happy things: the nespresso machine

One day when I was at college, senior year, we had had a late night. So late, in fact, that it was dawn when we walked across the wet grass of the quad, holding up the bottom of our long dresses (and having somehow lost our shoes during the previous evening's activities.) I remember watching the sky streaked with pink as the sun rose as we headed back to the dorm, all of us supremely aware that this was what college was all about--this moment of being young and happy.

We got back to the dorm, some of us with our boyfriend's blazers around our shoulders. I was with my favorite girls trying as hard as we could to speak (OK, giggle) softly as we stood in front of the building talking about the night before. We didn't want to go in, afraid then the magic of the night would end. It was at that moment that a car pulled up and in it were the boys, our boys, who drove up and handed us hot cups of Dunkin Donuts coffee and a bag of blueberry muffins. They thought before we went to bed that we would want a snack. And on the front steps of Sullivan House on that Sunday morning, we sipped coffee, waved the boys goodbye and pulled the blazers close around our shoulders.  Sometimes now, when I inhale the scent of coffee, I think of that moment, that blissful moment. It makes me happy.

So many moments in our lives involve coffee. When we want to see friends, we say "Let's meet for coffee" not "Let's meet for juice." We sit around the kitchen table sipping coffee on a Sunday morning. We meet at the coffee bar at work, we sip coffee in the car. A Starbucks cup is practically a given on a morning commute whether it's via car, train or a walk. While I love swinging by Dunkin Donuts (when I'm on the east coast) for a small Coffee Regular (that's Dunkin Donuts speak for a coffee with cream and sugar), when I'm home, I love our Nespresso machine. Ever since Nespresso came out with their first espresso machine we have used their products in our home and in the studio.  

While L. prefers a tiny mighty cup of espresso, I like sipping my coffee slowly.  What I love about the Nespresso VertuoLine (seen above) is that the taste is always perfectly the same thanks to the high tech system known as Revolutionary Centrifusion technology which recognizes each capsule via the individualized barcodes. Whether you place a recyclable aluminum espresso or traditional coffee pod in the machine, your drink is precise and impeccable.  There are a multitude of flavors to chose from (including decaf, vanilla and hazelnut) for both espresso and coffee drinkers. L 's favorite is the Altisso espresso while I like the Caramelizio coffee. With both the espresso and the coffee, you get that delicious layer of crema that you see above. (Crema is not cream. It is often referred to as the "Guiness effect," the layer of foam that settles on top of a great glass of beer.) Pods typically range from $.80 to $1.10 which is more expensive than the Keurig.  There is a high capacity water tank and the machine heats up in less than 20 seconds.

I do love this machine. It's tried and true. However, there are a couple of negatives. While you can buy hundreds of various coffee, tea and cocoa Keurig K cups in the grocery store, Nespresso only sells their coffee and espresso capsules on their website and in their Nespresso shops (including the Nespresso shops in select Macy's). I have also found that the coffee isn't as hot as I would like it. (It's perfectly hot if you drink it black but add creamer and it's just warm.) When I asked the Nespresso representative about this, I was told that in Europe they don't prefer to drink their coffee as Americans so the settings are a couple of degrees cooler than you would expect. Neither of these issues are dealbreakers, however.

The Nespresso VeruoLine is a happy way to start your day ($249).

inspiration #289: it will happen, it will

The text simply said "This wasn't how I pictured my life."

It was from a friend who is having a hard time in his life, with his wife, his job . . . I listened to him talk and my heart felt for him. He didn't recognize his life, he said. He pictured himself with a wife and a family and yet, he was alone. She left him. I imagined him sitting at his desk late on a Friday night because he didn't want to go home to an empty house.

He was scared. I listened and if there was one thing I wanted him to know was that after loss, things do have a way of working themselves out. The baby that was lost during a pregnancy will always be a tragic loss but someday there will someone or something else that will bring joy. Not the exact same joy, but joy nonetheless. There may be a divorce or a job separation or an period in life where you never imagined would be your life but I can tell you from experience that you get through it. When I went through the dark (dark dark dark dark) period that was the impetus for this blog, I wold never have believed that this was my life.  I didn't think I could make it. The thing is, though, that you power through.

