Simple Pleasures: Soothing Suggestions and Small Comforts for Living Well Year Round [NOOK Book]


Illustrated with charming line art, this is both a guide to and a celebration of the art of living well, with stories, quotes, recipes, craft ideas, all arranged by season. From relaxation techniques to how to make candied flowers, this is a compendium of ideas to bring moments of pleasure to everyday life.

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Simple Pleasures: Soothing Suggestions and Small Comforts for Living Well Year Round

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Illustrated with charming line art, this is both a guide to and a celebration of the art of living well, with stories, quotes, recipes, craft ideas, all arranged by season. From relaxation techniques to how to make candied flowers, this is a compendium of ideas to bring moments of pleasure to everyday life.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609253516
  • Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
  • Publication date: 1/9/2002
  • Series: Simple Pleasures
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,058,236
  • File size: 940 KB

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Simple Pleasures

Soothing Suggestions & Small Comforts for Living Well Year Round

By Susannah Seton, Robert Taylor, David Greer

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 1996 Robert Taylor, Susannah Seton, and David Greer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60925-351-6



Lilacs in dooryards Holding quiet conversations with an early moon.

—Amy Lowell


"April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks Go."

—Christopher Morley

A Job Well Done

I'm a window cleaner and I get very attached to the windows I work on. I know their individual personalities, their mineral deposits, bad seals, and BB holes. I remove every speck of bee gunk, snail trail, fly crud, and bird doo that desecrates "my" windows, as well as the damage inflicted by that natural enemy, the painter. I bring garden clippers and prune bushes and plants that dare to interfere with my windows. As I drive my route, I get great enjoyment from seeing my glass glistening in the sunlight.

"We will have to give up taking things for granted, even the apparently simple things."

—J.D. Bernal


Healthier Cleaning Pleasures

When the weather starts getting warmer and the days longer, you know it's time for a good spring cleaning. There's great satisfaction in a major cleaning project, but the result should be a clean-smelling house or apartment, not one over-whelmed with chemicals or artificial scents of some mythical forest glade. How many plastic containers of chemical spray cleaners do you need under the sink, anyway? They aren't good for you or the environment. Fortunately, nontoxic cleaning substitutes are within easy reach.

Baking soda is a mild cleanser for kitchen and bath fixtures; just sprinkle it straight from the box onto a damp cloth or sponge. A couple of tablespoons dissolved in a quart of water can be used to wash the interiors of refrigerators and freezers, neutralizing odors. Add a tablespoon to coffee pots and vacuum bottles, then fill them with water to freshen them, too. Still on supermarket shelves, venerable Bon Ami cleanser (with the drawing of the chick that "hasn't scratched yet") is a little more effective than baking soda, and doesn't contain chlorine, phosphates, perfumes, or harsh abrasives.

Borax or baking soda with lemon juice will handle soap film in the bathtub and shower. Adding a couple of teaspoons of vinegar to a quart of water produces a handy glass cleaner, and there's even a less pungent solution for the dishwasher—equal parts of borax and washing soda (sodium carbonate, often labeled as "detergent booster"). Discolored copper pots? Try a cleanser from early in the twentieth century: a tablespoon of salt mixed with a half-cup of vinegar.

There are also all-natural air fresheners made from the concentrated oils and essences of orange peels that can neutralize odors, not just cover them up. Orange-based fresheners are available in hardware and larger natural-food stores. Cedar oil spray can freshen pet beds and closets and renew the scent of cedar chests and shoe trees. And, for more than a century, Mrs. Stewart's Liquid Bluing has been added to the laundry rinse water to whiten sheets, shirts, and other fabrics that have yellowed or grayed with age. Mrs. Stewart—whose no-nonsense portrait is still on the label—would be pleased that she's still teaching us a thing or two about housekeeping.

