Random things that make me happy, pt. 2

1. Hearing a favorite song on the radio.

In a digital age when anything and everything is available with the click of a mouse or the smack of a button on our iPods, how much fun is it to randomly turn the radio dial and hear a favorite tune pour through the speakers? My current joy comes from Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State Of Mind, Part II,” and I love that song so much that I refuse to download it. Why? Just for that moment of pure euphoria when the opening bars begin as I’m driving home from work, sailing down a dark road, and I sing along and shimmy alone in my car, happy to be happy.

2. Polka dots.

They’re retro. They’re fun. They look good on clothes and jewelry, and I’m obsessed with them as button earrings. In fact, I may or may not order a dress just so I can wear the navy-and-white polka dot earrings with it and look like the 1950s teenybopper I am in my fantasties. Classy never goes out of style!

3. Highlighters.

I’m a listmaker — and I like to highlight things. Back in college, my textbooks and novels would look like colorful charts to unknown worlds — everything was organized and, to me, a graphic representation of everything I needed to cram in my brain. Seeing streaks of green, pink and yellow through my history book was a way for me to organize knowledge . . . and there’s nothing I like more than organizing. Or, based on this list, is there?

4. Hot chocolate.

Is there anything better on a cold winter day following a marathon snow-shoveling session in the driveway? Or as an evening treat before settling in with a good book or a few episodes of a great show to watch on DVR or TiVo? Or, you know, whenever?

Hot chocolate is just delicious and an instant cup of happy. Even when I make it with water — which purists will, I know, find disgusting — I just can’t get enough of it. Weird miniature marshmellows are a plus — as is a healthy dollop (or four) of whipped cream.

5. Wall calendars.

I’m ridiculously obsessive-compulsive about calendars — having enough of them; making sure they’re cute, fun and/or useful; strategically hanging them at eye-level around my desk for maximum enjoyment. In 2010, John Mayer is perched above my keyboard — as are scenes of Great Britain. Y’all know I’m not going to go an entire year without some piece of England around to sate my Anglophilia!

6. Laughing until my stomach hurts.

When did I stop getting so many bellyaches from giggling? My gasping-for-breath, oh-my-God-that-is-so-hilarious moments typically come from spending time with my sister and friends, new and old, or quite possibly with my coworkers — particularly when Brandon announces, not for the first time, that he is “going out in his chair!” (I know you can’t see me right now, but trust me — I’m convulsing with laughter. And someday I’ll write a blog post about why that’s so funny, but for now? Keeping you in suspense.)

7. My golden retriever, Rudy.

He’s cute. He’s cuddly. He lumbers around and acts like a human, sniffing the air constantly to see if anyone just happens to, you know, have a dog treat we won’t be needing in the near future. Or something. He knows when I’m sad and doesn’t bombard me with questions about why; he just lets me be.

He’s silly and crazy, and I don’t know what my life would be like without him in it. I live for hearing his puppy paws on the wood floors when I come in the door. Even though he’ll be six (or seven?) this spring, I can still picture him as the nervous, underfed young dog he was when we picked him up from a rescue shelter in 2004. You’ve come a long way, baby!

8. Putting loose change in a piggy bank.

Okay, so my “piggy bank” isn’t technically a pig. It may actually be a plastic red double-decker bus I bought in London’s Heathrow airport mere minutes before hopping a jet plane to return to Baltimore. And by “may actually,” I mean definitely is. And I love it. I keep it on my desk at work, just to the right of my computer monitor, and I look at it lovingly as I drop my loose pennies in the “roof.” Because what am I supposed to do with all these pennies? They make my purse heavier than it already is, and trust me — I don’t need any help adding heft to my bag. So the metallic ting! of sliding my pennies into the London bus sets my little Anglophile heart a’ fluttering.

9. Food photography.

When out to lunch with my ex-boyfriend P., a frequent argument could be heard at our tiny cafe tables. Just as our food or drinks would be set down, I’d scrounge in my (heavy) purse to find my digital camera. I’d stick out a hand to cover P.’s drink before he could take a sip, which would prompt the inevitable eye-rolling as he leaned back and said, “You’re not going to take a picture of that, are you?”

