This & That: December 24, 2021
Friday December 24, 2021

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Whether you are reading this on our regular Friday meeting to keep you in the know and introduce you to special finds I cannot wait to share, or after Christmas presents have been opened this weekend as you snuggle in and slow down on Saturday afternoon or Sunday, I do hope you enjoy discovering many Francophile series premieres becoming available, one British series that is receiving high praise as well as two different truly luxurious robes to scoop up, books on a vast array of topics that are already best sellers, and so much more.


Best American Travel Writing (2021), intro by Padma Lakshima

I came across this book last weekend while holiday shopping in Bend, and as someone who hasn’t stepped foot on a plane since 2019, there is a constant ache until I board my first flight. “‘The beauty of good writing is that it transports the reader inside another person’s experience in some other physical place and culture,’ writes Padma Lakshmi in her introduction, ‘and, at its best, evokes a palpable feeling of being in a specific moment in time and space.’ The essays in this year’s Best American Travel Writing are an antidote to the isolation of the year 2020, giving us views into experiences unlike our own and taking us on journeys we could not take ourselves. From the lively music of West Africa, to the rich culinary traditions of Muslims in Northwest China, to the thrill of a hunt in Alaska, this collection is a treasure trove of diverse places and cultures, providing the comfort, excitement, and joy of feeling elsewhere.”

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow

Released in November and already a bestseller, Graeber and Wengrow share “a dramatically new understanding of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution―from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of the state, democracy, and inequality―and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation.”

Matrix: A Novel by Lauren Groff

Another book released this fall that is also already a best seller and is a finalist for books of the year 2021, Lauren Groff’s Matrix is set in England and centers around a “cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, deemed too coarse and rough-hewn for marriage or courtly life, seventeen-year-old Marie de France is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey, its nuns on the brink of starvation and beset by disease.”

Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova

Released in November and yet another best seller already, Harvard-trained and neuroscientist Lisa Genova “delves into how memories are made and how we retrieve them. You’ll learn whether forgotten memories are temporarily inaccessible or erased forever and why some memories are built to exist for only a few seconds (like a passcode) while others can last a lifetime (your wedding day). You’ll come to appreciate the clear distinction between normal forgetting (where you parked your car) and forgetting due to Alzheimer’s (that you own a car). And you’ll see how memory is profoundly impacted by meaning, emotion, sleep, stress, and context. Once you understand the language of memory and how it functions, its incredible strengths and maddening weaknesses, its natural vulnerabilities and potential superpowers, you can both vastly improve your ability to remember and feel less rattled when you inevitably forget.”

The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live by Danielle Dreilinger

I happened to listen to an interview with the author earlier this year when The Secret History of Home Economics was released and was immediately intrigued. Described as “the surprising, often fiercely feminist, always fascinating, yet barely known, history of home economics”, The term “home economics” may conjure traumatic memories of lopsided hand-sewn pillows or sunken muffins, common conception obscures the story of the revolutionary science of better living. The field exploded opportunities for women in the twentieth century by reducing domestic work and providing jobs as professors, engineers, chemists, and businesspeople. And it has something to teach us today.” I look forward to reading this book, and appreciating the intentions of the founders of home economics so women could live the lives they desired to live.

The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning by Paul Bloom

I will be honest, when I learned of Paul Bloom’s book, its focus sounded quite similar to Susan Cain’s much anticipated book coming out in April 2022, Bittersweet. However, the more information and research to explore, the better. “Drawing on groundbreaking findings from psychology and brain science, The Sweet Spot shows how the right kind of suffering sets the stage for enhanced pleasure. Pain can distract us from our anxieties and help us transcend the self. Choosing to suffer can serve social goals; it can display how tough we are or, conversely, can function as a cry for help. Feelings of fear and sadness are part of the pleasure of immersing ourselves in play and fantasy and can provide certain moral satisfactions. And effort, struggle, and difficulty can, in the right contexts, lead to the joys of mastery and flow.”

