This & That: December 22, 2023
Friday December 22, 2023

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I began ever so gradually making my way through French philosopher Michel Montaigne’s many essays last year, and while I still have a long way to go, Sarah Bakewell’s book How to Live looks like a wonderful companion piece and even more approachable to entice me to read the aforementioned essays even more swiftly than I am.

Published just over ten years ago, the book won the Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and guided by a multiple of existential questions that ultimately lead to the guiding question, How to Live, “How to get along with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love—such questions arise in most people’s lives, [t]hey are all versions of a bigger question: How do you live? [Thus the title] This question obsessed Renaissance writers, none more than Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, considered by many to be the first truly modern individual. He wrote free-roaming explorations of his thoughts and experience, unlike anything written before. More than four hundred years later, Montaigne’s honesty and charm still draw people to him. Readers come to him in search of companionship, wisdom, and entertainment —and in search of themselves. Just as they will to this spirited and singular biography.”

The guiding question Danny Dover presents to readers as he shares in his book The Minimalist Mindset is “What Would You Focus On If You Were No Longer Weighed Down By Your Unwanted Responsibilities?” And it certainly begs an answer from each of us as what we discover to be our truth will certainly be priceless insight into our next life steps.

“If you want to add something meaningful to your life, like traveling to exotic places, composing beautiful music, or experiencing a new friendship in a foreign language, you will need to figure out how to eliminate other things from your daily routine. Your time and money are not infinite so if you want to add something important to your life, there is no way to avoid removing something else.

” . . . The Minimalist Mindset is a book about a down and dirty process you can use to make deliberate decisions about how to prioritize how you live your life. This book walks you through the habits you can implement to consistently make realistic and sustainable trade-offs so that you can prioritize your passions and retake your freedom.”

Published last month by award winning author Maggie Jackson, Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure is “a revolutionary guide to flourishing in times of flux and angst by harnessing the overlooked power of our uncertainty . . . a scientific adventure tale set on the front lines of a volatile era, this epiphany of a book by award-winning author Maggie Jackson shows us how to skillfully confront the unexpected and the unknown, and how to harness not-knowing in the service of wisdom, invention, mutual understanding, and resilience . . . In laboratories, political campaigns, and on the frontiers of artificial intelligence, Jackson meets the pioneers decoding the surprising gifts of being unsure. Each chapter examines a mode of uncertainty-in-action, from creative reverie to the dissent that spurs team success. Step by step, the art and science of uncertainty reveal being unsure as a skill set for incisive thinking and day-to-day flourishing.”

Embracing of uncertainty plays a significant and underlying role in the practice of mindfulness, so I look forward to picking up a copy of this book and exploring what Jackson has to share.

Madame Blanc Mysteries’s Christmas Special, season 3

If you live in the UK, good news! The British cosy mystery series set in France Madame Blanc Mysteries will be airing their latest Christmas special today (the 22nd)! And if you will be watching on AcornTV, look for it to air just after Christmas on the 26th. And similar to the schedule of last year’s season 2, the third season of the series will begin to air in January.

Yet another Agatha Christie caper has been adapted, and this time it is Murder is Easy. Airing on BBC One on the 27th and 28th of December, look for it soon in the states either on BritBox or AcornTV. Have a look at the trailer below. This adaptation looks mighty well done with a stellar cast.

The Savoy at Christmas, PBS

I want to thank TSLL reader Judy for bringing this special to my attention that just began airing on PBS states across the country. Having watched the episode that documented The Savoy hotel in London, I had yet to watch the holiday episode that covers the staff working during Christmas and New Years in 2019, just months before the pandemic began.

Watching closely, it was interesting to take note that an entire remodel/redecorating of the Savoy Grill must have taken place since I visited this past fall because the fabrics and light fixtures are entirely different now than seen in the episode (see here as I thoroughly enjoyed my time and meal at this special restaurant back in October).

I sat down and enjoyed watching The Savoy at Christmas as they spotlight some special guests which made it all the more personal.

Sister Boniface’s Christmas Special

Thank you to another TSLL reader, Michelle! for alerting me to the new (and first!) Christmas Special of Sister Boniface. Learning about it on Sunday thanks to Michelle’s comment about how she was enjoying her weekend, I too sat down Sunday night and watched this episode and enjoyed it quite a bit. Taking inspiration from classic Agatha Christie capers (you will no doubt know which ones when you start watching), there is much fun, quite a bit of sleuthing, and of course, a festive atmosphere. Look for it on BritBox now with Season 2 (the last episode listed for this season).

