There are only two more sleeps ’til Christmas! Before things start to get really crazy around here with all the merrymaking and celebrating, I want to take a moment to reflect on the the little things that have enhanced my holly jolly feelings the past two weeks. Life hasn’t been easy the last few weeks, but my heart is full of joy and gratitude for all the blessings I’ve been enjoying this December.
Small Pleasures: The Second Half of Advent
Watching Illumination’s Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch with Jay. This version of the Dr. Seuss classic is visually stunning, laugh out funny, and heartwarming. I love everything about it and I think Dr. Seuss would, too.
Cookies. Baking them. Eating. Sharing them. It’s all good.
The first annual community Luminary Night. The luminarias turned our neighborhood into a magical wonderland.
Finding jeans that fit, on the first try. Does this need an explanation?
Christmas-themed puzzles. I’m enjoying this so much, I wrote a whole post about it here.
Christmas shopping with my 22.5 year old, married son, Mark. I don’t get to spend as much time with Mark as I’d like so when he asked me to go Christmas shopping with him, I was tickled pink. We hit Target, Ulta, and Barnes and Noble and indulged in some Starbuck’s specialties. I had a blast!
Hanging out with friends. It’s such a pleasure to catch up with friends while eating good food.
This Jingle Bells video by Matt Maher. I dare you not to smile while listening to it.
The past several months have been complicated for me, as I’m sure they have been for almost every human being on the planet. Life is like that. Really good things are mixed in with the rotten. It can be so easy to give into the negative parts and lose track of all the goodness and blessings that come our way every single day. For a long time now, I’ve tried to pay attention to the experiences that bring my heart joy in the midst of living this messy life. Because I’m trying to be intentional about enjoying the Christmas experience this year, my list today focuses mostly on that theme.
Small Pleasures: First Half of December 2021
Working through John Piper’s advent devotional An Indestructible Joy with Jay and Aaron. We are finding some of Mr. Piper’s writings to be over the top, which has generated a fair amount of laughter and silliness. With my twenty year old son, I’ll take it where I can get it, even if it means being disrespectful to a beloved theologian.
Sipping Starbuck’s hot chocolate and listening to Chris Botti’s Christmas album on the way to work. Talk about feeling mellow. I was so relaxed when I got to campus, I practically melted out of the car.
Learning to crochet. There is something about the focus, the feel of the yarn, and the repetition of stitches that I find soothing. It’s both mindful and mindless at the same time, which seems to be a good combination for me.
Watching Christmas movies with Jay. So far we’ve watched Holiday Inn and The Polar Express. White Christmas, A Muppet Christmas Carol and Christmas Vacation are still on the docket along with any other movies that catch our fancy.
Seeing Santa riding a fire truck. Every year our local fire department decorates all their trucks and drives through the neighborhood, sounding the sirens and blasting Christmas music. Santa is always waving from one of the rigs, too. The kids (and dogs) in the neighborhood love it and so do I!
Pisco-jitos at El Serrano. El Serrano is a wonderful Peruvian restaurant in Lancaster. The mojitos there are made with Peruvian brandy called Pisco. Who knew Pisco makes mojitos the best I’ve ever had.
Now that I’ve started thinking about it, I feel like I could go on and on with small pleasures. No matter how much hard stuff I have to wade through in this life, it doesn’t take me very long to find the good stuff if I make the effort to look. Do you have any small pleasures you’d like to share? Please do!
“And since all this loveliness cannot be Heaven, I know in my heart it is June.”
My spring was filled to the brim with fun adventures and big celebrations. Everything was wonderful, but also filled my life with busyness and intense emotions. Life is finally settling back into a dependable groove, which is giving me time to reflect on the inconsequential and trivial things that add an inordinate amount of delight to my life. June was filled with so many blessings that the hard part of composing this post is narrowing the list down to only five pleasures. The abundance of so many good things is a pleasure all its own.
Small Pleasures: June 2021
Strawberries. June is strawberry season in Lancaster County and my family indulges daily. We’re perfectly content with fresh berries and whipped cream, but occasionally we went fancier with no regrets. Cottage pudding, strawberry pancakes, strawberry milk shakes and strawberry cake bumped the strawberry eating experience up several notches. Finally, Jay and I finished our June strawberry bender with strawberry basil mojitos at The Hobbit in Ocean City, Maryland for our anniversary.
