Monday, January 28, 2008

Racing Cars on Chilly Days

For Christmas, my husband got a gift that has been his obsession for the past 4 weeks - a little battery-operated racing car. Apparently, this is a pretty big hobby in the lives of many. They have races all over the country, spare parts for sale all over the web and fancy little attachments that can be purchased for a small fortune.

Since my dad picked out this special little gift for him, we decided to hook up with my parents and take the car for a spin. We headed to a mini-track beside the Antique & Hobby Barn on a chilly Sunday afternoon. There were a few funny things about this track (well, I found them funny, maybe the regulars would be pretty serious about them): they had an elevated stand so that you could get an ariel view of the track while operating your car, there was a sidewall all around the track to prevent fly-aways and various sized heavy cable spools used as chairs and tables for spectators.

I had to admit, I loved watching this little car flying around the track, crashing into the sidewalls, speeding over ramps and flipping around like a little mechanical acrobat. My daughter was the official car jockey and would set the it back on the track after its dastardly crashes. My husband also tried to reenact a famous Evil Knievel-like jump with my daughter laying down in front of a mini-ramp, which didn't quite work out so well, as you can see...

After a little while, my mom and I decided to explore the grounds around the barn. There was a lovely pond out back, quite breathtaking actually. The light was just right, so I caught some beautiful pictures. My daughter discovered the hobby house cat that followed us around as we explored and enjoyed the views. He meowed so much, she named him Meowzers.

Once the batteries of the little car were drained, we decided to a little trip to Starbucks to warm up. Perfect way to end a chilly day! (More pics of this excursion on Sunniviews!)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Anticipating Snow

We don't get much snow in these parts of North Carolina. I guess that's why people move to the south, to get away from all the cold weather. (This picture I took last year from our one big "snowstorm" - see Sunniviews for more) We moved here for different reasons, so I guess that is what makes all the difference.

Every winter, I wish for snow. I have a big, cheerful snowman flag that I hang on front of the house with the words proudly announcing "Let It Snow!" The flag is my prayer, my mantra, my plea to the heavens. I long for enough snow to build a snowman just like like the one on my flag.

When I was about 7 years old, growing up in Pennsylvania, we had plenty of snow. One year, the family gathered at my grandparents house just after a fresh snow. We built a snowman so high, my dad had to haul out the 7 foot ladder to put his hat on. It was so astonishing, a reporter came out to take some photos for a special feature in the newspaper!

I have memories of waking up to a White Christmas, crunching through knee-high drifts with my snow boots, building glittering snow tunnels as though we were Eskimos building elaborate igloos. I can clearly remember an old photo of my mom in the 70's, standing beside a wall of snow plowed so high, that even on her tippy-toes, reaching as high as her slender fingers would allow, she still could not touch the top. Even though I don't necessarily need 10-foot drifts, just a foot or so would make life interesting.

Last week they called for snow. It was supposed to roll in at about midnight. If there is one thing I love, it's beautiful white flurries falling from a midnight sky. I was at choir a few hours before, my mind preoccupied with anticipation. I watched the moon for signs and went to bed giddy. The next morning, I woke to freezing rain and a 2-hour delay at my daughter's school.

But then, 2 days later, they called for another winter storm. This one was much bigger, the snow band descending on us like a great tidal wave. Oh, we were in for it. Four inches, maybe more! The snow would fall for hours, maybe all night. The best thing about this storm was that it was going to hit on the coming Saturday. No worrying about work, schools or traffic - we could enjoy the snow all day long! I dreamed of the snow. I imagined the soft snowflakes falling on my cheeks, landing softly in my hair. I imagined looking at a perfect snowflake perched on the tip of my gloved finger. I imagined a snowball fight with my daughter and snow angels decorating our lawn.

Saturday came. The storm was estimated to hit at noon.
I was drawn to the news reports and sky gazing for some sort of sign. I started cleaning to get all the chores out of the way so that we could enjoy it. Noon came and went. The neighborhood kids started asking every 5 minutes when it would start. I looked at the sky and turned to the news. They re-estimated early afternoon, then late afternoon, then early evening. The kids went home. Finally, at dark, the snow began to fall.

Oh, it was lovely. Great big beautiful flakes swirling around the night sky. I enjoyed it for about 5 minutes before we rushed out for dinner at a friend's house. While we were there, I kept peeking
over my shoulder out the window as the flurries became slower and slower, finally stopping just before we left. The accumulation was about 1/2 an inch on grassy areas and melted the next morning before the sun even had a chance to peek above the horizon.

