Surrounded by Beauty!

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by the indescribable beauty you are observing that you get a little sad, because no photo will ever be able to capture the incredible sight before your eyes? Any photo you take or picture you snap will only ever be a pale reflection of the stunning sight before your eyes. The beauty that you witness is not portable. It is at moments like those that I find myself thinking: via

I am going to share with you a few pictures I have taken during moments that took my breath away, in hopes that you will be equally as astounded as I am that photos of such beautiful moments – exquisite though the subject matter is – show just a fraction of the incredible nature of reality. If you can fathom that concept, then you will realize that there is so much beauty around us on a daily basis, so much wonder to behold, that maybe it can serve as a reminder to take advantage of the things we see with our own eyes!

Le Coucher du Soleil  

beauty on the seine

Paris, France

Pathway to Versailles

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le chateau de Versailles, France

The Good Board Walk

boardwalk

Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Le Papillon

butterlies in France

Aix-en-Provence, France

Ciel Du Passé

cieling

le chateau de Versailles, France

Floating

clouds drift

Pine Bush, MA

Senioritis

ferrin field - the view

Ferrin Field, Wenham, Massachusetts

Summer Heat

fire of summer

Beverly, Massachusetts

Wedding Day

 gorgeous sunrise

Geneva, New York

Wishfully Skee Rye Run

grandpa's drive

Pine Bush, Massachusetts

Finals

   nighttime in college

Gordon College, Coy Pond, Wenham, Massachusetts

Cloud Jumping

 puddles in paris

Le Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, France

Lacey Fields

queen anne's lace

Trumansburg, New York

A Covenant Forever

rainbow

Ithaca, New York

Reflections and Changes

reflection

The Lynn Wood, Massachusetts

A Sky on Fire

Sky on fire

Somewhere between Boston and New York…

Clearly

summer sky

The Great Lawn, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts

Ice Over

Home and Ice

Ithaca, New York

Blustery

More France

Somewhere in Haute Savoie, France

Nostalgia

sunset

Cayuga Lake, Ithaca, New York

Through The Window

France

Aix-en-Provence, France

Driving Home

 the drive home

Somewhere on Rte 227 in New York State

Wild Tigers

tiger lillies

Trumansburg, New York

Glory, A Bus Ride Away

tholonet

Le Tholonet, France

Tulips, One Dog

 tulips and puppies

Beverly, Massachusetts

Farewell, Formally

view from the omni

view from the top of the Omni Parker in Boston, MA

Come Thou Fount

water

somewhere near a metro stop in downtown Boston

Fields of Down

watercolor world

Near Crane’s Beach, Ipswich, Massachusetts

Make a Wish

Wish

Ithaca, New York

On The Front Porch

Home

Ithaca, New York

Traveling Through

Light and Glory

Paris, France

Four Seasons – Not Just A Restaurant

WInter Sky

You never understand the reality of living in New England until you have forgotten what the front porch looks like without salt stains, you can’t remember what it feels like to walk on dry pavement (forget about grass!), and you can tell that there was an overnight snowfall merely because of the pale white quality of the early morning light leaking through the tightly-closed blinds. It’s a crazy, bipolar kind of existence, living in Massachusetts, because the snow is a force to be reckoned with, an all-encompassing lifestyle shaker. And yet, somehow it renders the two (if we’re lucky) months of summer so vibrant and lush that you can’t bear to leave. In the midst of seemingly endless parades of snow alternating with that strange weather that meteorologists refer to as “wintry mix”, we just manage to remember that in a few months there will be a sea-change.

The Deluge

Oh, sure, first it will rain . . . torrentially . . . possibly for the entire month of June. After that, though, this world that has been so monochromatically gray and so inexplicably frozen will explode into action.

The Explosion

The trees will blossom into lush fullness, the ocean will sparkle like a blanket of diamonds, the heat will surprise popsicles into melting, and the sun will catch oft-hidden pale skin unaware with more than just a kiss of color. I often wonder how southerners read C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and really get it. Who can understand the curse of “always winter, but never Christmas” if they haven’t lived it in some way? A single season –even winter– might not sound too bad for people who have not truly traveled into the extremes.

