Category Archives: Awesome Things

#165 Homemade dishes at the potluck

I have a bad potluck history.

Back in college my friend Roz would occasionally host extravagant potlucks where folks would come toting homemade potato salads, freshly baked lasagnas, and warm brownies straight from the oven. Of course, I’d pick up a tub of cheapo store-brand ice cream on my way over and really bring down the value of the spread. “Hey, did you try some of my vanilla?”, I’d offer meekly to the host, sugary crumbs from someone’s homemade date squares spilling down my sweater. “It’s double churned!”

Yes, I was a Potluck Novice then, but I was young so forgive me. I learned my lesson after sheepishly scooping up packs of warm liquid freezies and unopened jars of pickles at the end of the night. Hey, my store-bought stuff just wasn’t in the same league as anything homemade because who wants a Fudgee-O when there are hot chocolate chip cookies lying right beside it?

Now how good does it feel bringing the most popular dish at a potluck? Yes, when your famous veggie lasagna, homemade chicken wings, or secret-recipe chocolate-coconut squares get scooped up quick, it’s a sign that you made the right dish. Homemade dishes at a potluck jump out between wet shrimp rings, cold buckets of fried chicken, and frozen pizzas. They’re a big sign of giving your time, a sign of caring, and a sign of spending lots of love to make sure we enjoy a great meal.

AWESOME!

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#166 Midnight summer walks

Step into the breeze.

After the sun dips down and the day goes by, the houselights flick on and fill streets with checkery yellow teeth. Moonbeams shine softly on tree branches, warm winds whisper through black hedges, and a still and soothing softness settles over everything like a blanket.

Midnight summer walks help soak up beautiful moments between today and tomorrow. Systems shut down, stresses ease up, and work days fade away as you stroll through quiet streets after dark and quiet paths in quiet parks.

Let the world fade away as you drift to the end of today.

Nothing else matters right now.

AWESOME!

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#167 The sound of the needle hitting the record

We didn’t used to download.

Nope, after spending a few weeks saving money from mowing lawns, shoveling driveways, or delivering papers it was time to get on a creaky bus and head downtown to the record shop. After walking around dusty aisles, chatting with the snobby staff, and flipping through plastic-wrapped stacks, you’d finally find the one you wanted. After paying, you’d get back on the bus, tear off the cellophane, and excitedly flip through the lyrics and liner notes before getting home.

Next it was time to run to your bedroom, flip on your stereo, and peel the black plastic disc from its sleeve. Maybe that’s when you stared at it for a second and wondered how that little plastic groove could hold all those guitars and drums, before setting it down spinning on the machine.

The sound of the needle hitting the record is the sound of a big moment about to happen. It’s the shotgun before the race, lightning before the thunder, or lion’s roar before the movie. It’s the sound of waiting, the sound of saving, and the crackly sound of imperfection opening the way, into a perfect moment, into a perfect day.

AWESOME!

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#168 When the meeting ends early

Welcome back to your afternoon. Welcome back to getting things done. Welcome back to fresh air. Welcome back to

AWESOME!

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#169 Tennis grunts

Tennis is classy.

Fans don’t paint their faces silver, put on a pair of horns, and stand waving giant cardboard signs while sipping from Beer Hats. No, they sit in hushed crowds, whisper politely, and eat berries and cream on Saturday mornings.

Players are classy too with their supermodel good looks, designer clothes, and sports skirts. With the hushed announcers, soldier-straight ball boys, and huddled couches in polo shirts and fancy sunglasses, tennis sometimes seems less like a sport and more like a dinner party.

That is, until the grunting kicks in.

Tennis grunts fill the stuffy air with hilarious animal noises. They’re all you hear above squeaky shoes, clinking jewelry, and gasps. But tennis grunts remind us we’re all human. They remind us we’re watching a sport. And they give us a smile when we all need more smiles and we think that’s enough to be

AWESOME!

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#170 Inventing new foods at the buffet

Buffets are chemistry labs.

You’ve got every element on the Foodiodic Table sitting in front of you in tiny black plastic containers. There’s smeared clumps of feta and pickled beets in the salad bar, greasy cheese pizza congealing under table lamps, and mini chocolate eclairs sitting pretty in paper wraps.

