Tuesday, October 8, 2013

#412: Cats in Bags

Reason to Be Happy #412:
Cats in Bags

 Watching a cat (or two) play with a paper bag is one of the quickest ways to produce laughter.
 I've never met a cat who didn't embrace the joys of playing in paper bags.
 Cat + paper bag = belly laughs

Friday, September 27, 2013

#411: The Aroma That Rises From a Fresh Box of Doughnuts

Reason to Be Happy #411:
The Aroma That Rises From a 
Fresh Box of Doughnuts

 Okay, this is going to sound blasphemous but I'm not a huge fan of doughnuts. Don't get me wrong—I fall for them every single time! And every single time, I say "They always look so much better than they taste. Why do I let them fool me?" And you know the answer?
 It's that insanely-fresh-yeasty-bakery-shop-intense-warm-inviting aroma of comfort that rises up when you lift the lid off a box of doughnuts. It's an aroma that encourages you to close your eyes, lower your nose closer, and deeply inhale. I should learn that the aroma alone is enough...but I know myself too well. Next time, I'm sure I'll spend longer than a reasonable person should selecting a fat, shiny, chocolate-iced cream-filled (not custard, but cream—you know, the white cream that's kind of grainy with sugar?) doughnut and putting it in the microwaves for exactly 8 seconds. I will eat it slowly, then say, "They always look better than they taste. When will I learn?"

Thursday, September 26, 2013

#410: Writing Poetry

Reason to Be Happy #410:
Writing Poetry
Today I am pleased as punch to offer a guest blog from a writer friend of mine. I met Ed Davis years and years ago (I won't...ahem...say just how many) when we were in a writing group together. He is the author of the novels I Was So Much Older Then and The Measure of Everything, as well as the poetry chapbooks Haskell and Whispering Leaves, and many short stories. He's one of those writers who is crazy good at reading his own work. I would happily sit and listen to him read for hours. You can find out lots more about him at his website. Ed blogs here about writing poetry, but the reasons he lists are mostly true of reading poetry, as well. I recently shared with a writing class that part of my morning writing warmup is to read two or three poems. I look forward to reading Ed's poems when Time of the Light, his new collection, releases this November. In the meantime, please read his wonderful blog on writing poetry below:

Reason to be Happy: Writing Poetry

Rumi and Rilke, Lennon and McCartney, the Psalms of David . . . ah, poetry! Like Katrina, I’m a novelist, but one who also writes poetry. I once thought I couldn’t “serve two muses,” and I quit writing poems in favor of writing stories exclusively. But I couldn’t avoid those moments that screamed poetry. And what is it about poetry, you might ask?

Reason #1

Writing poetry gives me intoxicating pleasure even purer than fiction. You don’t need all the infrastructure of plot and characterization. All you need is image, language and rhythm, mainlined into your veins and shot straight to your head and heart.

Reason #2

Writing poetry has taught me what the stuff really is: mostly something I feel in my gut rather than in my head. Meaning is subordinate to music. Even when I don’t get it—or even like it—I recognize it. And to hear and to read it was, for me, to want to write it, which I’ve been doing for about thirty-five years now.

Reason #3

Using language to make poetry is a whole “other thing” than prose. I live for the music of word and line, whatever the breath can encompass. True, prose can be luscious, poetic to a greater or lesser degree, but pure poetry is the closest to heaven that words ever get.

Reason #4

Writing poetry perfectly complements the spiritual inspiration I find in the woods. Being among rocks, trees and streams takes me to the place where my Higher Power and I commune most closely. The confluence of nature and poetry gives me great joy—and sometimes yields poems I want to share with others.

Reason #5

Writing poetry connects me to a vital community. Poetry-Land is a parallel universe, easily accessed. Readings are all over the place, from bars and coffee shops to libraries and prisons. Also, through poetry I’ve forged ties with poets all over the country.

Reason #6

Writing poetry also brought me the gift of public performance. For a long time, I thought I could never share such intimate words and experiences. And yet, if the holy has happened—as it so often does in the composition process—the result will, like liturgy, bless both writer and the listener with astonishing joy.

Now you . . .

Once you start watching for it, poetry will find you. And that’s only a step away from you perhaps writing your own poems. They could even become indispensable. “These Poems,” a poem which came to me one day in Glen Helen Nature Preserve, seems to think so:

I’ve left these poems behind
a hundred million times,
lying in ditches, tossed
thoughtlessly from speeding cars,
buried deep on cemetery ridges.
But these poems . . .
Never left me.

God willing, they never will.

