Hello world!

hello world Jess'Joys about

In this blog I share thoughts, information and advice on all the things that bring me joy. I’m looking to increase my physical and mental health, learning and laughing all the way.

After stumbling upon personal development in 2015, my life changed. I realised I wanted to test myself and live life with that little bit more joy in it.

In early 2016 I left my career to travel the world and became a yoga teacher along the way. Now back in my home town of Glasgow, Scotland, I’m exploring what a new lifestyle might look like. So far, that has involved yet more travel and the launch of my marketing consultancy for life coaches. I use my skills to share word of their skills. I am very happy to know that means helping more people get involved in personal development and en route to uncover their joie de vivre.

If you’re interested in enjoying a healthy and happy life, please take a read and join in the conversation. I would love to hear from you!

Spinach and cheese muffin recipe

Spinach and Cheese Muffin Recipe

After the delicious results of my last foray into savoury muffins, I thought I’d try my luck again when baking for my book club. I was not disappointed. I adapted a recipe from BabyBistro, adding some flavour from Green Kitchen Stories, and everyone seemed happy!

Without further ado, here is the recipe!

Spinach and cheese muffin recipe close up

Spinach and Cheese Muffin Recipe

Makes approximately 9 muffins

Ingredients:

  • Half an onion, grated/finely chopped
  • 175g wholemeal flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 110ml milk
  • 100g grated cheese (I used cheddar)
  • 3 handfuls of spinach leaves (I used frozen leaves)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Grease muffin molds
  3. Mix together flour, baking soda, pepper and nutmeg.
  4. Add the egg and the milk and mix well.
  5. Add the spinach leaves, cheese and onion and combine.
  6. Share evenly between muffin molds and bake for 15 minutes. They may need some extra time – use the age-old trick of sticking a knife in to see if it comes out clean. This means they’re ready.  They should be starting to golden.
  7. Leave to cool (if you can wait that long).

The muffins can be frozen (if you have any left!).

Enjoy!

30 Days of Wellness Jess May Yoga

30 Days of Wellness Challenge!

Have you been scrimping on your self-care? Want to feel top notch after a cold, dark winter? Then this challenge is for you. But let’s be clear – for the sake of self-care there will be no losers here. Every step you take towards looking after yourself better is a WIN, whether it’s one or thirty.

Created for busy bees and hard workers

This challenge came about due to my involvement with the fantastic Side Hustlers’ Haven group on Facebook. As all the members are working hard to make their dreams come true, the group’s creator, super-coach Tracey Minutolo, and I decided they might need a reminder to take some time for TLC. So I created thirty. 30!

A wholehearted challenge

I believe in living a wholesome, holistic life. Therefore this challenge offers tasks relating to thinking, feeling, doing and consuming. Addressing all of these points together makes a huge impact on our overall wellbeing – our physical and mental health. The best part about working on our wellbeing is that the positive results flow over into other areas of life. If you feel on top form then you’ll have more time and energy to give to the things you care about. Like your side hustle. Like your family. It’s all about the joie de vivre.

The 30 Days of Wellness Challenge

So let’s not keep you waiting any longer – here are your challenges!

30 days of wellness challenge

This challenge has been created to run through April 2017, so if you’re ready to start with us, you’ll see that I’ve tried to make the tasks relevant to the days of the week. HOWEVER! Don’t let a late start put you off – you can do this challenge anytime. Please note also that I’m not a doctor so you take part at your own risk. Speak to your doctor if you have any concerns 🙂

Day 1 – SMILE!

This challenge just so happens to be starting on April Fools’ Day so what better day to make sure you get smiling?! Sometimes we get so serious juggling our to-do items that we can go for hours without smiling (or even more than hours!). Smiling releases ‘happy hormones’ serotonin and endorphins, and endorphins have the added benefit of fighting pain too. The best bit? You don’t actually need to FEEL happy to reap the benefits of smiling. You just have to make the expression and the magic will start. So whether you watch hilarious dog videos (yeah, I said that!) or stick a pencil between your teeth, start smiling more today.

Day 2 – Try a new recipe

Don’t let a lack of skills in the kitchen lead you to eat unhealthy takeaways, ready meals, or even store bought cakes and candy. You deserve better than that! Cooking and baking can be fun, used to occupy children, used as the basis of a blog post and is often a great way to save money. Check out my Pinterest boards if you want some inspiration, or let me know in the comments!