The Boys in the Boat

Based on a true story adapted from Daniel James Brown’s bestselling book The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, the film of the same name is available in theaters on Christmas Day, and it looks to be worth seeing in the theater.

Directed by George Clooney, the film is about the 1936 University of Washington rowing team that competed for gold at the Summer Olympics in Berlin. This inspirational true story follows a group of underdogs at the height of the Great Depression as they are thrust into the spotlight and take on elite rivals from around the world. Have a look at the trailer below and be inspired to pursue what you or others may errantly presume isn’t possible.

The Color Purple

Also opening on Christmas Day is the new adaptation of The Color Purple. Produced by Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones and Steven Spielberg, this well-known story returns to our screens to remind us of the power of resilience in spite of hardships as it follows the life of Celie over the span of 40 years who “ultimately finds extraordinary strength and hope in the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood. Starring Fantasia Barrino as Celie alongside Taraji P. Henson and Danielle Brooks, have a look at the trailer below.

Freud’s Last Session

Being released today, Freud’s Last Session is “set on the eve of the Second World War, two of the greatest minds of the twentieth century, C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud converge for their own personal battle over the existence of God. The film interweaves the lives of Freud and Lewis, past, present, and through fantasy, bursting from the confines of Freud’s study on a dynamic journey.” Have a look at the trailer below.


The film that is receiving high praise from critics and has already won many awards, Memory, starring Peter Sarsgaard and Jessica Chastain tells a story that I doubt many can predict as to how it will unfold. “Sylvia is a social worker who leads a simple and structured life. This is blown open when Saul follows her home from their high school reunion. Their surprise encounter will profoundly impact both of them as they open the door to the past.” Have a look at the trailer to see what I mean, as initially you think this is going to be a psychological mind-trip (not my type of film), but then you continue to watch the trailer, and you begin to discover, that this is far more relationship and character-focused and that is what will keep you watching. Beautifully acted, Sarsgaard has already won best acting awards for his role, and Chastain is always a delight to see on screen. In theaters beginning today.

Released on December 12th, Chateau Reawakening tells the true story of the highs and lows of one couple’s journey to save an eighteenth century French chateau. “When former Australian politician Tim Holding and his fiancee Felicity Selkirk discovered a crumbling French chateau just south of the Loire Valley, they could not have imagined the crazy adventure that would follow.”

If you love art, specifically van Gogh’s art and his intriguing life story, I think you too, along with the thousands of positive reviews, will enjoy this novel inspired by the life of van Gogh’s sister-in-law, Johanna Monger.

“When Hollywood auctioneer Emsley Wilson finds her famous grandmother’s diary while cleaning out her New York brownstone, the pages are full of surprises. The first surprise is, the diary isn’t her grandmother’s. It belongs to Johanna Bonger, Vincent van Gogh’s sister-in-law.

“Johanna inherited Vincent van Gogh’s paintings. They were all she had, and they weren’t worth anything. She was a 28 year old widow with a baby in the 1800s, without any means of supporting herself, living in Paris where she barely spoke the language. Yet she managed to introduce Vincent’s legacy to the world.”

And another novel, this one entirely set in France, but not historically inspired, might just be the fun read you are looking for this holiday season. Will There Be Wine? Landing in Paris with her then husband prompted by a career-defining job for her, Austen Keller soon becomes divorced which wasn’t what she had anticipated, yet there she was (in Paris)—pushing 40 and starting over.

“A decade after she’d last been single, Austen enters the dating scene playing by a new set of rules in a different language, culture, and lingerie standards. She experiences every type of miserable first date imaginable and lives to tell the tales of Pierre the Mansplainer, Simon the Snoozer, Emile the Over-Sharer, Guillaume of the Gym Shorts, and many more. On most dates, she struggles to get past one glass of Bordeaux without wanting to bolt. Even worse, no one chases after her when she runs. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that whoever said French men were romantic deserves a swift kick in the pants.”

The end-of-sales have begun! And Banana Republic Factory is slashing prices again! This coat immediately caught my eye, and I have also shopped a few other items below, but be sure to shop the entire site because on top of 50% off, when you spend more than $100, you save an additional 20%. Significant savings indeed.



