A daily record of gratitude; from quilting to photography to a mix of technology, books, movies and the musings of life!

Welcome to my Blog of my daily gratitude and photo of the day!

Since January 1, 2012, my goal is to write a daily sentence or two (or paragraph or two) about gratitude of the day and to include one photo (at least) that I took that day (but will add others from time to time). It has definitely been a challenge most days throughout the past eight years, and welcomed the challenge again this year - 2020 - Covid and all. I hope you will continue the ride with me!

Friday, August 31, 2018

#CelebratingOthers with Mulugeta Fentaw - Mulu

One of the coolest things about visiting Ethiopia is that you can be eight years younger while there! You see, they follow the Ethiopian (Coptic) Calendar where there is a seven to eight year gap from "our" traditional Gregorian Calendar. So when I interviewed my guide in Lalibela, Mulugeta Fentaw (Mulu), he got confused on telling me his "real" age and birthdate thinking I may not understand the calendar discrepancy. When he maintained he was 31 and born in 1980, he must have saw the confusion on my face because I figured, of course, 1987. We laughed about discussing the "apples and oranges" of the two calendars.

Lalibela is in the northern part of Ethiopia, and that is where Mulu, his four brothers and two sisters were raised by their hard-working parents. Mulu is still single because he wants to pursue some of his dreams before settling down. They include travels to Europe and the USA, obtaining a driver's license and car, and finish building a home (in-process) in the Lalibela valley. It can be a difficult path to obtain the items on his 'wish list', but if anyone can do it in Ethiopia, I know Mulu can; he's got the desire and smarts to reach his goals for sure!

Mulu was educated for the primary grades in Lalibela, then furthered his education at the Lalibela College of TVT (Tech Vocational Training) where he pursued a three year program as a Tour Guide for the twelve Lalibela Rock-Hewn Churches and the history attached to each one. In addition to the guide training, he also went to Axum University and studied in the College of Business and Economics, graduating with high marks in 2009. After graduation he moved back to Lalibela to become a full-fledged guide and help with Ethiopian Tourism where he remains in a pool of guides servicing all the hotels in Lalibela. In addition to his education, he has studied languages on his own and feels that he is fluent in English and German; plus his native languages Amharic and G'eez (church language).

Lastly, this green-loving young man is inspired by his Orthodox Christianity and meeting people from all over the world. He truly enjoys sharing his knowledge and cultural history of his hometown

of Lalibela and all of Ethiopia, so if you plan on visiting the area, please do not hesitate to look him up on TripAdvisor and using his guide services. He's funny, articulate, interested in all different kinds of peoples and keeps a lot of the information of the churches palpable and understandable.

BSoleille! The bright side of #CelebratingOthers with Mulu!


Thursday, August 30, 2018

TBT with John McCain

While reading and watching the news on a great American hero, John McCain, and his sad death this week, it had me thinking of how personable he was for anyone he met on his journey. Back in 2008 when he was running for president, he made time in his busy day to attend the Red Carpet Event for Tracy's Kids and her Art Therapy Program for Pediatric Cancer. Her program was gaining ground in the Washington DC Metro Area at that time, and Senator McCain was invited (as other Congress-people were), to the event. He was very gracious to Tracy, the people in attendance and the cancer kids who were there too. He made everyone feel at home and graciously posed with anyone who wanted to take a photo with him. Since Facebook for the public was in its "infancy" then, not too much was publicized in real time, but he came anyway.

I am thankful to dig out this photo of Ryan (Age 14) and Senator McCain (note: not taken with a cell phone, rather a DSLR - digital though...).

BSoleille! For John McCain...an American Legend through and through. May he rest in peace.


Ryan Tomoff and Senator John McCain in 2008 - Tracy's Kids Red Carpet Event, Washington DC

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

New "Pets" in the Yard!

Most of you know we sadly lost our pup, Loo-C-Loo in July. However, it did not take long for some new "pets" to come along to try and take her "place." So far we've had a few birds try to get in through some clean windows and patio doors; a squirrel that comes up to the door and tries to get in as well, plus a scrawny looking fox that walks right up to the patio doors and looks in too (could not get the photo right when he came up to door); and most recently, 500-3000 hornets or wasps making their home in our backyard! Yikes!

As a matter of fact, when I got home from Ethiopia, the back grass needed to be mowed. I figured there is always some sort of "vacation penalty", so I got to right to work. It was a very hot and sunny day, so I wore a baseball cap pulled down low plus a pair of dark sunglasses and mowed the entire back yard...never once "looking up" or noticing a huge wasp that was right in front of me! Of course, I continued to mow right past it...several times, and those busy wasps never missed a beat, nor, thankfully, went after me while doing what they do.

