10 reasons to be happy right now

I’m baaaack!

So first, an apology. I’ve been the world’s worst blogger lately (at least on here – over at Theatre Things I’ve been a busy bee). But I’ve been feeling bad about it, and then I got a lovely comment the other day from Sarah that inspired me to try harder. So here I am!

Now part of the problem with happy blogging has been that recently I’ve been slipping back into some bad habits, and keep finding myself moaning about stuff to anyone who’ll listen (and, I’m sure, a few people who look like they’re listening but have actually gone to their happy place).

So I decided to get back to basics, and make a list of 10 reasons to be happy right now. And here they are:

  • Tomorrow is a new day. More importantly, tomorrow is also Saturday.
  • It’s bluebell season.

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  • Next month I get to be bridesmaid for one of my bestest friends. In Greece. On the beach.
  • I totally got 100% on this Friends quiz.
  • The Kinky Boots London cast made an album – not that it wasn’t fun to listen to the Broadway actors attempt a Northampton accent. (I promise you, if you’re ever feeling a bit blue, this show will cheer you right up.)
  • One of my colleagues bought us profiteroles today. They were good.

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This is not my route home from work (sadly). But it’s a nice photo.

What’s making you happy today?

Happy Sunday: free brownies and excited pandas

It’s been quite a week. With a big work event and lots of theatre-ing (more in fact than I’d intended at the start of the week), there’s not been a lot of time for anything else, including sleep. But there’s always time for a bit of good news, so here are a few of the nice things that have happened this week, for me and the world in general.

This week:

I got to go to my first ever award ceremony, when my company was shortlisted for an education award. And even though we didn’t win (fortunately we’d all been practising our ‘gracious loser’ faces), we did get Highly Commended in our category, which was rather exciting – and gives us something to aim for next year 🙂

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My sister Caz shared this story on Facebook about a professional photographer who was inspired to see things differently by his daughter Kaja, who has Down Syndrome and is a natural with a camera. The two embarked on a photographic duel, each taking pictures of the same person or place, and the results from both are really beautiful.

There’s nothing quite like making someone smile, and this week I got that warm fuzzy feeling when I arranged a little surprise for a friend who hadn’t been well. Although it was nothing big or special, the delighted message I got from her yesterday totally made my day.

The snow in North America may not be great for everyone, but these Syrian children, recently arrived in Canada, have never seen it before, and their reaction is a joy to watch, as is the way the family have been accepted into their new community in Ontario.

And while we’re talking about snow, check out the excitement of Tian Tian the panda in Washington. Adorable 🙂

This Monday was Blue Monday (or so the papers would have us believe) – supposedly the most depressing day of the year. So cake shop Konditor and Cook decided to spread a little joy by offering free chocolate brownies, and my friend and I made a special trip on the way to work to get them. So it turns out that literally the only thing in the world that will get me out of bed early… is a free brownie. Good to know.

Free brownie

A teenager from Dublin has invented a life-saving sleeping bag for homeless people, lined with fireproof bubble wrap to keep the user dry and with reflective markings to give them high visibility. Now the bags are being made by people who used to be homeless as a way to get them back into work and help those still on the streets.

I really wasn’t looking forward to this week at work, which we knew was going to be busy and stressful… but we got through it by working as a team, there were no major disasters and – most importantly – it’s all over now 🙂

Tennis player Jo Wilfried Tsonga went to the aid of a ball girl during his Australian Open match on Wednesday, pausing the game to go and ask her if she was okay, and then personally escorting her off the court. And then he won, which seemed only fair after being such a gentleman.

I bought a cosy new dressing gown last weekend, and even though I somehow messed up and picked up the wrong size (still no idea how I did that), it turns out having a dressing gown that’s several sizes too big actually just means there’s more to wrap yourself up in!

How was your week?

Happy Sunday: fudge, friends and football

Hope everyone had a great week! As usual, I’ve been keeping an eye out for good news and happy things to share, both from home and away. What good things happened to you this week?

