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Shape the Hive Two is better than one, three is better than two, four is better than three, and so on. Being a part of something larger and grander, lends us support and strength and gives us a better perspective. No matter what each of us is experiencing, good or bad, life is just better when shared with others.

#1 – Shape The Hive
Shape The Hive Be part of a creative community and help SHAPE THE HIVE, a digital interactive art piece. The website states: “SHAPE THE HIVE, at its foundation, is a creative community. Members contribute pieces that, when combined with others, will form a whole far greater than the sum of its parts.” Participants create and add images to cells using their own photographs. The built in software allows participants to manipulate their images to give their cells different kaleidoscopic effects. This is so easy and fun to do!

#2 – Makes Me Think
A while back I posted a link to a site called Makes Me Think: Today’s Thought-Provoking Life Stories. People submit entries about occurrences and observations that made them think (MMT). Recently, I came across this site again and I remembered to bookmark it on my computer this time. Reading the entries always engulfs me in an array of emotions and often times renews my faith in my fellow man. Here is a sampling:

Today, I went for a run and decided to go thru my town’s cemetery. While I was looking around, I came across an older women in a lawn chair reading a book next to a grave. I began talking to her, assuming she’d lost her husband recently, but it turns out she has done this every week for the past five years. Her love and devotion MMT.

Today, I am 16-years-old. I learned CPR yesterday in health class. I had no idea I would have to perform CPR on someone this afternoon. And when the paramedics arrived, they told me I undoubtedly saved my mom’s life. MMT

Today, instead of calling the cops on the homeless man that was caught stealing canned soup from the grocery store where I work, the store manager bought the homeless man an entire case of the canned soup he was stealing and told the man he’d prefer never to catch him stealing again. MMT

#3 – A Word To The Wise
Dishwasher Fires We’ve all heard about clothes dryer fires, but how many of us have heard about dishwasher fires? I normally don’t write about these types of things, but a friend recently shared her dishwasher fire experience with me and I think it is information well worth sharing. The interior of her home is being completely gutted, because of the extensive fire, water, heat, smoke, and soot damage. In her words,” . . . the common culprit appears to be an electrical defect in the control panel that was used by many manufacturers in the late 90s up through 2005-2009. Many, many models by many manufacturers are under recall – but nobody knows! Like many people, I did not register my appliances because I didn’t want to be flooded with junk mail/e-mail. Most manufacturers have a place on their website where you can check which serial numbers are under recall. Encourage people to do it – and to register appliances. Also, do not run the dishwasher when leaving the house or going to bed.”

Here are a few links I found regarding dishwasher fires:
KitchenAidFire.com
General Electric Recalls 1.3 Million Dishwashers for Fire Hazzard
Maytag Recalls Dishwashers Due to Fire Hazzard
ABC Action News “Dishwasher Dangers”

#4 – When The Mind Says Goodbye
After listening to my friends tell me their stories of dealing with parents who have Alzheimer’s Disease and after watching this video, my eyes were opened to this sad and cruel disease.

#5 – Counting Hours
“Don’t count every hour in the day, make every hour in the day count.”
~Anonymous

Show someone you care this weekend and your weekend will become infinitely better!

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Gardenia The scent of gardenias wafts through an open window and lingers in the room. I inhale slowly and let the intoxicating fragrance permeate my soul. I feel drugged and I can no longer focus on the task at hand. As a Marcel Proust-moment transports me from the present back to my past, I begin to hear the clanging of trolley cars and the hissing of bus doors opening and closing. In my mind, I see my mother bending over a very young version of me and asking, “Would you like to pick out a flower?” People push past us on the crowded street as I examine the buckets of flowers at a corner flower stand. My small hands reach for a large creamy-white swirl of petals. The sweet fragrance is nothing like I’d ever smelled before and I repeatedly sniff the blossom. “That’s a gardenia,” my mother says. I nod and guard my treasure as we board a bus for the ride home. My reverie ends with the ringing of my cell phone and I return to the present. Gardenias will forever remind me of my mother and of that time in my life, but even more than that, they are reminders to me of how little seeds can be planted deep.

#1 – Remember Fathers
With Father’s Day coming up, here’s a video tribute that triggers memories of all that fathers do:

#2 – Eat Your Words
Harry Potter Cake Books and birthday cakes can each be a source of fond memories. What if the two entities joined forces and became “book-cakes” or “cake-books”? If you love books and you love eating cakes, you’ll enjoy scrolling through the photos of 24 Incredible Cakes Inspired By Books.