I imagine if I lived in a place that got snow all the time, I wouldn't be nearly as fond of it. You know what they say, too much of a good thing... But I look at websites and magazines with photos of winter wonderlands: peaceful, sparkling blankets of snow falling like soft feathers from the sky. Ah, so beautiful - such a hallmark of winter.

Perhaps next year, I'll just accept the fact that the snow is not coming and book an Alaskan Cruise instead!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tagged Times Four!

I've just been tagged (well, not just - it's been about a week...) by my mom at Donna's Art with this fun little "four" game. The rules are I have to list 4 things about me and then tag 4 more people.

4 jobs I've had...
Reservation agent with United Airlines
Waitress at the Hog's Breath, Key West
Administrator for an arts organization
Operations manager for a website

4 movies I watch over and over...
Still Crazy
American Beauty
Pee Wee's Big Adventure
Chronicles of Narnia - Lion, Witch & Wardrobe

4 places I've lived...
Pittsburgh, PA
Sterling, VA
Key West, FL
San Francisco, CA

4 tv shows I watch...
Survivor (it's a shame, isn't it? I'm addicted!)
Amazing Race
Documentaries on public television
Anything on HDTV

4 places I've been...
... and absolutely love:
Grand Canyon
Edinburgh, Scotland
Geurande, France

4 people who email me regularly...
my husband
my mom-dad-sister trio
my high school buddies
my boss

4 favorite things to eat...
filet mignon
big, huge loaded salads

4 places I'd rather be...
Barnes and Noble
the beach
on an airplane to Europe
an art museum

4 things I look forward to this year...
snow (pleeeeeease.....)
going to NY with my daughter
going to Maine with my family (husband's side)
summer festivals & art shows

4 people I will tag...
Julie at Equus Villa
Chocolate Girl at Keeper of the Chocolates (again! - you're probably sick of me, but you're just my favorite person to tag, Shelbi!)
Nan at On my Porch
My dad, Galen, at Manspace!

Have fun!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Drive-In Discovered

This morning we decided to have a little family time together and go for a drive with the new camera. We had no real destination and just took off driving, looking for interesting things along the way.

One of the neat things about North Carolina, that is so incredibly different than the area of Pennsylvania where I grew up, are the dilapidated farm shacks along the country roads. There is something so sad and historic about them. It makes me want to go into the restoration business and fix up every one!

As we were passing some of these barns, there was an interesting sign that caught my eye. We pulled over to get a closer look. It said "Cairo" in art-deco letters and appeared to be a movie theater marquee. Since it was sitting beside an abandoned old store, we didn't think too much about it. You know, people leave odd things behind. We poked around a little more.

Then I saw a something around back that looked like a billboard. My husband realized that it was a little bigger than a billboard. It was a drive-in theater screen! Of course - this place used to be a drive-in movie theater!

As it turns out, this was the Cairo Drive-In Movie Theater of Fuquay-Varina, NC. It was open for several years in the 1970's and could hold about 250 cars.

How bizarre it was to discover a drive-in on a random Sunday drive in January. It just brings to mind the amazing history of every crumbling barn that we pass on old country roads. It's too bad they all don't have a little sign to commemorate their interesting past.

I was reading a fascinating article in the January issue of National Geographic about abandoned buildings in the Midwest (see The Emptied Prairie - awesome!). Schoolhouses with books, desks and even faded lessons still scrawled on chalkboards. Homes with doilies still placed neatly on dusty, cracked furniture. Rusty cars found swallowed by wild grasses. It's so fascinating to think of the story behind, or literally, inside the building.

I wish we could have found out more on the Cairo Drive-In theater. But, I imagine it's just about the same to these stories. Check out this great clip (only 3 minutes!) we found on old drive-in theaters. My husband, who is a few years older than I am, remembers more about the drive-ins. How they would see a double feature... The first show was for the kids, the second movie for the adults. He and his brothers would be ordered to go to sleep before the second half. I only have vague memories of falling asleep in the backseat with the aroma of popcorn in the air and flickering lights all around.

When we lived in California, my husband and I went to see a move at the drive-in theater in Oakland. I liked walking to the concessions stand on a warm summer evening and being outside with all the other movie-goers.
It was nice to be able to take off my shoes and get comfy in the car. It was fun, even if they got the reels mixed up and we watched the end of the movie before the middle! Oh well - the hazards of the drive-in I suppose!

I've posted more photos of our little adventure on Sunniviews. Anyone else with fond memories of the drive-ins?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Monkey Coconut Embellished

I thought I'd share my new monkey coconut that my sweet husband gave me for Christmas. I don't know why the monkey coconut is my new obsession. Perhaps it's because they are just downright silly. But, anything that brings a smile is fine with me.

My former monkey coconut (see Fun at the State Fair and Mystery Solved for the full story of this little guy) has a new home in New York with my sister. She loved him so much that I just had to send him to her for Christmas. His new name is Mr. Jingles!

The coconut that my husband bought was a little bland, so I decided to spruce him up. Actually, I just wanted to figure out a unique way to get the words "HAVE FUN" on him, since he apparently missed out on that little important addition. I got out the paints and things took off from there. I think the addition of the flower and flag is key!

My friend at work and I have also acquired a new monkey coconut. One of our colleagues took a cruise to the Bahamas over the holidays (lucky-duck!) She was telling us how appalled she was on the return home after viewing a receipt that she actually spent $22.00 on a drink. We said, "$22.00 - what kind of drink was it!?!" She said it was a pina colada that came in this ridiculous coconut thing. We looked at each other in excitement and asked "Did it have a monkey face on it?? Did it say HAVE FUN??" She said, yeah - it's even a bank! After we explained our monkey coconut obsession, she passed along the prized coconut with great ceremony. He also needs a little sprucing up, so I'll post more photos later.

What fun the monkey coconuts are! I've named this one Sunni-san - mascot of Sunnispace!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Satisfied Soul

There is this wonderful little magazine I get every month called The Daily Word. It has a little affirmation, a few paragraphs of explanation, and a simple, inspiring bible reference. What amazes me about the Daily Word is how often it just addresses every little concern I have almost every day!

This weekend was one of those... you know, challenges. I had been feeling anxious about things, unsettled and distracted. There are a million plans I have for the year and so many things I want to see be a success. But, Monday morning comes, I get my little book out and what do you know... "Satisfied Soul" is my phrase for the day and what a perfect intervention at a perfect time:

"Instead of continually thinking of what I need or want, I give thanks for what I have already been given."

As I was pondering this delightful phrase... "Satisfied Soul" (I feel like the wind is blowing over a great, misty landscape everytime I say it!), I remembered another thought that got me through a particularly difficult time in my life, when I was so anxious for change I was about to burst:

"I have the patience of 10,000 years."

Our minister said this once, when talking about change. It's along the same lines as "Letting Go" and not trying to force things into place. Whenever I say that phrase in my head, I feel a rush of absolute peace, and interestingly enough, a sense of knowing that everything is going to be okay. I don't need to try to fix it now. When the time comes, I will know exactly what to do.

And so, my Satisfied Soul reaches out to other souls who might need a little peace... a little bit of knowing that everything is going to be okay. If you're a praying person, please offer up a prayer for these two lovely ladies. If you're not a praying person, maybe just an affirmation of positive healing energy for them:

BJ at Sweet Nothings for her surgery and 3 other very ill patients that passed her in the hospital
Kat at Just a Beach Kat who is hoping she won't need surgery on her hand

May blessings, peace and satisfaction surround your heart and settle on your soul! May you have the patience of 10,000 years! May you know that everything, yes - everything, is going to be okay...

(P.S. The above picture was taken on a walk we took this weekend. See more on Sunniviews!)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Amazing Blogger Award

I just received this fantastic award from equally amazing blogger Donna at Donna's Art! Thanks, Mom! You're great!

The rule is that I must name 7 random or weird things about me. Hmmmm... let me see...

1. I have to be surrounded by lovely things that make me happy. My home is crammed with pictures, paintings, books, little inspirational things and funky doo-dads. I have something on every wall, on every surface. People walk into my house (or into my cube at work) and stop in their tracks to take it all in. (Almost like they've been hit by a truck!) I'm definitely not a minimalist!

2. Speaking books - I love them! Old, new, doesn't matter. I'm a sucker for bookstores, especially those that serve coffee and desserts.

3. I'd love to own a bookstore/gift shop - especially with my mom. We could drink coffee all day and sell books and crafts!

