What’s Making Me Happy: February and March 2018

It’s been a strange two months. Strange in terms of weather here in Massachusetts, since February was milder than average (our temps were close to 70 deg F a few days!) and March clobbered us with four snowstorms in three weeks. Strange in terms of life in general, too. My blogging time has taken a HUGE hit because of work and other things. So if I haven’t replied to your comments yet or visited your blog in a while, I’m very sorry, and I hope you understand why. 😦

Yet, as frustrated as I’ve been, I never cease to find “real-life magic.” So let’s use this What’s Making Me Happy post to highlight that magic, and also to catch up on things.  How’s everyone doing? What have you been up to? Were February and March kind to you? (I hope so!) And what are some of the things that have sparked your sense of joy recently? Like last time, I’ll share three things from each month, starting with…

What Made Me Happy in February 

I Finally Got a Smartphone

Remember this photo from my recent “Building My Cathedral” post? It was the first selfie I took on my new smartphone! (No, that wasn’t a typo. I didn’t have a smartphone until early February. 😮 )

Tbh, I could have turned on the “smart” capabilities for my previous phone (an LG Extravert). But I’d chosen not to, since I was under the impression that I couldn’t afford a smartphone. But after having issues with the old phone last year, I did my homework – and I realized I actually could work a smartphone plan into my budget.

So, yes, I’ve converted! It’s been a learning process, especially since I don’t want to accidentally exceed my monthly data limit. But right now I’m enjoying the little things about my new phone. Like FINALLY seeing the emojis in my friends’ texts and being able to use them in mine. And having a pretty ringtone that plays when someone calls me (I chose a 30-second clip of “Ancient Stones” from the Skyrim OST). And being able to take good-quality photos on the fly. In fact, many of the photos you’ll see in this post were taken on my smartphone. Woohoo!

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I Ate Haitian Food for the First Time

In last week’s Creativity Corner post, I mentioned that one of my closest friends is from Haiti and how we’ve been talking about her culture as research for my current manuscript (as well as me fulfilling a genuine desire to learn more about Haiti). So it was only a matter of time before the conversation turned to food, and she said, “You know, you should try some Haitian food.” My answer: “Where?? And when?!”

So a few weeks ago, we went to Jeano’s, a Haitian / Caribbean restaurant in the city of Brockton. It’s small but family-oriented, with a fun and inviting atmosphere. My friend and I split a few appetizers for dinner: fried griot (pork) and tasso (beef), fried green plantains, red rice with kidney beans, akra (malanga fritters), and Haitian patties (savory fried dough pastries), with pikliz (pickled vegetable relish) and sòs (a spicy sauce made from tomato paste and chicken broth) for condiments. And everything was delicious! Very flavorful and filling, and my favorites were the patties and the plantains. My friend also talked about Haitian cuisine in general, from how certain dishes are prepared to other dishes she makes at home.

After dinner we “continued my education” (as my friend worded it) at Vicente’s Supermarket, a grocery store that caters to the local Cape Verdean, Latino, and Caribbean population. It’s set up like other supermarkets I’ve shopped in, but many of the product offerings are foods not typically sold in those stores. There was so much to see, smell, and learn in every department, from product to meat and seafood; and I went home inspired and motivated to continue working on my story – and very full from everything I ate! (I also brought home a bag of sweet plantain chips and a sample of crema de leche, a milk-and-sugar candy that’s similar to fudge. Yum!)

I also took photos at Vicente’s, since I knew that would help me retain what I learned. You can check them out in the slideshow above.

I Went to a Tea Tasting / Class on Taiwanese Oolongs at MEM Tea Imports

If I had to pick a favorite type of tea, it would be oolong. (Not sure what oolong tea is? Click here to check out some of my oolong reviews for A Bibliophile’s Reverie.) And during my time as a tea reviewer, some of the samples I enjoyed most were oolongs from the island of Taiwan. So when the friend who introduced me to tea a few years ago invited me on a Saturday tea excursion, including a class on Taiwanese oolongs at a local tea shop… Well, let’s just say it was a no-brainer. 😉

The tea class / tasting took place at MEM Tea Imports, a tea shop just north of Boston. During the class, MEM Tea employees gave a 90-minute presentation on their recent trip to Taiwan, showing photos and sharing their observations on Taiwan’s tea gardens, traditional methods for processing oolong tea, and Taiwanese tea culture. And during short breaks in the presentation, we drank – what else? – tea! Seven different Taiwanese oolongs and one Taiwanese black tea, to be exact. In short, the class was fascinating. I always love learning about subjects I’m passionate about; and when that learning also appeals to the senses, it elevates the experience to a whole other level.

