Thou shalt be merry…or else. By Alice Gaines

Call me Ebenezer.  The “holiday” season is not my favorite time of the year, and I suspect I’m not alone.  First of all, many of us simply don’t do well with short days.  We need sunlight to keep our spirits high.  (I swear if I were rich I’d have a house in the northern AND southern hemispheres so I could follow the sun.)  Then again, some of us have experienced loss around the holidays, and we just don’t feel like being merry.  Couple that with the conviction everyone else is having a glorious time and we should, too, whether we want to or not, and this time of year becomes a real bummer.

Having said all of the above, it’s still the case that I’m about the worst Pollyanna you’ll ever meet.  Happiness is my natural state.  So, this year, I thought I’d list a few small things that can bring a smile to my face and get me to singing to myself.

Number 1, and this one is truly simply.  Happiness is walking on the treadmill at the gym when an old Marvin Gaye song comes on my Pandora.  (For me, happiness is being at the gym, but I don’t expect I can make you feel the same way.)  So, here’s this wonderful music, and right in the middle of a song I’ve heard hundreds of time, some lyrics jump out at me:

“As long as you’re moving, there’s always a chance somebody watching might want to make romance.”

Is that lovely and profound, or what?  (Hint:  “what” is not the correct answer.)

Number 2.  Looking in the freezer for something else and finding pesto I’ve made over the summer.  Pesto tastes like summer.  It just does.  Furthermore, I make it from the basil I grow in my back yard.  Then, I package it in individual servings so when the weather is bleak and cold, I can put it on pasta and smile.  Occasionally, I forget about one of the bags of pesto servings, so when I discover it by chance, I’m a happy camper.  More on pasta…

Number 3.  Playing with my food.  I had an event cancel the other day and found myself with a couple of free hours.  I decided to make some pasta dough and play with shapes.  For an hour or so, I did my best imitation of orecchiette, which is Italian for little ears.  Here’s how they came out.


I’m sure an Italian nonna would laugh at my primitive attempts, but I had fun.  I imagine children would enjoy playing with shapes and then eating their creations.  BTW, here’s a simple pasta recipe for a food processor.  Put 1 cup flour and 1 tsp salt in the food processor.  With the motor running, add one egg.  Then add water in drops until the dough forms a ball on top of the blade.  Remove from processor and knead with more flour until the dough is no longer sticky.  Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, and then play.

Number 4.  Orchid bud!  I recently ordered a couple of mini-cattleya orchids from the wonderful folks at Carter and Holmes.  When they arrived, one of them already had a bud on it.  It’ll flower soon.


This picture is really fuzzy, but I imagine you can pick out the little bud.  Instant happiness, and lest you think I spent a lot of money, the plant cost under $20, including shipping.


So, when the holidays don’t live up to their publicity, remember they go away on their own on January 2.  You can’t say the same about car repairs or problems with the IRS.  Make your own happiness.  And in a while you’ll be rewarded by one of life’s greatest joys…seed catalogs.

You can write to me at or check out my books and join my newsletter at  My Amazon page is





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