Backstory: I remember on December 31, 2016, I thought about what I wanted the new year to bring me. One word immediately came to mind and it sums up everything I want to feel, experience and offer in 2017. That word...
a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.
"tears of joy"
synonyms: delight, great pleasure, joyfulness, jubilation, triumph, exultation, rejoicing, happiness, gladness, glee, exhilaration, exuberance, elation, euphoria, bliss, ecstasy, rapture; enjoyment, felicity, joie de vivre, jouissance; literary jocundity "whoops of joy" pleasure, source of pleasure, delight, treat, thrill "it was a joy to be with her"
I'm so happy this word found me. Who wouldn't want joy to be a part of who they are?
Now that summer is officially here, I thought I'd share a few things and places that bring me joy during the summer season.
Food Crush E'ryday
Summer brings out so much flavor that I'm squealing on the inside just thinking about it. There's the grilling (although I'm a firm believer in grilling year round) and fresh fruits galore, because let's face it, the northeast doesn't always offer the same options as the sunnier states.
The weather also brings out my need to go out and explore new foodie spots. I'm loving the outdoor dining in Wayne (which gives me an excuse to stop by one of my favorite indie bookstores Main Point Books), the array of restaurants in downtown Phoenixville, and another favorite - the Reading Terminal Market. How would I describe RTM? Well, it's like a giant indoor market for foodies full of vendors and eateries. I truly believe that just about anything you have the taste for can be found under this roof. Yes, the lines are often long, but they're long for a reason (especially for donuts) because the food choices are just that good. Ever see those "best of" lists? Chances are you'll spot a few dozen of those items on the menus, too. Now that it's summer, I have nothing but time to roam the aisles and explore.
The Reading Terminal Market is year round just like another spot you can find me - the farmers market. There are a few that I like to check out, especially on what I call, #farmersmarketsaturday, but the summertime offerings are bountiful. I will say that my food crushing is not just about the food. Sometimes I like to go to these places just to indulge in all of the senses and let it feed my creativity.
There's no better place to set your sense of sight, taste, touch, smell and hearing into a blissful place than around these places that always bring me joy.
Random Fact: In every novel, I like to share a food related element from areas where I've lived, especially Philadelphia.
Netflix, Hulu, Prime & Binge
DVRs are cool, but I live for on demand programming and marathon television runs filling up my channel guide. Yes, I'm the one that wants to watch an entire season (or all thirteen seasons of Grey's Anatomy) at once. There's something about watching an entire season of Underground or Queen Sugar back-to-back that just brings out every. single. emotion. in my entire existence. And yes, thanks to my oldest daughter, I got caught up in every single episode of Grey's Anatomy last month and watched a couple of seasons twice. It took a few weeks, but it gave me a deeper understanding of a few characters. You know how it is to forget the events from earlier in a story and end up missing the reference later? *shrug* Sometimes that's me.
However my Spring/Summer guilty pleasure is reality TV. I don't indulge all the time because it honestly stresses me out when I indulge over extended periods, but it did encourage me to write a story about a basketball player whose ex joins the cast of a reality show. I guess I could claim I watch it for research, right? Especially since I watch a few of them. (And yes, I'm also the one asking WHY ARE THEY ACTING LIKE THIS ON NATIONAL TV?!? The all caps was on purpose just because that's how I feel far too often.) Ask my friends, they're often on the receiving end of those type of texts during Basketball Wives or Real Housewives of Atlanta. Don't even get me started on Real Housewives of Potomac. Why? I can say watching people fascinate me. Or I can admit that I have been known to eat an entire back of frosted animal cookies just because it's there and they bring some sense of comfort despite having ZERO nutritional value at all.
For me it's just as entertaining as reading a novel full of drama that makes no sense at all, but I can't help staying up late flipping pages just to find out what happens next. I'm trying to do better, but until then I enter a happy place in that moment.
Random Fact: The story I wrote courtesy of watching a little "too much" reality television… Wrong Time, Right Place.
