, to take a deep cleansing breath and settle into a rhythm that elevates our everydays, setting precedent for how we will move through the entire year that awaits our travel forward.
The Extra Item for the Blog Reader (not heard on the episode)
10. Have patience and be gentle with yourself
Often, especially after a jarring life event (if unwanted), all we want is to get back to steady, to get back to calm, and even if we love the outcome of the holidays or the project we have just wrapped up, we want to be able to snap our fingers and be back into our regular rolling through the day, but more time is needed.
It takes time to acclimate to any new or new-as-of-late routine or rhythm, and when we understand this, we can be gentle with ourselves. This is why, bringing back more self-care than you may normally do on a regular basis would be a good idea. Take an extra bath this week, be okay, spend more time meditating than you may normally do on a regular day, take on less work if you can manage that, just so you get your sea-legs back.
The rhythm you are resetting your life to follow will return but instead of demanding it arrive and becoming frustrated when you don't feel settled as quickly as you had hoped, know that its slow arrival will ensure it stays in your days for a good long while.
Now I am off to take a bubble bath and settle into my evening. Bonsoir.
~Explore becoming a TOP Tier Member here.
~Skincare - The Mighty Patch
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #321
Sun, 2 January 2022
“You were brave and it paid off.”
I am starting with where you will be at the end of 2022 because it is absolutely possible.
Yes, it is.
Let me first acknowledge where you might find your mind when you first read the title of today's post/episode followed by the quote. Doubtful, skeptical, it is wishful and empty thinking you present Shannon.
Okay, I hear you, I acknowledge those same feelings arose in my own mind when such a question - What If . . . ? and just that quote regarding being brave first crossed my path. After all, we all have reason to be terrified after the past two years due to everything that has unfolded, what has been revealed, what we have had to do to make it through. We all have beyond justifiable reason to play it safe, to hold on to what is left (or what we think is left), to be scared, to be doubtful, but I am choosing to look at it differently, and this will come as no surprise to readers of the blog and this podcast as the content shared on TSLL especially over the past two years, but over the entire life of the blog (12 years) has defaulted to possibilities becoming reality.
More than any time previously, collectively speaking, the world has witnessed both the privilege and the disparity, the unexpected and never predicted as well as the power of people. We can utilize what we have witnessed and elevate not only the lives of those around us, but our own life or we can ignore it and continue to just get along.
I choose the former and I am confident you will as well.
In the Broadway play If/Then with Idina Menzel cast in the lead role, a play I had the good fortune to watch in 2014 - my first ever to see with my own eyes in NYC - the idea is presented regarding what happens when two different paths are chosen by the same person. How does one's life unfold? Will we end up in the same place years removed or will we give up opportunity? Does fate play a role or not? From romance to career, to friendships, (there is even a song titled, What If? - listen to here or below), both storylines play out before theater-goers' eyes, and what is witnessed is that our choices do matter, our bravery matters; however, in both storylines, we cannot control the other pieces of the story - the other people, the world events, the interactions and storylines of other people and what they are going through in their own lives. But we can dare to love, dare to step forward into the unknown, dare to try, dare to be fully human and be kind and curious because when we choose this approach, we let love into our lives in both hoped for and unexpected ways, we create memories we never want to forget and we build relationships and legacies we are proud to have taken part in with our whole heart.
Below I have gathered up potential hoped for and desired scenarios you may hold in your heart as you stride into 2022 as Norman is striding onto the beach in the picture below. Paired with each I have included what each of us will need to do in our lives to ensure the best possibility for our hope to materialize. In other words, we cannot sit, cross our fingers and be passive. No, we must act, we must take part, we must engage and do so in constructive and secure ways to give the opportunity the best enticement to unfold before our very eyes.
Let's take a look at the list below.
What If . . . your health flourished?
What If . . . you met and built a healthy, loving relationship with someone?
What If . . . the world changed in a way that opened up unexpected possibilities in which your skill-set soars?
What If . . . you found a steady peace of mind in your everydays?
What If . . . you fell in love with the work you do or began doing work you love?
Our lives are unfolding as we read this post. And the gift to each of us is that we are here, alive and capable of being the main character in our story if we choose to engage fully.
By choosing to engage with loving-kindness and integrity in each of our actions, we build a force of energy full of peace of mind as we know while we have been true to ourselves we have also considered those we love and what selflessly is what will honor their journey as well. We don't ignore ourselves, but rather respect ourselves. We are loving in the thoughts we let about in our mind which further strengthens our peace of mind and how we 'see' the world, we are loving in our actions, we are loving with our words. But rest assured, being loving doesn't mean being weak or soft or a push-over, but it does require us to allow others to be who they are even when it doesn't make sense to us, even if it is different than how we would live our lives. Loving asks us to extend appreciation, sincerely and often which means we must look for what is going well all the time which makes it far more difficult to look for what is not going well, thus limiting or eliminating any reason to complain. Loving asks us to be affectionate, to be vulnerable and not withhold giving love to others - a touch of the arm, a hug, a kiss, a kind word.
So won't you too step forward and dare to elevate the potential of what this year can bring into your life and those you love?
Living in the mindset of "What If . . . ?" is not to hold on to hope. In the context of what we are talking about today, it is a taking responsibility of our actions, how we present ourselves - the thoughts that turn into words, the words we use, the tone surrounding those words, the actions we take rather than being passive, what we step toward and engage with and what we let go and let be.
Living in the mindset of 'What If . . .?" removes us from the director's chair and puts us on the stage of life to engage with what is presented by others on the stage with us at any given moment.
Living in the mindset of 'What If . . . ?' requires us to live in awareness and to take action where we acknowledge we need to grow, where we are hindered by our current choices/actions/thoughts the life we desire from materializing. It requires us to handle our egos with command of understanding when it is unhelpful and guiding us down a path that will not be fortuitous, and also knowing when it can help us, but never letting it lead.
Living in the mindset of 'What If . . . ?' reiterates the importance of putting in the time. Time when we are not recognized, not out in front of the crowd, not receiving attention, but instead trusting ourselves to invest with both our time, our money, our focus to create the possibility of a new reality.
May 2022 delight and amaze you, and may you find the courage to be brave. Here we go!
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
episode #214: Attaining the Change You Seek in the New Year
~Hacks, HBO Max
—SKIMS Cozy Bouclé Robe (bone, and more colors)
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #320