A Review of The Art of Frugal Hedonism

books, reading

Contains Amazon affiliate links. 

Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb’s book The Art of Frugal Hedonism: A Guide to Spending Less While Enjoying Everything More is not so much a book of “why” frugal hedonism is best, but one that describes “how” to go about it. It is a quick-read with fifty-one short chapters providing tips for how to incorporate frugal hedonism in your own life. Some chapters are only about a page long. The book is meant to “be [a] primer for a life less dependent on the comforts of consumption, and more focused on extracting maximum pleasure from the most essential parts of being human.”

The Australian writers describe an early taste of simple things that prevented them from ever being too consumption-focused. Both describe early childhoods of that feature parents moving up in lives and how much they missed the original simplicity they were born into. I get it – this is all fine. But I think sometimes Raser-Rowland and Grubb miss the mark as to why someone may “want to move up” in the first place: i.e. security (at times they seem to take for granted that it is only a keeping of the Jones’ mentality – more, more, more). Granted, that is not the main point of their book, but there is a big difference in living the “simple life” because you have to (and what that might even look like) versus because you want to.

Most of their advice is fine but repetitive. They themselves even acknowledge that they tend to repeat the idea of eating a packed lunch instead of ordering take-out. Most of their suggestions are fairly common. For example – they recommend not buying drinks out at restaurants, take care of the things you already own, have an open relationship with recipes, and figure out what you really enjoy spending money on. Other habits such as “relish” were a little too twee for me. It kind of feels like it has been done before, though not with Raser-Rowland and Grubb’s hipster whimsy. Most of the chapters could have used more description, instead of just a quickly expressed idea.

That said, there were a few interesting ideas in the book. For example, suggestion no. 11 “beware fake frugal” is one to keep in mind. They describe fake frugal as “cheap to buy, but at the expense of someone or something else.” Examples they provide are kitchen products you constantly replace (like can openers) or buying white bread instead of the better, healthier wheat bread just because it is cheaper. This is something I always have to remind myself – one-time last year, Bruno and I decided we were spending too much money on groceries, so decided to change out some of our lunches for ramen. I still think ramen is delicious, but it really is not an actual lunch. Lesson learned.

One thing I did appreciate about the book is that Raser-Rowland and Grubb provide plenty of charts and numbers. I never thought I would be the type to appreciate charts and numbers, but it is interesting to see how consumptive habits have changed over the years. In the 1950s 75% of food was made in-home, now it is something like 50% (I was actually surprised that it was still half – I expected it to be lower). Their numbers relate specifically to Australia, but I can’t imagine that it is much different here in the states. When it comes to the history and data around buying habits and happiness, these two know their stuff.

I did really struggle with the style of writing. I suspect this has less to do with the book itself then who I think it might be written for. I made a comment that this is a book with all your usual tips, but with hipster whimsy and that just is not appealing to me. It is a personal preference, but I am not sure that advising me to “relish” or “not be a snooty bum-bum” are things that I find particularly helpful, or cute. I suspect it is a taste thing, but it is not helped by the fact that for the most part there is not much substance there.

I think this book is fine for neophytes on living frugally (that is this concept is completely new to them — although, I’m not sure how many people that would actually be), but for everyone else looking to enjoy life while save some money it will be nothing they’ve never read or heard before. And if you are really frugally-minded, there is nothing in here that you would not be able to find for free on the internet.

 

Advertisements

A Review of Jennifer Fulwiler’s One Beautiful Dream

books, pregnancy

Contains Amazon affiliate links.

I’m not necessarily a mom yet, so mom-guilt is not something I have (yet) experienced. I grew up in a house where my mom worked. She was an engineer and my siblings and I went to daycare and a local babysitter. But as I have made preparations for the future — Bruno and I accepting teaching jobs, getting childcare for the new baby (yes, we’re doing daycare), and just thinking about what life will be like (I won’t say planning, because I know how that goes) – I have noticed the quickness with which people are willing to make frankly judgmental general comments and how it often can lead to, at least in myself, a lot of self-doubt.

Most books about working and motherhood seem to go either all in one direction (how to be the big bad career woman while being a mom) or completely in the other (careers are bad, you must stay at home to be a good mom). But what about the person in the middle? The person who wants to work (in this case, for me, be a teacher) but has no desire to be at a Sheryl Sandberg-level in anything (I wouldn’t have time to mom, let alone run, read, write, make sourdough bread — my own version of a “beautiful dream” — you get the picture). Jennifer Fulwiler’s book One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both came at the right time for me.

