Sunday, March 4, 2018

Gifting

Gift-giving has taken a different turn in my lifetime with the use of online registries and gift cards.  Don't get me wrong.  I sometimes take advantage of these gift-giving short cuts and sometimes I'm relieved to have them as an option. But sometimes I feel frustrated that these options aren't as personal. 

One of by girlfriends does something that I really like. She has a favorite charity that means the world to her.  When she has to give a gift, she gives an amount in honor of the gift recipient. It is such a wonderful idea and I'm always touched when I receive a special card letting me know I was honored in such a way.  At my age there is not much I need so it is perfect. This option is great though it might not work in every circumstance. 

My sister starts her Christmas shopping in July (you know many stores have special sales then to support the early support this effort), to give her time to take advantage of sales and to make sure she has time to think about each person as she does her shopping.

Today as I was walking in the front door of my house I was reminded of a special gift. It is a silver box which was given to me by a very special family member. My husband is Lebanese and on my very first trip to Lebanon we visited there for three months (those were the days!). It was wonderful in that I was able to get to know all of the in-laws, friends of the family, cousins and habits of their day-to-day.  During that time I would go out shopping a lot. One day as I decided to go out shopping, I mentioned where I was headed to one particular family member.  Without me knowing, she called ahead of me and asked the shopkeeper to keep an eye on me to see if there was anything I really wanted but didn't buy.  I went to this little silver shop and fell in love with so many things but one item that I couldn't get off my mind was a silver box. 
I wanted a box for my jewelry and I thought this box was perfect. It was beautiful and if I stopped using it for jewelry, it was beautiful enough to be an item of decor and certainly it could be used for keepsakes.  Here's the catch - it was silver and way too expensive. Never in a million years would I have paid that kind of money for such an item for myself. 
Wouldn't you know the very next day a gift showed up at our place and what do you know - it was the silver box! Honestly it was one of the most thoughtful gifts that I'd ever received. Every time I walk past the box I'm reminded of the thoughtfulness which means as much as the gift itself. 
Notice the beautiful detail inside the box (and I added my ladybug pen which I bought in 1966)
In this hectic, electronic, world where artificial intelligence is moving faster than we even realize, it's nice to sometimes take our time thinking about the gift recipient to make our gift unforgettable.  

How do you personalize the gifts you give?  

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Rene del Toro

Have you ever connected with an artist?  You know what I mean. It's that feeling of emotion you get when you see the artist's work, the same way you might get goosebumps when you hear certain songs.

Early last year I discovered a wonderful Mexican artist, Rene del Toro.  He lives in Mexico City and you can find him every Saturday at the market in San Angel neighborhood. You will find lots of artists in the Plaza San Jacinto but Rene del Toro is more likely to be found in the neighboring Plaza del Carmen.
Saturday at the Plaza San Jacinto
When I saw Rene del Toro's work it was love at first sight.  I purchased a wonderful and lively piece to bring home but it was small and I kept thinking that on my next trip I would go back to purchase another one of his works.
Mexican Country Life by Rene del Toro
This artist identifies his work as Naif Art meaning that he isn't formally trained but in reading about this art form, he's in good company. Naif art will most often be simplistic and unbalanced but expresses joy, happiness and spontaneity. It is said that naif artists paint from their soul and I believe it.

Some people collect specific things when they travel. For me it is almost always a piece of art.  I usually buy a small piece and I have a wall in my dressing area where most of these paintings are mounted. But not these items by Rene del Toro.  I put it in the entrance of my house so that I can start and end my day seeing the colors, the dancing, family and celebrations.
The work of another artist I really enjoy
Later in the year we had some vacation changes so at the last minute we ended up planning another trip to Mexico. I was excited about being able to go again with hopes of being able to purchase another one of Rene's works of art.  Rene had given me he email so I emailed him (or at least I thought it was him) in advance letting him know that I was coming.  He sent me his studio address and I thought we had a plan. While we were in Mexico City we drove over to his studio in Coyoacán but we couldn't find him. He didn't answer his phone and I'm here to tell you I was disappointed.  I found out this past weekend that it was his son I had been emailing so I don't think he was as interested in connecting with a client. Nor, perhaps, did he realize that I was serious about buying a painting.

But finally last weekend I was able to meet up with Rene del Toro and purchase another one of his paintings. This was a Christmas gift from my husband (which, I promise, was well-received) so I'd planned to purchase a larger painting. 
One very happy customer!
As we parked the car and began walking around the plaza I was nervous. What if he wasn't there? Had something happened to him when he had failed to respond to my call? I'd had no communication with him since last October so there was no way to know what had gone wrong. But then we entered the park and I saw him.  He only had a few paintings on display but he was there and I was thrilled!!  

So what do you think? 


This piece is about 3 1/2 feet high and about 2 1/2 feet wide so it really adds cheerfulness to the entrance of our house. And of course I couldn't walk away without purchasing this beautiful Tree of Life sculpture. Pure happiness!

When you travel, what do you collect?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Shall We Danzón?

While on a recent visit to Mexico City I drove past a park with a large crowd of people and with wonderful music playing. As we drove past I could see that people were fairly dressed up and I was curious. So we decided to circle the block, find a parking spot and head over to the stage.  

