November Read: One Small Step Can Change Your Life

KaizenOne of the perks of being a Kindle owner is being able to download free ebooks. (I think this is where Amazon puts new and aspiring authors to test the waters, you know, before they charge for their book … But I’m just taking a wild guess here 😁). 

Anyhow, I’ve downloaded quite a few free ebooks in the past and find that most of them should [perhaps] just remain free. I don’t say this to be mean, I know writing takes a lot of work but, there’s something to be said for quality and talent (or real good editors & proofreaders). I just think that quality and talent deserve distinction, price be one of them.

I digress because I can’t imagine this book, authored by Clinical Psychologist Robert Maurer, would stay free for very long*. It is well-written and well-organized. I wasn’t distracted by errors in grammar and composition (which I sadly often find even in books that aren’t free), and the thought process represented by the chapters flows logically and smoothly.

But good grammar and composition is definitely not all this book has to offer. The content itself, while not something novel or ground-breaking, is gold.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” ~ Tao Te Ching

Kaizen, a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement, is very familiar in the field of work.  Kaizen advocates using very small steps to improve a habit, a process or product using very small moments to inspire new products and inventions. Because it is so identified with efficiency at work, it just totally escaped me that Kaizen could also be applied to your personal and daily life.  (Yes, I’m looking at you flabby, post-baby body! 😠).

“Confront the difficult while it is still easy; accomplish the great task by a series of small acts.” ~ Tao Te Ching

Chances are, there’s something in your life that you want to change or improve but have been dithering on.  According to the author:  “All changes, even positive ones, are scary. Attempts to reach goals through radical or revolutionary means often fail because they heighten fear.  But the small steps of kaizen disarm the brain’s fear response, stimulating rational thought and creative play.”

The key idea here is how fear (of change/improvement) can be conquered by something small. The book helps the reader explore how small can be very potent through chapters on asking small questions, thinking small thoughts, taking small actions, solving small problems, bestowing small rewards, and identifying small moments.

Even problems such as pessimism can be subdued by the question: What is one thing about me (or my spouse, or my place of work) that is special?

The book ends with the chapter “Kaizen for Life”  and encourages the reader to hold on to the essence of Kaizen, which is an optimistic belief in our potential for continuous improvement.

Like earlier mentioned this book was an easy yet stimulating read. I love books that give pragmatic and sound advice, more so this one where the recommendations do not involve drastic actions or shelling out money. I highly recommend this 🙂

In ending I’d like to share with you one of the phrases that I highlighted and which is, I think, my favorite in the entire book:

If you spend a minute or two each day writing a kind note to tuck into a loved one’s briefcase or a child’s lunchbox, you may save yourself the headache that comes  when relationships grow cool from a lack of nurturance and daily care”.

Now excuse me, I gotta go give my eldest a hug 🙂


‘* as of this blogpost, the Kindle edition is now priced at $7.23 … aww, drats! 😶


Would You Allow Yourself to Fall In Love With Someone 19 Years Younger?


I just finished the hilarious and intriguing book, “Younger” by Pamela Redmond Satran. It’s about a newly divorced 44-y.o. housewife who creates a new life by posing as a younger, twenty-something version of herself.

According to this book, losing weight, wearing tight jeans and getting some highlights is all it takes! Inclusive of token 25 y.o. boyfriend who’s hot like a rockstar and who adores you like a puppy 😀

Read more here.

The main character’s experience of this new ‘younger’ version of herself is both stimulating and eye-opening. Thankfully, she has her bestie Maggie to encourage and help her navigate through it. In the end, everything wraps up neatly like a fairy tale 🙂 Except for the much younger boyfriend, who the author conveniently sends off to Japan, reduced to exchanging romantic emails with the main character.

I really don’t know, 19 years seems like a lot. And while I sense that the book is encouraging the main character to not sacrifice today for what might happen tomorrow, she is wise to wonder.  Isn’t it a sign of maturity  to also  think of consequences and not just YOLO all the way? I don’t think I can play with my heart and peace of mind like that 🙄 Could you and would you?

