How to: keep a New Year's resolution




Have you ever watched a TED talk? I got hooked last summer when I needed some motivation and I've found that there is pretty much a TED talk for any subject I am interested in. If you haven't seen a TED talk before, they are monologues given by experts in their given fields on a subject they are passionate about.

If you are about to start a New Year's Resolution and you need some serious motivation, here are 12 TED talks that should inspire and motivate you!

Let's do this!



happy video: and the baby dances in the rain

A a non-native of Seattle I tend to complain about the rain. Not a great quality, I know. This morning I discovered this video of Kayden, a toddler thrilled by the feeling of the wet stuff falling from the sky. The next time I start complaining about the rain, I'm watching this.

It's all about perspective, isn't it?!


happy video: marcel the shell part III

If you haven't seen Marcel the Shell, it's kind of the sweetest, quirkiest video you've seen in a long time.

There's no way to describe it so just watch. I hope this makes you happy on this Monday.

If you're the kind of person who likes to watch videos sequentially, here are Marcel the Shell Part I and Marcel the Shell Part II.

Moment 2:32 just slays me. All the way through 3:15 ("Oh. God. I can smell his face.") Whenever I'm feeling less than happy I watch Marcel Part II. "Guess why I smile a lot? Because it's worth it." So simple. And brilliant.


what will make you happy in september


There is something about September. The sun seems more golden on late afternoons in Indian Summer. Morning skies are bluer and the crisp air calls for sweater days that feel like a J Crew photo shoot at an apple orchard. The smell of Coppertone is exchanged for the warm, homey scent of cider and nothing beats a pumpkin latte.

If you're just not ready to exchange those flip-flops for riding boots yet, here are some moments about to come in September that you can get excited about.

Can't wait for your favorite TV series to premiere? Check out this premiere calendar from TVline.com.

September 2nd, Maroon 5's new album "V" drops. Take a listen here.

September 7th is Grandparent's Day. If you still have your grandparents with you, take them out to an early dinner. If they're no longer with you, say a prayer or lift a glass to these family members.

"Stand up to Cancer" airs on September 5th. If you know someone who has been affected by cancer, do something positive. Donate to a good cause in their names, send them a glassybaby to let them know you're thinking of them or tune in and get motivated to act.

September 13th is National Peanut Day so make yourself that peanut butter and banana on whole wheat bread and proudly bring it to lunch. Who cares what your sushi eating friends will say?

September 14th is the Miss America Pageant. Invite your friends over, make some popcorn, curl up together on the couch and share your answer to the question "If you were president for the day, you would ___________."

September 18th is National Cheeseburger Day. Go out for burgers or try this perfect burger recipe from Bobby Flay.

September 19th is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Up your game from just "Ahoy, Matey" with this index of pirate phrases.



"This is Where I Leave You" opens on September 19th. If you're already thinking about Thanksgiving with your weird and wonderful little family, catch this film starring Jason Bateman, Tiny Fey, Jane Fonda and Adam Driver.



"Hector and the Search for Happiness" also opens on September 19th. What makes us happy? Who is this world is the happiest of them all. This film based on a novel takes a comedic/dramatic stab at answering this question.


September 20th is National Eat an Apple Day. Stop by a farm stand or an apple orchard and eat an apple you've never tried before. If you're in New England, try the Macoun. It's what a fall day tastes like. Also to try: Angry Orchard cider. What a fall day tastes like for grown-ups.

If you like "Scandal" you might also like Tea Leoni's new drama "Madam Secretary" which premieres on September 21st on CBS. See the trailer here.

September 24th is Rosh Hashanah. Gather the family and pray for a year of life, health and prosperity.  “Leshanah tovah tikateiv veteichateim." (May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.)

Prince's albums "Art Official Age" and "Plectrumelectrum" releases on September 30th. Preview both on iTunes here and here


the sea-tac period fairy


So, this happened.

The ladies' room was busy but quiet, as quiet as a ladies' room in an airport can be. I was in a stall, having just locked the door. In the silence, I heard the unmistakable tearing of paper from a hygiene product coming from an adjoining stall.

Then this: A little girl's excited voice: "Mommy, that lady has candy!"

Then from her mother in the stall with her: "No, sweetheart, she does not have candy. And let's keep our voices down."

In a loud voice: "Mommy, she has CANDY. I heard her open the candy. (Then in a loud whisper.) She's eating candy in the BATHROOM."

Light laughter comes from the stalls around us.

"Honey, I promise she is not eating candy in the bathroom. When you're older I'll explain."

The little girl wasn't letting this go. "Why is she eating candy in the potty? I want some candy too."

"Baby, she doesn't have candy. During the month there comes a moment that mommy and other ladies have a special time and that wrapper you heard is helping her with her special time. OK? (pause) Don't open the door yet!"

"I'd like some candy, mommy. I'm having a special time."

Then from another stall, a woman's voice, almost musing to herself. "I'd like some candy too."

