Friday Five

1. Tiny Bubbles. There’s something about penguins that is comical and fascinating at the same time. They’re so awkward on land yet in the water they’re graceful and elegant. To get out of the ocean onto the ice is a combination of both qualities. They propel themselves at three times their natural speed and then land on the ice in a big thud that nearly knocks the wind out of them. Two National Geographic photographers went to the Arctic to capture the process and found out something very interesting in the way the penguins use the bubbles of oxygen to their advantage.

2. Speaking of bubbles. This is the happiest thing I’ve seen all week. I dare you not to smile. Double dog dare you.

happy-poster-preview3. And speaking of happy. Last weekend, sidelined by the beginnings of a cold, I watched a documentary called Happy. Filmmaker Roko Belic shot over 400 hours of footage all over the world—from the swamps of Louisiana to co-ops in Denmark and the streets of Japan—to explore what really makes people happy. Six years in the making, the film is full of insight from happiness researchers, positive psychologists and real people from every demographic, all asking the question: What lies at the core of a human being’s happiness?

Ultimately he finds that many of us have gotten things backward. A lot of us think: when I have a spouse/dream job/mansion/baby (insert your personal desires), then I’ll be happy. The film takes us around the world interviewing everyday people and psychology researchers to show that is never the case. The most satisfied people use happiness to achieve those other goals. In other words, be happy first.

I found two of the interviews really poignant. The first was in a Kolkata slum. A man named Manoj Singh points to his home, what I would describe as a lean-to with a tarp covering it, and he says. “This is a good house. We get a nice breeze. It keeps the sun off. The only problem is during the monsoons when the rains come in.”  His son, who waits for him to return home each day from his job as a rickshaw driver, and his baby daughter’s face regularly fill him with joy. When the interviewer asked if he was happy, he didn’t hesitate for a second. “I feel that I am not poor because I am the richest person,” he says.

Another interview took place in a boat tooling around the Louisiana bayou. The guy’s house is just on the other side of the levee. At dusk he watches the wildlife because he says, “The stillness speaks to me. Nature is good medicine. This is my happiness.”

What do you think lies at the core of a human being’s happiness?

4. Vacation makes me happy. Whenever I travel somewhere new, I try to read a book or two about the location. Not a guidebook, but a work of fiction or memoir set in that city. I find it gets me in the mood of the place in a unique way. Do you do that also? (Or am I the only book nerd enthusiast here?) Sometimes it can be difficult to find such a book, depending on where you’re traveling. For the spring trip I’m planning, I came up empty time and again. Then I came across this website: Books Set In… which does just that. Type in the place and you’re off with a list of books.

You savvy folks may have noticed that I didn’t mention where I’m going this spring. I’m going to leave that a s-e-c-r-e-t for now. There will be a contest and a giveaway coming shortly. Stay tuned!

5. The details. Most people describe snow as a blanket, covering everything in a pristine (for a while) layer of white. Of course there is truth to that, but snow also highlights. It calls attention to the details that often go unnoticed or ignored. Here are a few photos I took during our last snowstorm.

I love how the snow has settled on the peaks and valleys of the ornamentation on the outside of this brownstone.


Look how it gets into the crevasses of the stones on this old church so that you can see the unevenness of each level.


It coats each leafless branch of this tree so that you really see them individually. Amazing how tiny snowflakes can do this.


The snow makes me take in my neighborhood in a new way, right down to the iron gates . Usually I look but I don’t see, as the zen saying goes.


Have you had the opportunity to see your town or home in a new way? 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 



  1. I’ve had an unusually unhappy week and this post turned it around in a snap. The “Happy” documentary sounds fascinating. I’m going to check that out right away.

    And the baby/bubble/puppy video?!? Fabulous! There’s a combination that never fails to bring a smile (which is actually what I started out thinking I would say about penguins).

    I always have a bottle of bubbles on hand for a little stress break. Thanks for reminding me that it’s ok to smile.

    I hope you’re feeling better.


    1. There’s nothing like laughing babies and dogs eating bubbles to put a smile on your face, is there? The Happy documentary certainly put things in perspective for me – in a good way! I hope you get a chance to watch the video.

      Here’s to an uplifting weekend! Thanks for stopping by.


  2. A light snow in London today, but doubt it will stick. I hope your cold is done with. I hate colds. And how happy is that baby. Miles was quite confused about the laughter. Have a wonderful weekend!


