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photos:
1) loving my chocolate milk
2) surfer, pacific ocean, golden gate park near sutro bathes
3) yellow mushrooms, noe valley farmer’s market
4) gold fish and yellow boots, japanese tea garden in golden gate park
5) my new skirt

We have had some hard weeks this month. We are still missing our puppy. My mother-in-law is in her final days. And we are dealing with some hard, worldly, issues with one of our children. It is a situation that has grown from a place of goodness and caring, but has put our child in a potentially dangerous and situation. It is a situation that makes me long for normal teenage issues like drinking, sex or breaking curfew. We have been up late many nights lately having long and intense family talks. But at least we are talking. (My advice to you as a parent is to not raise caring and sensitive kids who want to save the world.)

When I am tired at the beginning of a swim workout and have a wave of dread wash over me thinking about how many more hundreds of yards I have left to swim, I tell myself to focus on the 50 yards I am currently on: to concentrate on form; to concentrate on the pleasure of moving through the water; and to just take one lap at a time. It always gets me through the workout.

I am trying to apply the same focus to each day of this hard time: focus on what I can do today; try to set a goal and try to break the problem down to get to that goal; focus on efficiency rather than wasting so much energy on anxiety and worry; and make sure I exercise and laugh, because endorphins always help. As I tell my children, we will get through this. All will be well.

I cannot say that I am happy this week, but there have been things that have lifted my spirits. The top three have to do with chocolate…for its medicinal qualities?

1. Almond Joy ice-cream. Coconut ice-cream infused with almonds and big chunks of chocolate, now available and our neighborhood Washtenaw Dairy ice cream store, an all too convenient 10 minute walk from my house. I’m not a huge ice cream fan, but I find myself with a specific craving this ice cream. No, I’m not pregnant.

2. Small, portable cartons of chocolate milk. They don’t require refrigeration, though they are best cold. I love them after exercising…and with my lunch…and as a late night snack and…No, I’m not pregnant.

3. Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almonds. I have a Ghiradelli bar right next to me as I type. I have never liked dark chocolate, though I know it’s much better for me than milk chocolate. It turns out if you add a heavy does of salt and almonds to dark chocolate, it’s not only palatable, it’s wonderful. (I also like the dark chocolate and sea salt Kind bars.) No, I’m still not pregnant.

4. My kitchen floor is almost done and looking great. My husband has been working his *** off sanding, staining and finishing this ancient pine floor. The project started last November when we bought a new dishwasher that would not fit under the counter, even though it was the same dimensions as the old one. We ended up ripping up the flooring, which needed replacing anyway, and found 3 layers of linoleum on subfloor. Then there was black paper and goo that had to be scraped off of the floor. We discovered not so bad pine flooring that we thought we might paint. Once my husband had it sanded we decided to stain and polyurethane. Now about that harvest gold counter top…

5. Being outside always makes me feel better. My daughter and I took a long bike ride together this week, I swam outdoors at least once, I walked to and from work on some days. This Atlantic article on brain function and exercise, and being outside says being outside and exercising (and the big O for ladies) also increases brain function:
Gym workouts and sunbathing do more for your brain than crosswords and Mozart

6. My first trip ever to San Francisco was great. We packed a lot in in the few days we were there. Including my friend’s participation in the Escape from the Rock duathlon. The food, the shops, the nature, the culture, the easy transportation…I can’t wait to return.

7. The Google Maps App and the Uber Cars App. Both Apps made getting around San Francisco easy and stress free. Uber cars are controversial in some cities because they compete with cab drivers who say Uber drivers are unqualified. Uber drivers have to pass some driving and written tests, so I’m not sure if the cabbies’ claims are founded. I like Uber cars because I don’t feel like I’m getting overcharged because I’m a tourist. You can get a fare quote ahead of time, they let you know ahead of time if it is a high traffic time when fares are sometimes increased, and by how much they are increased. There is no tipping (tip is included), the cars arrive quickly, it is automatically charged to your credit card and they have lots of special offers—first ride was free for us.
Google Maps gives great and specific information for using public transportation and walking.

8. Boden’s printed cotton skirt in Papaya Geo that arrived this week (see above)

9. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
, by Daniel James Brown

I’m almost finished with this book, but don’t want it to end! There is a movie being made of this. It’s being touted as the Chariots of Fire of rowing. Here is a book trailer I found (have never heard of a book trailer before).

10. My husband showed me THIS amazing kickstarter invention. I made a small donation to the campaign so I can receive 100 of these next July. Just in time for my son’s 18th birthday.

Hope you have a good week: 50 yards at a time my friends.

what's making me happy this week 03.23.14: kumail, adam and peter

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photos:
1) i love the glass doorknobs in our house and won't let my husband replace them, even though some work poorly
2) the ceiling of the lobby of the university of michigan's museum of natural history where we had an after hours event
3) a late lunch of jap che and bi him bap with my daughter at bell's diner. you can see us in the mirror and a sign of spring hanging above. i have one just like it at home.
4) i love my pug's shadow. i wish i could get it without the sidewalk cracks so you can really see his curly tail
5) my daughter was in my office and arranged my fruit to let me know how she felt about her organic chemistry exam
6) my daughter came downstairs to excitedly explain an organic chemistry eureka moment to me using her whiteboard, which really just confused me and lulled me to sleep. you can see my pug is alarmed that she is invading our space
7) old iron fence shadows
8) lunch at the lunchroom in kerrytown, loved our bahn mi sandwiches

Walking back from lunch this week I overheard someone say to another person, “We’re lucky it’s so warm out today!” Moments later someone else smiled at me and said, “Nice day!” The same day my outdoor running buddy, whom I have not run with since October, texted me, “Want to run tomorrow morning?”

So by now you have deduced the weather here in Michigan has changed. It’s sunny and…30 degrees outside! No NOT Celsius. That’s good old American 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

You may think we are a sad and uncivilized lot here in the mid western United States. Uncivilized? Yes. Sad? No. We are HAPPY. It’s balmy! The snow is melting! We are on the other side!

Also making me happy this week:
1. The Detroit Tiger’s Baseball home opener is March 31, a week from tomorrow. Ernie Harwell announcing Tiger’s games on WJR radio was the background to my childhood summers. And even though Ernie Harwell is no longer announcing, listening to a Tiger’s game on the radio while making dinner is better than a glass of wine (and even better WITH a glass of wine). Winter is over friends: the boys of summer are back.

2. Kumail Nanjiani. I was thinking of this episode of Portlandia when I was looking into our cell phone plan this week…Anyone who has a cell phone plan will be able to relate, but may not find it funny.

3. I loved, LOVED, Adam Savage’s (of MythBusters fame) story on the Moth podcast about talking to his kids about online pornography. I was a little worried at first…but he nailed it. No pun intended. (Naughty!)

4. What made me happy about these rejection letters to famous people published by Mental Floss (by the way, greatest magazine, a subscription is a great gift for any nerdy person) is that in fact I found most of them to be very kind. May we all be so kind in our rejections.

5. Finally saw the movie, The Desendants. I loved it, despite the fact that I watched it with my mother who made a disapproving noise whenever anyone dropped an f-bomb, and there were about 3,456 f-bombs dropped throughout the film.
I love movies and books that begin with characters you really don’t like at all, and then slowly their humanity and vulnerability are revealed as you watch them evolve into better people.

6. It makes me happy that I finally finished Donna Tartt’s, The Goldfinch. Emphasis on FINISHED. Powered through nearly 800 pages waiting for someone in this book to redeem him or herself. Waited to care about someone. Still waiting.

Yes, I know. I read Stephen’s King’s review in the New York Times where he states, “The Goldfinch” is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind.”

And yes, I also heard NPR’s Maureen Corrigan’s review. “The Goldfinch far exceeds the expectations of those of us who’ve been waiting on Tartt to do something extraordinary again, ever since her debut novel, The Secret History, came out in 1992. Hell, I feel like I’ve been waiting for a novel like this to appear not only since I read The Secret History, but also since I first read David Copperfield.”