4. Speaking of crafts - I love them, too! I have a craft room that's loaded with all sorts of fun stuff - beads, fabric, paint, felt, paper, glue and much more. (I'm in the process of re-arranging the craft room but as soon as I'm done, I'll share photos.)

5. I meditate in my craft room
for 30 minutes every morning.

6. I love the beach. I feel like my soul is restored every time I'm there. I'd like to plop my hypothetical coffee-bookstore-gift shop there.

7. I love to travel. My list of places-I'd-like-to-see include Paris, Rome, the Great Wall of China, somewhere in India, Indonesia and Spain. I'd like to take my daughter to the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls. But, anywhere is fine, I just love to go! (Also, I'm a sucker for souvenirs - I have a magnet, lapel pin and squished penny collection from almost everywhere we've been since 1997. Once day I'm going to get a big corkboard to display it... just where to put it? - hmmmm. Now that's a good question.)

That's it for me. I'd like to pass this award onto Deb at Posted From Home and Shelbi at Keeper of the Chocolates. Have fun!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Old Books on Quiet Mornings

Last Sunday morning when I woke up, my daughter was playing her video games and my husband was on the computer. I decided to check out one of the fabulous vintage books that my sister gave to me for Christmas. I chose a little one called "The Christmas Angel" by Abbie Farwell Brown.

This book was published in 1910 and the wonderful thing about the copy that I have is that it was given as a gift to Miss Nellie Johnson for "Perfect attendance, Plymouth
Sunday School, Year 1910" in Utica, NY. You can view the actual copy that I have or believe it or not get the newer version that was published in 1999! (It's just astounding to me that books from the early 1900's are so well documented on the web!)

The other wonderful thing about my copy is that it had a green construction paper cutout of a Christmas tree, perhaps made by Nellie. It had been in the book for so long that it stained the pages with the outline of the limbs! I could just imagine their Sunday School class talking about the meaning of Christmas and making the delicate little trees.

Anyway, I got a blanket and a fresh cup of coffee and settled in to read this charming little story. It's reminiscent of the Christmas Carol but much more touching...

We are introduced to Miss Terry, a stern, no-nonsense spinster that sits before a fire on Christmas Eve with a big box of Christmas toys from her childhood that have been collecting dust in her attic for years. She's ready to burn the entire collection but to prove her belief that Christmas is nothing more than commercialism at its best, she decides to conduct a few experiments. She does this by throwing out one toy at a time on her darkened door step and rushing to the window to see what happens. The reactions of passers by strengthens her belief of selfishness and complete disregard for humanity, even at Christmas time.

But then she throws out The Christmas Angel. A delicate little pink paper-mache tree ornament that holds sentimental feelings for her and brings back memories of her youth. A drunken man stumbles by and kicks the pretty little angel. Filled with an unexplainable emotion, she rushes out to rescue him from the snow. She props him on the mantle and proceeds to burn the rest of the toys. After that nasty bit of business is finished, she falls asleep in her chair by the fire.

While she sleeps, the Christmas Angel comes to life and she thinks she is in a dream. He shows her the rest of the story she did not see from behind the heavy curtains of her windowsill. From the fighting boys that give their toy to a brother suffering from a serious illness to a crass, pompous man who saves the life of a baby who crawled in the street about to be hit by a car. Overnight, she becomes transformed. Her heart opens to the true spirit of Christmas!

It's such a lovely little story and I finished it all on that Sunday morning. I actually thought it might be cute to start collecting these old copies of Christmas books. I just love them! You can imagine so much history in old books... Previous owners, their lives, their homes. For me, there is something so much more personal about books than an antique or old garment. So, in the coming months, I might be heading out to the used bookstores to see what I can find!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Year's Wish...

Here is a New Year's wish for you, your family, friends and all those who continually bless your life:

Wonderful, wonderful, fortunate you;
This is the year that your dreams come true!

This is the year that you ship comes in;
This is the year you find joy within.

This is the year you are glad to live;
This is the year you have much to give.

This is the year that brings happiness;
This is the year you will live to bless.

Wonderful, wonderful, fortunate you;
This is the year that your dreams come true!

May you experience the best year ever - a year loaded to the brim with happiness and blessings that fall as softly as the winter snow!

(Photo credits to Hector Casanova as published by the News & Observer Jan. 3, 2008)