Psychic Cleanup

When I accumulate too many people, experiences, and fatigue in my life, I get emotionally and spiritually disheveled. The sign that this is happening is that I have a dream full of cluttered, kaleidoscopic images. Then I know I need to set aside a day for a good old- fashioned clear-out. When I wake up on the appointed morning, I go on a cleaning binge in my trailer. I put away books and tidy up papers, empty the old cream cheese out of the fridge, and wash my clothes. I clean up my body, too, by drinking only juice and maybe going for a very long run. I unplug the phone, keep the radio turned off (news is clutter), and if anyone comes to visit me, I say, "I'm sorry, I'm not talking to anyone today."

At night, the clean-up ends when I go to bed in fresh, clean sheets and read something peaceful and uplifting. Then I have a good long sleep, free of cluttered dreams. The next day I feel completely replenished, with all my psychic garbage hauled away.

"What a gift of grace to be able to take the chaos from within and from it create some semblance of order."

—Katherine Paterson


"Scent" sational Idea

Take your favorite essential oil (peach, rose, and vanilla are very nice environmental scents) and rub it on the light bulbs in your bedroom and the night light in the bathroom. The room will be infused with scent as light heats up the oil. For a "higher tech" approach, you can also buy inexpensive clay light bulb rings that hold the oil. Good sources for the oils, as well as all kinds of other yummy simple pleasures are: Body Time catalog and stores (510-524-0360), The Body Shop catalog and stores (800-541-2535), Bare Escentuals catalog and stores (800-227-3990), Cost Plus stores, Earthsake stores, Green World Mercantile (415-771-5717), Red Rose catalog and stores (800-374-5505), and Hearthsong catalog and stores (800-432-6314).

"We should all just smell well and enjoy ourselves more."

—Cary Grant

The Zen of Vacuuming

I never wear shoes unless I have to. I always go barefoot if I'm painting or cooking. I like to feel the ground against my skin, with no interruption in the energy that comes through my feet. I prefer to live in the desert, where I don't need shoes either inside or outside. And wherever I'm living, clean floors are essential.

My love affair with vacuuming began when I was a child. The noise blocked out my mother's scolding, and I could feel like I was doing something that made grownups proud of me. Vacuuming is still my joy and meditation. I totally check out when I'm running my Electrolux over the floor. Sometimes I go over the same spot over and over again. I feel about my Electrolux the way some people feel about classic cars. It's like an old DeSoto or Studebaker. It never gets too old, it just keeps getting more stylish, and it gets the job done. The only thing better than walking barefoot on a freshly vacuumed floor is getting a foot massage.

"That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest."



If a foot rub is your idea of a good time, try doing it with peppermint foot lotion. Many people swear by it as the only curative for a long day's walk or a hard day of work (or shopping!). The Body Shop has a superior one. You can also make your own by adding 1 tablespoon of peppermint oil to 6 ounces of unscented lotion. Or try this therapeutic indulgence courtesy of the Fredericksburg Herb Farm in Fredericksburg, Texas: Grate approximately 1 cup of fresh ginger. Squeeze gently and add, along with a few drops of olive oil, to a foot basin or tub filled with hot water. Cover the bowl with a cloth or towel to preserve the heat, and soak for fifteen minutes. Then dry your feet and slip into a pair of warm socks.

Hanging Out the Wash

On Saturdays as soon as spring arrives, I take the sheets and undies outside into the fresh air and hang them up in the sun and wind. No one else is allowed the job—I tell them it's because they don't know how to hang out the clothes. I feel the early morning sun on my back and listen to quiet sounds as I leave the long week's raggedy days behind. I bathe in the morning light under the clothesline and delight in the feeling of air on my skin after being shut up in the office all week. When I bring the laundry in, I press my face to the sheets. They smell like all the promises that detergents make but don't keep; they smell like the very essence of spring.

Oh yes, I have a dryer, but on nice days it sits silent. Placed on the bed, the fragrant sheets from the line become a silent welcome after a tiring day.

"Smells are surer than sounds and sights to make the heartstrings crack."

—Rudyard Kipling


A Bird Haven

When the birds have begun to build their nests, that's the time to clean the lint screen in your dryer. Instead of throwing the lint away, put it out on a porch railing or even a branch of a tree. The birds will use it to line their homes.

