A happy Renae

Hello, friends. No, I haven’t abandoned the blog – I just haven’t cooked anything new or original in a few weeks, and I’ve been fairly busy. I don’t have a recipe for you tonight, but to tide you over, here’s a personal post. Seemingly ages ago, Zoa at The Airy Way passed on a Happy 101 award to me, which means I have been requested to list 10 things that make me happy. Because I’m very shy – you may not believe it because I do share personal stuff periodically, but perhaps even more shy online than in person – and because I find it hard to believe anyone cares what makes me happy, and actually I bet most of you can already list 10 things that make me happy anyway, I would ordinarily have been happy to “forget” to address this. But for some reason, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. So I’ll do it – I’ll tell you 10 of the things that make me happiest. Mostly I’m doing this to pimp Zoa’s blog, though, because I think she is incredibly creative and she’s always doing amazing things, like making realistic poached “eggs”, and doing mind-blowing things with my nemesis okara. Really, you need to check it out if you don’t already – she has one of the most impressive blogs I’ve seen. I wish she lived in Virginia instead of Canada so she could cook for me!

So, on with my list of things that make me happy. I think you know what #1 is going to be. Really, if you’ve read more than two of my blog posts, you know it’s all cats, food, and books, right?

  1. Gomez and Torticia.

    And memories of Tigger and Brachtune.

    I am awed by how much I love these cats and no matter how bad my day has been, they make it better. More broadly, though, I would say that all animals make me happy. I am far more relaxed going into a home that has pets than I am one without. If I am walking or driving down a street and spot a cat, I’ll point and shriek, “kitty!” like a 3-year old – and if I’m walking, I’ll follow it. Though I’m partial to cats, large and small, bats, and otters, I simply love all animals and being around them or just looking at pictures of them makes me happy. Conversely, though I have a reputation for being unemotional, animals in cages make me cry.
  2. That moment when you are reading a book and you realize you really, really like it. Also, every other moment of reading a book. Also, being near books. Okay, books in general. I love reading. I’ve read 78 books so far this year. According to the database I created to log them, that’s 2.29 books a week. Few things in life make me happier then curling up in my reading chair with a book, gazing at my bookshelves, being in a bookstore, or frankly, even ordering books online.
  3. The smell of: onions sautรฉing, basil, bread baking, chocolate, lemons, coffee, garlic on my hands (not so much my breath). In general, cooking. Well, obviously. I have a whole blog about it. But it makes me happy. On the rare occasions I don’t make dinner when I get home from work, I’m actually very disoriented. It feels quite wrong to not spend at least an hour in the kitchen every night.
  4. Sitting down to a good meal, with wine. Nothing says relaxation to me like dinner and wine. Good dinner, made with fresh foods. It often takes me an hour to eat dinner because I savor it. I love to eat. I love to eat a little too much.
  5. Old things. My kitchen is full of vintage Pyrex and antique cast iron. I am distrustful of new things. I want to live in an old Victorian house, filled with antiques and oddities. Not particularly nice antiques, though; I don’t like expensive things. Just well-made, sturdy, unique things with a history. My latest thing is vintage mason jars: I’ve bought a bunch of them to store my dry goods in.

    I’ve tried saving jars from food I buy, but I make so many things from scratch I really just don’t accumulate that many jars, especially of the sizes I want, so I’ve been storing grains and things in plastic containers. I have wanted to switch to glass for a long time but thought it would be kind of costly to buy old jars in the quantity I need. Turns out they manufactured so many canning jars in the first half of the 20th century (and earlier) that they are actually pretty inexpensive. It would have been even cheaper for me to just buy a couple of cases of new canning jars, but you know, I didn’t even think of that until I’d already placed bids on old ones. And I don’t care; I just prefer the older ones. Not to collect – I’m not really a collector of anything – in fact, I prefer whatever is common or imperfect just because I’m less ill at ease about breaking it. I just like knowing my jars were used by someone before me. I like it best when I have old things that come from my own family, but it doesn’t matter if I don’t know who had the thing before me. My jars are almost 100 years old. I find that comforting for some reason I can’t explain.

    By the way, another cool thing about storing stuff in these jars is they are so pretty I’ve put many of them out on display in the dining room, which freed up a lot of space in my rather small kitchen! And here’s my newly organized baker’s rack in the kitchen:
  6. That “a-ha!” moment when you are learning something new and it suddenly clicks. I love learning. I love school. I even love taking tests. It’s my life’s mission to collect as many Bachelor’s degrees as I can. I can’t decide if Physics or Neuroscience should be next!
  7. The sound of Nick Cave’s voice. The music of Einsturzende Neubauten. The Smiths. Morphine. And hundreds of other bands – music in general, really – but if I need to MAKE myself happy, or sooth myself, I’m certain to pick one of those four.

