What’s Making Me Happy: December 2017 & January 2018

I’m sort of glad now that I decreased my blogging schedule again. Because January was a blur, and not a fun kind of blur. I was buried with work at my day job for most of the month, which cramped my free time to a minimum and zapped my blogging time to… well, zero. :/ But some good things happened in January, too, and I can’t forget or discount any of that goodness.

That’s why I’m grateful for this series. What’s Making Me Happy reminds me of the highlights, fun events, and other recent joys – and after a month that drags you down in some ways, it’s a nourishing perspective to have. This month’s Happy post is twice as delightful, too: I’m covering both December and January, with three joys from each month. And with my slower blogging schedule, this bimonthly format might be the way to go from now on. What do you think?

Let’s start with…

What Made Me Happy in December 2017

My holiday 2017 book haul! Have you read any of these?

Christmas! And New Year’s!

Christmas is my favorite holiday, so I’m thrilled it’s now a multi-day affair in my family. I traveled to Cape Cod two weekends in a row for different celebrations with my parents and brother. The first time (the weekend before the actual holiday) was to exchange gifts with two aunts who were visiting from Maine. The following weekend, I saw Star Wars: The Last Jediย with my brother (I had some criticisms but ultimately enjoyed it, while he has… well, sworn off all future SW movies). On Christmas Eve,ย we had a small “homemade soup swap” with my parents’ neighbors and exchanged gifts between the four of us. And on Christmas Day, we spent the afternoon with my dad’s side of the family.

As for gifts I received, they included:

New Year’s Eve was quiet. Because of bitterly cold temperatures (highs in the teens Fahrenheit is NOT normal for a Massachusetts winter!) and a sporting event (I love my local NFL team, but man, the local roads become parking lots on game days), I stayed home to work on my WIP, make tomato soup and a grilled sandwich for dinner, and watchย The Dark Knight Rises. And if you’re curious – no, I didn’t stay up until midnight. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I Rediscovered Christmas Music from My Childhood

As I prepared to host a holiday party for my friends, I spent (waaaaaay too much) time online hunting for instrumental Christmas music that my parents used to play when I was little. The tough part? I couldn’t remember the artist’s name or album title, only that the songs featured the hammered dulcimer. But the best part? I FOUND IT. ๐Ÿ˜€

Actually, I foundย twoย albums’ worth of the music I was searching for:ย A Victorian Christmasย andย A Victorian Noel,ย both by Robin Petrie. I was overjoyed to find them on YouTube and, best of all, available for purchase as MP3s at Amazon. So I was able to play them in the background during my party, and then at my parents’ house during our family celebrations. And now I can listen to them for many Christmases to come.

Above is a YouTube clip of Robin Petrie’s medley of “The Wassail Song” and “The First Noel.” Like other songs on her holiday albums, you’ll also hear harps, pianos, and string instruments. Isn’t it beautiful? Magical, even? โค

I’m Using Cypress and Lavender Essential Oils to Combat Wintertime Circulation Issues

I’ve mentioned before that I have circulation trouble in my hands and feet (especially my toes) during the fall and winter. And despite my previous regimen, I had some bad flare-ups around Thanksgiving. So I turned to my essential oils collection, did some research, and made some changes.ย And lo and behold, the effects were soothing – and almost immediate!

So now, after I shower every morning, I massage a few drops of cypress oil (right) into my toes and wear socks to keep my feet warm and avoid getting any oil residue anywhere. (I do this even if I’m staying home for the day.) I also do the same thing at night, just before going to bed, with lavender oil instead of cypress.

Why cypress and lavender? Cypress helps stimulate circulation by increasing bloodflow, which makes it excellent for treating varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Lavender also helps enhance circulation, and its calming floral fragrance makes it ideal for nighttime use (whereas cypress is invigorating and therefore better for daytime application). So if you have similar issues with your hands and feet during the winter months and the usual suspects (foot powder, topical prescriptions, etc.) aren’t working, I recommend trying essential oils like these instead.

What Made Me Happy in January 2018

I’m Watching the Final Season of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper”

How in the world have I not I blogged about “Fixer Upper” before?! I love this home improvement TV show, which follows Chip and Joanna Gaines as they help clients renovate houses in the Waco, Texas area. It also offers glimpses into the Gaines’ life on their farm and with their four young children. So it’s sweet, down-to-earth, and laugh-out-loud funny at times. And maybe for all these reasons, it also feels more genuine than other shows on HGTV.

