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.

The Housework Struggle Is Real

I have a lovely visitor coming to stay with me this coming weekend and was thinking about when to tidy the house. I looked around and saw at least a dozen things that needed doing and I started to fill with dread.

Would I do it the night before she arrived so everything was fresh? Should I do it now so I don’t have to look at it all week and feel stressed? But if I do it now, will it need cleaning again by Friday night? Fun thoughts, right?

Luckily over the years I’ve learned how to quash these destructive musings and I wanted to share my strategies with you.

The pursuit of perfection

Many of us are Inadvertently aiming for ultimate control and perfection in our lives. Before we had magazines and TV to live up to, now it’s every social media channel and lifestyle blog we follow. Sparse white tabletops with fresh flowers fill our feeds, while we wonder where to store empty boxes and stacks of random papers we know we have to keep somewhere, for someday.

Are we too focused on keeping everything in order? Is life meant to be messy? Are we cleaning up to avoid spending time on more important hobbies that we might be afraid to pursue? Ask yourself these questions as you step slowly away from the vacuum cleaner.

Maternal gatekeeping

This is a concept I’m fascinated with. Maternal gatekeeping, as the name suggests, usually relates to parenting but it also includes the concept that women will limit their partner’s involvement in housework. Why you ask? Because our partners can’t do it as perfectly as us. And when they do the housework, we often criticise and question how they’ve done it. Sound familiar?

Recognising this has been a huge shift in my relationship. A while back I gave up ‘being in charge’ of the house and directly asked for help. After some negotiation we now share the housework 50/50. We are in charge of our own jobs and we rarely let each other down in this department.

Does handing over control like this make you nervous? If so, another tip is to let go of the jobs that you don’t really care that much about. For example, I like washing and hanging the laundry, but I couldn’t care less how the dishwasher is stacked as long as it gets done. Ask yourself - do you want it to be done perfectly or do you just want it to be done?

Write down all the jobs that need completing around the house (yes, all of them) and how long they each take. Then divide them up fairly. And if you don’t have a partner…

Batch household tasks

Another major shift for me. Doing a little bit here and there only made me feel like I was constantly doing chores, and also consistently on the look out for the next chore that needed doing. Now I devote around an hour or two on a Saturday and then I’m done.

I usually plug in some music or a podcast and reward myself once the time is over with a hot coffee, a cooking show (my guilty pleasure) and a cuddle with the kitten.

Try doing all your housework at once and let me know if it makes a difference to the rest of your week.

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Will anyone really care?

Back to the catalyst for this post - keeping your house ‘perfect’: either to impress people, or because you care what others think of you. In all honesty when was the last time you walked into a good friend or family member’s house and really cared what state their home was in? When they apologise to you for having a messy house, did you ever even notice? Seeing them and enjoying great company and conversation, so outweighs the dust we all have hiding under our couches.

If you truly dig deep, could you be happy with a tidy house over a sparkling clean one? Can you shift your focus to the fulfilling time you’ll share when that person arrives at your house, over what they’ll think of your cleaning skills?

What’s your housework mentality? Will you be trying out any of these tips? Even if you’re too scared to tell me, I truly hope this helps you loosen the reins dear readers. And if you have a cleaner, even better! 

 

How To Create A Sanctuary At Home

My husband and I bought our very first home a little over a year ago. After the inevitable hell of packing, moving all our earthly belongings, and the bruises and tantrums that came with it, I remember flopping on the couch on our first weekend morning at the new place.

One of the selling points for us when choosing the house was the huge amount of light that fills the upstairs living area. I looked across the sundrenched room, admired my husband as he read his book and sighed with contentment. I was home.

Since that point, I’ve been slowly working on getting that feeling back as often as possible when I’m at home. Between jobs around the house, long hours at work and social commitments, it’s easy to rush in and out of the house with nothing more than a cursory glance.

But if you can create a sanctuary at home, your mental and physical health will thank you.

Here’s my checklist for creating a relaxing space at home.

Belongings

Plants - they purify the air and even help reduce the chances of falling sick.

Lighting - I am obsessed with lamps. There’s nothing better than turning off harsh lights after dinner and reading or watching TV by dim light. It’s also scientifically proven to help when preparing yourself for sleep. And why not use them in the morning to ease into the day too?

Candles - it’s almost as relaxing to smell a hundred candles in the store when choosing one to buy. Don’t underestimate the decadence you can feel with the right candle lit.

For you

Comfortable clothing - transitioning from work, or being out of the house in general, is important. It’s winter here so warmth is paramount, but even in summer, a breezy dress for around the house feels great.

Your favourite drinks or snacks - herbal tea, wine, fruit salad, pungent cheeses. Whatever makes you feel special, make sure you have a supply at home. And don’t forget to dish it up on your favourite plate or in your favourite glass. 

 

Spa paraphernalia - check out my pampering routine here. If you’re a bath person, make sure you have an aromatic bubble bath on hand. If you’re only into showers, a rich, moisturising body wash will make a regular day feel unique.

Activities

Journal - writing is a great way to unwind and get any stressful ruminations out on paper.

Read - when I’m not constantly distracted by my iPhone (!), settling down with a great book really helps me escape a busy day.

Netflix - and if all else fails... go on, you’re allowed.

What are your best tips for creating a relaxing space at home? Share with me below.