insights: now, go give your grandfather a hug

Growing up on the east coast, to me Memorial Day has always meant the start of summer-- sweet Butter Sugar corn on the cob, weekends at Cape Cod and big summer blockbuster movie weekends. I never really considered that it also meant something else. Memorial Day is about heros.

I’d like to introduce you to Carl and Ruth who inspired this week’s Happy Girl Experiment #4.

Carl and Ruth.  This is the pose they chose.

I met Carl and Ruth Sunday morning outside the market when I was picking up ingredients for brunch. They had a little table set up outside the entrance where they were offering poppies to support veterans. Most people don’t make eye contact with vendors who set up tables outside the market selling candy bars or asking for petition signatures. Me included. I ran into the market and came out with ingredients for strawberry pancakes. As I was walking out the doors, the veteran caught my eye. He was standing proudly next to his table, holding a red crepe paper poppy in his hand waiting for someone to come over to him.

He reminded me so much of my grandfather, I had to go over and meet him. I asked him his name. “My name is Carl. With a C” he said. He had clearly taken the time to dress carefully for this morning, with his hat perched precisely on his head. Behind him taped to the wall were patriotic themed crayon drawings from a local grammar school and standing next to Carl was a woman, clearly his wife. I said “Carl, is this your wife?” “Yes, he said. We’ve been married 55 years!”

“Carl, may I ask where you served?” He seemed to be in his 70‘s or 80’s. I had guessed World War II. He told me he served in Korea entering the service in 1946, serving in Germany where he met his wife, Ruth.

I asked Ruth the secret to a long and happy marriage.

She said “We had to get special dispensation from the priest in Munich. We wanted to get married very much. My mother told me to never go to bed mad. Always make up before you go to bed. Give more than you think you can and don’t forget to take too. We traveled the world. Wherever we were, we were a family, that was our home.”

I told them about The Happy Girl Experiment and that I would like to write about them this week. This proud couple said they loved the idea that together we would remind people about the real reason behind Memorial Day- to honor heros who have served our country.

The experiment:

This weekend you will see veterans everywhere in parades, selling poppies to support veteran projects. Instead of walking by, donate yes, but also ask about their service. You’ll find that they want to tell you about what war they served in. Listen to them. It is someone’s grandfather, son, husband or wife. It is because of their service that we live in a country we can be proud of.
  • If you have a family member who fought for your country, take them out to breakfast, listen to their stories, record them so your children will remember what heros they have in their family.
  • Take two dozen donuts to your local Veteran’s Hospital.
  • Send a package to a soldier in a current campaign abroad. Visit for more information.
This week In the Happy Girl Lab, we are going to make a soldier happy.

This is my grandfather, the man I thought was
the only one like him until I met my husband.

Paul J.
I’d like to take a moment to tell you about my grandfather, Paul J, the finest man I have ever known. Pepe (French for grandfather) was a big, gruff man, a World War II veteran with green eyes, dimples and a limp. I remember listening to my grandfather’s stories about WWII. At the oddest times something would jog his memory. He wasn’t a talkative man but one of my favorite stories Pepe would tell me was when he was in occupied Paris.

One day he discovered a small perfume shop. Being an intimidating, large, quiet man it was unusual for him to stop in a shop like this. He met a monsieur and his daughter, mademoiselle. He said it was peaceful there with a small patio out back and on the patio he would enjoy a coffee with monsieur and mademoiselle. One day they talked about my grandfather’s childhood in eastern Canada. The next time he came into the shop they had something for him. Monsieur, a perfumer, motioned my grandfather to come over. He opened a small brown vial and held it up to grandfather who closed his eyes and inhaled. Paul J. said it smelled exactly like his mother’s garden- a mix of  grass, lilies of the valley and yellow roses. I remember my grandfather looking right into my eyes as he said “ This is the most beautiful thing I have ever smelled. I thought if I died in the war that if God willing I got to heaven it would smell just like this.”

