The simple sophisticate is someone who prefers quality over quantity, sensible living over mindless consumption, personal style instead of trendy fashions, has an insatiable curiosity for life’s endless questions and a desire to live a truly fulfilling life rather than being led around by the nose. Inspired by her lifestyle blog The Simply Luxurious Life, Shannon Ables (the original Simple Sophisticate) shares with listeners tips on how to live a refined life on an everyday income. From achieving your goals, preparing a memorable meal, creating a capsule wardrobe, traveling the world (Francophiles tune in as Paris is a favorite destination), and living life to the fullest without breaking the bank, living well is really quite simple.
301: The Courage to Live Fully & Deeply: 7 Ideas to Put into Practice for a Life of True Contentment
"People can change and be happy from this moment onward . . . the problem is not one of ability, but of courage." —from the book The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
"As long as one keeps searching, the answers come." American folk singer Joan Baez certainly narrows down succinctly and accurately the practice of finding our way; however, along the way toward the revelation of the answers, we must be courageous enough to feel uncomfortable for portions of the journey as well as capable of homing in on the gems of wisdom and letting go of needing to be agile when trying something new in our lives.
The answers come to those who accept moments of clumsiness, frequent stumbles, nights and days of ambiquity and confusion because embracing anything new, trying anything new which speaks to what we are seeking and trying to understanding will require a beginner's mind. Learning to walk required of each of us even though we don't remember (but I truly think it would help if we could) numerous stumbles, falls forward and backward, sometimes temporarily causing pain to our face, knees and bottoms. But we don't remember this because we needed to learn how to walk to participate fully in the life we had no clue awaited us.
Keep such an analogy in mind as you choose to continue to search for your answers. I too have to remind myself of the toddler parallel, and as I grow older and hopefully not only in age, but in wisdom, I become more and more grateful for each challenge. One of the most valuable development skills the book argues a parent can teach their child is how to overcome challenges, and that can only happen by letting them navigate through tasks which appear difficult to them, but easy for us - tying shoes for example. While appearing easy to the adult, the child must start with such challenges in order to be confident enough to navigate through more difficult challenges as their life unfolds.
Again another axiom comes to mind, "Life doesn't get easier, we just become better equipped to handle well the challenges when presented." However, the caveat is we must keep stepping through the challenges and not settling and unconsciously ignoring them. Life will always present dilemmas, quandaries and moments of difficulty; it is our choice to try to understand how to navigate through such situations. We are the director of our lives, and it is up to us to direct ourselves to the wisdom necessary, learn said wisdom and apply it.
Today, I am excited to share with you a handful of insights the book The Courage to Be Disliked taught me (there are soooooo many more - I highly recommend reading the book). On the surface, each is easy to comprehend, but the first time we put the practice into use, it may be difficult. With time and consistent effort however, the practice will become habituated and before we realize it, our lives, our everyday lives and the longview of our lives, will change for the better. Let's take a look at the list.
1.Let go of competing with the world
Seeking to be superior in comparison with other people is a denial of our own journey and our true selves. As I will share in #5 below, we each have a unique something to contribute positively to the larger world, but when we consume ourselves with 'proving' ourselves in competition of any sort, we step away from self-growth and discovery of our unique talents and gifts. The only healthy form of competition "comes from one's comparison with one's ideal self". Refrain from 'gaining status or honor', in other words, approval from the outside world. Instead, invest in being yourself. Invest in self-growth and discovery and let go of competition - anything preoccupied with winning and losing as "it will invitably get in the way".
2. The meaning we give the events in our life journey determines its qu
300: Plat du Jour - French Dinners Made Easy w/Susan Herrmann Loomis
France, food, seasonally fresh produce.
American expat cookbook author Susan Herrmann Loomis has just released a new cookbook and it is good. Deliciously good. Plat du Jour: French Dinners Made Easy was just released on January 12th, and I excitedly welcomed it into my cookbook library.
Today, Susan returned to join me on the podcast to talk about her new cookbook. Sharing the inspiration for the book, the history of the phrase Plat du Jour, recipes to enjoy during the middle of winter, much more along with another Petit Plaisir that will remind us all how powerfully delicious waiting for something delicious can be.
Be sure to tune in to the audio version wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts, and below you will find links mentioned during our conversation. A tremendous thank you to Susan for joining me from Paris and whetting our appetites for delicious French food.
Learn more about her new cookbook: Plat du Jour: French Dinners Made Easy Check out Susan's new YouTube channel - Dancing Tomatoes here. Check out her new website for Dancing Tomatoes View my previous conversations with Susan: episode #192: Susan Herrmann Loomis Talks France, Food and Julia Child (this is the episode in which she shares her Petit Plaisir - the blue hour) Learn more (and see many pictures) of my two opportunities to join her cooking classes: Cooking with Susan in Portland (2018) Attending Susan's Cooking Class in Louviers (2019)
The first recipe tried and enjoyed from Susan's cookbook - Curly Endive Salad with Hot Bacon and Goat Cheese (I substituted escarole for the endive). So good!
