This & That: December 18, 2020

Dec 18, 2020

You have 4 free post views remaining this month.

Become a subscriber and view posts without restrictions.

Oodles and oodles of books on all sorts of wonderful topics – cheese, wintering, snuggling in, Paris, Shakespeare and more. Music from Melody Gardot, two films receiving great acclaim and Oscar-worthy buzz, holiday music and lovely touches for the home. And of course, much more. 🙂


Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Repeatedly included on the best lists for Top Fiction in 2020, Hamnet is set in “1580’s England, during the Black Plague. A young Latin tutor falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman . . . Agnes. Once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose career on the London stage is taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever.” Yep, that young husband of hers would be William Shakespeare, and Hamnet is their young son who died at the age of 11. I am most intrigued and look forward to picking up this novel soon.

The Little Book fo Life Skills: Deal with Dinner, Manage Your Email, Make a Graceful Exit and 152 Other Expert Tricks by Erin Zammett Ruddy

Released this past September, “whether you need advice on how to end an argument, iron a shirt, or keep your inbox under control, Erin Zammett Ruddy has spoken to experts including Rachael Ray, Dr. Oz, Arianna Huffington, and condensed their wisdom into easy to follow steps for all of life’s simple and not-so-simple tasks, such as: 

  • Working from Home Effectively
  • Keeping a Houseplant Alive
  • Giving Constructive Feedback
  • Arranging the Perfect Cheese Board, and many more

The Little Book of Life Skills offers simple strategies for being better grown-ups.” Perhaps a wonderful book to help begin better as we step in 2021.”

Mindful Thoughts At Home: Finding Heart in the Home by Kate Peers

An engaging guide filled will illustrations, discover how “the layout, ambiance, and décor in your home can offer a perfect complement to the sense of wellness that mindfulness creates. Containing 25 thoughts that let you use mindfulness to improve your living space, from decorating and cleaning to how to harness the light during the day and sleep more comfortably at night, learn how to create a delightful and comfortable environment that will enrich your life and soul.”

The New Rules of Cheese by Anne Saxelby

I immediately became excited when I discovered this title while reading my Sunday New York Times – “This richly illustrated book from a lauded cheesemonger—perfect for all cheese fans, from newcomers to experts—teaches you how to make a stylish cheese platter, repurpose nibs and bits of leftover cheese into something delicious, and expand your cheese palate and taste cheeses properly. Alongside the history and fundamentals of cheese-making, you’ll even learn why cheese is actually good for you (and doesn’t make you fat!), find enlightenment on the great dairy debate—pasteurized versus not pasteurized—and improve your cheese vocabulary with a handy lexicon chart.”

Overstated: A Coast-to-Coast Roast of the 50 States by Colin Quinn

If you are ready for a good laugh at every state in America. If you are ready to not be so intensely focused on the news, yet are fully aware of what is in the news when it comes to the politics of the United States (or know someone who is), pick up comedian Colin Quinn’s new book Overstated. Recommended in NPR’s year-end Book Concierge – the Best Books of 2020, I am most curious to hear what he has to say about Oregon. I can only guess. 🙂

A comedian respected by Jerry Seinfeld and other top talents in the field, Quinn, a “social commentator, and writer and star of Red State Blue State and Unconstitutional, calls us out state-by-state, from Connecticut to Hawaii. He identifies the hypocrisies inherent in what we claim to believe and what we actually do. Within a framework of big-picture thinking about systems of government―after all, how would you put this country together if you started from scratch today?―to dead-on observations about the quirks and vibes of the citizens in each region,Overstated skewers us all: red, blue, and purple. It’s ultimately infused with the same blend of optimism and practicality that sparked the U.S. into being.”

The Paper Solution: What to Shred, What to Save and How to Stop It From Taking Over Your Life by Lisa Woodruff

Described as the Marie Kondo of paper, from the “founder of Organize365 Lisa Woodruff delivers a proven, step-by-step guide for what to shred, what to save, and how to sort what’s left behind. With her method, you’ll learn: 

  What documents you must absolutely hold on to
  Which papers you can dispose of today
  How to ditch your bulky filing cabinets and make your vital documents accessible and portable 

And at the heart of it all is the Sunday Basket: a box that sits on your counter and corrals those stray bills, forms, coupons, and scraps into an easy-to-use paper-management system. The Sunday Basket will become your new weekly habit–one that leads to less paper, less stress, and more time to spend on the things (and people) that matter most.”

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

Highly recommended by Elizabeth Gilbert, and now a bestseller, Wintering is “a moving personal narrative shot through with lessons from literature, mythology, and the natural world, May’s story offers instruction on the transformative power of rest and retreat. Illumination emerges from many sources: solstice celebrations and dormice hibernation, C.S. Lewis and Sylvia Plath, swimming in icy waters and sailing arctic seas.”

British Find

Mapp & Lucia (2014 comedy series)

Looking for a cosy, light-hearted movie or show earlier this week, I was searching through BritBox and stumbled upon the comedy series Mapp & Lucia. And did I find a lovely show AND new British comedy novel series. British novelist E. F. Benson penned 12 novels in this series which tells the comedic relationship set in a quaint coastal English village between two women – the visitor and vacationer – Lucia; and the homeowner of a gorgeous abode and lovely English garden – Miss Elizabeth Mapp. The novels were also brought to the screen in a two season series in 1994 (more episodes than the 2014 version), and the most recent was the one I enjoyed – three episodes – and the setting is just as lovely as the plot. Have a look at the trailer below.

~Shop the first book in the series here.


Vintage English 19th c. Brass Candlesticks

I happen to been gifted years ago a set of three graduating brass candlesticks from my mother. I did not realize how lucky I was until I grew up and saw how expensive as well as difficult to discover these treasures can be. Finding sturdy, well-made brass candlesticks are a simple way to bring a touch of luxury and cozy function to the home to create a warm inviting space. This set of three is rather affordable compared to others and are traditional in their design.


The Father

Premiering this weekend and available wherever you stream your favorite films, Anthony Hopkins stars in The Father. Olivia Colman (The Crown and The Favourite) stars alongside Anthony as his daughter from whom he “refuses all assistance as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality.” Have a look at the trailer below. The film is already receiving Oscar buzz.

Ma Rainey’s Black BBottom, Netflix

Also receiving MUCH Oscar buzz and for all sorts of worthwhile reasons is Denzel Washington’s production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom starring Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman. Premiering this weekend on Netflix (available to view now), have a look at the trailer below and enjoy. 🙂

Francophile Find

Melody Gardot in Concert in Paris

Melody Gardot’s latest album was immediately a favorite of mine this fall (shared as a Petit Plaisir in episode #292) and many of TSLL readers as well from what I heard. 🙂 She steps on to the stage in Paris for a live concert (taped for our viewing now), and you too can enjoy it.

My Stylish French Box, February 2021 Theme Revealed!

Sharon Santoni continues to outdo herself with each seasonal box delivery to her subscribers, and February’s will, to my delight, be a French Country Kitchen theme! Be sure to subscribe to ensure you are able to receive this delivery when it arrives in February as there are a limited number of boxes available.

Perestroika in Paris: A Novel by Jane Smiley

Just released and already a bestseller, Pulitzer Prize-winning and best-selling author Jane Smiley writes an “imaginative story of three extraordinary animals–and a young boy–whose lives intersect in Paris. Set just before Christmas, “Paras, short for ‘Perestroika,’ is a spirited racehorse at a racetrack west of Paris. One afternoon at dusk, she finds the door of her stall open and–she’s a curious filly–wanders all the way to the City of Light. She’s dazzled and often mystified by the sights, sounds, and smells around her, but she isn’t afraid. 

“Soon she meets an elegant dog, a German shorthaired pointer named Frida, who knows how to get by without attracting the attention of suspicious Parisians. Paras and Frida coexist for a time in the city’s lush green spaces, nourished by Frida’s strategic trips to the vegetable market. They keep company with two irrepressible ducks and an opinionated raven. But then Paras meets a human boy, Etienne, and discovers a new, otherworldly part of Paris: the ivy-walled house where the boy and his nearly-one-hundred-year-old great-grandmother live in seclusion. “

Trudon candles, Christmas collection

While I will admit, I have not had the pleasure to enjoy a Trudon candle in my home, such a treasure is a luxury to savor indeed. Their Christmas collection is worth exploring and perfect as a special gift for the Francophile on your list. With scents such as Gourmand Chimney Fire, Firewood and spicy notes and Christmas Tree just to name a few, I know what I am putting on my dream wish list for next year. 😉


Boston Pops 2020 Holiday Celebration Concert

If you are missing your Christmas concerts in-person this season, why not pay for a ticket to enjoy the Boston Pops Holiday Celebration Concert? For $30, join thousands of others around the globe tuning in on December 20th.

