9 little things I’m loving this September

I like to keep a list in my bullet journal of the (mostly) little, everyday things bringing me a disproportionate amount of happiness these days. A recent sampling:

1. Pencils.

I’m a pen geek, and I have a few brands that take turns as my current favorite. For three months at a time, I’ll prefer the Flairs, or Staedtler Fineliners, or, most recently, Sharpie pens. (Click here to see many of my favorites.) But lately no pen has held the primary spot; I’ve been in a pencil kind of mood.

Several years ago, Will and I popped into CW Pencil Enterprise while we were in NYC. (Warning: enter this store (or its website) with caution because you may completely fall down the graphite rabbit hole, as I did.) We came home with pencils, of course, and then I signed up for the Pencil Box subscription, and now I’m such a fan that I carry a pencil in my purse with a special little cap to keep it from stabbing everything.

This Apsara (extra strong/extra dark) is currently in my purse, with this pencil cap and this 15-cent eraser. Apsara’s two-toned matt magic line is another current favorite. And how cute are these days of the week pencils?

2. Letting Trader Joe’s do it.

This is going to sound ridiculous, but bottled salad dressing has made my life so much easier during these warm months.

Salad dressing is one of those things I feel like I should make myself. But the reality is I seldom do. And when I do make my own, it makes an absolute mess in the fridge (is there a way to keep olive oil from getting all over everything? Because the mason jars I use are not doing the trick).

I started buying the bottled stuff in the refrigerated section at Trader Joe’s, and it’s made my salad life so much easier. And since salad is a hot-weather lunchtime staple that’s a lot happiness for something as simple as salad dressing.

3. Our tiny garden.

We’ve tried for YEARS to grow our own summer produce, with various degrees of success in the small-to-middling range. But since we moved, our tiny garden has been going gangbusters. I don’t know if it’s the soil or the sun or just the right amount of benign neglect we’re providing, but our plants have taken off, for two years running.

Our zucchini plants died and so did the cucumbers, but we have tomatoes and jalapeños coming out our ears. They’re delicious, and we grew them ourselves, and that is a satisfying combination.

4. Doing it myself.

Will and I adore Trader Joe’s sweet and spicy pickled jalapeños and buy them several jars at a time because we go through them so quickly. But then summer rolled around, and two things happened: our garden went crazy, and with fresh produce everywhere, we started longing for a crispier option. So we’ve been making our own.

I like this recipe as a starting point, but haven’t ever followed it exactly (or even close). I slice the peppers into skinny rings, Trader Joe’s-style. I never want to put on gloves and slice up a dozen jalapeños but the results are worth it.

5. My book beau.

Several years ago, an internet book friend sent me a lovely gift, but I never quite got the hang of using it. It’s called a book beau, and it’s designed for those of you (you know who you are) who never leave home without a book. (Raises hand.) I slip them into my purse, but sometimes they get banged up—unless you slide them into a padded sleeve like this one. Kari said she made her first one because she didn’t want to ding up her library books, but you could use them for ANY kind of book, or even an ereader.

I’m a late adapter but this little thing makes me (and my now-pristine books) so happy.

6. Happy flowers. 

Our yard is blooming with a half dozen varieties of flowers that might actually be weeds but I don’t care. They’re bright and cheerful and the hummingbirds and butterflies love them. We have bee balm and hollyhocks and Rose of Sharon and daisies; they all volunteered, and I’m happy they did. Add in the zinnias we planted on purpose and we are swimming in flowers this season.

7. An organized-ish closet. 

Since we moved, our closet situation has been dicey. And by “our” I mean “me,” because Will’s side looks pretty great but mine looked like a tornado blew through. I was debating installing a pricey system when a friend suggested I start by buying a few bins or baskets to corral my stuff.

I bought three of these baskets (size large) from The Container Store, shuffled a few of the IKEA drawer dividers I’d been (inefficiently) using around, and now it’s not photo-worthy but it is 1000% better. Most importantly, I can see my stuff, and that is the only thing I care about at 6:00 am.

8. Parker Palmer in the morning and poetry before bed.

I’ve never been much of an early-morning reader, till now. I’ve been slowly working my way through Parker Palmer’s latest, which starts my day on a thoughtful, non-frantic note. And these past few weeks my days have been packed, and I’ve been worn out by bedtime. It’s felt too late to read a few chapters of something (always my preference), but reading just a few poems puts me in a peaceful frame of mind in much less time.