Why yes, P. Yes, I am going to photograph your latte. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

My obsession with food and drink photography is potent — and I celebrate it with separate albums on Flickr that rapidly expand with each passing day. Why am I so addicted to documenting what I consume? The world may never know. But I’ll tell you what I am on a hunt for: a man who won’t get snarky when I take pictures of his supper. Because like death and taxes, folks, it’s inevitable.

10. Love notes.

Even though they’re hard to read after the fact, love notes are a quick way to get in good with yours truly. I’ve probably saved almost every letter from every boyfriend I’ve ever had — all carefully stashed away — and I flip through them from time to time, mostly just when I’m feeling nostalgic. (Or depressed and eager to cry my little heart out. Whichever.) Even though they were written in a very different place, it makes me happy to remember the good times — and even to see their scratchy handwriting again. Like a wave of cologne, those notes are a quick way to transport me to another time entirely.

I guess at some point, I’ll have to get rid of them . . . or purge them, at least, saving only the Very Big, Important Ones. But sometimes the little notes left from boys — like “hope you’re having a great day” or “miss you” on my windshield, say — were just as meaningful as the Important Ones in which their eternal love for me was pledged. And who knows which I will choose to remember most fondly in the future? For now, they all stay in the cool, dark recesses of my under-the-bed “boyfriend box,” a dusty capsule of love lost.

Random things that make me happy

green_light1. Approaching a red light — only to have it turn green.

I mean those times that you’re cruising along, see all of the glowing brake lights ahead of you in the other lane . . . and then, miraculously, the light turns green! And you get to zip right past all those suckers stopped at the intersection, accelerating on your way to total freedom.

And if you’re me? You cackle maniacally and, quite possibly, shake a fist in triumph. But you’re definitely cackling — cackling is a must.

2. Finding things in pockets.

This is especially fantastic at this time of year. Coats get dragged out from the closet and, courtesy of my mother, I have a ton of coats. Everyone in my family is obsessed with jackets — specifically, do you have enough of them and are you going to where yours — it’s cold outside. I’m not a jacket person, I’ll be the first one to admit; in fact, I’m usually the oddball standing outside in 40 degree weather with nary a stitch over my arms. I get this from my grandmother, the original hot house flower (hi, Maw Maw!).

So when I finally break down and get out my red pea coat — the cute one with the toggles? Sometimes I find things in the pockets. Like money. And random ticket stubs to events long past but still remembered. And unwrapped candy. Sometimes? I eat the candy. But let’s keep that tidbit between us . . .

3. Christmas decorations.

I’m most definitely not the angry shopper going on a tirade about how the local mall is already adorned in sparkly red and green though it’s only October — I’m the one whipping out my camera and photographing it. Seriously, Christmas decorations are awesome! Who doesn’t love a life-sized Rudolph, gingerbread house or piles and piles of fluffy, fake Buffalo snow? Philistines, that’s who.

4. Holding hands.

I especially enjoy it if the hand I’m holding is warm and dry. And if it belongs to someone funny, kind, intelligent and good-natured? All the better! College-educated and good looking works for me, too. Just, you know — putting it out there.

perfume_bottles5. Perfume.

Unlike lots of ladies I know, I don’t have a “signature scent”; I prefer to switch it up daily, according to my whims. Oh, and I have lots of whims.

It’s impossible to have too many bottles, though I’m putting that theory to the test with each new Avon order I place.

6. Funny baby videos.

So we’ve all seen the baby dancing to Beyonce’s “All The Single Ladies.” It’s totally hilarious . . . especially when the youngster really gets the arms going! He’s really a better dancer than I am, to be honest.

Who knew there was such an industry of cute kids doing adorable, ridiculous things on the Internet? I mean, sure — my parents have been recording my sister and me acting like fools since we could first toddle around. And “America’s Funniest Home Videos” — or its modern equivalent — has been broadcasting said moments since “Full House”‘s Bob Saget was around to introduce them (remember that insanity?). But it seems to me that the whole Funny Baby phenomenon has taken on a life of its own . . . and I’m totally okay with that.

It’s not rare for me to decompress by watching some kid throwing a tantrum on my iPod touch. It’s . . . oddly relaxing. And I say this knowing full well I will now be punished with the children from Hades — and all those tantrums? Yeah — not so funny when they’re mine.

