Five Easy Ways To Happy

“Happiness is not something ready made, It comes from your own actions.” ~ Dalai Lama

Life isn’t always a happy place. What with all the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve, gain, do for others, make the world a better place, not throttle the teen when the data overages on the cell phone bill are higher than your car payments, happiness can be hard to find. I get that. Boy do I ever! The thing is, happy isn’t just waiting around for you, you have to go out and find it.  Maybe give these five easy ways to happy a try, they work for me… most days. Not on cell phone bill paying day, naturally.

Five Easy Ways To Happy

In a busy life, whether you’re a parent to humans, fury folk, or just yourself doing any combination of these five things can help put a little happy into any day.

Five Easy Ways To HappyDance, Dance, Dance!

Remember how good it felt when you were a kid and dancing was pure joy? Oh man, Lips Inc took me to Funky Town and I could have cared less who was around – beep! beep! Give yourself permission to groove, spin, plié, two-step, Dougie… whatever. If you’re worried about looking silly, close the office door or head to the laundry room {we know nobody is going in there voluntarily} and shake it.  

I love to put on my wireless headphones and shake a tail feather while doing dishes. It’s liberating, and happiness inducing. I’m even not too mortified when I find that I’ve been singing along with JT and The Tennessee Kids and while my own kids are filming me from the hallway.  So what if I’m on the down slope of 40-something, I can still take it on down to Dancinville – it makes me HAPPY!

If an abiding adoration for Justin isn’t enough to justify {<– see what I did there!} dancing in your book, how about doing it because it makes you smarter? So says Physiology Today.

Put Pen To Paper

Even if you don’t write for a living, or even as a hobby, the written word still has power. Try writing down six things a day that made you happy. Just simple stuff, not an essay. You can even break that up into three in the morning and three at night. I know I’m happy about coffee when it’s 6:00am, my treadmill when I finally get that endorphin rush three hours later, and sleeping kids are bliss.

Exhale

Sing it with me kids… shoop, shoop, shoop, shoobie doop, doop doop. Okay, that’s about as much Whitney as I can do.  The point here is to take time to breath in the good and exhale the bad. Just breathing deeply, quieting your brain for the span of five or six breaths, can bring with it a jolt of joy. The great thing about doing this is anyone can do it, any where, any time, in any situation. 

Quiet is hard for me. Not even so much because I have a house full of kids, nor because they’ve all adopted Italian speaking volumes, but because I just have a noisy brain. There is always something rattling around in there, often keeping me from being truly in a moment. Breathing brings me back. That moment may not always be a happy place to be in, but taking control – even for just those few points when I exhale – brings me peace. 

Send It To Get It Back

I recently read an article about what’s believed to be the world’s oldest Message in a Bottle washing up on the shores of Germany. Ocean currents had buffeted the bottle around the North Sea since first being set a drift by an English Marine Biologist had set it afloat in 1906. Inside was a post card asking for the finder to fill out where they’d found it and send it back to the university from whence it came. 

The thrill of those who found it spread to joy at the folks at the British Marine Biological Association, as well as to people like me who read the story.  One little post card touched so many. So why not send off something yourself. Not an email, we get enough of those already. Something written, a note, a card, or even a package, for no reason at all. See how long it takes the happiness to float back to you.

Drink Tea

I completely understand if you aren’t the tea type. I happen to be, but that isn’t the point. While in Ireland this spring one of the best moments I had was just sitting in a tiny tea room, overlooking the cobblestone streets on a rainy afternoon. Just letting life wash over me, hearing the Beatles softly play in the background as heavy accents of gaelic brogue and baking scones filled the air, was probably one of my happiest moments.

You don’t have to travel to Ireland to get that, or even drink tea. Just carve out some time in your day to wrap your hands around a warm (or cold) drink and be.

There is happiness to be found in the simplest of things.

Though this was not a sponsored post, it was inspired by Shari’s Berries’ #HappinessHappens. I adore this company, not just for their treats but because they enjoy spreading happy. 

