Living The Simply Luxurious Life – Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Discovering Your Best Self

As a long-time subscriber of Shannon Ables’s The Simply Luxurious Life blog, I love the way her regular blog posts provide a steady stream of inspiration on everything from book and film recommendations to recipes and thoughtfully expressed advice for elevating various aspects of our lives.

Having enjoyed Shannon’s first book, Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life a few years ago, I was pleased to hear that a second book was in the pipeline. Naturally, I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of the book to review here on Live Chic and Well.

The blurb of Shannon’s new book, Living The Simply Luxurious Life – Making Your Everydays Extraordinary and Discovering Your Best Self  (see image above) states it will help you learn how to:

  • Recognize your innate strengths
  • Acquire the skills needed to nurture your best self
  • Identify and navigate past societal limitations often placed upon women
  • Strengthen your brand both personally and professionally
  • Build a supportive and healthy community
  • Cultivate effortless style
  • Enhance your everyday meals with seasonal fare
  • Live with less, so that you can live more fully
  • Understand how to make a successful fresh start
  • Establish and mastermind your financial security
  • Experience great pleasure and joy in relationships
  • Always strive for quality over quantity in every arena of your life.

There is a huge amount of content to digest, given that it spans everything from small details to uplevel our everyday lives, to making potentially life-altering decisions such as career changes or relocating. And so, I have spent a number of enjoyable autumn evenings curled up on the sofa poring the almost 400 pages to reap the full benefit of the advice.

I appreciated the ever-practical and easy-to-implement suggestions on ways to improve my own everydays.  The reader is gently probed to examine aspects of their lives that they may be dissatisfied with and to consider how to take steps to make improvements and inch closer to the lives we dream of. When we adopt a different perspective and take positive action, anything seems possible, don’t you think?

I would heartily recommend this book to any woman who is keen to welcome positive changes in her life. Does that sound like you? With Shannon’s seasoned wisdom and gentle guidance, you are likely to unearth a fresh sense of enthusiasm and appreciation for savouring the joys of everyday life. Oh, and a long list of scribbled-down ideas you intend to put into practice from the pages of this book. I know I certainly have!

The book is available now from Amazon UK. However, wouldn’t you prefer a signed copy, a simply luxury gift and a 40% discount off the first book? I thought you’d like the sound of that! Head directly to The Simply Luxurious Life website to take advantage of this great offer.

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A 95 Year Old Stranger – How He Inspired Me

You know how every so often you happen to encounter a special individual who fills you with awe and a fresh perspective on life? Well, that happened to me recently.

A couple of weeks ago we returned from a (very relaxing and enjoyable) cruise holiday to Spain and Portugal. Part of the cruising experience is making conversation with your fellow passengers and we did indeed chat and get to know some pleasant and interesting people. However, one particular person held greater fascination to me than any other…

One afternoon, my parents-in-law kindly offered to look after our kids so that my husband and I could experience the Afternoon Tea in the formal dining room. On arrival, we were allocated a table adjacent to an elderly gentleman seated alone. Shortly after we were served delectable little crabmeat sandwiches and the most amazing, homemade sausage rolls in the world. Then the man looked up from his own plate of delectable goodies, smiled at us and enquired whether this was our first trip on that particular cruise ship. We replied that it was, to which he informed us (with a hint of pride) that it was his fourth voyage on the ship…this year!

He added that he was hoping to book an additional cruise holiday for the Christmas and New Year period. He affirmed that he always travels alone and enjoys the feeling of being well provided for and having minimal worries on a cruise holiday. As did I, I hasten to add: it was sheer heaven not having to think about cooking any meals or wash clothes for twelve blissful nights.

Appreciate What You Have

With a shadow of sadness on his well-lined face, the man confided that he had been travelling a lot since his wife passed away three years ago. He told us wistfully that he counted himself very fortunate to have been married to a wonderful woman for over seventy years, most of them enjoyed in good health and the last few he nursed her at home after she developed terminal cancer. He recounted proudly how their friends and acquaintances had all scoffed that their relationship would not last when they initially united. They had the last laugh though when they received messages from the Queen after 50, 60 and finally 70 years of marriage.