7. John Mayer’s “Good Love Is On The Way.”

It doesn’t get much more personal than this, my personal anthem! “Done with broken people, this is me I’m working on. ‘Cause I know . . . good love is on the way. I’ll be lonely but I know I’ll be okay . . . good love is on the way.” The Gospel of JM — worship.

acorn_pumpkin_earrings8. Acorn earrings.

Bizarre, right? But I just really like looking at them. They fill my little pink heart with autumnal joy. I have a ton of them in my Etsy favorites, and I may or may not have created my whole recent “Etsy finds Friday” based on the fact that they’re, um, adorable and I’m obsessed with them. Obsessed.

And there are plenty to obsess over, should you want to join Acorn Earring Lovers Anonymous. We meet on Etsy daily, usually between the hours of 2-9 p.m., and light refreshments are served. Just, you know . . . you have to supply them yourself. Because all my spare dough is going to acorn earrings, you know what I’m saying?

9. Live albums.

Why are they always so much better than studi0-recorded albums? Seriously, if you offered me the synthesized, produced and slick studio version of a song or the raw, flawed and sincere live version of a tune, I’d take the live version every time. Examples? Coldplay’s “Glass Of Water”; John Mayer’s “In Your Atmosphere”; Ben Fold’s “Army”; The Script’s “Break Even”; Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Chain” . . . and that’s just a primer.

10. Sprinkles.

But you already knew that about me.


“Green means go” photo by Eleda
“Perfume bottles” photo by me
Pumpkin acorn earrings by decoratethediva

Pumpkin spice groupies

starbucks_sleeveFew things in life send me shouting and trembling with excitement — and most of them are hypothetical. (Like, say, hypothetically I would get an e-mail from an agent telling me yes, he/she’d like to represent me and already knows just the publisher for my absolutely incredible novel.)

But the ones grounded in absolute reality? Of course, nothing compares to going to a concert — and seeing a favorite band live for the first time. That magical feeling can easily sustain me for days, if not weeks, at a time! The first time I saw John Mayer? Heaven. Total heaven. And The Killers concert from Monday night? I’m still babbling incoherently about it.

But the other crazy, ridiculously exciting stuff? Usually it has something to do with food. And no, I know you wish I were joking . . . but I wouldn’t kid about something like this.

Considering I spend all day on a computer, you’d think I would be a little more up with the times on matters of vital importance . . . like Starbucks’ annual unveiling of the pumpkin spice latte. I mean, seriously! I lust after this drink all year and then I have no clue when it’s finally available in expensive coffeeshops across the U.S.? Am I insane?

And this where I chant, yet again, thank God for Twitter! Without it, I’m not sure I would know if nuclear war broke out, leveling half the world. Trending topics tell me all I need to know! So imagine my excitement when I saw a little Tweet from author Robin Benway . . . which prompted this response from yours truly:


I immediately texted my sister with the great news as I jumped up from my desk, grabbing my keys and hastily waving goodbye to my coworkers. My hometown is littered with Starbucks cafes in grocery stores like Safeway, but I wanted the real deal. My Corolla and I sped over and, only fifteen minutes after discovering my beloved drink was back, I was holding one in my hot little hands.

And oh, it was heaven.

When Katie got home from college later in the day, I regaled her with the tale of my dedication to getting the pumpkin spice as soon as possible. I’d chosen the latte — the hot version — which allowed me to savor it over the course of, oh, an hour or so. Because everyone knows the drink experience will be severely tainted by a burnt tongue.

me_pumpkin_frapMy sister wasn’t content with just hearing about the pumpkin spice, though. Did I seriously think I was going to have the edge over her? We piled into her car after dinner and drove to a nearby Target where, yes, they had the pumpkin spice. And like I was going to miss an opportunity to get another drink? Though this time I went with the cold variety — the frappuccino. Grande, if you’re interested.

And that’s me at right, drinking it. And wearing my Killers concert T-shirt from Monday night. Two of my favorite things, combined! A good night. (Yes, Kate took this photo; we are those pumpkin spice groupies.)

So what’s the moral of the story? Rely on Twitter for news of your favorite beverages making their annual appearance . . . and, after drinking that grande frap, don’t drink two giant pumpkin drinks in one day. Seriously, bad idea.

Still — was it worth it? Heck yes. And all this pumpkin chatter has me hankering once more . . . I wonder when Dairy Queen’s pumpkin pie blizzard will be back? Maybe someone is Tweeting . . .