This week:

  • So technically, this happened a little over a week ago, but I’m still very excited, so it’s going on the list… On January 1st, my year got off to an awesome start when I was asked to write a monthly theatre feature in a local magazine. To say I was excited doesn’t really cover it – I can’t wait to get started.
  • Speaking of local, the youngest person on the New Year Honours List is 13-year-old Jonjo Heuerman from Wilmington. Jonjo’s raised over £235,000 for Cancer Research UK, in memory of his nan, who died of bowel cancer, and his football hero, Bobby Moore.
  • My friend Nina had her first article published on Elephant Journal this week. It’s a great piece about how to deal with life’s ups and downs, and well worth a read. And you can read more from Nina on her blog, The Pollyanna Plan – she’s brilliant and one of the most positive people I know.
  • Chris Dempsey from Illinois donated part of his liver to a complete stranger in 2015, after overhearing one of his colleagues talking about Heather Krueger, a family member who needed a transplant to save her life. Chris and Heather got to know each other in the time leading up to the surgery – which was a success – and now they’re engaged.
  • As part of a work project, I randomly decided at the end of last year that I was going to learn Welsh. The idea of the challenge is to learn as much as possible during January using our language app, and although it’s open to anyone, we’re having our own internal competition in the office, which – as of Friday – I’m winning! (I have a feeling when I go in tomorrow I won’t be any more, so I’m making the most of this small victory while I can.)

Welsh uTalk Challenge

  • Last week, commuters on a morning train from Ascot to Waterloo actually enjoyed their journey for once when the conductor posed a fun music quiz, repeating the question each time new passengers got on. Apparently this is quite a regular occurrence on South West Trains – are you listening, Southeastern…?
  • I was feeling a bit grumpy the other day (yes, it does happen – I’m only relentlessly cheerful when blogging) and then my friend Safia produced her latest amazing creation, Super Sinful Oreo Fudge. It’s basically a heart attack on a plate, but if it did kill you, at least you’d die happy. Unfortunately I was too busy eating to take a photo, but you can see Safia’s pictures – and check out how it’s done – on her blog, My Griffin Way.
  • A woman from Sydney, Meg Churches, has become famous for making tiny wraps to protect orphaned baby bats. The idea behind the wrap is that it replicates their mother’s wings, which is crucial for the bats’ survival. Meg’s design goes under the adorable name of Cuddlebatz, and here’s what it looks like in action:
  • Without wanting to bang on about theatre, this week I’ve seen three fantastic shows – New Jersey Nights (a celebration of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons) at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford, Grey Gardens at Southwark Playhouse, and a second visit to the hilarious Peter Pan Goes Wrong (the link is to my review from the first visit, when the show was touring – it’s now at the Apollo Theatre in the West End, and still brilliant).

Have a great week! 🙂

The Happy Newspaper

You know how it can often feel like nothing good ever happens? Reading the papers or watching the news – even going on social media – it can feel like everything’s war, death, disease, crime, poverty… It really can be pretty depressing.

Well, who knew? It turns out good things are actually happening all the time. And how do I know this? Because of The Happy Newspaper.

The Happy Newspaper

 

The Happy Newspaper is an initiative from designer Emily Coxhead (who also created the Little Box of Happy Things that I mentioned a few weeks ago). Essentially it’s a 32-page publication packed full of good things, without any of the horrible news we’re so used to hearing on a daily basis. And that means it’s a great resource to dip into any time you’re feeling a bit gloomy with the state of the world, and you don’t have time to go and sit by the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.

The first edition of The Happy Newspaper came out a few weeks ago, and I’ve been meaning to blog about it ever since – but I kept getting distracted by things like Christmas. But now that we’re into a new year, I think it’s important to start it off in a good mood, by taking a little look back at all the lovely things that went on in 2015.

The Happy Newspaper

The paper’s broken down by month, with each getting its own summary of good news stories. Things like the 109-year-old Australian man who knits tiny jumpers for injured penguins, or Ireland legalising same-sex marriage, or the firefighters who went back to finish mowing a man’s lawn after he had a heart attack. Whether it’s a huge, life-changing event, or something that really only affected one or two people, it has the same impact when you read it here: a warm glow inside, and the reassuring knowledge that the world isn’t always a horrible, dangerous and unkind place.

Besides the monthly summaries, there are sections devoted to showbiz, travel, poetry, recipes and New Year tips. And there’s an article by Gabrielle from The Green Gables, who you may remember ran the Choosing Happiness e-course I took last year, about the importance of feeling and expressing gratitude.

