Earlier this month, Bag Lady introduced the world to the Julie Awards — Bliss honors for things that have made life a little better in this pandemic filled, oven-hot month of July.

Think of the Julies like the Tony Awards, but with slightly fewer jazz hands.

Among Bag Lady’s early July honors: the best in sweet innovation, unexpected entertainment and cat accouterments. (Shopping Siren still hasn’t gotten her hands on a six-pack of Shah chocolate bars yet, mainly because it’s been too tough deciding between milk chocolate crispy and plain dark chocolate. At this point, my choice may be both. Completely unrelated, how many candy bars is too many for dinner?)

This week, I award Julies for half a dozen things making life a little lighter, happier and less anxiety provoking. If you’ve got your own makers of happiness right now, we’d love to hear about them! Or feel free to take some of these for your very own.

*Jazz hands.*

The Julie Award for Sweet Release: Ghiradelli chocolate supreme brownie mix, Hannaford, $2.29

Add a bit of oil, a bit of water and an egg, and you’ll have brownies for days. I started making these a couple of months ago, after stress eating Oreos got too expensive. (You know life is stressful when your Oreo habit suddenly requires its own budget line.)

Pro tip: Add a second egg for super thick brownies, then freeze the results. Thaw in the microwave whenever you need a warm, gooey chunk of chocolate. So, like, twice a day.

The Julie Award for Safely Getting People Out and About: Maine Wildlife Park

I ventured to the Gray wildlife sanctuary in early July and it was glorious! Few people. Wide open spaces. Trees. Air. More importantly, air that was not from my house. The park is limiting capacity and entry is by reservation only. Reservations are free to make online, though you’ll still have to pay the entry fee at the gate — $7.50 for teens and adults, discounted or free for kids, seniors and members of the military. So worth it to get out somewhere that is safe, well-maintained and entertaining. Also, there’s at least one moose who seems to like to hang out by the fence and take photos with visitors. You’ve got to think ahead to your family Christmas cards, people.

The Julie Award for a Scary Good Distraction: Skeletons in Yarmouth

I learned this week that there’s a family on East Main Street in Yarmouth who is dressing a pair of skeletons in costumes and posing them on their front lawn for the amusement of passersby. Some people put up Christmas lights for cheer during the pandemic; the Post family puts up skeletons. According to the recent Sun Journal story, the skeletons have so far gone camping, watched the Fourth of July fireworks, gone bird watching and celebrated prom. Hats off to both the Post family and Scully and Boneita Bones for creating an, um, unusual distraction. Double hats off to whoever named one of the skeletons Scully. The truth is out there.

The Julie Award for Maine Creativity: All the authors out there

Sure, Stephen King is Maine’s best known author, but he’s definitely not alone. A number of Maine writers had books come out this year, including Jessica Anthony, a Portland writer whose book “Enter the Aardvark” is about a congressman and a taxidermied aardvark, and Paul Doiron, a Camden writer whose book “One Last Lie” serves up the latest mystery adventure of Maine warden-turned-investigator Mike Bowditch. Both books are available online, but you might want to check out your local library or book store so you can be a Maine reader reading a Maine writer whose book helps support a Maine business. It’s a whole cycle of good.

The Julie Award for Bingeworthy TV That is Not “The Office”: “Indian Matchmaking”

I enjoyed “The Office” when it was on, sure, but it never made it to the level of appointment TV for me. Then the pandemic hit and I suddenly found myself watching hours of Jim and Pam on repeat. Maybe it was the fact my own office had gone virtual? Or maybe it was just something familiar and comforting? Whatever the reason, I can now pretty much quote episodes from memory. (“Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”)

Enter “Indian Matchmaking” on Netflix. It’s reality/documentary TV while “The Office” was more comedy/mockumentary, but it’s absolutely just as bingeworthy. Watch a matchmaker try to find just the right future spouses for her clients. Some are super picky. Some are very sweet. One needs a shrink and possibly some time on the beach, even though she hates the beach and also can’t fathom relaxing for 10 straight days. She’s probably never seen “The Office.”

The Julie Award for Keeping Summer Normal: Fielder’s Choice Ice Cream

With its drive thru, Fielder’s Choice in Auburn offered social distancing long before there was such a thing as social distancing. So if you drop by for a cone, it feels for a few minutes like any other summer day. Maybe’s it’s 2019? Maybe it’s 1983? You decide! Forget the pandemic and grab a giant scoop of chocolate almond joy. Joy is right there in the name.

Shopping Siren’s true identity is protected by a pair of stylish, sweater-wearing Doberman pinschers (who never name their bones) and the customer service counter at the Sun Journal. You can reach her at [email protected]

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