the best gift of 2013

New Year's Eve 2012.  I was standing outside just before midnight. It was a tradition. I closed my eyes and I asked God to help me make 2013 memorable in a good way. (I once asked God to help me me make a year memorable and 2009 turned out to be the worst year of my life. So, now I'm more specific.) 

A year later I realize that this was indeed one of the most memorable years of my life. I grew up this year. I started thinking of the world around me. For the first time in my life the thought of delighting someone else trumped my own pleasure. This year, I got it

I think every year has a theme. You may not know it when you start the year off but when you look back and start piecing things together, you might find that yes, indeed, the theme this year was Growing Up or Learning How to Budget or Becoming a More Spiritual Person. The problem with lessons or themes however is that most often these lessons are hard earned. One doesn't just say "Today I am going to grow up!" Unfortunately, circumstances usually happen that make you grow up like losing a parent or suddenly finding that you are alone and it's sink or swim time. The good news is that the lessons learned the hard way are the ones that stick with you. At the time, the experience of learning this lesson can be unbearable/painful/awful/soul-sucking but here's the thing: you get through it and then you are on the other side and you can say "I survived this. I did."

Four years ago when my world shifted in its axis, I knew I could never, ever be happy again having lost our babies, my job, my self-confidence. My world imploded on itself. I remember laying in bed thinking "My life was unimaginably incredible and now it's ashes. What the hell did I do to deserve this?"

Yes, I made the decision four years ago to move forward, to restart my life in a different direction but it honestly wasn't until this year that I realized that every single awful thing that happened in 2009 HAD to happen to get me to this exact moment. I have friends and new friends who read this blog who email me "WHY IS THIS BAD STUFF HAPPENING TO ME AND HOW CAN I MAKE IT STOP?" I tell them that I know it feels awful and it seems like life will never be the same again. You have to just get through each moment and you will come out on the other side. Life may not ever be exactly the same (especially if there was someone in your life who is no longer there through death or    by choice) but you do get happy again. One day you will be happy again. It will come as a shock and you may even feel guilty that something makes you smile, but life does get better. I promise you that

I think back on those first few days of trying to heal in 2009 after losing the babies, almost losing my life, having my position as a celebrity reporter at MSN eliminated. It was too much all at once. I was tender to the touch. Sunlight hurt my eyes. I couldn't imagine why all this was happening. Sure, I tried hard to get my life back on track. Slowly, I started getting back on my feet but it wasn't until this year that I understood why my life was unfolding this way. 

Earlier this month I was in my office, at my old high school, where I am the Director of Advancement. Two of our students were standing in front of me with a Christmas present. It was a scarf that they had handmade me in The Happygirl colors. As I read the card, it was as if the world had suddenly become technicolor. The reason that everything had happened as it did was because THIS was where I was supposed to be. If the mess that was 2009 had not happened I would not be standing in my office, looking at these two bright, sweet, kind young women whose generous gift was more than just a scarf. It was a sign that my life was on the exact path I was supposed to be on. Of course, I do have moments when I close my eyes and think of what our daughters would be like now. I will always ache for them and hold them close in my heart. What would they like as three year-olds? Where would I be at MSN now? Would we have moved to the London office? Los Angeles maybe? It's easy to get caught up in what your life could have been. It's a slippery slope though and when I start thinking about it, I can easily find myself in that sad space that's immensely hard to pull myself out of. So, when the "what if" thoughts pop into my head I have to change my thought trajectory before I fall down the rabbit hole of sadness. 

Which is why the scarf was such a gift. It wasn't just a scarf. It was a sign that the GIANT leap of faith that I took in September was the right choice. It was such a random thing, this job. I wasn't looking for a new job. In fact, I quite liked just being The Happygirl. But then one moment at our high school reunion, an insightful young priest suggested that I might consider a job as Director of Advancement. I said no, since we live in Seattle but the universe is funny that way. The more I said no, the more it became clear that this was something I needed to do. I loved my high school, I did, but it was 2800 miles away.  I tried to say no, I did say no but the more I thought about the job, the more I realized that the skills I learned at Microsoft were something I could parlay into helping my former high school. Every negotiation I took part in, every class I took at Microsoft, every skill set I learned set me up to perform in a role where I could help an exceptional small school plan for its future.

On paper, it didn't make sense. The job was 2800 miles away. How would this work? My husband and I sat on the deck at sunset. We talked through the whole thing. How. Would. This. Work? I told him it felt like a calling. I couldn't walk away from this. It was a feeling as strong as falling in love. As logical as we tried being about it ("So you're going to commute to Massachusetts then?") it didn't make sense but something inside me couldn't let it go. I had to do this and so with Larry on board and the school willing to take a chance on someone who would be commuting cross-country, I took the job.  

And then synchronicity happened. Over and over in the past few months incidents happened that had me believing that I was exactly where I should be. There was that perfect sunny, crisp Sunday spent driving to the apple orchard after Mass in the church I grew up, dinners with friends who have known me since I was six years old. There was one elderly woman I met who told me a story I never knew about my grandmother. Every connection seemed to vibrate with the feeling of "You're on the right track." However, it wasn't until that moment in my office with the students that I had that "A-ha" moment of clarity. As logical as I tried to be, it was my heart that knew best. What I learned is that when faced with a decision that looks illogical on paper, close your eyes and listen to your heart.

I hope that this year, you have had this kind of gift as well. I have always believed that life is about the "moments," those little moments that make you smile, that you can go back to and say 'That was the moment I knew. . ." Tonight, I will follow the tradition of standing outside, closing my eyes and asking God to guide me in this next year, to help me make it memorable in a good way. I wish that for you as well. 

Thank you for going on this Happy adventure with me this year. You mean the world to me. Every email, every comment makes me realize that we are all on this adventure together. There is so much to learn from each other, in this great big beautiful universe of ours. I am so lucky to be on this journey with you. I wish you so much happiness in 2014, happiness + unimaginable joy. 

All my love. 


our christmas gifts to each other this year

There was the year that he bought me pink, lots of pink. It was a theme and he carried it out well. There was a pink cashmere cardigan, pink lip gloss, a pink wallet from Kate Spade and pink pearls. I loved it all. But L. was exhausted from the whole shopping thing. He wasn't sure if I still liked pink. Did I already have a pink cashmere sweater? When he innocently asked me if I liked pink I had told him "Yes, ballet pink but not Bazooka pink." This, of course, left him baffled. He told me he had asked the woman at Nordstrom if the sweater was indeed ballet pink and he was tickled pink (if you will) that he actually hit it dead on. 

