Brenda Janowitz's 5 Do's and a Do-Over

recipe for happy life-final copyOur guest today: Brenda Janowitz Why we love her: Check out her answers below--how can you not love her?

Her latest: Recipe For a Happy Life

The scoop: Hannah Goodman doesn't grow up like most kids on the Upper East side. Her mother, Gray, is an award-winning photojournalist with little time for the banalities of child-rearing, and when she's not jetting off to follow the latest scoop, she's camped out at the Hotel Chelsea. The closest thing Hannah's got to a traditional matriarch is her grandmother—a glamorous widow six times over with a sprawling Hampton’s estate. But Gray is determined that her daughter resist the siren song of the trust fund set, and make her own way in the world. So Hannah does just that—becoming a successful lawyer in New York City, and dating a handsome musician. Hannah has it all, or so it seems, until one hot June day the carefully constructed pieces of her life break apart. When she throws it all in and seeks solace at her grandmother's estate, she discovers that where happiness is concerned, you don’t have to stick to the recipe.

Our thoughts: You'll be very HAPPY if you treat yourself to this charming novel.

Giveaway: Two SIGNED copies!  Just leave a comment ans you'll be entered to win!  We'll choose the winners after 8am on August 3rd.

Fun Fact: Smarty Pants alert!  Brenda is also an esteemed attorney!

Where to read more about Brenda: Her website, Facebook and Twitter.


GCC-Brenda-Janowitz-official-headshot-710574I’m so thrilled to be here!!  I’ve been following your site for a while now, but I just needed a new book (ahem) so that I could come on and chat!

It’s been five years (five years!) since my last book came out, and I’m so delighted that RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE is finally on bookshelves.  A lot of people have asked me about the title.  They want to know if it has anything to do with cooking (it does not), or if I can tell them the secret to a happy life (I can try).

As I imagined the grandmother character and the advice she would give to her granddaughter, I wanted her to be non-judgmental and focused solely on her granddaughter’s happiness.  The phrase “that’s not the recipe for a happy life” just came to me, and so it became something that Vivienne says to her granddaughter often. 

Since one of the themes of the book is finding happiness, it was a perfect fit for the title.  And I think it encourages a dialogue—what is the recipe for a happy life?  How can we find it?  Did any of the characters in the book find it?  Can we choose to be happy?  I’ve spent hours debating with friends the question of whether or not we can choose happiness.  (I think we can.)

With that, here are my 5 Do’s and a Do over: Happiness Edition

DO:  Choose to be happy.  You can either approach the day with a big smile or in anger.  Choose the smile. For me, I think that happiness is a choice. Yes, there are major life events that make choosing happiness impossible at times. When my mother had emergency open heart surgery, there was no happiness to be found until I knew she would be okay.  But what I’m talking about is regular day-to-day life. You can either be doing your work, at the supermarket, or picking up your kids with a smile on your face, or you can choose not to make the conscious effort to be happy. When the day gets you down, you can either get angry or laugh it off.

I’ve noticed that when I approach the day with a big smile on my face, it encourages me to be happier. And it makes those around me happier.


DO:  Find the things that will make you happy. Writing for me isn’t something I like to do—it’s something I need to do.  Writing is the way I figure out what I think of the world, the way I process things.

About a year ago, I was talking about some personal problems I was having to an old friend of mine (you know that sort of friend you’ve known since you were 18 years old?) and she listened and then asked: have you been writing?  And I had to admit it to myself and to her—I had not.  I told her so, and she looked back at me, no judgments, and simply nodded her head.

Writers need to write.  And when you’re nurturing yourself, allowing yourself to do the thing that you need to do, that always makes you happier.

What’s the thing that you need to do that makes you happy?

DOLaugh a lot. I laugh all the time.  Always have.  When I was in nursery school, my teacher told my mother that there was something wrong with me because all I ever did was laugh.  My mother promptly had that teacher fired.

And I’ve never stopped laughing.  Why not?  I always try to find the humor in everything.

DOTreasure wonderful friends and family. It’s so hard to find special people in your life.  When you do, grab on and don’t let go.  Nurture the important relationships in your life.  As I get older, I realize how important friends and family are.

DO Enjoy the tiny moments in life. So often we’re looking for that big thing.  When I get that promotion, I’ll be happy.  When I finally get married, I’ll be happy.  When I get my book deal, I’ll be happy.

What I’m suggesting is that we embrace the little moments—really soaking in that adorably crooked smile your hubby or boyfriend or crush gives you for no good reason, taking in the moment when your child does something adorable, appreciating that friend who buys you a cupcake one day just because.  It doesn’t have to be anything big—just appreciating life’s little victories, life’s tiniest moments of happy is important.  So, the next time someone complements your outfit out of nowhere, or you see a really beautiful flower, or the cashier lets you use an expired coupon, reflect on it for a second and remember: you have to enjoy the happy moments, no matter how itty-bitty.


It’s so easy to look back at mistakes you’ve made and beat yourself up over it, isn’t it?  Well, I say: look forward.  Sure, learn from those mistakes, but never dwell on them.  Say your apologies and then move on.

After the lesson’s learned, the only important thing is to move forward knowing that you’re smarter and stronger from the experience.  You’ll do better next time.  (And if not, the time after that!)

Thanks, Brenda!