January book report

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I’m trying to add more reading to my life. I love books, I adore my Kindle, and I find reading one of the best ways to unwind. My reading list is always growing, but I’m not always good at making time to read. It’s so easy to get sucked into social media or binge-watch a TV series (I’m part way through Parenthood at the moment), but I never feel half as good spending 45 minutes on my laptop as I do after half an hour snuggled up with a good book.

I don’t have a ‘number’ goal of how many books I want to read this year, I just want to keep up a steady reading habit. I thought I would keep track of what I’ve read here in a mini-book-report format. And I’d love any book recommendations!

So here’s what I read in January. I must admit, I read five of these books in five days when we spent five nights at the beach. Holiday reading is the best.

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

I read this over Christmas and it was a perfect easy-reading holiday pick. The way Reichl writes about the food made me hungry most of the time, and while I predicted bits and pieces of the plot, I really enjoyed how the story unfolded.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

As part of my 27 before 28 list, I want to read 10 books off this list*. I picked this book as my next read with no real idea what it was about and, to tell the truth, my decision was based purely on a passing conversation about the name ‘Algernon’ with friends (it means ‘with moustaches’ – isn’t that hilarious?!). It’s sci-fi, which I don’t typically read, but oh, it was good. Moving and clever and though-provoking and I read the entire thing in a 24 hour period.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

My sister-in-law sent this over for us and it’s the first real, printed-on-paper book I’ve read in ages. It took me awhile to get into it, but then I could certainly see why it was so well-received. Gritty and so well-written and heart breaking and very British.

Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

I’m not sure what I was expecting with this one, but I was slightly let down. I read it after heading a podcast interview with Barrymore, who came across really well – witty and articulate and thoughtful. My expectations were probably a little too high then when I started the book, but it was a quick and easyish read.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (reread)

It had been quite awhile since I’d last read The Happiness Project, but I enjoyed it again all the same, a definitefavourite. It always makes me reflect on my own life and the things that both bring me happiness and those that try to take it away, and perhaps with all the added ‘opmh’ of it being a new year, it inspired me again to shape 2016 in the best possible ways.

Also, I love how vocal Rubin is about the joys of ‘rereading’. I never used to ‘reread’ books, in some strange effort to grow the total number of books I’d read, rather than enjoy all over again the ones I love. Now I am a proud re-reader, even if Will does tease me about always seeming to read the same book!

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

I’m a huge fan of Gawande’s ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ and had heard good things about Being Mortal. He has such a smart and accessible way of writing! Perhaps I shouldn’t have read this on our relaxing beach holiday – it is heavy and, at times, sad, and because it touches on issues so relevant to us all it was hard to keep some emotional distance. But like all good books it made me think deeply about life, and death, and it’s definitely worth the read.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Another pick from the Rory Gilmore list. I’m glad I read it and at times I enjoyed it (actually perhaps enjoy isn’t the right word – I marvelled at it? I’ve never read anything so long with so few paragraph breaks!), but I know nothing of Colombia’s history so the entire metaphor went right over my head. It was epic, however, and I was often overwhelmed by the sheer volume of activity and description in the story.

my one little word

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I started playing with the one little word concept in 2014 to complement my birthday list and as an alternative to New Years resolutions. My choice for that year was ‘simplicity‘, and I really enjoyed seeing how that one word unfolded in various aspects of my life.

In 2015, my word was ‘brave’.

I think this song and this quote first put the word on my radar and I grabbed hold of it with two hands.

This time last year I was about to finish an internship, unsure of what lay ahead professionally. I was planning to start a Masters programme in Public Health (via distance), but was a little nervous about going back to school. I wanted to start a brave conversation about ethical fashion. The general uncertainty we’ve experienced the last couple of years about where I’d work, what we’d be doing, where we’d be living continued to linger and in the face of it all I wanted to be BRAVE.

The word gave me a focus and a little push everything I had something hard to do. 2015 ended up being a wonderful year.

I finished my internship, completed two consulting jobs and started a new contract in a dream role. I started school and bravely signed up for both statistics and epidemiology – and have loved it. I had a lot of fun (and learnt SO much) starting Better Dressed as a little side project.

Funnily enough, about August I had another word capture my attention – momentum.

I read an article about a couple who let their kids have unlimited screen time, as long as they did a few things first: household chores, read for 30 minutes, do something creative, spend time outside. To their delight, they discovered their kids were less and less interested in the screen. The activities they had to do to access screen time created momentum and when it finally came time for the kids to jump in front of the computer or TV, they were already engrossed in their current activity – playing with Legos or riding their bikes or with their nose stuck in a book.