His intention was to buy the perfume for my grandmother. However, a few days later there was extensive bombing and when he went to check on Monsieur and his daughter he found the shop was destroyed. Pepe said this was the thing that devastated him most in the war. He realized good people were lost as well as beauty. This was not something I ever expected to hear from my grandfather. He said during the rest of his time in Paris he searched for Monsieur and Mademoiselle but he never saw them again, never knew what happened to them. He said it haunted him his entire life. I wish, more than anything that I had recorded his memories on tape. I close my eyes and I barely remember the sound of his voice. What I do carry in my heart is that my grandfather was brave and wonderful and that he found beauty in the darkest of places.

Who do you know that is brave and wonderful too?

About the Poppy Program
The poppy program began after shattered bodies and minds returned from France following World War I and was an effort of veterans and their families to "take care of their own" and to remind the public of the debt owed to those who served and died.

It has continued, honoring the war dead from World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, Grenada/Lebanon, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Afganistan and Iraq, a tribute to America's citizen soldiers. Planned to coincide with the Memorial Day holiday, the annual event pays tribute to veterans who have died and the millions of Americans who have willingly served their country in eight decades.

It serves and honors veterans with all proceeds from the distribution invested in local programs for the benefit of veterans and their families. Each nine-piece poppy is made by veterans for veterans in Auxiliary-sponsored Poppy Shops that supplement physical and psychological therapy needed by hospitalized and disabled veterans.

The Auxiliary provides the materials and the volunteers. The veteran makes the poppy and is paid a small amount for each painstakingly made flower. For some, it is his or her only income. No matter what the cost of maintaining and supplying the Poppy Shops, the memorial poppy is never sold, but given in exchange for a contribution.

The Poppy program has been part of Auxiliary programming for more than 70 years. It has been estimated that approximately 25 million Americans wear the poppy to honor America's war dead and veterans, contributing over $2 million for rehabilitation and welfare programs.

The American Legion Auxiliary is a million-member veterans organization that complements the 2.8 million-member American Legion.

insights: the faulkner experiment

This picture pretty much says it all, well, because apparently I said it all this week.

I swore. More than I thought I did. Since this experiment went live last Tuesday I owe $87. That's about 12 swears a day. We saw friends at a restaurant on Friday night and they asked how this week's Happy Girl Experiment was going. I told them that at that point I owed $68. They were shocked.

I said "Well, I cuss and then I remember this experiment and then I end up saying something like 'God-damn-it-son-of-a-bitch. I'm not supposed to swear.'"

Our friend thought for a moment and said "So, not so bad. It's just exponential." Sure. OK. Let's go with that.

Here is what I learned this week:

1.) Once you are conscious of a behavior, it's pretty amazing how often you do something that you are trying to stop.

2.) I may be the only person who has been diagnosed with tennis elbow after taking up aquatics workouts. In my physical therapy session this morning, I gritted my teeth and squealed in pain as Paige gave my elbow an ice ball massage. I wanted to swear. Paige suggested I have zone exceptions. I thought about it for a second and I thought of my neighbor M., my next-door teenage neighbor who was doing this experiment with me. The first day she tried the experiment she spilled a milkshake in her lap and on the carpet of her car floor. "And it was a GOOD milkshake too. Of COURSE I would have started this experiment today when everything goes wrong!" she said. I thought about zones of exception. I got A LOT of email about this concept this week: "What about in the car? I have to swear in the car!" What about at my weekly spinning class? I HAVE to swear there." I get it but I think THAT is when you really need to follow through on the experiment, when it's harder than hell. Heck.

3.) I met someone on the phone today when I was booking a flight. (Hello, Angela!) and we talked about the Happy Girl Experiment and this week's Faulkner experiment. She asked how much I'd put in the swear jar already. She was amazed at the amount ($87 in less than a week) and she asked what I was doing with the money. I told her I was donating it to animals. Later this week I'll be sending a check to The Joplin, Missouri Humane Society. I think after today's tornados, they can use all they help they can get. Angela paused for a moment and said that what we were doing was "Cussing for a Cause" I love it. Yes, that is exactly what we were doing. (Good luck with that Newfoundland puppy, Angela! Remember to teach Bella to 'leave it'! And thank you for the BEST customer service!)