When I went through the perfect storm of losses in 2009, I was depressed and lost and scared that this was my life forever. It felt like being in a blizzard at night, walking, bundled up, my head bowed with my face pelted by the biting cold, freezing snow. I imagined having to make an effort to pick up each boot as I tried making my way through snowdrifts. I couldn't see ahead of me in the swirling snow. It seemed never ending. I couldn't keep going. And then there he was. My husband reached out his gloved hand and together we trudged through the snow until we made it home and later in front of a fire, curled up together, with his arms around me, I knew it would be OK. I didn't know exactly how it would get better, but I knew that I was once happy and that this period wouldn't last forever. If there is just one person (even if that's just you) who believes in you, it will get better. It won't be the exact same happy, but you will be happy again.

On Friday night, I listened. I listened to my friend talk about what he hated about his life, what happened with his wife, what they would have named their kids, where they would have taken them on vacation. I listened until he had nothing left to say. It's what he needed. Just someone to listen. Then, softly I said "It's not over, buttercup. Maybe you won't stay with her, maybe you guys will find your path. Maybe you'll have kids with her or maybe you won't. What's happening right now, though, is how you get to your happy. You won't be able to get there without this part. Focus on what you do have. Focus on this moment right now. I promise you that this isn't the end. The book keeps going, you know. This is just a chapter. The bad chapter but it's still the chapter you have to get through to see what happens next."

The bad stuff that happens in your life builds character. It allows you to change and get rid of the things that no longer serve you or bring you joy. Patience, my friend. Like they say, it's all OK in the end. If it's not OK, it's not the end. You'll get your happy back. I promise.

inspiration #879: you're a rock star. you are.

I waas out walking the dog when I saw it. A glittery purple stone nestled into the rocks.  It hadn't been there the day before. I know because I walk this route every day and a glittery purple rock isn't something you miss. Part of me wanted to pick it up, take it home and put it on my desk but then I realized that no one would else would have this moment, this moment of looking at a glittery purple rock and smiling. I liked the idea of someone decorating this simple grey stone and placing it amidst other rocks for their child to find on their way home from school. Or maybe it was a child who made it and wanted to find the perfect home for it, with others like it but not exactly like it.

When I saw this stone I thought of the fact that sometimes we all feel like that glittery rock. We have moments when we feel good about ourselves. Our pants fit loosely, we're eating healthy, our skin glows, work is going great, our relationships are happy and we just know that we at our best. Maybe it's just a fleeting moment that we are filled with confidence. Maybe it's a day or maybe you are just one of those people who are perpetual rock stars. You have confidence for days. You lucky soul, you.

It's funny, though, when you feel like this, you often don't want to shine too brightly. Others may have said "Who do you think you are? You're not all it." Don't mind them. Maybe they haven't felt like a rock star in awhile. They forgot what it feels like to glow, to know that you are having your best day. If you're having that day where you feel like all is right in your world, congratulations. Be proud. Own it. Whether you've made significant changes in your life to bring about this confidence or you finally just realized how amazing you are, hold onto that feeling. Let it be contagious. Don't be afraid to tell others how amazing they are. Sharing that feeling makes your light bright. It won't dim it. Really.

Yesterday, I laced up my running shoes and headed out into the sunshine with the dog. When I got to the spot with the glittery, purple rock, it wasn't there. It had moved on. It's OK, though. I know it exists and that's enough.

why "this is us" will give you all the feels

Last night, I was curled up in front of the fire,  watching TV with big tears rolling down my cheeks. L. walked in and paused, his brow furrowing. "What's going on? Is she OK" he said, looking over at Emma, our dog who was tucked into my side, oblivious, sleeping soundly through my heaving cries.

