Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

This is a fun website that a friend sent to me... carve your own pumpkin by clicking here. Enjoy the photos of our eventful evening. Halloween is such fun! The kids always crack me up - I even tried out the black lipstick. Lovely dahlinks. Hope you had a great one!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I ~Heart~ New York!!

So, I love New York - I really, really do! We just got back on Sunday and I still feel exhilarated. My mom, my aunt and I went to visit my sister who just landed her first solo art show at the Monya Rowe Gallery in Chelsea. We were absolutely ecstatic and decided to make it a girls getaway weekend!

What I love about New York is the vibrancy and constant movement of the city. I love how you can get from place to place on the subway (I swear I lost 5 pounds!) without ever worrying about parking. I love the little corner stores that sell flowers on the sidewalk. I love the hot dog and soft pretzel sellers in the street. I love the little Italian restaurants that have been in the same spot for decades. I love the skyscrapers and the beautiful brick townhouses.

We began our weekend on Times Square the night we arrived and had a fabulous time, despite the rain. We stood on the concrete island in the middle of Broadway and snapped photos, along with other dazzle-eyed tourists! We had martinis at the Marriott Marquis. We talked late into the night.

The next day was the gallery opening and we were shocked to discover that seven of the 20 paintings sold before
the the show even opened! We celebrated along with her friends and had a delicious midnight breakfast at a corner diner.

The few days following, we relaxed, we shopped, we had fabulous food. One highlight was discovering a group of crafters from Portland, OR in Cameron Gardens, Brooklyn! What an amazing and talented group of artists. It was such a treat to chat with them and I found Zeldaloo's Mermaids irresistible and bought one of my own! This little beauty now sits in my office beside the coconut monkey from the NC State Fair (more on this later...) Some of my other favorites were Leah's Glass, Mmm Fiber, Curly Girl Glass, Urbana Pottery, and Ta-Dah Glass Creations! They were all so sweet and gave me a little treat bag to take home!

Ahh, what a lovely extended weekend! My sister's apartment is beautiful, her paintings are breathtaking, her friends crack me up and New York is just amazing. My daughter saw an "I ~heart~ New York" bumper sticker a couple weeks ago and she asked me what it meant. I said, Well, it means I love New York. She said, Mommy, I do love New York! So I brought her a slew of "I ~heart~ New York" souvenirs and she was ecstatic. Despite the draw of such a wonderful city, it was still nice to be home. I got a TON of kisses - from my daughter, my husband and our dog! Yes - it's great to be home, but what a lovely time was had by all!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Harvest Feast

One of our local grocery stores, Harris Teeter, has an annual event called the "Harvest Feast" to kick off their two-month food drive and to raise hunger awareness. They pass out tickets within the community for a free dinner at the RBC Center - the stadium where our national hockey team, The Hurricanes (Stanley Cup winners in '06 - 'go canes!') play.

This year, we were lucky enough to be a part of it. It was incredible - there must have been over 100 long tables set up with at least 12 tables serving food. Ham, roast turkey, gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes, apple pie and fresh coffee - it was an early Thanksgiving dinner! And just as delicious! They had live entertainment - we caught the "Durham Seniorette Divas Cheerleading Squad", a group of senior cheerleaders promoting health for the elderly! They also had a kid's room with free tatoos, face painting, balloon puppets and games. We played chess in the press box underneath the stadium - it was wild!

The tables were set up on big sheets of wood that covered the ice because it is, after all, hockey season! In some places the four corners didn't quite meet up so you could see the ice below. We got a kick out of poking out fingers down and touching it (yes, it was just a tad chilly in there!)

All in all, the Harvest Feast served over meals to over 4,300 people that afternoon. Since the tickets were distributed to local charitable organizations, businesses, churches and shelters, there were many people who looked like they could use a free meal. It was touching - even in our local paper there was a quote from a man who said he had prayed for food the day before and his prayers had been answered.

I'm so glad that we were a part of it - an event that brought our community together to relax and enjoy a delicious meal.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Locks of Love Event is ready!

