7 Tips to Happiness

With all the craziness, stress and heartbreak the world can sometimes bring, I try to focus on the positives and see the glass half full. The key word in that sentence is ‘try’ because there are times when it’s definitely ok not to be ok. If I’m feeling sad, frustrated or going through a hard time (hello, year of Covid-19), I like to allow myself to feel all the emotions before trying to solve them. And sometimes, there is no end solution, but baby steps in a positive direction. Here are 7 things I’ve found to help make me happier:

7 Tips to happiness

click to download: 7 Tips to happiness

Interesting Podcasts

I didn’t start listening to any podcasts until last year when I had a lot of doctors appointments that coincided with LA rush hour (woohoo) so like most people in the LA metro area, I had a lot of time in the car. I first downloaded Serial because I’d heard so many good reviews and was instantly hooked. I still enjoy the true crime genre but have also found some other intriguing ones. This isn’t a “must listen to” list since we all have our own tastes, just a few that I enjoy and look forward to!

TRUE CRIME

Serial – The first season covered by an investigative journalist follows the case and trial of Adnan Syed who was convicted of murdering his high school girlfriend in 1999. The 12 episodes are so intriguing  I actually got lost driving back home I was so into it.

Crime Junkie – This podcast comes out on Mondays and is something to look forward to even for a Monday! The two hosts cover true crime stories, solved and unsolved.

Cold – covers the cold case of Susan Powell who disappeared in 2009 in Utah. It also talks about domestic abuse and abusive relationships.

Dirty John – a crazy, true story about a con man, deceit and survival. The story mostly takes place in Southern California in 2016

HISTORY

Hardcore History – There are so many episodes about different historical events that Dan Carlin covered. I’ve only listened to the series “Blueprint for Armageddon” focusing on WW1. It’s long but very interesting!

Slow Burn – I listened to and enjoyed the two seasons which covered Watergate and the Monica Lewinsky Scandal. Both I had heard of but didn’t really know much about.

The Chernobyl Podcast – This parallels the HBO documentary about Chernobyl. Again, an event that I’d heard about but really didn’t know much about how it unfolded, the actual event and the aftereffects.

The Dropout – A really fascinating story about Elizabeth Holmes, a brilliant young scientist, her ‘amazing’ product and the deceit that follows. She was sometimes called ‘the next Steve Jobs’. This story only happened a few years ago in 2015 but I don’t recall hearing anything about it.

INTERESTING

How I Built This – fascinating series that tells the backstories of big companies, inventors and entrepreneurs. Not only are their stories unique and interesting, they are sometimes very risky and always inspirational.

Stuff You Should Know – each short episode covers a different random topic. I’ haven’t listened to all of them, but some noteworthy episodes have covered how to survive in the desert, peanut butter, coyotes, yawning, prison food, etc. According to Google, right now there are 1,400+ episodes!

Getting Curious – Jonathan Van Ness (Queer Eye) interviews experts about something he wants to learn more about. Some of the interesting topics have been about the Australian wildfires, gun control, global health, religion in the middle east, skin care, how Queer Eye was first created, etc.

Armchair Expert – Dax Shepherd interviews all sorts of interesting people from fellow celebrities, experts, etc. I’ve loved the interviews with Will Arnett, Rainn Wilson, Rhys Darby, the Avett Brothers, Mayor Garcetti (Los Angeles), Kumail Nanjiani, Aubrey Plaza….there are just too many!

Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend – Conan interviews different celebrities, it honestly doesn’t need much of an intro because he is hilarious!

Office Ladies – Jenna Fisher and Angela Kinsey (Pam and Angela) from The Office go through episode by episode telling behind the scenes stories about The Office! I love hearing their experiences about what it was like to be on a documentary show, the other actors, writers, etc.

SPORTS

Sports Wars – Each series covers different sports rivalries like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, etc.

30 for 30 – an ESPN podcast covering lots of different and interesting sports stories. I particularly enjoyed the episode about the 1999 US women’s national soccer team and the episode about the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.