Extremes

Why do we think, societally, that talking about the weather is shallow? Perhaps we use it as a conversational crutch to avoid more personal dialogue, or to keep chatter topical and connect us to everyday faces we encounter through that one universal experience, but weather is nothing to be relegated merely to the surface level. Weather, in its extremes, and perhaps even in its temperance, can be life-changing. A freak storm might end a life but a lifetime of weak sunlight on crabgrass might render a life less full, which is possibly more insidious. Talking about weather might just be the most important thing we do, if it allows us to recognize the multifaceted brilliance of our backdrop.

Beauty

Maybe I will someday laugh at these foolish musings and think that I was young and over-romanticizing a silly topic. Or maybe when I am old, I will move to an always-sunny climate because my back can no longer take the hours of shoveling required to manage life in New England. I don’t pretend to know the way that age shapes perspectives on weather, but I do know that snowstorms that were once just a glittering world of opportunity for forts, snowmen, and hot chocolate are, sadly, now more commonly groan-inducing reasons to shovel the driveway so that you can slide terrifyingly as you try to stop the car on the commute to work. Perspectives do change and the practicalities and responsibilities of life might change me, so I might be lying when I say that I always will live in a place with four seasons. It is, however, my plan, and for this moment I am sticking to it.
No Exit In Sight

So today, even though I am headed to pick up my snow shovel and scrape off the tired Honda, I am going to remember that in a few months everything will change. I am thankful to know what it means to have a season, to understand the curse of the White Witch and the joy in the hope of Aslan. I am thankful to live in New England. The snow may be deeper here, but the sun is also warmer.

The Backdrop

Petticoat Mania

Chiffon, Silk, Ruffles, Lace, Tiers

petticoats

via

I have a major obsession with petticoats. Perhaps this is not a surprise to some. It’s just that petticoats make every full skirt behave the way it should, you know? There is something inherently feminine and inexplicably satisfying about donning a few layers of lace chiffon and sashaying from Point A to Point B like  Scarlett O’Hara…

 
via

Plus, you just stand out from the crowd when you wear one. Example? Look how it seriously transformed my other-wise awkward salmon colored dress:

I know, I know, it’s old fashioned. I get the occasional little old lady telling me that she remembers being forced to wear them as a girl . . . BUT, I also get a lot of people who wish they were fashion-forward (backward?) enough to attempt to wear a petticoat. For some reason people think it takes guts to wear one of these darlings, but the reality is that they’re very empowering, you know? It takes a lot less chutzpah than it takes to wear some of those scandalous get-ups people go clubbing in these days. Yes, I am old-school. I ascribe to the  passé philosophies made popular by the oh-so-gauche stylists of decades past like, oh, you know, Christian Dior? According to St. Wikipedia, the return of the petticoat (following their necessary extinction during World War Two) is thanks to Christian Dior’s “New Look” line, back in in 1947

via

Who is Edith Head, might you ask? And what would she know about dresses? She happens to be the only lady in American HISTORY to win EIGHT Academy Awards for costume design.

Edith

via

Yeah, Pixar even made a character based off of her in The Incredibles. She’s kind of a big deal. So, don’t take my advice, take Edith’s. Lay off the skin tight, and spruce up a dress here and there by adding a fluffy little petticoat into the fray!

Paint + Wine + Friends = EXCELLENT

Once upon a few months ago, my dear friend KTD asked if I wanted to rally the troops and sashay over to Newtonville, Massachussetts for my very first visit to The Paint Bar. If you are like my past self and are unaware of what this magical-sounding location might be . . . well, allow me to enlighten you.

It is a one-session painting class.