Day 3 – Stretch

You couldn’t expect a yoga teacher to talk for long about wellness without mentioning yoga right?!  Don’t worry – I’m not making you sign up to a class. Simply taking a moment to stretch in bed when you wake up and after your feet have hit the floor first thing can help prevent injury, sustain mobility and get the blood flowing. If you need encouragement, check out some simple stretches on YouTube.

Day 4 – Drink water

Get headaches? Feel sleepy? Have dry skin? Smelly breath? Your water intake could be to blame. Consult a doctor if you have concerns, but in the meantime, start drinking more water-at least a couple of litres a day. Aaaaaaannnnnddddd water means plain water, with no added artificial sweeteners or sugar. If you aren’t used to the natural taste, try adding slices of lemon, mint, strawberries or cucumber to liven things. This adds nutrients too!

Day 5 – Send a love note

Studies have shown that expressing your love and gratitude to others actually boosts your own feelings of happiness. Bonus! Whether you send an email, message or an actual note, let someone know why they are special to you today.

Day 6 – Shake it off

Don’t let others bring you down. Or rather – don’t drive yourself crazy Facebook stalking people who seem to have their shit together (comparison) and try not to dwell on constructive feedback while thinking that the provider hates you. Put on some Taylor Swift and ‘Shake It Off’. Other less awesome music also accepted…

Day 7 – Feel good not guilty

If you have decided that you love nothing more than ordering a pizza on a Friday night, don’t let a generalisation that it’s ‘bad’ ruin the experience for you. Be happy that you are eating something you find delicious. By convincing yourself that you are being ‘bad’, you’re just stressing yourself out. And stress makes you store calories. No food is inherently good or bad. Strive to eat a variety of things and not too much. But most importantly, own your decisions, live by your own standards and enjoy every moment of your day.

Day 8 – Get out and about

Today is all about pushing yourself to fit in a little more activity and variety than usual. Whether it’s strolling around the mall while catching up with a friend, visiting a local park or even just walking to buy milk, make today a little different and get out and about.

Day 9 – Declutter

One thing that has really helped me to be more organised is to have less stuff. Less stuff means things look nicer in my wardrobe, I can access everything in my tiny kitchen without having to move other objects out of the way and I know where everything is. It also means cleaning takes no time at all which I LOVE. There are loads of blogs about minimalism out there, and I’m a huge fan of Marie Kondo, but just do what feels right for you. Start with your wallet or magazine rack.

Day 10 – Be grateful

Hopefully writing a love note warmed you up for this one. For one day and one day only, make gratitude your focus. Yes, practicing daily gratitude has huge psychological benefits but I promised this challenge would be kind. Just for today, thank your light for turning on, your kettle for your cups of tea (yes I’m British!) and your colleague for helping you find a file, and see how you feel.

Day 11 – Pre-bed yoga

If you’re reading this during the day, set an alarm on your phone to go off a few minutes before your desired bedtime. When it goes off you’ll know it’s time for some really easy pre-bed stretches and some time out. Put on some gentle music or enjoy the silence while you stretch. I love this bedtime sequence on LiveStrong.

Day 12 – Meditate

I am not going to pretend that I am any sort of devout meditation guru. I usually only meditate at the end of my yoga practice or if I’m really stressed out (yeah, typical!). However, it’s proven to be good you and it’s definitely one of the tips that can benefit lots of areas of life. So let’s try it together. 5 minutes? 10 minutes? You decide. You can use an app like Calm or listen to this soothing 15-minute Self Esteem meditation. Or just set a timer for a few minutes and dive in. Counting your breath can help keep your monkey-mind focused and sometimes I say to myself ‘I am’ while inhaling and say ‘calm and relaxed’ on the exhale. Just play about with it.

Day 13 – Try a new snack

I am a big snacker. I just KNOW that I won’t get through the afternoon without getting peckish. Since I know this, there really is no excuse for me not to be prepared with something yummy and not unhealthy. If you’re the same, I challenge you to try a new snack today. I recently made some cheese and spinach savoury muffins that were delicious and also some homemade wholemeal cinnamon and raisin bread that tastes amazing with peanut butter (and stops me eating bagels) but a different shop bought snack is also fine. Let me know what you tried!