Fulwiler writes about the period of time when she started writing again and wrote her first book Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It (I have yet to read it, but after this book it is definitely on the list). During these time she juggled writing and childcare and the guilt that comes with both putting off your goals and the fear that you are putting effort into your personal goals at the expense of your children. Though she determines you can have both, I don’t think she means you can have both in the way that the infamous Anne-Marie Slaughter article declares is impossible.

I think this book is a great antidote to the idea that you can only have one or the other — motherhood or personal passion, or even the way “having it all” is encouraged today. It does this through common sense. When feeling guilt about not spending all her time with her growing family, Fulwiler writes, “Now I suddenly realized that mothers throughout history never did this; they never had time. Children’s primary sources of entertainment were outdoor play and other kids, not their mothers.” Reflecting back on my own family, this seems true. My paternal grandmother had fifteen children on a dairy farm. I highly doubt her day was spent catering to my aunts and uncles. She had a lot of work to do — cows don’t milk themselves, you know. Granted, milking cows is not the same as following a personal passion (well, unless you are my father) — but I suspect the time given to running a farm is requires more time away from your kids than that of the latter.

The image Fulwiler presents is a sort of happy chaos. There is no separation of family and writing. It goes better when they are all together. Towards the end of the book, when Fulwiler is finishing her manuscript, she describes a great scene where she is driving around with her kids. She parks to write while they keep the baby entertained. When the baby gets fussy, they drive around again and repeat the process. It turns out to be one of the best chapters. I’ll admit my German love of order opposes everything about this (this love of order will certainly get a shock to the system in two months), I think it recognizes an important truth. When you get rid of the standard of perfectionism, what you love can work together.

There’s a very simple line in the book that did stick with me. She writes, “I walked back to my car with no answers, only a strong that somehow, it would all work out.” We tend to tell each other it will work out all the time to the point of cliche, but also, for the most part, tends to be true. Fulwiler presents no solutions, no plans, no seeking of perfection, just an assurance that pursuing motherhood and pursuing personal passions can work out. This future mother who has an abundance of personal passions hopes she is right.

February/March Reads 2019

books, reading

I wish I could say I followed up my dissertatin with serious tomes and plenty of reading, but not so much. I have been burnt out, so it has actually been hard to focus on books at all. I had quite a few start-and-stops and I hardly ever quit a book I have started. All book links are to Amazon, where I make a small commission.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

ChamberofSecrets.jpg

I make a point to re-read Harry Potter during the Thanksgiving to New Year season, but I was trying to finish up dissertation work, so Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets did not get finished until post-defense. Ah, it is probably my favorite of the earlier ones. That joke Ron makes after extensively cleaning the trophy for service to the school about it probably being for the person who killed Moaning Myrtle? Priceless.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

PrisonerofAzkaban.jpg

I have the hard copies of all the Harry Potter books except for Prisoner of Azkaban. I keep meaning to buy it hard-copy, but also keep forgetting.

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

I wrote a review of this book a few weeks ago. I still highly recommend.

The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith


I thought The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness was just ok. I think the premise is fantastic. We are all hustling for happiness, but what if being happy is not really the point? What if purpose is? That is an idea, a truth really, I can get behind. But everything was else was just sort of ok.

The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart

In some ways The Grace of Enough: Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture is related to the previous book, but I think it is so much better because it is a look at an individual’s pursuit of purpose in a culture that is constantly screaming more. Moreover, where Esfahani emphasized that purpose can be found in secular life, I think I related to (needed) the Catholic message of this book. I loved it so much, I am reading it again right now. This book was also my #CathoLit2019 read created by the author, Haley Stewart of Carrots for Michaelmas.

Current Reads :

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (of course)

Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration by Benedict XVI

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both by Jennifer Fulwiler

The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis — a quick note on this one. Bruno and I have been reading a chapter or two together out loud in the evenings. We had always wanted to do this, but would be a bit too lofty in our ambitions and pick a big dense classic, but this book seems to work perfectly well for some evening reading after a long day.

What are some of your February and March readings? Anything you particularly liked? Disliked? What are you reading now? I’m always looking for new books to add to my kindle.