#3 – Best-Value Destinations
One of my favorite travel memories happened while I was in Italy with my husband, my kids, and three of their friends. We had just finished touring the Galleria Borghese and were slowly walking back to our hotel. Somehow our conversation turned to skipping and how some people in the family couldn’t skip. Before I knew it my adult children and their friends were having a skipping relay race on the dirt paths outside the villa. I still laugh when I watch the video of the race! Create your own travel memories, but before you decide where to go, check out Lonely Planet’s Best-Value Destinations in Europe for 2013.

#4 – Make Gift Bows From Magazine Pages
Make gift bows using magazine pages to decorate Father’s Day and graduation gifts. How cute, colorful, and clever! Click here for the complete instructions. Make Bows From Magazines

#5 – Words of Wisdom
I hope that my achievements in life shall be these:
that I will have fought for what was right and fair,
that I will have risked for that which mattered,
that I will have given help to those who were in need,
and that I will have left the earth a better place
for what I’ve done and who I’ve been.
C. Hoppe

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to all fathers and CONGRATULATIONS to all graduates!

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weeping cherry

Photo by Linnell Chang

Tucked away and wrapped around the scars of sawed off limbs, lays an oasis of flush, verdant growth. Young leaves glow brightly as the sun weaves its way through heavy branches and highlights this little piece of heaven. Despite its injury and its scars, this tree found the strength and the resiliency to prove that it’s still alive and beautiful. Alexander Pope said it best, “Hope springs eternal.”

#1 – From the Brink of Extinction
Imagine your excitement if you were an exploratory botanist and you noticed a tiny plant that had been thought to be extinct for the last 60 years growing on the steep slope of a volcano. Read the article about this amazing discovery on Mother Nature Network.

#2 – A Poet Who Knows It  
Whether you have a daughter or not, you will appreciate poet Sarah Kay’s heartfelt, sometimes rambling, but always thought-provoking TED presentation titled “If I Should Have a Daughter . . . “

Here are some examples of her thoughtful prose:

“Getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.”

“Put the star in starting over . . . and over.”

“There’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it’s sent away.”

#3 – Art and Nature

Artwork by Moki

Painting by Moki

German-based artist Moki combines humans with nature in some of her artwork. Learn about this talented artist and see more of her incredible art by clicking here.

#4 – With a String of Lights . . .
With a string of lights you can do a ton of fun and interesting things – well, at least the 46 Awesome String-Lights DIYs For Any Occasion that are shown on BuzzFeed. I really think the doily wedding garland is cute, but there are just too many clever ideas for me to choose a favorite!

#5 – The Negative Is the Positive
“Life is like photography. You need the negatives to develop.”
- Unknown

Have a wonderful weekend!

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chocolate truffles

photo by Linnell Chang

In the movie Forrest Gump, the main character repeatedly tells people that his mother always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”  In life each chocolate represents an adventure, an opportunity, a decision, a lesson, etc. You may not like what you’ve bitten off, but you had a choice and you made a decision. Good or bad, there’s always another piece of chocolate waiting for you.

#1 – Tiny Wisdom
From the site Tiny Buddha comes this tiny bit of wisdom on starting anew:

One of the greatest misconceptions in life is that we are somehow powerless to let go of what’s behind us. That we have to carry regret, shame, or disappointment, and that it has to dictate how today will unfold, at least on some level. It doesn’t. At any moment, you can let go of who you’ve been and decide to be someone new – to do something differently. It won’t always be easy, but it is always a choice you can make. You can either dwell and stay stuck, or let go and feel free. Give yourself space to fill with good feelings about the beautiful day in front of you – and the beautiful tomorrow you’re now creating.

#2 – Sharp or Dull, Serrated or Plain?
My father owned grocery stores and when he started in the business, he was both the produce man and the meat butcher for them. Having received professional butcher training, he taught his children how to identify the best cuts of meat, how to slice and bone meat, how to cook the different types and cuts of meat, and how to select, respect, and use knives skillfully. One of his bits of knife-wisdom is, “Keep your knives sharp, because you’re more likely to cut yourself on a dull knife than a sharp one.” This Hone Your Chops: the Chef’s Guide to Knives infograph is a nod to my Dad. Thanks Dad!