 

 

Loews Annapolis – Girls Night In

Sometimes even the promise of fun with your favorite fab females isn’t quite lure enough to get you through all the prep and primping involved in a girls night out. Maybe what you need is a girls night IN? Um.. what is that? That’s exactly what I recently asked the folks at Loews Annapolis hotel. The answer has become my new favorite thing. 

Travel, I love it, but boy can it get exhausting when you’re the one in charge of everyone. From the booking to the packing, to the occasional refereeing I earn that room service wine.

Girls night in at Loews Annapolis HotelTo be honest, I’ve daydreamed of escaping to a hotel all alone just to save my own sanity. Hole up with a good book and an even better bottle of wine, that’d do it. Until the folks at Loews Annapolis reached out and invited me to come down for a girls night in with some fellow bloggers, creatives, and journalists – now pals.

Before that invite I hadn’t ever really put much thought into enlisting my friends to abscond with me to a hotel, sans kids, just to enjoy ourselves. Cue the “I coulda had a V8,” forehead slap.

What a brilliant idea. I’m stealing it!  

How to have a Girls Night In…

1. Pick a Hotel with a GOOD Restaurant

BAROAK at Loews AnnapolisYou cook all the time, a Girls Night In is your chance to have someone cook for you. Don’t settle for blah! Find a hotel that has a good -if not great– restaurant on property. This will let you indulge without the need of designated driver. BONUS, your yoga pants are just steps away in the room.

Nestled inside the modern-nautical themed Loews Annapolis is port of culinary bliss – BAROAK. What it lacks in pretension it quadruples in flavor and creativity.  Here fresh and local meet over live music and an extensive craft beer menu.

Chef Marcus Donovan – right hand knife to Chef Teddy Folkman who’s moules fromage bleu are legend – served up a tasting menu that took Chesapeake Bay food traditions and tossed them a curve.  Fried oysters topped with pickled shallots have the familiar flavor of a mignonette topped raw oyster, but with crunchy, creamy and somehow more brine that the classic. Pair that with a Scoville Jalapeño IPA from local Jailbreak Brewery and it’s sweet, spicy, salty, crunchy, creamy, mildly hoppy HAPPY town!

Rumor has it that Chef Marcus might be turning Maryland’s iconic Smith Island Cake into deep fried nirvana – I’ll take one for the team and taste test that for ya. I’m selfless like that.  

2. Bathrobes 

That ratty robe you wear at home might be perfect for pop-tarts and lukewarm coffee, it is NOT fit for your Girls Night In! Loews Hotels know their way around a robe.  In fact, the only hotel robe I’ve ever purchased to bring home was from a Loews property {yeah, purchased… that’s it}   It simply is not possible to be anything but relaxed when donning a fancy hotel bathrobe. Go ahead, try to prove me wrong.  

3. Get Your Girlie On

Treat yourself in a little ‘beautification vacation.’ Loews Annapolis arranged for a lovely couple from a local nail salon to come in and give fabulous in-room mani-pedis. While not every hotel may be willing to go that extra mile, there is no reason you can’t make an appointment at a nearby nail studio, set up treatments at the hotel spa, or go old school and do each others nails like back in middle school. Just no freezing the bras, m’kay?    The great thing about Loews hotels in any city, is that they will go that extra mile to make your stay everything you want it to be. This is a brand that really does treat you like family when you stay. Heck, they’re even renowned for welcoming fury family members in style. {be warned if you click on this link you may die from the adorable therein}  

4. Remember Girls Just Wanna Have FUN

 Just because you’re not hitting the club, doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had. S’mores outdoors are fast becoming a hotel trend. Toss a robe over those PJs, grab that bottle of bubbly and head out to the fire pit. Hey, it’s your party you can s’more if you want to.  Not up for ooey gooey bliss? How about ordering that non-Disney flick on the hotel menu, having room service send up some pizza and wine? It’s your turn to have a good time.     It’s also okay to toss some adventure in there too. We had a soggy blast setting sail aboard the Schooner Woodwind, rain and all. Find that fun thing to do in the city where you stay, and do it. No kids, no hassles, just you and your gal pals. Most any hotel concierge will help you set up your outing.   