"I was always a lover of soft-winged things."

—Victor Hugo

The Duct Tape Fan Club

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's a motto I can agree with, but I'd take it a step further—if it's broke, don't fix it with more than you need to. When things break, it's a pleasure to be able to fix them with whatever's close at hand, with minimal time and expense. People who share this philosophy usually swear allegiance to some universal solution for fixing things.

I've always been partial to duct tape. It doesn't matter if the broken item is a canoe or a computer or a chair, I'll always turn to duct tape first, and it's always a great satisfaction to find new uses for it. I've run into several other types of universal-solutions people who have tried unsuccessfully to convert me to their methods. There are the Krazy Glue people and the epoxy people and the minority group that favors little pieces of wire. Finally, there's the tiny fringe group that goes in for a mixture of glue and duct tape and wire. These are the desperate people who couldn't fix anything if their life depended on it. You can tell which group you're in by what you reach for in a crisis.

"What a people—we make something out of nothing and revel in its simple delicacy."

—Carol Talbot


Instant Room Makeover

If you are tired of the way your living room or bedroom looks, do an instant makeover by revitalizing old throw pillows. Place a pillow kitty-cornered on top of a pretty scarf or bandanna. Bring opposing corners of the scarf or bandanna together and tie them in a knot. Do the same to the other corners. You have a new, colorful look for your home.

Bear Essentials

I make teddy bears and the best part is right at the end when I sculpt a face on the bear. I never know till I've finished stuffing the bear what its personality is going to be. Something about the way the fur lies gives me my clue, and I go to work. Usually teddy bears have a worried, poignant expression that shows how empathic they are, but now and then they get a wild gleam in their eye and a foolish leer on their face. You just never know. Their sex is also a mystery until the very end, and sometimes remains so. I once dressed one of my bears as a boy, and it took me weeks to realize he'd be more comfortable in a dress. I'm still not sure if he was a girl or a transvestite.

"Simple pleasures are the last refuge of the complex."

—Oscar Wilde


As the weather begins to warm and you no longer use the fireplace, evoke the romance and beauty of a fire by placing four or five pillar candles inside it. The soft light they will give off will compensate for the loss of the roaring fire.

Garden and the Great Outdoors

"The cherry tomato is a wonderful invention, producing, as it does, a satisfactorily explosive squish when bitten."

—Miss Manners

Garden Surprises

Every spring I make a trip to the nursery to load up on puny little plants that have no blooms. It's an act of faith, because half the time I have no idea what they'll look like. Then in summer, the color combinations in my garden come as a wonderful surprise, far better than if I'd planned them. Gardening in spring is life-affirming. The outcome is often less important than the promise of things to be, and the plants transforming in my flower beds remind me of the potential for growth in other areas of my life.

"Anticipate the good so that you may enjoy it."

—Ethiopian proverb

Confronting Reality

Very early in the morning, when the mist is on the lake, I go down the hill in my nightie with a cup of hot tea and a handful of cat crunchies for Minnesota Fats, who comes with me. We get into the dory (Fats takes the bow), and I row out into the middle of the lake and just float there, luxuriating in the peace and stillness. When we come back to the shore, Fats rests on the dock, and I drop my nightie and slip, naked and quiet, into the water. It's a wonderful sensation to swim in the mist when you can't see the edges of where you're going or where you've been, and the air and the water are the same temperature so there's no feeling of separation. When I start to feel chilly, I go back up the hill to the pleasure of a hot bath on the deck, and I warm up from my swim in preparation for work.

My colleagues can always tell when I've been early-morning mist swimming by the dreamy grin on my face that lasts most of the morning. When I hear people come back from a wonderful experience and say, "Oh, well, back to reality," I remember the lake and the mist and the stillness and I think to myself, who decides reality has to be drudgery instead of intense pleasure?


Aromatherapy, au Naturel

Every time you pass a lilac bush or an iris or daffodils in flower, take the time to bury your face in the bloom. Lilacs have a sweet and heady scent, and irises are musky and erotic. Close your eyes, breathe deeply and imagine the fragrance passing all through your body.

