Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Doodle4GoogleHeader
Do you appreciate kids’ art? You have the opportunity to tell them so by voting for them in this year’s Doodle 4 Google competition.

Each year Google holds an art contest, encouraging kids from kindergarten to 12th grade, broken down into 5 age/grade categories, to submit artwork which would be suitable for the Google header, such as their event header featured above. There was a theme for the children to draw to, and that was “What makes me … me”, and all kinds of materials were acceptable. Google has winnowed the entries down to 53 U.S. state and territory winners and now you can vote for a finalist. You can check out all the details in Google’s How It Works section.

They’re looking for 5 National Finalists, one of whom will have their artwork featured on Google’s Home page. And that one Finalist will receive a $30,000 college scholarship, a $50,000 educational grant for their school, and the list goes on.

But the best part – for me, anyway – is checking out the amazing talent of the kids who created artwork around the Google lettering we’re all so familiar with. If you just want to go straight to the artwork — vote here!

A Cautionary Tale

For some reason over the last 6 months or so, I have felt the urge to start divesting myself of things I no longer want/need/use. I have made some tiny forays into this effort, but nothing drastic. Yet. But last weekend I got a wake-up call – the people across the street packing up and moving.

MovingBox2I could not believe how much stuff was coming out of one small Cape Cod house. Aside from the desired items they were loading up into a very large trailer, making repeated trips to their new place, there was a ton of stuff bagged and more piled in front of their house for garbage. Mind you, when the garbage truck came through Monday morning, it stopped still in front of this wide mound; one of the fellas made a phone call; and they emptied the two actual garbage cans – exactly what we’re allowed – and moved on leaving everything else there.

A few days later, the owner of the property came by with a clean-up crew.They piled all that into a good-sized trailer and then filled yet another one with what was left behind inside the house! I didn’t have the time to watch all this for long – only occasional observations – but I am still floored by how much was jammed inside such a small dwelling. It left me looking around my house, thinking what can I let go?

I am always amazed at the “stuff” we humans amass. I see so many people with one and two car garages which they fill to the brim and leave their cars outside. I would give an eye-tooth for a garage to put my car in. I’ve never had a garage and can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t jump at the chance of not having to clean their car off in bad weather. Why do we accumulate so much that we don’t need, leave alone even look at?

I do consider myself fortunate that I have no attic and only a tiny basement. It keeps me honest. Everything I own has to fit inside my living space. Even so – the prospect of having to pack up and move again someday? It has me eyeing and evaluating everything I pass – do I really need/want it? Watching that train wreck across the street gave me pause. A cautionary tale, indeed.

As snowstorm Jonas dragged on and the snow continued to fall – heavy and then heavier – it was impossible to not start having concerns about the power going out. Thankfully, our area of the state came through A-OK. We did, however, get very high amounts of snow, lots of high winds and drifting. My driveway ranged from 24″ – 30″, and created the ghost that once used to be my car.

Car-SnowstormJonas2

What a relief when everything was finally shoveled and pathways cleared. I can’t help but wonder if these huge mounds of snow won’t be with us til Spring. Here’s hoping you weathered the storm okay, and life is returning to non-shoveling activities!

 

Right about now you might be thinking it’s pretty slim pickings in my brain that after all the time lapsed since my last post all I’m coming up with are some cat photos. Well, hold on just a minute there. First of all, they’re not just any cat photos – they’re of my beautiful Miss Jazzy. Second, we have some thoughts about the economy of environmental packaging and the inventiveness of cats. What’s that now?

Jazzy-PackingPaper2

Lately I’ve noticed that two companies I order from online fairly regularly have taken to using more environmentally friendly packing materials, and I really do appreciate that. No more packing peanuts, bubble wrap or plastic pillows. They’re using relatively cheap brown wrapping paper bunched up and stuffed to fill the box. (Yes, trees, but plastic is worse.)  The advantage of that? Instant cat toys! Not only is the box left out on the floor entertaining, but the brown paper can be arranged and re-arranged in ways that are endless fun for Jazzy. Hide a few toys, and she’s busy playing for awhile, (see below), and therein lies the movable cat sculpture. Cats are so inventive with so little.

Jazzy-PackingPaperToys2

Are there more things to write about? Oh yeah! Plenty of them. It’s been a kind of blah few weeks after the holidays, not terribly inspiring, and it seems there’s been a lot of that going around. Well, settle in your comfy chair with your favorite hot (or cold) beverage and a good book because the first snowstorm of the season will be pulling into the Eastern seaboard station tonight. And there’s nothing like some snow to get one to dreaming. (Until the shoveling begins, anyway.)

Meanwhile, take a few moments and play with your furred and feathered friends. Be safe. Stay warm.

Doors-ClositerArches2The beginning of each New Year spreads out in front of us – a year of promise, of dreams, of hopes and plans. I leave resolutions for those who are so inclined, and prefer to believe that I will take those steps in exactly the right time.

Ahead are the doors opening to what we dare to dream – what we’d most like to do, our heart’s desire, and how we can get there. Ahead are the doors to our imagination – to what we can create if just given the chance … to those we’ll know, who will inspire us, and whom we can inspire. The doors that take us out and through can take us in as well.