It wasn't until a few days later I glanced out the window and noticed the nest and that seemed to be getting bigger and bigger...with more "pets", or rather, pests, making themselves right at home. Ugh!



Sly fox

Home of 3000 "pets" or "pests"

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Flowers in Full Bloom

I’m happy that many flowers are still in full bloom, beautifying the earth as they were intended. Whether they are admired from afar, or cut and placed in a vase to admire, the smell (most flowers) and prettiness cannot be beat. 

My photo is a head of an 7 ft. sunflower towering above The Franek’s garden in Hiram, Ohio that is just lovely. 



Sunday, August 26, 2018

Bikes to Boats (Kayaks)

We are thankful for the great day with plenty of sunshine and "codenames" to round out the day of biking and kayaking on Big Platte Lake. 

Also a wee bit of shopping at the infamous artist Gwen Frostic’s gallery in Frankfort, Michigan. 

BG Girls gone...golden!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Sole Sisters in the Mitten

A planned trip to Michigan (six months in the making) with the BGCC gals finally commenced yesterday with driving many hours to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Area (Lake Michigan). The six soul sole sisters include: Rosalie Franek, Helen Gruneisen, Laura Hennessey, Laura Murphy, Jodie Smith and me.

We all met while running fall cross-country at Bowling Green State University beginning in 1980. I am/we are all blessed that we have maintained strong and continued friendships for over 35 years, and that we could all carve out time in our schedules to do what we like best...run, bike, kayak, hike, and eat good food after all those activities.

Today we started out with a 3 or 5 mile run (depending on which group you were in); an hour of yoga, a hike through the dunes plus checking out a few light-houses in the area and then dinner. It was an active day, and I hope I have the energy to keep up with these sole sisters for a few more days!

BSoleille! The bright side of BG Girls gone Wonderful!

Terri, Jodie in front; L-R in back; Rosalie, Laura H., Hp and Laura M.

Super foggy initially...

Rosalie in Lake Michigan

Awesome Sunset

Where all our friendships blossomed...running lots of miles together for years....

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A Vincent Van Gogh Selfie from 1887

The Louvre Abu Dhabi holds one of the first selfies from painter, Vince Van Gogh. The painting also looks like he used an app to dramatize the entire work of art, and it’s a rare beauty. This wonderful museum has not been open a year yet, but it could be a boon for the area since it’s something good to do indoors when the weather is so hot! And it’s not shopping either. I’m thankful of the recommendation to go and see the Middle East Louvre. 



Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Travel Credit to Big World Small Pockets - Steph Parker

I would like to give a shout out of THANKS to Steph Parker and her wealth of knowledge on world travel that can be mostly done on a budget. No joke. I serendipity came across Steph's blog: BigWorldSmallPockets www.bigworldsmallpockets.com/ while researching and doing my due diligence in planning my itinerary for Ethiopia. The first part of my trip to Addis Ababa with Dr. Shad and Julie Broas of The Aslan Project was straight forward, but the second half of my trip was all solo, and I needed some help.

This is where Steph came in and very quickly responded to my inquiries of the various locations I planned to visit. Ethiopia is, I believe, the only country in her travels over the last 10 years that she visited twice because she liked it so much. Additionally, she gave me valuable tips and tricks while traveling solo, in that I felt is was necessary to learn as much as possible while there and to stay safe. As a matter of fact, I had one hotel already booked before I saw her recommendation, so I felt we were on the same "wavelength" on how we like to travel...especially on a budget. Her "spot on" recommendation for guides (definitely needed in both Lalibela and Axum) certainly made the trip more enjoyable in learning the rich history of the churches in both towns because the guides know the area(s) so well.

To cross reference, I also checked out TripAdvisor, but Steph was my "go to" in most of my planning for this wonderful adventure. My motto to take on the journey: if Steph could do it, I could do it too!

Check out her website if you plan on international travel; she just may have a nugget or two for any type of travel. I noticed that she traveling through Romania today....


DragonTree in the Tigray Region; Queen of Sheba's Palace: Axum, Ethiopia

Monday, August 20, 2018

Wild Dogs of Ethiopia 

I saw, but mostly heard, wild-bark-their-heads-off-dogs throughout all of Ethiopia. They really amped up the barking at night, but their sharp sounds sort of "blended" in with the screeching brakes on old cars and honking horns everywhere. Once the traffic died down (after 9pm), the sounds of hyenas plus the whining and barking of wild dogs filled the air. 

