Getting To Happy Already (Part Three)

by Becky on February 19, 2013 · 5 comments

in Food, Fun, Music, Travel

Friends! Here are some Happies! Share around! Find your own, too!

First, for your heart:  The twitter feed alone on this site will hitch up your smile a little, especially if it’s on a downturn (your smile, that is).  Think about starting your own gratitude project, or just journal your gratitude, one item at a time, even one item a day.  Be warned, though:  it’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to articulate gratitude for one thing and not want to write down a second thing.  If you don’t believe me, try it.  My Grateful (‘grateful’ as noun) for the day is the bright pink vintage flamenco dress I saw at a thrift store down the street. Directly connected to that is the picture in my head of the way either of my petals would look in it.  (And how often do you see an authentic flamenco dress in a store window, just begging to be admired?)

Second, for your ears.  Music by ubercool Spanish indie rock/jazz group Jarabe de Palo, a favorite of mine for years, though I tend to like the jazz-informed stuff better than the rock stuff.  If you can listen to their take on Jobim’s “The Girl From Ipanema” and not feel instantly happified, then you should check your pulse to see if you are alive. (And see if you can detect that gorgeous Castillian theta, used on letter combinations Ci, Ce, and Z; you don’t hear it anywhere else! The word ‘gracia,’ while spelled the same, is nevertheless pronounced grahthia. Beautiful. And Happy!)

Or, if you’re in the mood for classical, then by all means Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, also Spanish, with the immortal Paco de Lucia on the guitar.

Third.  For your tongue.  Spanish olive oil!  Just.  Wow.

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Next time you’re at the market, pick up a bottle of good Spanish olive oil, one of the products for which Spain is known. I picked up my current favorite–very light, delicate, just amazing–at a little market, a coop of sorts, in the Catalunyan countryside, but you can no doubt find some good ones in the states.

Fourth. For your eyes. An apparition on the metro: Miss Zinnia. No doubt you have your own ‘apparitions.’ See them!  Name them . . .

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Fifth. For your hands. Vintage gloves. These belonged to my mother’s mother, Olive Estella Harker. Every woman of a certain age needs a pair of great leather gloves–a seriously happy acquisition.

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Sixth. For your sense of adventure. One of the magically labyrinthine streets in the Born District, maybe my favorite district in the city.

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Hope you’re getting your Happy plugged in. Just writing about mine, I realize I am smiling. Really big.  (And me smiling means my family is probably smiling, too.  Funny how that works.)

Happy Day lovely gals . . . and besitos in abundance.

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Getting To ‘Happy,’ Part One

by Becky on February 15, 2013 · 2 comments

in Fun, Travel

Sometimes you’re happy in the moment, and The Moment keeps on giving–even to people who didn’t directly participate in it but who get to witness it (over and over, if they want!).  Kind of like with the petals:  I wasn’t in the moment immortalized here in stop-action, but I get to replay it to my heart’s content, which cranks up my Happy.  They were feeling it; now I’m feeling it.

I love watching my kids find their Happy with friends who bring it out in them.

Somewhere I read that kids laugh, like, ten times as much as adults do. Every day. Maybe a surefire way to get our Happy on is to take a step back into kid-dom, in all its chaotic luster.

What I want to know is, who brings out your Happy? Who tickles your smile ’til it spreads from your mouth to your eyes? Who do you belly laugh with? Who makes you, when they announce they’re coming over, want to say YIPPEE!–?

One evening, years ago, I was laughing so hard with a friend, I finally couldn’t stand up straight anymore, and I actually stumbled and had to sit down on the floor. My kids still talk about how I looked to them that night, bent over laughing, struggling to breathe, the riff my friend and I were working on still going and going, its arc so hilariously endless it could have carried us along for another hour. I remember my kids smiling goofily the whole time, not understanding much but clearly delighted to see their mother laughing so hard she was ready to bust a vital body organ.

I suppose it takes the proper friend, someone who loves a good laugh and whose sense of humor braids nicely with ours. Even one of those comes along, and we’ve hit the mother lode. If we’re lucky enough to have more than one, then we are Rich In Happy!

