Category: Happy Things

American-Style Fun

Last evening we took the kids to the carnival in Dublin, PA, and at bedtime last night, the four of us took turns telling about our favorite part of the carnival. I couldn’t pick just one, so I said that I liked the lights, the smells, and seeing the kids have fun.

I couldn’t capture the smell of funnel cake with my camera, and since it was early evening, the lights don’t look as special in the pictures I took, but hopefully I was somewhat successful at capturing some of the fun the kids were having.

a cook looks at books

Yesterday I bought a book. A classy, white, 792-page hardcover book. The Bon Appétit Cookbook.

If you bought it on, you’d spend $23.07 for it.

This is how much I paid for it.

That’s right — one dollar. And it’s in perfect condition! No stains, splashes, or even a wrinkle. Lucky, lucky me.

Reason #1 to love the Indian Valley Public Library: finding a great bargain at the used book sale. (I still feel giddy.)


In case you’re wondering about the title of this post, I’m not a professional chef or anything. I’m only a cook in the sense that I fit the Merriam Webster definition: “a person who prepares food for eating.”

we got married, we went to Mexico, and now I live in Pennsylvania

It’s a good thing there isn’t a fine for delinquent blogging, because I’m definitely guilty as charged. In my defense, I’ve been kinda busy moving to PA, getting married, honeymooning in Mexico, becoming a mom to a 7-year-old and an almost-4-year-old, and getting settled in my new home and community. Oh yeah, and shopping at IKEA.

The wedding went very, very well. Planning it was a ton of work, especially with all of the other transitions I was making at the same time, but it was so gratifying to see everything come together. Our wedding went just as we had planned, and it was a lovely, fun, amazing day. Tim and I are so grateful that so many of our friends and family were able to celebrate the day with us!

On Monday morning we jetted off to Mexico to spend seven days and six nights at an all-inclusive resort along the Riviera Maya (half an hour south of Cancun). It was SO relaxing. We spent plenty of time lazing around the resort, but we also went deep sea fishing (I caught a beautiful mahi-mahi), saw the ruins at Tulum, and enjoyed tubing and snorkeling at Xel-Ha. Oh, and we also did some snorkeling along the beach at the resort. I had never snorkeled before, and was actually kind of nervous about it, but I loved it! One of the other highlights of the week was a romantic dinner on the beach with my toes in the sand. Very nice.

But now we’re back to reality, which involves parenting, unpacking boxes, and going to Phillies games, apparently. Tim and I went to the game on Saturday evening (sixth row, baby!), and then we took the kids to the game last night. I couldn’t quite believe my own ears yesterday afternoon when I heard myself telling Magen which three Phillies were on the DL (disabled list).

There is TONS more I could write about the wedding, our trip to Mexico, and the process of getting settled in, but instead, I think I’ll wrap up this post with a few pictures. Enjoy!

And here are a few pictures from Mexico…

OK, I can’t resist. Here’s one more picture of my handsome husband. I love you, Tim!

red-headed clover

A couple weeks ago I found a four-leaf clover at the park one morning and then helped the kids find it themselves. Since then, Magen will often stop and look for four-leaf clovers, and she has actually managed to find a few. She even stuffed one of her lucky clovers into the handle of her scooter.

This evening as she and I were walking at the park, she told me that she looks for the little white flowers, because that means that there is clover nearby. I explained that the white flowers are actually clover flowers, and that the three-leaf and four-leaf clovers she finds are the clover leaves.

“But why aren’t there many FOUR-leaf clovers?” she asked.

“It’s kind of like how there are lots of kids with brown hair and lots of kids with blonde hair, but there are only a few kids with red hair.” I tousled her red-haired ponytail. “And the lucky kids with the red hair are like the lucky four-leaf clovers.”

She giggled and took my hand in hers.

I love that girl.

voluntarily unemployed

This afternoon I…

  • went out to lunch with my Registrar’s Office colleagues for the last time.
  • turned in my Campus Center key.
  • handed in my employee ID card.
  • didn’t have to surrender my Faculty/Staff parking sticker.
  • printed several official transcripts in case a potential employer needs to have one. They’re free for current employees, so I figured I’d stock up. I even filled out the request form and everything, but under the mailing instructions section, I wrote: “I’ll print them myself.” Katie didn’t mind a bit!
  • wrapped up some final details on various projects.
  • kept glancing over at the flowers my wonderful fiance sent me.
  • talked to countless people who stopped by to say farewell.
  • decided at 4:10 to finish up one last project with my boss.
  • walked out of the office for the last time at 4:52 p.m. Hooray!