In that moment, tears ran down my cheeks I was laughing so hard. It was one of the most perfectly timed things ever said. I got myself together and opened the door to the stall at the same time the mother and daughter did. The little girl looked about four years-old. The mother gave us the "Yup, that's my kid" look.

We walked to the sinks and that's when we all saw it.

Resting on the edge of the vanity was one wrapped green apple Jolly Rancher. The little girl spotted it at the same time we all did. She looked up at her mother. "Mommy, look! Can I have it?" We all looked at the mom.

"Yes, yes. That nice lady must have left a gift for you."

"Or a fairy!" said the daughter.

I'm going with the rare and magical period fairy.  I wonder if she can leave tequila and butterscotch?




sometimes you just have to apologize

It's hard to apologize. Pride gets in the way. What if you weren't really that wrong? But if you were?

Life is short. Apologize. Move on. Share an ice cream. Love each other.

Or do like Charlie the Beagle here. He stole his human's stuffed toy. She was furious. He realized it, felt guilty and did his best to make up for it. It's a good reminder that an apology can take many forms.

Thanks, Charlie.

happy food recipe: chocolate Trader Joe's Speculoos cookie butter ice cream



Sure, it's easy to pick up a pint of your favorite ice cream to share with someone you love but making it yourself is even better. Last night, we brought out our Cusinart Ice Cream maker and with just 5 ingredients and 20 minutes, we had an ice cream that was so pure and so delicious that we were rendered speechless.

The secret is Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter, a genius ingredient that is similar to Nutella in how you use it but so much better. If you buy the crunchy version, it's as if you're tasting smooth peanut butter (texture-wise not taste-wise) with crumbled shortbread/slightly gingerbread-like cookies swirled into it. A couple of weeks ago my friend, Jeff, came with me to Trader Joe's for the first time. When I realized he had never tried Cookie Butter, we bought a jar and grabbed a tasting spoon on the way out. Once in the car, I opened the jar and gave him a spoon. It was a very quiet ride albeit for the sounds of "Mmmmm."

Here's how to make this simple summer dessert. Before serving, I topped it with crumbled Trader Joe's Coconut Cashews.




Chocolate Cookie Butter Ice Cream

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tablespoons Trader Joe's Crunchy Cookie Butter

Directions
Follow directions to prepare your ice cream maker (i.e. put the ice cream bowl in the freezer 24 hours prior to using).

In a large bowl add all ingredients. Using an electric mixer, incorporate all ingredients until mixed well. Be sure all the cocoa powder is dissolved. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one to two hours. When you're ready for the best ice cream of your life, remove bowl from refrigerator and pour ice cream batter into the ice cream maker. Turn it on and let it become cold and creamy for 20 minutes or so. Scoop from bowl into serving bowls. I would add to cover when you put the remainder in the freezer, but you won't have any to save for later. It's just too good.

Happy food!

100 days to Happy: day 2 Let Grudges Go


happy inspiration #98


100 days to happy: day 1

Lately I've been studying happy people. What do they do differently than everyone else? What if we did what they do? Can we change our perspective from so-so to HAPPY? Let's try. 100 days to happy. Let's go.


happy video: dog surprised with 100 balls on his birthday

One of the greatest things about dogs is their complete inability to hide their emotions. Meet Maymo, who on his birthday received not just one, but 100 balls.  His delight is awesome with just one ball. Then two confuses him as much as thrills him. Then, 100 balls tumble towards him. Watch and get happy.


when someone lobs an emotional grenade at you



Sometimes someone can throw you off your game when you least expect it.

Last week I met someone new. She was fun and had a good sense of humor.  We were outside on a beautiful, balmy June evening looking out at the skyline of Boston.  As we were talking about our favorite places in Boston (like the classic films on the outdoor screen at the Boston Harbor Hotel), she looked at my left wrist.

"You have a tattoo!" She reached for my wrist and held it sunny side up.

"It's a starfish! Does it have a meaning?" She gazed up from my wrist to me.

"It does." I paused. "It reminds me of my daughter."

"Oh, you have a daughter! she said.

Gently I said "I did but she died."

My new friend looked at me sadly "I'm SO sorry. How old was she?" She looked at me concerned, brow furrowed.

"I was pregnant with her and she died." I gave her a little smile, an honest smile that I always feel rising from my heart when I think of Grayson.

"Oh, well at least you didn't lose a real baby, you know, like one you actually knew."

I felt the familiar swift, cold, wicked sting across my heart. Just when you think a scar has healed, someone comes along with a razor blade and slices right through that tender, soft, fragile spot that you try so hard to protect until you are whole again.

In that moment there were so many things I wanted to say. I wanted to say "You're right. I never touched her soft hand to my lips or knew what color her eyes were. I never heard her voice. (This was something that still bothers me terribly. I often wonder what her voice would have been like.) I never bought her her first pink snowsuit. I would never know if she liked vanilla like me or preferred chocolate like her father. We would never peek into her crib to see her smiling back at us and she would never wave at us from the stage as she graduated from high school." In just one millisecond all of these things flashed in my mind at the same time like a movie montage. I saw them so clearly.

I wanted to tell her all of these things. I wanted to tell her that she was insensitive and rude. What kind of thing was this to say to someone? But what I realized instead is that in this great, big, beautiful world, everyone has a perspective and to her, a child was a child when you held them, when they had a name and clothes and things. To me, however, this child I would never know was just as real a baby as any one that had ever lived. She would always be a part of me, physically and emotionally. I can't imagine loving her more if I had looked into her eyes. Perspective is an interesting thing.

It was just a moment that had passed, not enough of a moment that had reached that awkward point yet. I smiled at this person that I knew would never understand my perspective. I wanted to say "You're a rude idiot." Instead, with deliberate soft kindness I said "You know I love this quote from Dr. Seuss's 'Horton Hears a Who'-- 'A person's a person no matter how small.' Would you excuse me?"

As I walked away, I felt the hot flush leave my cheeks. I didn't cry, I didn't lose my temper. I realized it's just perspective and I can't fault someone for her perspective. What I CAN do, however, is control my reaction to their unexpected grenade tossed into my world. That's all you can do in this life, really. That, and honor what matters the most to your heart.

And so, on July 24th, on Grayson's birthday that never was, I will be sitting in a small chapel in Massachusetts listening to mass being said in honor of our child and later I will listen to this song from Iz and remember the life of this very real little girl.


{happy video} The TED Talk: The Secret to Being Happy

I believe that every single thing that happens in your life happens exactly the way it should. There are lessons everywhere. Last night I stumbled across this TED Talk from Brother David Steindl-Rast, an extraordinary monk. The topic? To be happy, be grateful. Be inspired this morning by one of this planet's most inspiring individuals. It's 14:30 that could change your entire perspective.


happy food: easy orange happiness cake






On a summer day in June a few years ago,  L. and I spent a fun afternoon sampling wedding cakes. Our top choices were the Red Velvet and the Coconut Cream. That was until we tried the Orange Dreamsicle Cake. I remember we both sampled a bite at the same time. We looked at each other and nodded. Yes, yes, yes, this was it. At the clambake the night before the wedding we enjoyed Red Velvet Cake but on our wedding day, we happily savored the memorable Orange Dreamsicle Cake.

Ever since then, just the smell of orange vanilla makes me smile. There is something so happy and fresh about the combination of orange + vanilla. With summer just starting, I wanted to make a dessert for a party we were hosting but I wanted it to be something easy and cool. Something I didn't have to cook would be even better. Researching cakes online, I came a Barefoot Contessa Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake that looked wonderful. I wondered if I could adapt it for an orange vanilla flavor. I did and in the first attempt, this no-bake cake was perfect. I have since made it three more times and each time it is as delicious as the first.

If you're thinking about a dessert that tastes like a perfect, sunny June day, this is it.



Orange Happiness Cake

Ingredients

2 cups cold heavy cream
12 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon pure orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (optional)

2 packages of store bought vanilla cookies (The thinner the better. I started with thick cookies but for future cakes I used Trader Joe's Ultimate Vanilla Wafers.)







Directions

(optional) Using a very fine grater, grate orange rind, carefully using just the orange rind and not the white pith.

In a large bowl add the cream, mascarpone cheese, sugar, orange juice, orange extract and vanilla extract. Mix until thickened and peaks form.  Set aside.

In a springform pan, assemble a layer of vanilla cookies. On top of the cookies, spread a layer of the orange-vanilla cream. Add another layer of cookies followed by a layer of orange-vanilla cream. Keep adding layers until you reach just below the top of the pan. Finish with a layer of orange-vanilla cream.

Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Run a sharp knife along the inside of the pan to loosen the cake from the pan. Carefully remove the springform side of pan. Slice and serve.



Easy tip: If you don't have a springform pan or you want to serve this at a buffet-style party, you can prepare this easily in a trifle bowl or even a casserole bowl by following the above directions but serve portions with a serving spoon.

Options: The base recipe is easily adaptable to other flavors. Try chocolate cookies + 1/4 cup of raspberry jam instead of orange juice.


monday morning's happy video



Monday mornings can be two things:

1. A clean slate with which to accomplish much
2. Meh. It's Monday. No. Just no.

If today is more of the second variety, watch this video. "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" is classic Bach. Paired with these calming images, it just might give you that moment of clarity that you need when your manager drops a "Need it now" email on you. Before you start fantasizing about exactly how you want to walk out, watch this first.

Happy Monday! Here's wishing you option #1!

happy video: kick off your monday with the "happy' supercut

Monday.

Oh, Monday.

When you're warm and cozy under the covers just knowing that it's Monday when the alarm goes off can make you want to just tuck in a little longer. Unless, of course, you're just a happy person in general who leaps out of bed in the morning ready to spread your joy. If this is you, you are amazing.

So, if Monday is not your favorite day of the week, here. Watch this. It's Pharrell Williams' song "Happy." In honor of International Happiness Day in March, happy people around the world lip-dubbed and danced their way through this song. See the giggles, the flubs, the sweet little happy kids, the doctors in scrubs, students, puppies, dads (who really tried) and even C-3PO getting their happy on.

