What’s Making Me Happy: February 2017

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I owe it to myself to do a What’s Making Me Happy post. February was a tough month. Despite the joy of a new writing project and the hope-excitement for the upcoming Iceland trip, it was also a month of stress, fatigue, and a resulting illness. So lately it’s been a challenge to maintain any sense of contentment or confidence in… well, anything, including writing.

But February wasn’t all gray skies, cold temperatures, and pessimism. In fact, several things about the past month did lift my spirits. So today I’d like to celebrate the sounds, sights, flavors, and places that made me happy over the past month. Let’s start with…

From left to right: tangeloes, blood oranges, and cara cara oranges.

From left to right: tangelos, blood oranges, and cara cara oranges.

I’m Eating Oranges, My Favorite Winter Snack

Sounds weird, right? Winter is when we typically want hot, stick-to-your-ribs food. And while I love a good stew, grilled sandwich, or other warm dish, my go-to snack (or, rather, “dessert”) at this time of year is oranges.

Why? They’re packed with Vitamin C, which I need more than usual during the winter to help with blood circulation. (I have Raynaud’s syndrome, a hereditary circulation condition that flares up in my hands and feet during the winter.) Plus, after consuming SO much sugar over the Christmas holidays, the citrusy, tart flavor of oranges helps kill my post-holiday candy cravings after dinner – most of the time. 😉

What are my favorite kinds of oranges? These three are particularly yummy:

  1. Tangelo, a tangerine-grapefruit hybrid that’s juicy, relatively seedless, and easy to peel
  2. Blood orange, with an orange-red rind, dark red flesh, and hints of raspberry with the citrus flavor
  3. Cara cara, a smaller navel orange grown in South America and Africa with reddish-orange flesh and a less acidic, slightly cranberry flavor

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I Watched “Hidden Figures” and “Lion”

I went to the movies twice this month, for two very different Oscar-nominated films – both of which I highly recommend. 🙂

First up: “Hidden Figures,” a biopic about a team of African-American female mathematicians in the early years of NASA’s space program. I enjoyed every minute, between the delightful cast and the fascinating look at some truly important women and their often-overlooked contributions to America’s history. (I especially loved how Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer, taught herself and her co-workers FORTRAN and became the expert on the research center’s new IBM computer so her group wouldn’t become obsolete.) What touched me most, thought, was the film’s relevancy. In a time when racial tensions still ripple through our country, “Hidden Figures” reminds us that we still have a long way to go toward healing that divide and promoting diversity and equality.

As for “Lion”… Wow. Based on true events, “Lion” follows Saroo Brierly as a 5-year-old boy in India, separated from his family and living on the streets of Calcutta until he’s picked up by a local orphanage and then adopted by an Australian couple. Fast-forward 20 years, when Saroo (now a college student) decides it’s time to find his birth family. Like “Hidden Figures,” this film features an extraordinary cast (especially young Sunny Pawar – he’ll steal your heart) and a story with an ultimately happy ending. But it doesn’t shy away from the harsh truths of child homelessness in India, including abuse in orphanages and the effects it has on young victims. Nor does it gloss over Saroo’s isolation and obsessiveness during his search, and how it affected his relationships with his girlfriend and adopted family. So… yes, it was incredible, but it was also eye-opening and heart-breaking. Bring tissues for this one.

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My new iPod dock. You can’t see the album artwork, but the Myst: Riven sountrack fits Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS perfectly.

I’m Loving My “New” iPod Speaker

I’ve had this portable iPod speaker / docking station in my bedroom for two months now, and… well, the heading says it all. 🙂 The CD clock radio I’d had since college died before Christmas. So when I mentioned to a co-worker that I was looking for a replacement gadget so I could listen to music in my room, she volunteered her iPod dock to me because she wasn’t using it anymore. (Hence why it’s not really new. *wink*)

And now, I adore the dock. It’s sleek, simply, and super-easy to use. Just pop in the iPod, make sure the dock is plugged in, pick whatever album / artist / playlist you want, and press “Play.” It also has volume buttons, great sound quality, and a handle on top for portability. I’ve used this speaker while reading, yoga / meditation, cleaning – even to play background music during a dinner with friends.