Oh, and I ADORE Joanna’s decorating style. It’s so timeless, yet it shows off each family’s unique personality perfectly. If Massachusetts was much closer to Texas, I’d ask the Gaines to help me finish my condo renovations in a heartbeat.

So, yeah. I’m really going to miss “Fixer Upper” when its final season ends in a few weeks. But it’s been such a joy to watch, and I wish Joanna and Chip nothing but the best in love, life, and their future business endeavors!

I Read Poetry at An Unlikely Story’s First Open Mic Night of 2018

Back in November, I had to pull out of an open mic night slot at the last minute for health reasons. No such problems this month, though! I read some of my poems during An Unlikely Story’s first coffee house / open mic night of the year. It was sort of a strange night; other performers cancelled at the last minute, and technical difficulties forced the emcee to skip live-streaming the event on Facebook. So I ended up being the first of two performers that night. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Anyway, the audience seemed to enjoy the reading, which consisted of two published poems (“At A Loss” and “The Critic and the Muse”) and a few newer, unpublished pieces. Plus, the emcee asked if I’d be back for the February open mic night. (Yay!) All in all, it felt good to be back onstage reading my work, and now I’m looking forward to doing it on a regular basis at one of my favorite bookstores.

I’m Sipping Tazo’s Decaf Lotus Blossom Green Tea

During a recent trip to Whole Foods, I just so happened to wander down the tea aisle… and found this gem of a bagged tea that I’d been looking for FOREVER. (Well, for what’s seemed like forever! *lol*)

Tazo’s Decaf Lotus Blossom Green Tea is delicate, floral, and very light on the grassy notes. So if you usually avoid green tea for that last reason, Decaf Lotus Blossom might be more to your liking. I can’t say whether it actually tastes like lotus blossoms, since I’ve never consumed one in any way… But the fragrance and flavor is gentle, soothing, and slightly lemon-sweet. Plus, it’s decaffeinated, so it’s perfect for sipping before bedtime.

Click here for more information on Tazo’s Decaf Lotus Blossom Green Tea. You can also find local stores that sell this and other Tazo teas by clicking “Find This Blend” and entering your zip code.

What were some of the things that made you happy in December and January? What were some of your highlights from the end-of-year holidays? Are you a fan of “Fixer Upper” or other home improvement shows?ย 

34 thoughts on “What’s Making Me Happy: December 2017 & January 2018

  1. What a lovely bunch of books you got for Christmas! I got a few good ones also.
    I’ve actually been watching a lot of Fixer Upper right now while I’m home with my kid. It’s reliably entertaining and Chip and Joanna are charming. It’s making me dream of expensive renovations to my own house!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good home improvement shows have a way of inspiring those ideas, don’t they? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Of course, then you hear the cash register chinging in the background… *lol*

      What books did you get for Christmas, btw? I can’t remember if you talked about that on your own blog. The past few weeks have been a blur for me…


      • I haven’t blogged about it yet, you didn’t miss anything lol. I got a couple of new graphic novels, The Book of Dust, and hardcovers of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology and Language of Thorns (which is gorgeous by the way). And my son got a set of Winnie the Pooh books among other things ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I recently discovered Fixer Upper, and now you tell me it’s ended?? I hope there are plenty of episodes to catch up on๐Ÿ˜ I noticed you got The Dovekeepers, that’s one of Hoffman’s books I haven’t read yet. Glad your December and January were good months๐Ÿ˜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ending – not ended, yet. ๐Ÿ˜‰ In hindsight, it’s not really a surprise, since the Gaines have so many projects that have spun off as a result of the show (bakery, a magazine, two bed & breakfasts, a restaurant on the way, on top of real estate, remodeling, and decorating). And Joanna announced a couple weeks ago that they’re expecting Baby #5! So it’s understandable that they have to take the TV show off their plate.

      But yeah, you have 5 seasons worth of episodes to watch. You’ll be good with that show for a while. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Yes, The Dovekeepers! I think I’m going to read Practical Magic first, though. That’s the one I’ve been looking forward to most.