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #300
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify
299: How to Live a Life with Less Stress & Why It's Vital for Good Health
"The lack of meaning in our lives stresses us out, but too much stress makes it harder to find meaning." —Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, author of The Stress Solution
Yesterday, for the entire day, aside from letting my pups outside from time to time and feeding them, I wallpapered. I turned on old British cosy mysteries (Poirot with David Suchet), and went to town (hopefully) transforming my primary bedroom from a gray space to a French/English Countryside cottage space.
After such focused projects, I sleep deeply. Stress? Nonexistent.
Dr. Rangan Chatterjee explains in The Stress Solution how when you've found something you love "time, and even you sense of self, will seem to vanish when you're busy with it." Yep, this is the 'flow state' we've heard so much about. Your emotional brain finds it difficult to grab your attention as your rational brain is being fully encouraged to grow he further teaches. All of this is to say, any negative thoughts, cannot grab hold because you are intently engrossed in something your full attention needs to be engaged with.
Dr. Chatterjee shares more specifically as psycholoist Mihaly Csikszemtimihalyi (who coined the phrase - flow state) found, flow is only fully reached when we are challenged. Which makes it all the more important to find something to give your attention to regularly you not only love doing but also steadily gives you the opportunity to grow.
All of this is to say, we can alleviate and solve the problem of unnecessary stress in our lives. And when we do so, not only will our overall health improve - in the short and long term, but we will deepen the daily contentment we experience and improve our everyday lives.
Part of struggle in America with eradicating stress is whether the culture will admit it or not, it (and I am choosing a non-human pronoun intentionally as we unhelpfully give the culture control over our lives as though we cannot change it - as though it is concrete) thrives when we are stressed. Economically, when people need something, or feel they need something (remember 'false needs' from episode #298), they feel inadequate or lacking, so they do or buy or change which requires 'something else' which keeps us out of the present moment.
Back to the pronoun of it to describe the culture which we think we don't have control over. We do.
Morrie Schwartz, the man of insightful wisdom about living and dying well introduced to readers through Mitch Albom's book Tuesdays with Morrie, expressed and beautifully exemplified the need to cultivate your own culture if the one presented by the world does not work for you.
"Morrie, true to these words, had developed his own culture—long before he got sick. Discussion groups, walks with friends, dancing to his music in the Harvard Square church. He started a project called Greenhouse, where poor people could receive mental health services. He read books to find new ideas for his classes, visited with his colleagues, kept up with old students, wrote letters to distant friends. he took more time eating and looking at nature and wasted no time in front of TV sitcoms . . . he had created a cocoon of human activities—conversations, interations, affection—and it filled his life like an overflowing soup bowl." —Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
Alleviating our lives of stress will take courage - in grand, but many seemingly small ways, practiced every day until they become a healthy habit of being present.
So how can we resolve the stress problem? Dr. Chatterjee has created an acronym L.I.V.E.
L —Do Something You Love, find your flow state and engage in it regularly (often)
I — Do Something With Intent, be present fully in each day and revel in the pleasures of the little details of life which are everywhere if only we'd look. Being present enables
298: 28 Ways to Simplify Your Entire Life
"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak." —Hans Hofmann
Far different from minimizing, simplifying requires that we consciously explore what is of value in our lives and then thoughtfully edit in order for what we deem most important to shine as fully as possible.
Take for example sight. Eyesight that is. As someone who wears contacts in order to see clearly objects in far distances, when I put on a dirty lens or my lens happens to have an eyelash or spot of makeup on it, not only does it hurt, but frustratingly my eyesight is impaired. My #1 priority is to clean the lens properly in order to see. Why? Understandably, so that I can clearly, safely, peacefully, go about my day without having to actually think about the gift that is 20/20 eyesight.
Such a truth comes into play with our everyday routines, homes, and overall lifestyles. If we don't clear the clutter - literal and figurative - the quality of our lives decreases. What we love, what we value cannot grow, shine, fully blossom. Whatever the analogy is, the full growth, the full maturation, can't possibly be experienced.
Multitasking our lives not only when it comes to the tasks we do each day, has become an approach to living in the 21st century (and was as well in the late 20th century) which was applauded. In many ways 2020 has forced us to recognize how much we missed in doing so - we missed our relationships, we missed simple pleasures, we missed the gift of appreciating well-made, seasonal food, we missed the gift of truly connecting. Now that so much of what we thought we valued but did not prioritized has been forcibly taken out of our lives, are we questioning whether we lived in accordance to what we swore was true to living well.