Remember my Summer To-Do List? Two things down, three to go!

happy houseplants

Every once in a while, I look through the list of “100 Skills Everyone Should Master” to see whether I’m unintentionally in the process of mastering something. Sadly, I never am.

And every time I look through the list, I find myself wishing it could be more like the list of “101 Things To Do in 1001 Days.” The difference, of course, is that the things to be done within 1001 days only need to be done once. (Grow tomatoes? Check! Swim at the city pool? Check! Make bagels? Check!) On multiple occasions, I’ve started to get excited about being able to check something off the list of 100 Skills Everyone Should Master… until I realize that doing something once doesn’t exactly count as mastery.

For example, item #2: keep a plant alive.

The fact that I have five healthy plants in my house doesn’t mean that I’ve mastered any particular skill… except maybe choosing immortal houseplants.

Tending houseplants isn’t very high on my list of ways I enjoy spending my time, so if a plant wants to live in my house, it has to be pretty self-sufficient. Of course, all of my plants are assured basic care, but I’m not really going to dote over them. Basically, I promise to give them sunlight and water if they promise to stay alive.

These are the five that are currently holding up their end of the bargain.

A succulent cut from my friend Michelle’s plant…

Aloe purchased at the Virginia Mennonite Relief Sale last fall…

A plant of unknown identity that was divided from my friend Rebecca’s plant…

(Repotting is a reward for good behavior and is not considered part of the bargain. Obviously.)

A snake plant that I bought at a plant sale at Our Community Place (in a thrift-store pot that I spray painted)…

A schefflera from Lowe’s that lives in my bathroom…

There you go — those are my five happy, healthy houseplants.

If you think it’s a coincidence that all the pots are white, you underestimate my appreciation of the color white.

Maybe someday I’ll be looking over the list of 100 Skills Everyone Should Master and I’ll suddenly realize that I’ve mastered the skill of keeping a plant alive. Meanwhile, it’s good to know where the baseline is.


When I bought my house at the age of 23, I had no idea what my life would look like seven years later. Would I be married? Would I have kids? Would I have a masters degree? Would I be working at my dream job? Would I still live in the United States? Would I have cancer?

Fast forward seven years. I’m a few weeks away from being a wife and a mom, I have half a masters degree, I’m getting ready to leave a job that’s been a surprisingly good fit for me, I’m still living in the Friendly City, and as far as I know, I don’t have any life-threatening illnesses.

I’m also no longer a homeowner. This afternoon I took some time off work and headed to a law office downtown. The office is only a few blocks from my house, and I’ve driven past the building a bazillion times, but I had never been inside until today. One hour and eight signatures later, I no longer owned property in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

What better way to celebrate the first day of summer than to check off the first thing on my Summer To-Do List?! Sell my house… CHECK!

But don’t worry, I’m not going to be homeless for the next month. I’m technically considered a “guest” of the buyers, even though they’re staying right where they are, and I will be living in my house rent-free (and mortgage-free!) until I get married and move to Pennsylvania.

So today has been a bittersweet day. I’m definitely very excited to be marrying Tim, and I’m looking forward to so many aspects of getting settled in the area where I’ve been spending half my weekends, but I’d be lying if I said I’m eager to leave the town that I’ve called home for the past ten years. It was totally my choice, of course, and when I considered the pros and cons way back when, it was a no-brainer. And… when I pick up that big ol’ equity check tomorrow and deposit it in my bank account, it’s going to seem a lot more sweet than bitter. 😉

And pretty soon, I’ll be a homeowner again. But instead of living alone in a house that’s smack up next to my neighbor’s house, I’ll be living with my husband and kids at the end of a long, lovely driveway.

Seven years ago, I didn’t know what my life would look like in 2010, but now I do. And I love it.

fourteen pounds of strawberries

My strawberry-picking muscles are a little sore this morning, but the taste of fresh berries is always worth it. Thank you, Bobwhite Acres.

see you next year, U2

Way back in October, just a few weeks after Tim and I went on our first date, he asked me what I was doing on July 12, 2010. A random Monday evening in the summer? I had no idea. Did I want one of the tickets he had just purchased for the U2 concert in Philadelphia? Yes, please!

Fast forward to today. We received official word from Ticketmaster this morning that due to Bono’s emergency back surgery (which we had heard about on Friday), the U2 360° North American Tour is being postponed to 2011.

It’s disappointing, of course, but it’s OK. After all, it’s not like the concert was the only fun thing on our calendars for that week!

white roses

I just thought I’d share a few pictures of the lovely white roses I cut off my neighbor’s rose bush this evening. I didn’t even feel like I was stealing, because like the lilacs, they’re hanging WAY over my yard — in fact, I could have cut them from my porch!

And of course one in the bathroom.

happiness in a vase

I love spring. As soon as I walk out my front door, I smell lilacs. Technically, the lilac bushes belong to the neighbors on each side of my property, but if the blooms are hanging over MY property, I consider them to be mine.

These tulips, on the other hand, are 100% mine. I don’t have a lot of tulips, so I usually like to just let them grow, but these were growing among some weeds in the backyard, so I decided to rescue them.

Have I mentioned that I love spring?!

A Face Only a Trucker Could Love

I spotted this billboard as I was driving to Tim’s last Friday, so when I passed it again this evening, I had my camera ready.

I don’t usually take pictures of billboards, but when I saw that bulldog, I knew I needed to snap a photo. Why?

1. It’s a clever advertisement.

2. My dad is a senior engineer for Mack Trucks (40 years this summer!), and today is his birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad! :)

iLove my iPhone

This evening iPicked up a small, white object and said “Call Tim.” Moments later, iWas talking with my favorite person via my favorite new device. According to my webcam, this is what iLooked like.

iKnow — can you believe it?! Yesterday iTook a flying leap and went from having no cell phone at all to owning an iPhone. Just as iExpected, iLove it. And… iHave a Pennsylvania phone number!

oh, to be at the park

I don’t expect to ever live in my hometown of Hagerstown, Maryland again, but if I were there right now, I think I’d head down to City Park this evening to enjoy the lovely, warm weather.

Personally, I think every town ought to have a big park with beautiful flowers, stone walls, a manmade lake, a museum of fine arts, picnic tables, playgrounds, athletic facilities, a bandshell, and geese that eat out of your hand. Growing up, I never realized how spoiled I was!

(No, I didn’t get a haircut; that picture was taken 7 years ago. Nice jeans, huh?)

desktop makeover

It’s really easy for me to get stuck in a rut, especially when I like the rut I’m in, so for the past three months, I’ve had the same image on my computer desktop background. It’s a fun picture of me and my now-fiance, but it was taken at a Christmas parade back in early December, and now that we’re on the verge of Spring, I’m in the mood for something a little less wintry.

I recently discovered the Chez Larsson blog, and today Benita wrote about growing grass in a container on the windowsill. See? Isn’t that a great way to bring a little bit of summertime indoors during the bleak winter months?

I have a lot to do in the next four months, and “grow grass” isn’t exactly on my list. But since I’m all about instant gratification (who isn’t?!), this evening I did a quick Google image search for “grass” and found this image from the Cambridge Department of Public Works. I suspect they got it from somewhere else, but at least I’m giving proper credit to my source.

After just two clicks of the mouse, that lovely photo was my desktop background image, so now when I sit down at my computer, I see green grass and blue sky. Also, did you know that you can hide your desktop icons? I’m already a minimalist when it comes to icons (I only have five on my desktop), but I was pretty excited when I learned that you can totally hide them. Just right click on the desktop, click View, and click Show Desktop Icons to toggle between showing and hiding them.

Doesn’t that just make you want to go barefoot? Me too.

using a binder clip as a key ring

After a cold, snowy winter, you know that spring is on its way when Rachel gets home from work, pulls on some spandex, and heads out for a good brisk walk. No music, no companion, no destination. Just me, my sneakers, and the pavement. (Another sure sign that spring is on its way is when you walk past a house where half a dozen college students are standing on the roof of their porch, beverages in hand. This evening they made some comments that I ignored, but at least they didn’t offer me a beer.)

This past fall I bought a pair of exercise pants that has a tiny zippered pocket in the waistband. It wasn’t the reason I bought the pants, of course, but it sure is a handy place to tuck my house key when I’m out for a walk. A number of years ago, I had exercise pants with drawstrings, and I would usually tie my key onto the drawstring when I tied it. However, only one pair of my exercise pants has a tiny pocket, and none have drawstrings now, so several years ago I finally came up with a creative way to take my key along when I go for a walk.

My solution was inspired by an idea I encountered over at Real Simple. Basically you take a small binder clip, temporarily remove one of the metal pieces (if you pinch it, it pops right out), stick it through the hole in your key, and put the metal piece back in the clip. It’s easy to do, and if you have a spare house key, you really only have to do it once.

After I lock the front door, I clip the little doodad to my waistband with the key to the inside, and then flip those little metal pieces down so they’re flat and sleek. They key lies almost flat and doesn’t poke into my side, but if your key doesn’t behave quite as nicely for you, you can always put the key on the outside and just let it dangle. Since I’m just going for a walk and not to Starbucks, I don’t put any money in the clip like Real Simple suggests, but that’s a pretty neat idea.