What Made Me Happy in March

I Listened to Michael Brant Demaria’s Ocean

Inspired by the oceans of our world, Michael Brant Demaria’s Ocean combines ambient keyboards and pianos with melancholy flutes and occasional percussion. So it’s not an album of real ocean sounds, but rather a collection of mesmerizing, richly textured soundscapes that ebb, flow, and swell the way the ocean does. Some tracks are soothing and meditative, like watching the water glisten under sunlight or swimming in the shallows. Others are more haunting and mysterious, the darkest depths of the sea with the rare ray of sunlight penetrating through. I love listening to it all the way through at work, during my “wind-down” hour before bed, or during a weekend morning yoga session at home. And when it ends, I sometimes hit “Play” again. 🙂

Check out “Open Water” via the YouTube clip above. It’s one of my favorite songs from Ocean, along with “In Search of Home,” “Finding Forever,” and “Transformation.”

I Watched Black Panther

AHHHHHH!!!!! I’d been SO excited about this movie, ever since T’Challa was introduced in Captain America: Civil War. And the final product was mind-blowingly awesome. Visually it’s stunning, from the special effects to the blend of traditional African cultural elements and advanced technology. But the true highlights were the acting (don’t make me choose favorites – everyone delivered!), the presence of important female characters and their range of strengths (diplomats, activists, engineers, warriors), and the overall tone of compassion and empowerment.

I think I’ll stop there, only because I could go on and on about how much I love this movie and am so thrilled for its success. Just know I’m officially on #TeamPanther – and yes, I would like tickets to Black Panther II now please! (Wait – what do you mean Black Panther II hasn’t been confirmed yet?!?!)

I’m Sipping Menghai Brown Bingcha Pu-erh Tea from In Pursuit of Tea

This isn’t Menghai Brown Bingcha, but this Yiwu Long Yan Hao Puerh cake from In Pursuit of Tea looks a lot like it.

This winter, Sundays at home have become “Pu-erh Days.” As I prepare to write / do laundry / etc. in the late morning, I brew some Menghai Brown Bingcha pu-erh tea, which two friends had given me for my birthday last year. What is pu-erh tea, you ask? It’s an aged Chinese tea made from black or green tea leaves, and can be found in either loose-leaf form or pressed into cakes, bricks, and other shapes. This particular pu-erh brews up dark and rich, with an earthy, slightly mushroom-y flavor palette. So it’s more of a savory tea and an acquired taste, but it’s delicious when you get used to it. Plus, it’s good for multiple steeps, which means the flavors and aromas change with each cup. I typically stop after the third cup, though – the caffeine makes me a little lightheaded by then!

Unfortunately, Menghai Brown Bingcha is no longer available from In Pursuit of Tea. But you can check out their current pu-erh selection and other teas here. You can also learn more about pu-erh tea in general at MEM Tea Imports here.

What were some of the things that made you happy in February and March? Have you ever been to a tea tasting, or tried Haitian food? What was the last ethnic food you enjoyed at first taste? Are you usually quick to get the latest technology, or do you wait until it becomes more affordable?

30 thoughts on “What’s Making Me Happy: February and March 2018

    • Yes! Do either that, or find one thing to be grateful for every day. I started doing the latter on a daily basis 5 or 6 years ago, and it has made a huge impact on my life. I hope whatever small positive change you make does the same for you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Great post, Sara. The tea tasting sounds fun!
    We usually have a warm February followed by a harsh March, but this year February was cold and March was warmer. Now we’re in April and we’re getting plenty of snow. I wish it would act like spring around here.
    I hope April is a productive writing month for you!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Mandie! Yes, the tea tasting and class was a lot of fun. My friend and I have already talked going to another one at MEM Tea in the future. 🙂

      So your February and March weather was flip-flopped, too? Huh. That seemed to happen to a lot of people this year…

      I hope your April is a productive writing month for you, too! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Honestly, I’m with you as far as technology goes. I’ve had a smartphone for a while now, but I definitely wait for things to get cheaper. I am far too clumsy to pay too much for delicate things!