The Secret to a Happy Marriage

Looking directly at my husband Paul, the gentleman proclaimed that his secret to a happy marriage was to keep his wife happy and give her whatever she asked for, wherever possible, and always making her wellbeing and happiness his top priority. After his late wife reportedly experienced “a bad time” giving birth to their only child, he was adamant that she would not suffer in the same way again or put her life at risk attempting a second birth.

Be Spontaneous and Take Chances

He recounted how he and his wife once went for a week-long holiday to Torquay in Devon. On passing a small hotel with a ‘for sale’ sign displayed outside, his wife quickly became excited and animated about the prospect of buying and running this hotel. Her enthusiasm proved to be infectious, because they went ahead and bought it and instantly handed in their resignation letters to their respective workplaces. This was despite a complete lack of any experience in running a hotel, I was told! That story did resonate with me and made me decide to be open to more opportunities to be spontaneous and follow my gut instinct. Granted, this is not as easy as it used to be now that I have three small children, but you never know what is around the corner and if something piques my interest I aim to at least consider trying it rather than immediately ruling it out.

Travel and See The World

This particular gent said himself that he had left it late in life to travel the world and see the sights on cruise ships spanning the continents. Ruefully, he expressed regret that he and his wife had not travelled more extensively when they were younger and both in good health. His bank balance was apparently “very healthy” but our physical health cannot ever be assumed in the future. I must admit that since losing my own dear father prematurely five years ago and gaining more of a sense of my own mortality, I have felt greater resolve to travel and enjoy nice holidays even with young kids in tow. I know I would regret leaving it too late and missing out on the chance if my (or my husband’s) health later failed.

Maintain a Positive Outlook

Despite the sad circumstances of having to travel alone after losing his wife three years previously, the man presented as fairly upbeat. He clearly enjoyed chatting to my husband and I and described his humble one-bedroom apartment that he called home (at least, when he wasn’t on one his many cruises!) with affection and explained that it met his needs perfectly. He mentioned simple pleasures that enhance his life such as playing bridge and doing the daily newspaper crossword.

Set a Goal

On revealing his impressive age of 95, the man curved his mouth into a smile and his eyes twinkled as he said that he really wanted to reach the age of 100 to receive an additional message from the queen. Perhaps that determination helps prolong his health for longer? It certainly got me thinking that if a 95-year old sets goals in his life, then it is worth those of us far younger being intentional about the things we desire to achieve the most and figure out the most effective way of attaining them.

We never even got around to exchanging names with that inspirational gentleman, yet somehow he made a lasting impression and has encouraged me to find a fresh appreciation for all that I have in my life. In particular, I include my marriage to my husband. We have recently marked our 10-year anniversary but I hope there will be many more decades of happiness for us.

How about you, reader? Have you met any inspirational older people and if so, which life lessons have you learned from them? Please do let me know in the comments below.

 

5 Ways to Cherish Memories of Good Times

Every day presents a fresh opportunity to explore, discover, and most importantly, to experience. Shared experiences, whether they be school days spent with what end up being lifelong friends, holidays with family members or evenings spent at hobby-related clubs or classes with like-minded people, forge a sense of connection with those people we spend time with. They improve our sense of well being, too.

Experiences of the cultural variety also broaden the mind. Seeking out the arts in the form of a theatre, operatic or ballet performance will feed and excite the brain cells and keep you buzzing for far longer than spending the equivalent amount of money on a new item for clothing, for instance. Spending your money on experiences rather than things is more likely to induce a lasting sense of contentment.

So it makes sense that we cling on to precious memories and keep them fresh in our minds for as long as is humanly possible. Thanks to modern technology, there are more options for doing so than ever before. Here are a few of them:

1. Photobooks

Hands up who takes plenty of photos but hardly prints off any of them? This used to frustrate me, because even if we diligently stored all our photos digitally it still created a barrier to physically sitting down and looking at them.