    1. Ha! Reggie kept looking around the apartment, “What is that strange sound?!?”
      We’re expecting a little bit of snow tomorrow also, but it won’t stick much here either. Hope you have a great weekend!


  3. I’ve read about the Happy video before and really want to see it. I think you have to just enjoy the present moment and steer clear of worrying. Not always easy, but it makes life so much better.
    Love the snow pics, Jackie. I have my yearly dose now. 😉
    Nothin’ better than babies laughing at dogs!


    1. I enjoyed the Happy film for that reason – it was a good reminder that if you “want what you have, then you have what you want.” So many people around the world live in this state of mind naturally. I hope you get a chance to see it soon.


  4. A baby/child laughing – there is not better sound, is there? That video was wonderful.
    “Happy”. I’ve considered watching it several times, but I haven’t yet. I’ll take your write-up as a sign that I should, and I will.
    The snowy pictures are beautiful, Jackie.


  5. What a treasure trove of joy over here! The penguin video was gorgeous. I almost wanted the job of photographer until I remembered how much cold weather hurts. And the bubble-eating dog with the laughing baby? Hysterical.

    This is the second time this week I’ve come across someone recommending “Happy” documentary. I will make a point to watch it this week. It reminds me of a book I recently finished, The Geography of Bliss. I wrote a short review of it on my blog. I wonder if the author was involved in the project. And apparently, we’re book nerd sisters. Instead of reading about places I go, I tend to take vacations to places I chance upon in books. Still that website you shared is a great find!


    1. We are book nerd sisters, indeed! I’ve read Geography of Bliss, which I found absolutely intriguing. This film does make a few of the same points as the book. For example, the film and book both take you to Denmark to investigate why the country is consistently ranked one of the happiest in the world.

      Have you had the chance to read Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown?


  6. Jackie!  I loved every one of your “fives” here.  You are so talented!  It’s just such a conversational and informative way of writing, you make history enjoyable and I have never liked History!  Just wanted you to know how much I enjoy getting these every week.  Don’t stop.   love ya,joy

    Joy Southard-Executive DirectorHealing Species of Texas115 Springs EdgeMontgomery, Tx 77356936-525-7385www.healingspeciestexas.orgpeace on earth begins with how we treat the weakest or most voiceless among usCheri Brown Thompson-Founder, Healing Species 


  7. Annabelle doesn’t seem to be nearly as impressed when I react to bubbles like that.
    Beautiful photos, Ms. C! I’ll admit I’m ready for spring, but you’ve sure made that snow look good!


    1. Ha. There’s a video of a guy who can make bubbles so big, he can climb inside them. That might impress her. 🙂

      The snow only looks good for a few hours. Then it becomes dirty sludge here in the city. 😛


  8. Loved the penguins – you always find the coolest videos! I wonder if Rosie would like bubbles as much as the dog in the second video?

    Being happy: Interesting that somebody has made a documentary on this. I’ve been thinking about it since I saw these photos ( of people in Mozambique. Maybe the simpler – and closer to nature – your life, the more content you are?

    Seeing your town in a new way: I always do when we have people visiting us, and I’m showing them around the area. I get to see things I take for granted in a new way. Also, I find that since I’ve taken up photography, I’ve become more observant and see the beauty in little things.


    1. Having guests is a great opportunity to see things around you with new eyes. Usually I find my mind blanks out the common details, the things I see every day. So unless something is different or out of place, I barely notice. Not a great way to move through the day! I love that you found a way to stay in tune with your surroundings through photography. I find my writing does that – paying attention like a writer really helps.

      I would love to read Rosie’s blog post about bubbles! 🙂


  9. Great stuff here. I’m going to show those first two videos to my kids.

    The happiness thing is so true. I like the way it was explained in that documentary. Dennis Prager, who wrote a very intelligent book on happiness has a chapter called “The Missing Tile Syndrome.” It’s the same idea . . . some people are so set on focusing on the one missing tile that they can’t see the bigger picture of all that’s wonderful. Also, they feel that when that one tile is in place (spouse, job, etc) then all will be “perfect.” Of course when we’re reasonable we KNOW that when that tile is in place, there will likely be another that has fallen out of place. Key is NOT to think that fixing anyone tile will fix anything. Have to learn to be okay with imperfect.


    1. Love the analogy about the missing tiles. It’s so easy to fall into the trap that there is a “magic” tile and if we find that one, the rest will fall into place. My biggest takeaway from the documentary is acceptance. Working on that one every day!


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