August was a month of changes for my family and me. My youngest son, my baby, turned sixteen. Sixteen! He has his permit and now my husband and I can look forward to six months of being scared witless every time we get in a vehicle with him because he will be behind the wheel, learning how to drive. In August we also experienced the bittersweet and disorienting upheaval of sending our two older kids to college for the first time and the subsequent struggle to establish a “new normal”. The realization that life will never be the same has been sobering.
Needless to say, August was an emotionally complicated couple of weeks for me. This is why I’m happy to focus on the simple things that added sweetness and lightness to my month. It feels good and right to acknowledge that no matter what is going on externally or internally in my life there is always something to appreciate and be thankful for.
August’s Small Pleasures
- Fresh flower bouquets. I think the flowers have been breathtaking this summer and the local orchard had spectacular bouquets for sale all month. Zinnia, hydrangea, black-eyed susan, lisianthus, coxcomb, snapdragons, sunflowers – you name it. I couldn’t help myself. I bought a bouquet every time I stopped in the orchard outlet.
- Definicils mascara (Lancôme). This is the perfect mascara – no clumping, no flaking, no running. Even though it is always showing up on make-up “Best Of” lists, I avoided purchasing it because of the price tag. No more! My eyelashes have never looked so good. 🙂
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (in audiobook format). Jacqueline Woodson’s award-winning (National Book Award and Newberry Honor) autobiography is children’s literature of the highest order. It’s written in verse, which makes for an interesting reading/listening experience. The story provides a singular, intimate portrait of a young African American girl’s experience growing up in the South and in New York City in the 1960s and early 1970s. Woodson narrates the audiobook and it is so well done. I can’t recommend it enough.
- Spending time with my family. I always enjoy being with my family, but the times we spent together this month seemed more precious because I knew the kids were heading off to school. I’m thankful my kids still enjoy hanging out with Jay and I and hope the changing circumstances don’t interfere with this too much.
- Shetland. I’m talking about the series which I discovered on Netflix, not the actual islands. My husband and I spent several nights watching the atmospheric murder mysteries which take place on the northern islands of Scotland. Breathtaking cinematography, moody music, interesting crimes. What more could a person ask for? One small warning, though. Some of the characters have heavy brogues which make understanding what is going on a bit dicey. We spent a fair amount of time replaying certain scenes to get the gist of the dialogue. Trust me, though. It’s worth the effort.
- Solar eclipse shadows. (See below) We were not in the swath of the United States which experienced a total eclipse of the sun on August 21. This was somewhat disappointing until we discovered the partial eclipse in the dapple patterns on the patio. When the sunlight filtered through the leaves of the Zelkova trees in our backyard, the spaces between the leaves acted like pinhole cameras. These “cameras” created multiple partial eclipses that shimmered over the pavers and furniture. I took photos but they don’t do the experience justice. It was magical.
August has faded away and it’s departure marks the unofficial end of summer. It makes me sad to say good-bye to my personal happy-go-lucky season, but I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t looking forward to cooler temperatures, brilliant fall colors, harvest fairs, and hot chocolate. It’s time to look forward to the new season and all the good things that come with it.
A fun song…
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
- 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.
- 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!
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Once again, I’m taking a moment to linger over the little joys in life that have enhanced my recent everyday like frosting on a cupcake. Or, like fresh flowers in a vintage vase…
June’s Small Pleasures
- Father Brown mysteries. My daughter and I were suffering from Phryne Fisher withdrawal so we started trolling Netflix for some kind of substitute. Enter Father Brown, a cozy mystery series based on the G.K. Chesterton character of the same name. This series is based in a quaint English village in what looks like the early 1950’s and is filled with interesting characters and entertaining plotlines. Father Brown, a priest and amateur sleuth played by Mark Williams of Arthur Weasley/Harry Potter fame, solves an inordinate amount of murders in his parish and surrounding environs with dogged determination and a pleasing amount of grace and compassion. The show is light-hearted in general but offers a surprisingly hefty dose of legitimate, accurate Christian theology. We’re currently on the 5th (and last season), so I’m open to any other suggestions for our next Netflix marathon.