With Alcohol.


via

Sharing the affinity for both fine wine and arts-n-crafts is not something that should be relegated to the stereotypical French past, my friends! You’ve got to try this! Even people who proclaim themselves hopeless with a paintbrush and helpless with a palette (*cough* me *cough*) will be surprised at the fun AND the results! Everyone gets situated with the colors necessary for the session’s assigned painting, and then the lovely artist-in-charge (it’s a family-run business) takes you through the process of painting!

Adding some COLOR to life!

About two hours of wholesome fun later, you go from white canvas and a simple smattering of paint to a whole new product!

Voilà! My Masterpiece!

I strongly suggest hopping on this bandwagon and booking yourself (and some friends) a fun afternoon (or soirée) in the near future!  $35 is more than worth the full experience, but you seriously have to book in advance because these puppies are booked out for weeks, and sometimes even months, in advance!

Listen to me, I sound like an infomercial. That alone should tell you that this is worth it . . . give it a try! Let me know if you enjoyed it as much as I did!

True Confessions of a Klutz

I feel like I should start this like the stereotypical AA meetings you see in movies. You know:

“Hi, my name is Abby, and I am a klutz.”

Why are we talking about this? Well, because I want to share my lament in hopes that it might encourage others not to bemoan their own klutz status. What made me think to write this now??? Well, this week at work I tripped over some computer chords and said a not-so-choice word as, skidding, my knees caught the brunt of my fall against the sand-paper-like carpet. Uncomfortable as it was, this is not the only outlandish occurence of anti-gravitational skill in my recent past. To be quite frank, falling down is starting to become a serious problem for me.

that friend
This past year I have realized, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I am no longer just occasionally clumsy, but that I am that friend; the one that is always falling down. Don’t get me wrong, gracelessness when moving has never been my forté, but the last 12 months have been rife with some real doozies.
Let’s rewind a few months, just to give you a clear picture of how impossible living with klutziness has become. Twas the night before my brother’s wedding, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for little old moi. And for good reason! Most of the family were passed out, exhausted after rehearsing not only the wedding itself, but also the coordinated dancing “flash-mob” that my brother and his fiancée were planning for the reception . However, I was running around printing of final details for the wedding gift my brother and I were putting together for the newlyweds (a year of pre-planned dates with all the necessary accoutrements!). After my second failed attempt to print, I headed upstairs to see if anyone else was still awake to help me with the infernal printer. Halfway up the stairs, I remembered that I needed to turn the basement lamp off . . .
down down down
That’s right. Being the extremely graceful person that I am, I managed fall down my parents basement stairs at about 1:30 in the morning and (drum-roll please) land nose-first on the concrete floor, officially breaking my nose less than 12 hours before the ceremony. Somebody award me a badge.
badge?
I’ve never broken a bone before, but then I’ve never had a sibling get married before, so maybe it was only appropriate that they should both happen for the first time on the same day.
flight...
I actually would prefer to think of the entire episode as an experimental (if failed) attempt at flight, especially since I’m not really sure how I wound up landing as far away from the steps as I did. Plus, the entire experience certainly made me much more thankful for ibuprofen, since I took about 4 of them every few hours on the wedding day.
All this said, if you are like me, and you really identify with this tiny dancer when it comes to lack of innate grace, . . .

Remember:

how we risevia

JOYEUSE St.Valentin!

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

Check out  some of the notes that I shared with Friends  (and students!) on this lovely day:

narwhalstars sold

pine coneshoney badgers

And. . . because laughter is just wonderful:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LDWJn3IwiaM

My handsome valentine:

love in it

The cupcakes I made for my students: 

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The adorable sweet notes that I received at work today!

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A very Happy Valentine’s Day to you if you are reading this!

Passive Aggression

Passive and Aggressive behaviors should be mutually exclusive; they’re a true paradox, don’t you think?

passive AND aggressive

According to a printable worksheet regarding Passive and Agressive Behaviors that I read recently, Passive Communication is described as “When using passive communication an individual does not express their needs or feelings. Passive individuals often do not respond to hurtful situations, and instead allow themselves to be taken advantage of or to be treated unfairly.”

