Are you feeling a bit gritty after reviewing the affairs of the day? Do you just want to take a deep breath and think about nothing for a while? Would something that could possibly induce a smile be of interest to you? Well, there are things “out there” that might be the ticket. 


Friends can be smile inducers. “People are at their most generous, their funniest, and their most fascinating when talking with and about their friends. The simplest and most obvious force that forms and sustains friendships is time spent together.”


Luckily, most of us are already on the right path. “Friendships tend to form in places where people spend a lot of their time anyway: work, school, church, extracurricular activities. One study estimates that it takes spending forty to sixty hours together within the first six weeks of meeting to turn an acquaintance into a casual friend, and about eighty to one-hundred hours to become more than that.” (


Friends can make us smile and it turns out that, although laughter is worldwide, how people express that reaction takes on many forms. In this country when texting, “LOL” (laugh out loud) is common. But laughter is written differently in other parts of the world. 


The variations of expressing laughter are amusing in themselves. “On mainland China they use the numbers 23333 to write laughter. Italians use 'ahahah' or 'eheheh'. Polish teenagers use the funny word 'Heheszki', which means kicking and laughing.  In Sweden they use 'asgarv' which means intense laughter.” (


Speaking of Sweden (feel free to smile at that smooth segue), a Swedish company wants to help you name new babies born into your family. Ikea has a  name bank with hundreds of ideas based on its products. There are around eight-hundred possibilities. The suggestions are drawn from names Ikea has given to its furniture.”


For certain, these names are unique. “Each name in the catalog comes with a description of the product that Ikea gave that name to, so one day you can tell little Cornilla that she was named after a shower curtain.” (


Naming your child after an end table might be a smile maker. If so, a BuzzFeed list would be a good follow-up: “Twenty-one Facts That Are So Interesting They Almost Broke My Brain.” 


For instance, in Japan people never have to worry about facing the repercussions after being late because of public transit. “If a train is late, passengers receive a train delay certificate to give their teacher or employer to prove their tardiness wasn't their fault.”


In England, it's fun to be the Queen. “Queen Elizabeth II technically owns all of the dolphins, whales, and porpoises within three miles of the United Kingdom's shores. The royal family's ownership of the sea creatures dates back to a law written in the 14th century.” 


For those who like to head-bang to Beethoven, there is good news. “A study shows that classical music lovers and metal heads actually have more in common than you thought! Fans of the two genres tend to have similar personality traits, with both groups looking for something dramatic, theatrical, and grandiose.” (


Camping is popular during the summer, so you may want to rent a classic camper. “The iconic 'Mystery Machine' van from the 2002 live-action Scooby-Doo film is available for three overnight stays in Southern California on Airbnb. The van is decked out with 2002 throwbacks including: a Sugar Ray album with a portable CD player, a lava lamp, a vintage TV, snacks, and mystery games.” (


Shooting hoops outside in the driveway is also fun in the summer. A dog in Ann Arbor loves to get in on that action. “Scout Wallace is a happy and energetic dog with a particular set of skills that have impressed millions. The five-year-old border collie expertly rebounds and passes basketballs back to anyone willing to practice their shot.” (


Scout has become quite a sensation on the Internet. A video of his exploits has garnered more than seventy-three million views and still counting. This is one of those deals where you have to see it to believe it. Go to:


If you're into backyard cookouts, adding some Michigan Zip could bring on some smiles. It's a steak sauce unique to our state. Soon after arriving in Detroit in 1939, two Italian cousins opened Lelli’s Inn. “To compete with other Italian restaurants in the area, Lelli’s needed something special.” Zip Sauce was born. (


You can take the easy route and buy “The Original Zip Sauce” at a Michigan store. But if you want to put you own twist on the sauce, the official recipe for Zip Sauce available online.

Go to:


Finally, something heartwarming and smile producing is going on in Chesaning right now thanks to the schools, volunteers, and community support. “Students in Chesaning are ready to kick off their summer vacation and read all summer long. Every elementary school student received a 'book pillow', which is a pillow with a pocket for books.” (


What a cool community project! Volunteers made over six-hundred pillows. Businesses raised money and collected new books. Middle school art students designed bookmarks. The school provided a brand-new book for each child. Lots of smiles in Chesaning this summer. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and