Category Archives: Book Review

Thursday Book Review: The Happiness Project

It’s time for me to give this book the space it deserves. I have written about it in two posts already (April Goals and Healthful, Happy, and Loving Project) so my regular readers know how much I love it, but let me give you some details.

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The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, is for every person of every type of life. If you think you can get more happiness out of your everyday routine, or if you’re just looking for a bit of motivation, read it!

Basically it chronicles a lawyer turned author’s year-long quest to make a happier life for herself. What I love about it is that she decided she already loved the pieces of her life: her kids, her hubby, her location, etc, but she wasn’t as thankful for them and she knew she should be. How many of us are guilty of that? It’s probably why you read this blog (and any other blog) in the first place. You are trying to improve your life without seriously changing it.

And we have all tried. Goodness have we tried. Personally, I set goals pretty frequently but rarely do they make an impact on my life. That’s because they aren’t tangible resolutions. That’s a key phrase: tangible resolution. It has to be a resolution not a goal because goals only exist until you reach them, resolutions are forever. And you have to lay out tangible steps to make these resolutions a reality. Otherwise they will never stick.

Commandments^ Here’s my list of rules for my Happiness Project.

And here’s and example of my resolution: I want to lower my overall stress and anxiety level throughout the day.

My tangible steps to reach that goal: I will build in a walk or breathing meditation, some quiet time, in the middle of everyday so that I have a few spare minutes to reset my stress-meter. And it’s working!

Basically, this book is an inspiration. Rubin spent an entire year figuring out how to make her happiness a reality. She researched and then she experimented. She laid out a plan and then went for it. The sheer determination and will power it took to keep those resolutions was massive, I’m sure.

I have recommended it to several patients and now I’m recommending it to you. Any self-analytical and driven person should read this book. Check it out from the library, buy it here, or just follow Rubin’s blog! And no, I’m not getting paid for this, there are just things in life that deserve attention.

And if you read my blog with any regularity, you’ll see me implementing these resolutions myself. Mine need some work but I’m on the right path! I’ll keep you all updated. In the meantime, have a stellar Thursday 🙂

Love and a big smile. – Ash

 

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Mindful Monday: April Goals

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I still haven’t finished the book. It sits on my dining table, my bedside table, and the couch and every once in a while, I pick it up and read a chapter or two. But it’s not because it’s a slow read, it’s because I’m savoring it. There are very few books that make me feel the way this one does. It calms me but motivates me. It reminds me that my life is about making me happy and nothing else. I know it sounds selfish but a lot of making myself happy means helping other people be happy too. 🙂 I’m talking about the Happiness Project. It’s amazing. Read more about it in my Healthful, Happy, and Loving Project post.

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So, as promised, I will continue my efforts by revising and adding to my March Goals.

First, My Commandments. I read a list of these every morning. It reminds me what to focus on when I start to lose my footing.

  • Just because it’s fun for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s fun for me.
  • Me is the perfect person for me to be. (< I realized that I don’t actually have a lot of trouble with this one)
  • It’s NOT “doing nothing,” it IS “active relaxation.”
  • Life is play, not an endless stream of work.
  • A true smile and laugh can change a whole conversation.
  • Want what I already have.
  • I don’t have to be good at everything
  • When I’m sad, stop thinking of the future. Just smile and make that moment happier.
  • Be happy when I succeed.

Second, a review of March Goals.

  • Take a 5-minute walk down the block, every morning between shower and work. SLOWLY. (This was amazingly effective. It slowed me down after rushing around all morning like a headless chicken. It helped me be more productive and relaxed during the work day.)
  • When I’m sad, stop thinking of the future. Just smile and try to make that moment happier. 
    (I actually didn’t have too many unhappy moments in 2 weeks but I anticipate that they will happen. So I’m adding it to the commandments.)
  • Choose a day of the week to talk to each parent and sibling. Like I do with Gran. (Did this!)
  • Read this list every day. (Great reminder and totally necessary for this project)
  • Remember to be happy when I succeed. (Something I DEFINITELY need to work on. This is added to the Commandments.)

