Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"It is easily overlooked that what is now called vintage was once brand new." ~ Tony Visconti

As with most things beach related, I have always had a thing for bathing beauties.  I'm not sure why, but there is something so charming about them.  The lovely ladies pictured below usually sit on my mantle, but the gray skies today had me moving them to a windowsill in order to get a little more light.

I recently ran across the link below to 360 (!) vintage bathing-suit photos from around the world.  Even if you don't go through all 360 of them, I think that you will enjoy looking through a few.  Just charming!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"The world is full of a lot of fear and a lot of negativity, and a lot of judgment. I just think people need to start shifting into joy and happiness. As corny as it sounds, we need to make a shift." ~ Ellen DeGeneres

I recently ran across an article dealing with happiness.  I have always been intrigued with happiness - why some people are happier than others; why some countries are happier than others - it's interesting.  I read a book several years ago call The Geography of Bliss.  

"The Geography of Bliss takes the reader from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness.....The book uses a beguiling mixture of travel, psychology, science and humor to investigate not what happiness is, but where it is. Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Qatar, awash in petrodollars, find joy in all that cash? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina so damn happy?"

An enjoyable read and one that points out that having it all does not necessarily bring happiness.

My book group also read a book called The Happiness Project.

"Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. 'Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter.' In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference."

Again, an enjoyable read and great book group discussion.

Now, most recently, from World Observer Online, 15 things that we should strive to "give up" in order to be happier.  I really plan to focus on #1, #2 and #6 - really #6.  Our community recently lost a lovely woman. While her physical limitations could have given her every reason to complain, she didn't.  I said to a friend, "I need to take a page from Jane's book."  #6 is my real goal.

1. Give up your need to always be right. There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?”Wayne Dyer. What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?

2. Give up your need for control. 
Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel.
“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” Lao Tzu
3. Give up on blame. Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.
4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk. Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that.
“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” Eckhart Tolle
5. Give up your limiting beliefs about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!
“A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind” Elly Roselle
6. Give up complaining. Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.
7. Give up the luxury of criticism. Give up your need to criticize things, events or people that are different than you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.
8. Give up your need to impress others. Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take of all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.
9. Give up your resistance to change. Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls” 
Joseph Campbell
10. Give up labels. Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open. “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer
11. Give up on your fears. Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.
“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
 Franklin D. Roosevelt
12. Give up your excuses. Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.
13. Give up the past. I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.
14. Give up attachment. This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too, (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things, (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another,  attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and self less, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.
15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations.Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need….and eventually they forget about themselves.  You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.

What numbers would you choose to strive for?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Obviously no parent or guardian drops their children off at school thinking tragedy is going to happen. But perhaps we should be grateful that if something terrible does happen, that there are these angels in the building who will do right by our kids. Who will give anything -- sometimes even their lives -- to protect them in our absence." ~ LZ Granderson, CNN

I've been retired from teaching for nearly two years now.  I am so grateful that I was able to leave when I did. I could go on a rant about the punching bags that teachers have become in this two-year span (though it was well on its way to that before I retired).  I won't go there - but I will say with my whole heart that the vast majority of teachers love their kids (your kids) - love them; worry about them; lose sleep over them.  Having to shield them from bullets, or covering them with their own body as a tornado bares down is blessedly rare. But make no mistake, every teacher I know would do precisely that it they needed to.  You can take that to the bank.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook- try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” ~ Julia Child, My Life in France

So yes, BITE travelled to France for our most recent adventure - and it was wonderful, as always!  I can say that for myself, personally - my recipe was a stretch for me - but a good stretch!

To begin with, Ellen prepared Baked Brie in Puff Pastry.  She had me at "brie".  I adore brie - adore it. I wish that I could adore something a bit more healthy, like brussels sprouts - but no.  If you click on the recipe you will find not only the recipe, not only a detailed "how-to" video, but also a photo that will show you that Ellen got it all just right!

Next, Tierney provided a side dish of Ratatouille.  So flavorful - even I enjoyed the eggplant - go figure!

For our main course, Chris served up Coquilles St. Jacques.  I love seafood, so this was a serious hit with me - and anything topped with a sauce with Gruyere in it - um - YES!  It was just superb.

Lastly we come to my dessert, Tarte Au Citron.  I know that I have said here before that I am not a baker, and I'm not.  So - for me to undertake this recipe was a testament to why I am in this group in the first place - to try new things - to go outside my comfort level - to bake!  I must say that it was delicious.  It was not quite as firm as I would have liked but the sweet tartness made it well worth the effort.  Maybe this is why I don't bake - desserts such as this are a real labor of love.

