Read an Excerpt
365 SIMPLE PLEASURES
daily suggestions for comfort and joy
By Susannah Seton
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2001 Conari Press
All rights reserved.
CREATE A SIMPLE PLEASURES LIST
What little things bring you joy? They're different for each of us. Here is my friend Pat's list: 1) when I really feel listened to; 2) when I have the bed all to myself; 3) when I take a hot bubble bath; 4) when my son gives me a big hug and holds on tight. Make your own list—and then be sure to indulge regularly
BASIC WHITE BREAD
Nothing beats the smell of bread baking. It creates such a feeling of home!
1 ¼ cups low-fat milk, scalded
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons canola, corn, or safflower oil, plus a bit more
1 ¼ ounce package dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (105-115°)
3 ½ cups unbleached flour, approximately
Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Stir and let cool to lukewarm. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and add to milk mixture. Add flour to the mixture, a little at a time, to form a stiff dough. Mix well after each addition. Turn onto lightly floured board and kneed until smooth and elastic. Grease a large bowl and add dough, turning to grease top. Cover with damp towel. Let rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. Punch down and let rest until it's doubled again. Punch down and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape into loaf and place in a greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch bread pan. Brush top with oil. Cover and let rise until it doubles in size. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake loaf until done, about 40 minutes. It should be brown on top and sound hollow when struck. Makes one loaf.
7 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops sweet marjoram essential oil
3 drops ylang-ylang essential oil
Fill tub with warm water, and then add oils. Swish the oils around in the water to evenly disperse them, then submerge yourself.
Heavy snowfalls are blessings for people who love maple candy The good news is that you don't need an acre of sugar maples and a bucket of sap to make it: a bottle of maple syrup will do just fine.
½ cup maple syrup
1 baking pan full of packed, clean snow
Leave the pan of snow outside or in the fridge until you're ready to use it. Then heat the maple syrup in a pot to 270° (check with a candy thermometer). Carefully dribble the hot syrup in small patches over the snow. Each one of these patches will magically turn to maple candy. Yum!
PAINT WITH PASSION
Are you looking for an inexpensive way to jazz up your house? Add character to a room by painting the trim an unconventional color. If you are so inspired, consider the following: 1) Stay away from trendy colors—you're going to be living with them probably for a long time. And you might just want something different from what everyone else has. 2) Don't be afraid to mess up—you can always paint over it. 3) Think about the surrounding accent colors—will they mesh with the new color you've chosen?
This makes a perfect gift for those who want plants but kill them by not watering them. Find a low ceramic pot or bowl and plant a few different varieties of cactus. You might want to add a pretty rock or dried flowers for color (red celosia is a wonderful choice). Handling a cactus doesn't have to be painful if you wrap a towel around it several times and use the towel like a noose to lift it out of the old pot and into the new. Rather than using your fingers, use a spoon to pack dirt around roots.
PERSONALIZED REFRIGERATOR MAGNETS
Can you ever have enough kitchen magnets? With all the stuff I tack up on my fridge, I certainly can't. Here's an easy way to make your own (and they're great gifts for Grandma that kids can make by themselves.) Save the metal lids from frozen drink cans. Find some favorite photos that will fit on the lids, and have color copies made of them. Cut the copies to fit, and using white glue or spray glue, affix the pictures to the lids, smoothing out any bubbles or wrinkles with your fingers. Glue a thin piece of ribbing around the edge and a magnet on the back. Presto!
You've heard of raspberry vinegar, but what about cranberry? It's great for using on salads and chicken dishes. Wash and pick over the cranberries and dry well on paper towels. Use 1 cup of fresh cranberries per quart of vinegar. Pack the cranberries into clean bottles or jars with lids or corks and fill with white wine vinegar that has been heated just to the boiling point. Cork or cap the bottles. Stand the jars on a sunny windowsill for about two weeks (four weeks if it's not very sunny). The warmth of the sun will infuse the vinegar with the cranberry flavor. Do a taste test; if the vinegar doesn't seem flavorful enough, strain it and add more cranberries. When it suits you, label and decorate the jars with a beautiful ribbon. Store at room temperature.