British Finds


Having premiered yesterday on the 23rd, Vigil is receiving strong reviews. Look on Peacock streaming service now for the full six episodes of the first season, and listen to Fresh Air’s review of BBC’s Vigil to be further intrigued. The trailer is below. I will be watching.


Bread Book: Ideas and Innovations from the Future of Grain, Flour and Fermentation by Chad Robertson with Jennifer Latham

The owner of Tartine in San Francisco Chad Robertson and the director of bread Jennifer Latham , have a new book – Bread Book. Having visited their bakery and restaurant in 2019, I cannot wait to return – oh my, the croissants and pain aux chocolat! “In Bread Book, Robertson and Latham, explain how high-quality, sustainable, locally sourced grain and flours respond to hydration and fermentation to make great bread even better. Experienced bakers and novices will find Robertson’s and Latham’s primers on grain, flour, sourdough starter, leaven, discard starter, and factoring dough formulas refreshingly easy to understand and use. 

“With sixteen brilliant formulas for naturally leavened doughs—including country bread (now reengineered), rustic baguettes, flatbreads, rolls, pizza, and vegan and gluten-free loaves, plus tortillas, crackers, and fermented pasta made with discarded sourdough starter—Bread Book is the wild-yeast baker ’s flight plan for a voyage into the future of exceptional bread.”


—Style Comfort Home: How to Find Your Style and Decorate for Happiness and Ease by Andrew Howard

Released in September, interior designer Andrew Howard aims to find “a middle ground between DIY and high design. ‘I want people to know there are things they can do right now to improve how they live, from placing the furniture in a way that is conducive to good conversation, to choosing the best paint colors, to finding art and accessories that make a house feel more like a home. These are all things that don’t have to cost a lot of money but can drastically change a space. There are so many easy, achievable, economical ways to make your home look great, and in this book I’m excited to share all I know about that with my readers.’”

Francophile Finds

The Art of Crime, S’5

Yes, it is true! A new season is coming. Look for Season 5 of L’art du Crime on December 28th! TSLL takes next week off when it comes to new content, so I didn’t want you to miss this release on Tuesday. Needless to say, during the one week of the year I take some time to myself, I will be watching and escaping to Paris vicariously as I watch this new season. I cannot wait!

Candice Renoir, S’3 on AcornTV

Speaking of escaping to France, finally, finally, finally, AcornTV is releasing Season 3 of the cozy mystery series Candice Renoir. While there are many more seasons that have been shared in France, beyond the Gallic country so many of us love, we have to be more patient . . . but not for long. Look for Season 3 to be available on AcornTV on December 27th. Next week is going to be quite sweet indeed when it comes to Francophile favorite pastimes. 🙂

The Hook Up Plan, Season 3

And it just gets better! Season 3 of The Hook of Plan will premiere on Netflix on January 1st!!!!!


Eva Solo Teabag

Last weekend during my local holiday shopping outing I came across the Eva Solo teabags. Reusuable and neat to clean and use, I refrained from buying one for myself, but I cannot wait to purchase one soon. Available in two sizes, buy one for yourself if you too are a lover of a daily cuppa.

Lee Radzwill handbags, Tory Burch

While, indeed an investment item that I cannot afford, I am loving the new handbag by Tory Burch inspired by Lee Radzwill. Available in different colors and sizes, find the one that speaks to you, and I have a feeling you will be using it for decades. Yes, decades to come. 🙂

SKIMS long stretch silk robe (many colors)

Patiently, I have been waiting for my primary bathroom to be complete (not there yet, but oh so close!). I told myself that when the wallpapering began, I would purchase the silk robe I have wanted to have for both luxury, comfort and coverage. Well, I have been shopping for many months, and I had the first experience wearing my new robe this week. I cannot recommend SKIMS silk robe with spandex enough. There is full coverage (the silk is not too fine), and it has long sleeves, a subtle stretch, but not too much, and the colors available are beautiful. I chose this color for my skin tone but also to match the bathroom colors. Be sure to check out the style and color that works for you if you too are looking for a luxurious silk robe that while an investment is not as expensive as some of the top silk robes.