These days, we make a concerted effort to produce at least one photobook per year, to include a selection of pertinent occasions and moments from January through to December. Being able to add captions and wording is a bonus to act as extra prompts of the details of the days.

There are several companies that offer printed photo books, such as Photobox and promotional offers are frequently available.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

2. Keeping a Journal or Diary

Yes, for many of us the maintaining of a daily diary invokes recollections of pouring our teenage angst out onto paper.

That doesn’t have to be the theme, though. I try to carve out a few minutes each day to write a diary entry and usually the focus is on gratitude. We’ve all heard before that taking the time to reflect on a few brief positives of our day promotes a sense of contentment, and I can attest that to be true.

Often I do record key events of the day as well- such as details of day trips or particularly humorous moments.

Personally, I like using the ‘Day One’ digital diary app as typing seems easier than scribing. Plus, your online entries are organised and easy to find when you want to read back on them. It is easy to add photos taken on the day, too, for added interest and taking photos of event tickets and other memorabilia turns it into something resembling a scrapbook if so desired.

3. Create an Activity Jar

Children are famed for uttering that dreaded phrase: “I’m bored”, particularly during the school holidays. Most adults would admit to moments of boredom, too. To counteract it, why not set up an activity jar? You simply need an empty jar and some small slips of paper. Ask each member of the household to jot down ideas of a few activities they could do when boredom strikes at weekends or in the school holidays. These could include riding your bikes to the park, make microwave popcorn and watch a movie in the living room with the curtains drawn or play one of the board games in the cupboard. These types of experience, while cheap and simple, foster a sense of togetherness and long-lasting memories. I know I have fond memories of playing board games and other basic family pursuits from my own childhood.

4. Tell Stories

Verbally sharing stories about the ordinary and extraordinary days in our lives, and encouraging those stories to be repeated from time to time helps ensure that they don’t get forgotten. This plays a large part in keeping your family history intact. My late father related some amusing tales of the mischief he got up to as a child and teenager and it helped me to see him in a different light. Recalling those tales still makes me smile when I think of them today and in time I will relate them to my own kids.

activity adult barbecue bbq
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

5. Make Videos

I bet I am not alone in disliking seeing myself on video, but in many years to come we tend to be relieved that they were made. They capture a glimpse of how we and those around us used to be. My parents purchased an early-model camcorder when they were fairly new to the market back in the mid 1980s when I was about six years old. That camcorder trailed us on virtually every family day out, as well as plenty of ordinary days based at home, too. These home movies were originally saved to VHS tape (for those of you old enough to remember them!) and I found someone who successfully converted them to DVD a few years ago. From time to time we gather to watch them and it is my own children who find them the most amusing. They find it fascinating to observe their mummy as a little girl!

My husband and I asked a friend to record our wedding ceremony and snippets of the rest of our wedding day and ten years later we enjoy watching it occasionally, as do- you guessed it- the kids.

How do you tend to preserve your own memories?

Perhaps you use some of my methods, or have a new one to suggest? Please let me know in the comments, I would love to hear it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple luxuries of summer

Indulge in Simple Luxuries In The Summer

What are your simple summer luxuries? You know, those little pick-me-ups that perk up your day in the summertime. I know I have written about simple pleasures to be enjoyed during the winter before, so decided a summer equivalent was called for.

Summer Fruits

Even though all types of fruits, even exotic fruits, are available in shops year-round these days, nothing beats eating locally grown, fresh fruit that tends to be abundant during the summer months. I am hoping to take my kids strawberry or raspberry picking this year so they get to experience the joys of carefully selecting the ripest, juiciest fruits in the field and cheekily popping one or to in their mouths to enjoy the burst of flavour. We take to the hedgerows in late August to track down blackberries growing wild which is usually a rewarding pursuit.