Do I feel happier? Yes. I feel more ladylike. I know this sounds terribly old-fashioned but by at least trying not to swear I'm becoming more aware of my bad habit (At least for me. I've heard from some people this week who said swearing makes them feel good. Cool. I'm not trying to change your mind, just putting the idea out there in case it hits you the right way. Don't go changing to try and please me.)

Am I going to keep this up? Yes. And I'm still going to fill my swear jar. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust can expect a check in June. :-)

How did you do this week?

insights: the millie experiment

I am a full-on scientist, here in The Happy Girl Lab, with my Experiment PowerPoint as a guide and my hair pulled back with a No. 2 pencil in a busy-girl twist as I review this week’s Happy Girl Experiment #2.

In my search to get my happy back I’m experimenting with different protocols and procedures in the field, observing the results and comparing them qualitatively with my before and after happiness (stay with me here). There are some results that I expect (i.e. Bright summer strawberries = high happy girl quotient) and some results that were unexpected. Like many scientists, I’m finding the most interesting experiments are the ones with results that didn’t turn out anything like I expected, like this one.

The hypothesis: Supporting someone else in their passion will make a person feel good/happy.

The experiment: We have great neighbors. We’re very lucky. Our neighbors next door are a high school principal and a drama teacher. They have two great kids, one in high school and one in college. Several weeks ago their daughter invited me to her high school musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” with performances over two weekends. L. and I had plans for each weekend but I thought it would be a good thing to support our neighbors by attending the musical.

The environment: Saturday night. It seemed like the best night to go because it was the last night of the musical and everyone who wanted to see the musical already had. I. Was. Wrong. The Inglemoor High School parking lot and lobby were packed. I bought my $12 ticket and saw my neighbor, the drama teacher who directed the musical. We hugged. It was the first time I had attended one of her plays / musicals. Each time she or the kids had invited us to one of their performances in the past L. and I always had other plans or I was on the road.  I had expected her to be harried, nervous, with a pen stuck behind her ear, a clipboard in her hand, and a flock of plebes around her putting out last minute fires (“Girl #2 is missing her SHOES!”) Instead my neighbor was a happy, beautiful, clearly well-loved social butterfly, greeting students and parents. I liked seeing her so happy. I found a seat in the inspired performance hall (When did high schools get performance halls? Our high school had a gym. And a chapel. That’s it.) Instead of checking mail on my phone, I was present. I took in the hugs and laughter of students, parents and teachers. Looking down I saw an orchestra pit with a full orchestra (of students) and a conductor. (Again, when did drama departments get an orchestra? We had a nun press play on a cassette player for our school plays.)

I was happy that I was achieving my goal of supporting someone in their passion. I had no expectations of the actual performance. In fact, to be honest, I didn’t even think about the show. My one goal was to be here at a performance where my neighbor was the director, her daughter a performer and her son in the crew. Period.

I took my seat. The woman next to me was there with her friends and their kids. She asked “What role does your child have in this play?” Ouch. Stab. I felt my face blush.

“I don’t have a uh . .” I trailed off. I couldn’t finish the phrase. Child. I don’t have a child. Yet.

She laughed. “Oh, that’s OK! I don't have a kid in the play either. My friends and I actually LOVE high school plays.” She motioned to her girlfriends who leaned over to wave hello.

“Last year we went to the high school performance of ‘The Wedding Singer’ and there was a full dinner that the students catered that was part of the play. We LOVED it. Ever since then we try to go to the local high school performances. We used to live in New Jersey and we went to Manhattan all the time and you know the performances we’ve seen at some of the local high schools have been almost as good!”

A high school performance as good as Broadway. Really? OK.

