Sunday, January 1, 2012

Of Books and Blogs: 10 Favorite "Building Blocks" for the New Year

To my awesome Readers, Family and Friends...

Happy 2012!!

Like most of us, I've been contemplating the new year and the fresh beginning it brings.  

There are many things I want to incorporate into my life (more social time for friends I don't get to see often), others I want to keep but just improve upon (eating more veggies), and some things I want to jettison (running ragged because I didn't prioritize my day well enough).  
But one good way to start 2012 is by sharing some of the wonderful sites I've come across, insightful sources of great information, food for thought, and just plain eye candy to inspire us to "live our best life" (as one of my favorite authors would say). We are all creative, no matter our profession, and we design our lives one goal and one day at a time.  Here are some of the building blocks in my life:
I treasure the knowledge and growth I have gained from these:

"Finding Your Own North Star"  by Martha Beck 

This book was so meaningful to me that I've given copies to my college-aged sons.  I wish I could describe it well enough to do it justice.  
I first ran across Martha Beck's writing in Oprah's magazine (she writes a monthly column).  I was so impressed I searched out her book (she's written several, but this is hands-down the best, in my opinion).  Beck's business is "life design" - and she has a real gift, I think.  She's as funny and profound as Elizabeth Gilbert of "Eat, Pray, Love" (another much-loved book).  If you pick up just one fresh read this year, choose this one.  So confident am I that you'll love it, I accept your thanks in advance.  ;)

"Mindset" by Carol Dweck

A useful little book, based upon the premise that we all tend to fall into one of two camps:  either we believe that our attributes are fixed and "just the way we are, like it or not", or we believe that we can grow and change in virtually any area.  Helps us switch from the former camp to the latter. 
Once you absorb the main point, the book gets a bit redundant, but I still highly recommend it.  It's particularly useful for parents (in fact, I first heard of it through a parents' group at my son's school).   If you've ever told yourself that you're "just not good at (fill in the blank)", this book is for you.

Okay, this book is not for everyone!  Winget has an abrasive, in-your-face style and doesn't sugar-coat anything.  But don't we all need someone to say "Get a grip!" now and then?  Read just a chapter or two and you'll be looking at your life through new eyes, without any of the usual lousy excuses we give ourselves for the current state of things.  (I just ordered two of his other books, just to keep myself on my toes.)  I think the kick-in-your pants truths of this book, plus the "Aha!" insights from Martha Beck's book, are the best way to start a new year.  In fact, I'll probably make it a tradition to reread these books every January.
I have other recommendations for other areas (finances, relationships), but these are my favorites for designing your life in a way that reflects the best of you.  Don't we all want that?

The topics are varied, but here's my sampling of blogs that are just so good, I make it a point to catch up whenever I've got some late-night time to relax and read.  If the books are foundational (in the "building blocks" metaphor), these blogs are like the "fun" parts of building a home - selecting the flooring, the paint colors, the light fixtures.  I believe they help make my life beautiful as well as functional:

Maria is a cute-and-perky interior designer in Vancouver who really knows her stuff.  She doesn't just put up dozens of pretty pictures, she explains the design principles behind them.  Maria's blogs on color have been so useful to me in my line of work.  And I love her enthusiasm for sharing, for helping fellow designers and bloggers with what she's learned. 
Hands-down the best fashion blog I've seen.  Stylist Angie Cox is to fashion blogging what the TLC show "What Not to Wear" (always worth watching!) is to TV.  Angie herself is absolutely adorable, with her blonde pixie cut, specs, and open smile.  (Plus I love that she so often wears flats, and looks great doing it  -  so refreshing in our "Real Housewives..." era.)  Her advice is worth paying money for  -  not that you have to, thanks to her great blog.
Another great fashion blog, although this one is less instructional than You Look Fab.  Except for Wendy's videos... Fabulous!  Her "25 Ways to Wear a Scarf, in less than 4.5 Minutes" video won me over.  Wendy is cute as a button, and her site has some great eye candy.  There's a link to her YouTube videos at the top of her blog.
I don't know how the author, Stacy Curran, has the time to compile all the great photos that she does.  Skimming through the dozens of fabulous interiors in each post is a great way to educate your eye on superb interior design.  Plus you might find a way to take care of that "problem room" in your house - we all have one!  (Mine's the dining room, it feels too empty...  One of my goals for 2012.)
I like Marsha's love of fashion and pretty things, her calmly enthusiastic writing style, and the great music she plays on her site!  Sometimes I'll open up her blog just to let the music filter through my sound system as I listen from the kitchen or living room.
Tish Jett is an American who has lived in Paris for twenty years now.  I love her posts on French women and lifestyles in general.  There is a grounded happiness and security in themselves that French women seem to have, which I find equally fascinating and elusive.  Tish makes it seem achievable, something we can aspire to in our own frenzied lives.
This visually-stunning blog is eye candy for a specialty painter like me.  I get so many great ideas just skimming the pictures, it actually makes me want to whip up some sample boards (a task I normally avoid).  Regina brings us examples of great decorative painting (what we used to call "faux finishing") and jaw-dropping murals from every era and every style.  Her blog is famous in the world of specialty painters, and justifiably so.

I'll list these, and other favorites, in my Blog List below, but I at least wanted to give you a teaser and explain why I thought each of these blogs, and books, were so worthwhile.  

One final thought...  

I am profoundly thankful for the life I have, and the people in it, each of whom are precious and irreplaceable.  

2011 has been a year of laying foundations and designing floor plans, metaphorically speaking.  

For 2012, I look forward to building and refining.   Please feel free to share any ideas, sources, and "building blocks" of your own!  We can all enrich each other.  :)

Here's to a Prosperous and Peaceful New Year!



  1. Thank you SO much for mentioning our blog, Fauxology, in your favorites! Plus, you gave me plenty of other blogs and books to discover. Happiness. I wish you the best for 2012 and look forward to keeping up with YOUR blog and projects. :)

  2. Thanks to Regina of Fauxology-
    I just discovered your blog, Lisa ,and i love the energy of it.
    Very casuyal and informative!
    You're on MY list for blog must reads.....

  3. Aw, thank you, Lyna! :) Your words touched me. And thank you as well, Regina - you're a treasure to all of us!

    Here's to a great 2012...