Day 14 – Dance about

Do you work from home? I do, and during the winter I found it quite difficult to leave the house without good reason (blame Scottish weather). This encouraged me to get creative about getting enough movement into my day. Because we all know (or should) that exercise makes the blood flow and increases oxygen, which turns us into brainstorming, efficient machines. By creative I mean I found a good song on Spotify and jumped and wiggled my way around the room like a numpty (technical term). But it felt good! I even laughed at myself! Go on, give it a go! Bonus points if you actually go to a class or dance in public!

Day 15 – Cuddle

Who doesn’t love a cuddle? Spend time with loved ones and make sure to give them an extra special big hug. Or give a hello hug to a new friend. Or get all cosy and give YOURSELF a big hug for just being wonderful you.

Day 16 – Plan your meals

A huge amount of money goes straight into landfill each year when we buy food that we don’t eat. Just once, try planning a week’s worth of meals and see how it affects your wallet and stomach.

Day 17 – Listen to some inspiration

Hands up if you love podcasts? I’m a bit of an addict and have written several blog posts about my favourite. If you haven’t tried them yet, have a listen today and see whether you learn something or get some inspiration. My favourites at the moment are probably the Optimal Living Daily family of podcasts. There is one on general life, one that focusses on health, one on personal finance and one on start-ups (perfect for group entrepreneurs!).

Day 18 – Tidy up

Hopefully you took the ‘declutter’ task to heart and will find today’s challenge really easy. Now you have a bit less stuff it should be easier to organise what you have left. If you come across anything that doesn’t bring you joy and you can’t remember when you last used it, ditch it. If it’s something that you forgot you had but think is useful, make a pledge to use it now. This has helped me get to grips with my stash of gift bags and rolls of gift wrap, and several kitchen implements that I never used. Put your back into this exercise and it also counts as…exercise! Fun music or a great podcast also helps.

Day 19 – Get sweaty

You might have ticked this one off yesterday with your cleaning mission but even so, make time today to get sweaty. I’m not going to tell you how – more living room dancing, a gym class, hauling trash out or…whatever you fancy! Just remember that your body needs and loves movement. It is the natural state for us, and any discomfort we have is the fault of the sedentary lifestyle we’ve led, not the fact we’re finally getting moving. Just make sure to contact a doctor first if you have any concerns.

Day 20 – Try pomodoros

Have you tried using the pomodoro technique? This is a system created by Francesco Cirillo to help you focus. You set a timer for 25 minutes, spend that time in focused work, and when it goes off you have 5 minutes ‘off’. The idea is that you can get a lot done in this way and I must say I agree. With all the distractions that are available on a computer, it’s so hard to stay on task. But by knowing that it’s only for 25 minutes, it’s easier to focus and ignore the draw of Facebook. You can go there once the timer goes off. The other wellness benefit of this system is that you can use the 5 minutes between sessions to get up and move your body. By doing this, even just in this 5 minute pause, you can reduce your risk of diabetes and obesity. Worth it I’d say!

Day 21 – Have a laugh

We practiced smiling on day one but now it’s time to take it up a notch. Work your apps, your facial muscles, let those endorphins rush and serotonin levels peak. Laugh your head off. I found this video of an owl hilarious. But whatever works for you 🙂 Let me know what does as I’m always looking for suggestions! PS who doesn’t want an excuse to watch funny videos?! It’s for a wellness challenge!

Day 22 – Cook without sugar or salt

I know this may sound like sacrilege to many but the problem is, we are being acclimatised to an unhealthy amount of salt and sugar in prepared foods. One way to reset your palate is to cook yourself without sugar or salt. It might taste bland at first but fear not – you adapt! Our current diets are causing major health problems and it’s time for us to fight back. Guidelines say no more than 6g of salt and 30g of sugar per day. Just for today, keep track and see how your intake compares. Get in control of this and you reduce your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. A HUGE wellness win!

Day 23 – Plan for wellness

Today is a day to think about what makes you happy and feel ‘well’ and make sure it is in your schedule for the week ahead. If you really want to go for it, try Danielle LaPorte’s ‘Desire Map‘ exercise which drills down into ‘how you want to feel’. Then schedule an activity that gets you feeling it.

Day 24 – Pick up a book

Read to learn, read to relax, but pick up a book today. Ideally take your eyes away from a screen but the most important thing is to sink into a good story that distracts you or bask in the wisdom of a knowledgeable non-fiction. Check out my reading list for some inspiration!