The Citizenry Sangeet Linen Napkins, four colors

Having beautiful, yet understated napkins on hand for any occasions is never a bad idea, and these are made of durable, yet soft fabric, linen, and available in four different neutral, yet statement making hues with a touch of detail for a signature touch. Handmade in India, and while not on sale, these will never go out of style.

Sangeet Linen Napkins Charcoal 4.jpg

In December’s Outfits of the Month, I included designer finds that were on sale in the three outfits, some of the items from Net-a-Porter, and wanted to make sure to shop a bit more for you, as again, if you know what you need for your wardrobe, there are wonderful deals to be found.

One item that is not on sale, but I took note of are these gondola inspired velvet slippers. For between $95-105, this classic, yet slim style will keep your toes warm, but also offer style. I have been looking for a pair in a color that works to my taste for a while, and at a decent price, and these fit the bill.

Vibi Venezia velvet slippers (multiple colors)

But back to the sale! There are some wonderful shoes from Tod’s (see below), as well as many knits, totes and more. Be sure to check them out and save up to 50% off.



The blue sky greeted us yesterday morning, and so did the geese and ducks as they began their day on Mirror Pond in downtown Bend. With a touch of frost, the park offered its unique beauty to savor, and with the fresh air to begin the day, all began very well.

And so the holiday weekend begins, and I hope you are able to take some time off, enjoy sharing time with those you love, sitting down to savor delicious fare and quenching concoctions and overall just having a very merry time of it all.

As per tradition here on TSLL blog, the final week of the year is a week I take off from sharing new content, so this is the last This & That of 2023; HOWEVER, as is also tradition, the final week of the year is a time to stop by and discover the top posts and episodes shared during the past 12 months in a variety of categories as I have already written and queued up 10 posts for you to enjoy during the Week Between the Years. Beginning on Tuesday December 26th two posts will be shared each day through Saturday the 30th beginning with My Favorite Books of 2023. I do hope you will stop by and enjoy exploring what other readers have loved and perhaps catching a post or two you missed.

If you are a weekly newsletter subscriber, the next weekly newsletter (after today’s) will return again on the first Friday of January 2024, but if you are a monthly newsletter subscriber, look for a new delivery on the final day of December in just over a week’s time.

I will return sharing new content on the blog Monday January 1st with a Monday Motivational post to kick off the new year well, and also, as it is the first, A Cuppa Moments w/Shannon (video chat) will be shared for TOP Tier Members.

Speaking of TSLL Members, thank you to all of the new members who have chosen to join TSLL Community and enable unlimited reading of the blog. Whether you have chosen BASIC or TOP Tier, your support and interest in TSLL makes a difference and is very much appreciated.

You may have noticed that the new paywall has decreased to two complimentary posts for non-members, and remember to take advantage of the low price of BASIC Membership ($2.50/mo) through January 3rd because on January 4th the prices permanently go up to $4.50/month. Learn more about the current prices and all of the benefits here, along with unlimited reading of TSLL. (Learn more about these two changes and why they are going into place in this detailed post.)

Now to quite a few festive posts and articles and one romping heck of a good time video that will definitely plop you right into the festive holiday spirit if you aren’t there just yet. Wishing you a most merry and joy-filled holiday over the coming 10 days savoring whichever holiday traditions you hold dear. From Bend to wherever you find yourself in our grand world, thank you for stopping by during this bustling time of year, and Joyeuse Fêtes et jusqu’à l’année prochaine !

First, to pair with Wednesday’s podcast episode (#371 – Savoring a Quiet Christmas, Simple, yet Significant – some gentle holiday (non-lyrical) music to listen to as you peruse the articles shared below, “Driving Home for Christmas”.

~Christmas in the Cotswolds. Take a tour of the holiday light decorations that definitely are something special.

~Perhaps you receive or write round robins as your version of the annual holiday card sent to family and friends. The Financial Times writes a fun article in defense of them.

~A trip down memory lane: Paris in the 60s, 70s and 80s [The Earful Tower]

~Food for thought – Focusing attention is a skill. [Seth Godin]

~Mark your calendars! Bridgerton’s season 3 is now officially scheduled to premiere on May 16th! Have a look at the trailer revealed so far.