Enjoying an Evening Drink in the Garden

There is something verging on the magical about sitting in the garden soon before dusk falls. A sense of peace fills the air and the only sound to be heard is melodic birdsong. We are fortunate in that although we live on the outskirts of a town, there are no main roads or railway lines close by so you could easily believe you were in the countryside. I usually pour a glass of sparking elderflower and read a book while soaking up the serene atmosphere.

Flowers From The Garden

As you know, I adore fresh flowers all year round but at this time of year I can acquire a plentiful supply from my own back garden. Amongst my favourites are lilac and hydrangeas. Some years we grow sweet peas which I adore for their heavenly scent and vivid shades.

feet summer dress sandals
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Strappy Sandals

Warmer weather calls for lighter footwear and I am always happy to don my sandals. Personally, I find a mid-height heel or an inch or so to be more comfortable than flat shoes a lot of the time and I often opt for sandals that have a bit of pretty detailing with beads. Then I get to enjoy glancing down at them as I walk, naturally with painted toenails to finish the look.

Eating Al Fresco

Somehow, just carrying our dinner plates outside to enjoy eating al fresco elevates the experience. It feels akin to eating a meal on holiday in a warmer country and anything that induces that holiday feeling is to be encouraged in my book!

Ice Cream Treats

Admit it, when you hear the word ‘summer’ ice cream is one of the things that first comes to mind. Or perhaps it’s just me! There aren’t many better ways to cool down that enjoying a cool ice cream or lolly. Alas, authentic handmade Italian gelato may not be an option for me right now, but I have recently discovered the joys of Magnum’s Praline Minis, with chopped hazelnut pieces on the shell and Belgian chocolate ice cream in the centre. At a mere 152 calories each they are not overly sinful, either.

Please do share: what are your favourite simple summer pleasures? Whether they are the same as mine or different ones I would love to hear.

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Finding Contentment While Spending Less Money

Recently, I have come to realise that my level of spending has  pared back significantly over the past months. This has been partly deliberate, as we have been adjusting to living on one income and partly unintentional. Spending less makes you more mindful of the simple pleasures in life, I find. Read on for a few examples of the areas in which our spending has been reduced and how I and my family have felt about it.

Eating Out

We used to eat out at least once (often twice) per weekend. Often we went for brunch on a Sunday for our favourite Eggs Benedict or Eggs Royale. This ritual mainly stopped because finding cafe tables for a family of five including space for a buggy isn’t always easy, plus when I gave up my job the family income meant that making cutbacks on things such as eating out made sense. I’ve substituted the meals out and takeaways with home-made yet still feel like ‘treat’ or cafe-style meals (such as paninis in our panini maker) and we often enjoy eating in our garden during the warmer months. It actually feels more relaxing to do this than dine out with our young kids as it takes the pressure off my husband and I when we don’t have to worry about the kids misbehaving or whining that they are hungry. As an added bonus, my eldest child is now showing an interest in helping to prepare some of the meals and gladly carries out simple tasks such as grating cheese, stirring sauces etc. Kids are never too young to learn to cook and I hope that my other two begin to express a similar interest before long.

My husband and I only rarely go out for date nights these days- mostly for logistical reasons. Family members have started giving us restaurant vouchers for birthday gifts which is appreciated as it gives a nudge to make us get on and book a meal out rather than having a vague notion that we should but never seeing to get around to it.

Reading Material

Then there’s my reading habit, which has always verged on the voracious. I’ve always loved books and have bought at least some from Amazon and charity shops even though I’ve long been a regular user of the local library. Recently though, I’ve cut out buying books completely and started reserving and ordering books online that I really want to read in to my library to collect from our local branch. Happily, this means I remain stocked with plenty of reading material. If there are any that I read from the library and desperately crave to keep, I ask a family member to give me a copy of it for Christmas or my birthday.

