Friday Favorites (Links I Love)

This is where I share inspiration from the week–podcasts, books, music, art, movies, food, and more!

FOOD

Alan and I made a fantastic new vegan gluten free soup recently in the Instantpot. Although I’m not much of a gadget person, since my mom gave me an Instantpot, (thanks, Mom!) we gave it a try and the soup was amazing. Honestly, I probably could’ve made the soup just as quickly on the stovetop. It’s not “instant” at all.

First you have to wait for the pressure to build (about 20 minutes), then it cooks (about 25 minutes for this particular soup), and then the pressure slowly releases (another 15 minutes). But it would come in handy if I was cooking several dishes at once and needed an extra burner.

Here is the soup recipe for Cozy Autumn Wild Rice Soup from Gimme Some Oven. This is one vegan soup that is so creamy and delicious it can fool the dairy eaters in your life.

BOOKS

I have four great books to share with you and I recommend all of them. Yes, all of them! They are like vitamins that will boost your nutrition in different ways.

Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon can be read in about an hour. If you’re an artist, maker, entrepreneur, influencer, etc., grab this book and prepare to be encouraged. Kleon’s ten ways are so helpful to be reminded of: The first one is that “Every Day is Groundhog Day”, meaning every day we start over. Have a to-do list and work through it.

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra is also a shortish book. This book was the first I’ve read by Deepak Chopra, and it won’t be the last. The Laws include The Law of Pure Potentiality, The Law of Giving, and The Law of Intention and Desire. At the end of each chapter are several ways to practice and act upon what you’ve read. If you know you have inner work to do in order to develop a more mature character who can handle success, start with this book.

Body Thrive: Uplevel Your Body and Your Life by Cate Stillman is a 10-week introduction to Ayurveda. Since I am studying Ayurveda with Yoga Veda Institute, I absolutely wanted to read this to see what I was in for. In her straightforward, no-nonsense way, Cate shares ten ways to take your life to a higher level.

Where does she start? With earlier, lighter dinners, moves on to go to bed early, and start your day right. Ayurveda is super practical and gets right to work dealing with your habits and what needs to change in order to have a better life. If you need a wellness boost or want to learn more about Ayurveda, here is practical place to begin.

Emergence: Seven Steps For Radical Life Change by Derek Rydall is one of two books by this author I purchased this summer. There is so much in this book that was new to me and many things that aligned with what I learned while living much of my life in a Christian culture.

Some of the many valuable pieces of wisdom he shares on are: giving, generosity, visualization, and acting from where you want to be, not where you are. This book is great if you recognize you need to develop a more positive, grateful mind and attitude and if you have goals you are working toward but have a feeling it all starts with you. This book will show you the way!

PODCASTS

Brendon Burchard had a few recent podcast episodes that I listened to several times over: Developing Momentum helped me stay productive right before school started, and Take Back Your Morning are all about morning routines. This has been a theme in my life since starting Ayurveda school: I wrote about this topic in Monday’s post and did a Live video on Facebook about it last week.

OK, that’s it for now. I would love to hear about what’s inspired you this week.

One Book I Didn’t Finish and Why I Don’t Always Finish Books

I’ve heard nothing but high praise for The Huntress by Kate Quinn. Since I didn’t read The Alice Network, I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about. I placed a hold at the library and as soon as I finished City of Girls (loved it!), I opened it up. Post-WW2, the Nuremberg Trials, two men on the trail of Nazi criminals, a woman fleeing from justice…It could be good, I thought. But six or seven chapters in, I still wasn’t feeling it, so I quit.

What I liked about The Huntress: the writing was solid and the story didn’t stagnate. From one chapter to the next, readers are introduced to the various main characters in turn, each round building on their backstories and moving the plot forward. There was danger, romance, and suspense: all the important elements in a novel.

What I didn’t like: Overall, none of the characters (except Nina) intrigued me or made me want to invest in the story. Also, the huntress is revealed right away, so there’s no mystery as to who she is. I guess the suspense is how she is going to be caught, but that took away a lot of excitement for me.

Also, this is dumb, but one of the characters is a young American woman named Jordan. The novel begins in 1946. Tell me who in white-bread America named their baby girl Jordan in 1928, which would’ve been the year she was born? I have a believability radar for films and novels and this was just off the charts unbelievable and silly. People were naming their girls Doris, Ruth, Mildred, and Betty in 1928–not Jordan.

I also didn’t care for the two men who are tracking down the huntress. Nothing particularly wrong with them, they just seemed run-of-the-mill stock military guys with no real personalities.

I may not have given this book enough time, it’s possible. If you liked it, please don’t be offended! We don’t all like the same things and that’s what makes reading and the reading community so much fun. I learn about books I’d never have dreamt of picking because other readers recommend them.

My reading philosophy is that life is short and there are too many books I want to read, so I better make sure they are books I actually want to read. Because my TBR is always growing, and I don’t read for a living (yet, anyway!), I want to read books that either captivate my attention with the characters or the plot. Recently I listened to the podcast episode of Getting Bookish With Shawna and Lizz where they talk about their DNF (Did Not Finish) books. You might enjoy this episode!