~recipe for Merveilles (French Christmas Cookie) from A Garden for the House blog~

The holiday winter break begins here in Oregon and that means two full weeks off to celebrate, play in the snow and reset for what I am determined will be a magical new year. The boys joined me in my classroom yesterday, and we had a great time (well, they napped, but I sincerely enjoyed knowing their heartbeats were nearby). Another fellow teacher brought his pup as well, and they all had a playful hello party while we caught up and wished each other holiday well wishes. Perhaps that is the perk in all that is not perky about online teaching and not being able to have students in the building. 🙂

I am looking forward to bringing positive closure to this last school week of 2020 work with homemade Tomato Soup (this recipe looks scrumptious) and a lovely grilled cheese sandwich made of crusty artisan bread and a favorite cheese. But rest assured, next week here on TSLL blog is a regular week of new posts and a new podcast episode and the monthly delivery of the free monthly newsletter (Friday Dec. 25th), so be sure to stop by.

Speaking of weeks on the blog, this past week brought the most viewed cooking episode with the first-ever Holiday Baking episode of The Simply Luxurious Kitchen, and Wednesday’s Money post, requested by readers, was one to check out as one arena of our lives to explore as we make sure 2021 sees us making progress from a year that wasn’t as we had hoped. Also requested by readers was this week’s new podcast episode – focusing entirely on how to create your own personal privacy approach as a necessity for a life of contentment.

And look for a new post tomorrow – the monthly Saturday Ponderings . . . post which will have a bit of holiday theme (become a TOP Tier subscriber to view).

I want to thank you for stopping by TSLL. I do hope you are finding a way to make a most wonderful holiday season. It is absolutely possible, and there are so many small daily moments to savor and be grateful for if only we just look for them. Until tomorrow, bonne journée.

—Thoroughly enjoyed this article and am dreaming of residing there in my dreams someday (completely agree with so many points, especially #7, #9 and #10 and most especially, #17 :)). 18 ways eating and drinking habits change when you move to France [The Local]

At Home with White Company’s founder Chrissie Rucker [House & Garden UK]

—Will Nancy Meyers direct and write a new film? Check out this detailed interview where she is blatantly honest about many things [Vulture]

Why we should get excited for an Introvert Holiday This Season [Introvert, Dear]

This is Your Skin on Stress (and how to remedy it) [The New York Times]

How lockdown is being lifted in France [BBC]

—Speaking of Meyers, let her inspire your time in lockdown at home [Vulture]

French President Macron contracts Covid19 just as the country comes out its second lockdown [Financial Times]. View here on France 24.

16 Bedtime Rituals Creatives Swear By [My Domaine]

—Good news! The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season 4 will be returning. Learn more about when and and to expect [Town & Country]

25 lessons of effortless style from Jane Birkin [Veranda]

—I always appreciated British mystery writer John le Carré’s talent (and his personal backstory is intriguing as well being a spy himself for a time). His passing was jarring, but his novels will always remain. Start with this one. [The New Yorker]

—If you will be alone during the holidays, here are a few ideas for making it this solitary holiday one to enjoy [The Wall Street Journal]

This won’t surprise you, but Paris is one of the world’s most walkable cities [The Local]

—I would be remiss if I didn’t share this article as well from The Local Why Americans still love Paris so much

—Let’s end on a film to look forward to watching in early 2021. Michelle Pfieffer stars in French Exit. Critics are raving about her performance which closed out the New York Film Festival this past fall. Have a look (I will be certain to share in a future T & T the week it premieres.)

13 thoughts on “This & That: December 18, 2020

  1. Bonjour, Shannon,

    I too saw the NYT recommendation of Wintering. With your encouragement today, it is now on its way for post-Christmas enjoyment. I usually make the MFCH February box my personal birthday box and to have it be a French Kitchen-themed boxed is beyond wonderful this time.

    Wishing you & yours, along with Oscar & Norman, all the safest and best this holiday season.

    1. Jan,

      Good morning and thank you for stopping by! Oh, I do hope you enjoy. It looks like a lovely seasonal and timely read for this particular year. Wishing you a wonderful weekend. 😌💛

  2. You filled the post with lots of goodies! Thank you! My book club just finished Hamnet in August. Excellent!

  3. Shannon, lots of excellent recommendations. Hamnet is an incredibly powerful book and I would recommend having a tissue handy. I haven’t read Wintering yet but I did hear the author being interviewed on the Tea and Tattle podcast earlier this year. I think you would enjoy it. Mapp and Lucia is also a favourite and so funny. Thank you for all your excellent recommendations.

  4. Hi Shannon! As usual, your “This & That” is chocked full of good stuff. I truly look forward to it every week. May I offer a little “This & That” for your boys? … If you’re ever looking for healthy treats for the boys, check out Wiley’s Treats/Eco Paws ( It’s a small, privately owned local business in San Francisco. I’ve been ordering these for years & my pups loved them … super healthy, clean & human-grade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *