Conscious thoughts & being happier

Do you remember when Lorelai Gilmore had to learn how to fish to go on a date with some outdoorsy guy, and Rory, quite naturally, got some fishing books from the library to help her? Some, like Luke Danes, might think it’s ridiculous to expect to learn to fish from reading a book. While I too think that it’s slightly silly, I have pretty much the same attitude as Rory.* When I want to learn something, my first thought is to read a book about it. So a few months ago, when I was really struggling with my happiness levels and needed some help with organising my life, home, and time, I went straight to the library.

I started browsing the psychology and self-help aisle. Am I the only one who feels irrationally self-concious when looking at the self-help shelves? As if everyone else is judging me? Anyway, I ignored this feeling, because what’s embarrassing about needing help with some things? Nothing. I ended up finding a few very useful books that day, and overall I am pleasantly surprised at how a few little tidbits and words of wisdom have stuck with me and have actually helped me be happier.

The ambitiously titled How to Do Everything and be Happy by Peter Jones, offered some very practical ways to get organised and set goals. But most importantly, it made me more aware of the power of our thoughts. I began to notice that most of my thoughts had a negative tone. The book suggests thinking about your goals as if they are already done, which felt extremely odd to me as I’m more used to thinking about my goals as if I’ll never reach them. Which is bad, very bad.

I then read Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home which was inspiring on many levels. (It actually offered extra motivation for my Capsule Wardrobe Project.) This book really challenged my assumption that we act the way we feel. I think that’s a sensible assumption, isn’t it? As it turns out, Rubin found that quite often it’s the opposite: how we act, and how we think, affects how we feel! Isn’t that mind-blowing? So if we think kind thoughts, and engage in nurturing, positive activities, we can actually raise our happiness levels.


I began to think about the following statement, a bit like a daily mantra:

“Think happy, feel happy.”


 It was with this new awareness that I received the perfectly-timed newsletter from my favourite yogi, Adriene, last week. The topic was conscious thoughts and how powerful they can be. Adriene talked about the teachings of yogi Yogananda who really believed in the power of thought.


These lines really resonated with me:

“What if every thought you had were to be realised as truth?

Would you be more careful with your thoughts?

Would your thoughts demean you or support you?”


Conscious thoughts & being happier @ A little adventureOh my, did this resonate with me! I realised that most of my thoughts weren’t supporting me, in fact, quite the opposite was true and often they were actually torturous. I had to admit that my negative and pessimistic thoughts helped create situations that are affecting my happiness. Not good.

I am now determined to be more aware of my thoughts, to notice when they veer towards the unhelpful and the negative. To consciously check my thoughts. To focus more on positive thoughts and setting intentions. I really think more mindful thinking can have a significant impact on our happiness levels. Do you notice your thoughts? Are you careful to avoid negative and self-demeaning thoughts? I urge you to try to be more conscious of your thoughts and to use their power to support you instead of hinder you.

*Apologies if you are not a Gilmore Girls fan. But maybe you should be? 🙂

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Non-fiction books I’ve read and liked this year

In the last few months, I’ve had a bit of a change of taste. While in the past I was never very interested in non-fiction (with the notable exception of anything that Bill Bryson ever wrote), this year I’ve been on a non-fiction reading spree. I’ve been enjoying reading while having my morning coffee, and non-fiction books just seem to work better for that time of the day. I like that I can read a chapter or an essay every morning, and it probably helps that I don’t have to remember important plot points so early in the morning.

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So, here are the non-fiction books I’ve enjoyed so far this year.

  1. Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton. I loved this book. Reading about hundreds of women’s thoughts on personal style was definitely thought-provoking, as I’ve mentioned in this post from last week. The book consists of interviews, essays, questionnaires, pictures, illustrations, transcripts of conversations, and even poems. It covers everything from ethics in fashion, how our mother’s style can be a significant influence in ours, the special meaning certain items can hold, and the connection between what we wear and how we feel.
  2. The Courtiers by Lucy Worsley. This is a fascinating portrait of court life during the reign of George I and his son, George II. I enjoyed reading about some incredible people, tangled affairs, rivalries, and scandal, all set in the beautiful surroundings of Kensington Palace in London. I doubt William and Kate’s lives are as exciting…
  3. Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie De La Tour Du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era by Caroline Moorehead. Oh my what a life this woman had! This book is based on the detailed memoirs of an enlightened aristocrat who witnessed, participated in, and survived an extremely turbulent period. Lucie maintained her great spirit and attitude from life at the court of Versailles, through the French Revolution, the Terror, and Napoleon’s rule; reading about her life was captivating and inspiring.
  4. New Ways to Kill your Mother: Writers and their Families by Colm Tóibín. Catchy title, right? This is a collection of essays focused on the often complicated relationships between authors like Jane Austen, W. B. Yeats, and Barrack Obama, with their families, particularly their mothers. It was really interesting to see how their personal relationships seeped into their work. It was wonderful to read and I have since added many of the books mentioned to my TBR list. And what I suspected when I read Austen’s works has been confirmed: aunts are very important in helping a young woman find love!
  5. Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes. It will come as no surprise when I say that after reading this book I wanted to move to Tuscany, live in a crumbling farmhouse, and cook and eat delicious, seasonal food. This is basically what Frances did; she has build an extraordinarily charming life in a warm and beautiful place. Food and travel are topics very close to my heart and this is a book that combines both. I copied quite a few of the recipes found in this book and since I can’t move to Tuscany (yet) I’ll have to make do with scrumptious Italian food.

As you can see I’ve been reading non-fiction books in a variety of categories and I’ve really been enjoying it. This week I started reading Au Revoir to All That by Michael Steinberger, which chronicles the rise and fall (and hopefully the rise again) of French cuisine. So far it’s delicious!