I'm smiling as I type this. You will too. I know you will.

Here's to getting your week off to and happy start! Need a little more? OK. Think of three things that make you happy.

1.
2.
3.

Now :-)  !


the best yogurt: siggi's



One of the best breakfasts I have ever had was in France. It was an early morning during the Cannes Film Festival and on the way to a screening I popped into a cafe for a quick espresso and a croissant. As I sat at the outdoor cafe sipping my espresso, I watched the lithe woman next to me enjoying a yogurt with her croissant. On that sunny morning on the Mediterranean, I ordered the yogurt with raspberries as well. It was the best yogurt I have ever had. It was rich and thick, tangy but sweet. I asked what the brand was but the owner shrugged and said it was his wife's recipe.  I stopped there every morning during the Festival for that yogurt. Sometimes I still dream about it.

Since then I have tried every yogurt on the market to recreate this moment. Some Greek yogurts have come close but there was still a richness that was missing. Last week, I picked up Siggi's Icelandic Style Non-Fat Yogurt. There it was. The flavor that I had tried to replicate. It was there in this perfect little cup. (The cup by the way feels god in your hand. It's sturdy and feels almost like a cardboard rather than plastic. That's because the cups are manufactured with 40-50% less plastic than regular yogurt cups.)

I did some research into Siggi's yogurt and read their story. Created by Icelander, Siggi Hilmarsson, this yogurt is based on the recipe for skyr, a traditional Icelandic yogurt. Made with few ingredients, Siggi's does mot contain artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, or growth hormone treated milk. The 0% fat raspberry yogurt I tried contained 110 calories,  14 grams of protein and just 11 grams of sugar. More importantly though, it tasted like pure and delicious.

Later in the week I picked up Siggi's plain yogurt and used it both for dipping strawberries and as a mix in with avocados and pico de gallo for an outstanding guacamole.

Siggi's is now a staple in our home as we try to lead a healthier, simple lifestyle without lots of artificial additives. It's just the best yogurt we've ever had.

Siggi's is available at Whole Foods and other grocery stores nationwide.


when prayers don't work




I watched her when I was a little girl. She knelt on the worn pale green leather kneeler in church, deep in prayer with her hands clasped firmly, eyes closed and her chin resting on the space between her crossed index and middle fingers. I knelt too in prayer to the man hanging high on the cross on the alter in front of me. I looked from his life-size form to my grandmother. I wondered what it was she prayed so hard for. I closed my eyes too and rested my forehead on my hands in prayer. I knew God listened because my grandmother told me so.

I thought of that this week. The memory so clear in my mind. It has been a challenging, difficult, awful seven weeks as L and I tried to improve our lives with something we both so desperately wanted. I prayed Novenas (prayers said for 9 days) in five cycles so far. I called the cloistered nuns and asked them to pray. Our friends prayed. We all prayed, some to God, some to saints, some to people we loved who have passed on. Friends dropped coins in fountains and several gave their birthday wishes to us. And we believed so strongly that it would all work out.

Yesterday, we got the news that our prayers weren't answered. We were shocked. We were so sure that yesterday would be a happy day that we never even considered that it wouldn't work. God listens to prayers.  I prayed to my grandmother, a devout Catholic woman so dedicated to The Virgin Mary, to help us. In my hotel room, at home, on a plane, in my car, I prayed so fervently.

I read "The Secret." I have always believed that the Law of Attraction will bring things to you if you put that energy out there. We made plans around the fact that everything would work out and then we got the simple text message "Sorry." That was it. All the plans came flying apart.

After a tearful FaceTime conversation with L about what went wrong, I sat quietly and just sobbed.

Why pray?

Why?

Life is just random.



On Thursday night when I doing homework at the library in Cambridge we heard sirens that went on so long that we all started to worry. It was later that night that we heard it was a 9 alarm blaze that had killed firefighters trapped in the basement. I am sure their wives prayed when they heard their husbands were called to a fire. Their prayers failed.

The families of the passengers on flight MH370 have been praying for weeks, hoping that their family members survived the crash. Their prayers weren't answered.

So, why bother praying when things will happen, regardless if we pray?

I couldn't sleep at all last night. I laid awake staring at the ceiling and I wondered if everything was just random and would things happen exactly the way they do, whether or not someone pleaded, prayed or sent out positive energy?

It's interesting how as humans we want to make sense of things. We rationalize. We want to make ourselves feel better so we say things like:

"It was out of your control."
"What's meant to be is meant to be."
"God has something better planned for you."
"It will all turn out."

These platitudes feel good to the person saying them but for the person who is going through a situation and hearing this, it is like salt being rubbed into a wound. These are all phrases we heard when we lost our daughter. It stings and it took everything I had not to scream "There is NOTHING better than what I just lost!" but I knew that these friends and family members loved us and really, what else was there to say except "I'm sorry and I love you."

Last night, I was angry. Angry at God for letting me down again. I said to him "There is only so much a girl like me can take. I've been dealt some heart-wrenching blows. I need a win sometimes. WHY DID THIS HAPPEN WHEN I PLEADED WITH YOU?"