Passive aggressive

Traits that indicate passive communication include (but I’m sure couldn’t possibly be limited to…):

1.) avoidance of any direct human contact (this includes eye contact)

angsty

2.) failure to ever get one’s own way/perpetual dissatisfaction

contrary

3)  perfection of the art of muttering (aka being “soft spoken” or “shy”), gossiping to others about perceived problems, and/or using written notes as your only form of confrontation

facilitate that passive agression with these easy labels...

4.) consistant state of annoyance (due to ineffectiveness of methods)

direct...

5.) increased use of non-verbal expressions (i.e. the “silent treatment”)

silent treatment

According to that same resource, “aggressive communicators violate the rights of others when expressing their own feelings and needs. They may be verbally abusive to further their own interests.”

Passive Aggressive Notes

Traits of aggressive communication include (and yet, refuse to be limited to):

1.) use of criticism, humiliation, and domination towards anyone who might even marginally be construed as inconvenient or threatening

die

2.) frequent interruptions and failure to listen to others

pretend

3.) consistant state of annoyance (due to ineffectiveness of methods)

annoyed

4.) loud expressions and/or an overbearing manner

loud

If you’re between the ages of 12 and 55 and own a computer (my rough estimate),  you’ve probably chuckled at a few of the humorous passive aggressive moments circulating internet-ville. . . or maybe you’ve seen the books of passive aggressive notes now in circulation. Now, we might laugh, but this is an indicator of a serious problem: If there are enough examples to publish multiple books, then clearly there are too many passive aggressive people in this world. passive notes

As pointed out in an extremely funny explanation of the levels of passive aggression that I read recetly, passive aggressive notes are a level 2 Passive Aggressive move. . . and they are infamous. I’ve received a few of these over the years, actually. What I’ve noticed (as a veteran note-recipient myself) is that they just don’t work. 

They don't actually work.The problem with Passive Aggression (of any kind really) is that it is inherently flawed and utterly unproductive. Ultimately you just end up stewing over your own pet peeves until you explode at some unsuspecting offender – an act which guarantees a self-defense retaliation reaction and subsequent fight. When you can manage a level-headed confrontation, you can resolve issues/frustrations with a little bit of honesty, then move on and quit it with all of the inner annoyed-ness over things gone by . . . 

drop it

Careful, though! Just because you’re annoyed at people, don’t go in the direction of the aggressive communicator, you shouldn’t just spew nastiness at people in the name of “being honest” and “confrontational”. Sometimes you are actually the one being unreasonable. This is why you have to work on perfecting a very specific skill. I like to think of it as:

keep it in

Sometimes people are frustrating. Welcome to the human race, glad you could make it. People’s frustrating aspects do not, however, give you the right to bulldoze them verbally with your frustrations. Remember that you need to cut people slack sometimes. Have the discernment to know when you should engage, and when you should smile, nod, and move on. Try to keep in mind that attitudes (yours included) are just a nasty bit of business occasionally. Allow for grace, particularly if you know the person at fault has other stuff going on. Lets face it, people who irrationally piss everyone around them off? They usually have some underlying stuff that they’re trying to deal with. . . Which leads us to another relevant truth.

forgive

So, strive to be happy with your life, and try to approach people with a gracious attitude when they might be taking out their own unhappiness on you. When your snarling inner beast rears its ugly, toothy, rabid head, remember: don't!

You can keep yourself in check and deal with conflict situations like an adult – by approaching someone with honesty and caring. Lets face it, if you don’t care about the person you are addressing, you are in a conflict for only your benefit and aren’t thinking about the entire situation at hand. You have to force yourself to consider both sides of the story (NOT stew internally while gossiping with everyone else you can find) and then keep yourself from going all wolf-tastic and attacking your unsuspecting prey. Ultimately,  if you have legitimate frustrations to address (i.e. so-n-so always forgets to ____, even though they know it’s a safety concern), there is a way to deal with them like a grown up . . . don’t let your anger make you act like an idiot. Not only is is both unattractive and immature, it’s unproductive.