In the winter when my garden is dry and bare, nothing gives me more pleasure than to visit the local garden shop, where it always feels like sweet, balmy summer. I wander through the rows of brightly colored flowers and richly hued shiny leaves, and the aroma of blossoms and sweet rich earth make me forget, for a time, the gloom and doom outside. The plants and flowers are completely oblivious to the weather outside, and their verdant outbursts of energy restore mine. I take an inordinate amount of time picking out some ridiculously expensive and riotously colored plant that just screams warm weather, which I take home and place on my windowsill or bedside table in a beautiful basket or brightly colored cachepot. I kind of have a "brown thumb," so my plants never last long, but I almost prefer that; it gives me a chance to go to the garden shop again that much sooner!
This is Danish comfort food, designed to dispel the gloom of winter. Its name means "burning love." Fat phobies, beware!
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
8 to 10 slices bacon, chopped
3 onions, chopped
½ stick butter
½ pint cream (can substitute milk or low-fat milk)
salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste
Cook the potatoes in water until tender. While the potatoes are cooking, fry the bacon with the onions until onions are tender. Drain potatoes and mash. Whip in butter and cream or milk. Season with spices. Mound potatoes on a plate and make a well in the center. Place bacon-onion mixture in the center. Serves 4.
If you are a great per user of recipes, check out the site at www.kitchenlink.com. This site provides an exhaustive listing of recipes and food-related information. What I like about it is that you can type in a key word—let's say you have an abundance of broccoli and are looking for something different to do with it—and up pops a slew of recipes. Looking for low-fat or low-cal dishes? Check out www.fatfree.com and www.cyberdiet.com. If you are looking for a good place to buy natural food, don't miss Good Eats Shop-At-Home Natural Food at www.goodeats.com. And more than 6,000 recipes are available at www.epicurious.com, while www.foodchannel.com will link you to cooking contests, games, and restaurant reviews.
Rosemary grows in abundance in many parts of the country. I love to use it fresh, so I've learned to make this simple rosemary heart to hang in my kitchen. I just tear off sprigs as I need them. If I don't use it fast enough, no problem—it's just as tasty dried.
3 feet garden wire
12 long stems rosemary
Make a hook at heart end of the wire, then bend the wire into a heart shape and hook ends together. Starting at the top, attach a stem of rosemary to the wire with floral wire so that its leafy top points into the middle. Repeat on other side. Then wire stems down both sides and join at bottom. Makes 1 wreath.
Here is a marvelous aromatherapy spray from Judith Fitzsimmons' and Paula M. Bousquet's wonderful book Seasons of Aromatherapy. Guaranteed to relax you and help you drift off.
2 drops chamomile essential oil
4 drops lavender essential oil
3 drops orange essential oil
5 ounces water
Mix all ingredients together in a spray bottle. Spray bed clothing and the air before bedtime.
THE NOSE KNOWS
What can compare to the smell of home cooking as you walk in the door after a hard day's work? I like it so much that I've taken to Crock-Pot cooking on my nights to cook so that the aromas will be awaiting me as soon as I hit the kitchen doorway. The new slow cookers are quite marvelous!
There is nothing like chocolate pudding made from scratch! It's actually quite simple to make. If you are a fan of the "skin" of the pudding, chill uncovered (the longer you chill it, the thicker it will get). If you dislike the skin, cover the pudding tightly and serve as soon as it's cold.
4 tablespoons cocoa
4 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups light cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In the top of a double boiler over hot but not boiling water, combine cocoa, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add ½ cup cream and stir until smooth. Stir remaining cream in slowly, stirring constantly, until thick. Stir in vanilla. Pour into container and chill. Serves 4.
DON'T FORGET THE DIMMER
Why, when people are installing dimmers, do they always remember the bedroom, dining room, and living room but ignore the kitchen? Whenever I move, putting a dimmer in the kitchen is my first priority. That way, when guests come over and gather in the kitchen, as they invariably will, the lighting is as soft and flattering as it is in the rest of the house.
HOMEMADE BUBBLE BATH
Bubble bath is a great gift that even small kids can make. The trick is to have a pretty container to put it in and to never divulge your ingredients.
2 cups Ivory (or other unscented) dishwashing liquid
1/8 ounce of your favorite essential oil (vanilla is my favorite)
Drop the oil into the dishwashing liquid and let sit, covered for 1 week. Pour it into beautiful a bottle and add a gift tag and ribbon and instructions to use ¼ cup per bath. Enough for 8 baths.