 

A photo posted by Lara D (@dipaolamomma) on

Now, go start plotting your escape. Not only is it totally okay for you to make time for YOU, you’ve earned this!

A Life Measured With Coffee Spoons

I’ve often wondered what T.S. Eliot meant by a life measured with coffee spoons. Was The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock  a lament to time lost in the doldrums of watching others live a fuller life or a reminder for us to see the extraordinary in our own ordinary.  That’s sort of the beauty in poetry, it’s a kaleidoscope of words in which we each see different things. Right?

A friend recently sent me a gift with the quote on it.

A Life Measured In Coffee Spoons

I’m sure this had something to do with my famed addiction to coffee. But, as I sat and thought about it the gift took on a deeper meaning, making me realize how profound a cup of coffee can be.

Slowly circling the cup, pulling along a snowy wake of frothed milk, the spoon sings a quiet tune. The sound of daydreams, of new adventures, of deep longing and fruitless introspection. 

In cups ornate and plain, chipped on occasion stained, the spoon omnipresent. I’ve stirred with a view of the sun rising upon the Duomo, clicked steel on china while watching sheep graze in a misty Irish haze.  Sleeping children have heaved blissful sighs as the spoon turned on. Words and tears have flowed to the dulcet drone.

I choose to believe in the everyday extraordinary. In a beautiful life measured in coffee spoons. Though I’ve recently switched to tea.

 

Homemade Limoncello Recipe

For years pals {of both the real and interwebs varieties} have been asking me to share my homemade limoncello recipe. It’s not that my Limoncello is so fancy, or that the recipe is a tightly guarded secret. The fact is I’m mostly just lazy. 

Homemade Limoncello RecipeI’ve finally transferred the info from the tattered piece of paper I stuff in my copy of Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, to the Slightly Tipsy Facebook page… and now HERE. There are any number of limoncello recipes out there. I’ve tweaked mine a few times over the years, but it’s always remained really simple.

We make two large batches a year. One to stock our bar with {for the year, don’t judge} and one for gifting. Other than cash, not much else beats handcrafted hooch in the gift department. Enjoy!

Homemade Limoncello Recipe

8-10 Lemons {I prefer Meyer for flavor & color}
5 Cups Filtered Water
3 1/2 Cups Superfine Sugar {or pulse regular sugar in a food processor}
1 Quart of Vodka {or any clear grain alcohol}

Remove zest from lemons. Be SURE not to get too much of the icky {totally a technical term} white pith in there. Place in an airtight container. Pour vodka in. Seal and store in a dry, dark place for 6 days. On the 7th day, combine water and sugar. Bring to a low boil until sugar is dissolved. BOOM! You’ve got simple syrup. Add that to your lemon peel and vodka concoction. Place back in your storage spot for 2-4 more days.

Remove lemon peels. Strain that sunshiny hooch through a fine sieve. With a funnel, fill smaller {prettier} bottles with your awesome Limoncello.

Once you’ve mastered this homemade limoncello recipe {or even before you have} come stop by the Slightly Tipsy website. It’s a fun place where I get to hang out with some of my favorite people and fellow cocktail  aficionados. 

Visiting Ottawa Canada (aka Myth Busting)

 Debunking Five Myths about Candians by Visiting Ottawa, CanadaAh, stereotypes. Every country and culture seems to have at least a few. Visiting Ottawa, Canada helped me bust a few myths. Travel gives us the ability to be myth busters of a short… only without the walrus mustaches and exploding crash-test dummies. 

Myth 1: It’s Winter 11 Months of the Year

Visiting Ottawa in summer is blissfully balmy. In fact an average summer day comes in at around 78°,  almost San Diego-esque, eh? A warm, breezy summer day in the Canadian capital city is perfect for wandering. So much of the sites are within easy walking distance of each other. 