Are you a reader who has to finish whatever she starts? Or do you regularly say no to books that just aren’t for you? I find that the more I read, the more I discard. At least half, if not more, of the books I bring home from the library get sent back with only the first few chapters read.

I’d love to hear what you thought of The Huntress. If you read it, please comment below or tell me about whatever else you’ve picked up or discarded lately.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls (A Review)

Like many other Liz Gilbert readers, I couldn’t wait for the release of the novel City of Girls. Whenever Liz mentioned City of Girls on Instagram, she said it was going to be lighthearted and fun; she said it was going to involve theatre and showgirls; she said it would involve plenty of sex.

City of Girls has all of those elements and much more. The novel is written from the perspective of Vivian, a woman in her nineties, who looks back over her life from age nineteen and on. She writes about arriving in New York City in 1940 and experiencing a very different kind of life from the one she had previously known: sheltered, stuffy, unimaginative. She gets to know all sorts of colorful characters and lives wild and carefree for a time.

As the story unfolds, she makes and loses friends, survives scandal, lives through WW2, fashions a successful and creative career for herself, and, as she lives all these experiences, she learns to know who she is.

I loved the descriptions of old theaters and night clubs, the fashion of the various decades in which Vivian lives, the energy of New York City and how it changed over the years. Overall, the tone is positive, light, and joyful. But, if you’re worried, as I was, that the book is just fluff, think again. There is substance here. There are passages that I will read and reread. Oprah read one during her interview with Liz Gilbert on Super Soul Sunday. And here is words of wisdom from Vivian’s aunt, Peg, that resonated with me: (on page 327)

“You must learn in life to take things more lightly, my dear. The world is always changing. Learn how to allow for it. Someone makes a promise, and then they break it. A play gets good notices, and then it folds. A marriage looks strong, and then they divorce. For a while there’s no war, and then there’s another war. If you get too upset about it all, you become a stupid, unhappy person—and where’s the good in that?”

So, am I going to recommend this novel? Yes! If you’re a reader of fiction, add this to your TBR. Buy a copy or place a hold at your library, but definitely read it. Particularly, I think it’s an important read for women because it’s a story of strong women who lived unusual, successful, and satisfying lives.

And when you read it, comment here, send me an email or DM me on Instagram and let me know what you think!

Bird Therapy (Book Review)

Nearly every day I read articles about mental illness, burnout, and the stress of modern life. And do you know what almost always makes the list of ways to relieve or remedy the symptoms? Time spent in Nature! Time spent out-of-doors, away from screens surrounded by sky and trees, near bodies of water, in the company of birds and other wildlife will do much to calm the mind, relieve tension and stress, and leave one with an overall sense of wellbeing.

In Bird Therapy, Joe Harkness shares his personal story of living with OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, and depression, and how he manages it with hours outside birdwatching. Let me just say that even though the book begins with his mental state in a dark and dangerous place, the book doesn’t stay there and doesn’t focus on his illness. It’s a positive read about how much his life has changed for the better because of what he calls “Bird Therapy”.

If you’re like I was before reading this book, you might tend to think birdwatching is for retired, elderly people or just for super nerdy types. But the author became a birdwatcher as a young man, so the book is written with a youthful voice full of energy and enthusiasm.

In each chapter, he shares a different glimpse of his birdwatching journey, from his very first attempts to connect with other birders, to setting up his first bird feeders in his back garden, to finding a patch to call his own. He describes experiences of rare bird sightings, interactions with other birders, regular visits to his patch, and what it is like to birdwatch in different seasons. At the end of each chapter, he shares a list of helpful tips for people who would like to begin the birdwatching adventure.

An interesting and positive aspect of this book is that it’s published by Unbound, a crowd-funded indie publisher.

If you or someone you know struggles with mental illness, you would benefit from reading this book. Also, if you’re curious about birdwatching, especially about how to get started, read this book. After reading Bird Therapy, I am paying closer attention to the birds all around me, and am spending more time outside every day. Published on June 13, this book is recommended reading! One last note: you might want to check out Joe’s blog, also named Bird Therapy, about his birdwatching experiences.

I received a free e-copy of this book from Net Galley, but all opinions are completely my own.

Girl, Stop Apologizing! (Book Review)

Have you read anything by Rachel Hollis yet? Have you listened to her Rise podcast? If you’re an entrepreneur–particularly a woman entrepreneur, you need to read this book. If you’re someone who dreams of something more, but is afraid to try, this book is for you. If you have goals, but are in “the dip”, as Seth Godin so aptly named the space and time in between starting and finishing, you need to grab a copy of Girl, Stop Apologizing.

What I love about Rachel Hollis is that she has been at the bottom, but she had dreams and goals like a lot of us do, but she didn’t quit. She didn’t give up. This woman has drive and she knows how to focus on what she wants and does not give up though all the disappointments, all the setbacks, all the negativity that would crush most people. She’s not superhuman, she’s just dedicated, and she shows us how to go after our goals.