I have a much harder time buying for L. He is a geek who loves technology but also the classics. However, when looking online I'm never certain if he will like the new shaving kit made from artisanal herbs or if he would really use a new wallet that protects your credit cards from wayward rays.  I have no idea. 

So, this year, we decided to do something new. No gifts. Not to each other, at least. Instead we would take the money that we would have spent on each other and do something good, Intentional Acts of Happiness that would delight someone. 

This morning I decided on my first present for L. I stopped into Dunkin' Donuts in Massachusetts. I walked in and asked the employee at the register if I could buy breakfast for the next ten people in line. She looked at me perplexed and then at her co-worker on the next register. I told them both the same thing. I had the Dunkin' Donuts payment app already loaded on my phone so with my phone between the two registers, I walked away and took a seat. I closed my eyes for a moment and thought of L. I wished that he would feel all the joy in that moment.

The first person ordered just a coffee. The server told him that his coffee was covered. He asked by who. She looked over at me and I shook my head no. She looked back at him and said "Merry Christmas!" And so it went. People were baffled. Some seemed put off. They needed to know who was buying their breakfast. One elderly man was digging in his pockets for change when he was told it was taken care of. He teared up. A couple people figured out it was me when the server looked over at me to ask if she should stop since she reached ten. I said "No, keep going." 

And so we kept going, ten people, twenty people, thirty people. When my Dunkin' Donuts balance was close to empty we stopped. The server handed me the stack of receipts. I wish I could have stayed longer but I had to catch my flight in Boston. It had been a long time since I had spent such a joy-filled 20 minutes. 

As I watched the coffee-thirsty people come in from the rain, some annoyed, I hoped that this small gesture made their day even just a little better. Perhaps, they in turn would allow someone to cut in front of them in traffic or they might buy a coffee for someone someday. Tomorrow I'l be visiting a no-kill pet shelter with an abundance of toys and blankets. It almost feels wrong that this makes me so happy. I can't imagine receiving anything that would make me feel as good as this did. 

Do I love the idea of opening presents on Christmas morning? Of course, but knowing that you have the power to enhance someone else's life for just one moment, is infinitely better than any material item.

On Christmas morning, instead of opening gifts, we will sit in front of the fire and tell each other about these Intentional Acts of Happiness. We didn't fight the holiday crowds at the mall, there will be no returns. Instead we gave each other the gift of time and others, joy. It is the perfect gift. Maybe this is something that we'll do just this once. Maybe it will be a tradition. Who knows? Right know all I know is that seeing someone smile is a pretty tough gift to beat.

Merry Christmas. May your heart be filled with joy!

inspiration #427: happiness

{happy video} Christmas flash mob

While flash mobs have been around for a few years, they never fail to amuse. It typically starts with one voice, one instrument and rallies into a melody of voices that inspires joy.

Here's to that feeling of joy in your heart as you enjoy this latest flash mob from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

insanely funny letters to Santa

I came across this treatise on kid's letters to Santa by Drew Magary and the follow up was so funny that I had to include this as a happy thing.

Click here. Read on.

{happy food review: trader joe's fondue}

There are certain things that are nonnegotiable in our family.

Toilet paper should start OVER the roll.
The only kind of guacamole is homemade.
Walt Disney World is always the first response to "Where do you want to go on vacation?"

And Christmas Eve always means fondue.

When we received the ubiquitous fondue set for our wedding we laughed and wondered when we would ever use something that was so associated with the 1970's. It was as much a throwback as was orange shag carpeting. Until one winter day in Connecticut when I stumbled across the fondue box that had never been opened. We were hosting a formal cocktail party and I thought it would be retro classic to feature fondue as an appetizer as we mingled. It turns out that while the Chicken Dijon and herbed Yukon Gold potatoes were delicious, it was the fondue that everyone couldn't get enough of.

The following week was Christmas. In our family, Christmas Eve is the big day. On that snowy night by the fire, surrounded by family and friends, we gathered and tucked into pots of cheese and then chocolate fondue. The Christmas Eve Fondue tradition started that night and has continued ever since.

Now, years later, we have perfected the fondue party. It really is the perfect party food. Some years our home is packed with friends and family and some years, well, it's more intimate but fondue seems to scale well, regardless of the crowd.

Over the years I've tried dozens of recipes and to be honest, while homemade fondue is exquisite, it's also expensive to make from scratch with Swiss Emmental and Gruyere cheeses. You'll also need to think ahead because Swiss Emmantal and Gruyere aren't cheeses you typically keep on hand. So, when I was in Trader Joe's last week and came across a package of cheese fondue I had to try it.

While in the past, I've carefully and slowly prepared cheese fondue on the stovetop, taking care not to let the cheese burn to the bottom of the pan, this preparation was easy. I simply opened the package, removed the foil packet, opened it, poured the contents into a microwave safe glass bowl, heated it for four minutes (stirring halfway) and then added it to the pre-heated fondue pot.

As the cheese was melting in the microwave (you can also heat it on the stovetop), I sliced some Granny Smith apples. I also cubed then lightly toasted day-old French bread and prepared store-bought gorgonzola and walnut ravioli.

And so on a icy cold December night Larry and I sat down to a candlelit fondue dinner. He didn't know that the fondue wasn't homemade and he knows how long I have perfected the perfect cheese fondue. Which is why when he said "This is definitely among your best fondue recipes!" that I realized that the Trader Joe's cheese fondue was a hit. I had expected some akin to spray cheese in a can but instead, it was as good as a treasured family recipe. At $5.99 for a 14.1 ounce package, it was also economical. Typically, when I made fondue it can cost upwards of $25 for the cheeses, white wine and kirsch that make up the traditional Swiss recipe. It also stores better in the refrigerator than the cheeses themselves would.

Would I serve Trader Joe's fondue again? Yes, absolutely. It was easy and just as rich and intense as my homemade version at about 1/5 the cost. It was also easy and something that you can always have on hand for guests or when you want to have a romantic dinner by the fire on a snowy winter's night.


  • If you don't have a fondue pot, you can always heat the cheese either on the stovetop or microwave and transfer the melted cheese to a round bowl and serve. However, it cools quickly so you may have to reheat it several times (unless you enjoy it fast!)

  • Our first fondue pot was a traditional ceramic Emile Henry but we found that the cheese easily stuck to the bottom and I also didn't like the smell of the Sterno. Because there are often children around as well, we opted to go with something less flammable. Our fondue pot of choice is the Cuisinart Electric Fondue Pot. It's non-stick with variable temperatures for cheese, oil and chocolate fondues. Available at Williams-Sonoma for $59.95 (suggested price $145)

{happy music} the bird and the bee: i can't go for that

Happy Friday! There is something magically haunting about this cover of Hall & Oates classic "I Can't go For That" by The Bird & The Bee.  I imagine this as the perfect start for your cocktail party playlist. It's groovy, martini-friendly music. Happy weekend!

