356: We Review Our “21 for 21” Lists. Do You Have Foreground and Background Senses? Plus Some Easy Holiday Hacks.


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Try This at Home: Review your “21 for 21” list.

Back in episode 149, we talked about our “18 for 2018” lists; in episode 203, our “19 for 2019” lists; and in episode 255, our “20 for 2020” lists. Most recently, in episode 307, we revealed our “21 for 2021” lists.

Research shows that making a concrete, specific list, and referring back to it, really does help people achieve their aims. And for many people, this approach seems more fun than make traditional new year’s resolutions. 

I mention the Happier app. You can download it from the Apple App store or Google Play, and the early access code is HAPPIERNOW.

Gretchen’s “21 for ’21”:

  • Make a list of friends and colleagues I want to connect with by phone or Zoom – SORT OF
  • Make two plans a week to connect with the people on that list – SORT OF
  • Figure out the light-bulb question – SO CONFUSING THAT I STARTED THEN STALLED
  • Have a scent party – NO
  • Have a taste party – DONE
  • Try cryotherapy – DONE – read about my adventure here
  • Make an Album of Now – DONE
  • Get my Real I.D. (Good news: the Department of Homeland Security extended the deadline to May 3, 2023) POSTPONED
  • Practice my driving (as I wrote about in Happier at Home, I’m a fearful driver) – NO
  • Read a Summer of Virginia Woolf – DONE
  • Make an appointment to help me make better outfits from my own clothes – DONE
  • Do 30 minutes of “review” each work day – NO
  • Add photos to my address book on my phone – DONE
  • Watch Mad Men – DONE (listen to our bonus episode about the series)
  • Look at old photo albums and home videos with my family – NO
  • Review my giant “happiness” catch-all document – NO
  • Play around with well-being apps – DONE
  • Get our big red chair recovered – DONE
  • Deal with my sent/trash folders – DONE
  • Shine a spotlight on work I admire; amplify the work of others – DONE AND CONTINUING
  • Add one more – DONE! I’ve created new products, journals, drinkware, t-shirts, and more

Elizabeth’s “21 for ’21”:

  • Get the Covid-19 vaccine – DONE
  • Get a Real I.D. – POSTPONED
  • Celebrate her friend Mike’s 50th birthday with friends – UNDERWAY
  • Get Fraxel – NO (No work downtime)
  • Sell two TV pitches – SOLD Fantasy Island, plus got a Season Two of Fantasy Island
  • Eat lots of vegetables, and to help with that, avoid using Postmates at night during the week – SORT OF
  • Do another “sober month” – DONE
  • Get through her giant book pile for #Read21in21 – UNDERWAY
  • Get a will – IN PROCESS
  • Educate herself about investing in property – NO
  • Do a meet-up for the Happier in Hollywood podcast (post-vaccine) – NOT TIME YET
  • Walk to Malibu – UNDERWAY
  • Continue #Walk20in20 – DONE
  • Weigh herself daily – STOPPED IN PUERTO RICO
  • Use her Waterpic at least three times a week – STARTED AND STOPPED
  • Create a fiction podcast – NO
  • Trust her gut, especially at work – DONE
  • Go to Disneyland – DONE
  • Visit Miraval for a friend’s birthday – PLANNING
  • Take Jack boogie-boarding at least five times – NO
  • In making hiring decisions for Fantasy Island, put her actions behind her intent to provide opportunities for all – DONE
  • Bonus: new puppy Nacho!

If you want to start making your “22 for 2022” list, you can download a free PDF sheet here.

Happiness Hack

Research shows that one of the best ways to make ourselves happy in the present is to reflect on happy times from the past, so it’s really helpful to do things to help solidify happy memories. Taking a photo is one way, but there are countless other ways.

A listener suggests playing an “Alphabet Game” with memories of a family vacation or holiday, where everyone tries to come up with a fun memory associated with each letter of the alphabet.

I mention a “Memento Journal.”

Question for Listeners

Do you have foreground senses and background senses? 

Demerits and Gold Stars

Elizabeth’s Demerit (really, both of us): We were talking and forgot to keep an eye on her puppy Nacho, and he chewed right through a cushion.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to Eliza’s and Eleanor’s kindergarten teacher, Debbie Reilly, for showing our family how to build graham-cracker houses. It’s now a beloved holiday tradition for us. Fun and easy.

What you need:

  • Graham crackers
  • Tub frosting (regular, not whipped–you want the frosting to be heavy, because it makes better glue)
  • Assorted candy, food dye, sprinkles, pretzels, whatever you want for decoration
  • Something to use as a base; for instance, you can cover a piece of cardboard with tin foil. We use the cardboard sheets that come in Jamie’s shirts from the dry cleaner. 

Build the graham-cracker house by putting the graham crackers together and gluing the edges with lots of frosting. Make a roof with two pieces of graham crackers making a triangle.

Let your house dry overnight. It will become very solid.

Then you can cover the house with frosting, which will act as glue for the decorations. Red and green M&Ms, gumdrops, licorice, Red Hots, chocolate bark, vanilla wafers…pretzel rods for fences, marshmallows for snowmen, sugar cones for trees…so many possibilities.

We always get a few tubs of white frosting, and use some in its original white color, and dye some frosting into other colors–for instance, I often make a tree by covering an upside-down sugar cone with green frosting. We also get a tub of brown frosting, which can give a house a log-cabin, traditional gingerbread house look.

You could adapt this idea in so many ways–for instance, by doing a blue and white house theme for Hanukkah.

Photo of graham cracker houses


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What we’re reading

  • Elizabeth: Listening to So That Happened by Jon Cryer  (Amazon)
  • Gretchen: Still reading The Chiffon Trenches by Andre Leon Talley (AmazonBookshop)


We mention the Fantasy Island holiday special. Watch on December 21!




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