Last year I also discovered the RB Digital app which allows registered library users to read a wide range of magazine publications online for free. How did I not know about this sooner?! As well being available in my local area I have been informed by friends in different areas of England that it is available countrywide. This can represent a significant saving on spends for any magazine fan.

Children’s Clothing

Even though I restrict my own wardrobe items and prefer to keep a pared down, semi capsule wardrobe, I must admit that I have a weakness for buying the kids too many clothes. Children’s clothes are so cute, with colourful appliques and designs. Still, when I changed over their clothes at the end of seasons, I felt bad when I sometimes discovered items that had never been worn even once. I really should know better on this front! The best solution I have found to this issue is to keep a simple spreadsheet on the computer and record every clothing item I acquire for the kids in different sizes. I do tend to stock up on good quality clothes in the sales, even in sizes several years too large at times, but if I forget that I have those larger sizes stashed away it’s too easy to end up buying a similar item later on. This spreadsheets also assists with guiding relatives who ask what clothing items the kids would most benefit from being given as part of their birthday presents. Whenever I find myself tempted to buy cute clothes for the kids, I force myself to check the spreadsheet first to see whether the item is genuinely needed or not.

What do you Gain Most out of Spending on?

Finding cheaper or free alternatives to the things we used to spend money on feels rewarding because it means that we can funnel our money towards things that matter more to us- such as holidays. We love going away together as a family, both in the UK and in European countries and we hold some wonderful memories of times spent on past holidays. Everybody’s priorities for their finances will be different, but being mindful of them and having more funds available to direct to them instead of being frittered on things that we are less bothered about makes a lot of sense.

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What Living in Italy Taught Me About the Benefits of Solo Travel and Experiences

Whilst having a sort out of all of my photographs recently, I came across the photo above. This image of myself was taken when I was just eighteen years old, towards the end of my seven-month au pair placement in Italy.

Some of the memories from my time there are so fresh in my mind that it could have feasibly been just a couple of years ago. Yet in other ways it feels more like like a lifetime ago, as my life since then has changed beyond recognition. These days, I feel the need to plan most things such as a holiday or even just a day trip in precise detail. Not much in life feels spontaneous.

It wasn’t always this way, though. The eighteen-year-old me merrily accepted an au pair placement in a foreign country that she had never visited before (let alone held a grasp of the local language), without even speaking directly to the family she would be living with and working for or seeing a single photo of them beforehand. This was pre-internet days and the entire placement was arranged by snail mail. Oh, and of course that girl booked a one-way Alitalia plane ticket with insufficient funds in her bank account to buy the return ticket if things didn’t work out… I blame the impulsiveness of youth!

On reflection though, I think I took the breezily optimistic view that I simply had to make it work and was determined that I would master my duties and the language quickly once I arrived. When you’re on your own in a foreign country and want to make friends and integrate into your new place of residence, learning the language becomes a top priority.

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Therefore I purchased a stack of Italian language books after being informed that there were no Italian language courses available within the small city of my placement, so learning the language was going to be solely my responsibility. I made a start on self-tuition the week or so before departing to il bel paese, but found it easier to learn once I arrived. It’s true what people say about the best way to learn a language being to immerse yourself in it. And immersed I truly was…

The very first words I heard each morning were the animated conversations of the maids working in the lavanderia (laundry room) of the hotel my host family lived in. On balmy nights I had to leave the window open and it was inevitable that loud and lively discussions would drift from the adjacent lavanderia to my bedroom. Often, I was treated to their singing, too! I was fortunate to have a small television in my room but it only had Italian channels, but I saw this as a good thing, so determined I was to expose myself to as much Italian language as possible. It was rather amusing to watch familiar shows such as Friends that had been (badly) dubbed into Italian and knowing the gist of the storylines did help too.  My radio was permanently tuned to Italian channels, as well.

