Where I'm At with Shannon Ables from The Simply Luxurious Life

I am thrilled to be featuring Shannon Ables from The Simply Luxurious Life blog and The Simple Sophisticate podcast on Where The Light Plays today.

I've been following Shannon's blog since early 2012 and have felt like I've 'gotten to know her' even better this year through her podcast.

The Simply Luxurious Life really does cover all areas of life in a luxurious, yet attainable way - home, style, food, ways of being, the French lifestyle - to name a few. Shannon is a high school English teacher in Oregon, has had great success with her online career and even brought out a book, Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman's Guide in 2014.

Enjoy this peek into her daily routine, and I hope you'll enjoy following her online as much as I do.

What is your usual wake up time?

5am.

What is your morning ritual?

Because I find I am most awake, fresh and creative in the mornings, I don’t want to waste a moment in the morning sleeping in, so once I am awake, I am up and going.

I will wake up an extra hour early so that I can ease myself into the day and indulge in simple luxuries.

My breakfast is the same, but I crave it each day: steel oats with raisins, honey and roasted sliced almonds, one egg over-easy and hot water with lemon.

My dogs Oscar and Norman are at my feet all morning (which makes it even harder to walk out the door to my teaching job during the school year), so I bring a treat for each of them to the table, where I enjoy my breakfast while reading the local morning newspaper.

I always have Morning Joe on in the morning as well to stay abreast of the breaking national and international news as well.

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Tell us about your commute.

I feel fortunate to say I live less than a mile from my school, and when I’m not teaching, my commute is to my home office to blog, plan and tape my podcast.

Do you like to plan your day ahead or allow some spontaneity?

Planning is something I sincerely enjoy doing. I will plan my day, my week, the month, set yearly goals and 5–10 year goals for fun even if it wasn’t required.

I find it exhilarating to plan, check in and celebrate when I complete what I have set out to do.

The gift that planning gives me is that when I finish what I need to do, I can relax and just let my mind wander. I am always amazed at where it travels and what it comes up with when I give it this freedom.

How do you spend your ideal lunch break to recharge for the afternoon?

As a self-proclaimed introvert, I need my alone time, so during the school year I enjoy most days having lunch to myself. Sometimes I will join other colleagues, but because lunch is so quick and we have to be on in fewer than 40 minutes, I need time to recharge.

When I am blogging, I spend my lunch either at a cafe or in the kitchen creating something from scratch, then I’ll sit down and relax until I am ready to get busy again.

What kind of workout schedule do you try to adhere to?

Working out is not only something I know I need to do for my health, it is something I thoroughly enjoy; however, I am not someone who tortures themselves.

My dogs become jumping beans when they see me put on my workout clothes and grab their leash. So seeing their enthusiasm makes it easy to go for an hour-long hike 5–6 days a week.

Bend has endless trails right outside my door, so I feel as though I am in the wilderness in minutes, and can fortunately return home in minutes when the hike is complete.

I also sign up for one Pilates class at a local studio, as well as two twenty minute strength sessions at home, each week.

How do you like to end your day?

Something I have shared with my blog readers for years is my evening ritual.

I need time to unwind and usually give myself at least an hour no matter how late the work day has lasted.

So long as I haven’t indulged in dessert, I will pair my evening black lavender tea with a dark chocolate peanut butter truffle from my favourite chocolatier Arrowhead Chocolates. Since I have recently moved to a different town, I place my order every two months to be sure I always have these decadent, rewarding treats at the ready.

What time do you doze off?

I am an early bird because I enjoy my mornings so much, so it is not unusual for me to be in bed by 8:30 and asleep by nine.

DVR is my favourite everyday invention as I typically will watch my favourite shows the next evening at an hour that works with my schedule.

Any advice for women trying to find ease in their every day?

Find the courage to say “No”. The best gift I gave myself was recognising what I had to do, what I wanted to do and then letting go of all the rest without guilt.

We only get 24 hours in the day and each day builds upon the day before. Where do you want to take your life? Once you know the answer to that question, saying “No” becomes much easier.

Can you give my readers your quick go-to recipe after a busy day?