Favorite lines:

“It was as if I’d dived into an ocean that had looked fun and exciting from the shore, but had found myself getting knocked down by waves that up close proved far too wild for me.  All I could think about was making my way back to the sand.”

“Suppose I came out as fourty-four to the entire world.  Wouldn’t it still make sense for me to try to look as youthful as I possibly could?”

Read if:

You’re a woman – regardless of age – who’s wondering about the romantic trajectory of her life.


Uprooted: A Book Review

us-uprooted1I did not want to review this novel because I can only say one thing about it: amazing!  Absolutely amazing.  Either that or I’d have a very hard time stopping myself from rambling on and on about how good it is 😀

However, it’s a July goal for me to review 2 books, not 1 so, I am duty bound.

From the author’s website:

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Skillfully written by Naomi Novik, Uprooted is based on a Polish fairytale with an unlikely heroin who, unbeknownst to all including herself, possesses great magical powers.  Her powers play a vital role in vanquishing an evil force, an enchanted forest that is threatening to corrupt and swallow the countries Polya and Rosya.  Anybody who ever enters the Wood beware, it is said that death in comparison is even merciful.

The descriptions of the Wood immediately brought to mind Game of Thrones’ ‘other side of the wall’, where wights have the equivalent of ‘walkers’ in Uprooted – there are differences in physical appearance but both are equally frightening. As well, I haven’t been as enthralled with a book like this since GOT.

The sinister force emanating from the Wood has been steadily growing for hundreds of years silently mocking the king’s most powerful wizards.  The ‘Dragon’ is the most skilled of them all, and he lives alone in a tower guarding the Wood, ready to assist villagers who fall victim to its sinister and frequent attacks.  However, the Wood is not only malevolent and magical, it is also a smart and stealthy opponent that knows how to use man’s frailties to get what it wants.

I mentioned Game of Thrones here and that is saying a lot.  But where Game of Thrones toys with our emotions by brutally killing off every character we desperately cling to in an attempt to get a respite from all the chaos that’s happening (sorry, I just have to mention that), Uprooted is mercifully straightforward – good and evil do not interchange multiple times throughout the story.  In Uprooted, we know who the enemy is, we gradually understand how it operates, and the heroes have the capability to defeat it, albeit not easily and not completely at once. Oh and, bonus, the heroes remain alive till the end of the story! 🙂

Even the corrupt Wood can be likened to Maleficent, the root of its evil has a relatable story – but I’ve already spilled too much, let me just keep that for you to discover ❤

What I didn’t like was the sexual intimacy that happened between the Dragon and Agniezka.  I did not think it was necessary [to the story] and it came across as cheap.  Let us imagine Optimus Prime as somehow having the ability to get romantically involved with a human, and a lady and single version of Sam Witwicky, do you honestly think some romance is needed between the two? Heck no! Let’s just get on with the fight against evil, shall we? I remember rolling my eyes and going “blech!” – incidentally, the only thing in Uprooted that disappointed me.

So let me (finally!) close with: this book is ah-mazing.  It has all the right ingredients for a Grimm-esque fairy tale and wraps up neatly on a promising note.


~  Paardje 💋‍


Keep Calm And Ask On: A Book Review


Hello sexy people! ❤

“The world and everything in it is yours”.

“Thoughts are things, and they have the power to objectify themselves”.

Happy Monday 🙂

This month I took on the goal of reading and reviewing two books.  In this blog post I’m presenting my 1st choice, Michael Samuels’ “Keep Calm And Ask On”.

Now I’m pretty sure we’re all familiar with the Law of Attraction and might have already transcended the literature in the sense that we’re a bit jaded – I know I am sometimes. But I also know that I have received many things in my life by simply asking for them.

The book’s 5 chapters are:

1. There Will Be Wants

In this chapter the author instructs us to work calmly with our subconscious by telling it what we want. We can go as high as we want, as many as we want. But we have to ask calmly, not in a doubtful or complaining manner. We must trust that the Universe will make it happen.

We also have to very clearly define ‘why’ we want that thing, and we cannot ask for something at the expense of someone else’s happiness or safety.

I want a big house in an exclusive gated community so that my kids can play safely outside – ok.
I want a big house in an exclusive gated community so that my friends will die of jealousy – not ok.

The author encourages us to list down everything we want and to review this list frequently. As well, he recommends having a chat with our subconscious (and yes, we can even name our subconscious!) every evening before drifting off to sleep to review our wants.

This chapter also clarifies the confusion of using “I want” vs. “I am” or “I have” as some LOA books would have us do. On this the author says “You cannot think the words I have or I own and not have or own anything. It makes no sense. And you’re going to confuse the hell out of your subconscious mind”. Ergo, I want is okay for us to use.

“Dream big dreams, acquire good morals, and realize and know that you get what you ask for. Value your wants of what you want to be and cease whining, complaining and groaning about bad luck and good luck. Nourish that ideal of yours and imagine the Universe and its beauty draping over your wants”.

2. The Soundtrack of Your Life

According to the author, our environment and our state corresponds with the music we are listening to.

The author obviously likes music very much and is fond of creating soundtracks for every season – yes, one new soundtrack for every season, year in and year out. I’ve read reviews of this book on Amazon and many reviewers complain that this chapter drags on too much. And it does, but I guess the author is just really enthusiastic about music and wants to stress the point that we can use music to our advantage. For instance, if you want to cheer yourself up, then listen to upbeat music. Take a cue from movie soundtracks, however you want to feel in your life, music can facilitate.

I will not argue with this, although I don’t think I’ll be creating specific soundtracks anytime soon 🙂 But I have gotten back to listening to my favorite radio station from home (online streaming, score!) and am thinking of collecting favorite tunes for quick access, something I’ve never really cared for before.

3. Keep Calm and Ask On

This chapter encourages us to keep calm and ask on despite the presence of negative people.

“Hindrances and frustrating people are aggravating, but they are part of life. The best part about them is that they make you grow. Their negativity actually makes you awaken further. It gives you obstacles to overcome. Annoying people make you think. They make you plot ways to get around obstacles”.

Some people will try to stop you from getting what you want, but actually the only person that can stop you is you. That negative person is just there, just an obstacle to overcome. People cannot stop the Universe’s plan for what’s in store for your life.

4. Law of Laughing

“There is more to life than taking everything so seriously. You create the life you want. But if you’re going to be serious about it, you’ll be headed nowhere fast”.

This chapter encourages us to adapt a cheerful attitude towards life. I know it’s easier said than done, but why indeed should we allow ourselves to be eaten up by worries? Worry never solved anything, as a matter of fact, it robs us of the creativity and resourcefulness needed to lift us out of our funk.

The Universe responds best to positive emotions.

5. Team Universe

“Always speak in terms of advancement. Never allow yourself to feel disappointed. You may expect to have a certain thing at a certain time and not get it at that time; this will feel like a failure to you. But if you hold your trust, you will find that failure is only a stepping-stone to getting what you really want. Keep calm , and if you do not receive that thing, something so much better will fall in your lap that seeming failure was really a success in disguise”.

Our wants will come into our lives when we need them. If we don’t have them right now, then it’s not yet the right moment. We shouldn’t sulk, whine, or in any way be negative while waiting.  The Universe has our back 🙂

~ 0 ~

This was a nice, quick read.  It might not teach us anything new, but it’s straightforward and a quick grab for when we need to be reminded that we have the power to manifest our destinies.

So keep calm, and ask on. We’re on Team Universe 🙂

What was something you asked for and received?


Book Review Day| Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

tidying up

I love to tidy and organize! I just cannot focus if my environment is topsy-turvy. I strive for next-to-bare table top surfaces, bare floors and not a single dirty dish in the sink!  But that’s just me 😉

Now meet Marie Kondo, she runs an acclaimed consulting business in Tokyo that helps clients transform their cluttered homes into spaces of serenity and inspiration. She’s the author of this marvelous book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing”.