Rideau Canal Ottawa Canada UNESCO World Heritage SiteA stroll along the Rideau Canal is a must. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a marvel of 19th century engineering.  One of the first canals to be designed specifically for steam-powered vessels, the system of locks now conveys mostly leisure craft along the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers. In fact it’s the only canal of the “Great North American Canal Building Era,” to still operate along it’s original route. If you enjoy history, a tour of the canal system is a must, since many of the original structures remain intact today.

MYTH BUSTED

Myth 2: Canadians Only Drink Beer

Sparks Street is a bit like the a low-key version of Time Square. Closed to all but pedestrian traffic these few blocks near Parliament Hill feature kitschy souvenir shops, eateries, bars, and a few upscale shopping areas. Here we did stop by a place called Bier Markt that featured 150 beers from 30 countries. Could there be something to this beer thing?

I like a nice hoppy beer and will try an IPA any day.  I fully expected Ottawa to be a beer city, and I’d have been okay with that. Turns out Canadians dig their craft cocktails too. LIFT Bar, the cocktail lounge inside the Delta Ottawa City Centre (now a part of the Marriott hotel family, yeah!) where we were hosted guests during our stay, makes a mean Mule and even some truly creative cocktails featuring locally produced spirits – and yes, some great craft brews too.

Ottawa Mule Craft CocktailClearing away any doubt that this myth is exactly that, I present you with the following evidence…. Wayne Gretzky Estates.  We picked up a 2011 Merlot made with grapes hand harvested in Okanagan Valley, British Colombia and it was actually quite good!

MYTH BUSTED

Myth 3: Canada is ALL about the Hockey, eh!

We witnessed a man dressed in full hockey gear, including skates, balance on top of a goal while juggling flaming hockey sticks. While you’d think that would have proved the myth, this guy {Paz} happened to hail from LA… eh.  <— which I think I said more than any Canadian we met.

Juggling Flaming Hockey Sticks. Visiting Ottawa, Canada

MYTH BUSTED

Myth 4: Canadians Live on Maple Syrup and (Back) Bacon

Admittedly there is plenty of maple and Back Bacon {known to we Americans as Canadian bacon} to be found. Even in the Eggs Benedict at LIFT restaurant – not sure I was so much into that. Ottawa is a very metropolitan city boasting a vibrant food scene with plenty of influence coming from the French. Hello poutine and pastries. The farm-to-table options come in a dizzying array from a rainbow of produce and artisanal cheeses at the famed ByWard Market to scratch-made Italian staples at several area eateries.

ByWard Market Ottawa Canada

You can NOT leave Ottawa without eating BeaverTails. I know what you’re thinking, I thought it too. Eew gross, Canada! Wrong. SO wrong. BeaverTails are oddly-named, flaky, rich, light and airy pillows of crispy pastry topped with awesome. Start with the maple butter {obviously} and work your way through the menu. You’ll thank me, even if your waistline won’t.

MYTH BUSTED

wa

Myth 5: Canadians Are SO Polite

I was pretty sure the minute we drove into the parking garage at the Delta – which is shared with the public – and were greeted by a smiling hotel employee {obviously on his break} who was all to happy to show us the best spot to park in, give tips for cutting down on the cost of parking, and welcome us to his city, that this is a myth that could not be busted. Once at the front desk, the busting prospects looked even more bleak.

Usually when you check-in at any hotel, the front desk staff is cordial. Even at the most luxurious of properties the script is pretty much the same. “Can we help you with anything while you’re staying with us?”, “How was your trip?”, “Would you like help with your bags.” All perfectly polite – and expected– inquires.  Then there is Alex.

Spires of the East Block Building of Canadian Parliment Ottawa
Weathered spires and French architectural influences abound on Canada’s Parliament Hill.

Alex took the time not only to ask those questions, but to find out what we liked, what we might want to discover about his city, and even give us tips about things we’d never have known about without him. He took out a map and walked us through the best things to see, when to go where, and gave as an impromptu history lesson. It was like having our own personal guide to Ottawa. Then there was Eric.

