What I Read So Far This Year

January and February are typically months when I go into hermit-mode, as my friend Ellie calls it, and read, write, and think a lot. This year, because we were planning for our wedding, I didn’t get too much quiet unstructered time to myself. It was worth it, of course, and our wedding was a magical, joyful evening surrounded by our kids and some of our close friends.

Even in the midst of finding a dress, deciding on decorations, helping Alan find a suit, shopping for food and making the meal–as well as carrying on with everyday life, I still managed to read several good books.

The Blue Zones of Happiness by Dan Buettner didn’t bring with it many surprises: the happiest people spend plenty of their lives outdoors, with other people, doing work they find satisfying, make enough to live at least modestly on, eat healthy food, and don’t have to worry about health care access, retirement, etc. It is worth reading to hear the stories from happy people in different parts of the world. I borrowed my copy from the library.

 High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard is full of truth to change your life, set you on a good path, challenge the heck out of you, help you develop clarity and purpose, and give you stories of real-life high performers and how they live. I first heard about him through the Rachel Hollis podcast Rise and quickly subscribed to his podcast as well. I bought my copy because I plan on reading it again and again! 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling is, like all the Harry Potter books, a treasured favorite. I own the audio version and love the way Jim Dale narrates and brings all the characters to life. This is my second time through the series and I love it as much as ever.

 My Twenty-Five Years in Provence by Peter Mayle was the first book by this author I’ve read. It is funny, fascinating, and for someone who has never been to Provence, it helped me feel like I was there too. I borrowed it from my library.

The Courage Habit by Kate Swoboda. I heard Kate interviewed on The Unmistakeable Creative podcast last year and purchased this book because she had such a charismatic and magnetic persona that I wanted to read her book and have some of that rub off on me. Honestly, the book was a bit dull. Maybe she speaks more dynamically than she writes or maybe it just wasn’t the right time for me to read it.

The Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny. My favorite aspect of her Inspector Gamache series is the characters in Three Pines. Heartwarming, hilarious, endearing, and sparkling with humanity these people keep me coming back for more.

She could do away with the “mystery” element altogether because, at least with these last few, they tend to be rather incidental and weak. Her husband passed away a few years ago and may have something to do with the lack of attention to the mystery. But her Three Pines characters are alive and well, so I will continue reading the series as long as she writes. I borrowed this from the library.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett took me to a hot and heavy jungle in the middle of cold January and kept me interested throughout. I felt plenty of empathy for the main character who doesn’t seem to be able to hold on to happiness. She is strong, independent, and stubborn, but is also selfless and hampered by her past. It is so well written and the story is unusual and imaginative–you should definitely read this! My paperback came from a local used bookstore.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This was my second time through this book, this time on audio. Alan and I listened to it separately and then would discuss it every few days, which was fun for me. It’s all about living a creative life, choosing curiosity over fear, being practically-minded yet holding space for the otherworldly element of inspiration that one can’t control, but can encourage. I purchased the audio version and highly recommend it!

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli. My used bookstore copy of this book has been sitting on my Unread Bookshelf for over two years, so it was definitely time to pick it up. Like State of Wonder, it is set in a hot climate–Vietnam–during the war there in the 60s and 70s.

The main characters are photographers who are there to capture the war. Two of them become obsessed with gaining notoriety with the right shot and get themselves into dangerous situations. There is a love triangle and definitely some gore and violence because it’s a war.

Her writing is beautiful and vivid, and you will be transported to the steamy Vietnamese cities and jungles where this all takes place. I didn’t like the two main characters, mostly because they’re shallow and selfish, but the fact that it is so well-written makes up for it.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Who hasn’t read this book? Well, I hadn’t up till February when I listened to it on audio. Divided into three sections, where she spends 4 months each: Italy, India, and Indonesia, it is her honest retelling of her adventures during her years’ experiment overseas.