March 2019 Goals : The Year of 1% Better

goals, graduate school, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, pregnancy, reading, year of 1% better

We are already almost at the end of March (hello, spring!) and I have yet to post my 1% goals for the month. I have also failed to say how the goals for February went. All you need to know is that everything went by the way-side, but I did submit and successfully defend my dissertation. Still a huge win.

If you’re new here, I declared 2019 the year of 1% better. You can see January goals here and outcomes here and February goals here.

I’ll admit that I began this month kind of unfocused and burnt out. What is the saying they used to say about March weather? It comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb (where does this actually happen?). I came into March like a slug, a very tired slug. I’m not exactly at “let’s get after it” levels yet. In fact, by the afternoon I am so worn out that I find myself catatonicly sitting on the couch, wishing for ice-cream, trying not to scroll through social media (still a 1% goal).

Part of this I suspect is the post-dissertation “what do I do with myself?” feeling. The other part is pregnancy. I’ve been sleeping terribly. I’m trying to take this time to relax, but as I told Bruno, “I don’t know how!” I also told him, after a few days of traveling, that “the best vacation one can give oneself is a consistent routine.” I am trying to give myself the latter as best I can.

So what am I trying to accomplish for March?

Down-sizing. Baby is actually not the only big change to happen this summer. I’ll share more when it is all official, but we are starting to downsize to prepare to move. I joke that I’m going full Marie Kondo, except I assure you I am not thanking my clothes as I put them into trash bags to give to my sisters as hand-me-downs. The two big areas I’m focusing on this month are my closet as I can’t wear most of my clothes right now anyways and several boxes of class notes. Taking advantage of my mental burn-out, I’m spending some quality time at the scanner so I can send boxes of paper to the recycling bin. I suspect the paper overload will take me all the way up to the big day, but it is nice to see the amount dwindle now.

Finish a revise and resubmit for an academic journal article. This is the one goal I can already tell you I am struggling. At this point, it is a monkey on my back I just want to get off. I’m very happy (and grateful) to have received a very positive and helpful revise and resubmit, but I need a Rousseau break. If I can be done with this, no Rousseau for April. Those are the rules. Also, I still very much love Rousseau.

Relax. I’m trying to take some more time for reading. If I want to take a nap in the afternoon, I do not try to push through. Usually I’ve been calling it a day at around noon before I go to CrossFit. Whatever I have gotten done at that point is good enough. Little steps are fine right now. I am lucky that at this point, I can take the time to just do nothing if I need to. I’m not sure how to enjoy doing nothing, but that is a problem for another time.

And that is it! There are a few repeats from previous months. I’m still working through my #CathLit2019 books and trying to avoid social media during the week. Both need a bit of revitalization, so hopefully if I came into March like a slug, I can refocus and leave like a lion? Or pick some sort of fierce, but relaxed animal.

What are your goals for March? How have they been going?

 

A Review of Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism

books, reading, technology

One of my main goals for this month was to watch my social media time. That is, I would try to restrict my time on facebook and instagram to Saturdays. This has been mostly successful. Saturdays has included Sundays and last week I checked facebook to check up on CrossFit Open information. I’ve been more mindful and quick to click out, so I think it is overall an improvement from mindlessly scrolling.

The inspiration for my social media hiatus is Cal Newport‘s Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. I have been a follower of Newport ever since I listened to his interview with Ben Domenech on the Federalist Radio Hour the other year. Back then, he was discussing his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Both are similar in that the nemesis to be thwarted is an attachment to social media, but where Deep Work focused on the harmful effects of social media and the internet on work, Digital Minimalism focuses on their harmful effects in our personal life and ways to overcome our digital addiction. Quick sidenote: All Amazon links are affiliate links, meaning if you buy something I make a percentage. 

And that it is an addiction is a characteristic Newport wants to make clear. I think he describes most lives (including my own) when he writes, “The urge to check Twitter or refresh Reddit becomes a nervous twitch that shatters uninterrupted time into shards too small to support the presence necessary for an intentional life.” This happens to me when I’m trying to read. I have to check facebook. Or before I do any work, I have to check facebook, then instagram, then facebook again, then work. I try really hard not to look at my phone when out to dinner or visiting with friends, but I know I do it all the time when with Bruno or family. Baby C has a few more months to go, but I keep seeing articles pop up on what our constant phone checking is doing to children. I think Newport speaks to something we all know is true, but frankly, kind of feel helpless in what to do about it. The Internet is ubiquitous.