Pretzels are great nonfat snacks that can easily be made at home. The longer you knead the dough, the softer the pretzel will be. If you've got kids, enlist them—to make the process more fun, the dough can easily be formed in the shapes of letters and numbers.
1 ½ cups warm water
1 package yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for tops
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 425°. Put the warm water into a large bowl, sprinkle in yeast, and stir until it dissolves. Add sugar, flour, and salt. Mix well, then knead dough until it is smooth and soft. Roll and twist dough into desired shapes—letters, numbers, twists, and so on. Grease two cookie sheets. Lay the pretzel dough shapes onto cookie sheets. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden. Makes 1 to 2 dozen, depending on size.
THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE
Words do make the mood. We all know the usual terms of endearment—honey, dear, sweetie, angel, to name but a few. But to fan the flames of ardor and romance, why not try some less tired language, like sweeting, sweetling, or sweetkin (terms in vogue in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries). Or how about dearling (the original form of darling)? Your partner could become your paramour (literally through love) in French. Instead of attractive or cute, you could try toothsome or cuddlesome. Rather than missing, try yearning, pining, longing, or hungering, and watch the passion build.
CRAZY FOR CRACKERS
Crackers are incredibly easy to make, and homemade ones are so much better than store-bought ones. I love sesame seeds, so I sprinkle some on just before baking—you can too!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup water, approximately
sesame seeds, optional
4 tablespoons butter, margarine, or other shortening
Preheat oven to 325°. Sift together flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt. With 2 knives, cut the shortening into the flour until mixture is fine. Add just enough water to make a firm dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll out thinly with a floured rolling pin. Using a round cookie cutter, stamp out crackers, prick them all over with a fork, and sprinkle with salt and sesame seeds if desired. Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 20 minutes or until crisp. Cool on a rack and store in airtight container. Makes 2 dozen.
Surprise your sweetheart with a candlelit dinner for two with your own homemade scented candles gracing both the table and the bedroom. Their lovely fragrance will be released as they burn. Scented candles are incredibly easy to make—you just need to plan in advance. (If you haven't planned ahead, you can still get some of the effect by sprinkling a drop or two of your favorite essential oil in the melted wax of a plain candle as it burns.)
2 ounces of your favorite fragrance essential oil (or try a combination; vanilla
and rose are my favorites for romance)
¼ cup orris root powder (available at herbal stores)
1 large airtight plastic container big enough to fit 6 candles
6 unscented candles, any size
Combine the oil(s) and the orris root and sprinkle in the bottom of the container. Place candles inside, cover, and store in a cool spot for 4 to 6 weeks.
After the first big blizzard of winter ends and the snow is clean and white, go outside and make tractor tracks. Walk with your feet pointing out at a 45-degree angle. First put your left foot down, then your right foot so that the heel is against the middle of your left foot, and then it's left, right, left till it looks just like a John Deere has passed through on the way to the barn. Don't forget to do both wheels, if you really want to impress your mom. To impress your kids, you may need to add a snow angel between the tracks. Just lie on your back and wave your arms back and forth in the snow. Get up carefully without stepping on your imprint. Admire your handiwork.
SNOW ICE CREAM
This is a wonderful nineteenth-century treat that you can replicate if you live in snowy climes.
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup superfine sugar
2 teaspoons lemon extract or two tablespoons rosewater
8 to 10 cups fresh, clean snow
Mix the cream, sugar, and lemon extract or rosewater. Add the snow, beating with a whisk, using only enough snow to make a stiff ice cream. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.
Masks are used to deep clean and condition the skin and should always be applied after you have thoroughly washed your face. Be sure to avoid your eyes. After applying, lie down for fifteen minutes, covering your eyes with water-moistened eye pads. The kind of mask you choose depends on your skin type. This one works for all types—and it's so easy to make.
½ cup water
¼ cup oatmeal
Bring water to a boil, add oats, and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool until warm but not hot. Apply to clean skin and leave on for 15 minutes. Rinse with warm water, then cool.
Excerpted from 365 SIMPLE PLEASURES by Susannah Seton. Copyright © 2001 Conari Press. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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