During this year, she ate to her heart’s content in Italy and immersed herself in Italian, healed from a divorce and a breakup, learned to meditate and connect with the divine, formed new friendships, and so much more. Alan and I listened to it separately and discussed it–like we had our own book club! Definitely, if you haven’t read it yet, put it on your list.

 The Colors of All the Cattle by Alexander McCall Smith. I LOVE Mma Ramotswe, Mma Makutsi, and the other refreshing and endearing characters in this series. Like the Louise Penny books, this is supposed to be a mystery series, and it is. The author does a good job with the mystery side of things, but I love the people in the books: their day-to-day conversations, interactions, problems, entanglements, and the way they live their lives.

I relate so well to each of them in all their wonderful humanity, yet the pace of life is very different from ours. I am always thrilled when a new book is added to the series. Oh, and you must listen to this on audio. Lisette Lecat narrates and she is phenomenal with making each person’s voice and personality shine. Highly recommended!

The Last Good Paradise by Tatjana Soli. This one was a bit of a letdown and I think the reason is I do not like stories about rich, spoiled, entitled people. Rich people problems don’t interest me in the least. The writing is good and most of this book is set in a hot climate, like her debut, but I just couldn’t appreciate it. But maybe you will feel differently? I borrowed my copy from the library.

Alright, so those are the dozen I’ve read so far this year! I’ll be sharing what I’m currently reading in an upcoming blog post. So what did you read in January and February?

Keep Celebrating (Wellness Wednesday)

Happy first Wellness Wednesday of the year! According to the Liturgical Calendar, Christmas doesn’t end until January 5th, so those of us observing it have a few more days of celebration. But if you’re feeling the way I am, just seeing those iced sugar cookies, candy canes, and pies still hanging around make your big green salad and a fruit-filled protein smoothie look better than ever.

Being gluten free and dairy free meant I didn’t eat cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning or cookies and desserts on Christmas evening and all the days that have followed. I have indulged in one or two Sjaak’s vegan candies each day though, enjoyed shrimp cocktail on New Year’s Eve, and I’ve had a glass or two more wine than I would normally. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it! That’s what celebrating includes–enjoying some treats that aren’t part of your everyday diet.

My digestive system isn’t happy however. I’ve had an upset stomach after dinner the past two nights, so I am back on the straight and narrow: salads, smoothies, almonds, eggs, fish, plenty of cooked veggies, all my supplements–yeah, you get the picture. Tonight I am going to sip fennel tea and rub an aromatherapy blend on my tummy.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating, but if you tend to have a sensitive digestive system, you might feel not quite yourself after a few weeks of your favorite things. And instead of looking at healthy eating as a chore or a restriction, think about how good you feel when you eat optimally for you. I know how frustrating it can be to have a family member with a stomach of iron and a metabolism of a gazelle, but you do you, right?

I want to encourage you to continue in a celebratory frame of mind, by doing what makes you feel your best today. Here are a few ideas:

1.Make yourself simple and delicious meals.

2.Take a run or head to the gym.

3.Blend a smoothie to quell the late afternoon hunger pangs rather than reaching for the chips.

4.Get up from your desk and do some yoga or stretch.

4.If your tree is still up, sit down instead of racing around and enjoy the lights.

5.Spend a few minutes meditating or in prayer.

5.Text someone and tell them you love them.

6.Set up a lunch date with a friend.

7. Write in your journal.

8. Read that book you’ve been wanting to finish.

9. Take a walk and observe your surroundings.

10.And make sure you smile!


Links I Love

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Here is where I will share a few links of podcast episodes, blog posts, websites, TED talks, new books, etc. that I favorite each week. Refresh your imagination and fill up your inspiration tank.

What can I say about these past two weeks except “I NEED A VACATION!!!” OK, deep breath and moving on…Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas! I plan to enjoy the day out away from kids and chores, and not being a taxi service. Alan and I are going to take a picnic lunch (he’s making me sushi!) with us and stop at a few wineries for tastings and to enjoy the views of whatever lakes we end up at.