I think that is where this book becomes most useful. If you already know you are struggling with social media and internet use, to the point where you are constantly checking, you do not need to be preached to. But what to do about it is another thing entirely. After discussing what it is about social media that makes it so addicting, Newport presents his alternative (you guessed it): “Digital Minimalism. A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”

He provides a number of options for “digital minimalism,” but the suggestion I found most intriguing was that of cultivating leisure. Newport’s theory is that we cannot just get rid of the all-encompassing amount of social media in our lives, but we need to replace it with something. We’ve lost the meaning of leisure and have replaced it with facebook likes and instagram videos. And by leisure, he does not mean we should just read more books, but also create things and learn things. His list is fairly male-centric (learn how to do mechanics on the car, for example), but I think anybody could come up with a list of weekend learning projects. That way we have something to actually show for our lives beyond “a photo of your latest visit to a hip restaurant, hoping for likes.”

Another one of his suggestions I particularly appreciated had to do with politics and news coverage. I think news-media addition is its own problem, especially because most people I know who are constantly sharing things on social media probably never, if ever, read from a viewpoint different from their own (not to mention I think everything found in Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business can apply to sharing news on social media — the medium is the message — but I digress). Newport advises “slow news consumption,” as opposed to our twitter, outrage-addicted news cycle. One of the benefits of slow news consumption is worth quoting at length “if you’re interested in commentary on political and cultural issues, this experience is almost always enhsanced by also seeking out the best arguments against your preferred position. I live in Washington, DC, so I know professional political operatives on both sides of the aisle. A requirement of their job is that they keep up to speed on the best opposing arguments. A side effect of this requirement is that they tend to be much more interesting to chat with about politics. In private, they don’t exhibit the same anxious urge to tilt at straw man versions of opposing viewpoints that’s exhibited by most amateur political commenters, and instead are able to isolate the key underlying issues, or identify the interesting nuances that complicate the matter at hand. I suspect they derive much more pleasure out of consuming political commentary than those who merely seek confirmation that anyone who disagrees is deranged.” What a better world that would be.

I plan on continuing my current facebook/instagram amount into next March (this is more than Newport’s recommended 30 days completely off). I like having my weeks social media free. I think, after reading this book, the next step will be to focus on internet usage as a whole. I find myself far too often down the internet rabbit hole, googling, searching, checking, and window shopping all too often. And for what? I think the best argument Newport gives is how much more you can add to your life when you are not just mindlessly scrolling. You can read. You can listen to music. You can actually focus on the conversation you are having. Life becomes fuller and indeed more intentional when it is not lived with the constant chains of the screen.*

What are your thoughts on digital minimalism? Have you read anything by Cal Newport? Reading anything good now?

*Yes, this is an intentional Rousseau ending. Ain’t no breaking these chains of love.

January 2019 Goals : How Did it Go?

crossfit, goals, pregnancy, running, swimming, year of 1% better

We’ve reached the end of the first month of the year! I’ll admit, it felt like a long month. Not a bad month, but it just sort of felt like it was January forever. I have a suspicion though that February will fly by — not because it is short, but because it is my dissertation defense month.

Inspired by James Clear’s Atomic Habits, I declared 2019 the year of 1% better. Though I did have some big goals like running one thousand miles, mainly I just wanted to work on little things, little habits. Part of this is because so much of 2019 is up in the air with a baby coming late May/early June and not even knowing where we will live, work, etc. (I’m not stressed, I’m not stressed, I’m not stressed) next year. I did not want to make a grand goal, get attached, and have something out of my hands happen. The other reason is that I am still convinced by Clear’s arguments. Do small things and eventually they will make a big difference.

So how did January’s 1% better goals go? Quick review: I wanted to submit my dissertation, run ninety-one miles, practice double-unders 3x a week, do not go out to eat (unless, of course, someone invites us out), swim 1x a week, read a book on Catholicism, and poach an egg.

I’ll begin with the most important. I submitted my dissertation last week Friday. And yes, I feel as weird about being done as I expected. This was the most important thing I had to get done this month. All else could slide (and as you’ll see did slide), but this was my baby, so to speak. A project I began working on in the spring 2017 is beginning to be over, although I suspect I’ll be stuck with Jean-Jacques Rousseau for awhile. I’m committed, ha!