(Main Street Rag Press will publish Ed’s first full-length poetry collection Time of the Light, including the poem above, in November 2013. See http://mainstreetrag.com/bookstore/product/time-of-the-light/ for full details. Please visit Ed at www.davised.com.)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

#409: Those Little Messages Inside Dove Dark Chocolates

Reason to Be Happy #409:
Those Little Messages Inside 
Dove Dark Chocolates
 So, not only do you get to eat a melt-in-your-mouth Dove dark chocolate, which is really a reason to be happy all by itself, you also get a lovely little message like, "You are exactly where you are supposed to be" or "Take this moment. Enjoy it." Reminders such as, "You make everything lovely," and "Take good care of yourself" brighten any day. And I did mention that you're eating chocolate, right?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

#408: A Fella Who Brings You Flowers "Because It's Thursday"

Reason to Be Happy #408:
A Fella Who Brings You Flowers "Because It's Thursday"
 Forgive me if that's sappy, but it's a lovely thing, receiving flowers "just because." And Gerbera daisies happen to be my favorite. (So is this fella).

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

#407: Having Everything You Need to Make Pasta Sauce Right in Your Own Backyard

Reason to Be Happy #407:
Having Everything You Need to Make 
Pasta Sauce
Right in Your Own Backyard

 I love my garden. I love fresh pasta sauce. And I love walking outside with a basket and picking everything I need to make it from my own yard—tomatoes, basil, thyme, oregano, peppers. Okay, full disclosure: that onion came from my CSA box. But the rest I grew myself!

Friday, August 16, 2013

#406: This Llama Wearing a Hat

Reason to be Happy #406:
This Llama Wearing a Hat
 I met this fine fellow at the West Virginia State Fair. He was a flirt and kept reaching his head out to visit with me...but as soon as I pulled out my camera, I swear he "posed"—he turned his head to the side and stood very still. As soon as I put the camera away, he returned to his previous antics. Look at those eye lashes! And his speckles! What a handsome guy! I'm a sucker for an animal in a hat.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

#405: Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats with Chocolate Icing

Reason to Be Happy #405:
Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Treats with Chocolate Icing

 I know, I know, I already used Rice Krispy Treats as a reason to be happy way back, but this is different. Believe me, it's a whole new level of happiness! Whoever dreamed up this recipe is a genius, in my humble opinion. Adding additional layers of happiness (and awesomeness) is the fact that this lovely treat was baked by my sweet man's wonderful (and talented) mother. Aww…is that enough sugar for the day? :-)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

#404: Rainy Days for Writing

Reason to Be Happy #404:
Rainy Days for Writing

 I love my writing office so so much. I've designed quite an inspiring view for myself...but that view can also be a distraction because I love puttering in my garden almost as much as I love writing.
 Rainy days are my friend. I get all the benefits of that gorgeous garden view, but none of the temptation to go out there. I settle in, with good coffee and a purring cat, and stay at the desk. Ahh...

Friday, July 12, 2013

#403: The Aroma of a Whole Box of Peaches in Your Warm Car

Reason to Be Happy #403:
The Aroma of a Whole Box of Peaches in Your Warm Car
Intoxicating. Enough said...

Thursday, July 4, 2013

#402: Visiting the Lincoln Memorial under the Super Moon

Reason to Be Happy #402:
Visiting the Lincoln Memorial under the 
Super Moon
 The Lincoln Memorial might be my favorite monument in DC.  I recently had the chance to visit it under the glorious, full, "super moon" on a gorgeous, balmy summer night. Magical.
Happy Independence Day, my friends!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

#401: Putting whipped cream in your coffee

Reason to Be Happy #401:
Putting Whipped Cream in Your Coffee 

 Now, obviously, I don't mean every day. That would be…excessive. But, if you normally put fat-free half-and-half in your coffee, but you just happen to have some whipping cream around, because, let's just say you've been making key lime pie, then this is a perfectly appropriate (and decadent) way to use up the leftover.
 Because let's be honest: wasted whipping cream is not a thing that should exist. That's kind of a culinary crime (in my humble opinion).

Saturday, June 22, 2013

#400: Cat Bearding

Reason to Be Happy #400:
Cat Bearding

 Who knew? Cat bearding. It's a thing. It has a name. There are sites devoted to it, like catbearding.com. You can Google it. And you know what? It cracks me up. These images are from BuzzFeed's The 25 Most Epic Cat Beards of All Time, which you should look up. Like right now.