Trained – a Nike podcast featuring really cool interviews with athletes, trainers, sports psychologists, and researchers. Very inspirational and enlightening.

 

Gratitude Jar

November and fall are a natural time to feel more grateful as we start to focus on Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays. When I was younger, I remember my mom having a gratitude jar where we would write down things we were grateful for and paper feathers and then read them on Thanksgiving. We have done that with our kids a few times and last year mixed it up by having a jar filled with gratitude ideas or prompts. We try to find an evening time when we’re all together (like most nightly dinners) and each person will pull out an idea strip, give their answer and then each person will go around and say theirs. Most of the idea prompts are super simple such as “a hobby I am grateful for”,  “a person outside of my family I am grateful for” or “a sound I am grateful for” and it’s always interesting and insightful to hear everyone’s take on the same idea.

We’ve loved this family activity as a way to be together, express our gratitude and be more cognizant of the many blessings we have.

Click here to download the full PDF:  Gratitude Jar Ideas

The Last Bookstore: cool things in LA

Los Angeles in endless in good food, things to see and things to do. I always say we live in a gem city, meaning that we’re close to everything but it doesn’t feel congested the way downtown does with more traffic, people, etc. A cool spot we’ve found downtown in The Last Bookstore. It’s definitely worth a trip to see if you’re in the area! Not only does it have a large selection of new and used books, they’ve created art with books and upstairs there’s small art galleries.

book tunnel! ^

 

Austin, the sequel

We went back to visit one of our favorite cities, Austin, Texas! When we moved to Austin in 2016, we chose a city where we pictured ourselves living forever, a city to love and put down roots. It was bittersweet leaving because we loved the city and people and were also excited about returning to Southern California with its amazing weather and beaches.

Dave had a work trip in Austin and the kids and I got to tag along. We loved visiting some of our favorite places, people and restaurants and seeing some new sights. One of the new places we visited was the Austin Public Library downtown which was everything we could have wanted in a library, a dream public library! It is beautifully designed with multiple levels, an awesome kids area with lots of board games, rooftop gardens, and amazing outdoor reading patios.

We also checked out the Austin Nature and Science Center and our most favorite restaurant in Austin, Terry Black’s BBQ.

Best brisket ever! ^

More of our Austin favorites highlighted here

 

Delicious Fool Proof Chocolate Bundt Cake

I’ve never described myself as a ‘baker’ but I would definitely describe myself as an ‘eater’. Last year, I found a chocolate bundt cake described as ‘fool proof’, this was intriguing to me as a novice baker and someone who loves chocolate cake. It’s now my favorite chocolate cake recipe and great news, it’s actually simple to follow the recipe and make! I’ve made it a few times since I first tasted it at my friend’s house. The recipe is from A Bountiful Kitchen. 

foolproof chocolate bundt cake easy recipe

foolproof chocolate bundt cake easy recipe

click image for recipe ^

Affordable and accessible beauty products I love

Here are some beauty products I’m loving lately! I love that they’re affordable, easy to find (like in basically drug store, Target, etc) and effective.

affordable and accessible beauty products

1. Gold Bond Ultimate Radiance Renewal lotionwith cocoa butter ($8)- smells good, applies well and doesn’t leave stickiness or residue, very moisturizing.

2. Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer, SPF 15($15) – I love that it’s both a moisturizer and a light sunscreen. I’ve been hesitant about these combos because I was worried the sunscreen would feel sticky and heavy. I’ve found with this one that it works well as both and feels light.

3. Batiste Dry Shampoo ($12) – with dry shampoo I look for: how well it works to absorb grease/oil, how well in blends and absorbs into hair (doesn’t leave any color), scent and price. I get this Batiste brand at Target and I’ve seen it also at Walgreens. They have a variety of scents and I like this tropical coconut scent.

4. Rimmel Lash Accelerator Serum– effectively makes your lashes longer and fuller for under $8!

Teaching English online: VIPKID

Last fall, I started teaching English online with VIPKID (this is partially the reason this blog was neglected for a few months!) If you’ve ever job searched online, you’ve seen postings for online English teachers. There are quite a few companies and I kind of always thought they were scams. A friend in our ward has been with VIPKID for a few years and assured me it’s not a scam and now that I’m a teacher with them I can also assure you it’s a legit and great way to earn extra income.