Day 25 – Ditch the soda

This challenge builds on your efforts to drink more water and cut sugar and salt. Drinks can have so many hidden nasties in them, read the nutritional information on whatever your go-to tipple is and see how it weighs up on the health stakes. Don’t let a drink be the downfall of your healthy lifestyle, even if the branding implies it’s healthy!

Day 26 – Journal

There is no doubt that those who seek clarity on what they have done and plan to do, do well. Journaling can help with this. Whether you write a gratitude journal, try free writing or just note what’s on your mind, giving yourself time and space for reflection is what today’s task is all about.

Day 27 – 3 body weight exercises

Body weight exercises are THE BEST. By building muscle we burn more calories (hurrah!) and these exercises are free and adaptable. Try any 3 today, as many times as you can. That’s it!

Day 28 – Try a healthy option

Eating out today? Try a healthy option. Going for drinks? We don’t need to be saintly to make slightly healthier choices. A common recommendation is to check the menu of a restaurant before you go and then make your mind up before you’re a) starving b) seduced by an alternative. If you’re eating at home, can you get creative or make informed health choices today? One of my favourite meals just now is homemade pizza. We make a wholemeal dough and put on SO MANY yummy toppings. It’s still an indulgent meal but I have no doubt it’s healthier than takeaway. Plus it definitely tastes better. Let me know what you try!

Day 29 – Adventure!

It is said that ‘variety is the spice of life’ so let’s get adventuring! How can you be adventurous today? Whether it’s what you do, eat, where you go…just have fun. Adventuring helps us to gain confidence. Adventuring with your partner or a friend will encourage bonding. Enjoy!

Day 30 – Love on yourself

We’ve made it to day 30! Go team! I hope you are feeling more than ‘well’, I hope you feel fantastic! And to thank yourself for all the effort you’ve put in I want you to love on yourself. Have a bath, watch your favourite movie, write a list of your good points and put it where you’ll see it to remember how blooming fantastic you are. Because you stepped up for your mind, body and spirit and committed to this 30 days of wellness challenge and you reached the end. *virtual hug!*

Go forth and feel well

Whether you take these ideas forward and keep focusing on optimising your physical and mental health or you get distracted, just keep loving yourself. That is the number 1 thing we can do for our wellbeing, and that’s what I wish for us all. I do hope you’ve had fun and keep dancing about though…

Happier at Home Jessica Constable blog

Highlights from Happier at Home by Gretchin Rubin

“To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends” Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, No 68

When a book starts with a quote of that caliber, you know you are in for a good read. After LOVING Gretchen’s book,  The Happiness ProjectI couldn’t help but dive right into Happier at Home. This was probably a mistake. I overloaded on Gretchen’s happiness wisdom! But…it was still a good read. The book takes place 5 years after Gretchen’s original project and this time focusses more on her home life. I may have been slightly put off by the pedestal Gretchen puts her relationship with her husband on (although…awwww) but there are still a load of gems of wisdom in there. So many in fact that I’m just going to lay a few out here. Fill your cup with beautiful words…then get the book 🙂

Those without a name are Gretchen’s own.

Happier Quotes

Home is “something you somehow haven’t to deserve” Robert Frost

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy

“Sometimes words only diminish what I want to convey.”

“It isn’t enough to love; we must prove it.” Saint Therese de Lisieux

“Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult.” Samual Johnson

“If you’re willing to take the blame when you deserve it, people will give you the responsibility.” Jack Craft (Gretchen’s dad)

“We get healthy self-esteem from behaving in ways that we find worthy of our own respect – such as helping other people.”

“On the whole, tho’ I never arrived at Perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining it, but fell far short of it, yet as I was by the Endeavor a better and a happier Man than I otherwise should have been, if I had not attempted it.” Benjamin Franklin

“If something’s important to me, I should reserve time for it in my schedule, make a place for it in my home, and build relationships around it.”

“I thought how breathtaking, how fleeting, how precious was my ordinary day. Now is now. Here is my treasure.”

Gretchen’s Five Fateful Questions for decision making

“What am I waiting for?

What would I do if I wasn’t scared?

What steps would make things easier?

What would I do if I had all the time and money in the world?

If I were looking back at this decision, 5 years on, what will I wish I’d done?”

 

Gretchen’s 8 Splendid Truths

“First: To be happy, I need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.

Second: One of the best ways to make myself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy myself.

Third: The days are long, but the years are short.

Fourth: I’m not happy unless I think I’m happy.

Fifth: I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature.