My favorite buffet was back at my old college dining hall. It was fun eating in a roomful of scraggly-beard-and-pajama-pant teens buzzing over late Saturday breakfast, getting ready for Friday night, or just hogging out over the lunchtime trough.

And whether your buffet is the cruise ship, clinking casino, or Chinese restaurant, I’m hoping you always find tipsy piles of heavy ceramic plates, chocolate milk on tap, and screaming kids scrambling to invent beautiful buffet hybrids amidst all the mayhem.

Let’s count down five of the best:

5. Curry French Fries. Since big plates of fries are pretty standard at most cafeteria buffets, it’s all about figuring out new ways to color them up. Farty squirts of ketchup, cheese and gravy, or if you’re really adventurous, grabbing a ladle of curry sauce from the spicy chicken soaking in the metal tin next door.

4. Apple pie in a waffle cone. Hey, who says only ice cream gets to enjoy the sugary home of the waffle cone? Not us! Nope, throw some apple pie in there for good measure or a couple brownies and some whipped cream if you’re feeling crazy. Feel free to try the “food in another food’s home” technique elsewhere, too. Spaghetti on a hot-dog bun, pita pockets filled with meatballs, chicken nuggets on an English muffin, yes, yes, yes.

3. Chicken finger fried rice. Most cafeterias are home to boring bland trays of rice or noodles. And even when you’re given some yellow rice with peas or fried rice with tiny cubes of pork, it’s still time to upgrade. Chopping chicken fingers in fried rice is a good start. For those with arteries to spare, you can also try the classic Fried Chicken Fried Rice, which is fun to whip out in a food court.

2. All  Won Ton, No Broth Soup. Back when our ancestors were tearing apart buffalo on open plains, I bet there was this one jerk in the tribe who would swing by just after the slaughter to swipe a big juicy leg. He’d let everyone else peel meat off feet and ears and suck marrow from bones while he sat by the fire and chomped away at the juiciest piece on the beast. Well, that’s kind of what the All Won Ton, No Broth Guy is doing to the soup. We don’t like them unless they’re us. Same goes for Taking-All-The-Shrimp-In-This-Shrimp-Pasta Guy and Stealing-That-Extra-Pepperoni-That’s-Technically-On-The-Other-Slice Guy.

1. Creating a fake version of something you can’t find. No pizza? No problem! Just smear spaghetti sauce on a piece of bread and sprinkle it with cheese from the salad bar before tossing it in the toaster oven. No tacos? No worries! Fold a pita around some roast beef cold cuts and cover it with sliced cheese, shredded lettuce, and barbecue sauce. It’s not always pretty but creating fake versions of something you can’t find can help satisfy strong urges.

People, inventing foods at buffet is just part of who we are. It makes meals sparkle with new taste sensations and breathes life into old flavors. Just think about the first time the Earl of Sandwich invented the sandwich. Dude was merging meat, cheese, and bread into a gem and he didn’t even know it. Flash forward a few hundred years and inventing new foods is now part of our DNA.

It’s in our blood.

It’s in our genes.

It’s in our cheap plastic bowls still wet from the dishwasher.

AWESOME!

Hey everyone,

I’m launching a super secret new project this Fall called The Institute for Global Happiness. Sign up for my new email list to learn more. As a thank you, I’ll send you The eBook of Awesome, a 46-page designed and illustrated eBook (PDF format) containing the fifty most popular awesome things that didn’t make it into any of the books. Don’t judge me on what you read inside!

As always, thanks for reading and sign up here. (And, of course, I’ll never spam or share your email.)

Neil

Check out The Book of (Even More) Awesome

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#171 Completely guessing the right answer on a multiple choice test

AWESOME!

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#172 Laugh lines

Bathtubs are crystal balls.

Soak in them long enough and you’ll get a wrinkly idea of what you’ll look like in years.

Brothers and sisters, since skin creases will wedge into the cracks and corners of all of our bodies over all of our lives we’ve got two big choices on living with them: love ’em or let ’em bother you. And if you choose option two, it’s a world of fancy creams and face-stretching for you.

Nope, I say just get used to them. Love your wrinkles! Squishy baby elbows, silky smooth legs, and pimple-smeared prom faces will all slowly morph into Wrinkle Homes. Forehead wrinkles, cheek wrinkles, saggy arm wrinkles, you’ll have them all. Life will still be a ball but you’ll just be telling the world you lived it.