SKIMS Cozy Knit Bouclé robe, bone (black also available)

One more note about SKIMS, they make beautiful bouclé and velour robes as well if you want a touch more warmth, and this bone bouclé robe is perfect for winter months.

This week has scurried by so quickly I cannot remember exactly what happened when. As you read this I am on the road to my family’s Christmas gathering and hoping the snow on the road is not as bad as it could be. Needless to say, I may not like driving long-distances (when will we have trains similar to Europe!), but I am grateful for a moment to catch my breath on the long 6+ hour drive.

Yesterday, waking up in the early hours, I began primeing and then painting and then wallpapering my primary bathroom. And while the wallpaper ran out (argh!), I completed everything I could and planned on otherwise. The contractors will still be able to put the bathtub in next week and do everything to complete the room even though the wallpapering may not be done until late winter. The new blog redesign is nearly done, and I cannot wait to show you what we have come up with (look for it to premiere in January), and with all of the holiday details complete, I am ready to sit down and enjoy a festive dinner with my family. I hope you are looking forward a festive and joy-filled gathering with whomever may be the guests and whatever the festivities.

One more week in 2021. Can you believe it? I don’t know about you, but 2021 brought the life lessons, and while I am grateful, I am ready for 2022 and ready to apply all that I have learned. Beginning on Sunday, TSLL will be posting the annual week-in-review posts – TOP posts from 2021 in a variety of topics as the blog takes it annual week off before resuming new content on Saturday January 1st with the monthly A Cuppa Moments with TOP Tier Members. Then on Monday January 3rd a brand new episode of the podcast will air to begin the new year. Look for the monthly newsletter to arrive in your inboxes on Friday December 31st (sign up for free year if you’d like to receive yours) and in the meantime have a wonderful final few days of 2021.

Thankfully, there is much to savor this last week as we cozy in and enjoy the “time between the years“. From wonderful fun shows (I have been watching Emily in Paris, Hacks and And Just Like That as well as many French series), books I have been grateful to have at the ready and time to simply catch my breath.

Wishing you a happy holidays and thank you for choosing to stop by TSLL. Look for a post on Sunday to kick off the Top Posts of 2021 and subsequent posts Monday through Friday in particular categories of readers’ interest. Below I have gathered together a few articles you might enjoy. Until Sunday, bon journée.

~Season 2 of Emily in Paris has returned! And the fashion is back! [The New York Times]

~More about Emily in Paris and Lily Collins in Vogue France (in French)

~4 lessons you gradually learn as you let go of the past [Marc & Angel]

~A gardener’s winter to-do list [Gardenista]

~14 habits that will increase your longevity [lifehack]

~Ah! And the one from Call Your Agent . . . I could not agree more – The best TV episodes in 2021 [The New York Times]

~The truth about why we allow clutter and what to do about it [Wirecutter]

~A Parisian bookshop steeped in French literary history [House & Garden UK]

~Very good news for Americans who need to renew their passports in the coming years – online renewal is coming! [CNtraveler]

~Another post for gardeners – the flower of winter – Hellebores! And how to care for them [The English Garden]

~35 gifts for gardeners (it may be too late as a Christmas gift, but maybe for their upcoming birthday or a gift to yourself ;))

~How our mind copes with grief and how to heal [NPR]

~One more holiday home tour – a restored Regency house in the English countryside [House & Garden UK]

~Okay, okay, this holiday home is a must tour – the garland on the staircase alone is reason to take a peek.

