Charles Dickens

The Right Kind of Contagious

December 23, 2022

Photo by Igor Rodrigues on Unsplash

“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

I wish all of you a most joyful and happy holiday season, and a happy New Year. The Happy Little Thoughts newsletter will go out on Wednesday, Dec. 28 (subscribe here), but this will be the last Catching Happiness post for 2022. I’ll be taking some time off to be with family, to reflect thoughtfully on this year, and plan for 2023. Thank you so much for your presence here on Catching Happiness.

Happy Little Things

Happy Little Things—Snail Mail!

December 16, 2022

Photo by Rinck Content Studio on Unsplash

During December, getting the mail is exciting. Will there be a card and/or letter from a far-off friend? Did someone send me a Christmas gift? Did something I ordered to give to someone else arrive? During the stretch of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I get more than bills and junk mail in my mailbox—and I love it!

Snail mail as simple pleasure.

I know I’m not the only one who loves to get mail, and there’s no reason why we can’t enjoy this simple pleasure all year round.  


Back in Olden Times, before texting and email became as convenient and popular as they are, if you wanted to stay in touch with a faraway friend or family member, you had to write letters—pre-cell phone, calling was likely expensive. I used to bring stationery or note cards with me to my son’s baseball practices, or I’d jot a few lines while we watched TV. Even on occasion, I’d sit on our front porch specifically to pen a letter to someone. Even though I love the convenience of texting and email—the ability to send photos or share a funny thought in the moment—I also miss getting actual letters in my mailbox from my friends and family.

I don’t write many letters anymore, but I’m thinking about bringing letter writing back into my life as a Happy Little Thing. I like the idea of slowing down enough to gather my thoughts and write to someone. I have a few older relatives who don’t use email or text, and I know they’d love to get a note in the mail. I just need to make this a simple pleasure rather than a chore—maybe set myself up with pretty stationery, a cozy drink, and so on. Make it a pleasant ritual.


I’m also a fan of receiving packages in the mail, even if they’re just vitamins or pet food I ordered online! There’s just something exciting about opening up a box, especially if you’re not quite sure what’s inside. Though I’ve never tried this, I know there are plenty of subscription services out there, from coffee, to beauty items, to art supplies, to luxury boxes that combine any number of charming personal and home items—at many different price points. There are even letter subscriptions.

Subscribing to a letter or box service could be a way to have something fun to look forward to, especially if you don’t have anyone to exchange letters with, or if you’d prefer just receiving snail mail to actually producing it. A few I that look tempting (no affiliation):

During the coming year, I’d like to write more letters (and hopefully receive more letters), and I might even invest in some type of subscription service—I absolutely would like to have something small and happy to look forward to in my mailbox on a regular basis.

Do you have any favorite subscription services or other snail mail sources?

Everyday adventures

Field Trip Friday—The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

December 09, 2022

Welcome to Hogwarts 

Every now and then, you have to leave the real world behind and have a little fun. That’s what I did on Tuesday with my friend Mary. Ever since The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened at Universal Studios Florida, we’ve wanted to go check it out. But we’re Muggles with jobs and responsibilities and busy schedules, so this was easier desired than done. Finally, Mary took the initiative and chose a week she could make work, and after some back-and-forth, we found a day we were both free. If there’s one life lesson that keeps slapping me in the face, it’s “If you want to do something, don’t wait—there may come a time when you won’t be able to do it and you’ll live with regret.”

So off to Harry Potter World we went.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is actually split into two parts—one section, Diagon Alley, in Universal Studios Florida and one section, Hogsmeade, in Islands of Adventure. Pause here to admire the marketing genius of Universal Resorts: if you want to see the entirety of Harry Potter World, you have to buy a Park-to-Park ticket. Fortunately, they also offer ticket deals for Florida residents, and while the entrance fee was not cheap, it was doable. I also think if you’re a Harry Potter fan, it’s worth it to spring for the entire experience.

