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Archive for December, 2011

Thursday Sunshine courtesy of Trenton

Today snow flurries have been spotted in the DMV so a little sunshine is much-needed ūüôā

*Hat tip to one of my favorite blogs, BlackandMarried with Kids for sharing this story of Trenton Gilstrap, a high school senior, who gives back by helping other young people cope with their own disabilities.

From the Huffington Post:

Though epilepsy and Asperger’s¬†syndrome sometimes get in the way when Trenton Gilstrap¬†socializes with his high school friends, his conditions haven’t interfered with his educational dreams, CNN reports.

Trenton hopes to become a biomedical engineer and was recently accepted¬† — on a full scholarship —¬† to the University of Pittsburgh.

“It makes me feel like all that work, all that struggling, all that crying at home alone finally equals success,” Trenton told the news outlet.

While Trenton is satisfied with his accomplishments, he wants to make sure that other young people, suffering with similar disabilities, have the same opportunities.

So, Trenton and his mom, Tatia, launched the Hidden Inspirations Project, a nonprofit that offers scholarships to kids living with a range of disabilities.

“The more we’ve found out how different he is, the more we’ve been able to bridge the gap in people‚Äôs lives — especially mine,” Tatia told CNN.

Watch the CNN video here.

What I love most about this story is Trenton’s very mature understanding of his peers’ struggles¬†and his desire to lend a helping¬†hand. The irony? This from a young man who supposedly lacks empathy, hmmmm…..

How awesome is Trenton? Who knows more about autism and related disorders: you, me or the professionals? Do you know how to embed non-YouTube videos? Leave your sunshine below.

‘Tis the Season

Our tree...low frills but we love it ūüôā

Deck the halls with boughs of holly…..

Hey there Sunflowers! My apologies for the tumbleweeds rolling through here….things have been pretty hectic gearing up for the Holidays.¬† This time of year tends to polarize people¬†and guess which end I’m on? Yep, I absolutely ‚̧ this time of year! The giving, gifting, hustle, bustle, family, food, music, musings¬†and just the overall Holiday Sunshine ūüėČ

My gift bounty thus far ūüôā

Still lots to do, but I wanted to be sure to take the time to wish you all a very special Happy Holidays and let you know that I have big plans on the horizon for the new year. I hope you’ll join me as we continue to discover and share ways for us to opt to choose the sun ūüôā

Until then, I leave you with one of my favorite songs of the season:

P.S. Although I enjoy the season, I’m not ignorant to the fact that many are quite adversely affected. This is why it is important for us to remember those who aren’t here to celebrate with us¬†(RIP Daddy), give back to those who are less fortunate and be present for those who have a difficult time getting through.

How are you prepping for the Holidays? Which do you like better: the falsetto or the bass verse of this version of Silent Night? Leave your sunshine below.

Thank You Secret Santa!

Yay! I received my Blogland Secret Santa gift:

Tea for all! And for those rare special occasions, perhaps some other fancy hot beverages. Wanna know a secret? I received two electric tea kettles from two different Secret Santas….ha!¬† What are the odds? No need to fret: one for work, one for home ūüôā

No clue who my Secret Santa is so I’m looking forward to Pserendipity’s¬†reveal. I sure do hope that somewhere in Blogland someone else is carrying around pink sunshine *wink*

Update: Thanks again Secret Santa Gorgeous Puddin¬†ūüėȬ† I really do appreciate it!

Do you have any recommendations for good tea? Did you get my lame attempt at a hint? Leave your sunshine below.

UPDATED Seen Around Town: The Sound of Music

“The hills are alive with the sound of music…”

ahhhh……The Sound of Music –¬†a musically¬†charming story of the von Trapp family who come together through the power of song – is one of my favorite movies and last week I finally had the opportunity to see the play. The Sound of Music has been a fav of mine since I was in Elementary school.¬† My best friend and I would drive my grandparents crazy playing our VHS tape over and over again.

Before

After ūüė¶

I often joke that The Sound of Music was our afterschool special. Below are some of my favorite scenes from the movie:

While this movie will remain on my all-time favorite movie list, there was nothing like seeing the characters, songs and dialogue that I’ve come to know so well¬†come to life¬†on stage!

The Sound of Music is currently playing at the Olney Theatre¬†in Olney, MD. The show was FANTASTIC and the ensemble cast did an awesome job of balancing the familiar with the new (the play includes 3 songs not in the film).¬† As a special treat, the cast joins the patrons in the lobby after¬†each performance for a cozy meet and greet ūüôā

The Sound of Music runs about 2 hours and 45 minutes with one 15-minute intermission and is appropriate for the entire family. The play has recently extended its run through January 15th January 22nd and is joined by other holiday faves The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, all currently showing at the Olney Theatre so please be sure to check it out and purchase your tickets soon.  What a treat for your out-of-town guests during the holidays! You can find more information here: http://www.olneytheatre.org/

Have you seen The Sound of Music on stage? Do you support local theater productions? Have you destroyed any VHS tapes like the one in the picture above? Leave your sunshine below.