I’d be very grateful if you had any book recommendations for me. What are some of your favourite non-fiction books?

bookish: The Wind in the Willows, again

The other day, the Boy and I were talking about The Wind in the Willows, as we often do, and specifically about Wayfarers All. In this chapter of my beloved book, Ratty becomes seduced by the charms of travel and faraway adventure.

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Normally, Ratty resides by the river year-round and is pretty content. The summer however is slowly winding down, Ratty can feel the seasons change and this makes him feel gloomy and restless. Initially, as he sees his friends begin to pack their belongings to prepare for travelling south to warmer climes, he tries to convince them to stay. But then he meets another Rat, someone who unlike him is a traveller, a nomad, never staying in the same place for too long, someone who has plenty of stories to share. Slowly, all the talk about strange lands, violet seas, exotic new acquaintances and unforgettable experiences begins to get to him. Ratty becomes enchanted by these descriptions of the unknown, and in comparison the familiar of his life by the river looks grey and faded.

It is only when the Mole stops his friend from taking off and begins to talk about all the activities that the changing season would bring in their little corner of the countryside, that Ratty slowly becomes himself again and abandons any thought of leaving his house by the river. This is actually one of my favourite passages in this book:

“Casually, then, and with seeming indifference, the Mole turned his talk to the harvest that was being gathered in, the towering wagons and their straining teams, the growing ricks, and the large moon rising over bare acres dotted with sheaves. He talked of the reddening apples around, of the browning nuts, of jams and preserves and the distilling of cordials; till by easy stages such as these he reached midwinter, its hearty joys and its snug home life, and then he became simply lyrical.”

So what The Boy and I were talking about is which one of the rats we mostly identify with. I think I am closer to Ratty. I love having a home, a permanent base. It gives me great pleasure to see how my local countryside changes and yet remains the same through the year. Little traditions that come with each season fill my heart with joy. Right now for example, I’m excited to go on the first blackberry picking of the season. Certainly, I love to travel, and I yearn for adventure, but I always want to be coming home afterwards.

I think earlier in my life I felt I didn’t need a base so much, I definitely had that “anywhere but here” feeling, and I guess it’s what brought me here. But for now, it seems to me that I prefer the quiet life. Just like Ratty and Mole, I want to be by the river, to walk in the meadows, to see the leaves change with the seasons and to experience all the little joys that they bring, right here.

I’m wondering, who do you mostly identify with? Do you often get bored and restless and need a change? Are you happier when you are settled in the familiar? Also, isn’t it amazing how a supposed children’s book can evoke such deep questions?

A Cook’s Year in a Welsh Farmhouse by Elisabeth Luard

It’s no secret that I love the english countryside and I also love food memoirs and cookbooks. So when I saw Elisabeth Luard’s A Cook’s Year in a Welsh Farmhouse at the library I knew I had to read it. Ok so it’s set in Wales and not England, but from what I read, the welsh countryside is just as charming.

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I loved this book. It is divided in twelve chapters, one for each month of the year and each chapter starts with an essay followed by seasonal & very locally sourced recipes. The essays are simply beautiful and offer a very enjoyable look at life in a rural area, a glimpse of the everyday activities on a farm, and lovely family moments with Luard’s grandchildren. I was reading this book at night and it was so nice to be transported, even for a few minutes, to the farmhouse. Whether in the winter months when everything seems to be dormant and yet there’s so much to do, or in the beautiful summer months when nature bursts into colour, scent, life, it was charming. All the chapters were beautifully written, in a very simple and personal manner, because this is the author’s home and this is truly a whole year of her life.

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As for the recipes, I was surprised to see how few recipes included meat. This isn’t a bad thing, really, we eat way too much meat, but I thought that living on a farm with sheep shepherds as neighbours would mean meat is on the menu every day. Instead, Luard seems to eat a very simple diet, probably not very different to that of farmers hundreds of years ago when meat was a rare luxury. And she really does stick to local ingredients that are in season, even in the winter months when nature’s offerings are not abundant. I was very impressed. I tried and loved her recipe for an asparagus tian (pictured below), and I also made a note of her recipe for elderflower cordial to be tested next week. There were also many nice looking recipes for jams and preserves, which is why I’ll be borrowing the book from the library again towards the end of the summer.

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All in all, I thought this book was really good. I loved being transported to the welsh countryside and reading about how it changes over the seasons. Most of the recipes were family recipes, or traditional of the area and they all promote living in harmony with nature. Simply lovely.

The time when I thought I stepped inside a Jane Austen novel

bookworm_austenI’ve lived in England for almost 5 years (yikes, 5 sounds like a lot, right?) and I’ve been on countless walks in the countryside during this time, so I don’t know why I’m still surprised when I stumble upon scenes like this one: a beautifully symmetric and grand Georgian manor house, set in green rolling countryside, with cows enjoying some shade in a nearby field, and all is calm and beautiful and charming.

I think it must be because I’ve spent a large part of my life reading about places like these in novels, and watching films and tv adaptations, and basically just dreaming about them, that I now struggle to believe that they are real and they exist and I am lucky enough to actually walk there.

This particular picture was taken on a walk during my stay in Suffolk last month, on the outskirts of a sleepy village. The sun was shining, the bees were buzzing, and the cows were lazing on the grass. This stately home looked as beautiful now as it did approximately two hundred years ago when it was built. I half expected Elizabeth Bennett to come walking round the path, lost in the pages of a novel.

I love the englishness of this kind of setting. I hope I never get over my fascination with the beautiful english countryside; I never want to stop comparing the places I visit to what I’ve read in Austen or Gaskell, or of course, the places my beloved Bertie Wooster visit in P.G.Wodehouse novels.