And finally! My April Goals:

  • Continue the daily, 10-minute walks.
  • Create a folder for design inspiration. I read lots of design magazines and websites. Visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright designs in Chicago this weekend made me realize how much pent-up design energy I have. I want to have a folder on my computer for digital archives and a physical folder for magazine and newspaper articles. I’m hoping this will help me start sketching again too.
  • Learn to cook with the Vitamix: juice, smoothies, soup, and ice cream. I got my tax return so I’m going to buy it today. YAY!!
  • Finish the two health books I’ve been page through for the last 2 months.
  • Eat at least one raw meal per day.
  • Have at least one entirely vegetarian day per week.
  • Read this list every day.

I’ll keep you updated with part of this that are working and parts that aren’t. Did anyone else read this book and love it?

Ashley Life Update:
Mike and I spent this weekend in Oak Park, a suburb just outside Chicago. We were celebrating our 1-year anniversary and seeing a few sites that we hadn’t got to yet. We don’t know where we’ll be moving in June so we want to see as much of Chicago as possible. We stayed at an eccentric yet absolutely lovely Bed and Breakfast. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about opening my own Healthy B&B. To the extent that I’ve designed most of the rooms in my head and know the general rules that I’d like to operate under (ie. huge, comfy beds and soft towels, simple healthy meals, and a gym for sure). Now I just have to figure out where the money will come from. Hah.

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Mike took the NRA intro to guns class I got him for Christmas well I slept off the lingering and oh-so-annoying flu. Then he met me at FLW’s Robie House in Hyde Park. That night was spent out on the town. We don’t like to party much but when we have a free night and a city full of entertainment, we take advantage. Mike treated me to a very chic, very delicious dinner at an underground jazz/prohibition bar and then we went dancing uptown.

Sunday (Easter!) was spent touring the FLW house and studio around the corner from our B&B and visited Trader Joes (man I miss that place!) before the 3 hour drive back to Peoria. We sort of just ignored easter. Much to my chagrin, without any kids or parents around, there wasn’t any good excuse for an Easter egg hunt.

I hope you all had relaxing and family filled holidays! Love and hugs – Ash

 

The Healthful, Happy, and Loving Project …

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March Goals:

  • Take a 5-minute walk down the block, every morning between shower and work. SLOWLY.
  • When I’m sad, stop thinking of the future. Just smile and try to make that moment happier.
  • Chose a day of the week to talk to each parent and sibling. Like I do with Gran.
  • Read this list every day.
  • Remember to be happy when I succeed.

These seem like some pretty specific goals right? How did I arrive at them? Well …

HappinessProject

There’s a really awesome book a friend sent me. It’s called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Instead of being all preachy and general, she chronicles the details of finding her way to happiness. She lays out a list of what she wants to improve and then divides that list into manageable parts. It’s basically a book about baby steps.

I’m finding it very inspirational so I’ve decided to do the same. Every month I’ll lay out my goals for you all to see. I’m not doing this because I’m particularly unhappy. I just have so much awesomeness in my life and I think I could appreciate it better. If I’m not 100% content when everything is hunky-dory, what will happen when life isn’t so nice? I want my happiness to be strong enough to withstand even the hardest challenges.

The questions I’m asking myself:

  • What makes me feel good?
  • What makes me feel bad?
  • Is there any way in which I don’t feel right about my life?
  • Do I live in a way that encourages growth?

My answers to solve these questions – 2013 Goals:

  • Stop being so concerned with the future (haha, does the list of goals act against that?).
  • Learn to switch off work and relax.
  • Be outdoors more.
  • Wake up more energized.
  • Pay off my credit card bills.
  • Invest in quality cooking and cleaning tools – then use them to their full potential.
  • Communicate more regularly with friends and family.
  • Improve our nutrition (eat more raw, nutrient-dense food and cut out all dinnertime grains and sugars).
  • Remove toxins from our food, personal hygiene, cleaning products, etc.
  • Learn to enjoy riding my bike again.
  • Stop putting so much pressure on myself.
  • Remember to be happy when I succeed at these goals.

Things I don’t want to change:

  • My commitment to exercise.
  • My love of healthy cooking.
  • The strength of Mike and My relationship.
  • The strength of my ties to my family.
  • My plans for travel.
  • My thankful heart.
  • My cleanliness and organization.

Happy

My Commandments:

  • Just because it’s fun for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s fun for me.
  • Me is the perfect person for me to be.
  • It’s NOT “doing nothing,” it IS “active relaxation.”
  • Life is play, not an endless stream of work.
  • A true smile and laugh can change a whole conversation.
  • Want what I already have.
  • I don’t have to be good at everything.

To that end, I will let you know, each month what my focus goals are for that month. I’ll pick as many or as few as I think I can handle. Some of them may be focused on for multiple months, some may be much easier than that. Since March is 1/3 of the way in, this month’s list is relatively short. But there’s no better time to start than today!

Does anyone want to join me in this? It can be as big or small of a project as you like. Let me know!

Love and a big smile. – Ash

 

Monday Book Review: Ape House

Happy Monday Ya’ll! I hope you all had wonderful weekends. If any of you read last week, you know I was pretty sick with the flu. Well it looks like I have kicked this flu (the one the lasts most people I’ve talked to about a month) in a week! I’m not quite back to 100% but definitely a functioning human rather than a zombie. I will be writing a post on how I did that for tomorrow, but TODAY…today I will tell you about an amazing book I recently read.

ApeHouse

It’s called Ape House and it’s by Sara Gruen, the same author who wrote Water for Elephants. I was in love with that book (and movie) so when I saw another of her novels on sale at Barnes and Noble, I had to snatch it up. I read this book in 48 hours. It’s amazing.

No spoil summary: The main character Isabel works at a language lab with six bonobo monkeys. While the lab does amazing and very humane work, there are nay sayers who decide that they know better (as with everything in life, right?). Finally, they take matters into their own hands and a tragic drama ensues. Gruen is fantastic at making the reader feel the monkeys’ and their caretakers’ pain as they fight a long road from imprisonment back to freedom.

Why it’s special: The lab in this book is based on a real language lab in Des Moines, Iowa. Gruen spent a lot of time at the real lab, with the real monkeys and came to regard them as friends. You can feel her reverence for the monkeys in the way she wrote this book. They become human, real people, whom you relate to with empathy and joy. I think the main character is very much like Gruen in her complete love for the remarkable animals in her life.

The coolest part: I had no idea what bonobo monkeys were before reading this book. Turns out, they’re really fricken cool! Talk about smart. I would love to meet these monkeys in real life but they’re apparently very picky about who they become friends with. Basically, just read the book, it completely changes your perception of “human-like” monkeys and the labs that research and care for them.

Has anyone else read this book? Did you like it?

I hope you’re all having wonderful days and are settling into 2013 🙂

 

Saturday [Sexy] Book Review

Alright, 1 month ago I started flipping through a little book called 50 Shades of Grey. My mom had it uploaded to our nook account so I just thought I’d check it out and … this book has changed me.

*If you are very conservative or a male relative of mine, please stop reading now.*

If you haven’t heard of it, dig yourself out of the hole you’ve been living in and RUN to the bookstore. I have not talked to one woman/person who doesn’t love these books, they are porn for women. Now I am going to be completely honest here, I have watched my fair share of porn. Producers are definitely getting better at catering to women’s emotional sides but this is a whole new ball game. It’s like E.L. James (my new heroine) looked into my brain and typed out every fantasy I’ve ever had.

This book has sold over 40 million copies worldwide and I find this quite an interesting conundrum. It startles me because 50 Shades is based on a young couple that explores the world of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism). While I would never ever consider myself a proponent of leather, chains, or whipping, I can say that I wouldn’t mind doing a few of the things in this book. Apparently 40 million other people feel the same way.

I think that the popularity of 50 Shades is a huge step for women and our sexuality. Never has the female world seen such outright support for something so scandalous! I have spoken about this book to my mother, grandmother, best friends, coworkers, and strangers in the grocery aisle. Even as sexually open-minded woman, it brought to life a side of me that I never knew I had. My sex life was great before, now it’s incredible. I don’t think I knew what I wanted in bed until I read this book. It’s given me the courage to express, in detail, what I want, no apologies or excuses.

There’s actually a great plot in between crazy sex scenes and I found myself hooked on every word. The story explores women’s role in society and marriage without getting staunchly feminist or unrealistically conservative. It accepts that most women enjoy taking care of their loved ones (usually men) but also want to work and contribute to the household. By the end, I was skipping the sexy pages to get on with the story! (I went back and read them, don’t worry).

If you have read them, what did you think? If you haven’t, do it now.

I hope you’re all having very happy, very sexy days 🙂