Wish I would have read Brit Peter Kemp’s review in the Sunday Times before being seduced by Corrigan and King. “Outdoing even The Little Friend, famously a decade in the writing, The Goldfinch has taken 11 years to appear. These epic gestations are attributed by awed Tartt admirers and devotees of websites such as Donna Tartt Shrine to uncompromising perfectionism. “It’s because of perfectionism that man walked on the moon and painted the Sistine Chapel, OK? Perfectionism is good,” she has stressed. But it’s hard to spot much of it in this ineptly put-together book….Melodrama and sentimentality abound (Pippa, “like a fairy” in a gauzy green dress, is a particularly fey fabrication). Similar-seeming formulations recur. One character is “like an elegant weasel”, another like “an elegant…polar bear”, a third has an “elegant black-clad body like a python”.

For me, alarms went off early on when Tartt uses the phrase, “tugged on his sleeve”. Any respectable high school English teacher would justifiably CHOKE a student who used that cliché in her writing.

7. Feeling happy that I got my irritation with The Goldfinch off my chest. Thank you. And consider yourself warned.

Happy, happy week to you!

what's making me happy this week 02.21.14: angel olsen, floyd legs and swants

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photos:
1) my gym bag, my sanity
2) my aged pug, taken by my daughter, up close and personal
3) noritake mardi gras dinnerware, photo from the fox and th espoon esty store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/thefoxandthespoon
4) making dinner, why yes i do have harvest gold kitchen counter tops…still…they’re starting to grow on me…no, no they’re not
5) love this, ann arbor alley in the snow, photo by courtney sacco: http://photos.mlive.com/8002564/gallery/photo_gallery_ann_arbor_during/index.html#/0

In addition to the tiny patch of blue sky I am craning my head to look at right now, and the bright blurr of a sun trying to burn it’s way through the gloomy gray cloud cover…there is much making me happy this week:

1) Exercise is making me happy…maybe not always while I’m doing it…but always afterward. Honest to god it keeps me sane. Particularly this winter. You know what’s great exercise if you can fit it into your schedule? Studio cycling/spinning. If you have the time, try out a few instructors to see whose music you like best, get there early enough to have the instructor help you adjust your bike. Select a bike in the back row so you can unself-consciously gear down when you need to and/or stand to pedal when your crotch goes numb (it gets better). Don’t worry about cycling shoes, but do bring a water bottle.

2) I heard so many great bands at the Ann Arbor Folk festival last month: Seth Walker, Justin Townes Earle, Pearl and the Beard, Iron and Wine, Neko Case (rocking some skin tight skeleton pants), Willie Nile (a cross between the Ramones and Bruce Springsteen, what?!) and Ann Arbor’s own Appleseed Collective.

But the band that really got under my skin…that I’m trying to decide if I love or just like, is Thao and the Get Down Stay Down. Thao Nguyen is an incredibly talented musician, singer and songwriter. She plays all things stringed and more. In addition she is smart and original: I have not heard anything like her before.

Here is one of Thao’s songs I have been listening to this week: We the Common (for Valerie Bolden)

(Extra points for the split second appearance of Judge John Hodgeman and Ira Glass in this video.)

2. Angle Olsen’s warbly, true voice is making me happy this week. And she looks like my little sister Jen.
Listen to her here at her NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

3. Noritake Mardi Gras dinnerware makes me happy.
I am part of a Mid Century Modern facebook page where someone posted this week that she had found some Noritake Mardi Gras dinnerware at an estate sale. I had never heard of it, but the shape and pattern make me happy.

4. Some cool kids (University of Michigan design grads) are making me happy…They had a kickstarter to produce their “minimalist” Floyd Leg—table legs that can be easily attached to and removed from any kind of flat surface, such as repurposed doors. They were hoping for $18,000 to startup, but ended up with $250,000!

Why does this make me happy? Real people seeing their ideas realized…Design that marries form and function…

5. Goofy gals make me happy, particularly Katy and Katie and their Just the Tips youtube channel. Check out their, how to make swants video.

6. This 3 minute history of the bicycle video makes me happy for the visuals…design, color, light…

7. These photos of Ann Arbor in the snow by photographer Coutney Sacco. The photos were taken at night, and are lovely…and remind me that I should stop being such a baby about the dark and cold and should get outside with my good camera sometime…
http://photos.mlive.com/8002564/gallery/photo_gallery_ann_arbor_during/index.html#/0

8. Having time to cook dinner in the evenings makes me happy. This is a weird flip for me, as I used to hate making dinner and could relate, a little, to Marge Piercy’s poem, What’s That Smell in the Kitchen.