Hurray! My Locks of Love event is ready! I've created a new blog and I hope you all will join. Check it out:

Bloggers for Locks of Love

Now, my next order of business is to get a local hairdresser to join me on this journey and hopefully be willing to appear in a short video when the time comes for "the big cut"! AND to spread the word... What fun!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Growing Hair for Locks of Love

I really dislike going to the hairdresser. It's fine when I'm there and I do enjoy having someone shampoo my hair while I just lean back and relax, but it's the hassle of making the appointment and fitting it into my schedule that seems to be such an issue. Plus, my normal hairdresser just raised her price to $50.00 per visit and I just can't see spending that much for a haircut!

So, for the past several months, I've been looking for a new hairdresser, which I also dislike. I'll ask people who did their hair and make a silent resolution to make an appointment, but never do it. While I procrastinate this rather simple task, my hair has been growing and growing.

Then my neighbor, who has beautiful, long auburn hair, told me that she's growing it out for Locks of Love. Then the woman who plays the piano for our choir had her lovely brunette locks chopped and told us she made a donation to Locks of Love, too! What a great idea, I thought - I don't have to visit the hairdresser and it's for a good cause!

So, I decided that I would join them and the men (yes, men), women and children across the nation and grow my own hair for Locks of Love.

Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss such as Alopecia and Cancer. Since 1998, they have provided hairpieces to over 2,000 children up to the age of 18. The hairpieces they create are top-notch. They don't require the use of tape or glue but have a vacuum seal so that kids can swim and play sports without the fear of losing it or someone pulling it off.

Stories on their website talk about the recipients of the hairpieces gaining their self confidence, improving their self-esteem and often helping to boost their medical condition. Some of these kids are so young, it's hard to imagine what they have had to endure. Even the teenagers - trying to find their self-identity while having to battle these illnesses. Can you imagine having to go to the prom without one strand of hair? The pictures on their website bring tears to the eye!

Here is another little fact that just might make you weepy: 80% of the donors to Locks of Love are children who wish to help other children! It's too sweet, isn't it?

I've been so inspired by this organization, that I've decided to make this a blogger event and I hope that you will join! I will be creating a separate blog for participation information where you can get your very own thermometer and icon to post on your blog. (See my thermometer on the left side bar of my blog.) I'll list all the participants on this Sunnispace blog as well as the new one.
It's my hope that we can share stories, hair care tips, hairstyle ideas and other interesting facts with each other as we grow our lovely locks for this important cause.

In the meantime, take a look at the Locks of Love website - I think you'll be touched by the heartwarming stories and inspiration of these kids and all of those involved with such a great organization.

So - I'm off and running! (Or, off and "growing" rather.) Here is the plan: since my new blog is not ready yet, please leave a comment if you think you might be interested. I'll contact you via your blog when it's ready yet. Or, spread the word! Tell friends and family about this blogger event. Be sure to check back often - I hope to have at least 25 bloggers involved!
I hope that you will join me on this journey! I think it will be a fun event and you know how it is... the more the merrier!!

And look at this, could my daughter join me? She's thinking about it. At eight years old, with such lovely hair, it's a big decision! But she already has the required length, if not more. We'll see what she decides...

Update: I had someone ask about the thermometer on my sidebar that has since been removed. If you're interested, please leave a comment and I'll email you the html!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Oh, October!

Overnight, it seems, fall has arrived. The crickets are suddenly silent and there is a slight chill in the air. After weeks of 90 degree weather during this continued drought, it's a relief!

I begin to notice the golden leaves, the soft diffused light of morning and the pinestraw accumulating on the lawn. Pumpkins and scarecrows appear on doorsteps and I'm finally ready to pull out my harvest decor.

This weekend was a true delight - going through items from the attic of my favorite autumn colors, raking the front yard without breaking a sweat (much), lighting candles in the evening. It's the start of winter hibernation and I'm ready for it!

My thoughts turn to pumpkin pie and spiced cider. I crave soup and thick slices of homemade bread. It's interesting how introspective I become as the weather gets cooler, turning inside for warmth. I think of a hermit burrowing deep in a cave with a small fire and a thick warm blanket. I search for slippers!

Last night, the weatherman informed us that we have another week of 80 degree weather. Oh, well. The past two days have been a taste of the season to c
ome. Enough to make it through another week of heat!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Raleigh CANstruction

In Raleigh, we have a wonderful "art" exhibit called CANstruction. Design firms from all over the country build amazing structures all from canned food! The exhibit runs for a few months and when the structures are de-constructed, the cans are donated to a local Food Bank.

This is such a fun project that is held in over 100 cities all across the country. Since it's inception in 1992, Canstruction projects have donated over 10 million pounds of food. In our city, Canstrucion has been running since 1999 and has donated over 250,000 pounds of food to our local Food Bank!

This weekend, we headed to the Marbles, our new kids museum, to check out the Canstruction exhibit. The theme was Toys and Games. What fun! They had the most creative structures! My favorite was the Light Brite - it was lit from the inside and they used Gatorade bottles as the colorful pegs. They had a Battleship, a Hungry Hippo, a Mr. Potato Head and a Monopoly board, among others. They also had a table for kids to build their own.

It really was amazing to me how some of these things were constructed - especially Mr. Potato Head. It just didn't seem like it would be able to stand on it's own. But, I must say, I'm pretty proud that Raleigh is participating in such a neat and meaningful project!

You can see more photos here at the Food Bank Website - plus a time-lapsed video of the building of Mr. Potato Head!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Book Review: Peace Like a River

I recently finished this incredible book, Peace Like a River by Leif Engler. I love books that make you laugh and cry simultaneously and this was one of them.

The story is set in a small Minnesota town. An 11-year-old boy is the narrator, his name is Reuben. His 8-year-old sister, Swede, is a pistol - precocious, smart, a gifted writer and story teller. She is fascinated with outlaws and stories of the west. They have a 16-year-old brother and a deeply religious father - a gentle, wise, forgiving man that would do anything for his family.

Without giving away too much of the plot, the 16-year-old guns down two high school thugs when they break into their home. The town turns against him, the trial goes sour and he breaks out of jail. The family leaves town to try to find him.

There are a few things in particular that resonated with me in this story. One is the way Reuben witnesses the miracles of his father that go unnoticed by everyone, including the family. These amazing, ethereal events are told in such a soft, gentle way, that the peacefulness of them just seem to wash over you:
"He walked right off the edge of the truck...
And did not fall.
Dad's boots touched the tops of a thatch of tall grama
growing up among the thistles,
and they waved as if stroked by the wind."

The other is the relationship that Reuben and Swede have. There was another reviewer that compared them to Scout and in To Kill a Mockingbird and I agree. Like two cohorts, they have an amazingly strong bond. It's really very touching. In one scene, they are driving in a freezing cold car to go hunting for geese with the family. They are buried in blankets and Swede slips off her boots. She puts her icy cold toes against his hip. He pulls them into his lap and starts to rub them to keep them warm. She promptly drifts off to sleep.

And of course, I love Swede and her poems of Sunny Sundown, the honest law-abiding citizen turned outlaw:
His clothes and hat were black as ink, his dancing mustang pale,
His eyes were blue and hard enough to make the sun turn tail.
He said, "You want to hang this man, I'll give you each the same.
I don't much like a mob," said he, "and Sundown is my name."

I can usually gauge a book to be one that I will like within the first paragraph, sometimes the first page. This one had me at the first sentence:
"From my first breath in this world, all I wanted was a good set of lungs
and the air to fill them with..."

Hooray for great books such as this! If you have a particularly inspirational book that you've read recently, please share! I'm always on the lookout for a new recommendation!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Ode to Great Teachers

This morning, as I held my daughter's hand and we skipped to her to classroom, she said "I wonder what Ms. D is going to teach us today?"

As simple and unassuming as this statement is, I'll have to explain our long road to this point and why I just about cried when she said it.

For the first 3 years of my daughter's elementary school life, the road has been difficult and frought with struggle. Kindergarten was especially hard - she had a long bus ride with loud, somewhat rough kids. The school was huge and intimidating. At the tender age of 4 (she started early... a September birthday baby) it was a shock for her and she reacted defensively every time a new situation arose.