In the morning, everyone asks how your night of sleep was. Of course, the polite answer is good, and that’s what I maintained...mostly. 

In Lalibela, I finally got the nerve to ask my guide, Mulu, what the deal was with all those barking dogs (a few right under my window, thank you very much). A rainy night was a welcome relief...no barking...at all. 

Mulu then explained to me that most dogs sleep all day long. They do seem to all be wild with no owners (not one had on a collar!), but that’s not true. They "pick" the people and farm animals they want to protect from other animals, thiefs and the like, and bark to alert the owner of the home and property that someone may be lurking around it. There are some false alarms, but overall a really decent way of protecting property. 



This photo is one of the many dogs I’ve seen on the trip. All mutts, I did not see one pure bred canine in Ethiopia. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Jet Lag...It is a Real Thing!

I had all good intentions of blogging more about my experiences in Ethiopia (and UAE too), until the jet lag snuck up on me and slapped me around the past two days. Fuzzy brain, intense (almost migraine) headaches crept up through the night, and therefore woke up with one. Or even better, waking up without one and then by 3:00pm this afternoon being smacked in the head with another one. Thinking positive did not help me this time, but I hope I am over it by tomorrow morning. I thought I did all the "right" things by sleeping on the plane on the way home; drinking lots of water and getting up and moving around a bit.

Maybe passing through eight time zones did me in, but I am still thankful for the opportunity and would do it all over again if offered. Slight inconvenience for a wonderful adventure.

If you travel internationally, and through multiple time zones, please share your secrets of curbing the jet lag. If you never get it, that's even better, and please share your suggestions too!


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Social Media Connections for the Taking...

With the advent of social media, apps to streamline the process, and people willing to meet people all over the world (including an informal "vetting" process), hubby Bill and I met a couple of social media and marketing gurus yesterday in Bowie, Maryland: Leyni and Chad Illa-Petersen from Houston, Texas. They are in the midst of a whirlwind driving tour of the Eastern part of the USA, including a stop in the Washington, D. C. Metro Area. When Bill noted on Chad's Facebook page and saw that they were at the Lincoln Memorial, a message was sent out wondering if Chad and Leyni would/could meet us in Maryland. Chad quickly responded and a lunch date was set for Friday at 12:30pm (yesterday).

The lunch "hour" went briskly by, with the four of us engaged in interesting conversation about a lot of topics. Interestingly, Leyni has her own business in hand-painted gifts, canvases and wearables, including the painting of shoes. Yes, shoes, and they are so cool and fantastic! We engaged each other on the creative end of quilting and the painted shoe. Bill and Chad talked fast and furious on the whole enchilada of social media and what value it brings individuals, and more importantly, to small and large corporations everywhere.

And how did this all come about? Bill and Chad "met" through Snapchat a few years ago, and continued to stay in touch through Snapchat and Facebook. Chad has his own social media business; The Social Chadvisor: https://www.facebook.com/events/279522535776447/ and Leyni with her painted gifts: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=loveleyni

Check them out if you have the chance!

BSolielle! The bright side of meeting genuine folks IRL (In Real Time)!


Thursday, August 16, 2018

#CelebratingOthers with: "24 Does Look Good on Ryan!"

Life is funny with it's twists and turns, and we've all got them and have to roll with them. So, now that I'm back home, Ryan is away at Special Love's Camp Fantastic as a counselor this week, and of course, it's his 24th Birthday (and since he turned 7, Camp Fantastic is always the week of his birthday)! So he gets to celebrate it twice; with us and at camp, can it get any better than that?

And although we celebrated his birthday (with family) before my trip, I still would like to take a moment to celebrate him through this post! A day ago, he wrote on his FB page that "24 Looks Good on Me", and I couldn't agree more. He is also celebrating today with a crowd that knows him best (beside family); and a big HOW-HOW shout out to Ryan is what tops the order of the day!

What a year Ryan's enjoyed leading up to today; continued healing on his tongue, a new job (part-time); the CAPS Stanley Cup Championship; a trip to NYC to watch his beloved Yankees, a trip to Texas to visit his sister, Olivia, and a family hike in Boulder, Colorado in July. I could not be more proud of this young man who is kind and compassionate and wants to help others. He has also developed his own style in everything he does, including the clothes on his back/or should I say legs... (think of the LOUD shorts and pants he wears...and still looks good to boot)!

From some of Ryan's most recent setbacks from a medical standpoint, I am/we are overjoyed that he is starting to reach his stride once again. It's taken awhile, but we celebrate the small victories, even if that means celebrating a mundane day. And as we know, every day counts for all of us and that in 365 days, another candle can be added to celebrate another year! I am thankful to add that candle today for Ryan and wish him a very Happy 24th Birthday! Love you to the moon and sun and back!