My favorite thing about it is the flexibility! There’s not a minimum of required hours or classes so I set my schedule. I open my time slots between 8:30-11 pm after the kids go to sleep. I still play soccer on Thursdays and Fridays so if I have a late game, I can adjust my schedule.

I also love teaching the kids. I work with the older kids, they are usually between 8-12. Most all of them take English in school and have been studying for a few years so they have a good background. Most all the kids I’ve taught have been excited about learning and are well behaved.

Things to know about getting hired at VIPKID:

-You need a Bachelor’s degree

-You need to be eligible to work in the US or Canada

-You need at least a year of previous teaching experience (not necessarily teaching English. It can be tutoring, coaching, etc)

-You need to be a native English speaker

-You need a computer, internet access, working camera and microphone (I use this headset)

Things to know about working with VIPKID:

-Each class is 25 minutes long, one on one with the student.

All the lessons are prepared for you! There are about 25-30 slides you go through with the student. All the slides have instructions that only the teacher sees.

-After each class, you write feedback.

-You are paid a base pay, plus a base for each completed class. There are more incentives as well. My base pay is $8 per class. The base pays range between $7-$9 per class. The base pay is determined by your trial class during the application. Teachers are paid every month.

-Part of the application process is teaching a trial demo class (to a VIPKID teacher acting as a student or film yourself teaching an invisible student).

-VIPKID has a mobile and desktop app which make it easy to check your schedule, see information about the student and preview the lesson.

-During the lessons, there is always tech support who they call Firemen. They are always available to help with technical issues (for example your microphone, camera, if the student can’t hear you, etc).

-VIPKID utilizes “TPR” which means ‘total physical response’. This method uses hand gestures in coordination with language teaching. A simple example, is pointing to your eye while saying the word ‘see’.

-Students earn rewards (5 stars) and teacher use reward systems they create, here’s one example of one I’ve made:

-Lessons are not guaranteed. You may go a while when you’re first hired with open time slots and no booked lessons. It took me about 2 months before I started getting regular and more consistent bookings.

Teaching English online VIPKID

The Bottom Line:

If you meet all the requirements, enjoy teaching and working with kids and need a flexible schedule, VIPKID is for you! It’s not enough income to pay a mortgage but it’s a great wage especially since there’s no lesson prep on your part.

I’ve tried to address all the questions I had when I was applying and when I first started teaching. Overall, VIPKID is a great program with awesome students! It’s been a great way for me to make a little income, connect with students and not have to leave my house or kids since they are asleep when I’m teaching. If you’re interested in applying, start here!

My referral code is ‘JENNI1230’ or you can click any of the links above.

The Broad Museum: cool things in LA

The Broad Museum has one of the coolest exhibits I’ve ever been to: the Infinity Mirror Room!

You walk (and stay) on a little platform and feel like you’re floating with how the lights are arranged! It’s hard to judge the depth of the room, it was a breathtaking experience!

This museum is extra awesome because it’s free. There are special exhibits that charge admission but the infinity mirror room is also free. We reserved an admission time slot online for the museum. Once you enter, you can put your name on the list for the mirror room. The museum will send you a text once your time slot is ready. Each party gets about 45 seconds in the mirror room. We waited about 2 and a half hours for the mirror room, in that time we looked at the rest of the museum which is also awesome and took an uber to lunch so we didn’t have to pay twice to enter the parking garage. The Broad isn’t huge, just one large building, you could definitely see everything in half a day.

 

Our other favorite museum is the LA Country Art Museum (LACMA) 

The Golden State

This Winter we’ve been so lucky to experience a huge wildflower bloom right in our backyard! Chino Hills has tons of hiking/walking trails and the Chino Hills State Park. After a very wet and beautiful winter, the rolling hills turned a vibrant green and a few weeks later glowed completely golden! Every turn and hill was so breathtaking, especially since the hills are usually kinda dry and sometimes barren.