#3 – You’re Benched!
You wouldn’t mind being benched, if you could sit on one of these benches! Click on this link to see a photo series of amazingly creative benches for indoors and outdoors that are made from new and repurposed materials. Who said being benched was boring?

twist bench

Kenan Wang twist bench

#4 – Best Reads in 2013?
The Strongest Librarian Books are like chocolates, because you can’t tell by the cover what’s inside. Browse through The Huffington Post’s Best Books of 2013?: Our Picks For The Year’s Biggest Reads and see if a few don’t catch your fancy.

#5 – Beginning Again
“No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.”
Buddha

Enjoy your first weekend in January!

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kids in Santa hats
Eleven years ago my husband and I took our kids for their annual holiday portrait. Getting them attired for this event was never an easy task, especially the older they got. As we sat and waited for our turn at the photo studio, my family watched other portraits being taken. By the time the photographer called our names, my kids were more than ready to go home. The photographer must have read “Photography Poses 101″ or something like that, because he put my kids through the normal repertoire of poses and then uttered, “Okay, you’re done.” That’s when my oldest son said, “Can we get in that?” For an hour he’d been watching little kids being photographed with all sorts of props, but one prop, in particular, caught his imagination – a large plastic pair of Santa pants. The photographer paused to think about the question for a minute. I could tell he thought this prop was only for little kids, but he finally said “Okay.” My three kids voluntarily donned Santa hats and giggled as they crammed into the pants. The boys laughed while they pulled Santa’s suspenders over their shoulders. Everyone in the studio stopped to look at them and we all laughed at the silly sight. What a joyful moment it was and I remember it like it happened yesterday.

#1 – 82 Blessings
Children embody hope, unconditional love, and wonderment. Because children are gifts to be cherished and they are our gifts to the world, we need to nourish them and care for them physically and emotionally.  From the blog Finding Joy comes a list of 82 Blessings for Kids. Read the entire list for the children in your life and for the child in you.

#2 – Looking for Butterflies
butterfly In an article titled Finding Joy, author Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, based her essay on the saying, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over . . . it became a butterfly.” Although she writes articles on healing postpartum depression, her words and the saying apply to anyone coping with issues. She writes about looking for the “butterflies” in life: What is a butterfly? It’s a moment of pure joy. It’s an instant in time when everything feels right. It’s a thing or a look or a feeling, a sense or an energy that grabs us from behind, often when we are not looking. Most of the time, it is fleeting. Sometimes, it rests right in front of us. We cannot see it if we do not look for it. If we aren’t mindful, we will miss it; it will be gone. If we find it, it’s exquisite.

#3 – Finding Joy In My Kitchen
white chocolate popcorn White Chocolate Popcorn, anyone? This and other tasty edible gifts can be found via links from the blog Finding Joy In My Kitchen.

#4 – Enjoy the Moment and the Music
No hip hop dancing was performed during this flash mob in Sabadell, Spain. More than 100 members of symphonies and choirs participated in this event which has been called by some people, “The most beautiful they have ever seen.”

#5 – Be Joyful
“Now and then it is good to pause in our pursuit of Joy and just be Joyful.”
Anonymous

Have a joyous holiday!

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Walking down the “white” carpet with a smile on my face and a handsome young man on my arm, I spied a dozen cameras pointed at me. For a fleeting moment, in my pretty dress and sparkling shoes, I felt like a celebrity. I wasn’t a celebrity, but I was something better – a very happy mother-of-the-groom being escorted down the aisle by the best man, my charming oldest son!

#1 – Taking Better Videos on your Smartphone
If someone was taking a video of the wedding processional using their smartphone, I hope they read “How Can I Shoot Better Video On My Smartphone?” first. Whether you’re a paparazzi or a parent or a grandparent trying to record special moments, you’ll benefit from these helpful tips provided in this Lifehacker article.

#2 – Those Deceiving Snacks!

It’s easy to be confused about which snacks are healthy and which ones are not. Most snacks start out with a healthy ingredient, but become unhealthy as other ingredients are added and processing takes over. Here’s a list of 50 Seemingly Healthy Foods That Are Bad for You from Shape Magazine. To whet your interest, I offer you the first dozen offenders on the list:

1. Microwave Popcorn
2. Light Salad Dressing
3. Trail Mix
4. Granola
5. Artichoke Spinach Dip
6. Flavored Fat-Free Yogurt
7. Dried Fruit
8. Flavored Soy Milk
9. Energy Drinks
10. Smoothies
11. Turkey Sandwich
12. Parfait

#3 – Creative Billboards

Creativity knows no bounds, as is illustrated in these billboards from around the world.