Eric turned out to be the name of the friendly staffer from the car park, as well as a stellar Bellman.  Gift bags to keep the kids entertained. Cold drinks to refresh weary parents who got stuck a Canadian Customs {that’s a story for another post, oi!} and even setting up late evening reservations for the whole crew on the pub side of LIFT. Then there was Annie.

Things were looking pretty damn polite at this point!

In the interest of full-disclosure, we are Elite level Marriott rewards members and make it a point to snag club level rooms anytime they are available. Tip: DO THIS! If you’ve got more than one kid it pays for itself. Marriott Clubs often offer free breakfast, snacks, and enough refreshments and libations to cover the additional cost several times over.  Also, as I mentioned before this was a hosted visit. Annie had no way of knowing that though. Each morning she greeted us as though we were long-lost pals returning to visit her! Any question we had, any little thing the kids asked for, she made sure it was taken care of. You just can’t put a price on service like that. Though this Delta property hasn’t quite gotten to the level of offerings that you typically see in Marriott Clubs, Annie’s shining smile made it feel as top-notch as any other. Then their was Parliament.

Living in the Washington D.C. area, we’re used to dower-faced officials. Hey, things are rough these days and their job is to watch out for bad guys, not make kids giggle. The Canadians seem to have been able to balance the need to keep a wary eye out, with their penchant for polite. 

Are All Canadians Freindly or What
Polite, and hilariously cool.. the Guards of Parliament Hill. I can’t be the only one thinking “Benny Hill” here, can I?

That feeling of warm welcome extends from the folk watching over the buildings of Parliament, to the locals who gather to share a spot on the lawn any given summer evening to watch the story of Canada – from the First Peoples to modern Canadians– unfold in multi-media magnificence; Northern Lights.  Hundreds of people gathered for a free show and not one tussle, no salty stares, not even an frenzied rush to get the best spot. Then there was the cab driver.

Rude. Angry. Took the long way around to get a higher fare. Though he did mention that was from Indonesia.

MYTH CONFIRMED (so far)

Visiting Ottawa, Canada was such a blast we’ll be back to bust a few more myths during Winterlude. Plus.. um.. MORE Poutine!

Stay tuned for more on Canada’s Delta Hotels joining the Marriott brand and a full review of our stay at Delta Ottawa City Center.

Poutine Canada's Gift to the WORLD
Poutine from a Food Truck. Or as the teen calls it… “Deep fried bliss smothered in happiness gravy dotted with cheesy nuggets of awesome.” Yeah, pretty close.
 Field Notes On Visiting Ottawa, Canada:

The trip to Ottawa, Canada was amazing everyone was so nice we stayed at a beautiful hotel called Delta. Alex, at the front desk was so amazing he suggested a lot of fun activities to do.One of the doormen even gave me and my brother gift bags. My mom gave me a tip to give him. He was very happy, and said thanks.

Next we went for a walk. There were little shops outside, and I got some new jewelry, a ring from a very nice lady and a name bracelet form a funny guy who showed us where to get poutine. Then we went to dinner. I had ribs on a plate so huge that it took up the whole table!  

So we went to a pastry shop and a tasted sweets. The wifi at the hotel was was very good. Housekeeping left chocolates on the pillow and my favorite robe. The pool was amazing and the outdoor lounge was relaxing.

The next day we went to a war museum it was very interesting and sad too. After that we went down to the gift shop, it was a little overpriced but I got a owl necklace. I had my very first  beavertail, they are so yum! Goodbye Ottawa, until we meet again.  

Emily – Field Reporter {age 9}

Delta Hotel Ottawa City Centre.png
Chic updated suite at the Delta Ottawa City Centre. Can’t wait to introduce you to the Smart Desk!

Disclosure: As you know, from time to time I’m asked to visit places, attractions, and hotels as a hosted guest. That said, my thoughts and opinions are always my own. Honesty, you deserve nothing less.

Travel. Eat. Drink. Write. REPEAT