Small Pleasures: April 2017 Edition

April ended up being a month of utter craziness at work.  To buffer the effects of all that stress, I indulged in a lot of escapist activities at home.  This translated mostly into reading (or listening to) lots of books, watching stuff on Netflix, and eating too much junk food.  Most of the small pleasures on my list this month are derived from these self-indulgent activities.  I can’t really say how helpful all the culture consumption was for my unruly stress levels but it sure was fun!

  1. Sing (2016).  Last weekend, my husband and sons went with my dad to his cabin in the mountains to do some trout fishing.  This left my daughter, Julia, and me to fend for ourselves as best we could.  This basically meant lying on the sectional in the basement bingeing on movies and mini-series.  (It was glorious.)  Sing was the first movie we watched.  The general gist: anthropomorphic animals participate in a singing contest that’s designed to save an old theater from being repossessed by the bank.  The animation is fabulous, the characters are comical and endearing, and the music is energetic and uplifting.  Sing is an adorable, entertaining piece of fluff and sometimes that’s just the thing when life gets too serious.
  2. North & South (2004).  I love a good period drama based on literature and the BBC cranks out the very best.  My all time favorite miniseries is Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle.  But, a very close second is North & South with Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe which is based on the book of the same name by Elizabeth Gaskill.  This is one instance in which the movie outshines the book by a long shot. So much chemistry and repressed passion vibrate between Margaret Hale and John Thornton that I think I could watch the last scene over and over without ever tiring of it.  It pushes all my romantic buttons.  Julia watched this for the first time with me in April and she loved it, too.
  3. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.  During the couch potato fest I mentioned above, Julia and I stumbled upon this Australian series on Netflix.  The series is based on the books by Kerry Greenwood and revolves around the exploits of lady private detective Phryne Fisher in 1920s Melbourne.  There is so much to love about this show: the sumptuous costumes (I’ll take every pair of Phryne’s shoes), the storylines, and the characters and their relationships to one another.  There are three seasons worth of viewing pleasure and we’ve been tearing through episodes.  Finding this gem is the happiest accident of the month and escapist indulgence at its best.
  4. News of the World by Paulette Jiles.  This book.  It has everything I need for the perfect reading experience: memorable characters who demonstrate growth, a strong sense of time and place, an interesting storyline with layered themes, beautiful writing.  It’s the best book I’ve read so far this year.  So. Very. Good.

The following small pleasures simply increase my general happiness quotient but aren’t specifically related to escaping stress …

  1. What Should I Read Next (WSIRN) podcast.  This weekly podcast is so much fun! Every Tuesday, Anne Bogel (a.k.a. Modern Mrs. Darcy) interviews one guest about three books they love, one book they hate and what they are currently reading.  Anne then offers the guest three suggestions for what to read next.  The conversations are always interesting and informative and now my TBR pile is completely out of control.  I also read the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog regularly for book suggestions.  The Summer Reading Guide is coming out in a few weeks and I can’t wait!  Both the podcast and the blog take me to my bookish happy place.
  2. Lamb Loves Fox and trois petits oiseaux Flickr feeds.  Other than photographing my travel adventures, I haven’t been spending much quality time with my camera.  That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate and be inspired by other photographers’ work.  Visiting Lamb Loves Fox and trois petits oiseaux always makes me smile and fills me with just a little awe.  The photos are artful and whimsical and precious.  And often chuckle-inducing…

Now it’s your turn.  What small pleasures help you manage all the stress?

The Small Joys of Summer

Here in the US, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to the summer season.  This past winter wore me down for more reasons than just the weather, so I’ve been looking forward to summer even more than usual this year. In anticipation of the pleasures that lie before us, I’ve made a little list of the small things I relish during these warm and verdant months of the year. I must thank the Daily Post and Anna Fonté at girl in the hat for the inspiration for this post.  It was great fun and now I’m dying to get this summer thing started!

Small Joys of Summer


the baking sun on my skin

the cool, dark shade of a tree



plump, industrious bumble bees covered with pollen


steak and onion kebabs on the grill

anything on the grill, really

eating al fresco every chance I get


sweet corn with lots of butter and salt


homemade vanilla ice cream (preferably with strawberries)

brain-freezing Coke Slushies

bare feet or

flip flops

painted toenails

the smell of freshly cut grass

dips in the pool on a blistering day

biking, swimming, paddling

talking around the campfire

fireworks on the Fourth of July

picnics of all kinds – must include potato chips

free outdoor concerts

baseball games

lightening bugs at dusk


Relaxing on the porch late at night (with or without thunderstorms, but hopefully with strawberries)


DSC_4274-2Should anything be added to the list?  Please let me know.


