Before we say bye to 2015…

A tram in Lisbon, Portugal

A tram in Lisbon, Portugal.

Happy 2016!

Before 2015 completely fades into the horizon, I wanted to take a moment to appreciate various amazing things I discovered over the year. (Quick note: Some of them were made much earlier, but they took a while to find me.)

1. Books

Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice

How to Get Lucky: 13 techniques for discovering and taking advantage of life’s good breaks, by Max Gunther – I’m an amateur self-help fan, and like how you can pick and choose each author’s advice depending on how it applies to your own life. This book appealed to me especially because Gunther (a one-time journalist) dissects how to make or break your luck in a very rational, straightforward style. So, it’s old but many of the principles hold true. I learned about this on the Farnam Street blog.

I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend (audiobook), by Martin Short – This book has a remarkable amount of depth and humility for a celebrity memoir. My advice: For sure listen to it. Short is a brilliant voice actor and vocally recounting scenes from his life makes the stories still more intimate. It’s cheesy, but by the end you really do feel like one of his best friends.

The Paradox Choice, by Barry Schwartz – Are you a Maximizer or a Satisficer? This book was written in 2004 yet, even today, still spills over with interesting ideas about how the number of options we encounter can overwhelm us. (And perhaps still offer some value.) Regardless of whether you agree with Schwartz’ conclusions, it’s a fascinating way to look at how we make decisions.

2. TV

Friday Night Lights – Honestly, apart from Portugal, this might be my favorite of this whole list. I was late to watch the series, but was in its grips from episode 3 or 4 up until the very end. (That said, feel free to skip Season 2.)

3. Film


Clouds of Sils Maria – When Olivier Assayas does well, he does wonderfully–this movie is a great example. Instead of playing some mysterious European, Juliette Binoche’s character is grappling with very real issues of aging and friendship. Kristen Stewart gives her role complete and utter authenticity.


A Most Violent Year – I’m terrible about watching violence; fortunately this movie doesn’t have much of it. It’s retro and dramatic and thrilling in all the most watchable ways.


Digging for Fire – Having seen a few of Joe Swanberg’s earlier movies, I thought this ran a risk of being too indie and precious. It turned out to be friendly and universal.

4. Travel

Pena Palace, Portugal

Pena Palace, Portugal

Portugal – Somehow everything there managed to be vibrant, historic, and kind. I can’t wait to go back.

 

5. Wellness & Beauty

 

Smith’s Rosebud Salve  – Really, truly moisturizes lips. Finally!

Nutribullet – Makes green smoothies so much easier.

Running an ice cube over your face – Love how it smoothes and tightens skin.

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Quotable Rupert Graves

Rupert Graves and Helena Bonham Carter at the Room with a View premiere

1985: If only we could see what colors these shirts were!

It’s a few years old now, but this Daily Mail profile of Rupert Graves is wonderful. He’s open about quite a few things, but my absolute favorite quote is right here (bolding from me):

One night I was walking the dog and I just fell in love with the idea of life. It was one of those soppy but elemental things when you look at a tree and the sky, and you think, “This is brilliant.” Oh, there was one other thing,’ he adds. ‘I was dancing under a tree at the time – a beautiful horse chestnut with wide branches. I’ve never had depression since.” 

Josie Maran & Argan Oil

Josie Maran (picture from Redbook magazine)

Picture from Redbook magazine.

It’s no secret I’m a fan of Into the Gloss… whether by tackling at-home manicures or Muppet coats, they hit just the right amount of substance for a beauty website. Their recent interview with model Josie Maran (who owns her own skincare line, and used to be the face of Maybelline), though, full-on impressed and delighted me. As you’ll read below, Josie brought some refreshing wisdom to the table.

1. On her house in Pennsylvania:

I used to fly out here from LA, but when I was pregnant and I couldn’t fly anymore we decided to get a place. We found this—it’s 300 acres—and I had my baby under one of the trees. It was awesome. I had my Jambox and good music going. My neighbors, my whole family, and some good friends just came and sat around—we listened to yoga music and had a baby for four hours.

2. On aging:

We don’t ever saying ‘anti-aging,’ because why would you be ‘anti’ anything that’s a natural part of life? And metaphysically, being ‘anti’ something actually creates that thing that you don’t want. Tip number one—stay positive.

3. Oils are magic:

The only thing that’ll hydrate my skin is argan oil. I love oils—they make the skin so juicy and dewy. Add oil and confidence and you’re like the hottest girl in the world. I discovered it when I was in France for a job—there was this woman who was 70 but she looked 40, so I asked her what her secret was. All she used was argan oil, so I had to try.

4. The minimalist’s approach to hair care:

Less is more, so I wash it once a week. Sometimes I clean my hair in the pond, but I always feel like that makes it too clean and like I need more dragon fly dust back in my hair.

Good Stuff – March

Hohensalzburg Castle, Austrai

I’ve be heading to Salzburg, Austria, in just a few weeks. So, I’ve been up to my ears in guide books, luggage shopping, and German websites that I can’t technically read.

1. Becoming a Seattleite has above all else taught me how to gawk at real estate. (See picture above.) This best-of slideshow on HGTV FrontDoor’s site is the perfect place to go for real-estate bingeing.

2. I’ve lived in Lower Queen Anne for almost 5 years now, but only just learned (thanks to friends Engel and Iliana) that Blue Water Taco Grill is not only adequate, but amazing. I’ve been getting the grilled tilapia burrito bowl. YUM.

3. It isn’t much of a secret that I’m not big into makeup–that stuff gets expensive! That said, the stylish, airy website Into the Gloss has been a huge help these last few months for all things beauty, many things wellness, and the occasional thing makeup.

4. I had never cooked with a plantain ever until reading about their benefits on Purely Twins. So glad I did! Plantains have become a staple in my kitchen these last couple weeks and their versatility comes in especially handy when you’re searching for meal inspiration. I’ve been reading this blog for a couple years now, and am always impressed by their posts’ upbeat tone and usefulness.

How thrift makes you happy

The Myths of Happiness

The Myths of Happiness

You may have noticed that, over the last couple years, the New York Times has run several interesting articles about happiness. These reports are a fascinating scoop to be sure. And, uncoincidentally, most of these articles report findings from or are written by Sonja Lyubomirsky, including her recently published book The Myths of Happiness.

I enjoyed the book immensely and recommend anyone even vaguely intrigued read it. It’s relatively short (less than 300 pages), yet loaded with thought-provoking insights into how we regard our condition, for better or worse.

One of my favorite chapters discussed the benefits of thrift.

Although some of us associate thrift with acting cheap, miserly, or stingy, the term actually originates from the word thrive. At its essence, thrift is about the optimal, most efficient use of limited resources. Historically, thriftiness has been equated with industry (i.e., the harder we labor for rewards, the less likely we are to squander them), temperance (i.e., we control excess by practicing moderation and self-restraint), and the pursuit of fulfilling and fruitful activities (i.e., so we avoid wasting our resources on frivolous ones). Thrift has an old and honored history, having been promoted and lionized by writers, philosophers, entrepreneurs, and thinkers as diverse as Socrates, King Solomon, Confucius, Benjamin Franklin, Alexis de Tocqueville, Max Weber, and, most recently, Warren Buffett.

We all can apply the principles of thrift in order to spend less while enjoying more, as well as to strive to ensure that limited wages don’t wholly undermine our happiness. What’s more, thrifty behavior in and of itself can make us feel good (by highlighting our better natures), impart a sense of control (by highlighting our abilities to manage our finances), and even foster success.”

This is a subject that hits close to home, being that I–like most people–am surrounded my conspicuous consumption everywhere I go. And of course, it’s a daily negotiation: Do I buy my lunch or bring it? Will I get $12 enjoyment out of a $12 cocktail?

Ways I love being cheap (er, thriving) include:

  • Walks and happy hours with friends
  • Heavy library use
  • Student discounts
  • Finding inexpensive experiences around Seattle (e.g., lectures, trivia nights, promotional events, or day trips)

What cheap habits make you proud?

To read more of Sonja Lyubomirsky’s thoughts on happiness, take a look at her articles on NYTimes.com or check out her books.