#4 – Food to Go or Go to Food?

Every month, somewhere in this world, there’s a food show, food competition, or food festival being held. If you like to travel and if you like to eat good food, you may want to arrange your travels around food festivals. Here are just a few on my food “bucket” list:

January – Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie (World Pastry Cup), Lyon, France

February – Salon du Chocolat (in French), Marseille, France

March – Paris Cookbook Fair, Paris, France

April – The Great American Pie Festival, Celebration, Florida

May – International Biscuit Festival, Knoxville, Tennessee

June – Arcata Bay Oyster Festival, Arcata, California

July – Garlic Festival, Gilroy, California

August – Maine Lobster Festival, Rockland, Maine

September – Ludlow Food Festival, England

October – Truffle Festival, Alba, Italy

November – Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, Kona, Hawaii

December – Baker’s Market, Vancouver, BC

For a more comprehensive list of food festivals all year long, go to foodreference.com

#5 – I Believe
“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”
― Audrey Hepburn

Have an unbelievably great weekend!

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With only a few weeks left before my son’s wedding, I am the picture of calm. Why then, does everyone ask me, “How are you doing? Are you stressed, yet?” Each time I smile and calmly reply, “No, no, of course not. I’m fine!” Their questions create momentary panic, though, and I begin to doubt myself. Should I be stressed? Why aren’t I stressed? Have I forgotten to do something? There must be something I’ve overlooked, because I’m not stressed. Then my “To Do” list pops into my head and I mentally review all the things that still must be done prior to the wedding. No worries, I have things under control – at least the things that I can control!

#1 – Room in a Box

For the last couple of years, my motto has been, “Less is More.” This new outlook of mine will shock those that know me as a collector and part-time hoarder, but it developed as I moved child after child out of their apartments and into new ones. When I saw this clever Room in a Box , my first thought was, “Wow, that would be so easy to move!

#2 – Sew and Sew

I could write a book about my recent woes with seamstresses. I ordered and purchased a dress from a bridal store for my son’s upcoming wedding. After two rounds of alterations, the dress was so tight, I could not move in it. When I complained about the fit to the dress designer/owner of the shop, she said, “You didn’t tell me you wanted to move. I thought you just wanted to look good in the pictures!” Seriously! In desperation I bought another dress to wear to the wedding and had the alterations done at the major department store where it was purchased. When I received the altered dress, I was disappointed to discover that one of the darts was noticeably puckered all along the seam. When my other son, the best man, took his dress shirt and wedding suit jacket to yet another place for alterations, one jacket sleeve turned out shorter than the other. The tailor had neglected to measure both of my son’s arms. I’ve learned my lesson and thank goodness I found a skilled seamstress who corrected the others’ poor workmanship issues. If you’re looking for a tailor/seamstress, make sure to read this article 10 Tips for Finding Your Perfect Tailor first!

#3 – Deal or No Deal?

A game of chance and a fun diversion from working at the computer, this game is very much like its television version. Deal or No Deal tests your luck and intuition. Select a briefcase and set it aside. Open up one briefcase at a time, hoping that you don’t come across the one that contains $100,000,000 because you want that amount to be in your briefcase. During the process the bank will tease and entice you with different dollar amounts to buy you out. On my first go-round my instinct led me to set aside briefcase #4 and I won a million dollars! If only it could be that easy!

#4 – Career Advice
What if you could receive career advice from someone at the very top of your chosen field? Let’s say a Nobel laureate. In the article, Careers Advice from Nobel Prizewinners, a few Nobel laureates were asked what advice they would give to someone planning a career in physics. Although their exact replies centered on scientific studies, the heart of their advice applies to any person pursuing any career:

1. You need passion.
2. Mentors matter.
3. You have to go out on a limb.
4. A dose of humility helps.
5. You can’t do it all.
6. Pursue your passion.

#5 – Do What You Came Here to Do
It is very important that you only do what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may lose your car, you may have to move into a shabby place to live, but you will totally live. And at the end of your days you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do.
— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Have a great weekend!

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