It's been amazing to see the activity in the blogosphere as so many beautiful women (and quite a few men!) rally around Stephanie and her family. Most of them don't know her. Some were loyal readers of her blog, and others weren't. They just see a family in need and are rushing in to provide help however they can. It's truly inspiring.
A woman named Gabrielle who writes a blog called Design Mom came up with the idea of naming today Nie Nie Day. Over 150 blogs are holding silent auctions today (UPDATE: Over 350!), with all proceeds being donated to the Stephanie and Christian Nielson recovery fund to help pay medical bills and household expenses. Look at the items people are offering and the energy they're putting into it. Here. Be amazed. And inspired. And uplifted.
I firmly believe in the power of the universe - that we are all connected, and that sending positive energy and thoughts to people really does make a difference. I am sure Stephanie and Christian can feel the support and love from all of these strangers, rooting for them and their family. They have some coming their way from Boston...
*Image from Blue Lily Photography
UPDATE: Check out this article from the NY Times for more details.
I thought I'd share a list of my favorites. I have a few noted in the right-hand column, and those are included here along with quite a few others. I've compiled this list over several weeks, and it simply contains books that leapt to mind as I thought about those that stuck with me. I'm sure I've left out some books that I loved - I couldn't possibly name them all. It's not intended to be a "best of" anything list - just 20 books that I love. In no particular order...
1. Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger. Quite simply the most romantic book I've ever read. Pulled me in instantly. I think I read this in less than a week.
2. East of Eden - John Steinbeck. I know most people have a love/hate relationship with Steinbeck. I hate several of his books. But this one I love. It's long, and you have to devote some time to it, otherwise you'll never be able to keep up with all the characters, but it's so worth it.
3. The Red Tent - Anita Diamant. Fascinating look at biblical times through the eyes of women. Intriguing to change your perspective on events, and so interesting to learn about those times.
4. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini. Heartbreaking. Interesting to learn more about life in Afghanistan. I also loved The Bookseller of Kabul.
5. Atonement - Ian McEwan. Ian McEwan is one of those writers that requires you to have a dictionary next to you while you're reading, but I don't love him less for that - actually, I love him more for that. He's challenging in that regard, but his writing is so beautiful. I've enjoyed some of his other books as well, but this one remains my favorite. The movie was beautiful as well, although it doesn't quite live up to the book. They never do, do they?
6. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell. I posted about this one. Incredibly creative and entertaining.
7. Fortune's Rocks - Anita Shreve. This is probably my favorite by Anita Shreve, who is a prolific writer that's given me quite a few enjoyable reads. Elizabeth Berg is another author I enjoy.
8. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand. It's a toss-up between this and The Fountainhead, but I chose the long and philosophical Atlas Shrugged. (Well, they're both long and philosophical, but I was more drawn to Dagny Taggart than Howard Roarke, the main characters in each book, respectively.)
9. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling. I love Harry Potter, and I don't care who knows it! Each book was irresistible. My favorites were "The Prisoner of Azkaban" (#3), and "The Order of the Phoenix" (#5), but I really did love them all. The movies are fun, but not even close to being as good as the books.
10. Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert. Fun book that makes you think about what's important in your life.
11. Prodigal Summer - Barbara Kingsolver. I love all of her books, but I chose this one as my favorite. Most of my friends would choose The Poisonwood Bible, I think. Perhaps I need to give that one another read.
12. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell. This book, with Wuthering Heights next in line, is the book that started it all for me. (Actually, I should really credit Nancy Drew, but let's call this my introduction to adult literature.) I read this in the 7th grade - I was the nerd sitting outside with her nose in a book during lunchtime.
13. White Oleander - Janet Fitch.
14. I Know This Much is True - Wally Lamb. Most of Oprah's book club picks were incredibly depressing, and I gave up on them pretty quickly, but these two picks stand out. They have elements of depressing in them too and they are definitely emotional, but for the most part, they are uplifting.
