Ten years ago today in a wintery Wallowa County I sat down and typed away, creating the first post of what would become The Simply Luxurious Life blog. Although the picture now included in the post was one I took a couple of years ago and updated for greater pixel clarity, the original text has not been edited (view the post “After Christmas Calm” here) and each time I read it, I am transported back to that day and can remember it with crisp clarity.
On that day in 2009 just as one decade was coming to a close, the Great Recession had already hit and I was searching for a creative outlet that without was leaving me feeling stymied and stuck, a new decade was beginning, my blog was simply titled – Simply Luxurious and I could not have fathomed in any capacity all that would unfold in the ten years to come.
I had not yet been introduced to the artistic illustrative talents of Inslee, Instagram had not been created yet and I was using a Blogger free hosting website design. Exploring, sharing and sending words out into the great abyss that was the virtual world of the internet began to take place on an every day, seven days a week basis for what would be two years of non-stop blogging, none of which had the intention of turning into a “brand” or a business, let alone an income stream. The readers who found me somehow during those first few years shared their journeys, some I even met in person, and so many of the bloggers I had the chance to connect with over commonly shared interests are still what I sincerely consider to be friends today even though they may live thousands of miles of away.
I was recently interviewed by a student for the school’s newspaper at which I teach, and upon being asked about advice I might give to a student regarding what I have learned during my experience in the world of blogging, I shared something I continue to share here on the blog and in my books: Follow your curiosity, and the positive and sincere energy you put out into the world will draw to you opportunities and people and the most wonderful memorable experiences you would not have imagined on that first day when you had the courage to simply be yourself and allow yourself to be a bit more vulnerable than you have ever been before.
A feeling of noviceness continues to reside within me as I have endless wonderings and questions and ideas for what to continue to explore, learn and then share. However, the importance of reflecting from time to time is to realize the distance and the lessons and shifts that have taken place so that we may appreciate them fully and do our best not to take the growth for granted.
What have I learned, discovered and what am I grateful for as these past ten years are reflected upon? Well there has been much, so today I would like to share with you some of the discoveries and how I came across them by sharing with you 11 books which sparked something forever playing a role in the trajectory of how I live my life and how the blog’s journey has unfolded as well.
In 2016 I shared 10 books that changed my life not only during the past 10 years but my life overall (Quiet by Susan Cain, The Alchemist, etc.), and while the list is certainly far longer than 10, those ten titles will certainly be credited for opening my eyes in some shape or form along my life journey.
Today, as it is in celebration of TSLL, I wanted to share with you 11 books that influenced, inspired and contributed positively to the journey of unfolding of what the simply luxurious life destination has become. Without question, the 10 books from the previous list played a role in the blog’s evolution as I shared in that post, so this new list of 11 will be in addition.
Understanding how our bodies and minds work has been a regular source of curiosity of mine which inspired many podcast episodes and posts. When I came upon Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, episode #139 – An Everyday Necessity: Deliberate Rest was born. Parlaying into the concept of living a life of quality over quantity, understanding how we drain our mental capabilities and how we can refuel was so inspiring I used some of Soojung-Kim Pang’s findings in TSLL’s 2nd book to remind of the importance of how we structure our days and where and how creativity and thus productivity and a sense of contentment can increase when we recognize the power of life in which we are well-rested on a regular basis.
10. Going Solo
As someone who has fundamentally enjoyed her own company since childhood, but was nudged (sometimes not so gently) in her younger adult years to question my peace of mind when on my own, Eric Klinenberg’s book inspired this post – Why Not . . . Live Alone for a While? in 2012. Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone revealed the realities of our modern world and validated my own reasons that had up until that point in my life been difficult to express to others who simply didn’t understand the appeal of living alone.
Yet again, a book steeped in research of the biological and neurological functionings of the human body grabbed my attention and taught me how my body and mind work best through the day. Sometimes it is difficult to explain why we know something is best if we do not have the logical explanations for why the reality is what it is. However, when I read When by Daniel H. Pink, I quickly realized why the handful of hours during nearly each afternoon were previously not my favorite time of day and how to best work with instead of fight my body and mind to make the most of this low-energy time of day. In episode #194, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing was the Petit Plaisir, but I could have easily done an entire episode inspired by the book. I highly recommend reading if you are curious about your body’s rhythms and how to dance instead of combat what is naturally taking place every single day.
