Book Review: Little Book of Hygge-Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

2016 was an immensely difficult year for me and so many others. And as 2017 rolls along I still feel a certain sadness personally, professionally and politically. And I’m not the only one. So it was truly a blessing to find Meik Wiking’s book The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.

Hygge (pronounced “hue-guh”) is the concept of happiness, fulfillment, well-being, and contentment. Denmark is considered one of the happiest countries in the world, and Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen so needless to say, he knows what he is talking about.

And just what is hygge to Wiking and many of his fellow Danes? Well, a lot of it has to do with warmth and light, which is not surprising considering it can get pretty cold and dark in Denmark. Danes love their fireplaces and wearing comfy bulky sweaters. They also have a love of soft lighting from well-placed lamps and burning candles. Only the candles Danes prefer are unscented.

Danes also find hygge in togetherness, whether it’s with their families, friends or just their communities as a whole. Just connecting with a loving soul via actual human contact (not social media) can fill a Dane with contentment and joy.

One way Danes connect with through food and drink. Having tea or coffee with a cherished loved one is a great way to inspire hygge, and so is throwing a dinner party or having a potluck with friends. In The Little Book of Hygge Wiking generously shares some beloved recipes, which as a total foodie I can’t wait to try out. And I now for myself, one way I connect with others is through my love of baking (my sugar mint cookies should be declared a national treasure).

Here are few thing the Danes feel are hygge:

  • Holidays like Christmas
  • Board Games
  • Music
  • Books
  • Sundays
  • Pets
  • Television
  • Parties
  • Plants
  • Sports

I must say I agree with a lot of things on that list. I love to listen to music, and I often use it as a healing balm when I’m feeling a bit down. It’s no secret I love books (or else I wouldn’t have this blog). I love Sundays. I start off my Sundays watching one of my favorite TV programs CBS Sunday Morning, and then I head off to my church First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, where I am not only treated to a wonderful service, I also connect with a like-minded community. I adore my fur baby, Pokey Jones whose purrs and unconditional love fill me with hygge.

Other countries have their own concepts and words for hygge. Canadians call it hominess. In Norway it is called koselig. German’s call their concept of hygge (yes, Germans want to be happy, too) gemutlichkeit. What would I call hygge as an American? Well, I call it niceties.

Hygge is practiced all year around and Wiking mentions hygge for each Month. January is a great month for having movie nights. In March, you can have theme nights; my theme for the month of March? My birthday, of course! May is a great time for a week-end getaway to a cabin or maybe a lovely bed and breakfast place. Summer picnics are ideal in the month of July. Wiking inspires us to have soup cook-offs in November.

Hygge doesn’t have to be costly. Often they are free or very inexpensive. Wiking suggests making your own “Hygge Emergency Kit.” His suggestions for such a kit include candles, chocolate, your favorite tea, books, a collection of treasured hand-written letters, warm woolen sweaters, a notebook and pen, and music.

In the past few days I have been feeling sad with the state of our world and some personal issues I’m dealing with. But reading about hygge reminded me to think of good things that filled me with happiness and joy. The eclipse filled me with hygge, reminding how inspiring the galaxy can be and how one moment can fill the world with joy and wonderment. This morning I woke up to find a text and an IM from two friends, which lifted my spirits. I’m currently reading some good books. I made a fabulous meal last night. Heck, even a decent night’s sleep helped me feel hygge.

I truly loved The little Book of Hygge and am so grateful for Meik Wiking. This book and its ideas will inspire me for quite a long time. We should all feel and practice hygge.

 

 

 

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Retro Review: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

The_Gift_of_the_MagiShort story The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (real name William Sydney) is probably quite familiar to most of my readers, but it’s an important story to keep in mind during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. And to me, it’s a soothing parable in our time of hate, bigotry, violence and greed.

The Gift of the Magi was originally called Gifts of the Magi and published in The New York Sunday World in December of 1905. Later O. Henry had it published in his collection of short stories The Four Million in 1906.

The Gift of the Magi tells the story of a newly-wed couple, James (Jim) and Della Dillingham. They are madly in love and living in a rundown apartment in New York City. Money is quite tight, but they are determined to buy each other the perfect Christmas gifts despite their lack of funds.

Della is blessed in long, thick hair, which goes down to her knees. Jim has a gold watch, a family heirloom that once belonged to his father and grandfather.

