{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!

{happy things} saying i love you via a song



We had been dating seven weeks when I went blind. It was a random accident and after a trip to the emergency room I was left with bandages on my eyes with the possibility of being blind forever. It was during those four sightless days that I received a mix-tape overnight from my new boyfriend who was finishing his senior year in college. Laying there in bed, I listened as my mom popped the tape into the Walkman for me. It started with his voice. We were still in that tentative new stage and yet he started with "I know you're blind now but I just want you to know I love you and we'll get through this." There was a brief pause and then the first strands of "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles started. I smiled and I knew that this guy had a sense of humor and he loved me. Nothing else mattered.  Through those four long days I listened to that tape over and over. It is what got me through the scary moments.

Mix tapes are wonderful things. They help you tell another person how you feel when words escape you. Maybe it's too early to say I love you to your new love. Maybe it feels weird to tell your aunt or best friend or brother how much they mean to you. Enter the song, the song that helps you get your emotion across. Today as we celebrate that giddy, sweet, happy, warm hug of a feeling -- love-- send someone you love a message in a song.

Here are some suggestions to get you started. There is probably a song below that is just perfect for your love. Send them the link and let them know. Love is all around.



{Love: adorable, sweet, new love}
Feeling: You just met someone whose smile makes your heart leap every time you see him but you haven't made a move yet. It's sweet love. Pure, adorable.
The song: "I Love Your Smile" by Shanice
The link: http://youtu.be/QGXxcSdsXJ4







{Love: she's the one}
Feeling: She's the one. You can't imagine a life without her. She made you chicken soup from scratch when you were sick.  You want to marry her. You want Saturday at the farmer's market and her Sunday morning lemon-blueberry pancakes for the rest of your life.
The song: "Marry Me" by Train
The link:  http://youtu.be/ghZt2cILcCU






{Love: your best friend}
Feeling: You love that best friend of yours. She's the girl who held back your ponytail when you got sick the very first time you drank beer. He was your best man who told you "You found the perfect girl, dude." You're a pal and a confidant.
The song: "Thank You For Being a Friend"
The link: http://youtu.be/ZN3E9Yyd1HA






{Love: it's steamy}
Feeling: You just started a physical relationship. You are incredible together and neither one of you can take any more snow. You need a tropical getaway.
The song: "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak
The link: http://youtu.be/UAOxCqSxRD0





{Love: you are falling in deep}
Feeling: You are in love. Period. Every single love song makes you think of her. Your friends and family have never seen you like this before. You love the way he always opens your car door for you. He loves the way you always hug his dog even before you hug him every time you come to his apartment. It is L.O.V.E.
The song: "The Closer I Get  to You" by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway
The link: http://youtu.be/_jhYENBxRVo





{Love: lust}
Feeling: Lust. Pure lust. The stuff lost weekends were made of.
The song: "Je T'aime. . .Moi Non Plus" by Jane Birkin et Serge Gainsbourg
The link: http://youtu.be/k3Fa4lOQfbA






{Love: still strong after all these years}
Feeling: You've been together for years. You have a history together. With how busy life is you sometimes forget to tell each other that "Babe, you're still the one that turns my head."
The song: "Still the One" by Orleans
The link: http://youtu.be/SbH_sDyWZqo






{Love: someone needs to know you're there}
Feeling: You have a friend who's going through a rough time. He needs to know you're there through good times and bad. You will always be there.
The song: "Candle on the Water" by Helen Reddy
The link: http://youtu.be/1-EhH6DvjfM






{Love: post break-up}
Feeling: You broke up with someone. It's awful. You just ran into him with his new girlfriend at your favorite restaurant. You still love him. You want him to be happy. Actually, not really happy. Because he isn't with you.
The song: "Someone Like You" by Adele
The link: http://youtu.be/hLQl3WQQoQ0





{Love: unrequited}
Feeling: You love each other. It's there but it's just never going to happen. Not ever but you want her to know that you will always love her.
The song: "I Honestly Love You" by Olivia Newton John
The link: http://youtu.be/COq4u9G9RQY




Happy Valentine's Day!


{happy food} the best, easiest baja chicken tacos


I've been traveling a lot lately and one of the things I've missed was cooking. Last night was the first opportunity I had to make dinner and for the occasion I chose Baja Chicken Tacos. While, I love Baja Fish Tacos, Larry doesn't so I decided to try the recipe with chicken and it was spectacular. In fact in between bites we both kept repeating "Oh my God, this is so good. Let's make this every day."

It was the kind of perfect meal that you'd find at a little taco stand at the beach, the one that people will drive miles to get to. The best part of the meal actually was the Baja Sauce. It was creamy and cool with a kick, phenomenal and something that could be put to use all the time, from drizzling on grilled salmon to using it as vegetable dip. I plan on making a batch every week and keeping it refrigerated. 



The Baja Sauce and the entire meal was was actually fairly easy to make with a quick stop at Trader Joe's first. 

Happygirl Baja Sauce Recipe 

Ingredients
1 cup Mayonnaise
Juice of 2 limes
2 teaspoons fire roasted green chiles (finely chopped)

Directions
Combine three ingredients and whisk until incorporated. Add more or less green chiles to taste. Cover and place in refrigerator for a few hours before serving to let the flavors combine. I tried this with Greek Yogurt, low-fat mayonnaise and sour cream. They were all delicious but Trader Joe's Organic Mayonnaise had the purest taste that let the lime and chiles take center stage.