Haha. No, it was never that bad, but it was difficult to fit it in with everything else.

Now that I am not spending my weekends and evenings dragging children through science fair projects, or baking class valentine treats or attending school meetings (which, in truth, I miss,..a lot), I have much more time for making dinner. I always plan my week’s meals on Saturday or Sunday and often will prep the night before. The chore, and I do still think of it as a chore, is made tolerable, pleasant even, by a glass of wine and a podcast.

There has been more making me happy this week, like my son’s first official college visit yesterday and another one today. That makes me happy…but also a little sad…more on that another time.

Hope you are spotting patches of blue sky among the grey clouds where you live! Both literally and metaphorically! xoxo

what's making me happy this week 11.18.14: what we have in our pockets, a new spell and quiet time

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photos:
1) a gift of daffodils in january
2) my new sweater
3) writer etgar keret, illusration by erhan cihangiroğlu from the etgar keret facebook page
(can you tell i’m lacking photos this week?)

Two cold nights ago I was leaving the grocery store, after a frenetic day of work. I saw a man sitting alone in his car, talking on his phone, in a vacant part of the shopping center parking lot. I instantly thought, “I wish that was me.”

The thought seemed at once weird and kind of startling to me, especially since the man did not look particularly comfortable. He seemed too large for his overcoat, and for his car. But his car looked warm and he wasn’t rushing around in the dark. He was just sitting, doing one thing. Talking on the phone.

I’m in a bit of a funk. I can’t get on top of life. I’m usually pretty good at shaking off such a mood, but not so much the past couple of weeks. Maybe reviewing the bright spots in the week will help.

So here’s what made me happy this week.

1. The short story, “What Do We Have in our Pockets?” by Etgar Keret
This is a quick read, and even quicker listen (less than 7 minutes).
I heard it on the Selected Shorts podcast read, perfectly, by the late David Rakoff. You can listen here. It starts at the very end of the podcast, around -06:43
You can also read it here or see a short film based on this story and entered into 2013 Sundance film festival here.

But please listen to David Rakoff first. He’s better. The best.

2. Music from the film Walking and Talking. (I liked, but did not love this Nicole Holofcener film, maybe because I had just watched Frances Ha the day before. Basically the same film. Also liked, but did not love Frances Ha.)

Anyway, the music made me happy particularly the opening song, Billy Bragg’s She’s Got a New Spell.

3. Meloncholy music…it makes me happy to have such unhappy music when I need it. Two songs I heard for the first time this week, and really like, are Låpsley’s, “Station”, btw she is both the high and low voices and Iron & Wine‬‪ – The Trapeze Swinger‬. (NPR’s music editor Stephen Thompson has mentioned this song over and over on the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He weeps every time he hears it. So finally I looked it up. No weeping for me, but I do love it.)

4. My new Air-o-Swiss humidifier. (I’m not getting compensated to advertise for this or any product). I love it for it’s clean lines and functional design and because, now that I have it running in my office, I no longer feel like I’m turing to dust.

5. A pot of daffodils I received on a gloomy day. Sitting in my office window, still in bloom. If you are living in a cold grey climate, please go get yourself or someone else a pot of daffodils. They make me hopeful, and happy, every time I see them.

6. My daughter was giddy on her first day of her cadaver dissection class this week. I talked to her after class and asked her how it went. She gushed, “It was amazing! I was up to my elbow in leg!” Yesterday I picked her up on campus after a study session for another class. She sat down in the car with a blissfull look on her face, leaned her head against the window and sighed, “I’m in love.” I said, “With?” She sighed again, “Organic chemistry.” It’s a pretty amazing to see your kid find a passion. I don’t think it happens to everyone. I’m still working out mine…

7. This sweater, in emerald green, I bought on sale from Boden. (Though it is already pilling which makes me unhappy.)

8. Getting up on this Saturday morning before everyone else. I suspect it is better than sitting in a car, in the dark, by myself in a grocery store parking lot. A cup of coffee, melancholy music and a quiet house all to myself to plan out my busy day: it may be all I need to hit the reset button on this mood.