      Thanks for stopping by, Tammy! ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. Great wrap up of what’s been going on the last few months, Sara. That’s interesting information about Cypress oil.
    I was a little relieved that those books are your recent acquisitions and not the books you recently read. I’m always astonished on how fast people go through books. A part of my reading time goes into blogs, articles, editing, and such, so while I read a lot, the stack of finished books is only added to at a slow and steady rate.
    That lotus blossom tea sounds good too. Here’s an interesting tidbit about green tea. One of the chief complaints about green tea is that it’s too bitter. This is usually caused by being steeped in water that’s too hot (should only be about 175 degrees) and for too long (should only steep for 1 minute). For a stronger flavored tea, add more tea leaves instead of steeping for longer. These are common mistakes even at places that serve tea. I just realized I may love tea a little too much. I have a lot of loose leaf tea in my house. Although, I found a bagged toasted rice tea by Numi that is wonderful for when I don’t want to pull out the tea leaves and teapot.
    Great post! I feel uplifted going into today. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh gosh, yes, those books are only new acquisitions! *lol* If I read all of them back to back, it would probably take me a couple months. I typically read about 4 to 5 books a month, depending on their length, my interest in them, and how busy / not busy I am. But I know plenty of people read the same number of books in less time…

      You know your stuff when it comes to green tea. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And the “bitterness when oversteeped” bit is really important. I’m not sure how I forgot to put that in the post – but thank you for pointing it out here!

      And, Mandie, believe me, there is no such thing as loving tea a little too much. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I’m really looking forward to it. I might try to read it sooner rather than later, too, because one of my friends borrowed The Emperor’s Blades from me and loved it. So now he’s waiting to borrow Books #2 and #3 from me. ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. Ooh! Great books! I loved Code Name Verity and gave it to a couple of people as gifts after I read it. And I love Alice Hoffman — her descriptions are so beautiful. If you like Practical Magic, you can read the prequel, which just came out : The Rules of Magic. Other favorites of hers are Blackbird House and The Probably Future.

    And soup for Christmas Eve! When I’m at my parents’ house for the holidays, we have a tradition of French Onion soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and a movie for Christmas Eve. Sounds like you’d fit right in with us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I’ve heard great things about Code Name Verity. Not sure when I’ll get around to reading it, but I’m looking forward to it. And I’ve already borrowed two Alice Hoffman books from a friend (Here on Earth and Fortune’s Daughter), and had so-so luck with them. So I hope I’ll fare better with Practical Magic and The Dovekeepers.

      Mmmmmmmmm, grilled cheese sandwiches with soup. That does sound like a delicious, low-key Christmas Eve! Though I’m a bigger fan of tomato soup than French onion, but that’s me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thanks for stopping by, Amanda!


  5. Sounds like a wonderful Christmas! ๐Ÿ™‚ I did stay up while midnight, and went to sleep about five past. ๐Ÿ˜€

    It’s great that you got to read your poetry! I don’t think I could be brave enough to do something like that.

    I read The Handmaid’s Tale this year, and studied it for my class in college. I really enjoyed it, the language Margaret Atwood uses is really beautiful in places. I’m looking forward to reading more of her stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • So you stayed up to see the New Year begin? ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve only done it once, as far as I can remember. It was the year I went to a friend’s NYE party. It was fun, but also a little weird because the friend who invited me was the only person I really knew there. And I’m not exactly a social butterfly…

      Yes, it was great to read live again. I think the next one is in late February. So it’s not quite time to think about what I’ll read then, but I already have a couple ideas.

      Oh good! Just about everyone I know who’s read The Handmaid’s Tale has had nothing but praise for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • I did. I have done the last few years. I don’t really know why. Yes, I know that feeling. I’m not particularly a social butterfly either.

        It is a thought-provoking book. I’ll be interested to see what you think of it. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  6. First of all, AHHH!! That Game of Thrones live concert!! Thanks for sharing the link! I’ll definitely gonna try to get tickets and go.
    I can totally relate to the busy January. I almost didn’t get time to blog. I’m just lucky that now my job doesn’t include much writing so I’m not burnt out and don’t mind writing when I get home.
    Lol! Fixer Upper is awesome! I love that show. I haven’t been able to watch this season though because other peeps hog the TV, but I’ll binge on it when it’s all done.
    And you got some awesome gifts! As for the books, I’ve got Practical Magic, which I plan to read sometime this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • AHHHHHH YAAAAAASSSSS!!!!! XD ๐Ÿ˜€ I hope you get to go to one of the shows!!

      I hope your January busyness had some positives to it, and wasn’t necessarily work-related or stressful / tiring.

      Season 5 of Fixer Upper has been pretty good so far. I think Season 3 or 4 is still my favorite at the moment, but that was around the time I started watching the show. So I guess they’re sentimental choices. ๐Ÿ™‚


      • There were loads of positives to the busyness, so it wasn’t too bad thankfully.