I can't even imagine doing this with Joey. I'm not going to try. Oh, and dog owners are quickly catching up with dog bearding, and those are pretty darn funny, too. Life can always use more funny.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

#399: My cat's two-colored paw

Reason to Be Happy #399:
My Cat's Two-Colored Paw
Joey cat has little pink pads on three of his feet, and those are adorable in and of themselves…but his left front paw's pad is two colors—pink with a smudge of black. I'm not sure why, but I find this so endearing and sweet. I like to kiss that paw, which vexes him to no end. I've already raved about the black snip on his nose and his crazy old-man eyebrows. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

#398: The hollow pop of a strawberry plucked from the vine

Reason to be Happy #398:
The hollow pop a perfectly ripe strawberry makes when you pluck it from the vine

My strawberry bed is overflowing with abundance this year! The funny thing is it's the first year I haven't tried to cage or net it against the birds, squirrels, and raccoons. In previous summers, I've watched the squirrels spend hours destroying any protection I created…but this year, they're leaving the strawberries alone. Maybe they just like the challenge? Who knows, but I'm not complaining! Every time I turn around there are more to pick. I love sorting through the leaves, searching for them, like hunting for Easter eggs. I'm making strawberry smoothies, strawberry shortcakes, spinach salad with strawberries, strawberry-basil ice cream, and strawberry-cilantro salsa. And, yes, I've frozen lots and lots of them, as well. Feel free to send me recipes or suggestions. Mae West said, "Too much of a good thing is a good thing," and I couldn't agree more.

This perfect photo was taken by Kevin Superfry, one half of the great team that brings you the blog
Food Adventures with Superfry and the Big Ragu.
Check them out!

Monday, June 3, 2013

#397: Kneading Bread Dough

Reason to Be Happy #397:
Kneading Bread Dough

 There's something so soothing and good about kneading the bread dough. Big thanks to my friend Mindy Hoffbauer who came over and baked shockingly good bread in my kitchen. (Look close: I even let her wear reason #396 (the Iron Man Apron). I don't let just any ol' body wear that!)
Mindy made tomato-bagel baguettes from start to finish. Needless to say, the aroma was divine. Watching the dough rise could be another reason to be happy. It doubles in size! It's like a live creature.

 The final product was incredible, baked with parmesan crusted all over it. Mmm. Mindy's not just a great baker (and all around chef and a multitude of other talents), but an excellent writer. You can like her author page on Facebook or check out her blog.You'll be glad you did.

#396: An Iron Man Apron

Reason to be Happy #396:
An Iron Man Apron

Admit it. You know you want one.
Another reason to be happy? Cool friends who will give you such an awesome gift!
Thank you, Colleen and Ellen!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

#395: Filling Your Bathroom with Lilacs

Reason to Be Happy #395:
Filling Your Bathroom With Lilacs

Their season is so brief, so I tend to almost overdose on them while they're in bloom each spring. Such an amazing, heady aroma that can almost intoxicate you. A very happy, uplifting thing to encounter in the early morning. Makes any ol' bathroom feel spa-like and luxurious.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

#394: The way peonies unfurl when they blossom

Reason to Be Happy #394:
The way peonies unfurl when they blossom
Way back in July 2011 I vowed to list a reason to be happy every single day for a full year. And I did. Because it was a Leap Year, I listed 366 reasons to be happy in a row. When I hit July 2012, I said I'd keep it going, just not daily...but then I took a long break once we hit 2013. Enough friends and readers nudged me that I brought it back. 

 Peonies are one of my favorite plants. They seem so old-fashioned and classic. They have such a short bloom time, but that makes them all the more special in my opinion—you anticipate it and relish it so that you don't miss it. Peonies cannot be taken for granted.
 I love how peony blossoms are like tight little fists that slowly begin to unclench and unfurl.
 This opening can happen in a matter of hours. Don't blink or you'll miss it.
 I'm not sure of the name of this particular type of peony but it makes me think of eggs. I call it Peonies Sunny Side Up. And they are so fragrant. These are about twenty yards from my house, but with the windows open and the breeze just right, their perfume pervades every room of my home. Ahh...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

#393: Robin's Egg Blue

Reason to be Happy #393:
Robin's Egg Blue

 One of the cheeriest, soothing, peaceful colors on the planet. And so few things are actually this specific color.
 These lovely nest photos were taken in the yard of my good friend Maggie Hewitt. Don't those eggs look like little gems nestled in a jewelry box?
The only other thing I've seen that is actually the same shade of blue is a glacier pool—that rare, other-wordly shade of calming blue (like this one in Glacier National Park).

Monday, May 20, 2013

#392: Riding with the Top Down

Reason to Be Happy #392:
Or...more specifically, cramming a bunch of friends into a car, wedging together, and then riding to lunch with the top down. It was like a clown car in the circus! (We were so contorted, my bra actually came undone!)

 Nice hair, huh? But we laughed. You know how it feels so good to laugh hard and not be able to stop? Add to that already good feeling: the warm sun on your face, wind rushing over you, and the feeling that you're on a roller coaster. Not a bad thing to experience on a Monday afternoon. Not a bad thing at all.
And yes, due to repeated requests from friends and readers, the Reasons to Be Happy will be re-appearing. I'm not promising daily, but they'll be more frequent than they have been. Be sure to send ideas for future reasons…not that there's ever a shortage when you really stop to think about it.