Diagon Alley

Hidden behind the London waterfront, is Diagon Alley.  Before you even enter the area, you can see the the Knight Bus (which in the books, picks up stranded witches and wizards), and 12 Grimmauld Place, the ancestral home of Sirius Black’s family, and the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix. I missed this, but apparently house elf Kreacher looks out of an upstairs window every few minutes.

Once you enter Diagon Alley, you’ll find in adorable detail many of the locations made famous in the books and movies, including Gringotts Bank (topped by a fire-breathing dragon, see below), Ollivander’s wand shop (“Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 BC”), and the Leaky Cauldron (a restaurant). In one shop, you can trade U.S. currency for Gringotts bank notes, which you can use to buy things in the Wizarding World as well as a few select places in Universal Orlando.

We strolled through Knockturn Alley, the “seedy underbelly” of the wizarding world—dark and spooky, anchored by the shop Borgin and Burkes—just the place to go if you want to get out of the hot Florida sun while you search for objects of magical properties.

Before leaving Diagon Alley, we rode Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (fun) and, yes, we drank a butterbeer.

All aboard the Hogwarts Express

To get from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade, we boarded the Hogwarts Express at King’s Cross Station. From Platform 9 ¾, of course. The short train ride left us on the outskirts of Hogsmeade, which, amazingly in sunny Florida, retained snow-capped roofs.

Hogsmeade nestles up against Hogwarts Castle, where we walked through the passageways of the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry before joining Harry and his friends for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a “scenic dark ride” where, among other things, you follow Harry through a Quidditch game and escape from the Whomping Willow.  

In Hogsmeade, we also braved Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, which was a true roller coaster, and left us screaming and laughing…and staggering a little since it was a bit more exciting than we were expecting!

To recover, we went to sweet shop Honeydukes, where I bought a chocolate frog and some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.

My friend and I had a fantastic time exploring Harry’s world, and there were so many things to see and do that I would be happy to go back. I loved seeing kids and even some adults dressed in Hogwarts’ robes—it was so fun to feel immersed in a magical world for just a day.

Harry Potter magic

I have really fond memories of reading the Harry Potter books to our son and later, going to see the movies as a family. For me, forgive the pun, the series has been magical. As the series progressed and our son grew up, eventually I was reading the books just for myself! In fact, I preordered the last in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and read it over the course of a day or two when it was released because I didn’t want anyone to tell me how it ended. The first and last time I’ve ever done that.

Hope you’ve enjoyed a peek into the magical world of Harry Potter—and that the next time an opportunity for some silly fun comes your way, you take it!

When was the last time you had a fun and silly everyday adventure?

Link love

Post-Thanksgiving Link Love

November 25, 2022

In the U.S., yesterday was Thanksgiving, a day not known for its moderation. So if you’ve indulged in a little too much “festivity,” (and even if you haven’t) here are some happy, peaceful links to check out while you’re (hopefully) enjoying a day off from the normal routine.

Check out “25 Ways to Take Care of Yourself During theHolidays” for ways to stay healthy and sane this year. Most of these fit in really well with my word of the year, simpler

Just when I think that people are the worst, I read a story like this.

“5 Anxiety-busting Activities to Try This Weekend.” I’ve been trying to make joy a priority recently.

The sweet joy on these faces is pure magic.

“18 Easy Things to Do Today to Make Yourself Happier.” Number 9 is my favorite.

The holiday season can be difficult for highly sensitive people—it’s so full of stimulation. This article has good information on how to care for yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially if you’re highly sensitive—and how to help if someone you love is.

And here’s your laugh for the day. Welcome to the Squirrelympics!

Happy weekend!


Tending the Secret Garden of Joy

November 18, 2022

Photo by Joanna Swan on Unsplash

“Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we shall tend. The invisible underbrush holding us back is our own thoughts. When we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but on the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure—the wasteland falls away and we experience more joy in the real lives we live each day.”

—Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance