Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Art of Calm" by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, Served with a Recipe for Warm Vanilla (Coconut) Milk

Looking to find your zen happy place, or a bit of calm in a crazy stressed-filled world? Today's TLC Book Tour Stop has the answer with The Art of Calm: Photographs and Wisdom to Balance Your Life by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh. I'm reviewing this little inspirational book, full of beautiful photographs, inspiring quotes, and tips and ideas for relaxing and leading a happy and harmonious life. Accompanying my review is a recipe from the book for a soothing cup of Warm Vanilla (Coconut) Milk--a sweet bedtime treat to sip and savor

Publisher's Blurb:

Let’s face it: the more we rush around, the shorter the days can seem. Packed with page after page of inspirational ideas to help you bring your life back to center, this is the perfect antidote to reducing the chaos of everyday life. Filled with exquisite photographs and insightful quotations, this elegant book offers an opportunity to enjoy guilt-free “me” time, as well as easy suggestions for a more peaceful existence—from keeping a bud vase on your desk to tucking yourself into bed an hour early with a book you love. The brilliant images are a reminder to savor the world’s natural beauty—and ease the mind in an instant. This enriching, beautifully illustrated book is an inspiring guide to relaxation and harmony. Simple tips for how to unwind, ideas for spending quality time with loved ones, and illuminating quotes offer ideas on how to slow down and savor life’s simple moments.

Hardcover: 192 pages  
Publisher: National Geographic (March 29, 2016)

My Review:

The Art of Calm is one beautiful book. It's a compact hardback with a pretty purple ribbon book marker so you can place it on your nightstand and read a few pages at night before bed, escaping into the words and the soothing photographs that illustrate it. Or, dip into it after you wake up to ease into your day (the book recommends you start every morning with beautiful words rather than checking your email first thing). I find little self-help books like this one to be hit or miss--are they useful, or do they just take up space? I found The Art of Calm to be a definite hit with its balance of quotes, useful advice, and gorgeous color photos. The suggestions are pretty simple and could easily be incorporated into daily life--there were things that I already do, reminders of things I know I should do, and some good ideas I never thought about. One example is brewing yourself a cup of herbal tea before bed (I do this often in the afternoon or evening) while making enough to put the remainder in the fridge for a quick iced tea the next day (why have I never thought of that?) Or looking at your calendar on Sunday night and making sure there is one thing in the week you are looking forward to and if not add one because "Anticipatory anxiety is terrible, anticipatory happiness is joy."  The quotations, mostly from women, include wisdom from Jane Austen and Ethel Barrymore to Michelle Obama and Sheryl Sandberg. Some made me think, others made me smile; all were insightful. (I especially liked "Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."--Marthe Troly-Curtin, Phrynette Married.) 

There is a little bit of everything in the just under 200 pages and the advice and quotations are versatile enough to fit any busy woman. A copy of The Art of Calm would make a lovely gift for a friend, family member, or co-worker--especially when paired with a favorite herbal tea, soothing bath salts, a pretty potted plant or flower, a favorite scented candle, or some good dark chocolate. Or, do yourself a favor and get a copy of your own and follow the book's advice to "Once a week, turn off your phone and computer at 8 p.m. Get into bed with a book and stay there until lights out." 

Another Favorite Quote from the Book:


Author Notes: Rebecca Ascher-Walsh is a journalist who covers celebrities and lifestyle. She contributes to many newspapers and magazines, including Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journal and The L.A. Times.


Food Inspiration: 

There is actually plenty of food inspiration in The Art of Calm with suggestions to frequent your local farmers market, or "do something that scares you in the kitchen" by cooking and mastering something you didn't think you could. There are recipes for brownies, a simple pantry pasta dish, pancakes, even a banana, honey and yogurt face mask. I decided to keep it simple and make the recipe for Warm Vanilla Milk.

I usually try to drink a warm "golden milk" with turmeric and spices at night before bed but decided to take the advice in the book: "At bedtime, make yourself a soothing warm vanilla milk: It has all the comfort of hot chocolate without the caffeine." I made a few changes to the recipe below--swapping in unsweetened coconut milk for the dairy milk, upping the vanilla to 1 tsp, and using about 1/2 Tbsp of maple syrup in place of the sugar.

Warm Vanilla Milk
Adapted from The Art of Calm from Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
(Serves 1)
  • In a saucepan, combine 1 cup of milk with 1 to 2 Tbsp of sugar, depending on your taste; once sugar is dissolved, stir in 1/2 tsp. of vanilla.
  • For a caramel-like flavor, you can also make a version with brown sugar.
  • Either way, top with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.  

Notes/Results: Sweet, soothing and delicious, you can't go wrong with a soothing sipper before bed to end your day on a sweet note. You can use any milk or alternative milk here but I love the creaminess and natural sweetness that coconut milk brings to the party. I reduced the sweetener and used maple syrup instead of processed sugar and upped my vanilla too. Simple and warming, put it in a favorite cup or teacup and relax while sipping.

I will be linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "The Art of Calm" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.



  1. What a lovely book and it has recipes too, that's a win-win. I have never tried coconut milk, sheltered life that O lead.

  2. Another tempting review. Both the book and vanilla coconut. I'll probably have to buy this one it's looks sumptuously beautiful.

  3. Ooh I love that advice about relaxing in bed with a book - I wish I could do that far more often!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  4. I always have a cup of tea before bed, but that warm coconut vanilla milk would be perfect, with a good book of course.

  5. I think I might need to get a copy of this book!

  6. That book looks so lovely. Living in NYC, we could use a little calm.

  7. This milk sounds awesome. It had never occurred to me to warm coconut milk and drink it - duh! I'm trying this the next time my husband is out of town!

  8. Going to order this one right now. Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

  9. We can all use more calm in our lives. The warm drink before bed sounds yummy.

  10. never occurred to me to add vanilla essence to warm milk. Oh and maple syrup too? Sounds divine!

    I love your food-book posts!


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