To all who stop by, I wish you the year of your dreams and the open doors to find them.

The Magical Book

One of the (many) wonders of books is that they sometimes arrive at just the right time. Perhaps it’s not exactly a magical book but it’s the one that’s juuuust right for where we are and what we need to read right now.

MagicalBookFinal2

For example, a dear friend of mine came upon a book not long ago and was just over the moon about it. She got me so excited that I went immediately to my local library and borrowed it. I began to read. I was not excited or over the moon as I’d hoped; in fact, I was occasionally disenchanted by the author’s style, which was quite different from what I’d read of hers previously but seemed to me to be trying a little too hard to be hip and cool. I continued reading, sometimes really enjoying it, and while I felt it got better towards the end, it never made me jump up and down.

So I returned the book to the library, and talked about the book with my wonderful librarian, who is also familiar with the author, and she said she’d give it a try. Her response was that she liked it. Not crazy about it, but what had bothered me did not bother her, and she would read some more. And there you have it. Kind of like Goldilocks and the three bears, I thought.

For one of us it just wasn’t the right fit; for another it was enjoyable, but not fabulous; but for the original reader it was exactly the right size and the perfect book for her right now. And that’s what makes books so wonderful. Certain books come into our hands, into our lives, and they are exactly what we want – and/or need – to read at that moment in time. I’ve certainly encountered books like that – haven’t you? The story, or the information, is so meaningful right then that it just couldn’t be any better.

Sometimes it takes a while for that book to appear in our hands, but we always know it when it arrives. For those of us who write, or at least for me, it is my dream to write that book for children that will be exactly what they want – or need – at that moment in time. Even if it’s only one child, I’ll be happy.

So many things to do, so little time! I’m tired of looking at my blog home page, but, pulled in as many directions as I am right now, what to post? I scrolled through my photos in  iPhoto and saw all the wonderful Seward Johnson pieces at the Grounds for Sculpture I’d meant to post, but never got to. So, here while we are having a relatively balmy December in New Jersey, I thought to share – just a tease, I know – two images from a very famous painting, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe by Edouard Manet.

SJohnson-DejeunerSurLHerbe2

What makes the Grounds so fascinating is that you never know what you will find when you turn a corner. So here, tucked in a landscaped area of trees and a pond, one practically stumbles upon Johnson’s recreation of this famous Impressionist painting. The realism is astounding, whether the sculpture is of modern day people or those who have stepped out of  famous works of art.

SJohnson-WomanPond2

Someday, I will get back to sharing more of Johnson’s wonderful work and the Grounds for Sculpture. For now, enjoy this breath of summer before winter really sets in.

JBalsam-FrenchFawnThere’s still time to order adorable French Bulldog Christmas cards! Even if you feel you’re already running behind, it doesn’t take long for me to pack up some charming Frenchie holiday cards and get them to you. Priority Mail takes only 2 days nowadays!

Here’s one of my designs – you can check out the other Frenchie holiday cards or maybe even consider some French Bulldog blank notecards as a gift.

Send a smile this Christmas to someone you know – after all, who can resist a Frenchie?

Order today!

Baking for some of us is an expression of creativity, a passion, or a simple pleasure. Personally I wish I had more time to bake, but when I do, I am reminded of the numerous perks of baking besides the obvious. Here are a few:

AppleMuffins-GettingReady2

5. Baking is a license to make a mess. We sometimes need permission to let that super-neat side go, (or that hyper-critical side that’s always complaining that we’re not being neat enough.) There’s nothing like poufs of flour and drooling egg whites on the counter to remind us that messy can often serve the higher power of creativity.

AppleMuffins-BatterInTin2

4. It ends up being a great time to give our prep counters a thorough cleaning, a corollary to #5 above.

3. Baking is also an ideal opportunity to take stock of our pantry and insure that we don’t run out of the staples we need when our next baking impulse strikes.

2. Baking makes the house smell fabulous.

AppleMuffins-1Muffin2

1. The most obvious reason why baking is cool:

AppleMuffins-Buttered2

Yum! We get to enjoy something truly delicious that came from our own two hands which is wholesome and free of all the extra and unnecessary additives of store-bought.

AppleMuffins-5MuffinsInCakePan2

Pictured here are Apple Buttermilk Muffins. I made 6 large muffins rather than 12 small, used pecans instead of walnuts, and I used the Macoun apples I already had in the house. It all added up to a treat worth savoring.

Simple Pleasures

MacounOnPlate2One would always hope that we have reasons to love where we live. As mentioned in previous posts, living in my county in New Jersey provides such simple joys in its natural beauty all year long. Similarly, I love living in the Northeast where we have the largest concentration of deciduous trees, giving us the fabulous Fall colors we love, and four distinct seasons as well. But there’s another simple pleasure …

Apples. We have apples. Beautiful red, gold, green and blushing apples. And farmstands aplenty selling them right from their own orchards. Pictured here is the apple that rose in ranks to my favorite eating apple, the Macoun. Before I’d moved to this side of the state nearly 20 years ago, I’d never heard of it, and up to that point my favorites had been Macintosh and Granny Smith. I loved the tart- sweet flavor of them both, but the Macoun topped all. It has a very specific appearance in contrast to MelicksCider2other apples, a grey “bloom” which you can see in the photo. (One might think it needs a washing, but that is the apple coloration.)