Sixth: The only person I can change is myself

Seventh: Happy people make people happy, but I can’t make someone be happy, and no one else can make me happy.

Eigth: Now is now.

Final words

I hope you enjoyed those. I recommend just reading them again. GEMS! Let me know if you’ve read the book, have a favourite quote from above, or if you have any recommendations for me.

Jess May Yoga Jessica May Constable blog

Yoga in the Complete Wellness Experience Facebook group

Last year a friend asked if I’d contribute to a Facebook group she runs called the Complete Wellness Experience. This was a big challenge as I’d never videoed myself before (and obviously had a lot to learn)!  I present each Wednesday with a yoga tip for ‘Wellness Wednesday’.

I’m sharing my introduction here and will get the other videos up and available to you shortly. If you can’t wait, check out my Youtube channel.

I hope they are of use to you. Enjoy!

the month of january jessica may constable blog

The Month of January

The post is inspired by a post from the fab blog, Reynolds Made. I thought the idea of reflecting over past months would be a useful way to see how I spent my time and track growth over the year. I then got distracted and never got round to posting this! But rather than delete it, I’m posting it now. I really look forward to looking back over the year in this way and also taking the time to take stock as the year passes. So here goes!

What I did in January…

Started blogging more

This wasn’t that hard since I was posting sporadically at best. However, somehow the social side of blogging became visible to me and I’ve been encouraged by other bloggers like Reynolds Made and DeviseCreateConcoct to get involved and share more. And I’ve been enjoying the process!

Did a workshop on desire mapping by Danielle LaPorte

I loved this innovative, heart-centred goal setting process and wrote the blog post ‘How do you want to feel?‘ about it if you want to learn more.

Tried daily habits

To get our year off on the right track, my kind and willing boyfriend Philippe and I decided on several tasks that we would do each day for a month. We printed out a chart from Productive Flourishing with 5 tasks each and stuck it on our fridge. Each day we marked whether we had completed the action or not, and could add notes. I found this technique pretty effective, at least when it came to reminding me to do something I really thought it worthwhile to do. I walked 10,000 steps a day, even when I had to jog on the spot through half a movie to do it, I did a handstand every day, and I’m proud to say that flossing is still a nightly occurrence for me. However, writing a daily ‘to do’ and ‘to done’ list never really stuck. I might return to this technique in the future when I feel the need for a bit of an overhaul though.

Cadence and I Month of January

Made my sister’s birthday present

I used the website Tuxpi to crop 40 pictures of my sister and me over the years for her 40th birthday gift.  I then organised them to fit an A4 frame and printed it for her birthday gift. She (and therefore I) was really happy with it! 🙂 Above is out first photo together which went at the beginning of the page.

Taught yoga

After qualifying as a yoga instructor last year I did a lot of traveling and never settled into regularly teaching yoga. With the new year I realised that that was STUPID and so started to look for opportunities to teach. The stars aligned when my neighbours said they were looking to try yoga and I taught them in my flat! We had a lot of fun and I got to finally put my skills to use.

Sang in a choir

As part of the Desire Map process, I realised I wanted to sing more. I looked for local options and ended up at a Rock Choir practice. It was great fun! I luckily ended up by a fantastic singer who helped me to lock down the harmonies, and it was just a lovely experience. Although I haven’t been back (it’s not cheap!), it is going on my list of things to do once I’m back in regular employment. The experience has encouraged me to sing loud and proud to musicals in my kitchen several times though, and that is definitely a win.

All in all…

January was a full on month. After starting the year as we always do with Philippe’s family in France (the cover photo is the sunset of 2016 over the Mediterranean), our arrival back in Glasgow prompted a refocus on what we want to achieve this year. I tried lots of new things and was so happy to meet lots of nice people at various meet ups. The challenge would be to kee up momentum…

Has anyone else done a monthly summary? I’m going to try and get a quick February one done soon so I’m in a good position to get March’s out on time. Wish me luck!

 

happiness project - be happier

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I absolutely loved the book ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin. Funny, thought provoking, informative, useful and inspiring, it provided everything I want in a self-help book.

The book charts a year in the life of Rubin as she tries to make herself happier. Along the way, she deals with issues such as ‘is it selfish to want to be happier when you aren’t miserable?’ which highlight how good this book is for the majority of the population. Rubin believes that by becoming more aware of what makes you happy, you can make yourself that bit happier even when times are hard. And by striving to make yourself happier, you are likely improving the lives of those around you too.