8. Books for Living
From sharing the lessons Stuart Little offers readers (“questing is more important than finding, and a journey is more important than the mere arrival at a destination”) to introducing me to Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book Gift from the Sea and beautiful insights about how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life, Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living, which was episode #136‘s Petit Plaisir, is a book to remind us why we love particular books and more generally, reading. Something speaks to us, something validates or awakens us, something is translated for us that prior to was gobbledy-gook.
7. Women with Money
Even before I began the blog, Jean Chatzy’s financial advice has been valued in my own financial journey. Her book The Difference opened my understanding to the realities of life choices we can make that lead to significant differences in our income and financial stability. Her most recent book was brought into my library this past year and inspired this post – Women with Money: Using It to Build a Life You Love. At that particular point in my life reading her advice and knowledge about home buying was insightful and gave me perspective regarding how to move forward with making a home purchase in a housing market such as Bend that fluctuates greatly over the years. Everyone will find themselves in a different financial situation when they read her book, but at that time when I read Women with Money, I was taught as well as validated in the decisions I wanted to make and how to best make them as I proceeded to buy a house in Bend, Oregon, this past summer.
6. The Course of Love
While I may enjoy living alone as I shared in #10, I also greatly value and understand the power of healthy relationships in our lives, platonic as well as romantic. My love story is my own and is as unique as yours is to the next person reading this, and while I do not share my love story here on the blog as I desire to keep such private matters to myself, I am continually learning and applying what I discover regarding how to build and create strong, healthy relationships. The Course of Love: A Novel by Alain de Botton was the muse for episode #128 – The Quest for a Soulmate: The Myth Hindering an Amazing Love Life as well was the Petit Plaisir for episode #107.
There were many quotes throughout the book that prompted me to reread as to absorb all that he was trying to express on the topic of love. But these two are perhaps the ones that resonated most with me: “Love is a skill, not just an enthusiasm.” I couldn’t help but contemplate where the fault should be placed that made me assume that it didn’t need to involve skill. Botton suggested an answer as the novel nears its end, “The fault lies with art, not life. Rather than split up, we may need to tell ourselves more accurate stories —stories that don’t dwell so much on the beginning, that don’t promise us complete understanding, that strive to normalize our troubles and show us a melancholy yet hopeful path though the course of love.”
And with those words I began to consciously be a student in the course of love and continue to be so today.
5. Joie de Vivre
Episode #253 ranked #3 of top podcast episodes in 2019, and my personal favorite during the past 12 months. Sharing 36 Ways to Welcome Joie de Vivre into Your Everyday Life, Robert Arbor’s book Joie de Vivre: Simple French Style for Everyday Living is a treasure which served as validation but more importantly reasoning has to why I fell in love with the French culture more than twenty years ago upon my first visit, and from which the blog’s beginning unconsciously took root only to begin to sprout ten years later.
4. The French Twist
Life honestly does love to surprise us, but life also requires of each of us to say yes to situations in which while we may not have expected them, we certainly are delighted they have presented themselves.
Such was the case when I read and then reviewed Carol Cottrill’s book during the summer of 2013. My review of The French Twist: Twelve Secrets of Decadent Dining and Natural Weight Management, which as are all of the books I read and recommend on the blog, was a book that caught my eye and sincere interest. Only a few weeks after that post, Carol reached out to me to extend her gratitude and after taking a look at the content of TSLL, asked if I had thought about publishing a book. The answer at that time was yes, in fact, the manuscript was written, but I did not have a publisher. She introduced me to her editor, the editor graciously gave me an “interview” in which I sent her a sample chapter, and the rest is history when it comes to my publishing story. I am deeply grateful to Carol’s generosity.
3. Year of Wonder
Over the past two or three years, classical music has become the background of my daily life. From waking up listening to ad-free WRTI.org out of Philadelphia, listening to KUSC’s listener supported classical music station while I go about my day teaching high school English to when I am walking with the boys and only want to hear music rather than words as the day winds down, I am consciously aware of the positive change listening to this genre of music has had on my life. I am calmer, I am more at ease and I find more pockets of my day in which I breathe more deeply and remind myself of what I can control and what I cannot.
Inspired further by the reading of Year of Wonder by Clemency Burton-Hill (which inspired this blog post – A Book That Delighted Me) earlier this year, my knowledge of the vast array of talented composers, musical terminology and instruments has deepened, as well as my classical playlists. Previously I shared in episode #197 which shares The Many Benefits of Listening to Classical Music, as well as my go-to classical playlist that continues to be added to with favorites I discover as I listen to the hosts of the aforementioned radio hosts.