{insights} what does your favorite color say about you?

Ste. Rose de Lima parish in Chicopee, Massachusetts

When I was a little girl growing up in Massachusetts, I attended Mass every Sunday with my grandparents. They, being creatures of habit (as was everyone else in the parish) always chose the same  pew. I remember on sunny days how the colors of the stained glass window bounced across my grandfather's hands. There was one pane, this aquamarine pane that was so spectacular that when I saw it  during Mass on my recent trip home, I nearly wept from the memory of feeling small and safe between my grandparents as we sat in church on a Sunday morning. 

This is, perhaps, where my love of aqua and turquoise come from. To me, aqua is happy. It's hotel pools and prom dresses. Ocean foam and sailboats. It is my signature color. 

Recently, I came across an article about the psychology of color. Aqua/Turquoise is cool, dreamy, soft, protective, compassionate, faithful. . .

What is your favorite color? What does it say about you?  Click here to see the whole spectrum.

{happy video} a baby big getting a belly rub

I can't imagine what in this world is happier than a baby pig getting her belly rubbed. Turn your sound up. Oh! Happy!

{happy video} confessions in a ball pit

These ball pits should be everywhere. What is it about playing in a ball pit that makes it all OK?

{happy bachata music} "stand by me" by prince royce

Yesterday I spent the entire day working on a term paper in my hotel room. Bleary, after a day spent staring at my computer screen I wandered downstairs and spent some time talking with Raphael, who works the evening shift. He said "I know just what you need. Listen to this. This music is called Bachata. I know you'll like it because it makes you happy and you'll want to move." He found the song on his phone and played it for me. The song was a a cover of "Stand by Me" by Prince Royce. Raphael was right. The song did make me feel light and happy. The style of music is known as Bachata, made popular in the Dominican Republic. Listen and feel your heart go for a happy ride.

{TED video} why yawning is contagious

Last week I was traveling back in Massachusetts. One night when Larry called, it was late here on the east coast and I was so sleepy that I couldn't stop yawning. I would yawn which made Larry yawn which then made me yawn. We could have collapsed into a warm, happy heap of sleepy at that point.

I've often wondered why when you yawn it makes someone else yawn. This morning I found the answer. Yes, you will yawn as you watch the explanation from TED-Ed. Enjoy.

interview with happy girl and star, melissa d'arabian

November 1st always feel like a clean slate to me. The Halloween decorations are tucked away until next autumn and thoughts turn to cozy moments revolving around family and food. Recently I caught up with "Next Food Network Star" season five winner, television host, NYT best-selling author and mom of four, Melissa d"Arabian to talk about happy things, moving forward and her series "The Picky Eaters Project" on

The Happygirl: Good morning, Melissa! It's so good to meet you! I'm so excited to talk with you. You've had a pretty amazing life and career.

Melissa d'Arabian: I won't complain! I do like my life!

The Happygirl:  I'd like to just dive in, if we could. Reading over your biography, you've had some dark periods in your life and yet you have the most ebullient personality. How did you maintain your faith and your strong belief system when things weren't in the brightest space?

Melissa d'Arabian: Are you referring to my mom?

The Happygirl: Yes.

Melissa d'Arabian:  I will tell you this. My mom died by suicide when I was twenty and that sent me into a decade long bit of a faith crisis. That was a very difficult time but I think I came out of that with even a stronger faith and with a more personal connection to my faith. I think the result is that I rely on my faith for everything and it is such a deep integrated part of who I am. I think that going through a decade like that, in that moment, that loss put a lot of things into perspective. Also losing someone dear to me via suicide really proved to me that happiness is an inside job. I think that has carried with me into how I am now. People say “Oh, you have such a cool job. You’re on TV and you won Food Network Star. . .” Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for all of that and what a huge blessing it was to have won. Was it exciting? Of course it was but the truth is I am not happier now than I was five years ago. The message isn’t that I’m not happy now. It’s that I am happy now and I was happy five years ago. My level of happiness has not changed and that is the gift, if you will, from of that dark phase. Happiness is an inside job. I really believe that in my gut. I really truly believe money doesn’t buy you happiness. I wish there was a way for everybody to believe it too. 

The Happygirl:  Recently I wrote a blog post about whether to tell or not to tell someone about something you may have gone through. In my case, it was losing a baby which impacted my life greatly but I always pause and think “Do I tell this person?” because from that point on that person will look at me differently.  Do you ever feel that way about what you have been through?

Melissa d'Arabian: I find that very interesting. I am going to look that up because I had that similar experience of to tell or not to tell. I have that a little less now at 45. I am now in the company of people who have lost their parents. When you’re twenty and raised by a single mom and then you lose her, there was a lot of that feeling of “to tell or not to tell?” Do you tell them she died because then they want to know how she died.  It changed the conversation. 

The Happygirl: Switching gears. . . You won season 5 of Next Food Network Star and you remained so calm in the face of crisis when things were thrown at you. How did you maintain your calmness when things weren’t so calm around you and even today how do you do that?

Melissa d'Arabian: You know, for me it really is about trusting in that things are as they should be. My job is to get up in the morning, get ready to face the day, do my best and let the results fall where they may. That doesn’t mean I’m not ambitious. It doesn’t mean I don’t want the best. It doesn’t mean I don’t get disappointed but I see my role in this world as less of one where I need to be the director but rather I am an actor in my movie. I need to do my best and do what I think I am intended to do and that’s it.  

Melissa d'Arabian: Things happen. We all have stressful moments, don’t get me wrong. I use a phrase that helps me. When things don’t go my way I really try to stay in the terminology of “I prefer” as in “I would prefer to not have missed my flight. I would prefer not to be stuck in Miami waiting for my flight to San Diego for seven hours. I would prefer that.” It can be a loving way to acknowledge my inconvenience as well as sort of say “You know what? I am not in charge of the world.” I use that phrase a lot. (laughs) 

The other thing I do when things are hectic is that I really try to look at “Is this really the price I pay to get something else I really value?” For example I live in a beach town and in the summertime it gets really packed. Even to go five blocks to go to the grocery store, if you take your car instead of your bike you get stuck in traffic and I find myself like ‘Ugh, there is all this traffic!” but I have to remind myself that this is the price I pay for living near one of the most beautiful beaches in the United States or the entire world and that people want to come visit it. So, I am welcome to pick up and move somewhere where tourists don’t want to come in the summer where I would be able to go five blocks without traffic.  I am really trying to view inconveniences as: Is this the price I pay for something I value more? That also helps me reconcile when the world isn’t aligning exactly as I want it. 

