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Annabel Langbein's favourite things

Annabel Langbein shares the top ten things in her life that always makes her happy.

By Nicky Pellegrino
What makes you truly happy? My new novel, One Summer in Venice, is about a search by the main character, Addolorata, for the 10 things that make her happy – but compiling her personal recipe for joy is much trickier than she’d imagined. I asked some well-known Kiwi women to share their own lists of what brings them happiness. This week, celebrity cook Annabel Langbein shares a few of her favourite things.
  1. I love being in my vegetable garden. It’s just so grounding and satisfying to watch things grow and then harvest them to eat. You feel connected to nature’s rhythms.
  2. Baking. It’s so easy to transform simple ingredients like butter, eggs and flour into wondrously aromatic, sweet and tender loaves, cakes and breads. The alchemy makes you feel like a magician, and everyone loves you for it.
  3. Making cookbooks. It’s such a creative, yet disciplined process – from coming up with the idea, to writing and testing the recipes, and getting the photos and the layout working. You feel like you’re incubating a new creation – almost like the birth process, as odd as that may sound. When I open the first copy of a new book I’ve made, there’s this amazing feeling of achievement.
  4. The change of seasons always excites me and, down here in Wanaka, I really do get all four.
  5. In winter, I love lighting the fire and cooking up cosy winter meals to fend off the cold – it makes everyone feel nourished.
  6. Having my family together always warms my heart. Our kids Sean (23) and Rose (20) are at university now, but when they come home, we have such fun together. I feel very lucky
    to be part of my family – they are all such fabulous people.
  7. Diving into a clear pool of water is one of my favourite feel-good things to do – you feel the layers just sloughing off. Then, when I swim, it’s almost like meditation.
  8. Just pottering makes me feel happy, especially picking flowers to arrange in vases around the house, lighting candles and making the house feel cared for and homely.
  9. The daily ritual of cooking dinner. When it’s just [my husband] Ted [Hewetson] and I, it’s low-key and relaxing. Sometimes we cook over the fire together – just really simple food.
  10. Yoga has to be in my top ten. I always feel so good afterwards – stretched, strong and centred. It’s one thing I know I need to make time for, because it gives me balance.

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