Small Pleasures: January/February 2021

In the last year, I have not been disciplined at all in writing posts for this space. I blame part of my negligence on COVID upending my life, especially with regard to my job. Mostly, though, I’ve struggled to find things to write about that would be remotely interesting to anyone, myself included.

I miss writing for pleasure. To ease myself back into the groove, I’m going to attempt to write one post a month, focusing on small pleasures that are currently sweetening life for me. Small Pleasures posts are fun and relatively easy to write and I’m hoping this practice will help me to get back into the writing groove. These posts also force me to be mindful of all the blessings I enjoy on a regular basis and to be grateful even when it feels like I’ve accidentally boarded the express train to Crazy Town and can’t figure out how to get off.

There is no doubt that life has been very strange and very hard lately. But, it hasn’t been all bad. Or even mostly bad. It’s time to focus on some of the good stuff.

Small Pleasures: January/February 2021

  • Listening to The Chronicles of Narnia. A few years ago, I started making one light-hearted New Year’s resolution every year. Last year’s resolution was to try one new-to-me local restaurant each month. Then COVID happened and my resolution failed. This year, I decided to go a different direction; I’m taking the year to listen to The Chronicles of Narnia. So far, I’ve breezed through The Magician’s Nephew (narrated by Kenneth Branagh), The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (narrated by Michael York), and The Horse and His Boy (narrated by Alex Jennings). This resolution has been a delightful experience so far and has brightened many a cold walk and long drive these last several winter weeks. I’m taking a break now, simply because I want to savor this experience, but I can’t wait to jump back into the Narnian tales soon.
  • Interior Design Books. One dream Jay and I have shared from the beginning of our marriage is owning a cabin in the woods. We are finally seeing that dream come true! Two years ago we purchased a wooded property in southwestern Pennsylvania, near the borders of Maryland and West Virginia. This spring we are hoping to finally break ground for the cabin. While I am interested in all aspects of the project, I cannot wait to work on the interior of the cabin – choosing flooring, designing the kitchen, etc. To get in the right frame of mind, I spent the first several weeks in January immersing myself in interior design books, seeking guidance and inspiration. I love interior design and felt an inordinate amount of joy perusing books like Lauren Leiss’s Habitat and Joanna Gaines’s Homebody. Now, not only do I want to create a cozy cabin interior, I also want to redo my whole house.
  • Watching great TV series: All Creatures Great and Small, Miss Scarlet and the Duke, and Hercule Poirot. I am not a frequent TV watcher, but PBS has had some stellar offerings this January and February that I couldn’t resist. All Creatures Great and Small was a charming series based on the book by James Herriot and Miss Scarlet and the Duke was a frothy, sparkling romp. I looked forward to spending my Sunday evening snuggled in bed, indulging in some Masterpiece Theater love. I really hope both shows are continued for another season. Jay and I have also been slowly working our way through Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot (on Britbox and Acorn subscriptions). David Suchet is Hercule and brings the famous character to life in all his idiosyncratic glory. We’ve made it to Season 11, which contains longer, more cinematic and darker episodes that I am really enjoying. When the time comes to say good-bye to Hercule and his mustache, I’ll be very sad.
  • Writing Scripture as a form of meditation. I’ll be the first to admit that COVID upended my life in many ways. I will also be the first to admit that the shake-up hasn’t been all bad. One of the benefits of working remotely is the opportunity to enjoy slower mornings. As part of my morning routine, I’ve started writing scripture verses as a form of focus and meditation. It’s a small practice that takes very little of my time and yet, the impact has been extensive. I feel calmer and better able to handle life and the people in it, I have a more positive attitude, and I recognize God’s hand working in my life in a very real way.
  • Reading by the fireplace with Jay. What else can I say about this? It is a relaxing activity that includes many of my favorite things; spending time with Jay, reading, and snuggling by the fire when it’s wintry outside.
  • Driving my new-to-me vehicle. I recently bought a grown-up, empty-nester vehicle after driving huge SUVs for most of my parenting life. I am tickled with my new wheels! Who knew such a mundane task could be so fun?
  • Daydreaming about the Outer Banks. One of the ways I’ve been managing to keep any semblance of sanity during the dark, cold days of winter is to daydream about our biennial extended family beach trip to the Outer Banks. It is always a relaxing, low pressure week of sun, sand and ocean that never fails to rejuvenate me. This year, after a long, long stretch of turmoil and stress, I need that break more than ever. I think about the trip at least weekly. July can’t come fast enough.
  • Snow. My corner of the world has been in a snow drought for the last few years. This has made the winters dreary and sad. This year, snow has covered the ground for most of January and February. I’ve spent many hours by the fireplace, drinking tea and watching the snow fall and I couldn’t be happier.

Take some time to acknowledge and celebrate the little things that bring light and joy to your life, too. I promise you, you will feel better for doing it. If you want to share in the comments, please do.

Small Pleasures: July 2017 Edition

DSC_4373 July was filled to the brim with good things: rest and relaxation, fun celebrations, lush summer landscapes, and local farm stands overflowing with deliciousness.  The downside of all this goodness is it’s been a struggle to edit my Small Pleasures list into something manageable.  So, after much deliberation, here are my top five (plus a bonus) little happinesses of the month.  Enjoy!

July’s Small  Pleasures 

  1. Swimming in the ocean.  From the first time my dad walked me into the breaking waves at Tower Road beach in Dewey, Delaware, I’ve nurtured an undying love for the ocean.  I love it when it’s gentle, perfect for floating on my back with my eyes closed, losing myself in the gentle rocking. I love it, too, when it’s rough and churning with waves that boss me around and deliver tenfold on the promise of boisterous body surfing and boogie boarding.  I even love how refreshed I feel when I mosey back to my beach chair, my skin tingling from the brisk salty water.  I don’t live very close to the ocean so I’m thankful for the time I was able to spend in it during my trip to the Outer Banks at the beginning of July.
  2. Orange Creamsicle smoothies.  In Corolla, North Carolina, there is a little café  that serves up the best remedy for a hot day.  Their Orange Creamsicle smoothie tastes exactly like the namesake popsicle and I indulged almost every day of my vacation.  Yum!
  3. A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman (audiobook narrated by George Newbern).  The story of Ove, a crotchety older guy with a hidden heart of gold, is a delight as an audiobook.  Through George Newbern’s narration, I grew to love Ove and the people who inhabited his world and I looked forward to washing the dishes or taking my walks just so I could spend more time with the whole bunch.  Listening to this book was a very satisfying experience and my thoughts frequently wander back to Ove and his “family”.
  4. Peaches.  Peaches are in season around here and they are delicious.  We’ve been enjoying the sweet, juicy fruit by the basketful and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
  5. Walking at sunset.  July has been a sizzler so Jay and I have started walking later in the evening to get away from the worst of the heat.  The sunsets have been spectacular lately and the stillness of dusk has been soothing and restorative.  It’s become a restful way to close the day.
  6. The Bonus Pick.  This video by Mark Broussard and his daughters.  Evie just cracks me up…

I hope your height-of-summer has been as delightful as mine.  Now it’s time to wave good-bye to July and embrace the mellow last days of the season.

 

Small Pleasures: July Edition

In my small corner of the world, July is the sweltering zenith of summer.  Small pleasures abound this time of year: the smell of growing corn, the buzz of cicadas, the cool sweetness of watermelon, the willy-nilly flight of small bats at dusk, the delicious reprieve of air-conditioning.  The list is endless but there are a few pleasures I’ve been especially thankful for this month.

Kan Jam.  My competitive family is hooked on this fun Frisbee game and we’ve spent many sultry summer evenings playing together.  Anything that entices my teenagers to hang with their dad and me is going to be at the top of my happy list.  Prime family time and some exercise to boot – a perfect summer pleasure.

Fruit smoothies.  About two years ago, I had a momentary lapse in good judgement and attempted The Fast Metabolism Diet.  The diet was an abysmal failure overall but it introduced me to a simple, no-fuss, guilt-free recipe for fruit smoothies that is perfect for the summer.  They are so refreshing AND are a healthy substitute for those Coke slushies I also adore.

4 day work week.  Most faculty members at the local community college where I work have 9-month contracts.  I have a 12-month contract because of my specific teaching and clinical responsibilities so I’m on campus all year.  When summer rolls around, the college operates on a four day work week.  This means I’ve been enjoying 3 day weekends with Fridays off all month.  Do I need to explain how much I am enjoying this?  I didn’t think so.

The Man in the High Castle mini-series.  This Amazon original series is based on Philip K. Dick’s book by the same name, an alternative history/sci-fi tale set in a 1960’s United States after Japan and Nazi Germany have won WWII.  The alternative history aspect has been fascinating but it is often dark and brutal – the Nazis and Japanese are still behaving as they did during the war.  Even though we aren’t exactly sure what’s going on, the content is thought-provoking and addictive.  My husband, youngest son and I have watched the entire first season this month.  The second season is scheduled for sometime later this year and we can’t wait!

Ice cream from Pine View Dairy.  One dip of peanut butter curl ice cream on a waffle cone, to be precise.  I’ve been indulging far more often than is reasonable but, really, who could blame me?

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I hope you’ve had the opportunity to indulge in small happinesses this month.  Please tell me about them in the comments!

Small Pleasures: June Edition

I love recognizing and indulging in small pleasures on a regular basis.  They add a sense of happiness and contentment to my life.  Summertime offers an inordinate amount of these delights (ice cream cones from Pine View Dairy, lightning bugs, eating al fresco at every opportunity, etc.) and I’ve been enjoying as many of them as I can.

My favorites of the summer so far:

  1. Strawberry spinach salad.  June is strawberry season around here and I am all about those strawberries.  My favorite way to eat them this year is in this beautiful spinach salad.  I just can’t get enough of the sweet and tangy deliciousness.
  2. Baseball season.  Youth baseball, that is.  This is the last year my youngest son, Aaron, will play in the local youth league so I am trying to soak up as much of the experience as I can.  The weather has been especially accommodating for evening baseball games and Aaron’s team is having a winning year.  It’s an irresistible combination as a spectator/mom.
  3. Listening to The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I’ve recently gotten into audiobooks as an enticement to walk regularly or complete nasty chores. For most of June, I’ve listened to The Nightingale, A WWII story that focuses on the experiences of two very different sisters in Nazi occupied France.  The narrator, Polly Stone, does a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life and I’m transported to another, often sad and dark but ultimately hopeful, world.
  4. Summer reading lists.  I love reading articles and blog posts about books and the summer reading lists are jam-packed with great suggestions.  Considering my massive TBR pile, perusing lists of tempting books is rather counter-productive but I can’t seem to help myself.  If you are wondering what book you should take with you to the pool, beach, or your next vacation these sites are good places to start: Modern Mrs. Darcy, The Bookbub Blog, and Popsugar.
  5. The front porch.  My front porch is shaded for most of the day and secluded from the street by burning bush and holly.  It is private and comfy and I have already whiled away many pleasant hours reading a good book, watching a thunderstorm roll in, or relaxing with my husband in the late evening after a long, busy day.

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I hope you are taking time to enjoy the small pleasures of summer and of life.  Please tell me about them in the comments!