~What is a true testament of courage as we step into a new year? Marie Forleo is on to something.

~What to do in your garden in December [H&G UK]

~The 17 Best Christmas Markets in France [Frenchly]

~Kelly Clarkson is a HUGE fan of Cher’s new Christmas song on the recently released album, and gave it a go, and I think she rivals Cher’s performance, or at least stands toe-to-toe with her. Have a watch and listen to DJ Play A Christmas Song performed by Kelly Clarkson.

~The fairy tale French lake town known as the “Venice of the Alps” [House & Garden UK]

~French Christmas Traditions, a festive cultural guide [Frenchly]

~Explore the Christmas markets along the Rhine River [NYTimes, gift link]

~With a fondness for the Lake District, and also traditional English cozy décor, this 17th century farmhouse situated in the Lake District caught my eye immediately. [H&G UK]

~Let’s conclude the final This & That of 2023 on an upbeat, rollicking good note with Hannah Waddingham singing with Sam Ryder, “Run, Run Rudolph” for the Home for Christmas special available to watch in full on AppleTV+.


~~Please note: TSLL is supported by you, readers who take the time to stop by (merci!), peruse and sometimes welcome into your life mentioned and recommended finds. Affiliate links are present in today’s post and may earn commissions for TSLL when you purchase. View TSLL’s full Privacy Policy here.

14 thoughts on “This & That: December 22, 2023

  1. Dear Shannon, I just wanted to pop on here on this final post of This & That for 2023 and say “THANK YOU” for another wonderful year filled with so much valuable content for us to savor. I so appreciate the way you guide us, inform us, teach us, and entertain us. There is a certain harmony you bring to everything you share that provides us with the essential conditions we need for life and growth. I wish you a restful, peaceful and joy filled Christmas and Between the Years week. I look forward to 2024 and all that TSLL has in store for us! Sending lots of cuddles to the pups!! 🥰
    PS. I cannot wait to watch Freud’s Last Session! In my opinion, having Anthony Hopkins portray Freud is simply genius!

    1. Dani,

      Oh my goodness.😌 Thank you for your comment. Your kind words and thoughtfulness are so very much appreciated. I am so grateful for TSLL community and you are a significant part of it. Thank you for bringing you to this space.💛 And I absolutely agree with you on the casting choice for Freud’s Last Session! The film looks intriguing indeed. Thank you again for stopping by.

  2. Happy end of the year post Shannon, and happy holidays!
    As usual, lots to read and many other goodies to peruse. I am very interested in seeing the film “The Boys in the Boat”. I had read the book about ten years ago, and thought it was excellent. I hope the film is just as good. I will definitely look forward to seeing all the films you listed especially “Freud’s Last Session”. It sounds very intriguing. Thank you Shannon for another wonderful year of TSLL. May you and your sweet pups have a peaceful and cozy Christmas and New Year. Virtual hugs ~Karen

    1. Karen,

      Thank you for stopping! So tickled you found items that caught your interest! I think Boys in the Boat will inspire me to go to the theater this coming week and appreciate your sharing you enjoyed the book. Wishing you most cozy and lovely Christmas! Thank you for the kind words and *hugs*! ☺️💛

  3. Happy Christmas, Shannon! Thanks for all T & T along the year. It makes Friday always nice and special. 🙂

    What caught my eye today:
    – The Boys on the Boat – read the book, want to see the film 🙂
    – The Colour Purple – I am curious to watch this rendition, because the first one was perfection…
    – Freud’s Last Session – promises to be a treat, with Anthony Hopkins as Freud, well, that is a genius take of casting, for sure…

    And the beautiful photo of the duck by the pond – so calm!

    Between Christmas and the New Year, I plan to take myself some time to read all the TSLL posts that I have not yet managed to catch up with, sooo you might notice some random comments here and there – but no matter, please take your time to fully rest and relax! 🙂

    Many hugs and cuddles to Nelle and Norman! Please let them know how much joy they bring to the life of a middle age woman from the other side of the big Ocean… 🙂

    Happy New Year, everyone! Let it be a year of Hope!