So what’s the difference between Happy and Happiness? Stay tuned for Part Two.

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Eleven O’Clock Shenanigans In Plaza Catalunya

by Becky on February 14, 2013

in Fun, Travel


If one of the definitions of BFF is “A high-spirited someone with whom you can be endlessly silly,” then Miss Lavender and Miss Primrose certainly fit the bill.  Someday, years from now, they’ll look back at this immortal photo and think, “Ahh, Doppelganger Day! Good times!”

Cool, no?–when you and your many selves can get crazy with your friend and her many selves. Especially in a venue as perfect as Plaza Catalunya!

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Miss Lavender and Miss Primrose get busy in Plaza Catalunya. Can you read the word they spell out?

(Hint. Five letters. Name of a country.)

Side note.  Any child who tells you that fun cannot happen without electronic gadgetry has not yet tried Full Body Spelling.  Extra points if you try it with your kids.  Double points if you send me the photograph!

Photo wizardry, courtesy of Eleven O’Clock Dad.

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It’s time for Carnaval! Back home, you know it as Mardi Gras. Here, they’re celebrating all weekend, and Barcelona is alive with riotous fun. Last night, the city kicked things off in the Born District. Follow along with the Eleven O’Clock Kids, including Miss Primrose, our newest import, as we check out the parade, the costumes, the lights, the colors–all of it!

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Yep. Definitely a technicolor event! Even the flowers in the Born neighborhood knew to bump up their color. (Or maybe they were blushing for the benefit of Miss Lavender and Miss Primrose?)

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This morning, one girl waited for a plane to land.  Because another girl was arriving.

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Waiting can be difficult when the person you’re waiting for matters so much.

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Then. Here she came!


She was real, after all!


And it was just the same. No, that’s a lie–probably a hundred times better.


This was happening.


And it was brilliant!


And now: new people to meet.


Places to go.


Shuttles to hop.


Cameras to cozy up to.


A train to catch.  (And music to wake up to.)


A metro to grab.


And a cosmic idea that needed some serious processing: Miss Primrose . . . was HERE!


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As Miss Lavender sits in the library, studiously finishing up the calculus she so detests (there, we’ve said it), a certain Best Friend is getting on a plane.  And tomorrow morning, when Miss Friend lands in Barcelona, the fun will begin.

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But what do we call Miss Friend? She needs a flower fairy name!

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Why, you ask? Well, Miss Lavender is Miss Lavender not only because she adores the scent but also because she resembles, almost perfectly, the Lavender Flower Fairy who leaped from the mind of illustrator Cicely Mary Barker in the early twentieth century. And, when she was younger, Miss Zinnia likewise perfectly resembled the Zinnia Fairy (though these days, she’s more of a Snowdrop).

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The girls and I have consulted the Cicely Mary Barker gallery, and it’s official: our beautiful visitor cannot be anything but Miss Primrose.

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Fly safe, Miss Primrose. And get here quick!

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Day Of The Kings. Day Of The Sales

by Becky on January 8, 2013

in Fashion, Fun, Traditions, Travel


Sunday, January 6th, was Dia de los Reyes–Day of the Magi. Much like our Christmas holiday in the states, Dia de los Reyes is big. Really big. A huge event. That’s when the children receive their big gifts. That’s when families have their big reunions. (Are we hearing the word “big” in all its grand significance here??)

For us, in contrast, it was a quiet day.

Then. Monday, January 7th–yesterday–was day of the sales. As in, big sales. A huge event. Like after-Christmas sales back home, but on steroids. So the girls and I headed out, and I can tell you that it was not a quiet day. All of Barcelona went shopping. By 3 pm I was done trying to muscle my way through stores and along the boulevards, and we took off for home.

You have not ever properly shopped during a sale until you have competed for space in a small boutique with many well-heeled, smartly dressed Catalan women who would just as soon see you deported as give up their spot by a sale rack. I mean no disrespect. I was rather in awe of them, I have to confess. I thought I was good. Back home, I can work the sales like a pro. Here, it’s a blood sport: if you don’t know what you’re after and how badly you want it, forget it. I plan to begin practicing the art of “the move aside,” where a stunning Catalana, for example, will put her (well manicured) hand on the small of your back and literally move you out of her way while offering a coolly polite “Perdon,” which, though it literally means “Excuse me” or “Pardon me,” in this case means “If you know what’s good for you, you will move aside, NOW.”

We did score a few great things: lots of highly unusual, patterned tights and knee-highs, definitely the rage here, and half off. They’ll work brilliantly for Miss Lavender, who will be attending college in a mighty cold place next year. And a brick red, Edwardian style felt hat for Miss Zinnia, who adores hats almost as much as she adores delighting us with her cathedral songs. A few other sundries as well, great deals, all. What we did not get on sale was our (I say “our” because we’re sharing them) new pair of Kokua ballet flats, handmade here in Barcelona. Dark grey with a chartreuse toe, they are about the happiest, coolest things you’ve ever seen, and I will no doubt slide them on next year when I am back in HB and cannot find a medieval city in which to roam or a Mediterranean beach on which to hunt for beach glass, just so I can remind myself that yes, I lived here.

The trick with January 7th sales: since everyone’s out “disfrutando las rebajas” (enjoying the sales), you’ve gotta act fast . . . or it’s gone!

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Sometimes, when I was a teenager, I just wanted to be a kid again, so that I could play play play with abandon–laugh, shout, be so absurdly silly I’d wear myself right out, like in the good old days.  And no one would care.  

When you were little, life was simple.  Eat.  Sleep.  Play.  Repeat.  (And finish a homework packet or two, under duress.)  Teenagehood can be cool, yeah.  But bottom line, sometimes you just want, for a minute or two, not to have to act your age.

So how does a mom enable these “little kid” moments, where laughter is king and silliness holds sway? She stages them. Honest. Then laughs as hard as her children.

It can get complicated, the business of being a teenager. To decompress, sometimes you just need a teeter-totter.

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Friends! For several weeks I’ve been thinking about gift possibilities for teens. Seems like when my kids were little, they were so easily made happy! Legos. Pollies. Books. A trampoline. But with bigger kids, it’s a little trickier, isn’t it? I’ve narrowed my ideas down to eight and included them here for you to take a look at. (One requires some serious budget, but I was in love, so I had to include it among the items that made the cut.) I particularly admire two of the companies whose products I featured. You’ll see which ones I mean. I just love the idea of being nice and doing good at the same time. But most of all, I think the Eleven O’Clock Goods have that je ne sais quoi–that ineffable something that’ll make one of them a good fit for the teen in your life.

BTW: this is not a sponsored post. This is simply me doing a little curating and a little sharing with other Eleven O’Clock Moms. Have fun!

  • Buckyballs. Do you know a teenage male who needs an (extraordinarily) absorbing outlet? If so, then these (crazily) addictive magnetic balls are screaming his name!
  • Lomography. from Lomography, dedicated to analogue photography. Everything old is new again, including these fabulous 110 cameras, For the teen photographer/purist in your life, this is the ticket.
  • 31 Bits. Crafted from recycled paper, these pieces are deftly beaded by Ugandan women seeking to reinvent their lives through their jewelry making.
  • Be Hive Style. State scents!? Naturally I chose California, my home state. I love that the fragrances incorporate notes a native (like me!) would resonate to.
  • Freedom Footbags THE ultimate footbagger's footbag. Made in the USA. For guys (or girls!) with fancy feet and serious coordination, this is the ultimate stay-busy-for-hours gift.
  • Public Bikes. Function. Beauty. Public. The ultimate set of get-around-town wheels. If you've got serious budget, this is a serious gift.
  • Krochet Kids International. Warm up. Look good. Do good. Better yet, do all three. Ugandan-based Krochet Kids International is serious fashion with an equally serious mission. "Buy a hat, change a life," is their motto.
  • Vaho Trashion Bags. Repurposed street posters from downtown Barcelona become satchels in this totally fresh incarnation of "trashion." Colorful, sturdy, and super hip.

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