I’m Listening to Kingfisher Sky

Have you ever bought a music artist’s new album, then spent weeks listening to nothing but their old and new songs? That happened to me recently when I bought Kingfisher Sky’s album Arms of Morpheus. I’ve been a fan of this Dutch progressive rock band for a few years, so it was wonderful to get to know their newer songs and then be inspired to revisit their “oldies.”

It’s hard to describe Kingfisher Sky’s sound. It’s melodic and folky, with a pleasantly experimental blend of heavier rock with acoustic instruments, a classically trained female vocalist, and cello / flute solos. Their lyrics range in inspiration from nature and relationships to Greek mythology and Irish folklore. If you’re a fan of bands like Within Temptation, Anathema, Porcupine Tree, and Blackmore’s Night, then you might like Kingfisher Sky’s music.

If I had to recommend one Kingfisher Sky song, I’d start with “November” (see the above video clip) from their first album Hallway of Dreams. Here are my other favorites by them:

I Visited An Unlikely Story, a Local Indie Bookstore

unlikely-story-logoHow much of a travesty is it that this indie bookstore in Plainville, MA (the next town over from me) has been open for 2 years, and up until recently I had NEVER been there? 😮

An Unlikely Story is owned by Jeff Kinney (author of the bestselling Wimpy Kid series for children) and his wife Julie, and it’s absolutely charming. In addition to the bookstore, which sells books in a wide variety of genres, it houses a cafe and a second story (literally) for hosting author events, book clubs, and yoga classes. They also offer a number of kid-friendly activities like storytime, arts and crafts, dance hours, and educational workshops.

unlikely-haul-february-2017

My “Unlikely” haul. Have you read any of these books?

I loved Unlikely Story the moment I walked in the front door. The main shop area felt warm and inviting, and it was a joy talking to one of the on-duty booksellers about the shop and how happy I was to finally visit. (She seemed thrilled to hear it!) And of course, I couldn’t help but buy a few books. See the photo on the right. 

So, yes, consider me an Unlikely Story patron for years to come. And if you’re ever in the Plainville area (about 30 minutes northeast of Providence, RI and 40 miles southwest of Boston), make sure you visit it, too! 😉

Finally, I’m Grateful For YOU

I’ve said it before in countless posts… But I really appreciate the friends I’ve made in the blogosphere, on social media, and elsewhere in my writing life. Whether it’s been your understanding, encouragement, thoughtfulness, good humor, and excitement over the upcoming Iceland trip (including donor’s responses to receiving their perks – yay!), please know that it makes me smile and feel better every day, good or bad. Thank you for being you, and for being there for me. (*hugs*)

What are some of the things that made you happy in February?  

Original banner image: Genessa Panainte @ Unsplash

38 thoughts on “What’s Making Me Happy: February 2017

  1. I love oranges! I may have accidentally talked a friend into coming over and bringing me a bunch next week because I was just going on about how I love oranges. And there might be some tangerines thrown in!

    I haven’t seen Hidden Figures, but I’m hoping to get around to it sometime. And several other movies, like LEGO Batman. :p And Beauty and the Beast this month!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hahahaha, then I hope you get those oranges and tangerines soon! 😉

      I’m actually not sure if I’ll see Beauty and the Beast. I’ve been leery of all the live-action remakes Disney has been doing of their animated classics, and wondering whether they’ll live up to my expectations of them. (Example: I didn’t really care for Maleficent.)

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      • I’ve only see the Cinderella thing and thought it looked gorgeous but was kind of awkward at times. I’ve tried to temper my expectations, but Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorites, so I really want to give it a chance before I quit on the live-action ones for good.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Even though I’ve only been following your blog a short while, Sara, I think I can speak for more than myself in thanking you for it. So thanks to you, FOR you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll second the above comment – you, along with the wonderful community of book bloggers I’ve encountered online during the last couple of years have certainly contributed to keeping the winter blues at bay! Himself is another source of happiness – he is my rock and fervently believes in me and what I’m trying to do… Music is also a source of happiness, as well as reading. I love diving into a book and discovering within the first couple of pages that I’m engrossed. I’m also blessed in having the loveliest bunch of students in both my Creative Writing classes as well as a wonderful circle of friends and a very supportive family. Having recently emerged from a nightmare scenario in my personal life, I was struck by just how many kind, concerned people were there for me right through the whole miserable period, which dragged on for months… I have a lot to be very happy about! Thank you for a wonderful article that has given me the opportunity to reflect on all my joys:).