Gardening. For the first time in years, I have a functioning garden with raised beds and pebble pathways. I am so enjoying watching herbs, veggies and flowers grow. We’ve already been enjoy the results of our labors (lettuces, radishes and herbs) and look forward to more delicious veggies on the way. Spending time at the end of the day putzing around our little patch is a surprising joy I didn’t anticipate.
Mythos (audiobook), written and narrated by Stephen Fry. This audiobook single-handedly saved my reading life from the doldrums in June. Listening to Fry narrate his charming and witty takes on the Greek myths was an absolute delight. My favorite stories are about Eros and Psyche (C.S. Lewis’s Until We Have Faces is based on this myth), Hephaestus, and Prometheus. I will definitely be listening to Heroes and Troy (the latter just published on 6/29/21) for more myth goodness wrapped in Fry’s humor and insight.
FunkyMonkey Slides. These foam slides are cheap, light and very comfy. I’m currently wearing them around the house and out in the garden, but I think they’ll be perfect for the beach, too.
Late afternoons at the beach. Speaking of the beach, we spent two afternoons at the Delaware State Beach at Tower Road during our anniversary trip to Rehoboth, Delaware. Four o’clock is the magic hour at the state beach, the time when the crowds disappear and the beach belongs to a few diehard beach lovers. At that time in the afternoon, the sun is mellow and the sand is warm and the midday heat has subsided. The empty ocean heaves and tumbles and the sea gulls dip and coast. There is space to breathe deep and to stretch out. This setting is so soothing and meditative – a better stress reliever then just about anything else I know.
I hope June has sprinkled your life with many little delights, too. If you would like to share some of them, please do in the comments…
For me, recognizing the fun, the beauty, the pleasure and the delight in my everyday life has always been a small way to acknowledge the goodness of God and to give thanks for all of it. G.K. Chesterton had a very positive opinion regarding thankfulness. He said:
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
Who knew I’d be thinking some lofty thoughts as I list the little pleasures that tickled my fancy in March? Maybe my list will spark some noble thoughts of your own.
Small Pleasures: March 2021
Watching the world wake up to spring. Winter was long, cold and snowy here in my neck of the woods. Watching the world turn fifty shades of green and flower into pink, yellow and white has been a delight.
Strawberry mango smoothies. For most of March, Jay and I participated in a Whole 30 “detox”, a very rigid temporary diet which, in a nutshell, allows only fruits, vegetables, non-grain unprocessed protein sources and most nuts and seeds. Yes, it was a grim 30 days. A concoction of frozen strawberries and mango, a few tablespoons of orange juice, ice and water saved me from ruin numerous times. These smoothies were refreshing, naturally sweet and delicious. Along with uncured bacon and roasted pepitas, strawberry mango smoothies brought sunshine to the dark corners of my Whole 30 experience.
Bridal showers. Love is in the air and weddings are right around the corner. My son is getting married in May and my nephew’s wedding is in June. March was filled with bridal showers in anticipation of the big events. Gathering with loved ones and friends, eating good food, and honoring my future daughter-in-law and niece-in-law were wonderful ways to spend two weekend afternoons in March. Even bigger fun is ahead!
Time away. At the end of March, Jay and I spent a few days in Bethany Beach, Delaware. The trip was filled with small pleasures: delicious food, a long walk on the beach and poking around a delightful independent book store. After being stuck at home for several months, to be somewhere different – and in a hotel, no less! – was a joy beyond reason.
The Queen’s Man murder mysteries by Sharon Kay Penman. As part of the Western Europe category for the Book Voyage Reading Challenge I’m doing this year, I went backlist and way back in British history. Sharon Kay Penman wrote four murder mysteries set in the 1190s during the capture of Richard the Lionheart on his return from the Crusades. These books were such a pleasure to read! Delightful characters, interesting plots, and a peek into the Middles Ages during the reign of the Plantagenets. The only sad thing about this experience is that Penman didn’t return to the series after the 4th book. I could have spent many more hours sleuthing with Eleanor of Aquitaine’s spy.
So, what small pleasures have you been enjoying lately?
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 TheChronicles 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.