The Happygirl:  Let’s talk about “The Picky Eaters Project,” your new series. What is the secret to get someone (husband, child etc.) to not be so picky?
Melissa d'Arabian:  Here is the thing about picky eating. I think there is this myth that picky eating comes from parents who just fed their kids chicken nuggets all the time, that they just checked out and brought it on themselves. Of course, if we do feed our kids chicken nuggets every single night they probably will become picky eaters. (laughs)  At the same time, I suspected that there was more to it than that. As a mother of four girls, some are picky, some are not. I felt that I did all the “right things.”

What I suspected and confirmed by doing some research and looking at my kids' behavior is that  picky eating is very complex and has a lot of root causes. It isn’t just about the food and finding the magical broccoli recipe that is caramelized and sweet so your kids will like it. It isn’t as simple as the oft-given pieces of advice like "Get your kids to cook in the kitchen with you because then they’ll eat it.” These are good pieces of advice but they are random isolated tips and not a full program that looks at the problem as a whole. “The Picky Eaters Project” is an eight-week cumulative program with three activities every week. The first half of the program isn’t really even dealing with the food. We’re not bringing in new, healthy items. We are really developing a positive environment, an exploratory palate. There are a lot of root causes that go into pickiness and I think that the body of tips tends to deal with “How do you make a good recipe?” and yes there are tips in "The Picky Eaters Project” but it really is about the bigger context. 
Melissa d'Arabian: For a picky husband, I think someone could go through “The Picky Eaters Project," set up a pantry and a safe snack zone, making the default choice a healthier choice. There are a lot of things you can do and frankly you can implement them yourself and it will create an environment where an exploratory palate is implicitly rewarded in a sense. I don’t mean rewarded like a sticker chart. I mean it is easier to be adventurous than not. 
The Happygirl: Is there a go to meal that your kids and husband love?
Melissa d'Arabian: I’ll tell you what. I’ve got four kids and it varies. For a long time, the one dish everyone loved was lasagne which was super super easy. Everybody loved it and I could put in spinach and whole grain pasta. Suddenly, out of the blue Margaux decided she didn’t like lasagne. I try not to get too married into that one magical meal idea. That being said, part of the “The Picky EatersProject” is to identity meals that are huge successes. Make Your Own Taco Bar is something that is a huge success in our family. Everyone likes my baked fish, like fish sticks. It can really change though. I try to create a menu so that there is something for everyone on the table that they really like. If there is something that they don’t love?  That is OK. People are allowed to have opinions.  I want to raise girls who know that their opinions matter. If they don’t care for something, they are allowed to not care for something. When it turns into carte blanche for refusing to eat anything, then she is being picky. There is a fine line to be found between your kid’s (or husband’s) voices being heard and respected and allowing someone to just be picky and refuse to eat anything. It’s a balance, isn’t?
The Happygirl: It is. OK, Melissa, as we wrap, what five things make you happy? 
Melissa d'Arabian: I just got back from Bible study and that makes me happy. 
Melissa d'Arabian: Tucking my kids into bed at night. Smelling my kids when they’re sleeping makes me viscerally happy and full of joy.
Melissa d'Arabian: Time alone with my husband when it’s just the two of us. We have date night every Friday. It could be Home Depot or grocery shopping. It doesn’t have to be dinner and a movie or something fancy. Space alone with him makes me so happy. 
Melissa d'Arabian: Mornings. My husband and I will take the girls to school every morning. We buckle them up in their helmets for the ride to school on their bikes. That makes me very happy. 
Melissa d'Arabian: I love one on one time with the girls. There are four of them and two of us so that makes eight permutations! (laughs) I love having one-on-one time with the girls. I treasure that and protect that. I love being with the girls and letting them know how much they mean to me. 

The Happygirl: Thank you, happy girl, Melissa d'Arabian! Here's to many future happy meals!
About The Picky Eaters Project on
Mom of four Melissa d’Arabian takes back the family dinner in The Picky Eaters Project, an 8-week workshop she created to tackle picky eating - one step at a time. Melissa addresses the root causes of her own kids' picky eating with simple weekly activities that encourage the development of a more adventurous palate. Join Melissa and her family straight from their home kitchen in a web-exclusive series on that promises to make eating together and building nourishing habits less stressful and more fun.

About Melissa d'Arabian

Mom of four, television host and cookbook author Melissa d’Arabian ( embodies family home cooking at its finest. With a lifelong passion for cooking and varied life experiences, Melissa naturally connects with today’s diverse families as she shares empowering food and lifestyle solutions that are part of a bigger story about how to eat well, be a responsible consumer and spend with purpose — all while putting satisfying family meals on the table every day. Her distinctive ability to utilize tried-and-true techniques, smart grocery store budget strategies and superior resource management skills while creating approachable family-friendly recipes as flavorful and elegant as they are affordable have made Melissa a trusted, go-to resource for home cooks everywhere.

After winning season five of well-known culinary competition series Next Food Network Star, Melissa's relatable cooking show Ten Dollar Dinners premiered on Food Network in August 2009. Each episode delivers on her $10 promise: four people, ten bucks, infinite possibilities, and proves a delicious budget-friendly meal can be made without compromise. A natural extension of her popular television series, Melissa's first cookbook, Ten Dollar Dinners: 140 Recipes and Tips to Elevate Simple, Fresh Meals Any Night of the Week (Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.), debuted in August 2012 and became an instant New York Times best seller.

Melissa also hosts Cooking Channel’s Drop 5 lbs. with Good Housekeeping, a cooking and lifestyle series that premiered in January 2012 based on the magazine’s popular monthly column. The fresh, simple and healthy recipes she prepares further the show’s mission to make weight loss easier and more manageable. Additionally, Melissa has appeared on highly rated Food Network prime-time series including The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Chopped, Food Network Challenge and The Best Thing I Ever Made.