    Liked by 2 people

  4. First, that pile of books you bought could have been MY pile of books. Every one is on my TBR! And second, I just had a blood orange for the first time and the juice stained my clothes, so yeah. That’s it for me and blood oranges, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • *lol* I actually read The Bear & The Nightingale right after buying it, and adored it. So I hope you enjoy it, too!

      About the blood orange: Oops. Um, well, there are always other kinds of oranges? 😄

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  5. New gadgets always make me happy! (Even when they’re not *technically* new, I guess 🙂 )

    And that’s such an amazing haul! I envy folks who live near indie bookstores. I would love to give them more business, but there are literally none within an hour’s drive of me. It seems An Unlikely Story does have a great selection, if you could find all those titles in one place 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • They actually had a pretty small sci-fi / fantasy section, compared to other genres. (YA had three top-to-bottom bookshelves, while SF&F only had one). But it was the overall environment of the store that sold me. I’m going to keep an eye open for their upcoming events so I can get down there more often. They actually had Maggie Stiefvater stop there for her book tour last year, and I would have gone… except that her event sold out a couple weeks in advance.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bookstore shelving is interesting, and perhaps a little misleading these days, since so many books fit more than one category. I think SF and to a lesser extent Fantasy have lost out in this century to YA, since so many popular YA books and series would have been classified and shelved as SF in the past. Nearly all YA Dystopia novels are set in the future and therefore SF according to its older definition.

        I both write and read YA books, though it’s quite a while since I was a teenager! Oddly enough, when I was a teenager I never minded if the protagonist of a novel was older.

        My own YA Dieselpunk Trilogy which would definitely had been SF in the last century. Likewise Steampunk, though that is usually set in a mythologized 19th Century.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think it depends on the bookstore itself too, though. My favorite independent bookseller on Cape Cod (Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee) has a FANTASTIC SF&F section. I think it’s because of the booksellers there is a SF&F fan, so he stocks it all sorts of genre classics, popular books, and others. Most Barnes & Noble stores I’ve been to also have an extensive SF&F selection. So, again, it might also depend on the store’s staff. But at An Unlikely Story, which features a lot of kid-friendly activities and other offerings, it’s not as surprising that they would have a more extensive YA section than SF&F.

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  6. Aw. I’m sorry you’re not feeling well. My depression has been flaring up so I totally get that. And it’s not weird to eat citrus in the winter. That’s when it ripens! I have fond memories picking grapefruits and oranges from my grandpa’s trees in winter. As for things that make me happy … I’m really happy about how my drawing style has matured and I’m starting my Starbloods rewrite next week!

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Tori. (*hugs*) And I’m sorry to hear your depression has been flaring up. I know you lost your grandfather recently, but does the season sometimes do a number on your mood?

      That’s a lovely memory of fruit-picking with your grandfather. I still remember going apple-picking with my maternal grandfather when he was alive. 🙂

      Good choices for February happiness. Your trip to Canada would be another good one. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. That book shop sounds wonderful. That sort of atmosphere you don’t find online.

    I am happy that I got accepted into a course I want to do in September. 😊

    I also agree with the comments above. I am thankful to you for creating and maintaining this blog. Which I very much hope to get caught up with again. ☺

    Liked by 1 person

    • Phoenix!! I haven’t seen you around in a while! I hope you’re doing OK…?

      An Unlikely Story is wonderful, yes. (Most indie booksellers are, IMO.) I’m already looking forward to my next trip there, whenever it happens. 🙂

      Oh, nice! What kind of course is it?

      Thank you, Phoenix. This month has been trying, but I’m doing my best. (*hugs*)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That sounds good, Sara. Irish bookstores also have big SF and Fantasy sections. I should perhaps have applied my comments more to the way genre sales are reported than to the shelving of particular bookstores.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. There’s a book shop just past the state line here that I’ve always wanted to bring my girls to. They do not have a love of reading, and I feel responsible for that. Maybe if I’d taken them there when they were young? This store has an incredible selection of any kids’ book imaginable.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Definitely liking this new monthly series on the blog. I’m always looking for new music recommendations (my connection is slow at the moment), so I’ll surely check them out while I can. I’m currently going through a violin and cello obsession phase, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy the music. 🙂
    Glad to know you’re enjoying your new iPod dock. That was very nice of your friend. 🙂
    Do take care and have an even better March, Sara! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you live violins and cellos, then maybe you’d also like Lindsey Stirling and Eklipse. They’re more or less instrumental acts (usually no vocals, in other words), but I like their music a lot, too.