The orchestra started with the first few lines, the lights dimmed and then I was thoroughly blown away by “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”

These weren’t kids. These were actors.

These weren’t students. They were gifted musicians.

Once the young woman playing the lead role of Millie started her first few notes she had the audience completely captured. Whenever I traveled (almost a million miles over 7 years) I tried to catch plays in cities I was in- Paris, London, New York etc. This girl rivaled the best actresses I had seen and it wasn’t just her. This high school musical (HIGH SCHOOL) was full of talented artists whose passion leaped from their hearts right onto the stage. I looked around and it wasn’t just grandparents thrilled for the kids up there. The entire audience was caught up in the artistry of this stage production. These kids had to learn tap dancing, choreography, voice lessons and comedic timing. Incredible. Then there were the two boys.

In “Thoroughly Modern Millie” there are two actors who portray Chinese immigrants who help a female hotel operator kidnap young women and send them to Hong Kong. In return for their help she promises to bring their mother over to join her sons. In the musical they speak and SING in Chinese with subtitles on the screen above the stage. In their first scene as they started speaking Chinese there was tittering around me “They shouldn’t be mocking in fake Chinese. That’s not nice.” During intermission, we learned that these two students weren’t faking their Chinese. To be true to their characters both boys learned to speak and sing Chinese along with the choreography and lines that accompanied the parts. They LEARNED CHINESE to be authentic! That is how much passion they had for their parts.

When the final curtains came down and the applause started we were rewarded with the final bows. I took in the joy on each student’s face as they bowed and looked out into the audience (the standing ovation audience) as we applauded their incredible effort. I looked at the joy that was bouncing between the audience of families, teachers, friends and actors. I wish you could bottle that.

I found my neighbor, her son and her daughter after the show and they were on that high, elated from a good final show. “It was so good,” I said. “You were all just SO good!” As I walked through the lobby I looked back at them and at the other actors and crew hugging, meeting their families in the lobby holding their bouquets and my eyes started tearing up. I stopped for a moment and I realized that happiness is about connecting and supporting and raising someone else up. That is what was happening in that lobby after the show. Grandparents were hugging grandchildren to their chests, divorced parents were together and civil with their kids, proud of what they accomplished, guys were punching each other on the arm and giving each other those little half no-body-contact hugs. I was smiling as I walked back to my car.

The results

My goal in this experiment was to see if my happiness grew because I was supporting someone in their passion.

This was secondary, however, to the bigger lesson. What I learned from attending this student musical is to embrace commitment and passion. It is about throwing yourself 100% into something. The musical wasn’t a job for these kids. It was something extra outside of school, outside of sports and friends. These kids took tap lessons and learned to sing in Chinese. They practiced countless hours of dialogue to get the timing and accents just right. While the musical was a fun experience, I believe that the audience responded to the passion and commitment that poured out from the students. People are automatically attracted to confidence and positivity. THAT is what was happening in that performance hall. Joy begets joy, love begets love, happiness begets happiness.

The Happy You Experiment

Part 1)   Spring. This is the time of year for school plays, musicals, recitals. Maybe you have a child in your life who you will support by attending their performance. If you don’t? Go online and visit the websites for your local high schools or dancing schools. Buy a ticket and support the arts, support the students. Imagine the confidence that these kids will have when they look out and see a packed house clapping and responding to them.

Part 2) There is a gift here for you too. You will get more out of it than you put in. You will be rejuvenated by seeing these kids tap, sing, pirouette, emote their little hearts out on the stage. If you’ve been feeling lackluster at work, phoning it in, just showing up every day, you’ll feel reenergized when you see what life can be like when you throw yourself into something 100%. Maybe you won’t learn to sing in Chinese, maybe you won’t need to remember which foot goes first in a chorus line but what you will remember is that anything you do, you will give it 100%.  By doing this you will attract other people who are bewitched by your confidence and enthusiasm for life. This will just feed into your confidence and reinforce your 100% attitude. See how this works?

