Summer has been playing ping-pong with our weather here in Massachusetts. Some days it’s sunny, 90+ degrees Fahrenheit, and
disgustingly very humid. Other days it’s rainy and hovering around 70. (Though there have been glorious days in between, often with good timing for my Cape Cod trips. *smiles*) And personally, my month of July mirrored that fluctuation. Without going into detail, it went back and forth between contentedly quiet and productive, to stressful and tiring. 😐
So I’m partly glad that July is almost over, especially since it means the NYC trip is getting closer. (Yay!) It also means that today marks the next installment of What’s Making Me Happy. (Double yay!) So I’m linking up once again with fellow DIY MFA columnist Leanne Sowul and sharing five things that made me smile when I needed it most this past month.
I Baked Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookies
I found a recipe for these delightful cookies from Stonewall Kitchen years ago, and this month I finally gave it a whirl. They’re basically peanut butter thumbprint cookies (where you use your thumb to make an indentation in the middle) filled with jam. I made them for a get-together with friends, and we all agreed that they make an excellent summertime dessert that isn’t overly sweet. It’s also a great option for anyone who’s not a fan of chocolate. (Though I bet a chocolate filling would be YUMMY.)
Interested in the recipe? Check it out at Stonewall Kitchen’s website. Jessica Gavin the Culinary Scientist also has a flourless version here. I recommend natural peanut butter to get a rich PB flavor without the additional sugar, and I alternated between two jams (strawberry and strawberry-peach) that paired well with the dough. These cookies also freeze well, so you can enjoy the leftovers later on.
I Watched “War for the Planet of the Apes”
This might surprise some readers (unless you read this post from 2015 or this one from 2016), but I’ve really enjoyed the Planet of the Apes reboot films, though I haven’t watched the original series. So this month I went with Younger Brother to see the third reboot film, War for the Planet of the Apes. I’ll skip a summary, since I don’t want to spoil anything from the first two films… But I’m still reeling from it days later.
War is (not unexpectedly) the darkest and most violent of the reboot films, and it shows the ape leader Caesar (played by Andy Serkis, who deserves the title of “King of Motion Capture”) wrestling with his inner demons. But it’s also a movie about hope, family, compassion, and remembering what’s most important in life. And while I wasn’t surprised by part of the ending, it still left me speechless and with a lump in my throat. In fact, it feels weird to include War in this post, since it’s not a happy film by any means. But I do think it was incredibly well done and a fitting end to the reboot series. (Or maybe not? Because apparently they’re planning to make a fourth film?? *bewildered head-scratching*)
I’m Listening to Ayreon’s The Source
Back in May, I revisited an album by Guilt Machine, one of many side projects by multi-talented Dutch songwriter / musician Arjen Lucassen. This month, it was all about The Source, the newest album by Arjen’s most famous project, Ayreon. It’s a science fiction metal opera – a description which might leave some of you saying, “HUH?!” So maybe this is a better description: heavy metal meets progressive rock, electronic elements and synthesizers, and folk / classical music, with each CD telling a sci-fi story and involving characters played by some of the most powerful and emotive vocalists (male and female) on the rock and metal scene.
Or I could just say it’s some of the most complex, insightful, and awesome music I’ve ever listened to. Either statement would be true. 😉
Here’s a YouTube clip of “Into the Ocean” from The Source. Not only does this track have a great retro vibe, but it features one of my favorite singers, Tommy Karevik of Kamelot and Seventh Wonder. (You can hear him from 2:53 to 3:22 and from 4:13 to 4:53.) The album also features Simone Simons of Epica, Floor Jansen of Nightwish, Russell Allen of Symphony X, and several other guest vocalists and musicians. If you like what you hear, I also recommend “The Day That the World Breaks Down,” “Sea of Machines,” “Star of Sirrah,” and “All That Was.”
I’m Using doTERRA’s Melaleuca (Tea Tree) Touch
A couple months ago, I attended a yoga and essential oils workshop run by two local yoga teachers who are also sales representatives for doTERRA, one of the leading essential oil companies in the U.S. I purchased two of their oils that evening; and while I love the Whisper blend that I’m using as a fragrance, I’m even more happy with the Melaleuca (Tea Tree) Touch stick. In fact, I need to get a new one soon, because mine is almost empty!
Tea tree is known more for its health benefits than as an aromatherapy oil. It has an herbaceous, minty scent; and it’s excellent for the nails, hair, and skin. This particular tea tree product from doTERRA is diluted with fractionated coconut oil (which is also good for the skin) and features a roll-on applicator for easy use. I’ve used the stick for acne spot treatments at night and alternating with Neosporin on scrapes or paper cuts. And so far, it has helped everything heal more quickly and with little to no irritation. Also, the stick is small enough to carry in your pocketbook or makeup bag, so it’s handy on to the go.
I’m Grateful for OnDemand Cable
This spot was originally reserved for Game of Thrones (because AAAAAHHHH Season 7 has begun and #WinterIsHere AFLJALFJAKFALKFJALKSKLA). But this month I decided to stop watching TV after 9 PM. I typically don’t anyways; I’d already been using my cable’s OnDemand option to watch Black Sails and American Gods at dinnertime. But I was SO excited about Orphan Black‘s Season 5 premiere in June and GoT’s Season 7 kick-off two weeks ago that I made exceptions for both.
Now I know better. Even if I stay up to watch a 10 PM show on a Saturday and sleep in on Sunday, I’m exhausted and unable to focus for days. (Imagine having that [insert favorite TV show title] zombie-hangover for almost a week. Ugh.) It was a lesson twice learned that I should stick to a regular sleep schedule and rely on trusted “wind-down” methods (reading, soft music, and/or journaling) instead of hoping I’m not overstimulated. With OnDemand, I can catch up on each episode whenever it’s more convenient for me. And apart from a couple hiccups, it’s worked out well – and I’m not so sleep-deprived.
What were some of the things that made you happy in July? What are your favorite summertime foods, either healthy or dessert? Do you have any upcoming trips planned?