      I’m trying to have a better March. The past couple days have been tough, but I’m doing the best I can. Thanks for your thoughtfulness, Nandini. (*hugs*)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been listening to a lot of Lindsey Stirling lately. Thanks for the other recommendation. I’ll listen to them next when I sit down to read again. 🙂
        I’m sure it’ll only get better from here, Sara, what with the excitement over your upcoming trip. Have a nice day! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Nandini. 🙂 Right now I’m day-to-day, but optimistic. I’ll explain why when I’m ready to post a writing update… which should hopefully be soon. I’m trying to finish my due-in-April DIY MFA article before my trip, so that’s been my priority lately.

        Speaking of which: ICELAAAAAND!!! *lol* I’ll be there in 4 weeks, which is crazy to think about. But I have a to-do list of things to buy or take care of before then. Not a long list, but I’m trying to check off one item from that list each day so that I’m prepared for the trip when it’s time to fly out.

        If recommendations help, here are some of my favorite Eklipse songs: Run, In The End, Clocks, Set Fire to the Rain, Cry Me a River, and Wonderful Life.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Writing Links 3/6/17 – Where Genres Collide

  12. I’ve been eating oranges more than ever this month. I didn’t know they ripened this time of year, like Tori said. That explains why they taste so good!

    Cool music, I will check it out! The indie bookstore sounds like a special place. I wish I was close enough to visit!
    Interesting collection of books you bought there. I haven’t seen those ones yet. Are they part of your mermaid research?

    What’s making me happy is new glasses, seeing Doctor Strange, and getting 2/3 the way through my revisions!
    I’m sorry this month has been rough. Hopefully March will be better, especially with spring coming closer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ^^ It also explains why there are SO many kinds of oranges available right now, too. 🙂 Plus, they just have a “sunny” taste that helps melt away the winter blues, don’t they?

      As far as I know, none of the books I bought have mermaids in them. They’re either books that had been on my radar, or (in Juliet Marillier’s case) were written by authors I’m already a fan of.

      Thanks for the well wishes, btw. The first week or so of March has been rough, but I’m doing my best to stay positive.

      Like

  13. What I love about you, Sara — okay, there are a lot of things I love about you — but one of them is your ability to find the positive despite the struggles you face. This is a beautiful post, so full of inspiration, and it reminds me to count my blessings.
    I’ll definitely be looking into Kingfisher Sky. Seems right up my alley 🙂
    Hidden Figures was a wonderful movie. Very uplifting. My sister and I keep meaning to see Lion, but life keeps interfering ;P
    The indie bookstore seems like a great find and what a great haul 🙂 All those books are high on my TBR!
    Here’s hoping to a better March for us all. Keep that head high, my dear! I’m glad to be here for you as you have been there for me with words of support & encouragement ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • *lol* Thank you, Faith. It’s really important to practice gratitude and find small happinesses when life gets rough. It reminds us that there’s always something to look forward to or give thanks for, and that it’s unhealthy for us to hyperfocus on the negative. I’m still having some issues with that right now… but I’m working on it.

      I think we had talked before about music, and you’re familiar with bands like WT and Nightwish. Kingfisher Sky isn’t as heavy as either, but I think you’d like their music quite a bit. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m glad that you’re able to find some positive things among the grim days. I’ve never tried tangelo, but now I want to! And I’m definitely checking out Kingfisher Sky – it sounds like it might be somewhere along my tastes. Thank you for a recommendation!
    I hope March turns out much better for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Joanna. The first week / several days of March have still been tough. But I’m doing the best I can. And you’re very welcome for the tangelo and Kingfisher Sky recommendations. 🙂

      Like

  15. I’ve been hearing such great things about Twelve Kings of Sharaki. I’m​ curious.
    And can you believe I’ve yet to see Hidden Figures. Maybe I’ll go the movies today. I saw Get Out n wished I’d seen Logan instead. Get Out was okay, but I could’ve waited for it to hit Amazon, at least.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, definitely see Hidden Figures when you have a chance. And I’ve heard good things about Twelve Kings of Sharakhai, too. Not to mention I haven’t read many desert-based fantasies, so it will be a unique read.

      Like

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