    The weather here has been pretty cold and snowy too, but thankfully spring is coming! I am feeling thankful every time I look out of my front window and see the pink blossom on the tree outside. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Exactly! And not only is it a matter of affording the technology, but also a question of whether you really need it. A smartphone – yes, that’s essential for many reasons. But I don’t have a tablet, or any smart-home tech, or things like that – and I don’t need them, either.

      Not many flowers have blossomed here yet, tbh. I think the stream of snowstorms last month sent most plants into shock. (*lol*) Poor things… But I was visiting a former professor at my alma mater recently, and passed (what I think is) a spirea bush. Some of its small, white flowers were beginning to open – and that gave me hope that true spring will be here soon. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • That’s true. And a smartphone isn’t necessary for some people. I was talking to someone recently who doesn’t have a smartphone, and doesn’t see the need for one either. We all have different requirements, I guess. I’ve heard that some smart home stuff is proving beneficial to certain disabled people. But for me, it’s not necessary, and would actually worry me a little!

        Poor things indeed. I feel like all I need to be happy right now is the sun’s wamrth on my face and to see green around me again. 😊

        Liked by 2 people

    • LOL! Thank you, Mogsy. My first choice of ringtone would have been something by my favorite band, Anathema. But the app I downloaded didn’t have any of their songs available… So then I looked up Skyrim on a whim, and BINGO!

      Your ringtone song is very pretty, btw. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations on getting a smartphone – I had one of my mother’s castoffs initially and loved it so bought one on a monthly plan and then converted my husband who loves keeping track of the cricket scores! I thoroughly enjoyed your article – Haitian food sounds lovely and so do the teas you’ve been tasting:). We had a mild February and much colder, snowier March which very much is the wrong way around – I hope that April gives you plenty more content for your next post in this series, Sara:).

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Sarah. 🙂 This was definitely a sensory-driven Happy post, between the food, the teas, and the music. I’d actually like to go back to Jeano’s sometime – I already know what I’d order! Plus, they had a sweet plantain ice cream sundae dessert that looked TO DIE FOR in the menu photo. But I was so full… *lol*

      Your February and March sounds a lot like mine. And I agree, the months were flip-flopped from how they should have been weather-wise. And so far, April has been seasonable and wet. Maybe it’s following the old saying, “April showers bring May flowers”?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes… you’re right about the April showers – and I have to say, the flowers are looking wonderful. The magnolia trees are absolutely dripping with flowers. But it would be nice to have a bit more sunshine so we can appreciate them!

        Sweet plaintain ice cream sundae sounds wonderful:)). Thank you for the post – it was properly uplifting.

        Liked by 3 people

  4. I got my first smartphone last August, a Samsung Galaxy which has proved better than I expected. I feared the many features of a smartphone would make it a better computer than phone, like the watch in one of the ‘SPY KIDS’ movies which can do everything except tell the time! But the Galaxy generally works fine, and I also use it as a camera a lot, particularly at night when my old phone took terrible photos.

    Liked by 2 people

    • My new phone is a Samsung Galaxy, too! I think I’ve adjusted to it fairly well, though I’m still skittish about mobile data usage. And I agree, the camera on it is pretty good. Much better than the camera on my previous phone; the photos there never came out well.

      What would you say is your favorite thing about your Galaxy, apart from the camera?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I took 39 photographs walking around Cork City tonight! I’m getting snap-happy. Apart from the camera I do like that the screen is big enough for Facebook, for example, though I still use my laptop for much Facebook and all emails. I keep an eye on mobile data usage too (15 GB a month max on my plan) since I listen to Youtube talks and meditations on the Galaxy.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Lol, kinda cracked me up about finally getting a smartphone and being able to see the emojis your friends send. I’m always the last one to update my phone because I wait until it’s totally messed up, so I know what you mean there.
    There are month-to-month plans for smartphones, which I think are best and more affordable.
    That’s cool you tried some Haitian food! I’ve never had Haitian food before, but from the descriptions you gave, some of it is similar to what I typically make/eat.
    Tea tasting sounds awesome. Thanks for that idea. I was trying to think of an outing for a friend and me and that sounds perfect.
    Lol!! 😀 BLACK PANTHER!!! I hope there will be more movies based on that character. I really want to see more of that mountain kingdom.