Hoping you have found some happiness and a quiet place to think this week.

what's making me happy this week 10.20.13: the vince guaraldi trio, the house dog's grave, and a dance off
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photos:
1) my daughter’s studies
2) an accusatory look from my dog
3) a thank you that warmed my heart

September through mid-December I have a program that runs on Sundays, so I work six days a week. I leave work at 2:30pm several days throughout the week, but that doesn’t seem to make up for my missed weekend day. I developed this Sunday program eight years ago and it is near and dear to my heart. Still, by mid October, this one day weekend begins to get old.

I miss being home. I miss getting things organized for the week, accomplishing home projects and being around my family. I try not to think about it too much.

Luckily there is much in the world to keep me distracted and smiling…

1. A heartfelt thank-you and note and brownies from an amazing young woman.

2. Walking home from work on sunny fall days, kicking up dry leaves as I go.

3. My daughter is on FIRE about her classes this term.

4. The whacking sound the walnuts make when they fall 30 feet from their mother tree and hit the sidewalk. Strangely satisfying. (downside: one hit my little Finny on the back last week and he spun around and looked at me with an accusatory look on his face.)

5. Jesse Thorn’s interview with Nicole Holofcener on his Bullseye podcast. Holofcener is the writer and director of the movie Enough Said, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener and James Galdofini (love all, particularly the women). I loved several things about this interview 1) I love that when Holfcener and Louis-Dreyfus met, they talked about how much they love their children and the heartbreak of their kids going off to college …I get these women 2) the interview was NOT about the death of James Gadofini, thank you for that choice Jesse Thorn 3) Thorn focused on the female writer/director and the lead female character and on women and comedy, again thank you Jesse Thorn. Can’t wait to see the film.

(p.s. did you know that Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s name is pronounced “Lewy” Drefus? Yes, you did? And so did everyone else?)

6. Jesse Thorn’s Bullseye podcast.
I have only previously known Thorn as Bailiff Jesse on the Judge John Hodgeman podcast and was happy to finally listen to his Bullseye podcast. Thorne has a sensitivity that is almost as startling as his outbursts of laughter (at times, seriously startling…and endearing…evidenced at 12:48 in the clip linked above). Looking forward to listening to more.

7. Cast your Fate to the Wind, The Vince Guaraldi Trio:

8. Just so you won’t mistake me for someone with excellent taste in music, this song is also making me happy:
Wake Me Up When Its All Over
It gives me that same temporary jolt of energy that I get when I eat pure sugar candy like Smarties and Nerds because it is the musical equivalent.
I will hate it a month from now.

9. This poem posted on a friend’s FB wall. It made me tear up, which is why I love poetry. So few words to access so much emotion.
The House Dog’s Grave
by Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962)

10. Jimmy Fallon’s improv dance off with the actor Sam Rockwell—sweet moves.
(I saw Rockewell’s summer film, The Way, Way Back. It was okay. I loved him in Moon, directed by Duncan Jones, who is the son of??? Correct! Davie Bowie!)

A good week to you!

what's making me happy 08.23.13: hair, nature, toast and shinola journals

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photos:
1) my daughter’s hair
2) black swallowtail caterpillars on my mother’s parsley
3) a weed going to seed, at gallup park
4) my mother’s honeysuckle
5) zingerman’s pecan raisin bread

The shadows are getting longer in the evenings. The tree frogs and crickets are singing with an almost deafening urgency at night. We are all feeling a little antsy here about the upcoming transition to our fall, and more intense, schedules.

I am feeling wistful about another summer gone; time going faster than ever.

And still, many things are making me happy this week.

Big thing: my little nephew, who has SMA, has been in the hospital with a respiratory infection, but he’s on the mend and is now bossing “his staff” around (the doctors and nurses).

Little things:

1) My daughter’s hair. Actually, that’s a lie. It doesn’t make me happy. It fills me with hair envy.

2) Nature. Caterpillars, flowers, trees, green, fresh air…Happy.

