Day 211: Bringing the crazy happy to a laptop near you

The great thing about the Internet is that you can ostensibly never leave your house. You can shop, order food, work, socialize, get medical advice…. really, the only thing you can’t actually do online is have a root canal. Or a Pap Smear, though rest assured, that’s coming soon enough.

You can also get, shall we call it, emotional guidance online. In fact, there are many sites that claim to be healing in one way or another, generally for a cost. One such site, which I came across this evening, is called “Happify.”

You sign up, answer a series of questions about your life and state of being, and then you choose a “track.” It’s a little like declaring a major, except not at all. I chose one called “Cope Better With Stress.” 

The first activity involved writing down three things that make me grateful about my home life. Okay. That was easy enough, and I’ve heard that an “attitude of gratitude” can be a helpful thing. Why not?

And then, we moved on…

The second part of the evening’s venture involved clicking on a series of pictures of hot air balloons, making sure to select the ones with positive words, such as “cherish,” “kindness,” “hug,” “yay” and “glee.” Not sure if that last one refers to the emotion or the TV show. It was basically happy word Whack-A-Mole. That part, by the by, was called “Uplift.” Like balloons. Get it?

And then, we come to “Serenity Scene.” In this section, you choose a pretty scene and determine how long you wish to gaze at it. I imagine you are supposed to have serene thoughts whilst doing so.

“This must be what it’s like to be in a mental hospital,” I mused, as I stared at a rushing waterfall. “Is this venture more productive if one is sedated?”

The tasks for the evening completed, I don’t feel happier, but I do feel an expectation that someone is going to give me tapioca pudding and take me back to my room before group therapy. 

And actually, the opportunity to be relentlessly and unapologetically mocking is pleasing to me, so in a roundabout way, I guess this cockamamie website did improve upon my happiness after all. 

Thanks, Happify, you sneaky little bastard. 



Day 210: The circle of life

I’m in a list mood today, so here are my top 10 observations, questions and comments regarding my viewing of “The Lion King” onstage at The Kennedy Center:


1. The costumes and puppetry are fairly spectacular, especially the giraffes. That must be very uncomfortable, however, for the actors.

2. The visuals far outshone the performances. In fact, with a few exceptions, a more traditional show might have been a bit disappointing.

3. I’m not sure why Rafiki has to be played by a woman. I take no issue with it, but is there a reason? I suppose it’s the same deal as Peter Pan being played by a female. Again, reason? Not a defense.

4. Of the songs brought over from the film, the best stagings/performances were of “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” and “Hakuna Matata.” The former, particularly, was a visual delight. Drew HIrschfiled, as Zazu, is a real standout.

5. Ben Lipitz, as Pumbaa, and Nick Cordileone, as Timon, do Ernie Sabella and Nathan Lane proud.

6. Someone explain to me why a serious heart-to-heart with his son motivated Mufasa to take off his own head?

7. The songs that were not in the original movie added very little.

8. In particular, “He Lives in You,” written for the album “Rhythm of the Pride Lands,” and used in the Disney sequel, “Return to Pride Rock,” could be perceived as portraying Mufasa as a God-like being.

9. This production is a lot less white than the animated film. I mean, obviously cartoon animals don’t have race in the exact way humans do, but Simba in the movie was voiced by Matthew Broderick, and Matthew Broderick is really, really white.


10. All in all, not my favorite musical production I’ve ever seen on stage, but definitely worthwhile, especially if you are somehow with an appreciation for visual arts. The scenes in the pride lands are like paintings come alive.

Day 209: Dear American Airlines: You’re on my list

So here’s a fun little experience. I suppose I should be grateful I haven’t had to deal with this one before. 

I’m planning a little holiday weekend getaway with some friends in October, and the planning was coming along swimmingly. And then, I get an email…

My flight, two-plus months out, has somehow been cancelled, and I’ve been rebooked on flights that will cause me to miss the sum total of nearly a full day’s enjoyment. 

Honestly, what?! And thank goodness I don’t work for a business travel publication anymore, because this post would have gotten me fired, but I don’t have any professional obligation at present to not air my grievances toward airlines. 

Times have changed

Times have changed

And this one in particular is on very thin ice with me. The last time I flew American, my flight (to Atlanta) was cancelled and I ended up being put on a different flight (to Nashville), causing me to lose my hotel reservation (in Chattanooga) and have to pay for another hotel (in Nashville). 

At least the customer service I’ve dealt with thus far has been polite and accommodating, but airlines really take all the pleasure out of travel these days, don’t they? Okay, TSA isn’t a party boat either, but good lord. 

Just let me politely say that it will take some doing for American Airlines to get back in my good graces.

Share your best airline nightmare stories below. 

