December: Embracing it all.

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The year has come to an end, and so has my Happiness Project. I dedicated December to embracing all the things that actually worked for me this year.

Here’s what I’ve learned throughout this process. That happiness isn’t actually a state, or a personality trait. Happiness is a fleeting moment, it’s the smile of your child’s face when you walk in the room. It’s quiet moments of hot coffee and books while the household is sleeping. It’s the complete bliss of actually being in the moment for once, instead of looking at your phone or ahead to the future. I think that the idea of being eternally happy initially sounds great, but how do we know true happiness if we haven’t experienced the lows.

This project was definitely productive as I picked up some great habits in which I will carry with for hopefully a long time. Here’s my quick list of things I will continue to do:

  • Breathe. Take moments to take a deep breathe, and really enjoy how your lungs feel when they are full.
  • Pursuing passions. After finally signing up for a marathon again after 6/7 years, what I realized is that I am so capable of anything I put my mind to. So whether it’s running, a fun hobby, or reading, I want to continue to pursue and working towards goals for fun. No pressure to do certain times, or setting high bars… just purely enjoying doing something.
  • Saying no. This includes not over scheduling, telling people what I actually want, and focusing on what’s most important for our family.
  • Dates with my Husband. This was life changing. We have actually been really keeping this goal up, and it’s been great to get out as a couple again.
  • Yoga. Enough said… perfect for my mindset, and my body.

Well friends, that rounds up a whole year of working on happiness!! If you are interested in reading about the my personal project, check this link out. If you are interested in doing a happiness project, feel free to drop me a line, or a comment. I’d love to chat!

 

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The Measure of my Powers, by Jackie Kai Ellis

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I had heard about The Measure of my Powers from a lovely friend, and then on the WSIRN Podcast, it was being recommended as some really good Canadian memoir writing. So while listening to that podcast episode, I requested it from my library. WELL, three pages into to it I decided to stop reading, and go out and buy it that day… it was just too damn beautiful to not own for my own personal library.

Jackie Kai Ellis had seemed on the outside to be perfect. She was married to her “hot” husband, had a successful career, and also owned a home. But within the first paragraph you see that Jackie struggled everyday to have the desire to go on. Her depression was so heavy that she had contemplated on whether she should continue to live. Jackie found her purpose in the kitchen. It all started with a chocolate chip cookie, and the ability to find joy in each bite. She then went on to discover herself through food, and travelling from France to Italy, then the Congo.  

First off, this book is stunning. The sheer weight of it is heavier than your average book, because of the stock of the paper. Each page feels crisp, and just waiting for me to dog-ear it! Sorry all you people who believes books shouldn’t be marked up 🙂 She has also made the pages colourful, and sprinkled her life changing recipes throughout it.

Here’s a list of the things I loved the most about this memoir:

  1. The thoughtfulness that Jackie took in sprinkling her recipes, and her favourite quotes, makes me feel really connected to her. I even felt inclined to reach out to her after reading this book to tell her how much it resonated with me… and she so sweetly replied.
  2. It’s back drop is set a lot in Paris. And I just love Paris, croissants, and all the descriptions that Jackie details. Except now I need to go back!
  3. The authenticity, and rawness that Jackie exposes. Her struggles, I’m sure will resonate with a lot of people, but knowing that she was able to pull herself out of this hard place is so hopeful.
  4. Lastly, her descriptions of food were magical. She could describe each bite so well that you want to stop and enjoy your next meal as much as she does.

Okay, so now that I’ve gushed a ton about this one, I’d love to leave you with one quote from her book that I just thought was so beautifully badass!!!

For so long I had dreamt of dying, to dispose of a life I despised in so many ways. But if I were to throw my life away anyway, I thought, maybe I could waste it living, doing whatever the fuck I wanted, however the fuck I wanted to. I would have been dead anyway.

That’s all for today my friends, I’m off to do what the f*ck I want… and possibly bake some chocolate chip cookies from the recipe in this book!

 

Midnight Blue, by Simone van der Vlugt

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You know that saying… “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. Well in this case, please do. This cover is just gorgeous, and my picture doesn’t even do it justice. It has tiny flecks of gold that sparkle in the sunlight, and every time I look at this cover I smile. I stumbled upon this book in Hunter Street Books, when I saw the beautiful Delft blue pottery resemblance, my dutch roots just had to buy it.