Marie had me at “Your real life begins after putting your house in order” 🙂

I thought all the while that I already had the art of tidying down to a tee, I do watch “Clean House” every chance I get. But this book showed me even more and better tidying success secrets that were real eye-openers. Here are just three solid lessons I learned:

Tidying must start with discarding –

When tidying, Marie recommends putting everything in one place, preferably out on the floor. And then to go through every single item asking yourself if it sparks joy. If it doesn’t, away it must go. To support that point, the book teaches us to dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely.

Most of us do not discard. We’re sentimental so we just store things to oblivion. Marie says “putting things away only creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved”.

Store your things to make your life shine –

“The secret to maintaining an uncluttered room is to pursue ultimate simplicity in storage so that you can tell at a glance how much you have”.

Have you ever found out after a thorough tidying session that you have more than what you need of a particular object? That happens to me a lot. And that’s because not only do we sometimes keep the same type of item in different parts of the house, we also tend to forget they are there (or how many we already have) when we don’t see them.

Since reading this book, I’ve invested in a few simple plastic containers that allow me to see what’s inside. But aside from that, and as this book will tell you, all you really need are shelves or drawers and some empty shoeboxes.

Your living space affects your body –

“It’s a very strange phenomenon, but when we reduce what we own and essentially ‘detox’ our house, it has a detox effect on our bodies as well”.

When we’ve paired down everything in our house to only those that are truly essential and which spark joy in us, what a relaxing haven we create for ourselves and our loved ones. Instead of shelves of ‘invisible’ books gathering dust, each one that passed the ‘joy-test’ is a real keepsake that inspires instead of clutters.


I couldn’t sit still as I was reading this book, it was so motivating that I’d sporadically get up in between pages and clean out a closet or room right then and there. I discarded so much in the process, even items I hung on to for sentimental reasons but which really were just sitting there occupying space. And Marie is right, I don’t miss them!

That said, this review really doesn’t give the book enough justice. You just have to read it yourself to appreciate it fully. I guarantee it will leave you with dozens of simple, straightforward, yet brilliant tips on tidying and organizing.

~ O ~

And now for my book related poll:  Which type are you – dog ears or bookmarks? 🙂 And feel free to share your reasons in the comments section!

~ O ~

Book Review Day is a monthly blogging event hosted by the beautiful Nivedita at Weird and Wonderful.

Have you read something amazing this month?  🙂


Book Review Day| Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven + fun poll


It’s been a while since I dipped my toes in magical fantasy so I made that my purpose when I last visited the bookstore. Of all the delectable options, Fablehaven gripped me the most.

Fablehaven is the 1st book in a series of 5 that narrates the adventures of siblings Kendra and Seth as they battle dark forces that threaten to destroy Fablehaven – a secret nature preserve for fantastic mythical creatures.

From the back cover:

For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic in a cynical world.  Enchanting?  Absolutely! Exciting? You bet.  Safe?  Well, actually, quite the opposite . . .

Kendra and her brother Seth have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven.  Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischevious satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies.  However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives.  To save her family, Fablehaven, and perhaps the world, Kendra must find the courage to do what she fears most.

I picked up this book with the intention of completely losing myself in its pages, and it didn’t disappoint. Written for children ages 8-13, the story is highly imaginative and wonderfully absorbing.

As soon as Kendra and Seth are left with their grandfather while mom and dad go on a cruise, mayhem ensues – primarily because of Seth’s curious and disobedient nature. Initially Grandpa is trying to keep his role as Fablehaven’s keeper a secret from the 2, but Seth seems to enjoy breaking rules and Kendra is just too observant. Soon enough the 2 are up to their neck in fantastic discoveries, almost all leading to some level of trouble.

Many times while reading the book I wanted to throw it against the wall or something as Seth would be out to break Grandpa’s rules for the nth time. The 11 y.o. is just annoyingly insatiable! Even after being turned into a botched walrus for inadvertently doing something bad to the fairies, he still doesn’t learn his lesson and remains the curious dare-devil that gets everyone in trouble.