I can honestly say up until a few years ago, Classical music baffled me only because I felt like an outsider, that it was somehow off limits to me, but if you are curious enough as I was, begin by reading Year of Wonder as Burton-Hill addresses such fears and misunderstandings in a playful, honest and helpful way that will encourage you to explore classical music even more.
2. all things Julia Child
The first book focused on Julia Child that I reviewed and wrote about on TSLL was Karen Karbo’s light-hearted Julia Child’s Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life. It was 2014 and in fact, this book was one of the first to begin the weekly item that is TSLL’s Petit Plaisirs. While I had known previously who Julia Child l was, it was upon reading a simple random fact about Julia Child that unconsciously made me realize she might be someone I should pay attention to. Like I said, it was a random fact that most people would skim over, but it was the detail of her and Paul’s cross-country road trip just prior to their marriage which took them through Bend, Oregon. I share this primarily so that I will not forget; however I doubt that will happen as it likely struck me as awesome because two entities that were perhaps dancing about in my mind more than I realized – Julia Child’s life and Bend, Oregon – where I wanted to live my life (I had not moved here where I now call home yet) somehow crossed paths.
Since that time, I have read quite a few biographies, her memoir as well a many of her cookbooks (but not all), and had the opportunity to view many of her The French Chef episodes and Baking with Julia episodes. Maybe someday I will share all that Julia Child has inspired in me as I am probably still not fully aware of all that has been provoked into awareness by seeing how she lived her life, but when I had the opportunity to hug and give a peck to her stove in Provence two years ago while attending Patricia Wells’ cooking class, it was most sincere (see pic below).
No, I am not trying to be a cook like Julia, as there will only ever be one Julia Child; moreso, it is her life and approach to living that inspires me with each new discovery about her journey. Below are all of the books I have read about Julia and each I highly recommend. I have yet to read about her cats (as many readers continue to bring to my attention I should), but I surely will do so soon.
- Appetite for Life: The Biography of Julia Child (authorized)
- My Life in France (a memoir)
- Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life
- The French Chef in America: Julia Child’s Second Act
- As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto
- Julia Child: The Last Interview, and Other Conversations
- Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child
- Provence, 1970
1. A New Earth
A post shared earlier this year, Why It’s Okay Not to Know was inspired largely from my reading for the first time and pouring and annotating profusely over each of the pages Eckhart Tolle’s international bestseller A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.
I am now more confident than ever before that we have to be ready for the books that are waiting patiently to teach us something about how to live well, and such was the case with my time that it took me to finally read A New Earth. It has been more than 10 years since the book was released, but I was finally ready this year, and I have no doubt I will be reading it again and again in the years ahead to remind me of how to put my ego aside, how to let go of what I cannot control and be more fully present and so many more life lessons that will lead me on the journey that will be and already has shown itself to be my best life.
To cull this list down to eleven was a Sophie’s Choice task most certainly, as every book that I choose to share on the blog and podcast over these past ten years has spoken to me in some way or another which is why I want to share them with readers and listeners. I have no doubt this list will change and evolve as life’s journey goes along, but as for now, I am ever so grateful to the above writers, creators, teachers, chefs, cooks, researchers and individuals who brought these books into our lives. I know I am better because of their time, experience and dedication, and I have no doubt you will be as well, should you choose to read any one of them on this list.
Thank you for stopping by to celebrate TSLL’s 10th anniversary. To say I am eager to see where the next 10 years will lead is to underscore a profound understatement. Of course I have hopes and ideas and dreams and as well, goals of what I want to share, learn and bring to fruition, but I also have to let go a bit as well and dance with the universe so to speak. After all, it was just 10 years ago today that I sat down at my then hefty laptop that had been with me since college (2001) and began to type simply because I needed to type. My gratitude is great, and it is to you TSLL readers which I send my appreciation – for your time, for your continued interest and most importantly for your desire to live your best life. To the next 10 years. Santé and Bon Courage!
PREVIOUS BLOG ANNIVERSARY POSTS
(evidentially in 2012 and 2013 I didn’t write about the anniversary ?????)
~2014: TSLL Celebrates 5 Years
~2016: TSLL’s 7th Anniversary