15. The Celebrant - Eric Rolfe Greenberg. This is my favorite baseball book, and I've actually read quite a few. The story is fictional, but the baseball facts are true - the games, the players, the stats and scores, etc. I couldn't put this one down.
16. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden. Beautiful and sad and fascinating.
17. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee.
18. A Separate Peace - John Knowles. I didn't really love reading in high school. I'll admit to reading my fair share of cliff's notes. That is absolutely my loss. These are a couple of the books that managed to engage me during that crazy time called high school.
19. Life of Pi - Yann Martel. Creative and surprising.
20. The Hours - Michael Cunningham. Like Ian McEwan, Michael Cunningham writes beautifully, and his language pulls me in. I loved how the stories intertwined. I didn't think the movie was very good - it would be impossible to capture the beauty of the book. So read the book.
Let me know what you think. Are there others that you loved and would recommend? I'm always on the lookout for great books.
I always have to call my sister for instructions, but I think I have it down now. You can play with the measurements to suit your tastes, but here are the ingredients:
1 lb cooked macaroni noodles
1 can tuna
2-4 celery stalks, chopped finely
vidalia onion, chopped finely (about half an onion - maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup? and you can use regular onion if you want, but you may want to use a little less in that case)
3-5 oz (maybe 1/2 cup?) green olives (stuffed or unstuffed - I prefer stuffed, and the more the better!)
enough mayo to make it gooey
pepper and garlic salt to taste
*image provided by http://www.hellmans.com/
This Week's Three Beautiful Things:
1. An overflowing bowl of home-grown tomatoes on my kitchen table. Red ones and yellow ones, all so very tasty!
2. Beautiful blue skies and crisp cool air. I can feel Fall coming, and although I'm sad to see Summer go, there's really nothing like Fall in New England. I vow to enjoy every last moment of Summer while eagerly anticipating Fall.
3. Kevin gives me a hug and a kiss when he comes home from work. I love how I fit perfectly under his chin when we hug.
I'm starting to come up with some ideas, though. My most recent focus has been the front entryway. When you walk in the house, you are at the foot of our stairs. I've always wanted to have a photo collage on the wall going up the staircase.
It took me a while, and it was a bigger project than I thought it would be. Some of the steps included: finding and buying black frames of different sizes and styles (harder than it sounds!), deciding on color vs. black & white, choosing pictures and sizes, ordering prints, measuring placement on the wall (TIP: I taped paper to the wall to play around with the arrangement before putting holes in the walls), putting up the hooks, and finally hanging up the pictures. I also had to do some problem-solving like removing the easels from a couple frames and adding wire to difficult-to-hang frames. Whew! But now it's done, and I couldn't be happier!
What do you think?
Other resources: Here's a post from Real Simple that contains other ideas for displaying photos.
Post on Design FormulA blog with instructions for making a picture wall collage.
So if you're someone I spend time with, thank you for being someone that makes me happy!
UPDATE: My mom shared the quote she relies on related to this:
My sister-in-law brought some appetizers that were so clever I simply must share. If you are ever headed to a summer party and are looking for something to contribute, here's a good idea for you. I'm not sure what to call them (let me know if you have any ideas), but they are easy to make, easy to transport, and super yummy - everyone loved them, even (and especially!) the kids.
Using wood skewers, alternate the following:
1) mozzarella balls, grape tomatoes, basil leaves - drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
2) cheddar cheese, green olives, cheese tortellini - lightly brush with pesto
My sister and I had a long drive last weekend, and I put in a Susan Tedeschi CD. I hadn't listened to her in a while, and I was reminded of how amazing she is. She is a white woman from Boston, but if you listen to her before seeing her face, you'd never guess it. Watch the live videos, and you'll see that she is incredibly talented and has an awe-inspiring voice. If you like to listen to a little blues every now and then, I highly recommend picking up one of her CDs. Great for when you're having company, making dinner, or when you want to turn it up real loud and belt it out along with her.