Easy Baja Chicken Tacos Recipe 
Ingredients
1 pound package of chicken breast tenders 
2 eggs
1 cup white flour
1 cup Panko crumbs

OR buy pre-cooked sliced chicken strips available at Trader Joe's and most markets. You can also substitute fish, pulled pork, steak or a soy/veggie alternative.


1 package shredded cabbage (Trader Joe's)
1/2 cup reduced fat sharp cheese (shredded finely)
1 package Trader Joe's Corn & Wheat tortillas
1 container of Trader Joe's Reduced Fat Chunky Guacamole



Directions
(If you are using pre-cooked meat, skip this step)

To prepare the breaded chicken strips: 

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. 
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a sauté pan on medium heat. 
Place flour, whipped egg and Panko crumbs in three separate bowls. 
Dredge chicken tender in flour, then egg until covered then in the Panko crumbs. Set aside. Repeat with the rest of the chicken tenders. 
Add chicken tenders to saute pan, cooking 4 minutes on each side.
Place chicken tenders in over for 5 minutes to finish cooking. 
Set aside to cool. 

Set shredded cabbage, cheese, Baja Sauce and Chunky guacamole out. 

Microwave tortillas for 20 seconds. If you have a gas stovetop, place tortilla on grill above flame for 10 seconds on each side. Place on table. 

To prepare tacos, spread guacamole on tortilla, followed by cabbage, chicken, cheese and Baja Sauce.

Plan trip to sunny destination anyway to escape the snow. 




video: the flying camera + the pig

So these skydivers were getting ready to jump and they hadn't yet attached their GoPro camera. As they were shooting the scene prior to their jump, the wind took their camera which then went plummeting to earth in a spiral (if you're prone to motion sickness, you may want to skip the first 40 seconds or so.)

The camera lands intact from a freefall into a pigpen. Watch what happens then.


sometimes you're the butterfly and sometimes. . .


It went something like this: 
  • I came down with a 104 temp and the flu while working away from home.
  • I had a fight with someone that was upsetting.
  • The petsitter called to tell me the puppy was sick.
  • The negotiations on a perfect little house we were trying to buy went south, way way south.
This all happened in one day last week. It was what I referred to as a no good, very bad day.  I left work with a pounding headache and body aches, but really it was the ache in my soul that sent me home early.  I didn't turn the radio or pick up my phone on on the way back to the hotel. I focused on every traffic light that brought me closer to home. 

Back in my hotel room, I put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door,  closed the drapes, took a hot shower and crawled into bed, pulling the covers over my head. When I was a little girl and had a bad day I would tell my mom that I felt 'small.' It was the only way to describe the feeling of wanting to crawl into a cave and be alone. It felt primal, like an animal who's sick and burrows its way into a nest to be alone and heal.

I needed to heal. 

It's hard when so many things go wrong at once and it was a startling difference from the week before when it was all sunshine and bubbles. The previous week I was making it happen at work, we were buying a great house on the east coast so I could have a landing pad when I worked here, I was about to start my second semester at Harvard, the puppy was happy and fine, Larry and I scored sold-out tickets to James Taylor and I was making good friends at my new job. I felt like the girl at the end of a romantic comedy when the happy music come up as the camera pans out on her and her love laying on a bench in Notting Hill. I felt like a butterfly, all shiny and light and happy, flying in the sunshine on a summer's day.

Then I became a caterpillar in my hotel room. For 24 hours I stayed in my cocoon of sheets, miserable and unable to reasonably work out my problems.  My head was swimming from the fever. At 2:30am I  stood in the shower with my head against the glass door letting the hot water stream over me, hopefully washing away all the mad mojo that I had somehow contracted.  I dried off, slipped on clean pajamas and fell back into bed. I tucked the covers around me and fell into a slumber. It was what I needed. Exactly what I needed. 

When I woke up a few hours later, I laid still in my bed, in the darkness, blinking, trying to make out the shapes in my room.  I had forgotten where I was. I was still sick (and it turns out I would end up at the hospital with Bronchitis) but I started to think through all the issues that were happening. Jumbled together, they were overwhelming but I took one issue at a time and I worked through how I would fix each one. The puppy got some good meds and she's feeling better. The new house was not meant to be so the search continues. Regarding the fight, well, that one I took slower. I realized that if I reacted immediately I would have said something in the heat of the moment that I would have regretted and so I took a few days before I acted on what I hope is a reasonable, logical solution. My friend, Fr. Matthew, once told me to never make a rash decision in a distraught state. That was sage advice. 

The lesson I learned from last week is that sometimes you will be a butterfly. Life will be amazing, You will feel smart, beautiful and happy and wanted. Your heart will feel full of love.  Then there will be times when things go south. When this happens, it's OK to take some time, step out of the game and regroup. 

You will heal. 
You will find happy again. 

Just take the time to take care of yourself. Triage your problems. If a number of things all go wrong at the same time, take care of the most important things first. In my case, it was making sure that the puppy was feeling better. Everything else came after that, in order of importance, with the house being at the bottom of that list. The world didn't end because I stepped way for a moment. My job was still there. There will be another house and the argument will be settled. I am happy that I didn't make a rash decision. 

It's been a few days since the no good, very bad day and I still feel a caterpillar but I know that with rest and a calm, confident self that I'll be flying with sun dappled wings again soon.