I wondered "Did God even exist?"

As soon as I had that thought I felt terrible and laying there in bed I apologized to God. I realized that I was feeling like a petulant child. I realized that prayers are like saying to your parents "I'd like a pony" when you're ten years-old. You may want it with every fiber of your being but your parents know what's best for you. I closed my eyes and prayed. "I'm sorry for thinking that because I didn't get something I wanted that you didn't exist, that you didn't hear me." I felt ashamed. I wondered when I die and we sit down together (Me, God and my Guardian Angel-- this is how I see it) and review my life, will this be the moment that I turn away, put my hands over my face and cry, ashamed that I doubted God's love because things didn't go my way?

I realized that you can put your prayers out there, tell God your hopes but in the end, things will happen according to plan. I imagine all the prayers that get raised up to God during the SuperBowl. Yet both teams can't win. One will say "God heard our prayer!" The other will say "God didn't listen!"

God listens but sometimes his answer isn't yes but "Not now" or "I have something better for you."


In the clear light of day, 12 hours after the news, my heart still hurts. I am baffled and sad and it will take a couple days for me to get over it and get back out there.  I know that God has been with me my entire life. He gave me the best grandparents, he led me to my husband and to our dog. He gave us the gift of our baby, even for just the short time we had her. I have survived being struck by lightening and a terrorist threat to my plane. I made it through a knife attack and a car racing at me going the wrong way on the Mass Pike at 2am. God has had my back.

So, yes, after this difficult seven weeks that left our life much differently than we hoped, I can either choose to believe that God doesn't listen or I can remember that He and my Guardian Angels have watched over me since the moment I was just a speck. I have to trust that what is happening is exactly what was supposed to be. I have to believe that.

Maybe I will never know why things played out like they did. Maybe someday I will be grateful that this happened. I doubt that but life is sometimes incredible that way.

Today, I feel like I have lost in the seventh round of a fight. I feel bruised and tender but like the spring after a brutal never-ending winter, there comes a day when the blossom can't help but raise its face to the sun.

I'm looking forward to that day.

the great app: The game you need now -- Heads Up!


Several weeks ago I threw a small going away party in my hotel room for some friends who had stayed at the same new hotel for as long as I had.  I loved these guys and was sorry to see them leave. The night had to be great.

So, I prepared a phenomenal Friday night playlist, stocked the bar and ordered take out from the place across the street. At some point during the night, as we were having a blast, my friend David suggested the game Heads Up. He said they had recently purchased the app and it was so much fun that they had been playing it for weeks.

In less than a minute we downloaded the app ($.99 for the starter package which is more than enough to start) from iTunes and started playing.  For hours.  Heads Up! is a game created by the fun folks at The Ellen Show. Here's how it works: You pick a category like Accents & Impressions or Blockbuster Movies. Place your device on your forehead and the game begins. For one minute the person facing you gives you clues about the word on the screen  like "Furry, lives in Australia, eats eucalyptus. . ." You guess Koala and you got it! You can pass if need to.




There were some seriously competitive people playing that night which was hilarious. And the bonus? As you hold the device against your forehead it automatically rolls video on the people giving the clues. You can ignore the video, watch it after the game or even upload it. If it's REALLY funny, send it to Ellen!

So far, I have played Heads Up! with friends, with some funny little kids and with Larry. In fact, it's become our nightly tradition. After dinner, we play a couple games. It's a great way to laugh together.  In fact, the next time we don't see eye to eye on something, we might just take a break and play a game of Heads Up!

While my friends are no longer at the same hotel, maybe there will be new friends and what better way to start new friendships than with Ellen DeGeneres as part of it?

International Day of Happiness (Video) Otters Holding Hands

It's the International Day of Happiness. Here's your happy:

Did you know that when otters sleep they hold hands so they don't drift apart? (Video) 



The Happygirl Guide to Spring


This has been one whopper of a winter. I've been traveling back and forth between the Northeast and Northwest coasts and it seems like no matter where I was, the weather was uncooperative. We had never ending snow in Massachusetts and the grey days, well, they just kept coming in Seattle.

Today, however, the sun is shining, the clouds are few and it seems like spring will come, a little late, but it will come. This season I have vowed to make the most of every single day, of every single sunbeam and raindrop and mild day by changing things up a little.

Wishing you a spring season filled with happy moments!

Things to do This Spring

1. Paint the walls of your living room or your bedroom in your favorite color. Use this app from Sherwin-Williams to match the perfect color.

2. Make a spring soundtrack on a free internet radio site like Slacker. I like this one called Yacht Rock.

3. Break out of the iceberg lettuce salad doldrums and try a salad like this Watermelon Arugula Salad that's just perfect for a warm spring evening.

4.  Try changing out your coffee for tea, like this Blueberry Bliss Rooibis Tea from Teavana.

5. Vow to exchange one meal out every week for a Walk & Talk with a friend. Instead of loading up on alcohol and calories, grab a tea and walk the loop around a park.