Raised by a single mother who was putting herself through college and medical school, Melissa grew up in Tucson, Ariz., with a coupon-cutter mentality and on a shoestring budget in a humble home where waste was frowned upon but where cooking together was a favorite pastime, life lessons that have always remained at her core. Melissa received her bachelor’s degree in political science from The University of Vermont, and then spent a year at sea as part of the entertainment staff on cruise ships before going on to earn her M.B.A. at Georgetown University. Her professional career began in consulting, and Melissa eventually worked in corporate finance at Disney in Burbank, Calif., and in merchandise finance at Euro Disney outside of Paris where she met and eventually married her husband, Philippe. After having four daughters in three years, Melissa quickly realized she was hardwired to streamline the family’s expenses (just like her mom had to do) so they could live on a single income. She could never have guessed that a home video of her making yogurt — a simple yet successful strategy that saved Melissa more than $1,000 a year — to share with local moms would also be her ticket to the newest chapter in her career and life path.

National and local media including the Today show, CNN, People, Food Network Magazine and, regularly feature Melissa’s recipes and tips. She is also invited to participate in top-notch industry events including the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival and New York City Wine & Food Festival, as well as to speak at engagements nationwide for a variety of organizations such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a cause very close to Melissa’s heart after losing her mother to suicide at age 20.

Living just outside San Diego, Melissa and Philippe have four daughters — Valentine, Charlotte and twins Margaux and OcĂ©ane — who double as Mom’s official taste testers. Melissa believes in the power of the family meal, and always serves food with the goal of nourishing both body and soul — cooking for the person, not the plate. She connects closely to her Christian faith and strives to live her life with meaning and purpose. Fans can stay in touch with Melissa on Facebook and Twitter (@MelissadArabian).

happy videos: stars wars blooper reel

Whenever I'm feeling a little blue, one thing that immediately cheers me up is a good blooper reel like this one from "Star Wars."

Scene 2:08 is especially funny with Chewbacca and Han Solo.

Note: some scenes lack audio

Enjoy and laugh.

happy things: cat hats, yes, cat hats

I came across these hats for cats and these are just too wonderful not to share. A handmade sheepish hat for your cat. This has to make you smile. Really look at this picture. It's a cat. Sitting in a planter, on top of flowers, wearing a handmade hat that looks like a sheep. Imagine the minutes just before this picture was snapped. "Peter, come on. It's just a hat. You like wearing hats. No, don't eat the Tarragon leaves. No don't. OK, smile, Peter. Who's a good kitty?"

Available on ETSY.

today's song: "reasons" by earth wind and fire

Today's song: It's a crisp, autumn, sunny day. You're walking through the orange and red leaves just feeling happy and this song comes on.

Inspiration # 253

because happiness is like an ice cream cone

"What if you never get it back?" she asked. "What if you never, ever get your happy back?"

On Thursday night I met someone who asked me: When things went to hell all at once, had I considered the fact that I might never be happy again?

This thought stopped me in my tracks. I wanted to be honest with her. I owed her that. I owe you that.

The answer is yes. Yes, I did think about the fact that I would never be happy again after all the losses that happened all at once:  losing the baby (and almost losing my life in the process), losing my job as a celebrity reporter for MSN, along with the loss of my identity, stability and paycheck. It was the worst of times. There were dizzying weeks when I stayed in bed and couldn't bear to see the light of day. I could not imagine ever being happy again. How could I when I didn't even recognize what my life had become?

One day, however, several months later in late summer I was eating a strawberry out on the deck in the sunshine and that single strawberry was the tastiest, strawberriest berry in the history of strawberries and I smiled because it was just so good. I hadn't smiled in so long that the simple act just felt so foreign. It was the first happy moment I had following the six months of hellfire.

And I felt guilty because I was happy.

Just a little tingle of happy.

I thought "I can't allow myself to be happy. Look what I lost. My daughter should be here enjoying this strawberry with me. What kind of person can be happy after what I've been through?"

It was only after talking this through with a therapist and my priest that I understood that by letting myself enjoy moments of happiness that I wasn't forgetting about Grace. Instead I was honoring her by living my life, by trying to be the best person I knew how to be.

As we talked about losing your happy I said "I think happiness is like an ice cream cone. Let's say you love Chocolate Cake Batter ice cream. It's your favorite. It makes you happy. Nothing makes you happier than a Chocolate Cake Batter ice cream cone. Then one day you step up to the counter at your favorite little ice cream store and they have discontinued Chocolate Cake Batter ice cream. What do you do?"

She looked at me "I don't know. What do I do?"

I smiled at her and said "You order another flavor. Strawberry Butterscotch Swirl. And you're not sure at first but then the new taste settles in and you're happy. You like it.  In fact, it might even be better than Chocolate Cake Batter."

I may never be with George Clooney again at the Hotel Du Cap in the South of France. I will never know the bliss of holding Grayson in her pajamas after a bath. That happiness is gone BUT there are other flavors of happiness. There was an unforgettable, perfect evening this summer with my best friends enjoying dinner by candlelight at the Cape Cod beach house. I've spent time with my nieces just relaxing by the lake, laughing and splashing. My husband and I survived an impossible loss but we have each other and sometimes we laugh so hard that we can't breathe. I'd like to think Grace sees us happy and that it tickles her soul. It takes time but you do find a new flavor of ice cream, a new happiness. It won't be exactly the same but it's ice cream, right? You just have to be open to liking something new.

As I was talking I saw it register across her face. She smiled at me. We talked a little more about her life and that moving forward takes guts. It takes energy to plow through the sadness. As we parted she said "Do you think I could like Strawberry Butterscotch Swirl?"

"I do," I replied. "I think you could like it very much." We hugged.

I turned to leave. As I walked towards the door I looked back at her still sitting in the shoe section. She was smiling wide.

review: trader joe's honey roasted pumpkin ravioli

For our first Valentine's Day together, I decided to make Larry ravioli from scratch. I spent all afternoon carefully assembling little cheese pillows. They looked perfect but the moment I added the pasta to the water, they simply fell apart into a soupy mess of ricotta, mozzarella and pasta squares. I was so disappointed that my first effort at a homemade meal was such a failure. That night, however, Larry took me out to dinner and we fell more in love over nachos at Fitzwilly's in Northampton. It turns out that it isn't always the meal that matters, but the company.

Since that fateful day in the kitchen in Massachusetts, I have tried my hand at making ravioli from scratch with disastrous results. I just don't seem to have the magic touch with homemade pasta. Luckily, store-bought pasta can be a good substitute when homemade isn't an option.

Usually we enjoy simple cheese ravioli but I've been on a pumpkin kick lately. So, over the weekend I bought every pumpkin flavored item I find at Trader Joe's including the Honey Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli which was for the longest time sold-out. This week has been foggy and wet here in Seattle, perfect weather for a cozy evening at home sharing a plate of pasta. Found in the refrigerated prepared foods section at Trader Joe's, the ravioli took less than 10 minutes to heat in boiling water. My typical homemade pasta sauces (Arrabiata and Pesto) would be inappropriate for such a strong autumn dish and because the filling is so sweet,  the taste should be balanced with a savory sauce. I made a very simple cheese sauce of Gruyere and cream and topped it with a dusting of freshly shredded Reggiano.