Good luck! Let me know how you do with The Happy You Experiment #2. Just imagine how many people in this world are doing this with you this week!

insights: what I learned the day I lost my dream job

They tell me that there is a big difference between being fired and being laid off. Technically I was part of the mass Cinqo de Mayo layoff at my company on May 5, 2009. Whether you call it being laid off or fired it still comes down to the same thing:

“We don’t want you anymore. Please pack your things and get out. We don’t like you.”

I have been thinking about this day -- May 5. It’s a tough secondary effect that the layoff fell on a holiday that is associated with partying, fun with friends and tequila. Whether you watch TV or listen to the radio or even go to Safeway there are ad spots and huge displays of Corona, limes, chips and salsa. It's a day to celebrate, si?

I noticed the expiration on these tortillas was Cinqo de Mayo.
I wonder if one day I'll forget what happened on Cinqo de Mayo 2009.

It was on this day, May 5,  at 10am that I learned that my job was eliminated and so was I. Following the “We're sorry to have to do this” conversation I numbly walked back to my office. I closed my door and looked around at the items on my desk that I looked at every day. I touched the Post-It my husband left on my monitor one day when he stopped by to say "I love you" and my Honolulu Coffee mug that I picked up when I covered the “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” junket in Oahu.

10am my world shifted on its axis when my job evaporated. At 11am we were supposed to be signing the papers on our new home. Picking up that phone to call my husband to say “Don’t sign the papers. I got sacked” was not a call I was prepared to make. As I sat at my desk I avoided eye contact with my co-workers who peeked through the window in my closed office door and gave me the tilted sad face. News traveled fast. I couldn’t deal with having the “I know, I know, so awful” conversation over and over. I swiveled my chair to face the window and called my husband. L. said he was sorry and “We’ll be OK.” We agreed to not buy the house that we both so desperately wanted. There was a part of me that thought “Damn it. If I can’t have the job I love, then at least we’ll have this cool house” but logic prevailed and we made the right (but hard) decision.

I can still remember shivering in my office that morning after hanging up the phone with my husband.  I was devastated and wondered what I was supposed to do now. Unlike a break-up with a lover, there was no animosity, no urgency. My stuff was not thrown out on the front lawn. I still had access to my office and phone etc. for several weeks. It was all very civilized but awful.

Two years later  I can step back and think about the ramifications that this day has had on my life and on my family’s lives. It is hard not to think of the what if’s. I met a therapist last week who specializes in loss and she asked me if I ever saw the film “Sliding Doors.”

“Oh my God,” I said. “Yes.”

I watched this movie several times since May 5, 2009. I always hold my breath at that one moment in the film where Gwyneth Paltrow’s character just misses a train by a moment which then alters her entire life. The film plays out both scenarios-- what her life was like when she made the train and when she didn’t. The two endings couldn’t be more different

I wonder about my life. What if I didn’t lose my job, then we would have bought the house. What if our babies had survived? What would my life look like right now? Could I have done something different? Should I have sensed the layoff coming and worked harder? What would life have been like  going to a job  I loved, coming home to a house we adored, and swimming in our pool on summer evenings with our babies in their floaties.

What would have happened in that life? I don’t know.

What I do know is that I survived it and just like L. said-- we are OK. I learned lessons from that day.

Here is what I learned from the day I lost my job

1.) Start strong and finish strong

I think that there is nothing that speaks more to your integrity as a human being than how you react in adversity. As sad as I was, as furious as I was I wanted to be proud of my behavior.

When you are fired/ laid off / broken up with, disbelief, anger and frustration can take over. Your first reaction may be something like “Well, go to hell.” Whatever you do, maintain your composure. I am thankful I did. There are little wins in life.

Later when I got home I thought about everything that was open-ended, everything I was working on. Our team was scheduled to shoot huge events in two different cities in the upcoming weeks and I realized that I was the only one that had all the contact, travel and important information on all the projects I was working on. It would set the team back if they didn’t have this information.