6. Burn this clean combination of candles from Kringle Candle. Fresh Cut Grass + Fresh Lilac smells heavenly together.

7. Spend the first Saturday of the next three months at a different museum in your area. Find museums here.

8. Plan a road trip somewhere you've never been to before. Roadtrippers.com is great for ideas.



9. Make a vow to visit every farm stand in your area. Each week try one new fruit or vegetable.  Here's how to find farm stands in your neighborhood.

10. Attend an outdoor concert.



11. Clean out the linen closet. Donate the blankets/towels/sheets that you haven't used in a year.  Your local pet shelter may be a good place to donate to. For everything you're keeping, organize the shelves by type (bath/bedroom). Follow these instructions from Martha Stewart on how to fold a fitted sheet.

12.  Bring your own lunch to work at least once a week and enjoy it outside. Try these healthy recipes from CookingLight.com. Put the money you would have spent in a jar and on June 21 make a donation to your favorite charity.

13. Go to the playground and swing. Swing and close your eyes.

14.  Leaves Post-it notes saying "You are going to have an amazing day!" in different places for other people to find.

15. Learn how to cook asparagus.

16. Open every window in your home one Sunday morning and let the fresh air in.

17. Read "Shotgun Lovesongs" by Nickolas Butler.

18. Take your favorite person out for an ice cream cone. Go for the cone. You can always have it in a cup by yourself.

19. Get a Basil plant and keep it on your kitchen window sill.

20. Sleep with the window open.



{happy video} the first kiss

)

Filmmaker Tatia Pllieva paired twenty strangers and asked them to kiss for the first time. What she caught on tape was awkward, vulnerable and sweet. Take a look.

it's ok. really.


Sometimes you have the best intentions.

"I'm going to give up wine for Lent."

"I'm going to wake up at 4:30am and run 5 miles a day."

"I'm not going to spend $5 every morning on a coffee."

And for awhile it goes well. It goes GREAT. You gave up the wine, you started waking up early to work out and you started making coffee in your Keurig at home.

Then one night you're out with your friends and you think "What the hell? It's one glass of wine. Does God REALLY care of I have a glass of wine during Lent? He's got bigger problems to deal with."

That is how it starts. Then the next time temptation steps in front of you it's easier to admit defeat.  You cave.

I caved. I. Caved.

Last year I was on a fitness program and lost a crazy amount of weight. 100 pounds in fact. No wheat, dairy, sugar, coffee or alcohol. I followed the detox program that I completed successfully at Red Mountain Resort.  I ran four miles a day and was laser focused. Then one day, I hurt myself or it was raining or I was hungry. The funny thing is that I don't even remember what it was that caused me to lose focus but I did. I lost focus and then I just lost my dedication.

The weight started to come back. I got busy. I didn't pay attention and I started to see all my hard work disappear. The old me, the me I didn't like all that much was coming back.  I started beating myself up. I told myself that I was weak, that I couldn't do it. What was I thinking attempting a change so ambitious?

Then I realized something. I did it. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day I made a conscious choice to be healthy, to achieve a goal and I did it.


So, OK, I wandered off the path but the thing is this -- I knew where the path was. I understood what I needed to do to walk the path and how to get to the destination. There was physical proof that I could do it. This meant I could do it again. I thought about this and made a plan: How to get back on a program. It's like this: 

  • First. Forgive yourself. What you did, sabotaging yourself wasn't the smartest thing you've ever done but you stopped the behavior. Forgive the behavior and get over it. It's OK. It's always OK in the end. If it's not OK, it's not the end. 
  • Get out your roadmap. Follow the path that worked for you before. (Drink more water with lime, walk 4 miles a day, delete white flour and sugar from your diet, whatever worked for you.) If you need a reminder of how to follow the path, call a nutrition equivalent of AAA and have someone write the directions for the journey down for you. There are experts out there just waiting to help guide you back on the right road.
  • Set a goal. 100 days that you stopped smoking, 100 mornings of working out. 100 seems to be a magic number. It's only a little more than 3 months but saying "I  __________ for 100 days!" seems like a much bigger accomplishment than 3 months." Set the goal. Write it on a Post-it. Make it the screensaver on your phone. Stick the Post-it to your bathroom mirror, your monitor at work. . . Set it in your mind so that when you close your eyes and see the number 100, you see a successful, happy you. 
It's OK that you got sidetracked but it's time to come back and be strong. Be the you that makes you proud. OK? OK.



{happy video: a happy dog, his angels and a little blind pig}

This morning I was looking out at another gray and drizzly day. The plan was to start running 4 miles again but I looking at the rain I thought "I just can't do it. I can't go out there. It's too wet. It's too damp. It's too cold." Then I thought of Spencer the Bulldog. I watched his video again and then I laced up my running shoes and went out there in the rain. Just because I could. Because he did.