As the rain and fog swirled outside, by candlelight we tucked into the soft, warm, pumpkin-filled pillows. While I immediately loved them, Larry somewhat liked them. They were, in his words "like eating pumpkin pie in a pasta" which is precisely how I would describe it. The ravioli were indeed sweet and spicy, but if you're a fan of pumpkin pie, you will like these and unlike traditional ravioli filled with cheese which can be somewhat tasteless, these pumpkin ravioli have such a strong taste and are so filling that you really do need a small serving to be satisfied.

Honey Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli have a distinct autumn taste that is delicious if you really like spiced pumpkin. I think a better way to serve them (instead of an entree)  however, would be as an appetizer, when you could enjoy one or two ravioli and then move on to something like a Pear & Gorgonzola Salad and a Rustic Chicken Pot Pie.

Nutritional information: Trader Joe's Honey Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli has 240 calories, 40 grams carbohydrates and 4.5 grams of fat in 1 serving (1/2 package).

Here's to a happy autumn weekend!

a song for today: "the first time ever I saw your face" by johnny cash

Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and listen to a song. This song -- "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by Johnny Cash is such an emotion-riddled song that it's impossible not to feel what Johnny Cash was feeling at this exact moment. You know that there was love and angst in every note.

Close your eyes and take a listen.

the top 100 slices in the U.S.

There is nothing cozier on an autumn evening really, than staying in and making homemade pizza but when you want to go out for a slice, where do you go?

Take a look at The Daily Meal's list of the 101 Top Slices in the U.S. Did you favorite spot make the list?

Click the image below to read the list.

happy things: what to eat on a plane

I've been traveling back and forth between coasts quite a bit lately and having flown close to a million miles I know the benefits of packing my own snacks. There are only so many packs of salty pretzel mix and diet sodas you can enjoy on a flight cross-country. Whenever possible I try to bring my own snacks on board -- a protein bar, a pack of almonds, a Macoun or Granny Smith apple usually fills me up along with several bottles of water to keep hydrated 36,000 feet above the earth.

Last week though, when I was on my usual flight from Boston to Seattle, and tempted to buy one of the  snack packs offered for purchase, I saw that the airline also offered a kid's snack box. My seat mate decided to go with the cheese snack box. We each paid $6 for our snacks and waited for them to be delivered.

Sure, my seat mate enjoyed a very adult snack a la Grace Kelly with a glass of White Zinfandel along with cheese, grapes and crackers but I had a kid's meal that came with A TOY! Starting with  glass of cranberry juice mixed with sparkling water, I tried the Pirate's Booty, followed by applesauce (an odd sensation to sip applesauce but tasty.) Throughout the rest of the flight, I enjoyed a honey graham cookie (above) which tasted like a berry Fig Newton, along with some organic chewy fruits. The snack box also came with a turkey jerky stick that I gave to my seat mate (I'm a vegetarian).

The best part? While my seat mate was left with an empty box (no fun), I had a toy--Wikki Stix, colorful, pliable, waxy strings that I shared with my seat mate. We each braided the strands and made each other a bracelet. The airplane kid's meal was definitely a good call and much more fun than a salty snack mix or even the hot meal. A kid's meal may be the ultimate happy food!

happy food: easy cheeseburger soup recipe

It wasn't long after we had moved across the country from Connecticut into our new home in Seattle that we hosted an autumn party out on the lawn on a crisp  fall day. We lived on a cul-de-sac and a party seemed like a good way to get to know our neighbors. I knew exactly what I would make: Cheeseburger Soup.

When Larry and I were first married I made something that started out as a fluke really-- Cheeseburger Soup. I came up with it one day as a newlywed when I just couldn't think of another way to cook chicken breast.  I had cans of Campbell's Cheddar Cheese Soup on hand along with a package of ground beef and some half and half. I mixed the ingredients together, added some condiments and it was easy comfort food that made us feel warm, cozy and happy.  (There's something weirdly rewarding about pouring ketchup, mustard and relish in a soup.) Cheeseburger Soup also became the go-to meal for football games (portable in thermoses), New Year's Eve potlucks and impromptu visits from friends. And that first autumn party on the cul-de-sac? Well,  it was just the first of many block parties that bonded neighbors as a family.

Yesterday, was a long, intense day at work and I didn't have a lot of time to prepare dinner. It was also a cloudy, damp, cool day just made for soup. I stopped by the market on the way home and in less than 30 minutes Larry and I were tucking into bowls of warm Cheeseburger Soup before curling up in front of the fire and an Xbox game.

I wish you many cozy evenings this autumn season!

happy food: cheeseburger soup recipe

The brilliant thing about Cheeseburger Soup is how versatile it is. You can make it the traditional way or low-fat, with ground turkey instead of ground beef and fat-free half-and-half.  It's a basic recipe that is easily adapted. Here is the general recipe: 


1 pound of ground beef
2 cans of Campbell's Cheddar Cheese Soup
2 cups of whole milk
2 cups of half-and-half
to taste: hot dog relish, mustard and ketchup
topping: crushed potato chips or cooked bacon


In a large pot set on medium heat, cook ground beef until browned and drain. 

Return ground beef to pot. Add 2 cans of Cheddar Cheese soup, milk and half-and-half.  Once combined begin adding hot dog relish, mustard and ketchup 2 tablespoons at a time to taste. I usually add about 1/4 cup each but feel free to experiment. 

When combined and hot, pour into bowls and serve with crushed potato chips or crumbled bacon with a warm pretzel roll on the side.

The Lighter Version Ingredients

1 pound of ground turkey breast
2 cans of low-fat Campbell's Cheddar Cheese Soup
4 cups of fat-free half-and half
to taste: hot dog relish, mustard and ketchup
topping: crushed low-fat potato chips or cooked turkey bacon

Refrigerate leftover soup and use it to top baked potatoes or as a dip for tortilla chips. It also freezes well.

happy things: the thank you note from Cary grant

Recently I ran across this thank you note from Cary Grant to Audrey Hepburn. As someone who believes strongly in the power of the handwritten note but who struggles with the perfect thing to say, I admire Cary's flair for words. I can only imagine Audrey's delight upon receiving this note.

