Here’s the latest “Sunday Sunshine,” a new weekly column I’ve started to highlight some of the good news out there. If you have ideas for upcoming Sunday Sunshine articles, please reach out to me on Facebook or Twitter.

Read previous Sunday Sunshine columns here. Enjoy!

Starting college can be a time of excitement, but also depression, anxiety, and stress. In 2018, Yale University Professor Laurie Santos launched a new class called “Psychology and the Good Life,” a course designed to help students develop the skills to lead happy and fulfilled lives, using positive psychology and behavioral science research. The class quickly became the most popular class ever taught at Yale, and earned a flood of positive media attention.

In response to the high demand, Prof. Santos developed an online version of the course, and — here’s the best news — it’s available completely for free, even for non-Yale students. Just click this link to enroll in the course on the online forum Coursera. You can sign up in just a few minutes to access course materials. The first “due date” is a quiz on September 1.

Here’s a way to make that morning commute a bit more fun: let Cookie Monster give you traffic updates. The app Waze’s latest update includes an option to have the blue Muppet’s friendly voice narrate your driving directions. The instructions, from SimpleMost:

To get Cookie Monster’s distinctive voice on your Waze app, open the app and go to the magnifying glass icon that’s at the bottom left of your Waze screen. You’ll see the Settings icon, which looks like a gear, on the top left side. Once you click that, you’ll get a menu. Under “Voice & sound,” go to “Waze voice.” It’ll probably be set to the default, which is “English (US) – Jane.” To change it, click the selection and then look under the menu “Waze voices.” You should find it as “English (US) – Cookie Monster.”

Cookie Monster’s sound effects include making cookie-munching sounds, of course. Sadly, we do not yet have the technology to beam some cookies to you while you’re stuck in traffic.

Image result for cookie monster gif

We are right in the middle of hurricane season, and here’s a helpful reminder about including your pets in your emergency preparations (good advice even for those of you not in areas as hurricane-prone as my home state of Florida!). The Texas General Land Office has launched an initiative called #petprepared to help pet owners plan for natural disasters, and GLO Communications Director Brittany Eck along with an adorable dachshund named Loki (disclosure: both Brittany and Loki are friends of mine) went on a local TV news program to discuss the key points. Check it out and share with your fellow pet lovers:

Here are some feisty little owls who find and then defeat a hidden camera that was tracking them:

Here’s a wonderful elephant helping clean up litter:

I’ve been having fun with some baking experiments lately. Don’t ever feel bad if you don’t have time or the experience to bake something “from scratch.” With a little practice and some minor changes, you can get great results from store bought cake mixes.

Some of my favorite tips:

  • Substitute softened butter for vegetable oil (much richer taste) in any cake or muffin mix.
  • Substitute orange juice for water (gives a subtle citrus taste — add 1T orange zest and/or some orange extract for a stronger flavor) with a yellow or vanilla cake mix
  • If you don’t like citrus, use whole milk instead of orange juice for a richer, creamier cake batter.
  • Cake strips! You can make your own or buy some like these by Wilton (Amazon affiliate link). They’re cloth strips that you soak in water and wrap around your cake pans before you put them in the oven. It’s a simple concept but makes a big difference in baking even, flat-topped cake layers.

Have a great week, y’all!

Read my RedState article archive here.

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.