So, what have I found interesting and inspiring this week? Several great podcast episodes, plus one new-to-me podcast.

First, here is a podcast that I love because it gives me ideas and inspiration for my self-care and home decor Etsy shop and local business, Delicata House. Etsy Success Podcast features a different successful Etsy shop owner each episode who presents solutions and ideas and shares her or his own story.

One of my favorite episodes from a few months back featured the owner of Betsy Farmer Designs, a jewelry shop, sharing her tips on excellent customer service. Check it out on SoundCloud or iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Second, Anne Bogel had a super fun episode of What Should I Read Next where she interviewed a young woman from New Zealand who now lives in Bath in the UK. Since I want to visit both New Zealand and the UK, I was thoroughly absorbed in their conversation. And the books they discussed had me breaking my “read ten, buy one” rule and adding to my TBR list.

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Third, also through Anne Bogel’s podcast, I was introduced to another podcast which I am thrilled to have connected to. It’s called Reading Women and the two young women who host it are committed to interviewing authors who are women and discussing books written by women. One of the latest episodes is an interview with Chibundu Onuzo, author of Welcome to Lagos: A Novel. This was a fascinating, intelligent, and upbeat conversation that left me wondering why I haven’t already read this novel and the others she’s written. (Sad fact: I hadn’t heard of her until now. Happy fact: the whole reason this podcast exists.) I’m now in the middle of the episode with Maggie O’ Farrell, author of I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death and This Must Be the Place: A novel which I’m loving as well.

And, finally, since my last post focused on inspiration, it’s a subject that is staying with me this week, so here is a post on living inspired on Medium. Look for the great Jack London quote about not waiting to be inspired.

OK, cheers to the weekend and to all the mothers in our world!

 

Baked Oatmeal for a Cheery Morning (Recipe)

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I was first introduced to baked oatmeal many years ago by my Mennonite in-laws and I’m forever grateful. It was a revelation! A breakfast unlike any I’d ever had: in between a soft, custard-like cake and a bowl of oatmeal. Only it stuck to my ribs longer because it contained eggs, butter, milk, and sugar.

If you know me at all, you know I can’t eat dairy, so I altered a recipe I found in a Cooking Light magazine. This is what I fed to my two kids several times a month and they gobbled it up happily. They would even eat it left-over the next morning. Recently, I made it for Alan, who’d never tasted Baked Oatmeal before, and he liked it enough that he ate it left-over the next morning as well.

 

So here it is:

If you’re feeding more than two or three, I’d double the recipe and put it in a 9×13 baking dish.

Baked Oatmeal

  • 2 cups rolled oats (mine are gluten free)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups milk ( I use dairy free milk, such as almond or cashew milk)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter (I use coconut oil, vegan butter, etc.)
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350. In large bowl of a stand mixer, combine milk, applesauce, melted butter or coconut oil, and egg. Mix well. Add in the rolled oats, brown sugar, and baking powder. Mix until combined. Pour mixture into a greased 8×8 baking pan. Bake 20-22 minutes. Serve warm.

Wasn’t that simple? I hope you like it as much as we all do!

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Other Books I’ve Been Reading Lately

Now that I’m not writing two or three songs a day, I can catch up on sharing my reading life with you.

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda. I honestly hated this book until halfway through when a body was discovered, and suspicion was cast on the narrator and another person. The ending was not satisfying and left plenty unexplained. This felt a bit like a mystery written by someone too lazy to figure out the details–leave it all up to suggestion and imagination. Meh.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae. Be prepared to laugh. I haven’t seen this HBO show, but the book was part hilarious autobiography, part commentary on what it’s like to be a young, educated woman with both an African and African-American heritage.

