Small Pleasures: June 2017 Edition

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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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 

 

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?

Summer Mini-Bucket List

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Ah, Summer!  I love your long days, relaxed pace, and the opportunities you provide to do most of my living outdoors.  With your arrival, my schedule loosens up, travel adventures commence, and I can reconnect with my family over campfires and hikes in the woods.  You are the long-awaited, extended vacation of my overly-ordered, hectic year.

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Each summer I make a list of fun goals I’d like to accomplish and activities I’d like to experience during the season.  Having a bit of a plan protects me from waking up one morning in September, realizing that summer has slipped away and I missed its unique opportunities because I was too caught up in the minutiae of living.  This summer, my bucket list touches on a few bigger, long term goals but is mostly light-hearted and fun.  I can’t wait to get started.

Summer 2016 Mini-Bucket List

  1. Visit a historical site I’ve never been to beforePoplar Forest (Thomas Jefferson’s vacation home) and Fort Ticonderoga are possibilities based on vacation plans.
  2. Spend a day with each of my children doing whatever their hearts desire.  I have a feeling there’s a lot of fishing in my future.
  3. Offer three different invites for dinner on the patio to friends we would like to get to know better.  I’ve been convicted of my stinginess with my time and this is a small way for me to practice generosity and hospitality.
  4. Try a new homemade ice cream recipe. Strawberry, maybe? Or peach? Or salted caramel?
  5. Go to a major league baseball game.  It’s been a few years and the Phillies are actually playing pretty well so far this season.
  6. Take a road trip.  Is it cheating to put this on my list when I already have the road trips planned?  My husband and I will be driving the Blue ridge Parkway at the end of June and in August the family will cruise to the Adirondacks.
  7. Enjoy some time in my kayak.  My husband bought me a kayak two years ago and I have yet to use it.  It’s about time I took the opportunity to enjoy a float down the Conestoga.
  8. Swim in a lake.  I haven’t done this in years and I think the Adirondacks will be the perfect place to jump in.
  9. Participate in a service project with my family.  I’m not sure what form this activity will take but it should be a great bonding experience for us that also benefits others.
  10. Read or listen to 12 books.  That’s about 4 books a month.  Piece of cake!  I want to keeping plugging away at the Popsugar Reading Challenge and also read some books just for the fun of it.  It is summer, after all, and summer reading should never be a chore.
  11. Walk 108 miles (3 miles, 3 times a week for 12 weeks).   My health and well-being are worth this little bit of time investment.  Besides, I often listen to books when I walk – more story time for me.
  12. Sit on the porch or patio late in the evening with Jay as many nights as possible, listening to nature’s music and talking over our little and big dreams. 

Welcome, Summer!  Stay as long as you like.

Do you have any goals you’d like to accomplish this summer? 

A Little Yule Cheer: Day 21 (Christmas Card Outtakes)

Ever since my youngest child joined our family, my husband and I have been exploiting our children to create adorable Christmas cards.  When Aaron was four months old, we dressed the kids up as  Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.  We used an old Crate and Barrel magazine rack for the manger and pillow cases for costumes.  The card was a huge hit and a tradition was born.  Through the years the kids have been angels, shepherds with cardboard sheep, lions and lambs, Santas, and the reindeer you see below.  They’ve held candles, played in the snow, and spelled the word Joy with cardboard letters painted gold.

Now that the kids are older (my daughter is 19 and my sons are 16 and 14), we’ve pretty much given up doing creative family Christmas cards.  The last time I asked the kids what theme they wanted to do, my middle son suggested a recreation of that first manger scene complete with my youngest son, who is now 5’7″ and 170 lbs., playing the role of baby Jesus.  That went over like a lead balloon as you can probably guess.  With that, our card tradition has come to an end.

I wish I could say that I miss creating all those Christmas cards, but I really don’t.  They were a lot of work, mostly because getting three children to look at a camera at the same time and smile is difficult  under normal circumstances.  Add props like a lit candle or uncomfortable costumes and it becomes an impossible task.  Photos sessions always ended with someone in tears (usually me and at least one child) and an oath that we were never, ever, doing this again (which we always did).

Somehow, we always managed to put a card together before Christmas and as much as I don’t miss doing it, I’m so glad we made the effort.  Our family and friends have enjoyed the cards and w e now have a wonderful collection of images of our children across the past 14 Christmases.  The funny thing is, when I look through the photos, I love the ones that didn’t make the cut the best because that is where each child’s personality really shines through.  Sweet Julia, who has always been a pleaser, wanting to do exactly what we asked of her and who the boys could get to laugh at the drop of a hat.  Mark ,who was always half annoyed that he had to participate and who could never keep his eyes open when the flash went off.   And Aaron, who has the most expressive face of anyone ever and who couldn’t sit still for 5 seconds.

The photos below are from our 2007 Christmas card.  The kids are 11, 8, 6.  You’ll notice they are signing in some of the photos.  I found that it helped them to smile if they sang Christmas carols.  None of the photos below made it to the cover of the Christmas card that year but I love every single one of them.  They are the perfect example of what our Christmas card process was normally like and are beautiful reminders for me of who my children were at that time.

Christmas Reindeer of 2007

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Thank you for allowing me to revel in some Christmas nostalgia and for joining me.