~If you live in Portland, Oregon, please visit the Cultured Pearl as it is going out of business (and the owners are moving to France!) [Oregon Live]

~NPR’s Best Books of 2021

~The bon vivant’s code – how to get the most out of food, drink, and life in general [House & Garden UK]

~The must-add skincare item to include in your regimen – retinol – 20 of the best retinol creams and serums for every skin type [Vogue] | the Simply Luxurious Life

14 thoughts on “This & That: December 24, 2021

  1. Closing out every year is much like a deep cleansing breath. Even though I do not participate in the resolution habit, I do study elements of my life that I am ready to leave behind, lessons learned, and hope for the future. I like to spend this last week of the year with friends and family, permitting the burdensome aspects of the time passed to find their place in my life history. To let them go. Sometimes I really don’t do that very well. May your travels be safe, your holiday joyous, and your contentment be realized. Thank you for this post that I will delve into on Sunday afternoon. Best wishes to you and all your readers, we are an interesting group.

    1. Lucy, Your vivid analogy is quite apt and beautiful to compare the end of a year to. It’s the letting go, the resting and rejuvenating and reminding ourselves of all that we can be appreciative of. Thank you so very much for the holiday well wishes. I am grateful for your kindness and engagement here in TSLL community. May the letting go become easier and peaceful in the release and the new tomorrows gifts that surpass your hopes and wishes. All my best and have a wonderful cozy Christmas weekend. ??

  2. Wishing you and Norman a merry Christmas and happy New Year. I hope your journey was smooth. I still find it hard to get my head around the size of America. I live in the middle of England and a 6 hour trip would take me almost to the ends of the country. I love boxing day as it’s usually quieter and a time for reflection, a time for reading and writing with some leftovers. Looking forward to 2022 and more lovely “This and That”.

    1. Thank you Nicola. ? Boxing Day sounds lovely. I so enjoy the Week Between the Years for all the reasons you have shared. Wishing you a joy-filled Christmas and thank you for stopping by. ?❄️

  3. I have been reading all the posts but staying away from, commenting because I had my right wrist out-of-order for a while – too much baking? Ah. 😉

    I took quickly note of the Eva Solo tea bag. Thank you, Shannon, you always find the most interesting things.

    I am listen to Bach’s Weinachtsoratorium, which is my personal tradition for the 24th of December. Since 2019, I can only listen to it on my record player but it is lovely all the same! I will now go to iron the table cloth and napkins for our Christmas table. Setting the table is one of my great joys at Christmas.

    If someone is still looking for a festive season movie, I can suggest “Carrie Pilby”, if you don’t know it yet. It is not a brand new release, but I have watched it only recently and really enjoyed it. A feel good, light-heart film.

    I wish everyone a great Christmas Day, a calm time in-between festivities, and a splendid New Year! 🙂

  4. I started Matrix yesterday as an audiobook on my drive to see family for Christmas. Very good so far.

    I also just finished up Stanley Tucci’s taste and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Joyeaux Noel!

    1. Deana, Thank you for sharing your experience with Matrix so far. I certainly am intrigued. And so good to hear about Tucci’s book! I have it on audible to listen this holiday during travel times. ?

  5. Thank you for a lovely post Shannon and safe travels to you, along with a Merry Christmas and time between years. Do you ever pass the time with an audiobook on your road trips and any favorites/recommendations? I’m anxious for your book 3 in my ears 🙂

    1. Thank you for stopping by Molly. Wishing you a wonderful Christmas holiday. Yes, audiobooks are a wonderful choice for long trip. Grateful for your interest in TSLL’s 3rd book. I cannot wait to bring it to readers. ?

  6. Shannon you should check out Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries, set in Melbourne
    Australia in the 20’s. She has the most fabulous wardrobe!

    1. Love that series! Yes. Thank you for thinking of me. ? I now have enjoyed the spin-off series following her niece – Ms. Fisher’s Modern Mysteries. Fun and quite similar just set in the mid 20th century.

  7. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas Shannon, I too look forward to a refresh at this time of year and sense of starting anew come January 1st.
    I watched Vigil when it was shown here in the UK. It is an interesting and different subject matter and I always enjoy Suranne Jones.
    The Skims silk gown caught my eye – I loved the blue and classic black gowns. One may have to make my wishlist.
    Thank you for so many great posts this year Shannon. I look forward to January 1st and a new cuppa moment.
    Sarah x

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