Now there’s something especially sweet about laugh line wrinkles. You know, I’m talking about the ones creased into your dimples when you smile, the crow’s feet in the corners of your eyes when you laugh, and all the little lines that pop out of your chucking face whenever you hear a good joke.

Laugh lines are a sign that you lived and lived well.

Congratulations on laughing your whole life.

AWESOME!

Hey everyone,

I’m launching a super secret new project this Fall called The Institute for Global Happiness. Sign up for my new email list to learn more. As a thank you, I’ll send you The eBook of Awesome, a 46-page designed and illustrated eBook (PDF format) containing the fifty most popular awesome things that didn’t make it into any of the books. Don’t judge me on what you read inside!

As always, thanks for reading and sign up here. (And, of course, I’ll never spam or share your email.)

Neil

 

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#173 When you walk straight through one of those empty winding lineup things

Don’t get me started on airports.

Look, I love flying as much as the next guy but sometimes it feels like we’re grunting cows being poked from pen to pen. Check-in, customs, and security mean lines up the yin yang and through it all we’re papery flurries of passports, boarding passes, and carry-on bags.

That’s why it’s heaven when you’re scrambling through a Known Lineup Zone (or “KLZ” for short) and you come across an empty line in its place:

1. The roller coaster after the rain. Thunderstorms scared your fellow families away from the Looping Vortex of Doom. But when the skies clear it’s time to make your move for first sit on slippery slick seats. If you’re super lucky, you may even get that once-in-a-lifetime solo ride, where it feels like you own the amusement park. Funnel cakes for everyone!

2. Using a pay phone anytime. Anybody else remember pay phone lineups? Anybody else have to get their mom to minivan over to the mall after seeing Ace Ventura for the third time? Anybody?

3. The really popular restaurant at the really unpopular time. Good luck getting into The Cheesecake Factory on Friday night. But Tuesday at 11am? Booth time, baby! Same goes for your office cafeteria before the stir-fry rush or McDonald’s for a sneaky midnight shake.

4. Going to the bathroom in the middle of the movie. Sure, its terrible missing a dream sequence or chase scene, but at least you avoid the sardine tin of heavy bladders after the show.

5. Anything at the airport. Like we said this is the holy grail of KLZ victory. Nothing compares to the thrill of seeing a barren security or customs line, with just a tired old man waiting for you there on a stool, like he suddenly got lost in a world of neon pizza signs and magazine racks and just sat down.

Yes, it’s a beautiful moment skimming through Known Lineup Zones with no lineups around. You can almost pretend the pillars and red velvet ropes were set up just for you so you can smile and wave to your adoring fans as you pull off a dream move like a VIP.

“Can I have your autograph?” they’ll scream, pushing markers and notepads at you with their tiny hands. “Of course,” you laugh back, personalizing every one and taking care to give high fives to all the babies. They’ll scream and applaud and yell questions as you parade through the lineup with ease.

“So what does it feel like?”

“And how would you describe it?”

“Tell us in just one word!”

AWESOME!

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#174 Old people pants

It’s about authenticity.

It’s about being you and being cool with it.

It’s about baggy turquoise capris, striped maroon jumpsuits, and neon track pants.

Yes, when you walk by an old person sporting some colorful and comfortable pants with flair, do us all a favor and give them a head nod of respect, a cracking high ten, or a military salute. Respect their hand-waving dismissal of your skin-tight denim jeans, swishy business suits, and identical black dress for the club. Smile when they yank them over their belly button, grin when they snap the elastic band, and get up and applaud when they strut down the street in comfort and style.

Folks, it’s like I always say.

We can learn so much from The Grandma.

AWESOME!

Hey everyone,

I’m launching a super secret new project this Fall called The Institute for Global Happiness. Sign up for my new email list to learn more. As a thank you, I’ll send you The eBook of Awesome, a 46-page designed and illustrated eBook (PDF format) containing the fifty most popular awesome things that didn’t make it into any of the books. Don’t judge me on what you read inside!

As always, thanks for reading and sign up here. (And, of course, I’ll never spam or share your email.)

Neil

Photos from: here

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