All those types of passive language learning can’t be used as a substitute for actual conversations in the desired language, though. Attempting conversations that you know will be clumsy and mistake-ridden can feel daunting to anyone of any age. Fortunately, most of the natives were very encouraging of my efforts and forgiving of the endless errors I made. Trust me, I made a couple of real bloopers by substituting similar words with VERY different meanings in highly inappropriate situations…but that’s a whole other story! 😉

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When travelling alone you have to rely solely on yourself to deal with awkward situations. However scary the prospect might seem, once you have dealt with it your confidence grows and dealing with a similar situation in the future seems less daunting.

The very things that you may fear happening could indeed happen while you are alone. To take one example, I used to worry about being harassed by men before I went to Italy, having read about pale skinned, young foreign women being particular targets for unwanted attention. Well, I can tell you that I definitely did get harassed by plenty of Italian men when I ventured out and about by myself at first, even while sitting minding my own business reading a book by the marina. But I faced the fear head on and learned in time the best way to deal with it. Attempts to studiously ignore them and carry on reading occasionally  worked. Failing that, ‘saying ‘va via’, firmly and with a stern glare, usually did the job. I often used to wear my cheap ring that I’d bought with birthday money as a sixteen year old on the ring finger of my left hand and wave it at them, too!

Not everyone may have had the chance to travel alone in their teens. There are still opportunities to get out and spend time on your own at any age, though, and doing so can be a liberating experience.

Would you go by yourself to the cinema, if there was a film you really wanted to watch but no one else was available (or willing) to watch it with you? Or go to a great new restaurant serving a cuisine that no one close to you appreciates? How about sitting through a moving opera performance? Lots of women would feel a little awkward at the prospect and avoid doing these things for fear of feeling self conscious. Yet just focus on all that you stand to gain- the pleasure of seeing a great movie or delicious meal.

When you experience things alone, you have the peace to relish and focus on all the small details that make up the experience too, which you might not have appreciated fully had you been drawn into conversation with a companion or worse, had to contend with their complaints and whinges.

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Self-consciousness causes many of us to avoid going in public places where individuals do not usually venture alone. It’s easy to develop a sense of paranoia that people are staring at us and thinking or saying negative things. Generally, though, most people are so caught up in what they are doing themselves that they won’t even notice you, let alone think negatively of you.

Often in life, the things we fear doing the most, provide the greatest opportunities for personal growth. Feel the fear and do it anyway as the saying goes. It’s easy to dwell on the potential negatives and what might go wrong, but we are more likely to regret missed opportunities and the things we didn’t do, I think.

So, seek out experiences to spend time alone, indulging in things that really appeal to your specific interests and tastes.

Life is peppered with opportunities, large and small, that are yours for the taking to enjoy- get out there and grab them.

You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

 

An interview with Tara Ray from Done and Left Undone blog, on Livechicandwell.com

Introducing Tara from “Done and Left Undone”

After the enjoyable experience of interviewing Jane Beckenham from My Home My Sanctuary a few weeks ago, I have been fortunate enough to score another great blogger interview.

This time I am delighted to present to you the inspiring Tara from “Done and Left Undone”. Tara resides in Australia with her young family but is originally from the United States and took the plunge to emigrate to Australia a few years ago.

Tara also interviewed me recently, here is the link to the thoughtful questions she asked and my responses.

Enjoy reading all about Tara and her fascinating perspective on life and I’m sure you will be keen to check out her blog or follow her on Instagram!

Please can you explain your choice of the name of your blog, “Done and Left Undone”? Perhaps it holds a certain significance to you or your life circumstances?

I guess it is a funny name for a blog. It’s actually inspired by a poem by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:

In the pursuit of knowledge, everyday something is added. 

In the practice of the Way, every day something is dropped.

Less and less do you need to force things, until finally you arrive at non-action.

When nothing is done, nothing is left undone. 

True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way. It can’t be gained by interfering.

From the moment I read it, this passage started rolling around my brain like a marble. In our culture of glorified busyness, we are always doing, and yet there is so much left to be done. The more we do, the more needs to be done. The blog name is a reminder to myself to slow down and avoid the busy trap. I certainly believe in taking action, but I hope to take inspired action rather than just traipsing mindlessly from one activity to the next.

Tara, you grew up and spent most of your life in the US before emigrating to Australia (2 years ago?). How did you feel about the prospect of uprooting yourself and your young family to a faraway country? It sounds like a huge, brave step to take.

Thank you! My husband and I, along with our three children, moved to Australia in July of 2016 because of my husband’s job. The move is not a permanent one, which made the leap a little easier. It has been a really exciting time in our lives. I grew up in Austin, Texas, and had lived there most of my life. I had always wanted the experience of living in another country, so I was very grateful for the opportunity when it came along. The logistics of moving and figuring out how everything works in a new country, from enrolling the children in school to setting up our phone service and bank account, were not always simple.

It took about three months for me to feel settled, and ever since it’s been great. Sydney is such a beautiful city and I love being closer to the beach. My oldest child was 12 when we moved, and it was a lot harder for him than it was for his younger siblings. I think big moves are often easier for younger children. Still, we’ve had opportunities to travel and experiences that we never would have had if we had stayed in the US.

How is your life in Australia now different to the life you lived before in the US?

We shipped very few of our belongings from the US to Australia. We arrived with only our suitcases. A few months later, a few boxes that we sent by sea (mainly the some toys and books) arrived. The result has been an experiment in minimalism. 🙂 The house we’re renting in Australia is a lot smaller than our house in the US and we have relatively few things here. That aspect of it has been amazing in terms of housekeeping and having fewer things to organize and keep up with.

We’re also in a more walkable area here than we were in the US. I had been spending almost 3 hours a day driving in the US, which was way too much. Being able to walk the kids to school and spending less time in the car has been HUGE for me. I hadn’t fully appreciated before how much time I was losing every day by having to drive so much. One reason I’m able to write more now is that I’m spending less time commuting and driving the kids to activities. I finished the draft of a novel last year, and I don’t know that I would have been able to do that if we had stayed in the US. That change really isn’t anything specific to the US or Australia, we just happened to end up with a really different lifestyle.

This experience has taught me that there are a lot of different ways my life could look. I was on one path and it was comfortable and it would have been easy to continue along that path without giving it much thought. Making a huge change, like uprooting ourselves and moving to Australia, has taught us that it is possible to make massive shifts. If it’s possible to do one big thing, maybe it’s possible to other big things. Our lives are full of endless possibilities– I think it’s so easy for us to forget that as we go through our daily lives.

A quote in one of your blog posts really resonated with me: “I tell my kids, and myself, and anyone else who will listen, that our lives are the stories we tell ourselves”. Please can you expand a little on this. 

I think the stories that we tell about who we are define us. Have you ever noticed how two people can have almost identical experiences but describe their circumstances completely differently? Maybe one is a victim, the other is a survivor. We can focus on the negative or focus on the positive. It’s all about the details we choose to focus on and repeat. We’re not just passive creatures letting things happen to us; we get to be the creators of our own life stories. I think it’s empowering to recognize that where we choose to focus our attention helps shape our life’s narrative.

Finally, what advice would you give to your 20 year old self?

Oh, my 20 year old self was kind of a mess. I would tell my 20 year old self to start loving herself. She cared way too much about what other people thought and she wasted way too much time worrying about the future. I would tell her to start paying attention to her inner guidance instead of always looking for external validation. And I would tell her she is going to LOVE her future. In just three years she’ll meet the love of her life and each year will be brimming with more love and adventure than she can imagine.

Thank you for such thoughtful, insightful answers, Tara. They are very in-keeping with  the lovely, thought-provoking blog posts that you write 🙂

Tara Campbell Ray blogs at doneandleftundone.com.

You can also find Tara on Instagram @doneandleftundone.

P.S You can now follow me on Instagram. My IG handle is sarahdeeks_author. I post extra photos of bits and pieces that inspire and uplift me day-to-day so they may well have a similar effect on you 🙂 I look forward to seeing you there!