When was the last time someone called you star-bright you?

happy food: caramel apple monster munch

One of my favorite memories of my grandfather was eating Crunch n' Munch while we sat outside on a Sunday afternoon gliding on his homemade rocker just big enough for the two of us. Even today, with my grandfather gone so many years now, if I close my eyes I can remember how he would pour the caramel clusters in my sticky little hand. I sure adored that man. He taught me everything I know today about generosity and patience.

I thought of him when I came across this recipe for Monster Munch on FoodNetwork. com. It involves all my favorite autumn treats -- popcorn, caramel and apples. It's an easy enough recipe to make at home, especially since we're having friends over this weekend. It's the perfect snack as we settle in after a late lunch and a walk through the leaves on a crisp autumn afternoon.

For the recipe, click here and create some new memories of your own.

If you like this recipe, you'll also like these other Halloween themed foods:

Candy Pie
White Pizzas
Hot Dog Mummies

All available on

happy video: bear playing tetherball

There is a sanctuary in Reno, Nevada called Animal Ark that takes in animals who have outgrown their pet-hood, if you will, but growing too big or by just being the best possible bear he knows how to be.

One of the residents of this sanctuary is this bear who at times is both pleased and frustrated by this large ball on a string. (:21 seconds in is a pretty fun moment when L.G. misses the ball.)

If your Tuesday just needed a little laugh, here you go. And if you feel inclined, check out the great work that Animal Ark is doing and donate to their extraordinary efforts.

lesson #263: the football player and the firepit

Last month I accepted a job 2700 miles away, back in my little hometown, a place that I hold close in my heart. For the past two weeks I have lived in a hotel as I sort out this commute from Seattle to Massachusetts every month. It's been an interesting experiment so far but what happened one night out by the firepit changed the way I think about first impressions.

Being back in a city I know so well to do a job that I love, I wake up happy every morning. My head is buzzing with possibilities and I'm at my desk by 6:15am. After work, I get back to the hotel around 8pm, later if I have a partner dinner. I usually head up to my room, take a shower, throw on some yoga pants and a white tee and head down to the firepit. Being a brand new hotel (open only 2 weeks), the occupancy is still low so I am by myself most nights. Curled up by the warmth of the fire I relax and contemplate the synchronicity of events that brought me back home to Western Massachusetts. Last week as I padded downstairs to the firepit, there were other people there, two older women and two young guys in their twenties. They were laughing, drinking and sharing birthday cake. I didn't want to disturb them so I started to turn around to leave. One of the guys called me over and in a deep southern accent said "Girl, don't walk away. Come join us! It's Granny's birthday!"

They looked so happy, it was impossible not to join them.  Josh introduced me to what I thought was his family.  He is a big guy, a former football player with an easy, hearty laugh and an exuberant personality. He is the life of the party, the most popular fraternity boy, the guy who can charm your mom and take you out for the night of your life. He is THAT guy. At least that is what I thought.

As the five of us talked, I learned that they were all guests here at the hotel and Josh had just met the women--a daughter and her mother who was celebrating her 92nd birthday that day. What the daughter told me next was incredible.

Josh asked 'Granny' if she had had a birthday cake. When she said no, he excused himself. He got in his truck, drove to Friendly's, a family restaurant nearby and bought her a birthday cake. As he was in the restaurant he asked if people felt the friendliness. After all, the place was called FRIENDLY'S. Then Josh went ahead and paid the tab for every patron in that restaurant. Just because it was the friendly thing to do.

Here's the thing about this story. Josh didn't tell me. He didn't brag about it. It was the mother/daughter duo who told me. I looked at Josh as they were telling me what he had done. He was just smiling and looking over at Granny, a woman he hadn't known two hours earlier. Later, after his friend had left and the women had gone upstairs I asked Josh why he did this. He said "Because it was the right thing to do. The restaurant is called Friendly's, right?" I asked him if I could record our conversation and he declined. He didn't even want to be identified by his last name or have his photo taken. Was this a random act of kindness? "No," he said. "There was nothing random about it." He saw an opportunity to make someone happy and he did it. This is just how he was taught to live his life.

As I said good night to him, I realized how wrong first impressions can be. I thought he was Mr. Good Time. It turns out he was actually Mr. Good Guy.

(postscript) Josh, I know you're reading this and I know you don't want the notoriety. Don't be too upset, OK? You inspired me. Moments like this are what makes this world a happy place.

happy monday video: baby pandas on a slide

I can't imagine anything better to start off our week than baby pandas climbing a ladder and playing on a slide, all landing in a pile of happy baby pandas.

Smile! It's going to be a great week!

to tell or not to tell?

Just recently I was sitting across from a new friend, J., in a coffee shop.  He looked at me, shook his head and angrily said "If that happened to me. I would die. Kill me. I would die." He looked down at his coffee cup, peeling the lid back carefully to let the liquid cool.

I smiled at him and looked down at my own coffee. I knew that what I was about to tell him would change the way he looked at me. Forever. It always does.  Even as the words I was going to say were still hanging softly in the air between us, he would think of me differently.

It always came down to this moment, this defining moment. I could let it pass and not say anything. This was, of course, the easy way.

I had to say something. It didn't seem right otherwise. As if it had never happened. I wanted to let him know that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger (Nietzche). I wanted him to understand that the human spirit is so much stronger than you think. Also, by saying it, it took the power away from the sadness of it. Keeping it hidden, being ashamed of it gave it more power than it should have.

I sat quietly for a moment. I would sit quietly for as long as it took until he looked up and met my gaze. I almost felt apologetic for what I was about to say. I had lived with this fact but for him, this information would be new and sad and then I would have to comfort him. Sometimes that is the worst part.

He looked up, shaking his head quickly from side to side, like a wet dog, as if this motion would shake out the bad, scary thoughts that were in his head.  He met my gaze, half-expecting me to start a new conversation like "Where do you stand on 'smores?"

Instead I gave him a small smile as if I were a doctor breaking bad news.

"You wouldn't die," I said. "You will beg God to take you instead. You will bargain with Him. You will assure Him that if this happens YOU. WILL. DIE" but you won't.

I know this.

Because it happened to me and I didn't die.

What happens next is always odd to me because when you tell someone something like "My child died" about 99% of the time the person you are telling this to will immediately smile at you as if to say "That is so not even funny to joke about, you silly monkey, you!" This can take take about 2 seconds before he realizes you are not kidding. Then he will look away, look up at the ceiling, suddenly taking a great interest in the skylights overhead.

Then this part: "Get out! What are you talking about?" He looked at me incredulously, as if to say "That is so ridiculous!"