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown. There’s no one quite like Brene Brown, with her very own intelligent and distinct way of telling stories and sharing research with every day people. She is so down-to-earth and salty, being vulnerable with the world as she talks about the need to belong, to be accepted and at the same time learning to live true to yourself. She talks about love, accountability, being nonjudgmental, having a generous heart, knowing boundaries, being reliable, etc. She has a chapter entitled “People Are Hard To Hate Close Up. Move In.” that challenges people that like to sling nastiness, political in particular, using social media, because they don’t have to look each other in the eyes. It was so good, I put some of it in a song I wrote. I need this book; you need this book. Read it and pass it on.

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything was Anne Bogel’s (Modern Mrs Darcy blogger) debut book and she did a great job with it. It’s all about personality frameworks and how they can help you understand yourself, your children and partner, co-workers, friends, etc. Here you will find a straightforward and practical introduction to Meyers-Briggs, the 5 Love Languages, Highly Sensitive People, Strengths Finder, the Enneagram, and more. Anne peppers the book with personal stories and the tone is friendly and fun, yet intelligent and thoughtful. I recommend it!

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell was the first novel I’ve read by her. Light, but not candy-sweet, amusing, heart-warming and feel-good about a young guy who reads the emails of a pair of female co-workers and falls in love with one of them. Since I read several heavier books lately, this was good for entertainment and diversion. If you’re interested, borrow it from the library.

I’d love to hear about what you’ve been reading lately!

Juicy Update

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Well, it’s been a week since I began juicing daily. For those of you who read my post on habits, I mentioned my painful eye condition (Recurrent Corneal Erosion Syndrome) and how it’s incurable. I also wrote about how if I juice every day, I don’t wake up to eye pain, tearing, swelling and a migraine–I actually wake up like I should, with no eye pain. This week I missed juicing one day and that was the only night my cornea tore once, but it was still minor compared to what I’ve been dealing with.

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So, although I’m no medical expert, I’m also no idiot: juicing helps my eyes, folks, and most likely is benefiting other parts of me as well. (I’m hoping to see the rosacea-red skin on my face calm down eventually). If you have a juicer at home, why not dust it off and put it to work boosting your health, especially with all the cold and flu flying around.

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Here are two easy-peasy recipes I’ve made a few times this week. I do make a lot of juice at once and drink it throughout the day–and I give a glass to Alan too. Feel free to cut the recipes in half if it’s too much for you or come up with your own combos. Obviously, mine are carrot-heavy because…my eyes.

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Kim’s Favorite Winter Juice #1

  • 10 carrots, rinsed, ends trimmed and cut in half
  • 5 celery stalks, rinsed and cut in half
  • 2 oranges, rinsed and sliced into fourths
  • 2 limes, rinsed and cut in half
  • 4 apples, rinsed, peeled, seeds removed, in fourths or large pieces
  • 1 yam, rinsed, peeled, cut into large pieces

Kim’s Favorite Winter Juice # 2

  • 7 carrots, rinsed, ends trimmed, cut in half
  • 3 celery stalks, rinsed and cut in half
  • 3 oranges, rinsed and cut in half
  • 3 apples, rinsed and cut in half
  • 2 yams, rinsed peeled, cut in large pieces
  • 1 bunch of parsley, rinsed

Cheers! Please share your own favorite recipes in the comments.

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Healthy Habits I Am Forming/Re-Forming

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It’s February and I am still getting my act together…with habit forming, that is. We all know that habits, once formed, require little brain power–we just do what we’ve programmed ourselves to do. (By the way, if you’ve never read Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, then add that to your TBR list for this year. It’s on my to re-read list.)

And like most humans, some of my habits have become derailed from either constant changes in my schedule, chronic health conditions (I have Recurrent Corneal Erosion Syndrome which causes severe eye pain, migraines, and light sensitivity) work, etc. But I started 2018 with a focus on being nurturing and kind to myself, and I’m easing into a self-care routine that reflects this. So here is my list:

Juicing–I have a Breville Juice Fountain Plus  that is a cinch to use, yet it sat on the counter untouched for most of the past year. Since I do have this incurable chronic eye condition (see above), it is up to me to find a way to stop waking up to horrible eye pain, swelling, migraines, blurry vision, light sensitivity, and basically, a quality of life that needs to improve.

