sugar sand fest 2017

Our Weekend Adventures – Sugar Sand Festival

The fact that there are so many things to do the Tampa Bay area is what makes living here so wonderful.  Any given weekend we can find a host of activities and festivals to attend. This past weekend alone there was a Blueberry Festival, the Mainsail Art Show, the Sugar Sand Festival, a handful of concerts to pick from, flea markets and farmers markets galore.  We had so many options, it was a bit tough to decide what to do.  We opted for the Sugar Sand Festival and a concert.

Sugar Sand Festival

We feel so blessed to live near Clearwater Beach. When we first moved down many years ago, we often went to the beach to watch sunset. Over the years, we’ve watched as the beach transformed from old Florida mom & pop motels to first class resorts and national chain hotels.  While the changes bring in more tourists, they also bring in first class events like the Sugar Sand Festival.

Sugar Sand Festival

Saturday we ventured down to the beach to take it all in. The Sugar Sand Festival features 21,000 square feet of sand sculpture all housed under a tent.  Sand Sculpture artists come from around the country to show off their skills and trust me their skills are mad!  We walked through twice and I still don’t think I took it all in.

Sunday found us venturing into the Channel Side district of Tampa to attend Neil Diamond’s 50th Anniversary Tour. He’s getting up in age, but still sounds as amazing has he did twenty years ago. His library of work is so vast that it was impossible to recall all of his top hits. Of course, being a Red Sox fan, singing along to Sweet Caroline was the highlight of the evening.

This next weekend may find us sticking a little closer to home to tackle a home project or two.


are we happy yet

Come on, get happy

Merriam-Webster defines happy as enjoying or characterized by well-being and contentment.  There is a lot going on in the world that makes happiness seemingly harder to find, but what if I told you happiness is a choice? Despite all of the crap going on and the many WTF moments we are facing, it is still possible to find contentment and well-being.

Yes, I am veering away from my usual content to share with you a new book that just came out this week. Lisa Cypers Kamen’s book Are We Happy Yet? is a guide to finding joy in our lives. Lisa is a positive psychology coach and expert in life-crisis recovery. In the book, she discusses her eight keys to unlocking joy in our lives and through exercises, she provides the reader with the skills to up their happiness factor.  As she points out, happiness is an inside job.

are we happy yet

From time to time life throws us curve balls, whether it’s a job loss, the death of a loved one,  a divorce or the odd feeling that we are trapped in an alternative universe. We all face adversity at some point in our lives. We can allow the adversity to keep us stuck and miserable or we can chose to rise to the occasion and find contentment. It all comes down to how we react, think and feel about our circumstances and ourselves.

For some, the path to contentment in the face of a crisis is easy. For others its fraught with challenges thought to be insurmountable. It’s easy to wallow in the negative and find a safe place among poisoned thoughts, but after awhile those thoughts become too unbearable and something snaps. It either snaps us out of the funk or drives us deeper. The search for inner peace and a sense of happy is a journey.

I’m on that journey right right now, reading everything I can get my hands on to help guide me.  My reading list is a litany of self help books by authors Gabby Bernstein, Brendan Burchard, Elizabeth Gilbert, Dr. Wayne Dyer and Lisa Nichols. It’s because of this journey that I am looking forward to adding Are We Happy Yet to my reading list.


“Positive psychology focuses on what’s right with life here, now and tomorrow, rather than ruminating on what’s wrong with it and what happened in the past,” says Cypers Kamen. “Are We Happy Yet? helps readers embrace the absolute best parts of life, each and every day.”

Through the pages of Are We Happy Yet?, Cypers Kamen teaches readers how to:

  • Accept the past for what it is—a reference point, not a destination
  • Embrace the truth that, while life is tough, you can be happy
  • Transform your relationship with yourself from enemy to ally
  • Appreciate why less is often more
  • Focus on what’s right with your life, not what’s wrong
  • Control the only person you can—yourself!
  • Invest in yourself to become more mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually fit
  • Use your newly discovered joy to become a more positive and productive influence in the world

We chose our reactions to life’s dramas and traumas. I know from experience it’s easy to let curve balls knock you out of the game. Negative past experiences can derail your life if you allow them to. My hope is that Lisa’s book will guide readers to learning how to be brave and let go of the baggage that holds one back.  I know I could use another tool in my box.

*this post was not sponsored and all opinions expressed are my own.

A Teal Pumpkin for Halloween

I have been sensitive to those with food allergies since we moved into the neighborhood.  My typical approach has been to have both non-peanut candies and peanut candies to pass out to ghouls and goblins that knock on the door.  This year, I am joining the Teal Pumpkin movement.  I’m inspired to do this for a couple of reasons.  One, toys last a bit longer than candy.  Secondly, not every child can enjoy candy whether it’s a food allergy or a lifestyle preference of a parent.

Let’s face it, it’s fun to dress up for Halloween, but not much fun if you trick or treat and have to toss your loot when you get home due to a food allergy.  That’s where the Teal Pumpkin Project comes in.  It is a wonderful movement started by FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) that encourages the giving away of small nonfood trinkets.

I first heard about the project last year when I was blogging for a certified nutritionist.  It’s been around for a couple of years and it looks to be catching on more commercially now.  I spotted many reasonably priced toys in the Halloween section of Target this year.  Their options were impressive, from cups of slime to monster themed erasers.  I scooped up small containers of bubbles to give out this year.  I may still pass out some candy, but rest assured if I do, it will be nut free.

If you would like to get involved, simply place a teal pumpkin or two outside your door to let all the ghouls and goblins know you are passing out allergy friendly treats.  You can turn this into a family affair by having your kids paint plastic pumpkins in shades of teal and decorate however, they wish to. Use the pumpkins again next year as the project grows with more and more families supporting the project.

buy yourself flowers

Ten reasons to buy yourself fresh flowers

Flowers are affectionately called Vitamin F and rightly so.  They make everything a little brighter, cheerier and beautiful.  They are a healthy dose of happiness wrapped up in pretty colors and patterns.  It’s long been known that receiving flowers boosts our moods, but what researchers didn’t know was that living with fresh flowers also had a positive impact on our well-being. If you ever needed a reason to buy yourself flowers, I have ten reasons for you.

ten reasons to buy yourself flowers

As Dr. Haviland-Jones, researcher for Rutgers University, said, “Flowers bring about positive feelings in those that enter a room. They make a space more welcoming and create a sharing atmosphere.”  I couldn’t agree more.

flowers by the bedside

Spark Joy

Flowers add a positive boost to your morning routine. The morning blahs, it turns out, are real with happiness, warmth and friendliness may emerging later in the day. Instead of waking up grumpy, nip it in bud by placing small bouquets in the bathroom, on your nightstand or in the kitchen. Researchers found that by placing blooms in the middle of a morning routine, they would spark of joy lasting the rest of the day.  In most cases, others will adopt your cheery mood in what scientists refer to as mood contagion. Is there a better way to spread joy?

Inspire Neatness

One study discovered flowers placed where clutter tends to collect inspire neatness. Flowers are a thing of beauty and, well, clutter is unattractive.  Of course, if there were an option to look at pretty petals instead of paper piles, most of us would pick pretty petals.  I know I would be inclined to keep the clutter out of the space.

flowers increase compassion

Flowers Feed Compassion

In today’s climate of division and intolerance, it’s nice to know that people living with live fresh cut flowers have reported an increase in feelings of compassion and kindness toward others.  It seems we could all benefit from a few fresh flowers in our homes.

Improves Emotional Connections

Flowers in the home improve our emotional connections to family. When there are pretty flowers in the house for the whole family to see, everyone benefits. Happiness, compassion and understanding strengthen our bonds, improving our relationships.

Increase Energy
Flowers are happy rays of beauty that seem to increase energy in those around them.  People in the studies reported having increased energy from daily exposure to fresh flowers.  The effect also carried over to their lives at work.  They all seemed to have more enthusiasm and energy.

Reduces Depression and Anxiety
Study participants reported that they had fewer episodes of depression and anxiety after spending just a few days with fresh flowers in their home.  They felt less negative, more hopeful and positive.  “ As a psychologist, I’m particularly intrigued to find people who live with flowers report fewer episodes of anxiety and depressed feelings. Our results suggest that flowers have a positive impact on our well –being,”says Nancy Etcoff, PH.D., researcher with the joint Massachusetts General and Harvard Medical study.

Improve Well Being
It’s scientifically proven that flowers increase happiness and improve wellbeing. One study, notes that patients in rooms filled with flowers responded more positively to treatment, and had lower pain, fatigue, and anxiety ratings along with more positive feelings compared to those in a control group.  Imagine what the effect of flowers would be on a healthy person.

flowers boost creativity

Improves Creativity & Problem Solving

Here’s some good news for those of us that work from home.  Studies show having flowers in your work space increases creativity and improves problem-solving skills.  I am on board with that!  I love having fresh flowers in my home office, and other rooms of the house.

You Deserve Them 

The best reason of all to buy yourself fresh flowers is that you deserve them.  You deserve to have a vase of flowers in every room of your home.  Nothing, in my opinion, is more of a pick-me-up than flowers. The simple act of stopping by the flower cart at Whole Foods is euphoric, at least it is for me.

These studies make a darn good argument for keeping fresh flowers in your house. The best part is adopting the tradition doesn’t have to cost the farm.  You can plant a cut garden, or find great deals at the grocery store.  Picking wildflowers won’t cost a thing, just be careful if family members have allergies. Some wild flowers could induce a bad case of hay fever, and nobody will happy then.



Gratitude is one of those things that takes so little time, but offers huge rewards.  All it takes is a few minutes each day to reflect on the small things in your life you are thankful for.

I’ve practiced gratitude on and off for a few years now, and I’ve learned the more consistent you are the better.  I’ve noticed that I am happier, and good things happen when I am grateful for the little things.  I also roll more easily with the lumps and bumps life can send at you.  When I am lax in my gratitude, my disposition is a bit more ornery,  I am less at ease with disappointments and much more prone to stress.

My experiences aren’t a fluke. Studies have found that being thankful what we have in our lives gives impacts our health in positive ways, letting us weather the storms we face better. Robert Emmons, the father of “positive psychology”, has spent years looking at how gratitude affects our health and well-being.  He found six commonalities between that people who practice gratitude on a regular.

Benefits of Gratitude

Emmons defines gratitude as ones attitude toward themselves and the outside world. Those that practice it are more likely to have a positive attitude and relate more positively to the world around them while recognizing the positives in their own lives. It gives them the ability to weather life’s challenges with a smile rather than a frown. Gratitude forces our attention outside of our own sphere.

Gratitude gives us the opportunity to appreciate what we have in our lives. It’s not always about the material possessions, but how we feel about the material possessions. One study found that billionaires in Japan and the impoverished in India both saw their lives as miserable, illustrating that it’s not what you have but your attitude to what you have that matters.  Finding gratitude in the everyday of our lives let’s us be at peace and find joy.

One of the best ways to practice gratitude is to keep a journal. I spend ten minutes every morning with a cup of coffee, my  journal and my favorite pen.  I try to jot down at least ten things that I am grateful for each day.  Finding ten can be a challenge, so I’ll let myself get bay with five, if I am really pressed.


Another trick I’ve used that is really fun, is to write one thing down each night on a pretty piece of scrap paper with the days’ date and toss it into a large glass jar. What you write down can be something you are grateful for or it can be one amazing thing that happened to you that day.  At the end of the year, you can go through the bits and pieces and  reflect on how awesome you year has been.

I challenge you to start adopting an attitude of gratitude. It is humbling, and well worth the effort.