I am not doing this to make money - I don't have any illusions that I'm the next famous mommy blogger or anything. I don't have any aspirations of creating a niche and focusing on any one particular topic. (How boring!) This isn't even a record of my life, because although this blog is sometimes personal, I'm not exactly comfortable making it too personal.
The purpose for my blog is simple: focusing on the positive and happy things in life. That's it. I've found that it is often easy to get pulled down in the routines of daily life and to forget to "stop and smell the roses". Particularly since I had a baby, I've also found it difficult to find quiet moments for myself. So this blog is my own little space where I can focus on things that make me happy. I also use it to document some of my efforts to organize and simplify my life, because feeling like I have a little control over things makes me happy.
It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you have to spend a lot of time on your blog. I made a promise to myself that if I ever felt pressure or stress related to the blog, I'd simply stop doing it. So far, I've kept the process simple enough so that it hasn't brought any stress - quite the opposite, in fact.
Some other keys to being a happy blogger include:1. Don't spend a ton of time reading blogs. There are millions of blogs out there, and quite a few of them are very good. I've had fun finding other cool blogs, but I refuse to spend hours every day reading them. I have a few favorites that I check a couple times a week.
2. Don't compare. One of the keys to overall happiness in life is to be happy with yourself, and this means you should not compare yourself to others. This is true in the blogging world as well. I know I'm not a professional writer, I'm not a super-creative person, and I don't really have a fashion sense or style. I'm not going to try to be something I'm not. My blog is my own little space - if someone out there likes it, cool. If not, that's okay too.
3. Leave comments. One of the fun things about being a blogger is being a part of this amazing community of people. If I find an interesting blog or particularly like a post, I leave a comment. I know I like getting comments on mine, and I've made some fun connections this way.
*Image provided by Dawn's graphics
1. I spent a few quiet minutes on the porch, enjoying the cool summer breeze. Peace and quiet, except for a serenade by a few birds.
2. Loved ones catching up after a long absence. The noisy pizza restaurant where my family had dinner Friday night. Sounds of laughter and conversations. Looking up to see siblings and cousins and nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles. Lots of smiles and plenty of emotion.
3. A road trip enabled me to spend true quality time with my sister. Being able to have a full one-on-one conversation felt like an indulgence.
Here's the full list:
1. Mr. Potato Head
2. Chatter Telephone
3. Corn Popper
4. Building Blocks
7. Lincoln Logs
9. Radio Flyer Wagon
11. Matchbox Cars
How many of these did you have as a kid?
I continue to be struck by how wonderful my family is, even though we don't see each other very often. We are a large family - 31 cousins in my generation (I think - I always get that number wrong). Our family reunions and summers spent at our cottages on Lake Ontario are among the best memories of my childhood.
There is so much love in the room when I'm surrounded by these people - my brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins - and it is plainly obvious that if I ever needed anything, there is no doubt that any one of them would be there for me, as I would be for them. Any time I am able to spend time with a group of them, I leave feeling uplifted and so incredibly thankful to be a part of this family.
I don't know what my point is with this post. Well.....yes, I do. I am feeling very thankful for my family right now, so I wanted to share that and to tell you to cherish your family. Make sure you're doing your part to keep in touch and stay a part of the lives of your family members, even if you live far apart. The relationships you have with your family and friends are the most important thing you have, so take good care of them.
Take advantage of the fresh peaches and blueberries currently available and make a Peach-Blueberry Cobbler. I got a bunch of peaches at the farmer's market last weekend, and I plan to make this in the next few days. I have to make sure to get some good vanilla ice cream first, because really, cobbler is pretty naked without the ice cream on top.
So don't wait for your significant other to surprise you with flowers. Don't wait for your birthday or anniversary. Spend a few dollars at a farmer's market, or even at the grocery store, to put some cheerful color in your home. You deserve it!
So I got some photo storage boxes. I at least managed to get all the loose pictures into these storage containers - one for my husband, one for me. I haven't yet organized them by topic - or at least by era - pre-high school, high school, college, and post-college. That will be a future project. But I did get rid of a lot of duplicates and bad shots, so it's a step in the right direction. These boxes are much more attractive and much more organized. I won't feel bad about having them on a closet shelf.
