10 May 2012

Beyond Roses: Finding Pleasure in Simple Things

This post is written by contributing author Vanessa Williams.

Well, it’s May which means most of us are knee-deep in the garden (well I am anyway), but it also means looking forward to all the fun things that summer holds. Normally for me, as for many Americans, this means travel. But this year is different. This year my husband is starting a new job, and I am pregnant with our first child, due in September. Between cost and time off constraints, staying put and laying low seems like the best option. And for once, this jet-setter is ok with it.

What this has done is allowed me to slow down, reclaim my weekends, and look forward to summertime pastimes that I just didn’t manage to fit in in previous years. Although fun free things to do are always available, there’s something about outdoor activities that makes them abundant this time of year. What follows is my list of things I’d like to do this summer, and ways to have fun the old-fashioned way.

Photo: kanelstrand

1. Go to an outside concert. Community concert series have really been popping up in my region in the past few years - we have three series in my town alone, in fact. Completely free, they provide a great opportunity to get outdoors, have a picnic, and see some friends.

2. See a movie under the stars. We are fortunate to have not one, but two drive-in theaters in my region which I love. The two for one deal on movies is a good one, plus you can bring in your own snacks. Parents love it as the kids sleep after the first movie. Community movie series also are offered in my area completely free. There’s something special about seeing a movie in the outdoors - make sure to experience it yourself.

3. Take a hike. In Eastern Pennsylvania I have access to many walking and hiking trails, including those in the famed Poconos region. Nothing beats the smell of the damp forest, hearing the rush of a brook, or seeing wildlife. Getting out in nature soothes my soul.

4. Have a barbecue. In Pennsylvania that typically means one thing - grilling. I just cleaned out my patio this week in anticipation of eating al fresco. My husband serves as grillmaster in our house. We love to eat outside every night available, and often have friends over for dinner. If you don’t have a dining set and have the space for it, I highly recommend that you get one.

5. Lie in the hammock. I think there are fewer things more relaxing in this world than lying outside in the shade in a hammock. I have many naps planned for mine.

6. Read a book. For some reason, I rarely read in the winter. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s television, or simply watching the fireplace, but I just never get to it. In the summer, I read frequently though, usually in the evening as the sun is setting.

7. Take a swim. Those of you with children already have this on your list I’m sure, but there’s something about a swimming pool that brings out the kid in all of us. I enjoy lake swimming as well, but it’s an acquired taste. If you’re even more adventurous seek out some local swimming holes - you won’t regret it.

8. Take a weekend retreat. And by retreat, I mean go somewhere you are not traveling, but relaxing. Whether it’s a cabin in the woods, or a deserted beach, find some quiet and solace.

9. Go to a carnival and enjoy some fireworks. Summertime means every small borough in my area has a carnival, run usually by the local volunteer fire crew. They have standard things like bingo, super slides, and cotton candy. Are they an amusement park? No, but that’s not the point. I enjoy strolling around and eating some greasy foods while usually bumping into friends I haven’t seen in a while. And who can forget fireworks? There’s something truly magical about them - a sight to behold.

10. Enjoy a garden. Even if you’re not an avid gardener like me, make sure you get out and enjoy a garden somewhere. There really is some truth to “stop and smell the roses”. One of our favorite day trips is to a garden where no matter if we are there for two hours or six, we feel relaxed and rejuvenated. We have two spectacular rose gardens in my area and I plan on visiting them both in June when the roses will be blooming.

So that’s my list - what’s on yours?

Vanessa Williams is the author of A simply good life where she explores how lower standard of living doesn’t mean lower quality of life. After her decision to  get off the beaten track and forge new paths she has found that living with less actually means living with more. Vanessa explores the luring and dangerous grounds of the consumerism trap and offers a solemn and wise account of her real life experiences on the quest to finding what truly matters in life. Connect to Vanessa via twitter and facebook.


  1. What a fantastic list Vanessa! It has brightened my cold, rainy day here in Quebec! I definitely agree with all your ideas. I can't wait for summer!

    1. Ah, the weather in Quebec seems to be quite similar to that in Southern Norway. Today it feels like late autumn and I've had the same warm feelings when I read this lovely post of Vanessa's! Hurray for warmer climates :)

  2. These are all really wonderful ideas! Fun, frugal and OLD FASHIONED! One thing I want to try this year is a picnic... with real dishes, silver ware and glasses... and a pretty blanket and cloth napkins! Maybe even in our own backyard or at the beach! Thanks for sharing your list!

  3. fabulous list ..thanks for the reminder !!

  4. That is the best thing about summer is all the wonderful things there are to do outside. Great list of ideas, I am going to try to incorporate a few weekend retreats into my schedule this year.
    Everyday Inspired