The goals to run/walk 91 miles and to practice double-unders 3x a week did not happen. I am not one to offer excuses, but this was a little bit out of my control. I’ll offer the excuse of pregnancy. A couple weeks ago I had excruciating pelvic pain. I sat down on the couch and just could not get up. It is significantly better now, although definitely still there. It does seem, though, that running aggravates it. I have a pre-natal appointment today and I plan on talking about it, but it was a real bummer. To add injury to injury, I messed up my left ankle while attempting to do double-unders the other week. Granted, it also is doing much better. It was black and blue and swollen. Now, two weeks later, it is just swollen. Still, I’m calling the double-unders a win. Even with the little bit of extra work I did put into them before ankle-gate, I could tell I was improving. They were not beautiful, but my double-under attempts in work-outs actually began to include actual double-under successes. I feel confident that when things start to get better and I work on them again, I will begin to improve in no time. I cannot do double-unders, but I definitely became 1% better.

I only swam twice this month. I’ll admit, I love swimming, but it is really hard to get motivated. Also, currently, my swimsuit does not fit and when I put it on, I can actually hear, “I am the egg man. Whooo. They are the egg man. Whooo. I am the walrus…” I ordered a new one, a bikini even (giving that belly some room!). And it did not fit. Ok, these are excuses. Still, that is two times more than December and I love being able to swim with a watch.

We only went out to eat by ourselves once this entire month. Our reason was to celebrate me finishing and submitting my dissertation which it seemed required a little more fanfare and getting out of the house. With other people, I think we went out to eat twice. We used to go out to eat about three times a week, whether that was picking up sandwiches or whatever. I am calling this a huge success and I’m hoping to keep it up. As I said, it is not like the food around here is spectacular. It is just sheer laziness that led us to eat out as much as we did. Plus, not eating out has had led to other good habits such as finally starting to meal plan and prep. Successfully.

I’m doing the Carrots for Michaelmas CathoLIT2019 reading challenge, as a sort of over-all goal for the year. I finished my first Catholic read for the year with True Devotion to Mary. I usually read in the mornings, so this has actually been a pretty easy habit to incorporate.

Did I poach an egg? You should know better than to even ask. Those eggs have only been boiled (eaten with some delicious Maldon salt, oh my goodness the best discovery of 2019 so far) or fried over-medium in January. Maybe next month?

How have your 2019 goals been going? Did you have specific January goals?

 

 

 

 

Best Books for Productivity in 2019

books, reading

A confession: I’m a junkie for time-management books. I love knowing how to order and schedule my day and how other people schedule their days. I think I knew I was going to marry Bruno when he described to me how he plans his daily schedule and to-do lists.* Yeah, we’re the most romantic people you know. One of my favorite parts of Rousseau’s Confessions is when he describes his own day and then the day of the Spanish Altuna who is an 18th century strict-schedule keeper extraordinaire. I admire that guy.

Leaving the 18th century (dissertation on my mind), there are plenty of productivity books I love for today. Some I still go back to for when I need jolt to get things done and quit messing around the Internet. I know people say that you cannot rely on motivation, but sometimes you need that external source. If coffee is liquid ambition, then books on productivity are ambition’s written form.

Here they are the books that usually lead me to close out of facebook, pull up Microsoft Word and get going.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. Just listing this book makes me want to go back and re-read it. It is also one of the biggest reasons I get mildly irritated when people say “I don’t have time to do x.” You do. It just is not a priority. I like her practical suggestions like keeping a time-diary, but the best part of the book I think are the inspiring and motivating life examples. People are able to do so much more than they think they can.

Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.  If you get any book to improve your productivity (and general life happiness), it should be this one. We (I) waste so much time messing around on the internet. Still. This book is a swift kick in the you know where. I especially like the idea that deep work is a muscle to be developed. You cannot just sit down and work for a focused eight hours a day. You have to practice, start small.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear. Speaking of starting small, I loved this book on habit building. It gives very specific advice on how to develop small habits that eventually develop into a better life. I’ve written about this book already on my Year of 1% Goals, but I still cannot help but recommend it.