I love flowers and always try to have fresh blooms around. It does more than dress up a table or express a sentiment, fresh flowers lift moods. Rose, ranunculus, sunflowers, hydrangea, tulips, peonies... I love those a lot. It's probably a little obvious because what do you see above on the page? Yep, peonies. *blush*
Trivia Question: Which one of my book covers has peonies on the cover? (click the question for a clue)
I have a few local spots where I buy my fresh flowers - from area florists, the farmers market or even the grocery store. Whatever grabs my eye and fits the mood, I am willing to bring it home. Unfortunately sometimes I can't make up my mind and bring home far too many options, but there's never a such a thing as too many flowers.
I keep an assortment of vases in all shapes and sizes to display them. Ina Garten also often shares a great tip for using regular water glasses when creating dinner table centerpieces. Then there are mason jars and even candle holders for short single stems. I also like to use the Modgy expandable vase that I was given for Mother's Day. (It comes in tons of pretty designs.) It's stable, reusable and all you do is add water to get it to stand (it's flat before filling it with water and not made of glass).
My point is if you catch me with a smile on my face, there's a good chance flowers are nearby.
I never realized the importance of self care until I suffered too long from not making it a part of my daily routine and noticed the effects. What is self care? It's what we do to take care of ourselves - ideally first. This is necessary although often set on the back burner because we tell ourselves it's selfish, there's not enough time or even not enough money.
Self Care doesn't mean you have to book a luxury spa vacation (although that would be nice). Just do what restores and renews you while helping to maintain you until the next time. That is all you need to be on your way and your physical, emotional and mental health will thank you for it.
For me, that includes the time I spend each morning alone with God. I set aside time for Bible study, I pray, I praise,.. I might even just go outside and enjoy nature with a cup of coffee.
I also do little things like shutting off all devices when I go to hair appointments and mani/pedi sessions. I might have a book or listen to music, but I make that a true part of my "me time" and tend to walk out feeling a whole lot better.
Another step I take is what I keep and use around the home. The atmosphere I set helps. Some people enjoy scented candles or music. Perhaps a favorite sleepshirt and slippers or nestling beneath a favorite throw. (All my favorite things!) Whatever works to uplift you - do it. For me, one of my go to product lines is Organic Bath Co. I haven't found a product I dislike yet. They're all organic (hence the name) and make products that bring out our best, healthiest selves in mind. A few of my favorites include their 100% Pure Argan Oil for my hair, skin and nails, Zesty Morning body wash and ALL of the body butters. (Click this link for 15% off your first order, plus between now and July 4th all orders include free shipping.) And be sure to try their stress less products. Bliss in a bottle.
Say My Name
I wasn't always a fan of my name, but now I not only embrace it, I showcase it. From monogramed desk accessories to jewelry, I love my incorporating my name or initials whenever possible and this summer I can't get enough of making it a part of my wardrobe. Nothing flashy... just a little something represents a part of me.
I recently found this necklace by CAI - Cool and Interesting at Her Hideout Boutique and it's one of my favs. (I believe they ship!) They come in two sizes (small and large… large is my favorite style). You can choose either silver or gold tones, and both options look super cute when paired with multiple letters.
I also love personalizing my every day items - notebooks, planner and even my tote. Nothing major, but just little touches of monogram letters makes each item that much more special. I'm a huge fan of Kate Spade's Initial Notebook, Erin Condren's small hardbound planner, and Cuyana's zippered tote - all classic styles with personalization options.
I've also noticed initials are conversation starters. I've been asked several times what the letters stand for and spending a few minutes exchanging pleasantries with a stranger also brings a smile to my face. (I'm usually a private person so this is a great exercise in opening up, but that's a different blog post for another day... but it always feels like a win-win when that happens!)
Random Fact: One of my best friends and I were discussing the importance of names and legacies. It made me think about my character Paige Scott-Wilkerson (Playing for Love) and how she felt about her father excluding her from his life and professional sports legacy. That conversation and reader inquiries about Paige's mother Diane Collins helped birth my novel Love Is. It also led me to write a series about the Scott family. By the way, two more Legacy novels - Terms for Love (The Wilkersons) and A Better Man (The Scotts) - will be released soon.
Here's to a summer full of joy! I'd love to hear how you plan to experience joy this summer in the comments below.