Day 208: Bikini Beach Nightmares

As every woman of sound mind and non-supermodel body type knows, trying on swimsuits is the worst thing in the world*. However, I think I might have found something just as bad:

Ordering non-refundable swimwear online. 

This is the point at which all you men, as well as you crazy/skinny bitches** are saying “What?! How is this a noteworthy new experience?” 

This looks nothing like what I ordered. My body looks nothing like this. I hate her more than a little. Photos not forthcoming.

This looks nothing like what I ordered. My body looks nothing like this. I hate her more than a little. Photos not forthcoming.

Trust me, it is. The creeping feeling of doubt as you click the “Add to Bag” button. The questioning of “Should I?” as you weigh the benefits of an excellent sale price vs. the chance that the actual garment will look terrible when you put it on. And then… and then…

Knowing there are five to eight business days ahead to anticipate that happening. To have that worst thing in the world experience once again, tempered only by the fact that it’s to be had in the privacy of ones own home, and at least it’s just one swimming costume, not multiple ones. 

But if it’s a horror show***, and we all well know, there’s a good chance of that, you’re stuck. Stuck forever. FOREVER, I say! And you will be forced to sit on the beach in your blessedly oversized caftan, guarding the wallets while your friends, who are either crazy bitches or skinny bitches, frolic amongst the waves in pornographically small bikinis that you would rather die than even think of wearing. 

And that, my poppets, is the fate of womanhood and online shopping, and that is why yes, yes, ones first experience with non-refundable online swimwear purchasing is indeed new and noteworthy: It is a deeply emotional, cultural experience. 

Let's all agree to bring back Victorian style swimwear, shall we?

Let’s all agree to bring back Victorian style swimwear, shall we? Totally serious. 

*Hyperbole. Obviously. Except not really

**Blah, blah, blah, body shaming

***Blah, blah, blah, body confidence

Day 207: Women’s Farm Cooperative

Driving along Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, there is a lot and a sign for The Montgomery Farm Women’s Cooperative. 

“I like farms,” I thought, “or at least things that grow on them. I like women. I like cooperation.”

Sounds good, right? So off we went. 

Have to be honest: Not the best. The produce selection was limited, and much of it was the type of flea and craft market that included a lot of items that had been bought wholesale from Nepal and were being sold at a markup. 

The highlight was a stop by the Choquette Chocolates stand to sample Sarah Dwyer’s Old Bay caramel wrapped in bittersweet chocolate. Sweet, a little spicy and savory, excellent.

Although the visit itself was not what I’d expected (actually, I have no idea what I expected, I just know I wasn’t blown away), the history of the Cooperative is quite interesting. 

In 1930, at the time of the Great Depression, a drought brought further hardship to Montgomery County. Spearheaded by Miss Blanche Corwin, Home Demonstration Agent for the county, a group of farm women determined that selling produce as part of a cooperative market would help to bring in funds to pay off mortgages and repair damaged homes. 

From their early struggles, the Farm Women’s Cooperative eventually thrived, even giving them the ability to set up a scholarship fund for members’ children. 

Day 206: New toy!

I’m really tired, so let’s make this short and sweet. 

I got a Microplane grater! It’s my first Microplane. I’m super exited about this. I want to go buy whole nutmeg so I can grate it on something. Peaches, maybe. Homemade peach ice cream with fresh grated nutmeg. 



I did not take this photo. It comes from the site Cooking Toys, which has the potential to be very dangerous for me. 

What are some of y’all’s favorite cooking toys? 



Day 205: A Japanese delicacy

For years, when I’ve passed through the Asian foods aisle in Whole Foods, or some other grocery store that isn’t called Price Chopper or Bi-Lo, or some other name that implies quasi-reasonably priced food, my eye has fallen on the box of strange, wrinkly, pinkish-purplish items. 


Umeboshi, or umeboshi plums, as they are sometimes called (for marketing purposes, I guess), are Japanese pickled plums, also called salt plums. They’re made from unripe ume, which is actually a cross between a plum and an apricot.

I’ve always been tempted, but always been turned away by the price (umeboshi sell for about $18 for a 33-piece box). Today, however, my curiosity got the better of me. 

After a quick prayer to the gods of food and economy that I would like it (or at least tolerate it enough that my purchase wouldn’t be wasted), I extracted my first umeboshi from the box.

The smell is faintly sweet. So it was a little surprising when I took a small bite, and encountered about the saltiest thing I’ve ever tasted in my lifetime. It’s a really hard taste to describe. It’s very salty, mixed with very sour, but you can almost taste a slight promise of sweetness that never quite comes. 

While I wouldn’t say they taste “good,” per se, they certainly don’t taste bad, and they’re actually a little addicting. I’ve eaten three tonight, and while they are purported to have excellent health benefits, they’re also extremely high in sodium, so much more of a one-a-day type of thing.