BSoleille! The bright side of CelebratingOthers - Ryan's 24th Birthday!


Photog at Camp Fantastic

Family Celebrating the Caps Stanley Cup Championship!

With the Great 8, Alexander Ovechkin

In Austin, Texas

Boulder, Colorado

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Desert Dunes

On my last full day before heading to the airport at 10:00pm, driver Osama agreed to drive me out the the Arabian desert 2.5 hours south of Abu Dhabi. We were about 16 miles from the Saudi Arabian border, and the landscape was "out of this world"; and I don’t even have to mention that was very hot, do I? Really, to a tune of 57 degrees Celsius, or about 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Yikes! The photo was a very quick in and out of the air conditioned car...the sand very hot as well. I believe this area is one of the largest deserts on earth, and no one else was around for miles...extreme heat keeps people away and indoors. 

While sitting at the gate waiting to board, and thinking about the last few days in the UAE, I could not be more thankful of this entire trip experience. From the fantastic people in Ethiopia and the donation of quilts to the cancer kids in Addis Ababa, coupled with a woman that was a friend of a friend of a friend that opened her home and heart to a "perfect stranger", to host me that we now call each other, friend, I am one happy, grateful and lucky girl. 

BSoleille! The bright side of rejoining my family very soon (and to sleep in my own bed with my hubby next to me)!


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Mosque and Museum in Abu Dhabi 

Just think of the hottest day you’ve ever experienced, and you can attest to maybe waking up at 7am and the weatherman saying it feels like 120 degrees outside...No joke because it was!

But the folks in this region stick to their air-conditioned rooms, homes, and offices like glue. Who can blame them? I have rarely seen anyone outside for the past few days, especially kids. They are smart and stay inside!

So without boring you with an unbreathable weather report, I did get to some incredible sites in Abu Dhabi! (Running from air-conditioned cars and buildings). 

First, stop at the Grand Mosque. It was unbelievable and beautiful, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it in my life. All faiths were welcome, and women who were not dressed "appropriately" were sent to a room filled with abayas. Mine was a dusty blue. Our guide, Nasir Abdulla, was intelligent, funny, and articulate (engineering college student) in describing the entire building and tales along the way of our free hour-long tour. It took 10 years to build and opened in 2007. It’s the 12th largest mosque in the world, and every measure was used to make it the best in the UAE. I think they succeeded. 

The second stop was the Louvre Abu Dhabi. This beautiful museum opened in November 2017. I was very impressed with the curated articles, some dating back to 3000-5000 BC. The museum then went through a timeline of the ages and the art of the day or time period worldwide. Definitely, a must-see if in the area, and hands down, the Grand Mosque is #1. 

Osama and I then went to pick up my hostess, Shahrazad, from work, and we all drove the 1.5 hours back together (same with the trip this morning). 

I’m so thankful for these unforgettable experiences in the Middle East, and a huge shout of THANKS to Shahrazad Roohi for hosting me for three days in her beautiful home. 



Monday, August 13, 2018

Dubai Debut

Yesterday was a day of travel from Ethiopia to Dubai, so nothing to report except that I was the only blonde in the Addis Ababa Airport! And I’m not kidding. 

By 9pm I reached my final destination in Dubai, and the driver, Osama, from the kind woman who is hosting me, Shahrazad, found me no problem. Guess why? One of only a few blondes in Dubai at the airport at that time (there are lots of expats and Europeans here I noticed) as well. 

By 10:00pm we were at Ms. Shahrazad’s home and I hit the hay shortly after I got settled in. 

But today was a different story. The driver, Osama, took me on a whirlwind tour of Dubai, hitting many of the highlights of this frenetic city. And did I mention how hot it is? It’s hot! Though I’d say a different kind of hot than an Arizona "hot" or Texas "hot". 

I dipped my toes in the Persian Gulf (hot water there too), walked around the largest mall in the world (Dubai Mall), and had a burger at Wendy’s for lunch ther. We also checked out the Birgh Khalifa (tallest building in the world but did not go up), the Atlantis Hotel, the Palm Marina and the drive along the water with opulent mansions that leaves one "shaking their heads."

I must admit that what you read and hear about Dubai with all its lavishness is really true. With all the churches I visited in Ethiopia, I would like to visit a mosque or two while in the Middle East. Unfortunately, I did not go to a mosque today, but hope to get to Abu Dhabi tomorrow and tour the big famous one there. 