This is the story of Spencer, the paralyzed dog. (Don't worry! This is a happy story.) Somehow when he was a puppy, through abuse or possibly being dropped, Spencer lost the use of his hind legs. He miraculously found his way to the doorstep of Linda Heinz, who adopted him and carries him around so he can see the world. But you see, Spencer is a curious dog and he doesn't want to wait for Linda to pick him up so he drags himself along the floor, causing some pretty damaging sores to his little hind legs.

And here is when angels came to Spencer's aid. While the extraordinary people at Westcoast Brace & Limb, are accustomed to making custom limbs for paralyzed patients, this time they made custom braces for Spencer, complete with little lime green crocs.

Watch what happens when they place the braces on Spencer for the first time. You may want to get your Kleenex as Spencer takes his first step and another and another.

And the next time you just can't get motivated to work out? Think about Spencer out on his walk with his best friend, Porkchop, the blind pig by his side.

{happy girl/happy food: "relish the harvest" founder, Jessica Wisniewski}



My husband, Larry, and I have quite a few things in common.

We love balmy June nights.

We will stop whatever we are doing to watch a Mel Brooks movie.

We believe mornings should start with a perfect espresso and we love foods with a kick.

Tonight we both fell for a new happy food and this one packs one wonderful kick. It's Hot Pepper Spread from Relish the Harvest. Recently on a trip back home to Massachusetts, I met Jessica Wisniewski, the founder of Relish the Harvest. Over dinner, I learned the delicious story behind this small company.

Jessica Wisniewski was on the fast track in the corporate world, traveling and making a name for herself in the food industry. In every single position, Jessica thrived and looked for new challenges but in the back of her mind, she remembered sunny summer days and making relish with her family. And so, one day, she took a leap of faith and decided to pursue her dream of bottling her family's Sweet Zucchini Relish. With help from her family and the support of her husband, Jessica was literally a force of nature. Relish the Harvest was born, along with her new baby girl. Happy girls know how to make dreams come true.

Along with the original-- Sweet Zucchini Relish, the line also includes Sweet & Hot Zucchini Relish and our favorite, the Hot Pepper Spread. So far, we have tried all three relishes on hot dogs, mixed with mayonnaise and a little lime for an extraordinary tartar sauce, drizzled over goat cheese on crisp bread for a recent cocktail party and mixed with cheddar for stuffed baked potatoes.

Sometimes you have to follow your heart. Maybe this means you'll sit at your grandmother's kitchen table and learn the secrets to beloved family recipes. Maybe you'll pick up your life and moves 2800 miles away to follow your dream or maybe it means that on cold, rainy nights there is no place you'd rather be than with your family, whatever that looks like.

Relish the Harvest is on Facebook and is available online, as well as specialty markets throughout New England.

I asked Jessica if we could share one of her favorite recipes for Jalapeño Poppers and she said "Of course." The first recipe is for baked Jalapeño Poppers and the second, fried.





{Baked Relish the Harvest Jalapeño Poppers With a Kick}

Ingredients
12oz cream cheese softened
3 tbsp blue cheese dressing
3 tbsp Relish the Harvest Hot Pepper Spread
1 tbsp bacon bits
25 jalapeno peppers seeded and halved
melted butter or olive oil

Directions
1) In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, blue cheese, bacon bits, and the hot pepper spread. Spoon this mixture into the jalapeno halves. Reconnect the halves to become one stuffed jalapeno.
2) Place the stuffed jalapeno poppers on a greased pan.  Spray olive oil on top of the jalapeno poppers or brush with melted butter. 
3) Heat the stuffed jalapeno poppers at 350 degrees F for 25minutes. Enjoy!




 {Fried Relish the Harvest Jalapeño Poppers With a Kick}

Ingredients
12oz cream cheese softened                           3 tbsp blue cheese dressing
3 tbsp Relish the Harvest Hot Pepper Spread    1 tbsp bacon bits
1cup all-purpose flour (or gluten free flour)      1 cup milk
25 jalapeno peppers seeded and halved
1cup bread crumbs(optional)                          2 quarts oil for frying


Directions
1) In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, blue cheese, bacon bits, and the hot pepper spread. Spoon this mixture into the jalapeno halves. Reconnect the halves to become one stuffed jalapeno.
2) Put the milk and flour into two separate bowls. Dip the stuffed jalapenos first into the milk then into the flour. Do your best to coat the entire jalapeno. Allow the coated jalapenos to dry for about 10minutes. Repeat this step if you want a thicker coat of flour.
3) If you want a crunchy coating, then place bread crumbs in a separate bowl. Dip the coated jalapenos into the milk then into the bread crumbs. Allow them to dry and repeat to coat the entire surface with bread crumbs.
4) In a skillet, heat the oil to 365 degrees F. Deep Fry the coated stuffed jalapenos for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and let it drain on a paper towel. Enjoy!

{happy food recipe: breakfast cookies}



This week we have a guest staying with us. I'm a big believer in a comfortable guest experience so if you were to stay with us you could expect a comfortable bed with crisp white sheets and heavenly down pillows, plush towels, a vanity of amenities and pastries and coffee at the ready for early risers.