3) Zingerman’s pecan raisin bread. For those who don’t know,
Zingerman’s is an Ann Arbor based deli that has been featured in every food magazine/show in the US, maybe abroad. The owners made a conscious decision not to franchise and to stay local, but they do mail order and deliver bakeries and markets as far away as Chicago. Sorry San Fran, but you have not tasted sourdough until you’ve tasted Zingerman’s sourdough. No lie. I could write a whole post about Zingerman’s bread, but it’s making me too hungry to think about right now.

4) HAIM. I don’t know if it’s the music that makes me happy or the beauty and youth of these sisters…does in matter?

5) Shinola journals.
(they also make lovely bikes and are starting to make watches as well)

6)NYC old photo archives are fascinating…but a time waster (thanks Cath!).
article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2134408/Never-seen-photos-100-years-ago-tell-vivid-story-gritty-New-York-City.html
archive: http://nycma.lunaimaging.com

7) This old Kristen Wiig Confessions of a Tooth Fairy skit was posted on buzzfeed this week– which made me happy because it reminded me of when daughter and her friend did this for a variety show at school. It was a big hit.

8) Saw Woody Allen’s new movie, Blue Jasmine, last night…I feel like I saw it about 20 years ago but it was called A Streetcar Named Desire and it starred Vivien Leigh as Blanche Dubois instead of Cate Blanchett as Jasmine. I did enjoy it. Cate Blanchette and, my favorite, Bobby Cannavale, were wonderful. If you have not seen Bobby Cannavale in the Station Agent (with Peter Dinklage and Patricia Clarkson), or Win Win (with Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan)…you should.

Here’s wishing you happiness and steadiness, as we transition from summer to fall!

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what's making me happy this week 08.11.13:

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photos
1. vintage saab station wagon
2. Finnegan enjoying his clean sheets
3. drying basil

The week had its ups and downs, moments of contentment and moments of discontent.

Some of the little things that made me happy this week:

1. Oh making me happy is this vintage Saab station wagon I saw in the shopping center parking lot. The owner told me it has a rear-facing pull down back seat, like this.

2. Finnegan makes me happy because he is cute, but he also annoys me. He would not move when I was making the bed, so I had to try to work around him, and the clean sheets were not clean for long…so much dog hair. Ugh.

3. Freezing basil makes me happy. I wash it, pat it dry with paper towels, then air dry it on waxed paper on a cookie sheet. When it’s dry, I roll up the wax paper and put it in a plastic bag and freeze for a day in the winter when I am in desperate need of some frozen summer.

4. The AV club’s undercover video series make me happy. They put together a list of 100 songs and invited bands to pick a song from the list to cover. I love the unexpected pairings.

Who knew a Journey song could sound so…true and lovely. Thank you Clem Snide for this version of Journey’s Faithfully (except not for the whistling. No thanks for that. Ouch.)

Forward to 1:28 in the video to get past the jibber jabber.

Again, I’m sorry about the whistling at the end of the song and the way the whistlers crawl into the shot to take a Tim Tebow pose and whistle off key while earnestly looking into each other’s eyes. What?! No. Nope.

5. I also love the Clientele covering MIA’s Paper Planes in the same series. (I like MIAs version too). No need to skip the jibber jabber on this one. Alasdair MacLean is adorable, as is his humility.

6. Did you read Geeorg Saunder’s Commencement Speech at Syracuse University, recently published in the New York Times? The basic message: err in the direction of kindness.

Have you read him? When he was on the cover the NYT magazine being hailed as the greatest american writer, I was skeptical. So I read Saunder’s, CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. I am still unwilling to say Saunder’s is the best American writer. Not because he is or isn’t, just because…who can say? Who gets to decide? But I am willing to say, he’s really good. Read him.

7. I love learning new kitchen tips. I never knew this easy way to cut basil into strips for topping my pasta and pizza: chiffonade Mais oui!

And I like this method for cleaning a cast iron skillet.

8. You have likely seen this already, but for those who haven’t, have fun being amazed at Roomba Shark Cat: http://www.tastefullyoffensive.com/2013/08/shark-cat-cleans-kitchen.html

Hope these help you ride out your own moments of discontent this week!