Going forward, I plan to create photo books once a year, containing highlights from the year's activities. I may also do separate photo books for any big trips or events. Having them all on the computer is great, but sometimes it's nice to be able to pull out a book and sit down next to someone to look at pictures and tell stories. Besides that, it makes me nervous to have everything on the computer. I'm a fan of Shutterfly, but there are other options. Here's a Real Simple post that compares the alternatives.
I love learning about the host city/country. I love watching the opening ceremonies. I am amazed at the creativity and the grandeur. I love watching the athletes parade in, and I love trying to guess where some of the small countries are located. (It was during this activity that I added 'atlas' to my Christmas list. Thankfully, I now own one and can keep it handy. My geography is getting better.)
If you didn't watch the opening ceremony Friday night, you missed something special. There was a point when I asked, "What's operating those things", and K and I assumed it must be computerized or hydraulics or something. It was too precise. Too coordinated. Too cool. Our jaws literally dropped when the segment ended and people appeared. People! Thousands of people, executing flawlessly in unison. It was a sight to behold.
Via the NY Times, here are some of the gorgeous images from the opening ceremony.
Just seems strange and a little wrong that there are really good movies that are not rewatchable, and yet there are movies starring the worst actor alive that I could watch 1000 times.
*This post reminds me a little of the Funny Confessions over at Portland Sunshine. Random and silly.
I usually buy a cup of coffee when I go to work in the mornings. The woman who works at the little coffee stand, Diana, knows almost everyone in the office. At least it seems this way. She certainly knows the regulars, such as myself. And she knows everyone's orders. I'm not sure if she remembers my name, but she knows that I am a "medium decaf latte", and she knows I had a baby about a year and a half ago, so she occasionally asks about my little boy.
Diana doesn't just impress me because she can remember people's orders. She impresses me, because she is excellent at her work, and she genuinely seems to enjoy it. At least that's the impression she gives by engaging her customers. She smiles, she talks to people, and she also calls a lot of us "hon".
I've been trying to focus on being a better customer lately. (I think I'm already a pretty good customer of Diana's.) I have noticed that when I'm in a checkout line, I often keep my head down. I move my items along, gather my money, pay, and then collect my belongings as quickly as possible. Rarely do I even look up to notice the person serving me. Over the last few weeks, I've been looking up, smiling, and looking people in the eye. It's amazing what a difference it makes! I've gotten lots of smiles and many more "have a nice day"s. Even in grumpy old Boston.
So look people in the eye. Smile. Tell them to have a nice day and mean it. Read this beautiful blog. Do your part to make the world just a little nicer.
Check it out if you're on the market for some eye-candy for your walls. Here are some of the items that caught my eye when perusing the pages.
Pulled Chicken Sandwiches, Salad, Chips
("Awesome!" is how my husband described these.)
Do you have pictures that make you happy? I bet you do. We have our computer screensaver set to play our pictures as a slideshow, and I love seeing random pictures pop up and remind me of happy things. There are certain pictures that make me especially happy. Some of them are great pictures and some aren't, but it doesn't matter - I remember how happy I was at those particular moments, and the feeling returns.
These two pictures came up on the slideshow yesterday, and they made me so happy. I was reminded of our wonderful trip to Barcelona in February, visiting my sister and brother-in-law. It was the little man's first European vacation. We did a lot of walking, wandering the streets, stopping whenever something caught our eye. That included this market, with gorgeous flowers and plants.
I think I may actually have to frame these and put them up somewhere in the house. We don't have many pictures on our walls yet due to the constant renovating taking place, but I think we're starting to have enough finished walls to put some up. They make me happy, and that's what it's all about, right?
Here is this week's music installment. The video is a little strange, so you may just want to hit play and turn away. The song is nice, though, and I like her voice. You've gotta have style to pull off a name like Ingrid. Enjoy and have a happy Friday!