JAN BROGAN - There's a scene in The Help (great movie, great book) where Minny, the maid, is really angry, and someone mentions cooking, which she loves, and all her anger dissipates. I think she even smiles.
And it reminded me of one Christmas, a transitional year, when the kids had just stopped believing in Santa Claus. My daughter, the first born, was too old to get excited about toys, but still too young to get excited about purses and boots. I had to spend a lot of time shopping for her presents, searching all the things that would make her happy. When she came down Christmas morning, I could tell she was disappointed. It wasn't enough.
Devastated, I called my mother, and my mother's advice was this: "Start cooking and you'll feel better."
And she was right. Once I started cooking, I felt better. I completely lost myself in the sweet potato recipe and pie shells. And since then, I've understood that for me, cooking was the one thing that could change a dark mood.
So here's my question Reds. What's the one thing you do that makes you happiest? Now, DO NOT SAY WRITING. And DO NOT SAY helping others, or anything that a Miss America contestant might say. Be purely selfish here and reveal what's the one hobby, pastime, (non-career) pursuit that brings you peace and/or happiness?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Floating. Yes, floating .We have a pool in our back yard, and in the summer, Jonathan and I have two pool floats, we call them Gumbies because they're green and flat. (I'm going to give you every detail, since you asked.) We get our bathing suits on, and our current books in hand. Meanwhile, we have diet cokes in the freezer, getting icy. Then we take our drinks and our hats and our sunscreen, and float around the pool in the warm sun and blue sky, reading and floating and reading and floating. The pool intake moves you around on the water, so it' s like being on a little raft, perfect and quiet. The garden around the pool is filled with flowers and butterflies, and the two huge ancient trees reach to the sky. Lying on the pool floats is the only time you can see to the top.
Sometime at night if I'm restless, I just think about floating.
RHYS BOWEN: I’m actually happiest when I’m sitting at a good meal with friends and family and we’re all laughing and teasing each other, but solo happiness? Walking on a beach, feeling warm sand between my toes or letting gentle waves lap at my feet, bending to pick up shells. Or snorkeling if I am in the right sort of ocean. Both those pursuits and I lose all track of time and I’m in my own private world, not thinking, not worrying, just in the present. In August I was snorkeling in Kona and I’d bought a disposable underwater camera—and it didn’t work. I kept turning and turning, waiting for it to click to the next frame and guess what? The fish were fascinated by the turning sound. I had zillions of fabulous fish inches from the camera and my fingers… and I couldn’t take a picture of them. Never mind, it was a perfect moment.
LUCY BURDETTE: If you're taking away all our beauty contestant answers Jan, liketime with friends and family, that still leaves a couple. Yes, I like to cook, but I like to eat even more:). Another thing would be reading a great book, lying in bed, with the cat rumbling next to me and the dog on the floor on the other side. A book like THE HELP or AFTERTASTE (whose author visited us not too long ago)--something that really takes me into a new world--not too scary and with lots of good food.
HALLIE EPHRON: Mmmmm, floating. Mmmmm, eating. Mmmmm, cooking. And of course hugging the people I love. I'm a big hugger and sloppy kisser (so watch out).
I'm also very happy when I'm walking and walking and walking and my feet don't hurt. Also soap. Big chunky bars of lovely scented soap make me very happy. Also long leisurely baths.
ROSEMARY HARRIS: Walking around my garden. I don't even have to be doing anything, just enjoying the work I've done and planning the next round of activities. I probably look like a crazy lady doing it. Yesterday I had a small breakthrough computer-wise (finally succeeded in setting up new computer and using multiple screens) and I treated myself with a glass of red wine and a stroll around the garden. It was amazing.
Can I add another? Singing at the top of my lungs in the car. Alone. Traffic, bad weather, lunatic drivers - nothing can bother me when the Ipod is working and I'm belting out a tune. "I got some change in my pocket but it wasn't enough....!"
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I know Jan said just one, so it's probably a good thing that some of you have already hit a few of my biggies. So ditto on all of the above (especially baths. And I love walking my dog late at night, just the two of us.)
But I have to add, London. London makes me happy. England has always made me happy, but nothing compares to London. (I know I say this as a stock part of book talks, but it doesn't make it any less true.) And just walking. For hours. No particular destination necessary. And it's a deep, welling sort of happiness, not just contentment, although contentment is no bad thing. And it makes me happy just thinking about walking in London . . .
JAN: So how about the rest of you. There are lots of little things that bring us peace or pleasure, but if you had to pick ONE, what's the one thing you can count on to make you happy?