Soda Shoppe Sock Hop!

sock hop?!

Its a Soda Shoppe Sock Hop!!!

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What better way to brighten up the winter months than with the charming colors of the fifties and the sweet classical feel of a soda shoppe? Think  of young Jimmy Stewart serving up soda fountain drinks. . .

    georgebailey via

Now, as my three student Dance Committee volunteers and I sat reading off the list of suggested themes from a list, I saw that common ideas for the impending winter formal included:

  A. Winter in Paris

  B. Masquerade

  C. 50s

  D. Pokemon

It was safe to say that option D was out (the middle schoolers were attempting sabotage of the HS dance) . . .  and we decided Masquerade was a little too formal for the winter semi-formal. Lacking enthusiasm for attempting to reconstruct the Eiffel Tower in order to effectively achieve Winter in Paris, we turned to our final option: The 50s. As I sat across the table from a sophomore and two juniors, all born in the 1990s,  trying to explain the lovely Era in question, I mostly encountered confusion. I gave up explaining context and wound up listing random things that typified the fabulous fifties.

Now, I solemnly swear this was not something I necessarily intended to be taken at face value…but one of the girls heard me say “Soda Shoppe” and the idea was a hit!

Without further ado, we undertook some fancy  fixings!

Soda is a Favor(ite!)

Soda seemed like the thing to do when it came to favors, and there were some darling little straws I found on Etsy that seemed like just the right touch of colorful detail!

Our next step? Centerpiece Planning…

I started to meander through the world of clever arrangements and stumbled across this image:

ice cream carnations!Carnations I can handle, it seemed like the right place to start was collecting soda glasses. Thankfully, these seem to little the aisles of thrift-shops like newspapers in an episode of hoarders! It only took two trips!

Ice Cream Shoppe LOVE\

After that, it was a cinch to arrange the carnations the-day-of!

Ice Cream?

Next on the list? Accumulating an obscene amount of Records!

Mysteriously WONDERFUL!

via

There is a magical place in Gloucester, MA called Mystery Train Records. . .  where there is actually a wall of records that they allow you to take for free.! Sure, you can only take 5 at a time, but with enough trips, or a decent enough crew of friends, it can be done cost-free in just a trip or two! As much as they are magical finds in and of themselves, I lack a record player to truly do them justice, so I settled for using them as foundational pieces for some attractive centerpieces and table decor!

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It made for a really charming background! Especially when we add in the Candy Jars!

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That’s right, I said Candy Jars

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Seeing as how soda fountains also doubled as sweet-shoppes, it was only appropriate to include a hefty amount of colorful sugar for the centerpieces!

Centerpiece Candy!

Mad libs are always a nice touch – a cherry on top!

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Mad libs are just a great ice-breaker!

Madlibs as usual!

Sometimes Madlibs can be the key to easing the social interactions at the start of an evening – you know, just the thing to get everyone laughing and goofy, even if they are always somewhat inappropriate!

Then there was the question of music!

What would a dance be without music, no? In lieu of the snazzy jukebox one might actually have found in a fabulous fifties Soda Shoppe, we instead went with the more popular option of a DJ. . . it was not likely we would find a jukebox with Gangnam Style in it. One of my artsy student helpers put together this lovely painted jukebox to lend to the decor.

The Jukebox!  Requests

We used it to point people towards the request list, which students kept filled up all night long!2013-02-01_18-18-47_825

Overall, the event was a success,

Ready to Sock Hop

I got to wear a petticoat, the decor was adorably effective, and the students had fun! There were fewer moments of chaos and mayhem amid the planning than usual, and everyone had a lovely time! Even the catered food was delicious, which is pretty darn amazing!

One Sweet Evening

I hope the next dance is equally as fun to plan and organize!

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Stay tuned, it sounds like the prom will be masquerade-themed, so throw me any ideas that might be inspiring as they come!!!