Umeboshi are said to help reduce fevers, cough and nausea, are used as part of a macrobiotic diet as a detoxifier. The validity of their effectiveness is dependent on the source, certainly. So far, however, the worst I’ve seen anyone say is basically that they’re not all they’re cracked up to be. So, you know, can’t hurt. For the price, however, I’m going to tell myself that eating one a day is keeping my body healthy.

A traditional serving for umeboshi is in rice balls, or one whole piece, on a bed of rice to resemble the Japanese flag. Creative minds, of course, have come up with many ways to include it in recipes. 

Get the wheels turning, my culinary masterminds. How imaginative can you get? 

Click here for a slide show from Eden Foods on the cultivation and preparation of umeboshi

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Day 204: Driving in cars with kids

As I was driving home this evening, I spotted a car with a simple, obviously homemade sign in the rear window. It read: “New Driver.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” I said to the empty car. Yes, I talk to thin air, myself, objects, etc. when I’m driving alone. I’ve been known to ask my purse if it’s okay after an unexpected stop. What of it?

The sign did not look like this. It was just something printed off of Word.

The sign did not look like this. It was just something printed off of Word.


Anyway, there I was, commenting to my dashboard about what I’d just seen. Having no information other than viewing the sign, I figure a concerned parent of a teenager must have put that sign on the car to warn other drivers on the road that the person behind the wheel was inexperienced. Perhaps the goal was to beg patience, or a wide berth around the car. I have no idea. But there was just something about it that seemed protective and endearing to me. 

And then I had to laugh. Twenty years ago, if my parents had done that, I’d have prayed for a hole in the ground to open up and swallow me whole. Granted, there was absolutely nothing endearing about anything they did when I was learning to drive, but my 17-year-old self thanks them for not gluing a sign to the window. 

My 34-year-old self, however, thinks it was a very sweet move on the random parent’s part. She also thinks teen drivers are terrifying, and would like to see the driving age changed to 18, plus a high school diploma or GED. Barring that, I’ll take a letter of recommendation from an employer, clergyperson or mental health professional. 

Vote for me. 

Day 203: Meditation on display

About a ten minute walk from my house, in downtown Silver Spring, is the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Museum. 

I walked up a stairway lined with framed inspirational thoughts, and was greeted by Meghan, a warm lady who greeted me and asked me about my experience with meditation. It seemed like a space where honesty would be received well, so I spoke truthfully:

“I don’t understand what meditation means,” I told her. 

Meghan laughed and explained that meditation can mean different things to different people, that it takes on a variety of forms.

According to the official website for the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization:

The Brahma Kumaris seeks to help individuals re-discover and strengthen their inherent worth by encouraging and facilitating a process of spiritual awakening. This leads to an awareness of the importance of thoughts and feelings as the seeds of actions. The development of virtues and values-based attitudes creates a practical spirituality which enhances personal effectiveness in the workplace and in family life.

She gave me a brief introduction to the small space, and then invited me to look around. After removing my shoes (I did not ask whether Toms would be considered meditation-friendly, due to their One for One program), I took in the current exhibit on the role of light in different world religions. 

photo 3-20

The museum features a “quiet room” for private reflection, and a space where free seminars and classes are offered. 

The museum was otherwise empty, so Meghan and I got into a good conversation about the spirituality, and its role in society, especially in a place like DC where everyone seems so raring to get ahead. She said that the mind can be like a demanding child, running around and always needing something. 

I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but sometimes I’m pretty sure there are ADHD octuplets living inside my brain.

photo 2-22

 photo 1-32


Day 202: Jane Austen for the digital generation

I’m very wary of remakes, updates and reimaginings of classics, but the work of Jane Austen seems to lend itself well, probably because of the timeless quality of Miss Austen’s characters. Think about how well “Clueless” worked. 

Last year, I spent a weekend glued to my computer, binge watching “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” a web series adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice.” 

And now, it’s time for “Emma Approved.” In this version, Emma Woodhouse is a young, ambitious life coach with a start-up matchmaking business. There’s some charm lost in the update, and so far, the lead character doesn’t have the same charisma as in “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” but it’s a lot of fun to see how the characters tie in with their sources of inspiration. Harriet Smith, for example, an orphan eager for Emma’s friendship and tutelage in the novel, here is Emma’s assistant, a recent college graduate desperate to please. 

As I’m writing this, I’m a few episodes in and looking forward to more. I took a Jane Austen course in college, which involved watching movie adaptations of the books. I hope such similar courses now would include these web series, as a way of demonstrating that while the manner and circumstances of Austen’s characters have clearly changed, fundamentally, we’re not that different than we were 200 years ago. 





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