Happier Relationships

When focussing on relationships, the goals of ‘stop nagging’ and ‘stop demanding praise especially when you don’t give it’ spoke to me. Another point of interest was the description of the ‘fundamental attribution error’. This is a psychological phenomenon where we view other people’s actions as reflections of their characters while overlooking the power of situations in influencing their actions. Whereas in with ourselves we recognise the pressures of circumstance. For example, how often do you take someone snapping at you personally, yet expect others to realise that you are snapping just because you are hangry?

Happier Choices

This book also reminded me of Barry Schwarz’s ‘paradox of choice’ and the terms ‘satisficer’ and maximiser’. I need to get that book onto my reading list! Since I haven’t read it you can read Rubin writing about it on her blog.

Being Happier is a Challenge

On the very nature of being happy, I found a wealth of insight in Rubin’s discourse. As a person who strives to be optimistic (or a positive realist as I like to call it), yet receives sarcastic criticism for it,  I also saw truth in the following observances:

“people cultivate unhappiness as a way to control others. They cling to unhappiness because without it they’d forgo the special consideration that unhappiness secures; the claim to pity and attention.”

“The belief that unhappiness is selfless and happiness is selfish is misguided. It’s more selfless to act happy. It takes energy, generosity and discipline to be unfailingly lighthearted, yet everyone takes the happy person for granted. No one is careful of his feelings or tries to keep his spirits high. He seems self-sufficient; he becomes a cushion for others.” and further, “Because she seemed so happy, they assumed that her behaviour was effortless.”

These points vocalised why I get so frustrated by office moaning every Monday. It creates a mountain for every cheery person to climb each time you meet a colleague in the kitchen. And fitting into the norm of responding that you are ‘not bad’ to every ‘how are you’ can bring the brightest optimist down. I will strive to be more aware of my own language in future to buoy other ‘happy’ people.

Other quotes I liked:

“I think by knowing who we are as people and being ourselves, we can start making the world better.”

I hope that you grab ‘The Happiness Project’ next time you visit the library. If you’ve read it, please share your thoughts, or let me know if there is something else I need to add to my reading list. I’ve just started reading the follow up ‘Happier at Home’ which might be overkill…but I don’t care! Check out the rest of my reading list for other recommendations!

 

My Reading List 2017

I’ve been keeping a note of books I’ve read, films I’ve seen and shows I’ve watched for years and love looking back at what I’ve encountered. I hope some of these recommendations (or warnings!) will come in use to you.

I read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction (mainly personal development) books. Any books that I’ve written more about will be hyperlinked, and I’ll keep updating throughout the year. Enjoy!

April

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt 9/10

Happiness by Design – Peter Dolan 10/10

March

Spark Joy – Marie Kondo – 9/10 (Sequel to the amazing The Life Charging Magic of  Tidying)

Golden Hill – Francis Spufford – 8/10

Happier at Home – Gretchen Rubin – 8/10 (Follow on of The Happiness Project)

The Chimp Paradox – Steven Peters 10/10

Stumbling on Happiness – Daniel Gilbert 10/10

Architecture of Happiness – Alain de Bottom 4/10

February

Creativity, Inc. – Ed Catmull – 8/10 (Leadership and creativity)

Mindwise – Nicholas Epley – 7/10 (Understanding the mind)

I Heart Me –  David R. Hamilton – 6/10 (Nurturing self-love)

Nora Webster – Colm Toibin – 7/10

The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin – 10/10 (could not have loved this more!)

January

Days Without End – Sebastian Barry – 10/10

The Universe Has Your Back – Gabriel Bernstein – 5/10 (Laws of Attraction)

Under a Pole Star – Stef Penney – 8/10

Rising Strong – Brene Brown – 8/10 (Overcoming shame and problems)

Mindwise jessicamayconstable blog

Mindwise – a book about understanding the mind

Mindwise by Nicholas Epley has a very long, but compelling, subtitle; “How we understand what others think, believe, feel and want”. At first glance, it seems to promise a lot. Until you realise the book is about how we try to understand but usually fail. Don’t expect to come away a mind reader. Rather you will be humbled by your own ineptitude.

Renowned psychologist Epley shows us that we are pretty much incapable of understanding anyone, even ourselves. It seems we are fantastic at convincing ourselves that we know another person or people, but most often we do not. A particular example highlights the disparity between how much you know your partner and how much you think you know your partner. Eye opening to say the least!