The Happy Newspaper

But possibly my favourite section is the Everyday Heroes double-page spread, made up of people nominated by their friends, family, colleagues or just casual acquaintances, for being brilliant. Whether it’s a story about a specific event or just their general awesomeness, it’s impossible to read these tributes to amazing people without a smile, and a moment’s reflection on the everyday heroes in our own lives (because we all know at least one).

The Happy Newspaper

It’s clear from the moment you open The Happy Newspaper that it’s an absolute labour of love for Emily and the team of volunteers that helped put it together. I hope they’re all really proud to have been part of something so inspiring; I know I would be. And I hope also that there’ll be future issues, because I think this is exactly what the world needs right now.

You can still purchase the first issue of The Happy Newspaper – it costs just £3.50 and is worth every penny. I know I’ll keep coming back to it again and again, safe in the knowledge that I’ll always find something in there to cheer me up if I’m having a bad day. Or even if I’m not.

Happy reading!

Happy Sunday: Strictly, smoothies and Shetland ponies

I really enjoyed doing Happy Sunday a couple of weeks ago. Not only was it nice to focus on the good things that had happened in my own week; I also heartily recommend Googling ‘good news stories’ if you’re feeling a bit blue.

So let’s do it again, and round up some good news to send us all into Christmas with a smile 🙂

This week:

  • Everyone at my office got free smoothies, after I spotted a piece in the Innocent weekly newsletter a couple of weeks ago, offering freebies to offices around the country. I sent off our company’s details, and then forgot all about it until Wednesday afternoon, when a delivery of 24 super smoothies turned up. Free stuff is always great, but nothing beats the warm glow you get from being the hero who made it happen. I figure I’m owed a few favours now 😉

Free smoothies

  • Maisie Hymers, an 8-year-old girl from Portsmouth, saved more than £400 and bought over 50 presents for children spending Christmas in her local hospital. After she was in hospital herself last year, Maisie realised some children might not have a happy Christmas, and saved up to buy them all board games, teddies and toys. She’s now trying to decide what she can do for next year.
  • I had a great week at work, which included a really exciting meeting (which I can’t talk about yet – but if it all works out, you won’t be able to shut me up). We had a fun pre-Christmas night out on Thursday, which was also super cheap because we’d saved up all our lottery and pub quiz winnings. And I got to appreciate for the millionth time how awesome my colleagues are, when I got sent a rude email and they all supported me, mostly by scouring it for typos.
  • Daffy the Shetland pony made all our hearts melt after he got a special Christmas present – a specially designed foursie. And yes, I know it’s all a big publicity stunt to promote Ascot racecourse, but I don’t care. Because this is literally one of the most adorable things I’ve seen all year.
  • Last night was the Strictly Come Dancing final, which – I’m not going to lie – was always going to be the highlight of my TV viewing year (well, that and episode 3 of Poldark. You know the one I mean). So in honour of the occasion, and just to demonstrate how extremely cool we are, a couple of friends and I had a Strictly final pyjama party. And it was fab.
  • A Texas non-profit, K9s4COPs, has donated a training dog to the French police force, to replace Diesel, the Belgian shepherd who tragically died in the raids following the November 13th Paris attacks. And they’re not the first – Russia also donated a German shepherd puppy called Dobrynya earlier this month.
  • On Tuesday I went to see the Dartford pantomime, Dick Whittington, which was really good fun. It had all the usual cheesy panto stuff, but also included a couple of original touches like a giant kraken and a cool 3D section (and I don’t even like 3D). And as if that wasn’t enough, when I posted my review of the show on Twitter, I got tweeted back by its star, Shane Richie – which, I have to say, was actually pretty exciting.
  • When a 95-year-old pianist from Somerset placed an ad on Gumtree looking for musicians to jam with, he wasn’t expecting over 80 responses from all over the country. Edward Hardy, who has dementia and now lives in a care home, was also reunited with three former band mates who he hadn’t seen for 35 years.
  • The December stationery box from Happy Paper Club arrived on Thursday, and I think it might be the best yet. Alongside a set of greeting cards and a memo pad (super useful, especially when you’re as forgetful as I am), the highlights this month were a canvas bag and a new gratitude journal, which was particularly welcome because mine’s almost full 🙂

Happy Paper Club

How was your week?

PS Remember the loneliest boy in Britain, Aron Anderson? Well, he’s now received over 2,000 Christmas cards and presents as a result of that Reddit campaign. Merry Christmas, Aron!