I LOVED that idea and there were a few areas in my life that needed a good dose of positive momentum, so I kind of tacked momentum on as an additional word to push through to the end of the year. Yay!

In the last couple of weeks of December I started thinking about my word for 2016.

I played with a few different ideas before I landed upon ‘dig deep‘. Two words, not one.

But I think it’s exactly what my 2016 needs.

I want to focus, to narrow down on a few things rather than try and do everything. To switch from widening (adding more things to my life), to deepening (giving more time, energy and love to what I already have). I want to cut out some distractions and end some commitments to burrow in, put down roots, tend the crops, hustle. 2016 is a year of working hard, pushing in, doing the work.

I want to dig deep into my studies. I know I’ll get out what I put in, and I want to make the most of the opportunity. I also know I need to make time, put in the hours, knuckle down, and this season is the time to do it.

I want to dig deep into my work. After seasons of unemployment, underemployment, and uncertain employment, I’m still waiting to see exactly what 2016 will look like. But if all goes to plan, I’ll be continuing in my current role – and I want to make the most of it. To learn, to grow, to build my experience, my confidence, my networks.

I want to dig deep into my wonderful life. I have an incredible husband. Amazing friends and family. A wonderful community and church. I want to deliberately invest into each of those areas, to take shallow connections deeper and to truly celebrate and recognise how blessed I really am.

I want to dig deep into my bedside pile of books. I want to dig deep into some new recipes. I want to dig deep and make time for more hands-on, diy creative projects. I want to dig deep into the Word. I want to dig deep and be generous.

I want to dig deep into 2016.

 

enjoying the small things

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puppy dog cuddles

brushing my teeth in the shower

ballet flats with little bows

eating mascarpone straight from the tub

tiny daisies

wearing polka dots

colourful embroidery thread

pink paper clips

a new planner

late night chamomile

jacarandas in bloom

sunday evening traditions

27 before 28

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This is my sixth birthday list! I wrote it just before my 27th birthday in July and have been making progress, but there’s something about sharing it online for a little more motivation. I stalled on quite of few of last year’s goals – it was a crazy year in a number of ways though, so I’m letting it go and turning my focus to this new year :)

27 Things To Do Before 28

Hike Ngong Hills

Safari in Samburu:

Start my Masters

Send handwritten letters

Read 10 books from the Rory Gilmore list

Print 5 new photos

Lasagna on the 18th

Year 3 of the One Line a Day diary

Go big on Twitter

Post on W+L once a month

Post once a week on Better Dressed

Make the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Yearbook

Go camping

Say yes!

Take a hot bath

Put myself out there work wise

Continue my ethical wardrobe

Long walks with Rum

More cuddles with Will

Less Facebook, more email

Eat at five new Nairobi restaurants

Summer night outdoor dinner parties

Get organized (outer order = inner calm)

End our use of ‘one-use’ plastic

Eat the Kengeles steak

Take more real photos

Get rid of 30 things

things I’m learning

“I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me.”

– Tracee Ellis Ross

I love quotes and I pinned this one awhile ago. What a great thing to be learning. The space doesn’t always terrify me, per se, but it certainly frustrates me. But here’s to inspiration!

Gratitude vs. Comparison

As I continue exploring the idea of simplicity, I’ve been reminding myself about gratitude again. I read something about the Tiny House movement last week and began wistfully wishing I had a teeny tiny cottage instead of our current semi-detached house.

I started day dreaming about how great a loft bed would be, how cosy the house would feel, the simple lifestyle it would encourage us to live. I lamented all the wasted space we have in our current home, the spare bedrooms that are rarely used, the three bathrooms that seem excessive for two people (and don’t get me wrong, they are excessive!).

And then I caught myself. We have a small garden, which is hard to find in Nairobi. I have my own study with a view of the most lovely flowering tree. Our hot water system works and we have the best neighbours. Our four bedroom house is cheaper than our previous two bedroom apartment. And yet, here I am lamenting the house I have and wishing for something different. I took a moment to be truly grateful… and it made all the difference.

Any one who has known me for the last few years will know how inspired I’ve been by Hailey Bartholemew’s 365 Grateful project. Hailey recently did a TED talk in Brisbane on how she found the secret of happiness and it’s a wonderful reminder of the power of gratitude. I love her comments on how her perspective of her husband changed.

 

The 365 Grateful website has been updated and it’s lovely. You can also buy the 365 Gratefuls book online (I contributed some photos!)