The other sibling, 14 y.o. Kendra, is more to my liking. Observant and yet obedient, she is the one who succeeds in saving Fablehaven in the end. Her obedience offers her protection and her laid-back smarts allow her to unleash a powerful force that’s never happened before.

The way I see it, we’d all be dead without Kendra as Seth is all brawns and not quite enough brains. (Can you tell I’m still so miffed at Seth? LOL!) I find myself imagining the story without Seth, I think Kendra’s observant nature would be enough to unfold one adventure after the other. But maybe the author also want the readers to ponder on the price of disobedience. There’s a handy reader’s guide at the end of the story that explores just that.

In closing, I truly enjoyed the magical ride I took within the pages of this book. I found it impossible to take breaks in between chapters, the excitement already starts brewing by chapter 2 and doesn’t relent till the end. The setting is novel, the characters relatable, and the pace nail-biting. I also like that it has a few well-executed illustrations scattered throughout the pages to help imagine Fablehaven.

~~ O ~~

And now for my book/reading related poll:  ebooks or real, physical books?  You can tell me your reasons in the comments section 🙂

~~ O ~~

Book Review Day is a monthly blogging event hosted by the wonderful Nivedita at Weird and Wonderful.


The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands: A Book Review

The cruelest thing a wife can do to a husband is never to be happy.

The Proper Care & Feeding of HusbandsI had some trouble finishing this book towards the last few chapters because I already got the one golden message by the time I was maybe a third of the book through – be nice to your husband.

The message of being nice to your husband is repeated in 8 chapters, under different contexts including among others the fact that men do have feelings (Chapter 4), communicating with your man (chapter 5), intimacy (chapter 6) and, guy time (chapter 8).

It was still a very good read though and reminded me of how easy it is to take your husband for granted. This book reminds wives that husbands are really very simple and straightforward creatures who need the following from us – acceptance, approval and appreciation. The preferred source of these 3 A’s is us, the wives, and Dr. Laura Schlessinger reminds us throughout this book, in no uncertain terms, that if we fail at this task, our marriage is doomed.

Not to end on such a gloomy note, here are some notes I took as I journeyed through the pages – just a caveat though, although there were a few exceptions, I found this book depicting a picture of a wife that is childish, selfish and narrow- minded. (I don’t think I belong in the same box although I do hope I have the honesty to realize it when its happening!).

  • In marriage, it is very easy for the wife to be selfish and self-centered, usually there’s too much focus on what’s not right and not enough on what’s going well. Too much criticizing, not enough complementing.
  • Husbands don’t want to be displaced by their children. Give it a think: We get up several times in the middle of the night to tend to a crying child, but can’t even give our husbands a backrub or a glass of water after he’s fixed the roof immediately after coming home from a hard day’s work.
  • As husband and wife, we must prioritize each other, don’t allow the demands of daily life to get in the way of making each other happy.
  • Husbands need some downtime after coming from work – so don’t immediately welcome him with a “honey, I think our sink is clogged”.
  • On communicating to the man of the house – wives should just say what is on her mind, discuss the possibility of a solution and then move on. Do not sulk and let the husband ‘guess’ at the problem, do not whine and sound like a broken record, do not bring on the waterworks or the cold war.
  • Allow men to do things the way they want to do it. The dishes need not be color coded, as long as they are washed clean, dried and put away properly.
  • Male nature responds dramatically to visual stimulation, so don’t be a frump around the house. Make an effort to look more like a happy wife than a frazzled mom.
  • Do not be envious of husbands’ ability to have hobbies and friends, use the time instead to cultivate your own hobbies, or treat yourself to some ‘me-time’.

Husbands with friends and outside interests are happier. It adds to their happy relationship with you when you gracefully support their relationships with others and not behave like a spoiled brat who wants to control their lives.

  • It is the responsibility of both spouses to refresh themselves so that they can give the best to their relationship and their family.

What I learned – just be considerate, think beyond myself, the house, the daughter, the bills, etc, and recognize that another human being, the most important one in my life, with needs just like any other, is sharing life with me.  In the words of Luciano De Crescenzo~

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.