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?"
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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?
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!
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.
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? :-)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.