First and second grade were not any easier. I think she had built up a reputation within the school of being difficult and excitable. In second grade, we got daily reports of her actions in class. Long narratives of her behavior problems. We tried everything we could think of to help at home - nothing worked.

In a fortunate turn of events, we were rezoned to a new school. I used this opportunity to apply to Magnet schools. Amazingly, we were selected for enrollment to a Magnet near my office, one with hours that started earlier than most and a comprehensive after-school program. I could drive my daughter to school and pick her up every day!

We were further blessed to be assigned to one of best teachers in 3rd grade. She sent home a packet of information about her history - she'd been involved with children her entire life, started teaching at a young age, had been with the school for many years and wanted to open her own school in the future. A true teacher at heart with the endurance to withstand the challenges of the administration.

Our county, and many across our nation I'm sure, doesn't pay enough for our valuable teachers. The testing, reporting and evaluation requirements are demanding. I was at a book club with teachers ranging from 2nd to 10th grade - most of them were burned out and fed up. I read an article in the latest issue of Hallmark Magazine of the struggles one teacher had just to get supplies for her classroom. I can completely understand this and am sympathetic to the issues. But, when your own child continues to have troubles in school, it's hard to reconcile.

Her first day at the new school was outstanding - she got 70 behavior bucks to use at the "classroom mall" her teacher sets up every Friday. The second day she said "Everyone thinks I'm so nice... at my old school they thought I was the mean kid." So, we talked about new beginnings. Her self-confidence continued to soar.

So, after six weeks, for her to be wondering about the exciting things she'll be learning from her amazing and inspiring teacher, my heart rejoiced. (Okay, and I really am crying now!) Finally, the sun is rising on the path of my daughter's education and I am truly, truly grateful.

To all of the teachers out there who work tirelessly to educate our youth - thank you for being in our children's lives. Thank you for your hard work and thank you for your inspiration. You are a blessing to us all!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Avast, ye pirates!

My daughter, who tends to be more of a tomboy than girly-girl, decided on a "Pirates of the Carribean" theme for her birthday party. Since pirates are such a popular subject these days and the dollar stores overflow with unique pirate-themed items, we had a lot of fun planning the party. Of course, we had the standard pirate cake, the pirate plates, the pirate pinata but we also had a few unique additions.

I decide to create a treasure hunt for the kids through the backyard. I drew an elaborate map and with my husbands help, came up with unique names like the "Path of the Wicked Winds" which is the old dog run of our former owners beside the garage, the "Tree Man of Dark Magic" which is the little resin face of a silly man nailed to our big tulip poplar, the "Swing of Insanity" which is the porch swing beneath the jasmine trellis, the "Walk of Peril" - our pebble stone walkway in front of the porch, the "Jungle of Doom" - the bushes beside the fence. The kids followed the map on a path around the backyard finding "treasures" along the way such as pirate candy, skeleton necklaces, swords and telescopes. The final "X" marks the spot contained a bag full of pirate gold, aka dollar store plastic coins!

I also had them start at the "Pirate Ship", which was the old wooden swing set they've hardly touched all summer, decked out with strips of an old ripped up sheet, yarn for a spider-webby feel, some of those leftover skeletons from the treasure hunt and a few balloons. They played on that thing for hours, sailing the high seas, fishing, and avoiding deadly storms.

I asked all the kids to come dressed as pirates and after being in a pirate mood for over a week, decided to dress in a pirate motif myself. My uncle walked in the door and thought I'd reverted to some sort of hippy phase (not knowing the pirate-theme of course!)

What fun to imagine a life on the open water, sailing for gold. We took a look at Mel Fisher's website, the famous treasure hunter who discovered the 16th century shipwreck of the Atocha and it's fortune worth hundreds of millions dollars. It's a story that's hard to believe, but as Mel said "Once you've seen the ocean bottom paved with gold coins, you'll never forget it." So true, I'm sure!

It was a great party and one that my daughter will remember for a long time. The best thing is that we're half-way decorated for halloween already! Shiver me timbers!