"She's fine. She's snoring," I said. "It's this." I pointed to the television. The end credits for "This is Us" were rolling. This pilot episode, which had just finished airing, was one of the most anticipated new series of the fall and it was over.  I may have been crying because I was so happy that it was as good (better) than I had hoped. Maybe it was because the twist ending I had heard about was brilliant and touching and I didn't see it coming. Whatever the reason, I hit restart on the remote and watched it again. I've never done this before, watched the same episode back to back but it was so cleverly written that I had to watch it again just to soak it all in. Kudos to creator/writer, Dan Fogelman.

In case you missed it, this emotionally fulfilling series, perfectly, brilliantly, beautifully written and cast,  is about people who share the same birthday. Unless you saw the show last night, that's all that I can say. That's all I want to say. Just watch it followed by this digital episode of the cast talking about the reveal and why they chose to make this series. While I'm excited about other new series premiering ("The Good Place"), "This is Us" was the "thing" that has been missing from television (especially after the final episode of "Parenthood" aired in January 2015. "This is Us" airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET/PT on NBC. I can't wait for next week. I'll have the Kleenex ready.

When is your favorite (or anticipated new favorite) series debuting this fall? Check out this calendar of series premiere dates on TVLine.com.

Here's what's debuting the rest of this week:

Wednesday, Sept. 21
Blindspot (8 p.m., NBC)
The Goldbergs (8 p.m., ABC)
Lethal Weapon (8 p.m., Fox)
Survivor (8 p.m., CBS)
Speechless (8:30 p.m., ABC)
Empire (9 p.m., Fox)
Law & Order: SVU (9 p.m., NBC)
Modern Family (9 p.m., ABC)
Black-ish (9:30 p.m., ABC)
Big Brother (9:30 p.m., CBS)
Designated Survivor (10 p.m., ABC)
Chicago P.D. (10 p.m., NBC)
Thursday, Sept. 22
Grey’s Anatomy (8 p.m., ABC)
Rosewood (8 p.m., Fox)
Superstore (8 p.m., NBC)
The Good Place (8:30 p.m., NBC)
Chicago Med (9 p.m., NBC)
Notorious (9 p.m., ABC)
Pitch (9 p.m., Fox)
The Blacklist (10 p.m., NBC)
How to Get Away With Murder (10 p.m., ABC)
Debate Wars (Seeso)
Friday, Sept. 23
Caught on Camera With Nick Cannon (8 p.m., NBC)
Hell’s Kitchen (8 p.m., Fox)
Last Man Standing (8 p.m., ABC)
MacGyver (8 p.m., CBS)
Dr. Ken (8:30 p.m., ABC)
Dateline NBC (9 p.m., NBC)
The Exorcist (9 p.m., Fox)
Hawaii Five-0 (9 p.m., CBS)
Shark Tank (9 p.m., ABC)
Blue Bloods (10 p.m., CBS)
Transparent (Amazon)

The Happygirl Guide to. . .Asian-inspired spicy peanut butter noodle salad

I love my sister-in-law, Sue. For many reasons. She reminds me a lot of my husband (her brother, L.) She's an incredible mom, friend, sister and educator. And she turned me on to this Asian-inspired noodle salad. She made this for one of her infamous parties. It's one of those  foods at a buffet that you try and think "Oh, right. Excuse me, while I load up on this salad before everyone else discovers this and it's gone." I was hooked. It's a cool, perfect balance of crisp vegetables, al dente noodles and creamy/salty peanut butter with a kick of heat.

This weekend, I was craving this salad. The weather here in Seattle has been uneven (rainy/sunny/cool/warm all in one day) and while I don't want hot comfort food yet, I don't have that same love for cold lettuce-based salads as I did this summer. After a quick trip to the market, I tossed this together in a few minutes and let it cool while I started taking in the summer decorations from the deck. By the time I was finished packing everything away and had showered, the flavors in this salad were perfectly melded. I served this for dinner last night with a simple sparkling water with lime and L. loved it as much as I did.