    This is me buying a Smiths poster that is bigger than I am, in front of my first car.
  8. This may make me a terrible person, but my car. My non-hybrid, not-particularly-fuel-efficient, non-vegan (it has leather seats, which by the way I HATE, not just because I’m vegan but because they are hot in the summer and cold in the winter – who thought that was a good idea?), lovely little tiny car of joy. It’s a 1995 Mazda Miata that I bought used (the only reason it has leather seats) ten years ago. Driving around with the top down on a warm summer day is one of my favorite things. So is driving around with the top down on a crisp autumn day. Especially so is driving around with the top down on a sunny, fragrant spring day. Winter…not so great for the Miata.
  9. Taking off in a plane, and any travel by train. No matter how much I travel – and how degrading and awful TSA makes the experience – I still find it exciting to get on a plane. I just love going somewhere new – or familiar – even if it’s just for work. I especially love travelling by train, though, particularly in Europe. Not that I’ve done a huge amount of train travel in Europe, but I’ve done enough to know I love it. If I lived in Europe, I’d be on a train every weekend going somewhere new.
  10. Watching TV with Mark (and kittens). No matter how stressful my day has been, I heave a huge sigh of relief when I collapse on the sofa next to Mark to watch the X-Files or whatever we’re into at the moment. I also like coming home together late at night after we’ve been out somewhere and just being glad to be home, together.
  11. So, that was way more than you cared to know about me. I had a hard time narrowing it down to ten things. I’ve left so many things out. These, though, are all things I do every day (except travelling), which I guess means I’m one very happy person – who knew? I’m supposed to pass my award on to other bloggers, but I’m afraid I had enough trouble working up the nerve to drone on and on about myself. So I’ll do the cop-out thing and say I award it to all of you: if you are reading this and you have a blog, I really do want to know what makes you happy, so post me a link.


  1. Josiane Said,

    August 27, 2010 @ 11:51 pm

    That was lovely! Thank you for sharing some of the things that make you happy and the stories or reasons they make you feel that way; I really enjoyed reading this post. The pics were great too, especially the ones of your new old jars.
    I haven’t posted anything on my blog in forever, but I’ll keep this in mind and see if I’m inspired. If ever I come up with something, I’ll let you know for sure. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Dawne Said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 9:39 am

    I think that if I were to post a list I’d be worried that it would look rather too similar to yours! At least by way of cats, books and food (not necessarily in that order). I really enjoy reading your blog, not just because of the interesting recipes, but also enjoy your writing style : )
    As someone who recently starting blogging, I am still in the process of “finding my voice”.

    Also – thanks for introducing me to The Airy Way – can’t wait to try that poached egg!

  3. Lisa G/K Said,

    August 28, 2010 @ 10:59 am

    Oh Renae – we have so much in common – it’s kinda scary.

    So, an old roommate worked at Strawberry records in Boston back in the day and came home with lots of promotional cardboard displays of The Smiths’ “Meat is Murder” cover… with which we promptly covered the kitchen walls and ceilings. I believe this was in 1986!

    When you’re ready to embark on your physics career, you’ll need to fly out to Salt Lake City for a consult with my husband. We’d have a ball discussing physics, playing with my crazy kitties and enjoying food & wine!

    Enjoy the weekend and thanks for sharing. We all have so much to be grateful for!

    Last item: Great book recommend: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

  4. Zoa Said,

    August 29, 2010 @ 4:42 pm

    What a great list! You’re a wonderful writer. Thank you for playing, and thanks for saying such nice things about my blog–the admiration is mutual!

    The books, now, it’s too cruel that we can’t virtually zoom in and check the titles. I should add to my own list of happy things browsing around someone else’s bookshelves. But is it sick or what, I recognize several of the titles just by their “look”. You have _Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell_ in hardcover no less, which is hands down my favorite fiction book of the last decade. I’ve read it at least six times from cover to cover and have the wonderful unabridged audiobook–something like 32 hours long–read by Simon Prebble which in my opinion is perfect except that he mispronounces the Gaelic words. Now I’ve memorized it, and must wait for time to pass so that I can enjoy it again…sigh.

    And I also like bats.

  5. susan Said,

    August 30, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

    nick cave…black cats…books…and wine and food…i think we are related

    a few weeks ago i was best buy to buy a gift for my nephew…a woman who had to be over 70 was testing headphones with no more shall we part…i almost had a stroke…

  6. Mo Said,

    September 8, 2010 @ 2:27 am

    Such great things to be happy about!

  7. Ksenia Said,

    September 18, 2010 @ 7:53 am

    I already knew that food, cats and reading would be in the list before beginning to read. But it has been lovely to read about it anyway ๐Ÿ™‚ I adore libraries and book shops too. There is something comforting about being surrounded by books.
    I love travelling too. And planes, especially when it takes off or lands. Usually people hate this part because they are scared: for me it’s better than any fairground attraction ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m realizing that if I made a list, it would be quite similar to yours: food, reading, music, travelling, learning….I don’t have a car (or a driver’s licence anyway), but I could say that cycling makes me pretty happy too. I’m exploring Barcelona by bike right now, and even if it takes me extra 20 minutes to get home, it’s way better (and healthier) than taking the metro.
    I think I’ll definitively write a list ๐Ÿ™‚

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