Heart of Haiti Giveaway Winner!

 

Congrats to MrsTDJ, winner of the Heart of Haiti giveway! May this beautiful hand-crafted angel bring you much cheer this holiday season ūüôā

Heart of Haiti Angel Tea Light Holder

Secret Santa in Blogland

I am SO excited to participate in this year’s Blogland Secret Santa ūüėÄ Last year as a reader it was so much fun to read about all of the wish lists, gifts received, guesses and¬†the reveal.¬† Who knew¬†that I would be participating this year? A special thanks to Pserendipity for organizing! I’m looking forward to spreading the holiday cheer with 24 of my fellow bloggers.

Below are some not-so-subtle hints for my Secret Santa as well as some cool gift ideas for family and friends on your own list:

1. I am a huge techie so gadgets like these are always a #WIN:

Jeweled 4GB Flash Drive

This jeweled 4GB flash drive is compact enough for your purse, but flashy enough to keep on a keychain and perfect for the digital diva on the go!

Retro Cell Phone Handset

Radiation protection , Noise reduction, Plug-play…how cool is this?¬† This handset is also compatible with your laptop and other mobile devices.

2. Not a fan of coffee, beer or chocolate, I am a tea, wine and cheese kinda gal:

Electric Kettle¬†UPDATE: I received this over the weekend from a friend, I can’t wait to try it! Thank you ūüôā

Compact kettle with a 17-ounce capacity boils water rapidly while saving energy. View-through water level indicator, anti boil-dry protection and push-button power and lid control.

Wine and Cheese Tote 

Perfect for picnics, concerts, or travel, this insulated Picnic Time Duet tote features two compartments for wine bottles inside and a handy exterior pocket for storing the picnic tools included: waiter’s style stainless steel corkscrew, hardwood cutting board, and stainless steel cheese knife with wooden handle.

3. Gifts that give back can never go wrong:

CASA House Charm 

Join me in supporting children and youth in foster care with this CASA house charm. Made from sterling silver, the charm features the phrase “Not Forgotten” on the back side.¬† With every purchase of this charm, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to CASA.

A few more hints:

  • I love to read (books and Kindle)
  • Music lover, especially Indie Soul
  • Major foodie
  • TV junkie
  • I can never have too many accessories, beauty products nor¬†too much makeup
  • I really like surprises, so feel free to stray from this list ¬†ūüėČ

What’s on your wishlist? Are you participating in Secret Santa at work, with friends or family? Leave your sunshine below.

Everyday Sunshine courtesy of Everyday Heroes

Most who know me IRL know that I am extremely passionate about children, family and youth. When is the last time that you stood up for a child? Our daily news is often littered with offense after offense committed against children. Thank goodness for the many organizations and people who¬†are willing¬†to speak up for society’s most vulnerable citizens.¬† One such organization has my eternal support:

The National CASA Association is a network of¬†close to 1,000¬†programs that are recruiting, training and supporting volunteers to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom and other settings to ensure they are placed in safe, loving and permanent homes as quickly as possible. A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer is appointed by a judge to provide an informative report and recommendations that will assist the judge in making important decisions in a child’s life.

Each year more than 700,000 children experience foster care. CASA volunteers are often the consistent¬†adult presence involved in a child’s case.¬†¬†Our country’s¬†overburdened child welfare system, although well-intentioned, is often ill-equipped to effectively focus on the individual needs of each of these children. CASA bridges this gap through the committed involvement of¬†volunteers from the¬†community¬†who advocate for¬†the child’s best interest.

Locally, CASA, Prince George’s County¬† and CASA for Children of DC¬† are near and dear to my heart. Behind these two organizations are hundreds of everyday heroes, people like you and me, that are making a noticeable difference for children and youth in foster care. A former employee and¬†lifetime volunteer, I have personally witnessed the positive impact that these Everyday Heroes have on the children, family, system and community.

Want to know more? Don’t fret, Everyday Sunshine will be a new series in which I will highlight some of the amazing work being done by CASA volunteers, the resilience of children and youth in foster care and the hard work of the staff that makes it happen.

In the meantime, be sure to visit CASA, Prince George’s County¬†to find out more about how you can make a difference in the life of a child in Prince George’s County, Maryland.¬† CASA, Prince George’s County¬† will be holding an information session for those who want to learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer on Thursday, January 5, 2012 from 6-7:30pm at the Hyattsville Municipal Building.¬†¬†For more info please visit them on the web at www.pgcasa.org .

For those of¬† you in DC, checkout CASA for Children of DC, who in addition to traditional CASA volunteers, also recruits and trains volunteers to serve as mentors for youth in foster care.¬† The Building Up Dynamic and Determined Youth (B.U.D.D.Y. Initiative) serves children in the DC foster care system by providing positive adult mentors, without interaction with their Family Court case. CASA for Children of DC¬†‘s next volunteer training begins on Tuesday, January 24th. Classes will take place each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. through February 9th. Training is held at the DC Superior Court. For more info please visit them on the web at www.casadc.org .