I decided that there were two ways this could go. 1. I could say “Good luck. See ya!” and leave them scrambling or 2. I could do the decent thing and be sure that the team could move forward with as little fallout as possible when I left. I went to Staples and bought a binder. In different tabbed sections I included all the information on every project I was working on including all my contacts. My managers had left it up to me when my last day would be. I had two weeks before my last day but on the Friday following Cinqo de Mayo I met with one of my managers and handed him the binder along with an envelope with my badge and parking pass. He opened the binder and he seemed surprised that I had included everything. “Wow,” he said. I smiled at him, shook his hand and left. I didn’t cry. I finished strong.

2.) Don’t do anything future you will have to clean up

Immediately following getting fired / laid off  or broken up with, the desire to do something rash will be strong. I think this feeling actually is primal. Your ego wants to prove that you still have control. Don’t listen to your primal self at this point. It is a dumbass.

These may seem logical “Screw you” ideas at the time but they are not. Do NOT do any of these things:
  • Lift a case of staples as you run out of the building
  • Get a drastic haircut / hair color
  • Quit your job (if you are broken up with) or quit your partner (if you were fired / laid off)
  • Try drugs to see if they numb the pain.
  • Get a tattoo
  • Leave a diatribe (in Sharpie on the wall of your office or partner’s living room wall) of why the company / person who ditched you is stupid
Be gentle to your future self. It’s going to be hard enough to get over the pain without also dealing with a.) Being arrested b.) Knowing that you were an impetuous jackass, no wonder they fired you.

3.) Let it bleed then cap it

You get a pass the day it happens. Cry, be angry, take to your bed.

The next day you get out of bed. This is not negotiable.

Then for the next week you get one hour a day to wallow/ cry / get angry / call your mother and moan about what has happened to you. Then when your allotted 60 minutes is over it’s time to plan for the rest of your life. When a an overwhelming thought pops into your head not within that one hour window, change the thought. Think of the Target commercial with the puppy who tries to swim in his water bowl. Try to think of all the presidents in order. This works to distract you when you feel yourself slipping into the downward “Why me?” spiral. I chose to memorize First Ladies. Julia Gardiner Tyler was the 11th First Lady.

4.) Assemble team you

After the incident you will want to take to your bed and not get up until noon or so every day and that will only be to eat a carton of Butter Pecan ice cream. This is not the best idea. It’s time to call in the big guns. You need a council, a team of people who will help you become you again.

Like this:
  • Your dad who will call you every morning at 8 to see that you are out of bed
  • Your best friend who will take you shopping for an interview outfit
  • Your shrink who will help you analyze why this happened and who will tell you that you will feel better
  • The servers at the small family owned cafe / Starbucks baristas who you see every day when you get out of the house, drink coffee and work on your resumes.
5.) This will not kill you

It feels like it at the time. You feel rejected and your life as you know it is literally pulled out from underneath you but I promise (unless you do something stupid) that you will survive this. Hold onto this thought when you think it’s too painful to take another breath.

I am looking at the clock and it’s just about that time when I got the email telling me to report to a conference room and I knew my fate. I remember how hot my face was and how I was hit with wave after wave of nausea. It's now 2 years later and I can't believe I am saying this but I am happy that it happened. The me from May 5, 2009 would be incredulous hearing this.

Here’s the thing. The event happened. It is set in stone. Nothing can change it. The worst has happened. You made it through. You learned lessons. I learned the ones above that apparently the universe thought I needed to learn. I am grateful for that. Think back on the lessons you learned in your life. It was only through the times when you wanted to cave that you discovered what you are made of.

In my case, these things, the losses have led me here as The Happy Girl, to write about how to get your happy back. This is where I am meant to be. Have I discovered the secret to being The Happy Girl yet? Not yet, but I'm working on it. With you.