Air & Light & Time & Space : How Successful Academics Write by Helen Sword.  This book helped me out when I was in a dissertation writing rut. Chapter one was fine, chapter two was fine, and then I just sort of felt overwhelmed by the whole process. I like seeing how creatives do their work, but it also did not really apply to me. This was research and writing. I recommend this book to anyone starting a dissertation.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos by Jordan Peterson. If your life is not in order, you cannot get work done. Fact. I think one of the more troubling things presented to any sort of life is ideal of the suffering, starving, drunken, debauched artist. It simply is not always true. Hell, even Ernest Hemingway once wrote a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald telling him to knock it off with his nonsense so he could write. It is like that wonderful Gustav Flaubert quote, “Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

What are your favorite books that help you to get things done? What are you reading now?

*I’m kidding. Sort of. Life compatibility, you know?

Favorite Reads of 2018

books, reading

We are heading South to Ohio today and will be gone for the next two weeks. Translation? I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get the house ready to be empty — cleaning out the fridge, doing some last minute laundry, packing, and cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning. It seems to never end.

I did plenty of reading this year, although I always wish I read more. I like a wide variety of things from nonfiction to history to memoir. Some of my books on my favorite list this year are shared by a lot of people this year, like Jordan Peterson, but others are new discoveries for myself. For example, I never read Patti Smith before.

Anyway, here are the new favorites that I look forward to re-reading again and again in the coming years. Written in the order I read them this year.

This is a Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. This collection of essays is near-perfection. I already have a few (the one on writing in particular) I have returned to again and again this year.

The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London. Two for one! Never in my life would I ever expected to love books written from the point of view of dogs, but I love the question of civilization and nature of these books. I love the character of Alaska and its brutal and killing cold.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot. This was my favorite memoir of the year. Liptrot’s tale of recover in the Orkneys is so vivid in description. I wanted to go and live there in isolation too, bake bread, take cold swims in the sea, and write. I read this book twice and I’m sure next year I will read it again.

M Train by Patti Smith. I loved this ode to a life and love of art and beauty. It is a quiet book, good over a cup of coffee. I think Smith captures well the way certain artists, writers, and musicians touch our lives in such a way that we feel we know them. I think she captures the devotion to art that so many try to live.

How Bad Do You Want It by Matt Fitzgerald. I am not a competitive runner at all. But I think the mental strength and endurance required for competing is similar to that required for graduate school and getting your Ph.D. When I read this book, there was so much I took for just writing my dissertation and handling failure in that realm that I think it is appealing for athletes and non-athletes alike.

Deep Work by Cal Newport. This book is a slap on the face reminder that you probably waste more time on shallow, superficial tasks like messing around on the internet than committing yourself to the deep work necessary to be successful. I’ve changed the way I’ve worked thanks to this book, working my “deep work muscle” when working on my dissertation without distractions for increasing lengths of time. It works. It helps.

Chasing Excellence by Ben Bergeron. Would I be in CrossFit if I did not post this book? This book is great for the same reason Fitzgerald’s is. It seems like it is just for athletes, but you can apply it to so much more.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson. My controversial pick! I loved this book. I took it out from the library, but will buy my own copy soon. Finally, remember the lobster.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided Over Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. I recommend this book to anyone who talks about politics, who posts on facebook about politics, who thinks about politics — basically everyone, because we are all political animals, right? But seriously, I strongly believe in humility when it comes to political thought. Haidt makes a strong case for it.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. We started in Alaska and ended there too. I loved the exploration of why people are drawn to the wild. I loved the stories of explorers and adventurers. Like London’s novels, Alaska is also a merciless character. I will not be taking a walk into the Alaskan wilderness anytime soon, if at all.

What books were your favorites this year?

xo, Ali

What I’m Loving Lately IV

books, daily life, food, music, reading

Tomorrow we begin our annual holiday tour. We leave Michigan for Ohio and then will leave Ohio for Connecticut on Sunday. So today I’m finishing up grading, packing, cleaning — all that fun stuff, because after tomorrow it will probably be two weeks before we are home again. I dislike being gone for so long, but it is the best way to get seeing everyone in.

So it is a bit of a full day, but I figured I would share something I’m loving lately.

Watching: It is an old show, but we’ve been watching a lot of Pushing Daisies lately. I like the whimsical fairy tale-mystery-crime of the week vibe. Plus, the lines are so good. We’ve mainly been sticking to comedy shows, because I have not been able to tolerate anything too serious — just stress, you know? Anyway, tis the season for Christmas movies and I had a few firsts. One — I finally watched It’s a Wonderful Life and cried my eyes out at the end. I was so afraid it would not be as good as everyone said it was and it really is that great. Two — I watched Die Hard. Not as good at IAWL, but good in its own way. I’m not usually one for action films, but I liked this one. And finally, we watched the Christmas Chronicles on Netflix and thought it was hilarious. Kurt Russell should always play Santa Claus.