    Liked by 3 people

    • HAHAHAHA. Yeah, I tend to keep things forever to begin with, so it didn’t surprise me either that I’m the last of my friends to get a smartphone. But I’m really enjoying it so far, and still being careful with my data limits. 😉

      You should try some Haitian food then! Especially if it’s similar to some of the foods you already eat, so you’ll probably like it. 🙂

      I think Marvel would be out of their minds to NOT do another Black Panther movie at this point. Though I bet they’re holding off on announcing anything until after the next Avengers film comes out, just to keep fans in suspense. And based on the trailers I’ve seen, it looks like T’Challa, other characters, and Wakanda will play big roles in Avengers: Infinity War, too.


  6. I’ve long kept a numbered daily gratitude/achievement list in my diary, even when it seems like a waste of time and effort. Gratitude rather than guilt is my objective. At least it answers my Inner Critic’s allegations that I do nothing!

    In APPS/SETTINGS/CONNECTIONS/DATA USAGE/MOBILE my Galaxy tracks my usage on a graph. I can set a warning level (SET MOBILE DATA LIMIT) just below my allowance, which will turn off mobile data if exceeded. It also shows how much data each app is using.

    I don’t have a tablet or ‘smart’ home tech either. In fact, ‘smart’ home tech seems very stupid to me. Appliances are complicated and glitchy enough without adding the woes of the Internet to them. ‘The Internet Of Things’ seems a really stupid idea to me. If Russian hackers can hijack our washing machines we’re living in a Philip K. Dick future! Or past. ‘DO ANDROIDS DREAMS OF ELECTRIC SHEEP’ was set in 1992. Incidentally, my broadband dropped while making this comment, as if to prove my point!

    BLACK PANTHER looks and sounds great! I’m looking forward to the DVD.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: What's Making Me Happy in April:: Leanne Sowul, Writer

  8. YUS! Sweet plantain chips! I’m so addicted to those. XD Plantains are the bomb. I’m so glad you had a fun experience trying foreign foods! I love going to ethnic groceries stores. It’s so much fun. ^ ^ And that tea class sounds so cool!


    Liked by 2 people

  9. Everything sounds amazing! But the only thing I can join in excitement over is BLACK PANTHER!! What a movie!! Never felt so empowered watching women on screen! They can take all my money for a second film!
    Hope April is an awesome month for you 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I’d love to try those teas, and try out some new dishes, maybe Haitian food if its nothing spicy. 🙂

    Black Panther was great, I agree! One of the highlights of the month for me.

    Another thing that’s making me happy is the buds on the trees and signs of spring! There are only a few flowers out right now, but I’m hopefully spring will warm up soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haitian food is spicy, I should warn you. Though when I say “spicy,” I mean “flavorful” and “lots of herbs and marinades.” Their dishes are also filling, and their meats are often fried in oil (though sometimes they’ll boil or bake them). So I wasn’t sure how my stomach would react, since it doesn’t tolerate fried food very well. But I was fine in the end, and I enjoyed the mini-buffet very much.

      And since we’re talking Marvel superheroes… Do you have any plans to see Avengers: Infinity War soon?

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hello, hello! I’m here super-late to remind you of all the things that made you happy back in February and March (chances are that they’ll make you smile again).
    Haitian food sounds nice, and now I really want to try it. I recently tried some oolong tea, and I like the flavor, though I’m not sure if it’s going to become my favorite.
    As for the Black Panther, I saw it recently and was… Well, disappointed. Some of the things were stunning and exciting, but overall, the movie left me cringing – so much, that I don’t think I’ll watch it again.

    Liked by 2 people

    • *lol* I really admire your dedicating in catching up on things, Joanna. My time has been so “crunched” the past few weeks that I’ve instituted a “one-week-and-delete” policy. If I don’t get to a blog post within a week, unless it’s something I really don’t want to miss or it’s written by a good friend, I delete the email notification. :/

      Ah, yes, I remember February now. 🙂 Oolong tea can be a bit of an acquired taste, especially it has a HUGE range of flavors. I’m actually taking another tea class with a different friend in November, and from what I remember reading it will cover a wide range of teas. So that should be fun!

      Oh dear. I’m sorry you didn’t like Black Panther. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • I put myself on a “end of year” deadline. If I can’t catch up by then, I’ll need another game plan…
        Oolong is really nice taste-wise (like a mix of black and green), but I don’t think mine has enough caffeine in it… 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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