Figuring out what to do with your key when you exercise might seem like a small thing, but it felt like a big thing for me when I discovered this solution a few years ago, so I thought I’d pass along the idea in case you find it helpful too.

Sweet Sixteen!

Two tickets to an NCAA D-III men’s basketball championship first round game: $12.

Two tickets to an NCAA D-III men’s basketball championship second round game: $12.

The EMU Runnin’ Royals advancing to the Sweet Sixteen: priceless!

I just saw crocuses!

“No winter lasts forever, no spring skips its turn.” –Hal Borland

how to sell your house

Day 1: Say yes when your favorite person in the world asks you to marry him.

Day 5: Set a wedding date. Contact the realtor who helped you buy your cute house seven years ago.

Day 12: Meet with your realtor at your house.

Day 13: Post a status update on Facebook that says “Rachel loves the warmer temperature today. Melt, snow, melt! I have a house I’m about to put on the market!”

Day 17: Look at the mountain of snow in your front yard and be very glad that you took a picture of the exterior of your house last May when the grass was green and the sun was shining.

Day 20: Meet with your realtor to sign the paperwork to officially list the house. Clean like a crazy-woman.

Day 21: Leave town for the weekend before the For Sale sign is even posted. Receive an email from your realtor saying that there are four showings scheduled for tomorrow.

Day 22: Receive multiple offers. Verbally accept one. Celebrate.

Day 25: Sign the contract. Keep your fingers crossed!

Day 25 was today. :)


When you discover a blog that’s super creative, and when you’re so inspired by everything you read and see that you end up staying up super late one night skimming through the Entire Blog, and when you begin to compare yourself to the creator and wonder why you’re so lame and unimaginative… it’s important to remind yourself that the blogger used to work as a senior art director for Martha Stewart Living.

countdown to the big day

(Thanks to my future mother-in-law for the cute post-it notes!)

postage stamp logic

This morning I walked over to the post office at work to buy a sheet of first-class stamps. The lady behind the counter whipped out three different options and laid them in front of me.

I glanced at the stamps. None of them captured my attention. I know… they’re postage stamps. They only need to be functional, not aesthetically pleasing. But still, I wanted to choose the best ones. I scanned my eyes over the stamps again.


Did I want the Liberty Bells? No. They were so boring that they weren’t even in the running.


How about the King and Queen of Hearts? Seriously? With hearts and the word ‘love’ scrawled on them? Too mushy.


I use so few stamps that if I went with the Christmas stamps, I’d still be seeing Frosty the Snowman in July.

“Hmm. I guess I’ll go with these.” I reluctantly reached for the King and Queen of Hearts.

“No, wait!” I said suddenly. Liberty Bell => Philadelphia => another town near there => an amazing man who calls that town home => happiness => “I’ll take the Liberty Bells.”


a fan by proxy

This evening I went over to my friend Joy’s house for a hotdog roast that I just found out about last evening when she posted an open invitation on Facebook:


Soon after I arrived with my chips, salsa, and apples, Joy’s husband Tom asked, “So I hear you’re a Phillies fan now?” I smiled. Gossip sure gets around!

“Well, at least I’m a fan of a fan,” I clarified. “I’ve only ever watched one game, so I guess at this point I’m mostly just a fan by proxy.”

I’m well aware that the Phillies did not win the World Series, which means this isn’t exactly the most ideal time to be posting this picture, but this photo from last week is just too much fun not to share with you.


this is where I am


and guest

On Saturday morning at 6:58, I did something I had never done before. I sent an email RSVP… for two people.

delighting in the small things

As much as I love lists, today was so low-key that I’d have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to come up with a legitimate list of eight things that made me happy today. So this time I’m only going to mention one. (Kim, if I were listing two things, helping Conner play with the bell this afternoon would definitely make the cut.)

Last night I read an email from a friend just before heading to bed, which means I didn’t find the subsequent P.S. email until this morning. This was the entire message:

P.S. – notice the Oxford comma in [a certain paragraph]. I don’t usually use them, but I know you are a fan.

It’s a firmly established fact that I’m easily amused, but of all of the thoughtful things someone could do for me, indulging my preference for the Oxford comma is definitely one of the least expected!

(Is everyone aware of my preference for shrimp and Kline’s ice cream? OK, just wanted to make sure.)



Curly white hair.

Pink visor.

Pink floral shirt.

Pink pants.


Navy blue baseball cap.

Light brown shirt.

Dark brown pants.



Out for a Sunday morning walk.

Likely octogenarians.

Holding hands.