happy food: panzanella salad recipe

Last week one of my girlfriends came over for lunch and it was so sunny and beautiful that we decided to enjoy a salad with some peach sangria out on the deck. Neither of us wanted a heavy meal so I turned to one of my favorite go-to summer meals--this easy Panzanella Salad that feels rustic and light.  This is also one of those salads that would be great to take to work in a mason jar. Just add the dressing to the bottom of the jar, then add the salad. When you're ready to eat, just turn the jar upside down to dress the salad.

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Happygirl Panzanella Salad
An easy summer salad that will make you feel like you're eating al fresco at a sun-dappled Italian restaurant
  • 1/2 a large French baguette cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 medium tomatoes cut into 1-inch cubes (heirloom is best)
  • 1/2 a large English cucumber, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 a large red or orange bell pepper cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 purple onion cut into thin slices
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
  • 10 basil leaves finely shredded
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar (or white balsamic)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Toss bread cubes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and place in a single layer in oven to toast until golden brown or place in saute pan on stovetop until cubes are golden brown. Set aside in bowl. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, feta and basil. Set aside. For dressing: Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard until incorporated. Add toasted cubes to vegetables and drizzle dressing over the salad. lightly toss until the dressing uniformly covers the salad.Serve with a white wine or sparkling water.Notes: You can omit the croutons if you're gluten-free or the feta if you're dairy-free.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 dinner servings

happy things: ladybugs (AKA God's little cows)

The other day I was sitting on the deck with our dog when I watched a ladybug land on her little white sleeping snout. She twitched for a moment in her sleep but otherwise she was oblivious to this little bug taking a pause in her day.

I tried to stealthily reach for my phone but the ladybug caught on and flew away (So much for the Instagram moment.) I started thinking about ladybugs and why they are so much more charming that say, spiders or centipedes.

Five things I learned as I Googled ladybugs:
  1. Ladybugs aren't bugs at all, but beetles
  2. They can eat 50-100 aphids a day (they're great little pest killers)
  3. They are named Ladybugs after the Virgin Mary
  4. In Russia, they are called "Bozhya korovka" or God's little cow (in reference to their spots)
  5. Many people believe that a ladybug landing on you heralds a time of good fortune or happiness
If you think of a ladybug landing on you as a little bit of good luck, you'll enjoy this article.

(If you need happiness or a little luck in your life right now, increase your chances of a ladybug landing on you by finding some rosebushes. Ladybugs have a thing for them.)

happy video: i'm such a happy chewbacca

"I'm such a happy Chewbacca!" followed by ROARING HILARIOUS LAUGHTER won the internet last week. Why? Because it was a moment of sheer, pure joy shared by a mom (Candace Payne) who bought herself a birthday present - a Chewbacca mask. She puts it on in the car, sees herself and breaks down laughing. Last week, I saw the hype online and thought "So, she laughs. OK, fine. We all do." Then I watched the video and as soon as she does the head tilt (like a dog who is trying to understand what you are saying) when she sees herself on her phone (as she records a live Facebook video) that's when I lost it too. I watched the video at my desk. I watched it while waiting in line at Ikea. I watched it in bed right before I fell asleep. I watched it and I felt happy.  I realized that it's rare that we see an adult in a moment of such pure happiness. Maybe that's why we like watching puppy and baby videos. They're not afraid to be in the moment of joy.

I'm not the only one who likes this video. Over 100 million people have watched "Happy Chewbacca Lady." I read the comments on reddit and Facebook and with every comment criticizing her crazy laugh, there were hundreds defending her with comments like "You only wish you could be as happy as her / Is it weird that I'm jealous of her family? I wish I had a relative who is this awesome / Her absolute joy from the moment the video started really made me feel like I should be a slightly less cynical bastard as I go about my life."

Watching this made me realize three things:

1. Being around happy people makes you happy.  It's impossible not to laugh along with Candace. She's just do darn happy that it's catchy. It's like being with someone who yawns. Hang out with people like Candace and you're bound to be happier.

2. Own it. You want to fly your freak flag? Do it. Own that thing. Candace didn't care what people thought about her laughing alone in her car wearing a mask and talking to herself. Yes, she refers to other people in the parking lot but she is owning that moment of joy and nothing was going to distract her from the fact that this Chewbacca mask was the best thing she ever bought.  I've had moments in life when I have wanted to be free and be silly but I was afraid of what people around me would think. Next time I want to laugh out loud or enjoy a moment, I hope I remember Candace and own it.

3.  "Y'all have an incredible day. It's the simple joys." This line hit me right in my heart. Since I started this blog, I've come to believe that simple things, simple joys are what make you happy. Rarely are we hit with those HUGE moments of life-changing joy, but every day we could have a moment like this. How extraordinary would life be if we got excited about simple things? What is the people around us, saw these moments of joy. I would love to live in a world like that.

You rock on with your bad self, Candace Payne. Thank you for the joy you brought to 100 million people and counting. I'm going to go play with my dog now and watch her lose it and give me that awesome dog smile when she discovers which hand the cookie is hiding in. Simple joys.

Inspiration # 184: carpe diem

Sometimes an opportunity comes along and you don't know whether to take it.

Take it.