What a fun discovery!  Every Saturday at the Plaza de la Ciudadela (and apparently in several other parks in the city) folks young and old, though I will say I saw more older than younger, gather in the park to dance.  It's beautiful. Groups of friends bring picnics and set up tables, people bring folding chairs and most everyone has dressed up to enjoy a Saturday afternoon of music.  

The danzón evolved from a Cuban creole dance and the dance still remains popular in Cuba, Puerto Rico and throughout cities in Mexico. One of the things I was fascinated with is the "break" in the music.  Sixteen bars of the music is played, then repeated, and then the melody changes. The dancers all seem to know to stop at the "break" in the music, and most just strike a pose and wait until four bars of the melody has played.  It's really quite a sight. Many of the dancers are seniors, and they are in their finery and many of the women are in high heels (I stopped wearing heels back in my 40s)!  In fact a few of the ladies had beautiful fans and during the four bar rest, they pulled them out in a most romantic, flirty gesture. 

It was a treat to be able to enjoy seeing so many people out enjoying a Saturday afternoon. 



He had just asked her to dance

These two were beautiful dancers

He was giving lessons

The guys in the background were just warming up

The "Break" in the music

These two were having so much fun!

And in her coat pocket, she had a fan

The crowd was growing

If you ever happen to be in the area, plan to bring your dancing shoes and stay awhile.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Some Things Never Change

Yesterday as I was down in my basement packing up Christmas decorations I found a folder with some memories that were packed up in an old briefcase.  Most of items in the briefcase were memories from my children but then in the midst of the folder I found an unexpected treasure.  Can you imagine how surprised I was to find one of my childhood drawings in the folder?  

The paper was yellowed with age and had been torn but the colors and the drawing were still easy to see and as I looked at my work, all I could think is that some things never change. I love flowers, birds and butterflies.  I would much rather take a vacation to see nature than to tour a big city. I just loved seeing this photo that puts me in the center of the photo, surrounded by trees, flowers, a butterfly and a bird. This was back in 1965 when I was 9 years old. What a fun discovery and a reminder to remain true to my authentic self. 

Happy New Year! 

“Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” 
― Lucy Maud Montgomery





Thursday, December 28, 2017

Friends, It's Been a Long Time...And I've Missed You

Are you still enjoying your holidays?  Oh how the days, weeks, months and years seem to go by so quickly.
Family Gathering - Christmas 2017

 It has been over a year since I posted anything on my blog and I've really missed posting, sharing and connecting. It seems that with every passing day there is more to do with less and less time. As I sit down to write this post it is nearly impossible to figure out where to start. In fact, I took a look back to see what I was last blogging about.  So I see I was talking about Mexico.   
The "blue hour" in Park Güell, Barcelona
Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca, Mexico

Did you see that post? The one where I was trying to decide between visiting Puebla or Oaxaca, Mexico (and Puebla won)? Well since my last post, I'm happy to say that I've visited both cities. My trip to Puebla was a long weekend visit and  a solo trip.  I fell  in love with Puebla but was still longing to go to Oaxaca. This November my husband and I spent a week in Oaxaca and it was heavenly. It was one of those slow (well sort of slow) vacations where we relaxed. Our hotel had a rooftop patio so we sat up there to watch the sun rise and set. Then at night we sat up on the roof just to be out under the stars.  It really was heavenly. 
I finally got to walk in a field of sunflowers!!!
Trip to an elephant sanctuary in South Africa

We've managed to take several trips since that last post and I'm so grateful for each and every experience.  We are budget travelers which allows us to take more trips but we cut a lot of corners to do so.  And because of my work schedule, most of our trips are jiffy trips over long weekends. It's amazing what you can do and see in 48 - 72 hours. In the past year we've been able to visit Bogota, South Africa (we were able to do some driving around and it was incredible), Barcelona and Oaxaca and I'm looking forward to doing some planning of future trips on New Year's day.  I've got several magazines and decided it would be fun to create a new vision board with goals and wishes for the year, including my travel dreams!

As I looked back at my early blog posts, my first post is dated December 29, 2007. In that post I featured my granddaughters and niece.  It seems so long ago and so much has changed.  My niece is now a freshman at Berklee School of Music and the grandgirls are now 15 and 13!
Christmas 2007


Goddaughter's dance recital
Lantern Festival with friends
The past year was a hard one for me in many ways and yet, the year was filled with amazing and wonderful memories too.  I lost two friends in 2017 and both deaths, which were less than a month apart, were shocking tragedies. For months it was difficult to find happiness, but as the end of the year approaches, I realize there were happy moments that should be recognized and cherished. But, I'm ready for a new year with new hopes and dreams.   

As I get ready for the long weekend, I'm looking forward to a nice quiet few days to have time for reflection, reading, setting goals and creating order.  My sister brought me a box of cookies from my favorite hometown bakery and I'm looking forward to curling up with some delicious sweet treats before putting myself on a more healthy regime too. 

How about you?  Any big plans for NYE or the coming year?   2018 is nearly here. Happy New Year!!!   I'm so glad to get reconnected.  Let's do this!