When I juiced regularly back in 2013, I had little to no corneal erosion. Somehow, I forgot about this and then gave myself excuses about juicing taking too much time out of my day, the juicer being too annoying to clean, etc. This past Saturday, after a string of bad eye nights and days, I pulled out my juicer and made carrot-apple-celery-orange juice. I timed the whole process–from gathering the produce, to rinsing and trimming it, to juicing and cleaning up the machine. It only took twelve minutes! That’s all! I CAN do this and am hoping to see an improvement in my eyes as I continue to juice daily.

Yoga–I signed up for DailyOm’s Fit and Fierce Over 40 21-day yoga course with Sadie Nardini. DailyOm offers a sliding scale fee for their courses, and as I am currently in the low-income bracket, I only paid $10. What a generous company! For twenty one days, there are daily journal exercises, meditations, recipes and the actual yoga workout. I expected to work super hard and perhaps give up because it would be too tough. Actually, Sadie is very much into safe and nurturing thoughts, intentions and movements  so I’ve found the yoga to be super doable and a positive way to exercise.

After injuring my back, elbow, wrists and hands multiple times during work and exercise last year, I think it’s starting to sink in that I need to move more slowly and thoughtfully and Sadie is helping me with this. Since January 2, I’ve done yoga with her about half the days and done a few yoga poses on my own the rest of the days. I’m confident eventually yoga will become a habit.

Green Tea in the Afternoon–Not much to say here, because most of us ought to know by now that green tea is purported to have many health benefits.  I’m a coffee drinker, but have been making room for a cup of green tea every afternoon.

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Writing–As I love writing, whether I’m blogging, writing poetry, songs or working on a story, I just need to do it. And I have been. Songwriting, mostly, as we have less than three weeks to write another 10 or so songs. I feel like myself when I write, even if it can be maddening and anxiety-causing and exhilarating and joyful all at once.

Poetry–If I read poetry every day, it changes how I approach words, how I read and write and just gets into my soul like a part of me I was missing and found again. I’m not sure that makes sense, but some days poetry is all I read and it is perfect. Right now, I’m reading The House of Belonging by David Whyte and Delphi Complete Works of the Bronte Sisters: Charlotte, Emily, Anne Brontë .

Essential Oils–Although I’ve used essential oils in my homemade body care products and household cleaning products for years, I recently became a Young Living Member and began taking a few of the oils internally, as well as diffusing and adding them into my facial skincare. I will blog about oils more in upcoming posts.

Internally: I take a drop of Thieves Vitality Oil in a veg capsule one to three times a day. I also take DiGize Vitality Oil to aid digestion (Please follow the website’s directions for usage.)

DiffusingLavender or Stress Away blend at bedtime and Thieves, En-R-Gee, Purification or M-Grain during the day, depending on my needs and which rooms the diffusers are in.

Pain Relief: On Friday, I had a headache and rubbed diluted M-Grain into my temples; within an hour my headache had subsided. For backaches, I rub diluted PanAway into the painful areas for a quick cooling relief. These are wonderfully effective products!

Skincare: I put a drop each of Helichrysum and Copaiba into my fragrance free face lotion every morning and evening to help sooth my rosacea. After a few days of use, my skin was noticeably softer and smoother–no more dry, rough patches on my cheeks.

Learn how you can become a Young Living Member and get your own starter kit with diffuser: Become a Member  If you decide to become a member, please enter my member number (13684396) in the Sponsor ID and Enroller ID sections. Thank you!

So, that’s the list of my current habits-in-the-making. I’d love to hear about yours!

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*There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase items through an Amazon link or with my Young Living member number, I will receive a monetary compensation at no extra cost to you. My opinions are, as always, completely my own. 

** Medical disclaimer. The contents of this blog post are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical disease. Statements on this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA. The health and wellness information shared is part of my personal story and meant for educational purposes to help you think about/make decisions for your own wellness journey.