While I usually make a batch of banana nut or blueberry lemon muffins, because our guest has to be on the road so early every day I wanted to make something more portable for him. I was inspired by the February issue of Oprah Magazine, featuring breakfast cookies but with a few tweaks, I lightened the calories and tailored the ingredients to make these cookies powerhouses of flavor that will keep you feeling full until lunchtime.



Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of old fashioned oats
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp. ground flaxseed
2 Tbsp.freshly grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup applesauce (or 1 stick of butter)
1/2 cup Greek zero fat vanilla yogurt
1 egg
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups of shelled pistachios
1 1/2 cups of dried cranberries



Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or use nonstick cookie sheets.

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients: oats, wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, flaxseed, zest, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In an electric mixer, add applesauce, yogurt, egg and brown sugar and mix until incorporated. Slowly add dry ingredients. When fully combined, remove from mixer and add in pistachios and cranberries.

The batter/dough will be thick. Use your hands to form balls that are approximately 2 tablespoons worth of batter. Place on pan and flatten a little using the palm of your hand. Continue with the rest of the batter.

Place in oven for 18 minutes, turning pans midway. Remove from oven and let cool.

Combined with a zero fat Greek yogurt, this makes for a healthy breakfast on the go or enjoyed leisurely with a coffee and friends in front of the fire.


Other combinations

Walnuts + dried blueberries
Pecans + raisins
Chocolate chips + banana chips





how to memorize the presidents



This is Martin Van Buren, the eighth President of the United States. 
When was the last time you thought about Martin Van Buren?

I was with my friend, Jake, and he was paying our dinner tab with a $100 bill, a bit of an overkill considering dinner was just $36 but that's Jake. I wondered who walks around with $100 bills. So, I said to him "Jake, don't look down. If you can tell me who is on the $100 bill as well as the other Presidents on the bills, dinner is on me." 

"$100 Ben Franklin, not a President.
$50 Ulysses S. Grant
$20 Andrew Jackson
$10 Alexander Hamilton, not a President but a Founding Father, 
$5 Lincoln
$1 Washington"

I started to ask a question but Jake raised his forefinger and said "And, TJ, before you ask, Jefferson is on the $2 bill."

Of course, a man who pays for dinner with a $100 bill would know this. I was curious though so I asked. 

"So, you just carry $100 bills in your wallet."

He smiled. "Yes, that's how I roll." He paused. "Nanh, just kidding. My godfather gave me this last Christmas and I've been carrying it around. I thought you'd be impressed."

"I'm actually more impressed that you knew who was on the $2 bill. Give me the bill, smartypants."

It was after this dinner that I decided that for a Politics major I remembered little about the Presidents anymore so I made it my mission to memorize all 44 Presidents. 

I started by looking up the Presidents. If you'd like to know more about them, visit the The White House site by U.S. Government. Here you'll find a list of all 44 Presidents as well as facts and trivia about each President. 

Here is the complete list courtesy of the U.S. Government

18th Century

1. George Washington2. John Adams

19th Century

3. Thomas Jefferson15. James Buchanan
4. James Madison16. Abraham Lincoln
5. James Monroe17. Andrew Johnson
6. John Quincy Adams18. Ulysses S. Grant
7. Andrew Jackson19. Rutherford B. Hayes
8. Martin Van Buren20. James Garfield
9. William Henry Harrison21. Chester A. Arthur
10. John Tyler22. Grover Cleveland
11. James K. Polk23. Benjamin Harrison
12. Zachary Taylor24. Grover Cleveland
13. Millard Fillmore25. William McKinley
14. Franklin Pierce

20th Century

26. Theodore Roosevelt35. John F. Kennedy
27. William Howard Taft36. Lyndon B. Johnson
28. Woodrow Wilson37. Richard M. Nixon
29. Warren G. Harding38. Gerald R. Ford
30. Calvin Coolidge39. James Carter
31. Herbert Hoover40. Ronald Reagan
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt41. George H. W. Bush
33. Harry S. Truman42. William J. Clinton
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower

21st Century

43. George W. Bush44. Barack Obama


So, now to memorize them all.

I have always been a student who needed mnemonics (i.e. HOMES Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.) To start, break the Presidents up into groups i.e. (WAJMMAJBHT: Washington Always Jumped Many Many Alps Just Because He Tried). Create four sentences like this and you'll be able to remember the Presidents in no time.

The other options are repetition and repetition with song. The first one is for you hard core readers. Write out the Presidents on index cards or on a list in your phone and when you're waiting for someone or for the train, study the list. I tried this method by writing the Presidents on the wall of our shower with waterproof crayon. It surprised Larry one morning but at least now we're both memorizing the Presidents.

Then of course, you could go the whole "Learning my ABC's Song"  or the Schoolhouse Rock route and write a song with all the President's names. It's just about getting your brain to wrap itself around the names so that you say Van Buren you know that William Henry Harrison comes next.

Want to memorize The Preamble of The Constitution? Watch this classic from Schoolhouse Rock.




Good luck! If anything, remembering the Presidents just might get you a free dinner.

Happy Presidents Day!