Starting November, I felt that full-on hibernation mode had kicked in. And I tried to honor it by getting lots of sleep, drinking tea, having personal downtime and by cozy-ing up to a good book or a movie (happy endings only!) on my couch.
I also took lots of walks. No gym time, I could not muster one ounce of energy or motivation to get myself to the gym, but I made a promise to myself that I would walk every other day, and I did. Bundled up and quiet, with a podcast in my ears or some easy listening music, I walked even when I did not feel like it. Disconnected as we are from nature and its rhythms, I think we often forget that we too have our seasons of quiet, renewal and gestation.
So, November and December have been quieter months than usual, but this is what I’ve been loving and doing:
Voces8 Concert – wow, what a concert! I was blown away by their talent! If you’ve not heard of them, Voces8 is a British Vocal ensemble that performs an extensive repertoire of songs and musical genres, starting with medieval/renaissance music, to modern jazz and pop. Their harmonies are outstanding and I highly, highly recommend catching them live.
Here’s a glimpse:
Favorite Humans – Mimi and Alex Ikonn
I remember discovering Mimi Ikonn 6 or 7 years ago, one summer when I finally decided that I’m going to get creative with my long hair and style it differently. Well, I still only keep my hair in a bun or down but I’ve kept my appreciation for both Mimi and her husband, Alex. Whom, from humble beginnings and after both quitting their jobs in their early 20s, built a business from scratch and became millionaires in less than a year! Their journey and growth is so inspiring! They’ve continued creating personal development products like The 5 Minute Journal (that I’ve been using since 2017), The Productivity Planner, The 5 Minute Journal for Kids and the Love Hair products.
They share it all on social media but especially on their podcast that is absolutely filled with the best advice on growing your business, expanding your life, pursuing your dreams and, they also have some truly inspiring guests on as well. I have found their podcast so inspirational and helpful, their content so practical, that I CANNOT recommend it enough. Truly!
I have just discovered the Vagabrothers and where have they been all my life?? I LOVE their travel videos! so informative, creatively shot and filmed, loaded with off the beaten path attractions and ideas, and generally, just a delight to watch. They cover lots of ground (places on 4 continents), food, cultural diversity, travel tips and hacks.
There are sooooo many travel guides to choose from, so check them all out here.
I especially liked this one (shoutout to Romania, whoop-whoop, as a travel destination!):
And now, the countdown to summer break/vacay planning is ON!
Now that I am firmly in my 30’s, I’ve finally started to educate myself on financial investing and saving. And as someone who knew almost nothing about bonds, stocks, ROIs and such, the process of saving and investing money can be pretty overwhelming.
I’ve always been a frugal consumer, living within my means and only making those big purchases when I could afford them. My parents, having lived through communism and distrusting institutions (banks included) saved and paid for EVERYTHING cash down (TV, phones, washing machine, custom-built library, central heating, etc). They’ve taught me to do the same and only make purchases if and when I could afford them; if not, I just had to make do or work harder/more to make it happen.
To this day, I only use 1 credit card that rewards me in miles which I later use to travel, and I use this credit card for all of my day to day purchases: groceries, gas, toiletries, clothing, etc., AND I pay it off immediately.
But saving and investing for long term goals like paying off mortgage/school debt or saving for retirement requires a different approach, one in which we become even more conscious of our spending and our sources of income and their value.
In this respect, I have found these resources to be of great help:
– Wealth Simple – it automates my savings and investments, doing the work for me, while I sleep. They also have a “round up option” which means that every time I make a purchase they round up to the next dollar and adding that extra amount to my savings account as well. And they have personalized investing portfolios depending on your lifestyle/needs and income.
And did I mention that they do the investing for you? Under 10.000$ is managed free of charge. What is great about Wealthsimple (and other similar platforms) is that you can put aside each month as little as you can, even if all you have to work with is a tiny budget. It is NEVER too early, or too soon, to start saving/investing.
– Smart Lend – this is an app which calculates how many hours/days of work any item you want to purchase will cost you. It is free to download and is basically a smart spend – cost analyzer that puts in perspective the real need of an item versus wanting it. Often times, we fail to see how much an item will truly cost us (as in the time that we will actually have to work to purchase it!) especially if it comes as a sale, but, after putting in your gross income, your mandatory bills, groceries and your savings/investments, what is left is your true spending money. This app let’s you see that clearly and helps you shop more responsibly.
– more than 40% of all the food in America is wasted! here’s an app to help you plan your meals, make a budget so you save money by buying only what you need and save food from being wasted! on Save the food you get to plan, you get to mix and match recipes and they even have lots of ideas for left-over scraps
A cookbook in the same vein, that has been recommended to me by my seamstress (thank you!) is this one by Cassi Joy Garcia, “Cook once, eat all week”.
It has pre-made shopping lists, hundreds of recipes and ready-made combinations of proteins, fats, starches and veggies for each dish. It is, essentially, “a meal prep method that allows you to cut your prep time in half and get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes”.
Which means that it can save you lots of time in the kitchen AND money! It also caters to many dietary needs and lifestyles (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc) since all recipes offer substitutions.
Jacquie Lawson’s online Advent Calendar is something that I look forward to each year at the beginning of December. It can be accessed from anywhere and any device, it has stories, puzzles, games and small surprises every day to discover and I am genuinely looking forward to it each festive season. It makes for a great gift to give to family and friends as well, regardless of their age. I honestly feel like a little kid inside when I play with it. They also bring a different one each year to enjoy!
It’s been nothing but happy endings and soothing emotions for me in the past couple of months. Therefore, I found Sarah Morgan‘s books to be joyous, funny and pretty entertaining, leaving me feeling hopeful and warm inside – exactly what I want to feel during Christmas time, and any time of the year, for that matter. I really liked this one.
– The human cost of Amazon’s fast delivery system
– 8 simple tips to live longer and happier
– THIS story warmed my heart
– Habits of the super successful
– This is what life without retirement savings looks like
– Since I became an American citizen, this is what helps me stay in the know about the matters/legislation that is important to me and how my representatives/senators vote
– What happened when a teacher made her students turn off their phones
– 7 side hustles that you can do from home and increase your income
– Lessons from a culinary chef. Lots of culinary school cooking tips!
– How to make your downtime more productive and cut the TV time
– A guide to getting rid of plastic
– On traveling the world for over 5 years
Words that stayed with me
“The way you love here on Earth is more important than any words” – from one of the members of Voces8
A happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to all of you!
p.s: photo taken by me on one of my walks, in early November. Waynesboro, Virginia.