About a mile down the road from where I lived in Pattenburg was Tradition Farms. They had a small farm stand which sold produce from early summer right through Thanksgiving, and it was there I discovered the delicious Macoun. And along with that, their own apple cider which amazingly enough, tasted different each week because the farmer was pressing different apples depending upon what was ripening. I drank a lot of cider during the time I lived there! In addition to that, the farmer offered – and still does – a chart with all the varieties he grows, 32 in all, and their taste, what they’re best for, (eating, pie, sauce, salad), and what time they’d be ripening and at the stand. Want some Ida Reds for pie? Come in late September. Some Gold Rush for applesauce? They’re in in late October.

Pictured in this post are Macouns and cider from another nearby farm, Melick’s, practically an institution in this county. Their cider is also delicious and featured not only at their farm in Oldwick, but also in many local supermarkets.

MelicksAppleBaskets2

We are all fortunate to have such little pleasures around us, whether they be apples or anything that reminds us that the simplest things in life can also be an abundance of riches.

 

I journal almost daily, in the morning, with my coffee, and find it a very effective way to start the day, clearing out cobwebs, jotting down ideas, organizing what-have-you, etc. I am RandomActs-Notes2generally somewhat particular about what size my journal is – as there are limits as to what is most comfortable in one’s lap – but not how plain or fancy the journal may be. After all, this isn’t some formal document, and in the long run, is not going to be kept. I often can pick up a perfectly serviceable journal in the supermarket.

As I was down to the last 2 pages in my current journal, I planned to pick up a new one when I went grocery shopping, but … there was not one to be found of a workable size. All seemed to be notebooks that kids would bring to school, at least 8″ x 10″. OK, then, as mentioned, hardly the Declaration of Independence going in here.

“Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” ~Maya Angelou

When I opened it, however, I was pleasantly surprised. There was a perforated, light cardboard page behind the cover promoting Random Acts of Kindness! Eight cards you could tear apart, write a note for someone and leave for them or give to them. Now that’s RandomActs-OneCard2pretty cool! And while it has its own hashtags from the manufacturer for learning more, it doesn’t take away from how wonderful an idea this is to put right into the hands of children, (or anyone, really.).

I have always been enamored by Random Acts of Kindness. Most of us actually perform them daily and don’t even think twice about it – holding open a door, picking something up for another, giving a compliment – kindness isn’t hard. We’ve all, I’m also sure, gone a little above and beyond from time to time. One of my personal favorites was a number of years ago when in New Hope, PA, a very popular, artsy town known for its unique shops and restaurants AND for its 25 cents for 15 minutes parking meters. One time, returning to my car, I spotted the meter maid about 6 cars down and coming my way. The meter had expired next to the car directly behind me, so I fed 4 quarters into their meter and bought them an hour. I’m sure you’ve done the same. I was amazed that something so small put such a big smile on my face, even to this day.

“Always be a little kinder than necessary.” ~James M. Barrie

RandomActs-Ideas2

Now if the purchasers of this notebook are at a loss as to what to do with the cards, the reverse side gives lots of examples. As for me, I think I’ll be tearing off at the perf and carrying one with me. You never know when the chance to do a Random Act may arise!

If you are interested in knowing more – for your kids, students, or just for yourself – of course there’s a website for Random Acts of Kindness with all kinds of resources and ideas. I suspect you’re already a kind person, and I’m sure you agree, that in addition to making a however-small difference in the life of someone else,  there’s a lot of giggly-inside, feel good to be had in a Random Act of Kindness.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~Leo Buscaglia

Happy Halloween

Halloween FrenchieThe last couple days have had me on the road, and driving through the beautiful countryside always puts a smile on my face. The trees are still turning and are simply on fire in the brilliant sunshine we’ve seen lately. There seems to be more bright yellow this year. I cannot help but be grateful every time I travel the backroads out this way.

And then there’s Halloween. In my town, the trick or treaters come knocking between 6 and 8; we usually expect about 125 – 150 kids. People often drive into town here because it’s so easy to go up and down the blocks in this little area and everyone’s light is on. One year I was chatting with some teenagers who I found came from a town in PA, a good distance over the river. When I asked them why they came so far, they told me because everyone here was so nice and they felt so safe. Awww … have some more chocolate.

But why it’s so much fun? Everyone dresses up – kids and parents, too – even the occasional dog; they are all dolled up for a night of fun. Parents remind the little ones to say “trick or treat” and “thank you” and to “take only one.” Kids of all ages are so polite and no teenager ever walks off without a thank you.

It’s almost a visit back in time when I was a kid going up and down the street, trolling for candy. For this simple little patch of time – just like driving the backroads – I am truly grateful.

Have a safe and happy Halloween.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 74 other followers

%d bloggers like this: