How cooking, discovering gardening and retreating to a summertime spot turned repeated small moments into memories of a lifetime

Cooking dinner at home

During the first 40 days of being home, I had evolved from having to adjust to the notion of working from home to actually enjoying working from home and then spending evenings cooking either with my husband or for my husband and me. It was absolutely pleasurable to rediscover this hobby, one from which I had been somewhat removed for a few years since work took my husband and me on the road.

The repeated joyful moments of making dinner at home reminded me of the time we lived in the wine country of Paso Robles, where we made home-cooked meals more than we ate out. Like then, during many weeks this past year, we bought fresh produce at local farmers markets and used the bounty for our dinners – from steamed mussels to reverse-seared duck and from homemade pasta to fresh salads. Making our own meals with fresh food is a joy trigger that will stay for life.

“Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are!

Mary Jean Irion

Discovering the peaceful hobby of gardening

What started out as a springtime experiment with farmers market green onions cut and placed in clear cups turned into a full kitchen window sill victory garden and then transformed into a passion for roses and growing beauty by summer. Transplanting herbs and annuals into containers and then watching them grow ever-so-slightly everyday was a treat. We noticed the nuances and changes each few days or so, and it was joyful to know that our hands cultivated their roots and happiness.

The extra bonus was my husband discovered a talent for combining colorful perennials and annuals and putting together balanced designs. We then enjoyed our refreshed and life-filled outdoor space in the morning, afternoon and at night. We enjoyed our home-cooked dinners outdoors, watched as hummingbirds flocked to our garden and savored many moments being in our part of the world during a unique time. For a couple with two analytical minds, expressing ourselves creatively through a peaceful past time gave us many moments that turned into memories.

Putting our feet in green grass while watching the blue ocean

Once summer rolls around, there’s only one place we want to be and that is home in South Orange County, California. On any given Saturday or Sunday of any year, we find ourselves at Salt Creek Beach Park, a gorgeous stretch of fresh green lawn overlooking the expansive blue Pacific Ocean. We pack a picnic, our two little furry babies, #PepperBogey and spend hours enjoying the breeze, listening to the waves and enjoying life under the Dana Point sun.

This past year, doing all of the above became even more paramount than ever. It made life appear normal, as enjoying an afternoon outdoors was a regular way of spending our summer moments. Whether it is in your background or a local park, packing a small picnic when the weather allows it and being grounded in earth is a joy trigger anyone can enjoy.