There is practical, usable advice in every single chapter of this book, but not one word is dry or boring. You won’t find your mind wandering or read it just because you know you should. Rachel is a great writer! She is hilarious, outrageous, and unexpected.

Another thing I love about her is her honesty. She shares deeply personal, even humiliating stories from her life experience because she wants us to know who she is, where she’s come from, and how she got to where she is now. She does not hold back and because she’s so real, she builds trust with her audience, and makes us listen to what she has to say.

Rachel comes against the patriarchal ways of thinking that have held women back for thousands of years. She addresses downright lies about what women are for, how women should behave or what we should want out of life. It is very liberating, life-giving language that, even in 2019, women (and men!) need to hear.

Her chapter “Choose One Dream and Go All In” or “Ten Years, Ten Dreams, One Goal” is worth the price of the book alone. In this chapter, Rachel explains exactly how to go after your dreams. This is priceless information! Her chapter “Planning”, about reverse engineering your goal, or starting with the end in mind, was another chapter I found extremely practical and helpful.

So, yep, it’s another highly recommended, “You Need This Book in Your Life”, book review. Get it on Amazon or your local bookstore or public library, but definitely put this in your TBR pile for this year!

Bird Cottage, (Book Review)

I just finished the most unusual and delightful book I’ve read so far this year! Bird Cottage by Eva Meijer is a novel based on the life and research of Len Howard. Len was born Gwendolen Howard in 1895 in Wallington, UK. She grew up in a bird-loving, artistic family–her father was a poet and dramatist–and became a violist with an orchestra in London.

After years of a successful musical career, she decided, at age 40, that she’d had enough of city life and that what she really wanted was to live quietly in the country observing and interacting with birds.

She moved to Ditchling in East Sussex, had a small home constructed, which she aptly named Bird Cottage, and lived the rest of her life with birds. The birds learned to trust her, would fly in and out of her house and even roost in her house in nesting boxes. They became familiar enough with her that they would land on her head, shoulders, hands, and feet. A few of them even came to her when she called. Len began to distinguish different calls and songs, and to understand the birds’ behavior through close, careful, continual observation.

Over the years, Len wrote for various nature magazines and wrote two books: Birds As Individuals and Living With Birds. She became more reclusive as she got older because she was so focused on not changing things in the birds’ environment. When guests would visit, for example, the birds were unfamiliar with these newcomers’ gestures and voices and would stay away. This would set back her research for several days.

Sadly, because she was not a trained scientist and she focused on bird behavior and relationships rather than measurable, quantitative observations, none of the scientific journals would take her seriously and publish her research. However, her writings did raise the general public’s awareness to the importance of birds and the habitats they needed to thrive.

What was wonderful about this book was the way the author interspersed chapters about Len’s life, from age ten and onward, with chapters containing fascinating stories about particular bird friends at Bird Cottage. Even though it was fictionalized, it felt as if I was reading a biography.

Whether you enjoy books about birds, nature writing, or people who follow their own path in life, you will absolutely love this book. I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of Bird Cottage from Pushkin Press, but all opinions are completely my own.

What I’m Reading Lately

I have a stack of my own To-Be-Read books and an even taller stack waiting for me at the library, but I am only reading four at the moment. I just noticed that that three out of four authors are of Irish heritage…interesting!

Although I’ve been reading Colm Toibin’s The Master for several nights, I didn’t realize until last night that it’s about Henry James. It is beautiful: poetic and imaginative, and told by a true Irish storyteller. Have you had the opportunity to read anything by this author? Last year, I read his book Nora Webster and fell in love with the characters, the Irish landscape and style of speaking, the sad story, and her strong, surviving spirit.

David Whyte‘s The Heart Aroused has been on my unread bookshelf for a few years. Since it’s about corporate America, and I don’t have any experience in that arena, at first glance it seems a bit irrelevant to my life. But since I love all of David Whyte’s writing–poetry and prose–and once I dug into it, I realized the message is for all of us. The subtitle is “Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America”. David works with large companies, focusing on “the conversational nature of leadership. If you haven’t already, listen to his TED Talk “A Lyrical Bridge Between the Past, Present, and Future”.

John O Donahue left this world too soon. A friend of David Whyte’s, everything he wrote was pointing his readers toward beauty, imagination, curiosity, and wonder. His book Walking in Wonder was published posthumously and contains talks he gave. I don’t want to miss one word this man left for us! However, if you like his work, then read my favorite book of his Beauty: The Invisible Embrace .

This is Marketing is Seth Godin’s latest book and everything he writes is something every business owner, entrepreneur, and worker in today’s economy needs to read. Seth has always thought and spoken outside the box and his ideas might take a while too assimilate. He speaks much on generosity, doing good work, picking yourself, and shipping your work ( as opposed to perfectionistic procrastination.)