Comfort books

I’ve been in an Anne Shirley mood lately. For my long bus rides, I usually bring some kind of self-improvement or career-y type book. But because I’ve been easing up on the “go-go-go” mentality of squeezing in self-improvement books (see previous post) I’ve been reverting back to more comforting reads.

Like the Anne Shirley books, which I’ve conveniently got copies of in my Kindle.

I was trying to explain the appeal to S over the weekend. (I don’t think I succeeded.) Besides me adoring the books since I was 10 and the characters being super familiar, everything about the series seems so quaint and wholesome.

I was only around 12 when I started reading these books. Re-reading them decades later feels different. While L. M. Montgomery wrote about sad things – like World War I or personal tragedies, I know that times were much harder then and I’m only getting a romanticised version of things. But still — it fascinates me about the things that people are concerned about. I was reading Rainbow Valley a few days ago and in it, one of the characters talks about how important it was to her that she made her own bread, and what a big deal it was for the community to select a suitable minister. Anne’s children played in Rainbow Valley, a hollow where they would catch and cook fish, share stories (and poetry, occasionally) and chew spruce gums.

Anne was always held up as a particularly wholesome character. While (in the first few books) she might’ve tried bleaching our her freckles or dyeing her hair or wanting puffed sleeves, all in all, she wasn’t particularly vain. The lack of materialism, vanity and pettiness is something I really like (and aspire to). And I’m grateful despite going through the usual everyday stresses of living in this day and age, I know that life is full of these positive, Anne-ish experiences of being simply alive, enjoying the company of loved ones and friends, making things with my own hands, traipsing through nature (though harder to get to compared to the 1800s!) and looking at life with a sense of wonder and curiosity.

Where I try to pivot away from all the self-improvement stuff

Anyone who’d browse the yearly reading lists I used to post here would’ve noticed I had a penchant for self-improvement books. Books that told me how to stress less, age better, become minimalist, be happier and not be so distracted. After devouring those books, I’ve realised that they more or less say similar things, so I’m making a conscious effort to branch out to different genres.

These are my top three books in the “non-self-improvement category” for 2019 (so far):

Becoming” by Michelle Obama. I’m not the kind of person to have strong opinion about another country’s politics. When I picked up the book, I didn’t really know much about her. Other than her being the former President Obama’s wife, of course. But what an amazing read – inspiring and authentic. It humanised the strong, powerful image of the woman I’d been seeing on my TV and online. Even if you’re not particularly an Obama fan, I totally recommend this as a story of a woman coming into her own.

Early Riser” by Jasper Fforde. I’ve read all theThursday Next books and a few others. However, I stopped paying attention when “Shades of Grey” (not to be confused with the other Shades of Grey) wasn’t followed up with a sequel. I find his books formulaic, but what keeps drawing me in are the fantastical worlds he creates and the detail he puts into it. It’s enough like the normal world to seem familiar, but different enough to be amusing. I always love the footnotes he peppers throughout his books. And the wit.

This one’s about a world where humans hibernate over winter. That’s all I’m going to say.

The Tyrant’s Tomb” by Rick Riordan. Yes, I know this is a Young Adult novel. But I’ve been a fan of the Percy Jackson series and I’m not stopping now, if not to satisfy my “what-happens-next” curiosity. Just one more book left! (Unless he decides to come out with another series…)

I have to be careful about the fiction/non-fiction books I read. I like reading books as an escape, so I usually stay away from books that are set in the real world, if that makes sense. I don’t want to read about women trying to establish their careers or navigating relationships or any of that stuff that hits too close to my own personal experiences. Give me something otherworldly, I say. (Unless you’re Michelle Obama.)

You can take the girl out of Manila…

…but you can’t reeeeeally take Manila out of the girl.

Between the two of us, it’s usually S who does the cooking. Not only is he so much better at it, he also enjoys the process. I tend to do the baking, and things like smoothies, rice, setting the table and cleaning up after. 😛

It was a bit different last weekend because I volunteered to cook. And as it turns out, everything I did was Filipino-themed.

I made:

Chicken inasal. Twice. This is my favourite chicken dish ever. I/we’d tried a few recipes in the past from the Internet but they weren’t great. Fortunately, my brother gave me his recipe and it turned out really well. So well, we decided to have it for dinner on Sunday, too.

Green mango salad. Spotted some green mangoes at the grocer so decided to make a really simple one with mango, tomatoes, and onions to go with the inasal.

Ube crinkles. Crinkles aren’t a thing here so this was a two-in-one new experience for S. (I think I’d still have to make the standard chocolate ones though.) We bought ube at the Filo store and I was thinking of ways to use it up other than spooning it out from the jar.

I got the ube crinkles recipe from The Not So Creative Cook. The only thing I didn’t have was ube extract — I didn’t realise that was a thing.

There’s still plenty of ube left, so thinking about what else to make.

Mushroom chips. We love Mom’s Haus of Mushroom mushroom chips. Unfortunately, mushroom chips aren’t a thing here and we are down to the last packet.

I made some with this recipe, but with a lot more breading and garlic powder and paprika to flavour it a bit more. They tasted great out of the oven, unfortunately they became softer the next day. Planning to re-bake ’em to crisp them up again.

Calamansi things… I bought an entire packet of calamansi. Couldn’t help it when we spotted the bag at the Filo store. It was $7.50 for a Ziploc bag full. Now what to do with all the calamansi?

Day off!

One thing I like about my current job is how I can take flex days. If I work extra hours on most workdays, I can take a couple of days off each month. Because I’m used to working longer hours anyway, I’ve been taking three-day weekends twice a month.

It’s the best!

For example, when I go to Canberra for the weekend, I get to have two full days and take the bus back on Monday, instead of rushing around on Sunday afternoons.

Or cases like today, where I’ve had a sleep in, then got to do my life chores and life admin in a leisurely fashion. It’s great to finally knock of all these little tasks I’d been putting off since forever.

It’s also good to think about other things after running on autopilot most of the time. Mostly I’ve been thinking what it means to live a good life. I’ve been continuing to read about Stoicism and it’s inspiring me to consider how I spend my time and how I’d like to live my life.

I came across a version of the image below earlier this year, and I’ve been thinking of it ever since.

Don't complicate life

Simple things I’ve been grateful for lately:

  • Flex days, like this one (hehe)
  • Being able to snuggle into a cosy couch, with my laptop/journal, reading or writing with music playing in the background and a hot drink on the coffee table
  • Weekends filled with everyday errands, making and eating food, and relaxing
  • Hikes around national parks
  • Catch-ups and messaging sessions with friends
  • Using things up. (There are some things I like hoarding, like skincare and stationery, and I like how I’m finally using them up, haha! Makes me feel like I’m not being wasteful)
  • Living in a country where I can live a decent life without needing to make a ton of money.