Archive for the ‘What Makes You Happy’ Category

For all the Band Aids and ice packs,

For all the times you told me everything would be okay,

For all the times you asked, “Do you need anything?,”

For all the times you told me I’m just like dad,

For all the times you stayed up late planning a vacation or helping with a school project,

For all the times you said, “Make sure your apartment door is double locked,”

For all the times you told me to study hard,

For all the times you slipped me an extra $5 when dad wasn’t looking,

For all the times you hung a B+ on the fridge,

For all the times you told me my picture looks perfect,

For all of the letters and care packages in college – I kept every letter you sent,

For all the hugs when I’ve had a rough day,

For being the family photographer,

For teaching me to always bring flowers,

For telling me to study first and play second,

For reminding me to call my sisters,

For pretending my friends and I spend as much time in church as we do the bar,

For helping me move 12 times in seven years,

For the occasional guy babysitter,

For always supporting me,

For the endless supply of costumes during grade school… and college,

For only being a phone call away,

And so much more,

Thank you. Happy Mother’s Day.




It’s the end of Restaurant Week in Chicago and I can’t think of a more appropriate time to write about food. During the last 6 months I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the US and visit some amazing cities. From braised rabbit in the Big Easy and homemade Italian in the Empire State to expensive steaks in Sin City and vegan food back home in the City of Broad Shoulders, I’ve made an effort to go out of my way and try new foods.

With Chiara and her family.

One of my favorite experiences was a cooking demonstration by Chiara Lima, the daughter of legendary Italian chef Mamma Agata, during her cookbook tour. While Chiara captivated the small group with stories about Pierce Brosnan, Jacqueline Kennedy and Humphrey Bogart, she showed us that it doesn’t take a Top Chef-esque kitchen to produce flavorful food. (Fun Fact from Chiara: Parmesan cheese does not belong on every pasta dish… I’m looking at you Olive Garden. On the wrong dish it can mask the chef’s flavors instead of enhancing them.)

Many of my favorite trips and dining experiences have been with male co-workers and college buddies. And while I love sharing a meal in the company of women, I appreciate the bond established with my guy friends over food and drinks. Those experiences becomes less about the conversation and more about the people there and the food we ate. When I think about these trips, I can remember where we’ve eaten, what we had, and who was there more than I can remember the topics we discussed.

Trying a new cuisine is exciting but it took almost a year for me to build up my nerves and try vegan food. The thought of tofu and seitan, appropriately pronounced Satan, masquerading as chicken, beef, and pork frustrated and scared me. Why would I give up real delicious ribs for fake ribs? Thankfully, an expiring Groupon and cute lady friend pushed me out the door and into a well-known vegan restaurant, Karyn’s Cooked. The meal wasn’t great but it opened my mind to idea of vegan food.

At N9NE Steakhouse in Las Vegas after consuming an unhealthy amount of red meat, wine, and whiskey.

Beyond the French menu tasting I went to before Restaurant Week started, I didn’t have time to take advantage of the week’s offerings. However, the idea behind Restaurant Week is for diners to try new menus and go to places they wouldn’t normally visit. This spirit of adventure shouldn’t be limited to just one week of the year and only certain cities. If you live in a city that doesn’t have a Restaurant Week or if you’re schedule didn’t permit you to participate, I hope you find an evening sometime in the next few weeks to try something new or go outside your comfortable level.

Cent Anni!


(Cent Anni is an Italian toast Chiara taught my cooking group and it means, “May we have 100 years of life, love, health, and happiness.”)

Smiles are contagious! They have the ability to transform a bad day into a tolerable day, they’re free to give out and they’re easy to give away. Plus, when you see the right person smile, it has the power to make you share a smile with someone else.

A couple weeks ago, I said the thing that makes me happy is celebrating and supporting my friends. So now it’s time to focus on what makes other people happy. Surprising a woman with flowers or a cup of coffee to a co-worker will almost always deliver a smile, but the cost of buying coffee and flowers can add up very quickly (trust me, I know).  Which is why understanding a co-worker or friend well enough to make them smile on a consistent basis is so valuable.

Do you know someone that can make you smile every time you see them?

If not, let me introduce you to Amit Patel. While it’s commonly believed that making someone smile is an art*, Amit has it down to a science.

Dr. Amit Patel (Specialty: Happiness)

Amit is the subject of this edition of “What makes You Happy?” because he radiates happiness from the moment you meet him. Monday through Friday he’s the guy walking through the hallways of Weber Shandwick with a giant smile on his face, a snap in his step and a story to tell from the weekend. It doesn’t matter if you’re an intern or a senior vice president, he’s loves to swap recipes, discuss NCAA sports (especially Purdue sports) and learn a little bit about your weekend.

Outside the office, he continues to bring energy and enthusiasm to all of the activities he does. My friends jokingly refer to my apartment as “Casa de Piehl” because people are frequently crash on my couch, but the number of guests Amit hosts in a weekend always trumps what I host in a month. His generosity extends beyond his willingness to host friends from out of town and enters daily life through his ability to be inclusive with a “the more the merrier” attitude.

Despite the fact that his accounting background places him in front of a computer and spreadsheets all day, he is a master chef and deserts are his specialty. No worries if you don’t have a sweet tooth, Amit is also perfecting a laundry list of Indian dishes.

Amit isn’t a real doctor but we call him Dr. Patel in good spirit because like a real doctor, he has a gift that helps others. For those of you looking to make more people smile, here’s a prescription to be more like Amit:

1) Smile every day and go out of your way to say hi in the morning.

2) Actively listen to what you’re friends are saying (Even if it’s in a cab at 3am on a Saturday night / Sunday morning).

3) Think about your dream job and everyday try to make it a reality.

4) Be your own man (or woman) and do the activities that make you happy. You’ll be more inclined to make other people smile, if you’re already smiling.

5) Look for reasons to celebrate.

6) Be inclusive.

*I have no scientific data to support the claim that making someone smile is an art. 🙂

Smiling Child Photo Source: Flickr