This is a great salad for taking to lunch or for buffets. It makes a large amount and stores well in the fridge. You can also add your favorite ingredients to the recipe. I added shredded chicken but this can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the meat or adding tofu. I like the the simple taste of orange (or red) bell peppers with carrots and green onions but you can also add broccoli, snow peas or whatever vegetables make you happy.

print recipe

The Happygirl Guide to Spicy Asian Peanut Butter Noodle Salad
This Asian-inspired cool, spicy noodle salad is a perfectly balanced mix of crisp vegetables, al dente noodles, protein (chicken, pork or tofu) in a spicy, creamy peanut butter dressing with a hint of refreshing lime. This is great cooled after several hours but even better the next day for lunch.
  • 1 16 ounces (1 box) cooked spaghetti (regular or whole wheat)
  • 1 large red or orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 stalks of green onion
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 6 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • juice from one lime
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
  • to your taste optional: Cooked shredded chicken, pork or tofu
In large bowl add cooked noodles, pepper, carrots, green onion. Add protein (cooked chicken, pork or tofu.) Set aside.In another bowl, combine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, peanut butter, cayenne pepper, lime juice, water, sugar and ginger. Whisk until smooth. Pour over noodle mixture. Toss to incorporate sauce and noodles.Refrigerate for 3 hours until cold. When serving, sprinkle with chopped peanuts.For a quicker assembly, buy pre-cooked protein and chopped vegetables.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 dinner-sized servings

the guide to. . .being the non-gossip girl

I am not proud to say this. About a year and a half ago I had a conversation that left me feeling dirty. I had met a friend for dinner and I realized that throughout the dinner, through the margaritas and the chips and salsa and fish tacos we had talked about other people, some our friends. We didn't do it intentionally or to be malicious. I think, in fact, we thought we were helping in some weird way by working out their issues or maybe we were trying to make ourselves feel better by talking about how screwed up other people's lives were. But these were people we were talking about and I felt like I had betrayed trust placed in me, even if they never heard our discussions.

That night I felt disgusted. I wondered "If I'm talking with a friend about another friend, then they will probably do the same thing about me." I decided at that moment that I wanted to be the kind of person who could be trusted. I didn't want to wonder if someone overheard my conversation or if God forbid, what I said got back to someone. This wasn't the person I wanted to be.

It happened organically. I simply didn't bring up other people in conversation and if someone else did, I would say something like "I honestly don't know" and let the subject dissolve. It wasn't easy at first which made me realize how much we do talk about other people. What amazes me is how much my relationships shifted immediately, in a positive way. Once you stop filling a conversation with other people, you actually learn something about someone else, about what they like, about where they've been and where they want to do. You talk about the world and all that there is to do and see and be and play. You also build trust with those around you, whether it's a family member, friend or colleague. This is key to long-lasting, deep, fulfilling relationships.

In trying to get my happy back. I realized that you can't control everything that happens in your world but you can control what comes out of your mouth. I want the people in my world to know that your name is sacred in my mouth. I will protect your name and speak of you only with the best of intentions, because that is what a happy girl does. You have my word.

happy things: the new glassybaby scented tealight

Visitors to our loft space always notice two things:  our area is bathed in shades of the ocean and there are always candles burning. My favorites right now include Jo Malone London Orange Blossom for the day and Kringle Candle Grey for evenings and entertaining.  We also like decorating with glassybaby votives (the one in the photo above left is a color called Mother Earth.)

This week, glassybaby released their first scented tealight. The scent wasn't listed on the website but here in the Seattle area, we have four locations and one was right by a restaurant where I had a breakfast meeting this morning. I stopped by the Bellevue store and picked one up. Back at home, lighting the candle, it took just a few minutes for the air to infuse with the scent of jasmine, gardenia, tuberose and vanilla. It wasn't cloying. In fact, it was light and it reminded me of the perfume I wear, Kai, a creamy gardenia scent with green notes.

At $10, it's expensive for a large tealight or small votive. The package states not to burn the candle for more than 1-2 hours at a time and I can see why. The candle, a soy blend melts easily and would not be ideal as a candle you would want burning on your coffee table all night long. This is one that I would light in the studio in the morning as I enjoy an iced coffee. Even now, with candle extinguishes, on this rainy, damp, grey Seattle day, the tropical scent of happiness lingers in the air.

The glassybaby scented tealight is a treat, perfect for someone who like the scent of creamy white tropical flowers.

what's important, according to a 5 year-old

Yesterday, I was out in the front yard, wondering what to do about the lawn. A little 5 year-old boy (new to our neighborhood, I've never met him) rode his bike up our driveway, placed his bike down, walked up to me and said "Hello, how was your day today?"
I said "Hello, it was very nice. Thank you. How was your day?"
"Very good. I start kindergarten in two days. I met Mr. Miller my new teacher. He is very nice."
He told me his name was Ben. He asked me my name and he had more questions. 
Ben: "I see you every day walking your dog. Where is it?" 
Me: "She is inside napping. She just had a bath."
Ben: "How many babies do you have?"
Me:  "None, at the moment."
Ben: "Do you know my mom?" 
Me: "I do. I like her very much." (I've met her on my walks)
Ben: "Have you ever had tater tots and meatballs? Do you like them?"
Me:  "I like tater tots but I don't eat meat.
Ben asks why. I want to tell him that I don't eat animals but I don't want to undo any work his parents have done so I simply say "I don't like meat." He doesn't get that. He loves meat. "It's too bad," he says, "You're missing out."
Ben: "Where is your husband?"
Me:  "He's inside."
Ben: "Can I come see you tomorrow?"
Me:  "Well, I will be working but maybe. I don't have any toys though." 
Ben:  "I don't need toys. You're here and you have a dog.

That was it. He got back on his bike, waved and said "See you tomorrow, Taylor!" as he sailed away down the street and out of sight. 
I realized I just had a life lesson from a five year-old boy. Here is what I learned from Ben: 
There are just a few things to be concerned with in this life. As he asked his questions, Ben thoughtfully nodded to every answer I gave. According to Ben what he needed to know, what was important to him was this: 
Was I happy?  (How was your day today?)
Do I have people who I love and who love me? (Where is your dog, husband, babies?)
Food (Do you like tater tots and meatballs?)
Future happiness (I met Mr. Miller, my new kindergarten teacher, Can I come see you tomorrow?)

What Ben didn't realize in his sweet innocence was that he was proving Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs that drives every human being. 
1. Biological and Physiological needs - air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.
2. Safety needs - protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
3. Love and belongingness needs - friendship, intimacy, affection and love, - from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.
4. Esteem needs - achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.
5. Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

It was such a sweet conversation with a little boy but what left an impression on my heart was that Ben wasn't just concerned about himself. His first question was about my day. Was I happy? I thought about this. What if instead of being so focused on ourselves,we turned our thoughts outward? Do the people around us have affection, food, safety, stability? If not, what can we do to help them achieve what's lacking? Maybe it's a handwritten note with the simple words "You've got this!" or a gift card to a market anonymously left for them or maybe it's simply putting your cel phone down and giving a family member, friend or colleague your complete attention when someone is feeling down or insecure. What if someone else's needs were as important to us as our own?

As I watched Ben pedal away from me, I smiled and turned to go inside towards L and our dog. Nothing was more important to me than asking them "And how was your day today?"

inspiration #672: be the person

Not too long ago, when I was a new(ish) friend, we were laughing so hard that I couldn't keep my eyes open and I could barely breathe, I thought "I wish I had met you when we were kids. It would have been fun growing up together." That's when you know you've met a true friend. When was the last time you felt this way about someone?

happy video: toddlerography with james corden and gwyneth paltrow

I love toddlers. They have zero cares about the way they look. Their confidence levels are in the stratospheric range. So, when I saw this video of toddlers leading James Corden and Gwyneth Paltrow in a dance class, I laughed harder than I have all week.

May your weekend be as happy as a toddler with an open space and a favorite song.