Absolutely! Part of my evening ritual upon returning home from work and having finished the walk with the dogs is stepping into the kitchen. It is such a therapeutic activity.

A typical evening will include some sort of vegetable dish and a protein. Sometimes I also have a slice of a baguette with cheese or dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

A simple, yet delicious vegetable side dish is a recipe from Julia Child. Her green beans: Boil the beans for 10 minutes in salted water until they become al dente. With a Japanese strainer, remove them from the water and place them in a hot skillet. Let the water steam off of them for about 30 seconds and then add 1-2 tablespoons of good unsalted butter. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, make sure the melted butter coats the beans (about 1 minute). Then add fresh lemon juice and leave the slice of lemon in the pan.

Voilà! You are done. The beans should be shiny and full of flavour, just waiting to be enjoyed.

Pair with Sole Meunière (click here for the recipe) and a glass of rosé. Bon appétit!

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Thank you so much for being interviewed Shannon - you've inspired me to plan my days even more carefully and of course try your recipe (rosé and all!)

You can find Shannon at the links below and also click the video to gain more insight into the simply luxurious way of living.

Lacking Motivation? How To Find Energy When You Have None

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From talking to readers of Where the Light Plays, I get the feeling many of you share common traits. Some of these include commitment to career, health and relationships, getting the most out of your days and weeks, and looking for efficient ways to complete and achieve more tasks and overall life dreams.

I can relate a lot to these qualities, but I am also aware that the momentum behind this drive can wane from time to time.

Some weeks we’re just not hitting the level we’re expecting to. Some nights after work we can’t face the out of hours plans we were looking forward to that morning.

Rather than being hard on yourself or wallowing in a lack of motivation, try these strategies for uncovering energy when you thought you had none.

Do something small

I recently discovered Alexandra Franzen and her mantra ‘Today is not over yet’. Take it easy on yourself when you’re lacking energy and settle on a small task.

Put the laundry on. Book that appointment. Email a friend.

Take a small step and know you’ve done your best. You won’t feel time is wasted and sometimes it can propel you to do other things. And if it doesn’t? Go back to the couch. You have my permission.

Set a timer

This reminds me of my older sister -

“Go and grab me <insert a random thing she couldn’t be bothered to get herself> from my room. I’ll time you”.

I’m pretty sure her strategy was for personal gain and utilising her baby sister as a slave, but a little competition never hurt anyone.

Think you can’t clean your house in 30 minutes? I dare you to try. Think you can’t get in and out of the gym in 40 mins? Time yourself! Whatever you’re dreading, set a friendly timer and get moving.

Create a reward

Yes, yes, more mind games. If you’re feeling depleted but still have a number of tasks that need doing, think of what you’d prefer to be doing right now.

Drinking wine? Having a bubble bath? Going out for dinner with your partner? You can have all that… just as soon as you get at least some of your to do list completed.

Try a different routine

If this kind of lack of energy is a regular occurrence, it might be time to take a wider view of your circumstances. Is housework on a weeknight just never going to work for you? Shift it all to Saturday afternoon. Are you anti-life admin tasks? I truly am!

Stop bemoaning adulthood and batch your taxes, budgeting, healthcare, etc reviews in together so they’re wiped out in one fell swoop. Monitor your moods and schedule recurring activities accordingly.

Look at the basics

Again, this is part of a bigger picture review. If you’re not enjoying sleep, exercise and nourishing food in equal proportions, you’re probably never going to live at optimum capacity.

When we’re busy, these aspects are often the first to suffer. However, without a strong foundation you can wind up exhausted and in no mood for either the necessities or more important things in life.

Put yourself first, recharge and the energy will come.

Like this post? Please share with your friends!


10 Lessons Learned This Year

 
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Happy birthday to me! Yesterday was my birthday and I thought I'd share some pretty personal deliberations from the last 12 months.

1. There's never a perfect time.

In the last 12 months, I've bought my first home and started this blog. Two big steps I was putting off until the 'time was right'. The time is right when you make it right - I'm so happy in my new home (yes, even with the extra outgoing $$ each month) and I love getting lost writing for and tinkering on the blog.

2. Wheels of brie don't solve your problems.

More broadly, I've noticed over the last year that when I'm stressed, I often turn to food. After a hard day at work, I tend to give up on my healthy dinner plans and turn to comfort foods or childhood favourites. Don't tell anyone but that includes bags of Allen's lollies, cheese, salami, cheese and more cheese. It never makes me feel any better and when I come out of the food coma, I realise that I need to deal with stress and issues by confronting them head on. Not by stuffing my feelings down with food.

3. Slow down.

Over the last few years I've tended to cram my evenings with activity - whether it's catching up with friends, exercising, cooking, tidying the house, I would rarely ever stop. My husband will attest to me not being able to sit for longer than 10 minutes before I think of something else I need to do. This year, I've made the effort to slow down and recharge in the evening. Reading a book, taking a bath, doing some yoga - these types of activities make the evening minutes stretch longer and my heart rate come down after a busy day... I particularly like the below yoga sequence from Kimberly Snyder:

4. Stop listening to that little voice that says you're not good enough.

I'm going to delve into 'imposter syndrome' in a future post, but I'm learning to ignore the negative little voice in my head more and more. The voice that taunts me with the to do list I haven't gotten to yet, or leaves me lying awake in bed stressing about what might happen at work the next day. Speaking only positive words to myself makes a huge difference and hey, if Maya Angelou had to work through it, I know it's worth my time to overcome it. 

5. Take time for yourself in the morning. 

Similar to number 3, slowing down in the morning has made a huge difference in my daily routine. I'm not brilliant in the mornings and rush through my routine with a kind of disdain for being required to get up to an alarm again. It's clearly not the best frame of mind to start each day with. Implementing 10 minutes of yoga in the morning has changed my attitude in the mornings, as has lingering for 15 minutes over breakfast - only reading a couple of news articles or blog posts, rather than trying to keep up with every social media feed first thing.

6. Lean on your girlfriends.

My closest girlfriends will agree that I have a distinctive trait. More often than not, once I've figured out the solution to whatever my current problem might be, I'll run them through the issue over a glass (let's be serious, bottle) of wine. I take them through the whole story and, usually that week or day, it's come to a head and has just been solved. They have had little idea that it's been happening and, being the great friends that they are, wish they could have helped earlier. Between me and the internal voice I mentioned in number 4, I've always felt a need to solve my own problems. More and more I'm calling on girlfriends, scheduling that wine much earlier in the piece and leaning on them for help.

7. I don't want to be a nag. And it rarely gets the result I want.

Ok, ok, I'm guilty of nagging my husband. It's no fun for anyone but sometimes I truly can't help myself. I received a newsletter from Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project last year and have hung on to her great idea for home life ever since - under-react to problems. Don't ignore them, just under-react. As Gretchen points out, sometimes the things you nag about are only as annoying as you allow them to be. 

8. Dig deep, and don't settle, career-wise.

One exercise Sage Grayson introduced me to this year is creating a list of 'must haves' and 'must not haves' when it comes to your work. I was at a crossroads in my career this last year and keeping these two lists clear in my mind helped me when making the decision to move jobs. There's no point compromising if you're going to end up in the same confused state again in another 12 months. Stick to your standards, ensure you ask for what you want and don't accept what doesn't work for you.

9. Worries rarely eventuate.

I have been trying to learn this for years. My sister is a psychologist and literally took me through this 10 years ago. But hey, we've got to get there ourselves sometimes right?! A little trick I've used recently is if I'm going to bed with a head full of worries, I write them down. No matter how crazy they sound. The best part of this is, not only does it help get them out of my head so I can sleep, but I read back on them a week or a month later, and usually NONE of them have eventuated and they are fairly irrational worries looking back. I'm still allowed to have them but I'm noticing more and more that they're unnecessary to dwell on.

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No more of this! 

And the most important lesson:

10. Every year gets better.

It's true people. The years are getting better and better. And if I've cemented these 10 lessons over the last year, I can't wait to see what happens over the next 12 months.