My favourite quotes

“Nobody waves, but almost everybody waves back.” (Strive to be an initiator in life!)

and

“You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realise how seldom they do.” From David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest.

I really like Epley’s writing style. He combines humour and research studies in a way that I did not think was possible. Reading this book can make us a little wiser.

My score: 7/10

Frugal Valentine's Millionaire Shortbread

Frugal Valentine’s Millionaire Shortbread

How do frugal minimalist health foodies celebrate Valentine’s Day? By making Frugal Valentine’s Millionaire Shortbread of course! Encouraged by the lovely Devise. Create. Concoct. blog, I’m sharing how I celebrated Valentine’s this year.

Firstly, mwey partner and I had some fun in our local supermarket while shopping. I stopped Philippe in front of the big stand of Valentine’s day cards and ‘gave’ him one…it of course had minions on it (longstanding joke around Philippe’s love of Despicable Me). He then selected one for me which had a dog cartoon on it (apt!) but without realising that inside it also showed the cartoon dog being glued to his iPad (even apter!). So we had a laugh, put the cards back and went on our merry way. I recommend trying this to those who don’t have the cash or desire to buy a card but like the sentiment.

Secondly, I finally got round to making Millionaire Shortbread for Philippe. He absolutely LOVES this stuff. So much so that when I first made it for him, he put it in his breakfast bowl, covered it in muesli and added milk. And happily devoured it all! (I blame his being French for this sweet tooth.) 

But little did I know that I had created a monster, not happy with store bought or cafe varieties, only wanting my homemade concoctions. He preferred how I would use coconut oil instead of butter in the base and how I would sometimes throw nuts in with the caramel. Well, who wouldn’t?! However, I wasn’t happy about the calorie count of condensed milk, or about the amount of sugar that is added to most Millionaire Shortbread recipes, so I went on the hunt for a healthier recipe. 

Enter the Oh Happy Veggie no bake millionaire shortbread recipe and the Goodness Guru BILLIONAIRE shortbread recipe. Although I didn’t follow either here precisely, if you’re into following recipes then I would give these ago. I will summarise my even-more-frugal, Valentine’s special version here.

Frugal Valentine's Millionaire Shortbread heart

Frugal Valentine’s Millionaire Shortbread

Makes one 9″ by 6″ tray, plus a 3″ tall heart (I told you this would be random!)

Ingredients:

For the base: 200g of leftover Christmas Danish biscuits (any plain biscuit/shortbread will do), 50g mix of almonds and oats. Enough melted coconut oil to stick all biscuit mix together; approx. 4tbsp.

For the caramel: 1 cup plus a few dates, soaked for 20 mins in warm water then scooped into the blender + 1/2 cup of that water. 2 tbsp coconut oil. 4 tbsp 100% peanut butter. Pinch of salt.

For the chocolate topping: Approx 200g of any random chocolate you have lying around. I used Christmas brussel sprout milk chocolates and some 100% cocoa chocolate.

If you’re still with me…here are the directions:

For the base: Blitz the dry ingredients in a blender (or chop and crush them) then mix with melted coconut oil. Pat into tin/casserole dish (no need for grease paper in my experience). Put in freezer for about 20 minutes to set.

For the healthy caramel: Put all ingredients in the blender. Add water slowly so that you can make sure that the mix is smooth but not runny. Pour on top of the biscuit base, smoothing into a layer, and return to the freezer. Spend next 20 minutes scooping and devouring all the remaining mixture out of blender…

For the topping: For once I actually did this the proper way, placing my chocolates into a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water. And of course it worked amazingly well. I’m so lazy… Once its all melted and combined, spread the melted chocolate over the caramel layer in the pan and return it to the freezer for as long as you can manage not to eat it!

Et voila! You will now have a delicious yet pretty healthy and basically free Millionaire Shortbread! Mine came straight out of the casserole when I turned it upside down, but if that doesn’t work, ease a knife around the edges to loosen it.

As a bonus, follow all the above instructions but use a silicon heart instead of a tin. It looks so cute, and is that little bit more special for Valentine’s Day!

I hope you enjoyed the recipe! If you want any more healthy meals, head on over to my Pinterest as I am quite obsessed.

I’d love to know what other frugal people and minimalists got up to this Valentine’s Day – did you do anything extra or just share some free hugs? Let me know!