- Berry season. Strawberries, blueberries, and those elusive and delicate black raspberries. These delicious gems have been the bright spot in my recent Whole 30 attempt. I’ve eaten so many strawberries this past month, it’s a wonder I don’t look like one.
- Having Fridays off from work. One of my most favorite perks of my job as a professor is a four day work week with Fridays off during the summer semester. Three day weekends for 12 weeks straight! What’s not to love about that, I ask?
- Greenglass House by Kate Milford and Far Far Away by Tom McNeal. In my opinion, summer books should be fun reading. Give me an interesting plot, quirky characters, a mystery or two and a pinch (or dollop) of the fantastical, and I’m all in. With this in mind, let me recommend Greenglass House (a middle grade book I listened to) and Far Far Away (a YA book I read). Each provided me with hours of delightful bookish entertainment in June. I’m not going to say anything about either of the books – you’ll get the most benefit if you go in blind. Just trust me when I say, “Read them”. You won’t be disappointed.
- When the Night Comes by Dan Auerbach. The perfect summer-evening-on-the-porch song. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of listening to it.
Now it’s your turn. Any small pleasures you are currently enjoying? Please share in the comments.
Summer officially begins today! In celebration of the start of the most relaxed and carefree season of my year, I’m once again compiling a mini-bucket list of fun activities to enjoy before the Fall, with all its structure and demands, rolls around again.
Summer Mini-Bucket List, 2017
- Try three new-to-me local restaurants. Top choices include the Belvedere Inn, Gibraltar, and Luca.
- Visit an Escape Room with my family before Julia and Mark leave for college. This looks like so much fun!
- Attend a lawn concert at Nissley Vineyards. A soft summer evening, homegrown wine, good friends, and live music for listening and dancing – a recipe for grown-up fun.
- Get to Central Market a few Friday mornings. A historical treasure and a feast for the senses.
- Churn out a new flavor of homemade ice cream. How about the Cookies and Cream Ice Cream recipe from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough? Yeah, I thought it sounded delicious, too.
- Read at least twelve books. (Just trying to reach my Goodreads Summer Reading Goal of 12 – 20 books). My summer reading choices swing between light and fluffy and suspenseful and thrilling (i.e, The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan and The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware).
- Go to a baseball game (the Phillies or Barnstormers). I do wish the Phils were playing better…
- Spend some quality time with my camera. The flowers alone provide endless possibilities for reviving my photography skills.
- Take an afternoon to bike an area Rail-to-Trail path. I’d prefer if the trail was a downhill ride both ways.
- Volunteer for or support a local non-profit organization. Clare House, Water Street Mission, and Schreiber Pediatric Center are a few I’m considering.
- Camp at a state park. World’s End State Park on the Loyalsock Creek near Williamsport is looking promising.
- Memorize Romans 8:31 -39. I need some sort of a challenge after all these mostly self-focused, feel good goals. 😉
I have very few other plans for the summer, actually. In a few short days we’ll be heading to Corolla in the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week of glorious laziness. Other than that, I plan to hang around here, watching my son play baseball a few evenings a week and spending as much time as possible on my porch and patio. We’ll be grilling all the time and eating ice cream (homemade or not), buttery corn on the cob, sweet raspberries, and juicy peaches. My two oldest kiddos are heading to Lebanon Valley in the fall so I want to spend as much time as I can with them before they go. I’ll also be starting to teach my youngest son how to drive. His older siblings have broken me in pretty well so I’m not expecting too many “life passing before my eyes” experiences.
If I can accomplish all of this in the next few months, it will be a blessed summer indeed.
What are your plans and/or goals for the summer? Please share!
Previous Summer mini-bucket lists here and here.
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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 …
- 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.
- 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?