As I mentioned, Jim and Della are not flush with cash. Della wants to buy a beautiful  chain for Jim’s watch. However, she only has $1.87, not exactly a princely sum even in the early 1900s. What shall Della do? Della decides she will sell her hair so she goes off to the local hairdresser by the name of Madame Sofronie who cuts off Della’s gorgeous long hair. With the $20.00 she received for her sacrifice, Della buys Jim the perfect platinum pocket watch fob. She just knows Jim will be delighted with it and can’t wait to see the look on her face when he opens her gift. She also hopes he isn’t too upset over her newly-shorn locks.

With dinner on the table, Jim arrives back to his and Della’s humble abode. He is taken aback by the sight of Della’s hair, but not for the reasons Della might think. Della explains that she sold her hair so she could buy him a Christmas gift. It is then Jim hands Della his Christmas gift to her, a collection a beautiful and quite expensive hair combs, which Della can’t wear because of her shorter locks.

Della then bestows Jim’s gift-the platinum watch fob. Jim is touched by Della’s generosity but tells Jim that at this point the watch fob is unneeded because he sold his watch so he could afford the hair combs.

Though saddened they can’t use the gifts they bought for each other, Della and Jim commend each other for their sacrifices they made out of love just like the Biblical Magi. And let’s face it, Della’s hair will grow and one of these days Jim will be able to buy a gold watch.

The Gift of the Magi is a timeless and timely story that is told many times at the holiday season but is perhaps one that should be read during the non-holidays. It took me a short time to read this sweet and comforting story and it gave me sense of peace during a very trying time in my life. I also think this is a great story to read aloud to people of all ages and will touch people’s hearts.

Book Marks (Special Halloween Edition)

halloween

Creative and clever Halloween costumes based on literary characters.

Halloween costumes for writers, some fun, some frightening.

Books in books that will give you a good fright this Halloween night!

For your viewing pleasure author Jonathan Franzen reads a frightening story about book stores to Stephen Colbert.

Now this is my idea of a pumpkin!

Seventeen very scary short stories.

The top 10 authors of the horror genre.

Frightening flicks that are based on books.

Seventeen tips on how to write scary stories.

And last but not least, the scariest book released this year according to Bookish Jen.

Writer’s Block

Beautiful DayHello everyone. I hope everyone is having a good week, and I hope my fellow Americans had a fun and safe 4th of July.

Due to the holiday, I was fortunate to have a four-day week-end, which I kicked off the week-end by spending both Thursday and Friday in Chicago with my lovely friends Nora and Elaine. But I didn’t just go to Chicago to visit with my friends. Nora, Elaine and I went to see U2 at their final show at the United Center. We’ve been huge U2 fans for years now, and though we joke that U2 are total corporate rock, they are still the most amazing band to see live. I’m still kvelling.

Here is a link to U2 thanking Chicago and their fans. Awww, right back at ya, lads!

Instead of staying with my friends, we camped out at a hotel room. This is what greeted us. My fellow Criminal Minds fans will get the reference.

Rossi

What else? Well, I should have a guest review up tomorrow. I’m about to start writing review for book that is both a memoir and collection of essays. And I’m half-way through reading another book that I’m going to review once I’m done. Ah, yes, a blogger’s work is never done.

Book Review: The Princess Guide to Life by Rosie Blythe

25071062Just like a lot of people, I often feel a bit out of sorts in our mixed-up world. I can’t seem to get it together personally, professionally and romantically. So in these moments of confusion I make the decision to peruse self-help section of my favorite book store. I hope to find a nugget of wisdom to help me improve my lackluster life. But after a while, I fail to be inspired, and my romp in the self-help section turns to self-hate.

Women are constantly getting the message “Girl, You’re Doing it Wrong.” We fail to “act like a lady and think like a man.” We don’t follow the “rules, girl.” And Dr. Laura is not shy of telling us of the ten stupid things we’re doing to mess up our lives. Interestingly enough, dropping the N-word nearly a dozen times while talking to a black caller is not on the demented doctor’s list.

But I digress…

So after leaving the book shop, throwing my dainty hands in disgust, I shout to the heavens, “Is there a book that will truly help me without me ending up a petite ball of self-hate? Am I destined to be an utter failure as a woman?”

Well, thank goodness for Rosie Blythe and the kindness, decency and gentle “you go, girl” spirit she conveys in her book, The Princess Guide to Life. The Princess Guide is like having your best friend in your corner, and Ms. Blythe’s advice is comforting, not shaming and scolding.

Now at first, I bristled a bit at the Princess in the title. I couldn’t help think of spoiled, entitled and vapid divas-in-training who are obsessed with material items and think success should just be handed to them. Or misguided women who think taking selfies of their bottoms and posting them on Instagram should lead to fame and fortune instead of developing a talent or a skill.