The Perfection of Peas

Now and then an entire row of peas germinates without the cats rolling in them. They're most beautiful when they're maybe an inch high, before they get all straggly. They're just so fat and round and perfect, like a row of green stars in the sky.

"What can your eye desire to see, your ears to hear, your mouth to take, or your nose to smell that is not to be had in a garden?"

—William Lawson


Planting the Seed

Gardeners are by nature optimists, and if there's anything more therapeutic and satisfying than working in a garden, it's planting the seed of wonder in the mind of a child. There's a small investment in a packet of seeds or—for the most impatient children, grandchildren, or young neighbors—a half-dozen tiny plants in a plastic packet.

Remember playing with puppet-like snapdragons when you were a kid? It's not a lost art. Youngsters may also enjoy fast-growing, towering sunflowers, fuzzy lamb's ears, fragrant sweet peas, lavender, and mint. And with a strawberry in a pot in a sunny location, kids can have their gardening project and eat it, too.

Or help youngsters sprout seeds indoors. Fold a couple of paper towels together to form a strip as wide as the towel and a few inches high. Moisten and place inside a peanut butter jar or similar-size jar, forming a border at the base. Crumple and moisten another paper towel and stuff into the center. Carefully place seeds—beans are easy to grow and handle—between the folded paper and the glass. Keep moist, but not soaked—for several days as seeds germinate. Kids can watch roots and plants sprout. When plants reach above the jar and two sets of leaves have formed, transplant to pots of soil or into the ground.


Reflected Glory

Martha Stewart is renowned for making beautiful things that are often complicated to do. However, sometimes she has an idea that is simplicity itself. One such suggestion we recently saw is to line the edges of a garden path with pure white stones, pebbles, shells. That way, when the sun sets, "they'll reflect the moonlight, showing you the way."

Art for Mules

As an artist who works with handmade paper, sometimes I make something that's too big or confrontational for someone's living room. Then I have the problem of owning and storing it.

Recently I started designing works of art that I install in the woods and let return to nature. I made a paper flag from maté with cutout images of figures with vegetables growing out of their arms that I got in Mexico—offerings to the gods of corn and tomatoes and beans. I put the flag in my garden, and it gave new life to my crops as the garden began to absorb it back to earth. I also made a giant book, in the form of a teepee, with text that spoke to wild creatures of the woods. I made it large enough for me to sit in, and I installed it in the woods. The messages in the book were meant to be for the deer and the mice. I had no idea that my book would speak as well to the mules that came and ate it.


These delectable treats are easy to create; use them on top of ice cream or cakes. Pick the flowers fresh in the early morning.

Candied Flowers

violet blossoms rose petals 1 or 2 egg whites, depending on how many flowers you use superfine sugar, to taste

Gently wash flowers and pat dry with a clean towel. Beat the egg whites in a small bowl. Pour the sugar into another bowl. Carefully dip the flowers into the egg whites, then roll in sugar, being sure to cover all sides. Set flowers on a cookie sheet and allow to dry in a warm place. Store in a flat container with waxed paper between layers. These will last for several days.

Excerpted from Simple Pleasures by Susannah Seton, Robert Taylor, David Greer. Copyright © 1996 Robert Taylor, Susannah Seton, and David Greer. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


A Potpourri of Pleasures          



Garden and the Great Outdoors          

Body and Soul          

Family and Friends          



Garden and the Great Outdoors          

Body and Soul          

Family and Friends          



Garden and the Great Outdoors          

Body and Soul          

Family and Friends          



Garden and the Great Outdoors          

Body and Soul          

Family and Friends          


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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011

    Simple Pleasures...

    I own a hard copy of the 1996 edition of this book and I LOVE it! It sits on my nightstand and I read short exerpts of it several times a week. The suggestions are simple yet necessary reminders to live in the moment and enjoy all the beautiful, small, and dare I say -almost ordinary things that we all experience every day. Right now my focus is on paying off Christmas debt, but this book is already on my wish list and will be on my Nook within the next month! I can't wait!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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