I was still smiling at him, trying to lessen the blow, trying to make him feel better and to show him I was OK. He said "That's impossible. You're so happy. How are you even talking to me right now?"

Taylor: "Bad things happen. To everyone. This was my bad thing. My terrible, sad, awful bad thing. It happened. She happened and then she left." I glanced at him briefly as I said this and I saw that his eyes were starting to well up. I couldn't handle that. I took a deliberate, slow sip of coffee to give us both a moment to be whatever it was we needed to be in that moment.

J: "You must be so pissed at God, seriously pissed off with Him." My friend was now in the anger stage.

I looked him in the eyes. "I was," I said. "I was very, very angry. I didn't understand why God would take her. I had very strong faith in God. I pleaded with Him, my grandparents in heaven to find a way to bring her back to me after she was gone. In that moment, I logically thought it was possible, if I prayed enough or promised enough to God.

He looked over at the TV that was still playing the news story of a young girl killed by a hit and run driver. The girl's father was an acquaintance of his.  He shook his head again.  "I would die if I had a little girl and she died.""

"That's the thing. I pleaded with God to take me instead but you know, it doesn't work that way."

J. said "I wish I had known you. Maybe I could have done something." He was such a guy, trying to fix the bad thing. We were rounding the bend  to the acceptance phase.

Taylor: "Thank you," I replied. "You couldn't have done anything but be my friend. I know it's uncomfortable." J., was staring at me intently, his eyes narrowing. I said, "I know you have questions. Go ahead."

J. asked: "What do I do when this guy comes back to work?"

Taylor: "Well," I said, "When he comes back,  don't avoid him. For some reason people do that after they hear someone's bad/sad news. They avoid the person affected the most, the person who needs comfort the most. Be gentle with him. It's OK to mention her name. The worst thing is to never hear her name again. You're going to be tempted to offer platitudes like 'God will give you another child/husband/job!' This doesn't help. If your friend's mom or husband, child or dog  had died, ask what his name was."

J. replied "But won't this just remind him of his daughter?"

Taylor: "That's a good thing. Just because you don't ask about her does not mean things are OK. The person who is feeling grief, is going to feel grief even if you don't 'allow' it. If he or she cries, let them. The best thing you can do as a friend is to say 'I'm so sorry you are going through this. That's it. "

J: "Taylor, you could have just not said anything to me. Why did you?'

Taylor: "I considered not telling you, of course, but this is a part of me, just as much as the fact that I like cozy, sleepy people and I'm a vegetarian who likes bacon. Plus,  I have a feeling we are going to be good friends and you needed to know this about me. I actually practiced saying it. How was it?

J: "You practiced?"

Taylor: "I did. In the spring I went to a conference with mostly moms. I was concerned about my reaction every time someone asked me 'Oh, are your kids out with your husband?' So, my husband and I rehearsed the possible scene and it went like this:

Husband L: (pretending to be a conference attendee mom): So, where are your kids? ('I'm sorry, honey! I love you,' he whispered.)

Taylor: "She died. Well, she's gone."

L. looked at me mortified: "You CAN'T say that!" "Let's try this again: So, having fun?"

Taylor: "So much fun! Are you?"

L: (as conference attendee mom): "I am! Are your kids around or in the park?"

Taylor: "She's not here."

L: (as conferennce attendee mom): "Where is she?"

Taylor: "Heaven." I said.

L. looked at me shocked. I looked back at him waiting for the next question. "I don't think you're ready for this," he said.

The thing was this: Saying it out loud helps with healing. For many people saying the bad thing "My child died / I lost my job / My wife left me" helps them to process the news and assimilate it.  It makes it real. It's not this dirty secret.

I smiled at him. He had come back around through the anger and shock and acceptance.

J: "Taylor, can I ask you one more question?"

Taylor: "Of course, J. Ask me anything." (If you are the person that the bad thing happened to, be prepared for questions. It may be hard to respond but it's better to just get it out there and to take the power away from the bad thing or the secret.)

J: "What was her name?"

"Ah, he asked,"  I thought.

I smiled. "Her name was Grace," I said. "Her name was Grace."

the happygirl guide to october

It happened this weekend. The new Macoun and Liberty apples grown locally in Amherst were stocked high at the farmstand, the tops of the Maple trees were just beginning to take on a hint of red and the pumpkins and gourds were settling into their new homes on doorsteps and front porches around New England. 

There are pumpkin lattes (of course) in Los Angeles and sweaters to be layered in Minneapolis but there are also walks hand in hand through falling leaves in Central Park. Sure, summer has beach days, vacations and ice cream and winter has ice skating, holidays and hot chocolate but oh, the technicolor blue, crisp, sunny days of autumn have family dinners, football games and hot apple cider. There are so many things to love about fall, but here are some that will make you wish October last just a little while longer. 

1. This Sunday, take a road trip to your local farmstand and pick your own apples. There is something primal and fun about picking your own produce, especially when capped off with some hot apple cider and cinnamon donuts enjoyed in the autumn sunshine. Click here to find a pick-you-own-farmstand near you. 

2. Celebrate Columbus Day (October, 14) by taking in a parade like this one in New York City.  You never really need an excuse to enjoy a cannoli and some classic Frank Sinatra but throw in a couple floats and some high school bands and it's a spectacular way to spend a Monday.

3. October 4th is National Vodka Day. Learn how to make this easy Pretty in Pink vodka cocktail.

4. October 10th is World Porridge Day.  Pick up some Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter to mix into your oatmeal for a cozy breakfast that tastes like warm melty cookies.

5.  October  16th is National Feral Cat Day. Celebrate by leaving a bowl of Kitty Chow out for that little grey stealth cat who leaves you nice mice presents on your doorstep.

6. October 18th is National Mammography Day. Schedule your mammogram (or remind your wife, mom or best friend) and celebrate the smart thing you just did by buying a pretty new satin underthing.

7. October 31st is Halloween. Be the best house on the block. Go to Costco or Amazon and buy the regular size candy bars. Be prepared to be adored by the kids in your neighborhood and don't be surprised if your lawn just happens to get mowed one day next summer.

8.  Don't have time to read The New York Times every day? No worries. Try the New York Times Skimmer and get a snapshot of the biggest stories of the moment. It'll give you just that edge you need when you run into your manager getting coffee first thing in the morning.

9.  "Carrie" appears in theatres on October 18th. Chloe Moritz nails this one so well that you may want to avoid drinking a red slushie during this movie. 

10. Prepare for cozy nights under the covers. Invest in some soft flannel bedding like this set from Lands End

What do you plan on doing this October?