Happy Cinqo de Mayo! I'll be celebrating this day, are you?

sublime food: coconut macadamia nut muffins

There is a little bakery on the island of Maui that L. and I stopped into once on our way to Haleakala. It is a shack so small you would hardly notice it but for the light in the window on a misty early morning.

It was dawn, almost night still when we discovered this tiny bakery and ran in to grab coffee and muffins. I remember the sun was just starting to come up as we sat on a little bench under the palm trees. The morning was balmy and the plumeria blossom scent was heavy in the air as we took the first sips of the best coffee we had ever tasted, Kona, mine with coconut flavored creamer. I reached into the little brown paper sack and handed L. a muffin. I took the other and we both just closed our eyes and moaned.

I felt like my heart exploding with joy. I looked over at L. and he said "My God, what is IN this?" as he stared at the golden, soft, plump muffin in his hand.

"Macadamia coconut but you're right. This is crazy good. Like we could easily become addicted to this."

"We need to move here," L. said as he took another bite of this Hawaiian heaven.

It was as if your whole body dissolved and focused onto this one sensation. We debated buying every macadamia coconut muffin in the bakery but we decided that we shouldn't be greedy and everyone on the island should have a taste of these muffins (that and we knew they wouldn't do well in the car all day, if they lasted that long.)

We never did get back to that bakery during the blissful week of scuba diving and whale watching and getting back to what is important- quality alone time between a husband and a wife. It was bliss. We debated moving to Maui but wondered if perhaps everyone felt like that when surrounded by a soothing surf and gardenias the size of dessert plates.

I believe that sensations that blow your mind actually burrow into your sense memory and stay forever and from that moment on you will crave that thing, be it a feeling, a scent, a taste. Maybe that is why the smell of Hawaiian Tropic fills me with such crazy joy that I keep bottles of the stuff in my car, in my nightstand. It makes me happy. It reminds me of the smell of suntan lotion on my husband when we held each other on the beach in Maui. Hawaii + coconut + husband = Bliss

Since we've come home from Hawaii, I have been trying to recreate these muffins. Something was always missing. Last week I was in Target and I wandered down the baking goods aisle. There was a box of coconut quick bread mix. While I am a big proponent of things made from scratch, sometimes you can add something to the box and it works.

On Sunday morning I prepared the mix as directed but added in 1/2 c. shredded coconut and 1/2 c. freshly chopped macadamia nuts. Instead of muffin cups I sprayed the cups with Bak-Klene ZT (from Williams-Sonoma) and used an ice cream scoop to add the perfect amount to each cup. I baked the muffins according to the package directions. It was early, about 6am, sunny and breezy a rare day in Seattle but it was unmistakable. My nose twitched like our puppy sensing a squirrel 100 feet away.  The smell was just like that of the bakery in Maui. I wandered into the kitchen, turning on the oven light, inhaling the sweet heat from the muffins. The anticipation was so good and when I did open that oven door, I felt every sensation L. and I experienced sitting on that wooden bench in front of the bakery.

The smell wafted upstairs and brought my husband into the kitchen. He was like a sleepwalker drifting towards the cooling muffins.

"No! Not yet!" I said.

I prepared a sunny Sunday morning breakfast of omelets with goat cheese and French herbs and served them with espresso and the muffins. We were listening to "Mele O Hwaii." It was perfect.

L. closed his eyes as he took his first bite of the muffin "Oh, yeah. This is it. This. Is. It."

As I type this there is one muffin left on the cakestand. Just looking at it makes me happy.

If you have been to Hawaii and you want to experience a little piece of that heaven, make these muffins. I promise you will be happy. That's not a promise I make lightly.

And if you REALLY want to smell like Hawaii, try Island Song. It is a perfume I wear that I bought it Hawaii that literally smells like Hawaiian air was caught in your hair. It's mango, coconut, plumeria but not cloying. You just smell like flowers. I first bought it in the gift shop of our hotel and when I ran out I was amazed you can find it on This has become my signature scent. Yes, it is happy in a bottle.