Not in the DMV?¬† Visit www.casaforchildren.org to find the CASA program in your area. Not sure you’re able to volunteer? All three non-profit organizations are always in need of donations as well.

What better way to start the new year than by standing up for a child!

Have you ever heard of CASA? Do you volunteer in your community? Leave your sunshine below.

Tuesday Sunshine courtesy of Jessica

Happy Tuesday Sunflowers!¬† Another rainy day here in the DMV but little Jessica has a great reminder for us all ūüėÄ

I hope this brings you some sunshine as move throughout your day.

Do you have a favorite affirmation? Leave your sunshine below.

Seen Around Town: Heart of Haiti (+ Giveaway!)

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Macy’s Heart of Haiti¬†event. The event was to introduce some of the newest pieces of the Heart of Haiti collection, a collection of handmade products by Haitian artisans that provides them with much-needed¬†sustainable income particularly in the aftermath of last year’s earthquake. Although the rest of the world has seemingly moved on from the devastating effects of last January’s natural disaster, the Haitian people continue to struggle with rebuilding their country.

Haitian Artisan Pascale

The event began with a welcome from the initiative’s founders Willa Shalit of Fair Winds Trading and Laura Graham of¬†The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund as well as the Ambassador of Haiti, however the highlight of the evening was the presence of artisan Pascale. To¬†meet one of these artisans in person and hear about how this initiative has personally impacted her was truly ¬†humbling and inspiring.¬†The nature of this “Trade, Not Aid” ¬†initiative has been successful in giving the people of Haiti a way to improve not only their lives but also their communities.

Heart of Haiti Collection at Macy's

The collection consists of beautifully crafted unique pieces that¬†are made from mostly recycled and sustainable materials. Heart of Haiti products are exclusively available at select Macy’s stores and online at macys.com.¬† To find out more, please visit the collection here¬†and be sure to like the Heart of Haiti Facebook Page to find out about news and events in your area.

Always eager to purchase gifts that give back, I encourage you to consider the same this holiday season.  It is in this spirit that I am happy to announce my very first giveaway! Two lucky Sunflowers will receive a piece from the Heart of Haiti collection:

Heart of Haiti Angel Tea Light

Heart of Haiti Sun Pendant

To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below explaining which piece you would like and why.  All comments must be made by Friday, December 9th at which time a winner for each piece will be randomly chosen.  Please be sure to leave either your Twitter handle in the comment section or contact me here with your email address.

 

Are you familiar with the Heart of Haiti initiative? How often do you purchase gifts that give back? Leave your sunshine (and giveaway entry) below.

Foodstalgia

Last week my girl MrsTDJ¬†did a post on being sentimental. Like MrsTDJ I don’t necessarily collect and keep things for sentimental purposes however I do tend to have sentimental attachments to music (more on that another day) and food. I think we all probably have food that we find comforting from our childhood like mom’s chicken soup or grandma’s¬†casserole.¬† However what I find interesting is my cravings for food that my grandparents¬†used to eat. They both¬†passed away¬†over a decade ago and I didn’t like most of these foods when¬†Grandma and Papa¬†were living¬†but have since developed a taste for them.

Some of my foodstalgia cravings include:

Egg Cups

The egg cups in this picture are made with bacon but Grandma would use whatever lunchmeat she had hanging around, I particularly remember her using bologna at one point O_o.¬† These days I typically use ham or turkey but every so often I grab some bologna when I’m feeling particularly nostalgic.

Navy Bean Soup

Papa loved making and eating his famous navy bean soup, preferably with Smithfield Ham. He would make a huge pot -enough to last a week plus some he would freeze for a rainy day.

Chicken Livers

Grandma and Papa would inevitably have chicken livers on the grocery list.¬† They were both especially fond of the chicken livers sold at the Giant Food hot bar (the one on Queens Chapel Road for my DMV folks). Although only initially willing to eat fried chicken livers, I have recently discovered Nando’s¬†Peri Peri flame-grilled marinated chicken livers….yum!

Cream Cheese and Lox

Clearly Grandma and Papa had diverse tastes in food ūüôā Cream cheese and lox is one of those cravings that have become part of my regular¬†diet. Whenever it’s on¬†the menu¬†at a restaurant, chances are I’m ordering it.¬† I even have a few favorite deli spots¬†that I can always count¬†on when the craving hits.

My Angels, Grandma and Papa....LOVE them!

For whatever reason eating these foods is my way of staying connected to two of my most precious Angels.  Grandma and Papa made such an impression on my life and are always in my heart. Today I thank them for introducing me to foods that they somehow knew I would eventually crave.

Do you ever have foodstalgia¬†cravings? What are they? Do you eat any of these foods?¬†Isn’t that the¬†CUTEST¬†Olan Mills photo? Leave your sunshine below.