Listening: When I was not running in September and October, I kind of took a break from podcasts. Now, I’m back to them, catching up on Ultrarunner Podcast, Work, Play, Love, and Rich Roll‘s podcast. It feels good to have these voices back in my ears while going for runs. I find that I miss everyone when it has been awhile. I’m kind of in a music rut. I want something new that does not sound new — if that makes any sense. Like, I want to discover an old album or song that I have not listened to in years.

Reading: I’m reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Every year between Thanksgiving and New Year I re-read the whole series. It has been pretty slow-going this year, but I’m sure it will pick up once we get to Connecticut. I tell you what, I still have the same reactions to those books as I did when I was a teen. I cannot put them down. I will sit on the couch all day to get through one of those tomes. I’m still trying to finish the Master and the Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov and reading Atomic Habits by James Cleary.

Eating: Well, you can see some of what I’ve been eating lately here. I’ve been trying to add more snacks to my daily routine (frankly, it is not working. I’m still hungry). I’ve forgotten how good something simple like hard boiled eggs sprinkled with salt can taste, like amazingly good. Another frequent staple is Montgomery Inn BBQ sauce (I’m addicted). I made this crockpot baked ziti on Sunday and it is so good and easy and has so much potential (like I would add a ton of veggies to it).

What are you loving lately?

xo, Ali

Cookbooks on my Christmas List

books

Between September and early November I avoided the kitchen. Cooking smelled horrible to me. The smells would send me running to the trash can, so I did not cook. I also ate terribly, but I digress. I missed cooking. I would never claim to be a good cook. I still struggle chopping things with a knife. I have never had the patience for precision in measuring (although I think bread making has forced me to get better), but I swear there is nothing like a long Sunday afternoon with the tunes on and making something for the upcoming week.

My big “ask” for Christmas this year is a dutch oven. I’ve been making sour dough bread almost every week for the last year (see above about September through November), but I would like to up my bread game, plus all the other wonderful things you can use a dutch oven for. They were on sale during Black Friday, so I’m hoping, just hoping maybe I’ll find one under the tree.

Here are some cookbooks I’m hoping to find along with that dutch oven:

The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother by Heng Ou. Part cookbook, part information book, it looks like a good one to read before Baby C arrives. Although I’ll admit that I could do a better job with feeding myself during this pregnancy (full disclosure, I have eaten McDonalds more times in the last three months than I probably have in the last five years — but when nothing sounds good….), I would like to try to do better both now and in the future. Plus, I want to feel better as soon as I can post-giving birth. I know part of that is out of my control, but what I would like to do what I can control.

Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes by Alison Roman. Who doesn’t want this book? I am probably late to the game. I want 2019 to be the year I make “the cookies” and “the stew.” Plus, the cookbook and the recipes look beautiful. Also, the reviews mention the recipes are “uncomplicated” and I can go for that. I really can.

Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky. Yes, yes, this made an appearance on last week’s running book list, but even I never ran a mile in my life I would want this cookbook. The recipes from the original book would please the non-athlete. The food is damn good regardless of whether you are planning on a long run the next day or not. I am sure this cookbook will be the same.

Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish. See above about wanting to improve my bread game.

Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines and Marah Stets. I do not watch the fixer-upper show. I have never been to Waco. So I would not consider myself a fan or even a super fan of Joanna Gaines. That said, I keep hearing good things about this cookbook. From my grandma to friends on my facebook raving about the recipes, I really want to give it a try and maybe, just maybe, I will become a Gaines super fan.

Le Creuset Cookbook: A Collection of Recipes from Our French Table. If you give an Ali a Le Creuset dutch oven, she’s going to want a a Le Creuset cookbook to go with it. Does this cookbook not look beautiful? I already envision myself making a delicious French stew listening to some Edith Piaf. This cookbook can make it happen. I just know it.

One Knife, One Pot, One Dish: Simple French Feasts at Home by Stephane Reynaud. Less mess is best. This is another cookbook for the dutch oven. The reviews repeat the beautiful magic word: simple. And yes, I want to make good, simple food throughout the week that does not look like I just threw something together (ok, ok, I know that will still happen but still!).

What cookbooks are on your Christmas list this year?

xo, Ali