    1. Isabel,

      Thank you for the new year wishes of determined hope! Yes! And thank you for your lovely Christmas card you sent my way which arrived this week. It was deeply appreciated and I am so grateful for your presence and engagement in TSLL Community. Wishing you a most cozy and love-filled Christmas and time to savor relaxing and exploring during the Time Between the Years. 😌💛

  4. Hi Shannon,
    Thank you for filling 2023 with warmth, grace and hope!
    Your tireless work to create simply luxury for us is inspiring.
    Happy Holidays to you and your spectacular pups and looking forward to your words of inspiration and delight in 2024!
    Warm regards,

    1. Kim,

      Thank you! You have truly no idea how much your kind words mean and to read them yesterday while I was bustling about on the road brought a smile to my face and a calm to the moment. Thank you for stopping by and sharing them. 😌💛
      Happy holidays to you as well and may 2024 be all you hope it to be and more. ❤️

  5. Good morning Shannon, Merry Christmas and wishing you all good things in 2024. With so much to be thankful for, you are on my list. Thank you for all your inspiring posts.

    1. Thank you Nancy! Grateful for you and your engagement and kindness shared and given here in TSLL community. So happy to hear you have much to be grateful for! That is definitely something to celebrate as we conclude 2023 and step forth to what we will find to be a wonderful 2024 if we choose to make it so! All my best. 💛😌

  6. Thank you for a wonderful final T&T Shannon.
    Many suggestions caught my eye, but particularly I think The Boys in the Boat will have to be a “between the years” viewing, and Will There Be Wine sounds like a fun read.
    Thank you for all the wonderful content you have shared with us this year, and also a wonderful memory made with our trip to The Ritz.
    Wishing you, and all TSLL readers who celebrate, a wonderful Christmas and all the best for 2024.

    1. Sarah,

      One of the highlights of the year was the gathering for tea with you and fellow TSLL members at the Ritz. So grateful this was possible for us all. And I think I will be doing the same, watching The Boys in the Boat during Between the Years. Looks to be full of inspiration to take with us into 2024. 😌

  7. Good Morning, Shannon!

    I am having a wee lie-in this morning and catching up on all this week’s content. Between the new job and all the festivities of the season, I have not had time to do much else so this is a real treat.

    I will be watching Madame Blanc today in between cooking for tomorrow’s Christmas dinner. I am so pleased that you enjoyed Sister Boniface’s Christmas Special. I recognized the similarities to MOTOE but thought they did an outstanding job of making it their own. Thank you for sharing The Boys In The Boat which has led to my now having plans to go to the cinema on Boxing Day. Who knows, now that the kids are grown, it may have given me a new tradition to enjoy. Freud’s Last Session does look intriguing. I also want to watch The Reluctant Convert starring All Creatures Great And Small’s Nicholas Ralph after enjoying some of Lewis’ writings. It should be insightful to hear the two different sides to this “argument”. And doesn’t Memory look good, although I may have to watch it later at home with tissue nearby? Will There Be Wine appears to be a fun read. Have you watched Archie on BritBox yet? I am curious about the life of Cary Grant. They are also airing some of his most popular releases and a Cary Grant binge day sounds like just the ticket.

    I have been enjoying Driving Home For Christmas all season, and loved….loved…loved Hannah Waddingham’s Christmas Special.

    Well, I better get to cooking now. I hope you and the pups have a most relaxing and enjoyable holiday season. Thank you for so much wonderful information and insight during 2023 and I am looking forward to 2024 with TSLL.


  8. Just want to pop in & wish you, Norman & Nelle the best of Christmases, Shannon. And to add my thanks to the others here for helping make 2023 a thoroughly enjoyable year with your wisdom, insights & all the treasures you share with us (I swear your book recommendations make up over half my To Read list!). Also an update on the Grasmere Gingerbread. I’m making a second pan of it today — the first batch disappeared so quickly it was like a mirage. I forgot to buy crystalized ginger so just upped the amount of ground ginger & it is delicious!

    We’ve opted out of the big family Christmas again this year & are spending it alone with the cat, & plan on doing very little beyond sitting in front of the fire reading, drinking tea, eating gingerbread (& some potent little rum balls — I don’t know what I did when I made them this year, but, wow, are they strong!). We’re looking forward to long walks & at least one drive up into the mountains to play in the snow (none here at all so far), a lot of movies & lazing around. The turkey’s ready to go, the tourtière for NY eve is made, the Brussels sprouts are trimmed . . . 🙂

    Merry Christmas, everyone. And may 2024 be a magical year for all!

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