Set in 1654 in the Netherlands, this novel follows Catrin, who after the suspicious death of her husband she decides to move from her hometown. She runs away to Amsterdam in hopes to escape her past, and follow her dreams of opening her own business of painting pottery. Eventually Catrin ends up in Delft, where she has started to work at a place where she makes pottery. On a whim she decides to paint a plate with a beautiful blue pattern. She was inspired to do so upon seeing the Chinese vases, and thought she would give it a shot… and so began the Delft pottery.

Along with this historical timeline, Catrin’s story is quite a tumultuous one. Being widowed, and dealing with infant loss, her storyline is pretty inspiring. She’s a firecracker. What I really loved about this story was that it weaved in famous artists such as Rembrant, Vermeer, and Fabritius, and also true events, such as the plague, and the Delft Explosion. I love it when a novel teaches me something about a time in history that I hadn’t known before.

I’ve visited Delft numerous times, and I had know idea that there was a massive explosive there! I found this part so interesting, and wish I had of known this history before I visited… but there is always time to go back!! I just have to convince my Gramma to come with me to translate 🙂

If you like historical fiction, with a little bit of thrilling action, you will probably like this book as much as I did! I found it really easy to read, despite it being a translation… which can be at sometimes hard stories for me to read. I also found the pace of it really great. It moved along enough that I wanted to keep turning the pages, but I also wanted to look up little historical details.

That’s all on this one, and if you have read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Until next time, happy reading!

 

 

The Rent Collector, by Camron Wright

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One of the best parts of my job as a Registered Massage Therapist is that my clients come in book recommendations, or loans frequently! The Rent Collector came to me from a friend/client who has very similar taste in books to me. I had been telling her how I was in a book rut and couldn’t get into anything… and she handed this on over to me.

The Rent Collector is a fiction novel, inspired by Wright’s son who filmed a documentary in about the large dump, Strung Meachney, in Cambodia. The family featured in the film is the inspiration for this novel. Sang Ly, and Ki Lim, are husband and wife, with their son, Nisay, who is 1 and half years old, and very ill. Sang and Ki struggle to make ends meet with their income coming from pickers of the massive dump Strung Meachney.  Sopeap Sin, the Rent Collector, is forever knocking on their door, looking for the money that they owe her. Sopeap is a drunk, aging, and frequently angry. Then one day, illiterate Sang finds out Sopeap can read. Sang sees an opportunity to learn to read, help heal their son, and possibly change their lives through literature.

This is a great, easy to read story. If you love a fast-paced story, this book will be right for you. But if you love literature, this book will make you remember why. Wright lists Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi as one of his all time favourites, this little fact speaks to his own his love of literature. There were great little nuggets, and famous quotes sprinkled throughout the story.

Another reason why I really liked this book is that I learned about a completely different part of the world that I’ve never read about, let alone visited. I learned a lot about the culture, and realized how much in North America we take being literate for granted… also our healthcare system. In the back of this book there is real photos of the family who this book is based on, and that just made it all hit home.

So, friends, if you love books about books, or about the love of reading… pick this one up!! Until next, keep on reading!

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Anne Fowler

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Good God, this novel is a beautiful, heart-wrenching story. I’ve been obsessed with the Fitzgeralds since high school when I first read The Great Gatsby. Let me rephrase, I’ve been obsessed with the writers who gathered in Paris for deep inspiration. The flapper dresses, the bobs, the glamorous cigarettes, prohibition…  everything is so alluring. I picked up this book awhile ago, but when I heard that the Badass Women’s Book Club had it on their list, I decided this was exactly the type of book I needed to read right now.

Let me take a minute to tell you, I had this romantic view of the Fitzgeralds. Ever devoted, very drunk, and a lot of passion. F.Scott Fitzgerald was a drunk in the truest form. Drinking all day, and drinking and writing all night. He wasted his life away while getting drunk with his writer pals, and obsessing about who truly wrote the greatest was American Novel. BUT, I knew nothing about Zelda, other than she was F.Scott Fitzgerald’s wife.

Scott reached for my hand. “Damn it all, you are the love of my life.”

This tragic, passionate love story had me right from the beginning. It’s basically a fictional biography, based in lots of research. I think that Therese Anne Fowler did an amazing job, and deserves a lot of praise for this. Without giving too much away, Zelda was a badass babe. She could write, act, dance, and on top of that bring the life of the party. Scott admired this, but also wanted to control this about her. By keeping her sheltered, he could achieve more greatness he believed. She was his muse, which he ultimately quelled to the point that she was driven to psychiatric hospital for a long stint. These two flew too close to the sun, and got ultimately got burnt.

If you do decide to pick up this book (which I strongly suggest you do) please read the Author’s Note at the end. It’s very informative, and covers the last half of Zelda’s life which does not include Scott. Being a historical fiction junkie, and a fan of literature, this novel was a perfect fit for me. Not only was the story fascinating, but Therese Anne Fowler wove a beautiful story.

Okay, so I will now be up all night reading about the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, Stein, and the rest of the literary cast. Until next time, happy reading!

 

The Address, by Fiona Davis

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Full disclosure here… I’ve been on a bit of a Fiona Davis binge. I recently read The Dollhouse, and you can click here to read that review. I loved it and read it so quickly, that I immediately put another one of her books on hold! I have heard quite a bit about The Address, so I was pretty excited to pick it up when my hold notice came in.

The Address is a historical fiction, dual time-line, family drama. It’s style is similar to her last novel, but a unique plot line. The two main characters, Sara and Bailey, are separated by a one hundred years, but they are both living a parallel struggle in their time periods. Sara, who is a working at The Dakota, and accused of murdering her boss (and lover) Theo Camden. The other is Bailey, who is struggling to stay sober in a wild New York City, but also finding refuge in The Dakota. This big beautiful building has a rich history, and hidden secrets, and Bailey is on the hunt to uncover the mystery of Sara’s accused murder of Theodore Camden.

This book is pure fun. It’s a page flipping adventure, but also rich in some historical details. The Author’s Note at the end of the novel showed us just how much research that Fiona Davis put into this novel. She describes that she took certain liberties, but there was some interesting facts about Blackwell Jail for Women that I had no idea even existed. I think this novel is a great read for many types of readers, because it has elements of a couple different genres. What I also love about Fiona Davis is that you can really tell she loves New York City. Her descriptions of the buildings, the food, and the setting makes you feel as if you are there. And I love a book that gives you that “armchair travelling” feeling.

If you like mysteries, and historical fiction, this is the best kind of summer read!

Until next time, happy reading, friends!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

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I recently picked this book up off my TBR shelf. I spent a delightful hour long conversation at my local bookstore (Hunter Street Books) with a bookseller there. Turns out we had very similar taste in books, and she handsold me Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. This novel reminded me so much of The Rosie Project. It was creative, funny, and also tragic.

This isn’t a spoiler at all, but it turns out Eleanor Oliphant is NOT completely fine. Eleanor is struggling socially, and has the habit of truly speaking her mind. She isolates herself from human contact, and spends her weekends eating frozen pizza, and drowning herself in vodka. Here enters Raymond, her co-worker, who helps her take care of an elderly man who has fallen. This experience has bonded Eleanor and Raymond, and it turns out they each can help each other’s damaged hearts.

Time only blunts the pain of loss. It doesn’t erase it.

I am usually not a fan of “fun” books. I like a really dark, introspective novel. I like when a book makes me reflect and think a lot. But this book just brought together those two worlds for me. Eleanor, within 20 pages of this novel, has decided to get her first waxing of her nether regions. That scene had me dying of laughter. I actually chatted about this scene to a friend who also read this book, and we both teared up for the laughs.

Then this novel had me welling up at certain points. Eleanor’s childhood, you find out, has jaded her. She has shoved this childhood down so far within her in hopes she wouldn’t have to deal with the emotions that came along with the trauma. Now, at 30 years old, we watch Eleanor deal with her traumatic childhood, and climb out of her socially anxious box.

Although it’s good to try new things and to keep an open mind, it’s also extremely important to stay true to who you really are.

This book was such a gem. Like I said earlier, it made me have the same feelings that The Rosie Project did. I loved, and will be recommending it completely to many different types of readers.

Until next time… Happy Sunday, bookish friends!