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 and Anglophiles tune in as Paris as well as the English countryside are favorite destinations), and living life to the fullest without breaking the bank, living well is really quite simple.
*illustration by artist Sarah Löcker exclusively commissioned for the show
The French Way: How to Create a Luxurious Everyday Life
"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."
-Bessie A. Stanley
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
332: The Power and Necessity of Regular and Frequent Reflection
"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.
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..
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #332
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331: How to Notice the Awesomeness in Your Life and the World
"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 i
330: 25 Ideas for Enjoying British Culture in Your Everyday Life
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
The Art of the British Cosy Mystery: 16 Cosy Mysteries to Enjoy
10 British Comedies and Dramedies I Have Enjoyed (and Recommend)
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
~Have you entered the Grand Giveaway for your chance to win Fortnum & Mason's Jubilee Hamper? Click here to do so.
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
329: 20 Life Lessons Learned on My Recent Trip to England
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
~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate: iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify | Amazon Music
328: 15 Ideas to Savor Paris
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
A bright star in my day!
Shannon Ables is producing content that brightens every day for me! Her podcast is so intelligently put together that I feel “lifted up” after each airing and like I want to raise the bar on my own life! Listening to Shannon is like sharing some time with a real friend, a friend who you not only admire but also someone who wants the best for you. I find that when I take her suggestions of books, movies, or life experiences, I am always glad I did. For anyone who is looking to enjoy simple sophistication in all of life, look no further!
The Simple Sophisticate
I ran across Shannon’s podcast about a year ago, and now am delightedly making my way through the archives. I haven’t ever heard her say that she was trained as a broadcaster, but I really appreciate her “radio voice:” skilled delivery and very pleasant listening. Now that I get how much she is a “lifelong learner,” I’m sure that is no accident and that she worked hard to train herself in that skill set. Beyond that, I love the mix of philosophy, food, style and lifestyle, always delivered in an accessible way instead of feeling elite or esoteric. At first I could not have imagined myself signing on as a “top tier member” of her blog, but then I realized that she consistently produces really quality content that is worth paying for. Thank you, Shannon!
—Betsy Kahn, Altadena, California
Inspiring and nourishing
Listening to your podcast (I’m a late comer) has been a nourishing, inspiring and curiosity sparking part of my day that I look forward to every week. I find myself taking notes from almost every episode! I found your podcast at just the right moment in my life, when I was ready to hear much of what you have to say, I’ve been perpetually pleasantly surprised as the episodes I hear dovetail so well with places in my life that I might be feeling stuck or need some inspiration to improve. Thank you!