I promise that recipes for May's BITE will be added to the BITE page as soon as my life slows a bit.  Until then - enjoy our brush with France and look forward to June's theme - anything with lemons or limes.  I already know what my appetizer will be!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

“Whoever heard of a midwife as a literary heroine? Yet midwifery is the very stuff of drama. Every child is conceived either in love or lust, is born in pain, followed by joy or sometimes remorse. A midwife is in the thick of it, she sees it all.” ~ Jennifer Worth, The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times

I must say, I do feel as though I am being unfaithful to Downton Abbey, but I am in love with Call the Midwife (please don't tell Maggie Smith).  With one week to go before the final episode of its second season, it will be a long 10 months before Season 3 begins!

"In drawing from the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, the BBC's Call the Midwife instantly distinguished itself from most other medical dramas, largely because it's a more character-driven piece. Jessica Raine, who evokes the openhearted Judy Garland of The Wizard of Oz, plays Jenny Lee, a middle-class 22-year-old who takes a job at an Anglican convent in 1957, where the young nurses work alongside experienced nuns: calm Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter), stern Sister Evangelina (Pam Ferris), and spacey, cake-addicted Sister Monica Joan (Judy Parfitt, who costarred with Ferris in Little Doritt).Jenny is hardy and judgmental, but the depth of poverty permeating London's East End provides a wake-up call (suffice to say, gynecological care has come a long way since the 1950s). To be effective, though, she must learn to put her preconceptions aside about teenage prostitutes, unwed mothers, squalid living conditions, and inappropriate relationships. Her upper-class colleague, Camilla "Chummy" Cholomondley-Browne (Miranda Hart, quite affecting), seems like she'd be even deeper out of her depth, but looks can be deceiving--even if Chummy finds it harder to handle the bikes the nurses use to cycle between appointments. It is written byCranford's Heidi Thomas and narrated by Vanessa Redgrave."

In Downton Abbey, with the focus on the Crawley Estate and its inhabitants both upstairs and down. life seems insulated. Absolutely the events of the world have an impact, but we mostly see life from inside the estate walls.  I'm not complaining about that mind you - it's a wonderful series and I can't wait for Season 4! Call the Midwife, by comparison, is very much out in the world - and it's a gritty place.  While we are privy to the hopes, dreams and anxieties of the midwives, the nuns of Nonnatus House and the lives of the inhabitants of London's East End, we also see the day-to-day struggle of lives that are not filled with privilege.  These are mostly caring people in a cold and harsh corner of the world - and it's amazing to see.

If you are not familiar with Call the Midwife, go to PBS and you can watch episode previews and in the case of Season 2 - full episodes.  If you want to get caught up before season three begins sometime in spring, 2014 - you have several options available.  First, you can try your local library.  Mine has all of Season 1, and I imagine that it will get Season 2 once it's available in DVD (June 7th).  Netflix currently has all of Season 1 available to "watch instantly", and if you have Amazon Prime, you can also watch the episodes instantly, but for a small fee.  PBS is currently offering instant watching of all of Season 2 online - but beware that this will expire at some point (Season one was offered on this site up until about 2 weeks ago). And of course, there is always the option to purchase the seasons on DVD for yourself.  Season 2 on DVD will include the Christmas special that aired several months ago.  Short of watching that episode on Amazon Prime, this may be the only way to get to see it.

It's wonderful, it really is.  If you are a Downton fan, and even if you are not - give it a go!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Handmade presents are scary because they reveal that you have too much free time." ~ Doug Coupland

Yesterday was my friend Carol's birthday.  Carol and her family live in Virginia now, and we don't get to see each other very often.  This makes me sad, but such is life.  Giving her gifts that I have made, gifts from the heart, eases the sadness.  

For Carol's birthday, I knit her up "A Little Bit Bohemian" by Rebecca Stromgren (a free Ravelry pattern).  It is really more a scarf than a shawl, and I'm not sure that it will get much use in Virginia in May, but I know that the winter months do get chilly down there!

The yarn that I used is Malabrigo's Rastita, colorway Solis.  It is a lovely yarn to work with, just lovely.

Happy Birthday Carol!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"The chef that grew up with the grandma who cooks tends to always beat the chef that went to the culinary institute. It's in the blood." ~ Gary Vaynerchuk

My husband, Bruce, grew up in the Utica area of New York State.  There, Sunday dinners were made by is Italian grandmother.  Recently, Bruce has enjoyed a return to his roots - he is cooking up wonderful Italian dishes every Sunday afternoon - and I'm not complaining!  While I was out at a craft fair on a recent Sunday, he began snapping pictures as he prepared a dinner of Roasted Red PeppersSpinach Bread, and Shrimp Casino.  All of his recipes came from the book Joey's Italian.  If you click on any of the recipes above, it will take you to an excerpt from the book - scroll down to see each of the three recipes.

I came home to wonderful aromas, and snapped a few photos of my own.  Sadly - I didn't get any great shots of the cooked shrimp - what I can tell you is that they were wonderful!

So - here is a guest appearance by my favorite chef!

And - he cleaned up when he was done!  Molto delizioso, Chef Altieri - Molto delizioso!