And then I thought of Princess Leia from the iconic film series Star Wars, which shaped so many girls of my generation in positive way.

Fortunately, The Princess Guide to Life is more of the latter…and so much more.
The Princess Guide to Life is divided into several chapters on how to navigate our often befuddling and sometimes cruel world—personally, professionally and romantically. At the root at all of this is compassion; but just as all princesses exude compassion towards others, princesses most also show compassion towards themselves. Self-care, The Princess Guide to Life, reminds us is not selfish. It is anything but selfish.

After a brief introduction, Blythe offers sound, and often fun, advice, on how to Princess-up our lives whether it’s our personal fashion style, decorating our homes, nourishing our bodies or keeping our bodies fit. Blythe tells us Princesses follow their own instincts and preferences when honing our own unique style. Don’t blindly follow trends that don’t suit you. Yellow may be the on-trend color of the year, but if you’re more drawn to emerald green, then buy that emerald green clutch bag if that’s what you want.

A princess’s home is her castle, and we should also bring a unique sense of style to our abodes. Princesses make decorating choices that truly make their house a home, and also make visitors feel welcome.

When making food choices, princesses make smart, healthy and nutritious food choices, but an occasional indulgence is every princess’s right. And when it comes to exercise, princesses eschew the fitness regime du jour and choose workouts that suit their budget and bodies. For instance, if God intended me to run marathons, he’s put a TSE cashmere sweater at the finish line. I hate to run, but I could spend over an hour walking along Lake Michigan (fortunately I live only a few blocks away from the shores of Lake Michigan). I also love to dance, and a few years ago I discovered belly dancing. Belly dancing is truly empowering, and all women are beautiful when they belly dance.

Okay, the princess has taken care of her style, body and home. Now it’s time to craft the persona. Princesses never fail to remember their prestige as woman, being a lady is a good thing, the importance of maintaining a veil of mystery in a time of TMI, and how to network without being an obnoxious pain the arse. Princesses also know that one can be both a feminist and fully feminine. In the slightly altered words of the Helen Reddy classic, “I am woman ; hear me roar…now enjoy these sugar mint cookies I just made.”

In the stereotypical idea of a princess, awaits to be saved by Prince Charming. Well, in Blythe’s book a Princess adores a charming prince (or princess if that’s how she rolls) and saves her own damn self. A princess maintains her independence by honing her education, skills and experience via her career and strives to keep her finances fit as a fiddle.

But being a princess isn’t all work and no play. One of the most fun parts of The Princess Guide to Life is how we can use pop culture to further shape our lives. Blythe offers songs, movies, and books to suit every mood. Of course, Blythe’s picks are merely suggestions; they are not set in stone.

Finally, The Princess Guide to Life tells us of one particular day in the life of a princess and other princess-like ideas, advice, and suggestions to help us be the best we can be.

Not once while reading The Princess Guide did I feel like I was an ugly, stupid, lazy loser like most self-help books make me feel. Blythe’s book is fun, joyful and conveys a genuine sense of warmth and empathy for its reader. My copy is now dog-eared and covered in post-it notes so I can easily refer to Blythe’s comforting words of wisdom.

The Princess Guide to Life is the perfect tome and a very welcome addition to my book shelf. From the shores of Lake Michigan all the way to London, England, I’m sending Rosie Blythe royal wave of approval for writing a truly majestic labor of love.

Book Marks: Valentine’s Day Special

bell hooksTomorrow is Valentine’s day and because it is a day devoted to l’amour here are some lists of books that celebrate love, romance and lust. Read to your heart’s content.

Romance novels that do not suck.

Like a little black dress and a string of pearls, classic romance novels never go out of style.

Forget Fifty Shades of Grey (seriously, forget it); here are erotic novels to tickle all of your senses and then some.

 

 

 

Writer’s Block

meaningful-happy-new-year-wishes-messages-1Hello Readers and Happy New Year! I’d be remiss if I didn’t explain my absence from this blog. Once again the holiday season kept me very busy. I worked some overtime at the office due to some late year craziness and preparing for Christmas kept me out of the blogging loop.

However, a spanking new year is a time to refresh and regroup and that means new postings at The Book Self. I just finished a very interesting and eye-opening book, which is begging a good review. I’m going to start that review shortly and hopefully have my review up by next week.

I also have other books I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing on my list, and I’m constantly on the prowl to find new books and authors. I’m also thinking of other ideas on how to keep this blog exciting and fun to read. Look for further developments as 2015 proceeds.

Well, that’s about all for now. Once again, Happy New Year!!!