Let's talk about clutter. What is defined as clutter for you may be different from what someone else may define or label as clutter. My kitchen for example has many tools handy, surrounding my stovetop - canisters, pots hanging, salt and spices within arms-length. For someone else, such a sight may be exhausting to the eye and look terribly cluttered when viewing my kitchen. Organizing my kitchen in such a way makes my cooking fluid, more enjoyable and simple, but that may not be the case for someone else.
More figuratively speaking, how much time with our own and only company we need will depend upon not only our temperaments but as well where we are along our life's journey. There are times in my life where I have needed far more time alone than others, and I am thankful I finally was able to find it as I needed to figure certain things out, things that I didn't even know I needed to sort through. However, once we learn the direction we want to travel, the skills we want to improve or learn, we may reduce the time alone, but I would argue, as you will see in the list today, we will always need regular alone time or as it is often described - solitude.
Since the inception of TSLL blog, simplicity has been a fundamental component of living simply luxuriously. In order to choose well, in order to invest wisely, we first need to know what is of value to each of us, and the only way to do that is to simplify our lives. (View a list of posts focused on simplifying here and here and be sure to check out TSLL's 1st and 2nd book which have specific sections focused on simplifying in a variety of areas of your life.)
Upon recently rereading Carl Phillips' book 22 Ways to Simpler Living and a couple of other books which help me to assess how simplified I have kept my life or where I need to check-in and adjust or make improvements, I was inspired to make a list to serve as a refresher. I have a feeling each reader/listener stopping by today's post has simplified their lives in some way at some point if not multiple
297: 10 Ideas for Making the Most of "Between the Years"
In the spirit of nurturing ourselves, healing ourselves and opening a door to a better year in 2021, today's episode/post is shared with the intention of providing inspiration for you to do just that as you tailor the final week of the year - the Between the Years as my readers taught me last year (read this post from last year which was inspired by this aha of the term) - to nurture you, heal you, open your eyes to a better, more deeply contented 2021.
296: The Necessity of Personal Privacy: A Delicate & Important Dance
“Privacy - like eating and breathing - is one of life's basic requirements.”
― Katherine Neville, author
The sanctuaries we call home, no matter how large or small, provide the comfort and necessary gift of privacy. We hold the key to whom will enter, who lives, who dines, who sleeps, within the four walls we pay each month a large portion of our hard earned money.
Similar to our sanctuaries, we are given choices in our lives, many which take time to materialize, but with clear-eyed effort, the beauty, the serenity, can be achieved. Much like the cleanliness and tidiness of a home, we provide self-care, tend to our physical and mental well-being so we can think clearly, decide well and experience true contentment each day. The ideas, the people, the conversations, the energy we open our doors to in our physical house affect the quality of our home-life. And the good news is, we hold the key to the door.
Immediately, when I think of a home and privacy, the voice of Diane Lane's character Frances in Under the Tuscan Sun dances through my mind, "What are four walls, anyway? They are what they contain. The house protects the dreamer." And we all need to dream, to give ourselves time and the space to explore our wildest hopes and desires, to become fully acquainted with what sparks joy in our own hearts and minds void of society's influence.
A crucial component to living a life of sincerity, to tapping into and discovering our unique potential which the world wants us to share is having the privacy to do so, to finding a steady contentment in each of our days no matter what is swirling around us. So much of our lives is out of our control, but there is much that can be within our control when we become aware of these aspects of our lives (explore these posts and episodes on this exact topic of control).
"Maintaining some degree of control over interactions with other people is crucial to our psychological well-being." —Dr. Frank T. McAndrew
The key to a home of tranquility and the key to a tranquil life is to establish a personal privacy approach determining who and what can have access to various aspects of your life. Professor of Psychology Dr. Frank T. McAndrew explains how we have four types of privacy in our lives - solitude, intimacy, anonymity, and reserve. Understanding what each type of privacy is as well as how much we need of each (and we do need some level of each in our lives - although, the amount will differ from person to person) helps us to better understand how to find deeper contentment in our everyday lives.
Today we'll explore how to find the balance of healthy personal privacy which can elevate the quality of our lives. Recently, as many TSLL readers and podcast listeners know, I reformed my own privacy boundaries here on the blog this past October and while there were some who pushed back as I was changing what they had become accustomed, the personal peace I gave myself has been priceless.
1.Do the homework for the course on You
In many ways our entire life is the Course on Ourselves 101 (if we choose to enroll and pay attention), but as I shared in 2011 and further in my first book, sharing more than what is consciously or unconsciously comfortable is often a reflection of our own insecurity and our need to be approved externally regarding how we are living our lives.
By exploring our true needs, being honest with ourselves about the skills we need to learn and/or improve, we grow as a human being who can be clear-eyed about the true level of privacy versus openness which harmonizes best with the life we want to live.
~In my second book, two chapters are entirely dedicated building our Toolbox to live well. One chapter explores the helpful skills we can all cultivate in our own lives and the second chapter explores how
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Changing the way I live life
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