February’s Little Indulgences

February is usually a tough month for me.  For being the shortest month of the year, it seems overly long, rather dull, and much too grey.  In fact, the dreariness is so heavy that the occasional peek of sunshine is cause for heartfelt celebration.  This year, I’ve been weathering the month of gloomy purgatory pretty well.  How, you ask?  I’ve found a few small joys that shine a mellow light into the February darkness.  These gems are too wonderful to keep to myself, especially when I know there are others out there struggling with the February blahs or needing an infusion of beauty or inspiration.  Perhaps one of these little pleasures will be “a light to you in dark places” as well.

1.  Steve McCurry’s blog.  He doesn’t post often but when he does – WOW!  His latest post, Silent Language of Hands (click here), moved me to tears.  It is beautiful and powerful and profound.  Take a look.  Please.

2.  Broiled grapefruit for breakfast.  Sounds elegant, doesn’t it?  This is my favorite way to eat grapefruit and it is so easy to make.  Slice grapefruit in half and cut around each triangular section, leaving the fruit in the rind.  Sprinkle with a generous amount of brown sugar (about a teaspoon per half).  Place under the broiler in a tray with sides and broil until the sugar melts and bubbles and the grapefruit browns around the edges.  Cooking times will vary depending on distance from the broiler but it should take less than five minutes.  Don’t be surprised if excess brown sugar burns on the pan and smokes a little, setting off the fire alarm, and scaring the fur off the family cats.  It’s all worth the aggravation in the end.  Place grapefruit halves in bowls, grab spoons, and enjoy.  The best part of the whole experience is the warm sweetened grapefruit juice – sublime!  Even better – preparing and eating them with someone you love.

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3.  The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien.  I’d read The Hobbit a few times when I was younger, but forgotten much of the story since then.  Seeing the recently released movie, with its artistic license and additions to the plot, prompted me to think about a reread.  When I was at Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago, I found a hard cover, pocket-sized 75th Anniversary edition with a dust cover of Tolkien’s original  illustrations.  I couldn’t resist.

I am thoroughly enjoying this charming tale.  It is far more light-hearted than the movie and less dark and serious than the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Tolkien’s style of writing in The Hobbit is a pleasure to read.  I look forward to curling up in bed with my little book to check in on Bilbo Baggins and Company before I go to sleep.  After the long hours of work and responsibility, it is a delightful way to end the day.

4. Houzz.comI love home design and decoration.  For the last two years, my husband and I have been remodeling and upgrading our home. is my go-to source for inspiration, solutions to problems, and wishful dreaming.  I spend entirely too much time on this site reading the latest idea books and bookmarking favorite images for the current (or next) project.  For me, this is F-U-N.  And everyone needs to have some playtime in their lives, right?

5. Harney and Sons’ Blueberry green tea.  Several years ago, a physician recommended that I drink green tea regularly because of a certain family medical history.  At first, I really struggled with the taste of it but have since found several teas that I actually enjoy.  Blueberry green tea is my newest discovery.  It is so good I don’t even have to add sugar.  Getting out of bed is almost easy on these cold winter mornings when I know a hot cup of blueberry tea will be helping me start my day.

6. One Kings LaneOne King’s Lane is a website of curated short-term sales that are updated daily.  The offerings range from stationary to luggage to furniture to rugs.   My favorite sales are the vintage goods – everything from McCoy pottery to high-priced furniture and art.  I very rarely buy anything (Mr. Whimsey may disagree with this remark) but I love looking at all the unique pieces, especially the artwork and furniture, and spying on what other people are willing to pay for these treasures.  The daily 11am postings of new sales are a highlight of my day because I get to indulge in a half hour of high-class window shopping from the comfort of my cozy home.

And finally, I offer something enchanting to end this post.  I don’t know what it is about this video that I find so mesmerizing, but I could watch it for hours.  I have seen very small murmurations around my home but nothing like this.  It must have been awesome (and I don’t mean that in a surfer dude kind of way).  The girl’s facial expressions and laughter at the end says it all.

7.  Murmuration

Do you have any small indulgences that are helping you get by?  Please share…

A Small Happiness (or two)

I’ve been taking advantage of the slower pace of summer to do some de-cluttering.  While I was sifting through a stack of outdated magazines, I came across this question in the January 2011 issue (yes, things have really piled up around here) of Real Simple:

What is one small thing that always makes you happy?

I love questions like this because they force me to be mindful of even the wee things that impact my life and emotions.  Today, my hydrangea bushes are my little source of happiness.  I currently have four plants which are in various stages of bloom: one mophead (full bloom), two lacecaps (just beginning), and one PeeGee (not yet).  This morning I indulged in a second small happiness by taking some photos of the beauties.

Happiness is not a station you arrive at,

 but a manner of traveling.

Margaret Lee Runbeck