Off to dinner soon with Dr. Shad’s niece! Now that is something to be grateful for, along with the connections made in Dubai by my friend, Karen Riegert who now lives in Colorado. 



Saturday, August 11, 2018

Mighty Kingdom of Axum

I was fortunate to share a tour of Axum with father/daughter travelers, Keith and Laura. Laura works in global health in Addis Ababa, and her dad came to visit her and travel the country for a week or so. I met them at my hotel yesterday upon their arrival. With very little English spoken in this area, when I heard them speaking English, I bounded up the stairs to meet them. When I learned they didn’t have a guide booked yet, I asked if they would be willing to join me. They did and we had a great day...and no rain (it is the rainy season). 

What we learned is that only 5% of Axum has been excavated, for various reasons, however, what has been revealed to date is some of the earliest civilizations of the world, some relics dating back 3000 BC. Tombs, churches and monasteries, relics of Queen of Sheba’s palace and her pool just "scratch the surface" of what lies beneath the farms and houses in the area. All the granite churches and stalaes are truly remarkable as well as the history that is attached to each king, queen or priest that it was built for. 

This wealth of history and culture in Axum is unbelievable, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn about so much of this part of the world. 

Our tour also led us to the Saturday market which was a blast (but quite sobering, I must admit), had lunch at a local restaurant (total bill for three people, who split it evenly, was about $10), and toured St George Church that contains a cloaked 500 year old Bible (to preserve it). The Ethiopian food is good and cheap, but I also think the hotels are reasonably priced at about $20-$25 a night. Traveler Keith could not get over the price of four beers...$3. 

While deeply taking in everything I see, I feel like time has stood still for a lot of things here in Ethiopia, including primitive agriculture (hand harvesting barley, tef, corn etc.), hand washing clothes in rivers and various water sources, no running water or electricity in most homes, very few people own a car, and folks rent donkeys like we rent a pick up truck from Home Depot to transport supplies for just about anything. The Aid given to forward humanity here by the US and UK is definitely making a difference, and I am glad to report those dollars are working for the good of the people who also seem to appreciate it very much. I found a culture of warm and welcoming folk, a true blessing of a proud nation. 



Photos will not load. Losing electricity (on and off) for the last couple hours. Not sure this will post either, but will try. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Axum, Ethiopia 

I have a lot to share about this trip, but because of spotty WiFi in many places (though they all advertise they offer free internet it in all travels sites and publications), it’s not the case...at all. 

I’m hoping I can post this one when finished. 

Axum is a contender for the oldest continuously inhabited city in sub-Saharan Africa. It is also Ethiopia’s most historical and archaeological important town as well as the site of it’s earliest church and spiritual home of Orthodox Christianity. It lies less than 25 miles south of Eritrea. 

The town boasts relics and artifacts from 2200 years ago, plus the stelaes, catacombs, ruined palaces, the Queen of Sheba’s pool, and houses the "original" Ark of the Covenant. I went on a short tour this afternoon of the stelaes and museum (no photos in museum allowed), and have a more comprehensive and longer tour planned tomorrow. It’s very different from Lalibela, but therein lies the beauty of travel within the country. 

Though still at an economic disadvantage, the 60,000 people that live here are friendly and welcoming from my first impression and walk through the entire city and first tour. 

I must admit that the food is great, and most of my meals are traditional Ethiopian. One meal (lunch) with the injera base that is topped with other food is tremendously filling, and for me, no other meal required. I’ve even had coffee!!

BSoleille! The bright side of exploring the core of the ancient Axumite Empire. 


Wednesday, August 8, 2018


Today I broke from my group to travel through some other parts of Ethiopia before I head home. Dr. Shad and Julie went South to Jimma where they had work and meetings at the hospital there. "Everyone" suggested to go to Lalibela and Axum, and that’s what I have on my itinerary. 

Lalibela is an hour flight north of Addis Ababa. It’s in the mountainous region which is rich in history and culture from a religious standpoint, and the rock hewn churches are known all over the world and has a UNESCO designation. I’m thankful to immerse myself in the culture here and it’s really a spiritual awakening. The area is primarily orthodox Christian (95%), and I am visiting at a special time when the pilgrims of the Church are called for mass and prayers...even in the pouring rain. 

The churches "built or carved out of rock" are said to be the handi-work of King Lalibela in the 13th century. They are still in use today, and I visited five out of the 13 in Lalibela with my guide, Mula. These churches are amazing and carved out of the rock from the top down. Tomorrow we plan on seeing the rest along with visiting another town about 35 miles from here.