9. Necklaces with presence.

I tend to choose small, delicate jewelry for myself, but I’ve been working on choosing pieces that pop. It’s a journey, but it’s kind of fun, too. If you see me on book tour hopefully you’ll see what I’m talking about!

What (mostly) little things are bringing YOU a disproportionate amount of happy lately? I’d love to hear in comments.

P.S. Previous editions of little things I’m loving: 6 things I’m loving for early summer6 (mostly) little things I’m loving this spring5 late fall/early winter favorites7 little January favorites9 October favorites, and 7 not terribly exciting things making me really happy these days.


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  1. Stephanie L Mitchell says:

    Giving pencil recommendations to a teacher is like giving cookies to a toddler. I want them all now!!!!

    And zinnias are my current fav happy flower. Our farmers’ market always seems to have them. I splurged and threw in a cockscomb (pink and orange) for some variety this time.

  2. Birgitta Qvarnström Frykner says:

    First pianolessons again after 40 years.
    2nd trying to plan how I want to rearrange the kitchen in the cottage we are probably buying after 10 years renting.
    3rd, buying candles for autumn/fall to come.
    4th the perfect weather with clear blue skyes and the air so fresh.
    5th planning our next trip for to visit some of our grandkids living far away
    6th writing my next sermon(no I’m not a pastor)

  3. Kate says:

    I’m a new mom to a 5 week old and a recently bought bookstand so I can read one handed and a TV tray are saving my life right now!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    This summer I went to CW Pencil Emporium, and what a fun place to visit! I got some crossword puzzle pencils, and I love doing my crossword puzzles with these pencils, so much neater. I make less mistakes..I made sure to tell them that I heard about them from your podcast! 🙂

  5. I’m reading a friend’s poetry collection, just squeezing one or two in whenever I have a minute, and every single one makes me cry and laugh – she’s so brilliant, I feel so honoured to read her work. I also love ridiculously sassy make-up tutorials (even though I, er, quite rarely wear make-up), and making my bed every single day (but I can’t tell my mother that, because she always told me that doing it would make me feel better and I refused to believe her). The little things that bring us joy, eh? 😀

  6. Susanne says:

    Zinnias have always been my favorite. I think mine are the prettiest this year I have ever grown! I am also LOVING our new rescue pup Cooper. I always said I would never have 3 dogs, but here we are!

  7. Eva says:

    I love writing utensils too, and I’m looking forward to a trip to Japan where I can truly explore my stationery obsession! I’ve never heard of the Book Beau, but it sounds like a good idea…I do feel rather guilty about banging up a few library books! The things making me happy this September are tidying up my workspace, it finally being cool enough to think and go outside again, moments spent petting my cat, and the switch to decaf lattes to help me sleep. Good sleep is never overrated! Happy September to all!

    Eva | http://www.shessobright.com

  8. Robin says:

    Things I’m loving this September:
    1. A little book called “I’d Rather Be Reading” where I spent a delightful couple of hours laughing at myself as I popped off your pages!

    2. Learning how to put together and bind my own journals. I’ll finally have a place to put all those bits and pieces of the paper ephemera I can’t throw away!

    3. Planning a “girls trip” with friends next weekend. Can’t wait to see what books we each bring for lounging at the beach.

    I’m scared to death of clicking on the pencil sight but I’m going to do it anyway because, as with my overflowing collection of books, I have no self control!

  9. Eliza Erickson says:

    1. Cozy sweaters. Highs are still in the 80s here in Southern CA, but it’s 60 degrees when I arrive at my publishing job in the morning, so I can spend the rest of my bookish day in denial.
    2. Making our own fall candles. We decided to DIY this year and we have candles coming out of our ears! They make for very cozy morning reading sessions.
    3. Re-reading the Harry Potter series for the thousandth time.
    4. Using Noisli to mix sounds of the fireplace (hi, apartment living), rain (we’re in a drought), and forest (nearest one is a hundred miles away).
    5. Our new over-sized leather chair that we have lovingly deemed the “love seat.” We’re little. Plus we just fight over it so we have to share.
    6. Making homemade liege waffles. The Belgian pearl sugar melts and caramelizes as it cooks, resulting in gloriously crunchy, brioche-style Belgian waffles.
    7. Red chili pepper flakes. Always. On absolutely everything. Well, maybe not the waffles.
    8. Indigo-dyed (by yours truly) head scarfs.
    9. Leaving early on Saturday mornings to explore neighboring towns.

  10. Catherine Garland says:

    I’m loving my Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible, which is full of coloring pages (500+) and Sarasa gel pens (particularly the pastel “milk” colors”), and my Annie Selke plush robe (very soft).

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