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1. A puffy down coat in the winter
2. The feeling of exhaustion that follows a day of fun
3. Ordering the plain old spaghetti and meatballs at a nice restaurant
4. The beginning of a new week
5. Fun Size Twix candy bars

This blog spent a lot of last year trying to decide what it wanted to be, going in haphazard directions and trying to put on a happy face when really it was just confused.

And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. After reflecting for a while, I realized that I also spent much of 2010 struggling with who I want to be, where I want to be, and how in the world I was going to get there. I was a little caught up with the future, with trying to discern a murky path. I missed out on a lot, I think; a lot of feeling and doing and a whole lot of peace.

So now with the new year, both this blog and I are going to settle down a little. Just be how we feel like being, talk about what we feel like talking about, taking in the splendor of each day…because really, I have a lot to appreciate. I want to recognize all the marvels in my life at this moment – I live in New York City!!! How many people can say that?

I plan to live with more joy in the day-to-day. I strive to be more grateful for all that I have and for all the opportunity that will someday open to me, without my having to stress or obsess over it now.

Perhaps more precisely: I want to live with the courage that someday I’ll look down and find myself all of a sudden on a path. A path that I never could have predicted or chosen for myself.

Already I feel calmer, more at ease and more able to take a breath and smile. Let’s hope this is a resolution that sees its way through the whole year, and beyond.

It’s Monday, I had a 10-hour crazy workday, I have a personal to-do list that’s so long I can’t even bear to write it down…and yet I feel refreshed.

I had such a great time at the gym tonight, and I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve said that. At first I was stressing about missing my 6:45 Monday class (which I’ve missed for the last two weeks) while still sitting at my desk at 6:40. I ended up changing at work, near sprinting to the gym and arriving at 6:48…only to find the class was being taught by a different trainer, one who required you to set up a station of equipment, so there was no sneaking in.

At this point I could have wallowed. I’m a very stubborn person when it comes to some things, and exercise is one of them. It’s not a good thing; dedication is wonderful, but tying yourself to a strict routine that throws you out whack if you break it — well, that is not good. And that’s the type of person I am.

Instead, I decided to let it all go and just do crazy things for a while, adventure to new parts of the workout floor and just let go of the day’s tension. I started with my typical 10-min interval run on the treadmill (I know that’s not very long…but I run the speedy parts really fast!). Then I wandered over to a new mat area and did some funny little exercises there — not concerned about reps or figuring out exactly what muscles I was working, I just strung together some ab/leg/arm moves and stopped when I was bored.

Following that I moved to the rowing machine, which I don’t think I’ve tried since high school lacrosse practice in the weight room, for five minutes and finished out the hour with a 20 min incline walk on the treadmill. And even though it wasn’t my strictly timed cardio or 30-bicep-curl routine, it was fun. The time flew by and I think I actually may have smiled at some point.

The only slight negative was when I grossly overpaid for a coconut water to drink on my way home ($3.75!!! I’m justifying the purchase by saying it kept me from passing out on the train).

I’m not expecting this exhilarating rush from the gym to happen often, or even with any regularly. Some days exercise is just better than others, and you have to seize on those times. But I have a history of being insanely strict with myself on some things, to the point of anxiety. For a long, long time (and to some extent even now) I was petrified of breaking the routine.

Every time I can step out of that zone and do something that’s not ruled by calories, a clock or an agenda — well, I feel a little better about myself, and I know that things are okay.

I’m relaxed, refreshed and happy with the world this Sunday night. It was the most pleasant type of weekend, filled with delightful small activities that make you love the city you live in and the people you’re with even more. Lots of sleep, simple but classic meals (ummm pb&j sandwich, bagel with cream cheese and pasta), a kick-butt run through a sunny park and board games.

Highlight would definitely be the BC game, the first I’ve seen this season, which we watched at a bar with craft-y brews and fellow football fans. It was just perfect to sit there, chilling and talking, for over 4 hours.

I got a little burnt-out from traveling this summer, can you tell? So far my recovery Fall is going just as planned. Er, just as not-planned, since I’m keeping it free and easy.

I also made my first huge pot of soup of the season. (It was breezy and rainy today, I felt it was an appropriate day to welcome Autumn.) A lovely white bean soup with a variety of veggies. It will be my lunch for the next four days so hopefully it continues to taste as good as it did tonight.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 yellow onion, chopped
3-4 medium carrots, chopped
10 oz frozen corn
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cans white beans
1 can diced tomatoes (I would add more next time)
1 box frozen chopped spinach
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley

Directions

1. Heat oil, saute garlic and onion until tender, about 5 minutes
2. Stir in carrots and corn, season with salt and pepper and cook another 3 minutes
3. Pour in broth, beans, tomatoes, spinach, thyme, parsley. Bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour. Salt & pepper to taste.

Pair with a fresh crusty roll and enjoy!

When I think of Fall, I think of one brief moment in time. I’m in the house where I grew up, sitting at the kitchen table next to the sliding door that leads to the deck, wearing the dungarees, hoodless sweatshirt and purple Keds that prove I’m a child of the 90s.

The glass is cool with the crisp breeze and sunshine pours into the room, illuminating the little dust particles that dance around the air. My dad is in the backyard on the tractor, my mom is at the counter making turkey sandwiches on Wonder Bread for lunch, and jack-o-lanterns sit just outside, ready for Halloween.

This scene encapsulates the entire season for me. It’s pure and content,  viewed through the prism of childhood sights and sounds and senses, and full of promise for the carefree things that must have happened later that afternoon. Did we jump in leaves? Push each other on the metal swing set? Ride bikes and play basketball? Or perhaps drink some hot chocolate and watch a movie, cozied up?

New England Fall is setting in, defined as those days after Labor Day when the sun sets a little earlier, the oaks and maples turn a little grander, and it becomes bearable to pull out a fleece and maybe even a light scarf to walk around the neighborhood.

I know that on those cool, bright afternoons, when the faint scent of chimney smoke is in the air and the orange leaves are dropping from the trees, I’ll think back to that simple minute in the kitchen. Like I do every year. Nostalgic, and a bit bitter that I can’t reclaim it. But hopeful that there will be hours and days and years just like it, still to come.

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1. The perfect jean skirt
2. Taking a trip over a long weekend
3. Waking  up before the alarm, refreshed
4. Vanilla frozen yogurt…with M&Ms
5. Autumn in New England

1. Vacations at the beach
2. A stack of fresh library books
3. Hamburgers straight from the grill
4. Crisp gin & tonics on the front porch
5. Rosy sun-kissed cheeks…and freckles

(Can you guess where I am??)

1. Sunday brunch with longtime friends
2. Iced coffee from the corner cafe
3. Vintage jewelry
4. Apricot lavender frozen fruit pops
5. Art museums

1. Getting a seat on the subway
2. Rain storms that break the heat
3. Weekend visits to the suburbs
4. A brand new camera…and taking lots of pictures with it
5. A breeze from an open window

1. Used book stores with $1 book bins
2. Meals consisting entirely of cool, crunchy vegetables when it’s hot out
3. Reading on a beach
4. Sweet ruby red grapefruits
5. Long phone conversations on long walks home

Books I’m Reading

Wuthering Heights

Mrs. Kimble

Little Bee

Tinkers

My Life with the Saints

Brave Companions

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Help

Lunch in Paris

Committed

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Pride and Prejudice

Rethinking Thin

The Omnivore's Dilemma

The Friday Night Knitting Club

Best Food Writing 2009

Let the Great World Spin

The Middle Place

Northern Borders

In Defense of Food

Emma