        Lol probably. I don’t recall at what season I started watching it. I just immediately fell in love with the show. I wish I owned a cottage and Joanna could come design it for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the look of Practical Magic and When the Moon Was Ours looks great. I thoroughly enjoyed Fade Out – I hope you like it too, Sara:). Your Christmas sounds lovely and although you have clearly had a hard time at work, hopefully sufficiently positive things have been going on in your life. I’m going to try massaging my feet with lavender oil at night, as I tend to suffer with cold feet even when the rest of the bed is hot. I hope you have a lovely February and work gets less stressful, Sara!

    Liked by 1 person

    • When The Moon Was Ours is โค โค <3. I borrowed it from my local library last year and loved it so much that I knew I needed to get my own copy. ๐Ÿ™‚ And definitely check it out if you can, Sarah. I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on Anna-Maria's work. (She's also written The Weight of Feathers and Wild Beauty.)

      Ooooh, yes, do try the lavender oil, too. Just two or three drops, though, unless you find one that's diluted with some coconut oil or another carrier oil. Lavender can still be potent on its own, so you don't want to overdo it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      We'll see how work goes over the next few weeks. In the meantime, I'm going to keep my mind focused on the things that matter most to me. Doing that helps me feel more calm and relaxed – and a little less scatterbrained.

      Thanks as always for stopping by, Sarah. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  8. There are lots of happy moments here! I hope February is a much less stressful month for you! That’s so exciting about the Game of Thrones live concert! I’m dying to go to a live concert for Legend of Zelda or Lord of the Rings. I know it’s a while a while but I hope you have an amazing time! Drink lots of tea and stay warm!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Tori. ๐Ÿ™‚

      You bet I’m excited already for the end of September! I feel like a little kid on a trampoline, just thinking about the GoT concert. And I second the LoTR concert, too. That would be amazing to experience…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I will have to look into that Tazo tea, it sounds delicious.

    I stayed up to greet the New Year, and it was fun and simple, watching the NYC event on TV. It was so frigidly cold here, though; that whole week was!

    I’m glad you were able to read your poetry at the mic this time. That must have been a wonderful experience. Some day I might have to try something like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s an absolutely lovely tea. ๐Ÿ™‚ I think if you check out the link I provided to Lotus Blossom Green on Tazo’s website, you should be able to search which local stores sell the tea.

      Ohhhhhhhh yaaaaahhhhh, that week was c-c-c-c-c-cold! It hasn’t been nearly so frigid since then, but it’s been a weird rollercoaster ride of mild and cold, rain and snow. How has it been up your way weather-wise lately?

      Yes, it was great to read at the open mic night. ๐Ÿ™‚ Their next one is in 2 weeks – which reminds me: I should email the emcee soon to reserve my spot! So thanks for the indirect reminder. ๐Ÿ™‚


  10. Pingback: The Creativity Corner: Winter 2018 | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  11. Pingback: What’s Making Me Happy: February and March 2018 | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

  12. I’m really happy that despite your January being busy and tiresome, you found things that made you happy.
    When I read this post, my first reaction was: I have the singing bowl (the Tibetan bowl, as we call it in Polish) too! I got one as a gift some fifteen years ago from a dear friend who visited India and Tibet at the time, and I took it with me to Ireland, then to the US. I haven’t played it in a long while, though. Maybe I should.
    As for Tazo, you got me curious, but so far my experience with this brand was rather negative. They aren’t bad for teabags tea, but their flavor combinations do not agree with me (they always seem great until that one odd ingredient that ruins the tea for me). But maybe I’ll give it another shot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have a singing bowl, too?? ๐Ÿ˜€ It definitely takes practice to learn how to “make it sing.” The way you have to hold the bowl so your grip doesn’t interfere with the vibrations, the way you trace the mallet around the rim, the speed and pressure of your motions… Sometimes mine makes a high-pitched grating noise. I’m not sure what causes it – maybe either from going too quickly with the mallet or the contact between the rim and the mallet isn’t smooth enough – but I’m slowly getting better at eliminating that from my playing.

      I agree about Tazo – most of their teas aren’t that great. I do drink their Zen green tea with lunch at work (it’s more convenient to use bagged teas there). But one time I was at a restaurant, and when I ordered green tea with my meal the waitress brought out the Decaf Lotus Blossom Green… and I was pleasantly surprised by it. It’s one of their better teas, IMO.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I’ve had mine for good 15 years now, but I rarely use it nowadays. It was a gift from a friend who went to India and Tibet. I hope you’re enjoying practicing it. ๐Ÿ™‚
        And if you recommend the lotus blossom one, I’ll give it a go once I see it.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: What’s Making Me Happy: August and September 2018 | Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

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