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!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Wine Tasting Fun!

Have you ever hosted a wine tasting at your home? It's really quite easy...and fun. We had a dozen people to taste 5 bottles of red wine: Merlot; Malbec; Pinot Noir; Zinfandel and a Cabernet Sauvignon. The son, Ryan, was the sommelier and did a stellar job of mixing up the "pours," serving each pour and keeping the "flow" of the party going. We were each giving an index card to record our "wine thoughts" and ratings of each pour, plus guessing which wine was which. This is not easy considering all the bottles were red and, perhaps ,"tasted" quite similarly (or at least that's what I thought).

We had prizes (restaurant gift cards) to ante up the taste buds. Believe it or not, our best "guessers" got 3 out of 5 correct with the co-champions, Brandon Kocan and "The Best Daughter - Olivia" taking home the "big win prize(s)."

"Musts" include a good hearty meal beforehand (crockpot lasagna) plus lots of appetizers (Ryan's famous wings); hearty laughs and a fun game that everyone could play (we tried a "new" game "What Do You Meme" - similar to Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity). With several young adult men in the house, they like the "Mature Audience" version; however, we definitely needed to tone it down to PG so we could all play (check it out and you'll know what I "meme.")

BSoleille! The bright side of a home wine-tasting party!


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving 2019!

From my house to yours, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving Day celebrating with family and friends. What a great holiday filled with gratitude that really does not include any gifts, except for good food and friendship, right?

Ryan and "The Best Daughter" were killing it on the Traeger grill or in the kitchen feeding the flock of nine hungry people (Bill and I did help...) Thankful for every morsel placed in my mouth...all of it quite mouth-watering I must admit, and only hope you all did too!

Let's be all grateful for the blessings in our lives; and the not so good times help make the good times all the sweeter for sure!

BSoleille! The bright side of Thanksgiving Gatherings across our great land...


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Thanksgiving Reader

Here's wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving in 2019. If you know and read Seth Godin's blog, he has come up with a Thanksgiving Reader to share with your guests if you feel so inclined to do so. It's in its fourth year, and it opens up conversations without asking the proverbial questions of "what are you thankful this year?"

I've blogged in the past on how wonderful it was using many of the pages in the Reader, and now, add more poems and sayings I find that I like throughout the year to the table conversation. I highly recommend checking it out and using all or some of it. If creative, you can add your own or find other equally good fodder for everyone at the table. Think of it as a new tradition!

Click on this link for the Reader: https://thethanksgivingreader.com/

BSoleille! The bright side of being grateful for many blessings everyday of the year!


Over the valley and through the woods...photo taken in Afton, VA

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Stupid Cancer!

If you've never heard of Matthew Zachary, founder of one of the country's largest non-profit, Stupid Cancer, you are now! Matt is unbelievably inspirational and was our keynote speaker for the Special Love's Parent Getaway Weekend in Winchester, VA, this past weekend.  Let me say this 45 year old cancer survivor (brain tumor), or shall I say, dynamo, was a college senior when diagnosed (a concert pianist!) and his whole life shifted after that devastating diagnosis. Not one to wallow in self-pity, he began a few early cancer foundations for young adults with cancer which eventually morphed into Stupid Cancer in 2012.

The mission of his foundation is to empower young adults affected by cancer (any type!) by ending isolation and building community. You can read more here: https://stupidcancer.org/about/who-we-are/

Matt shared his story with 75 parents with children with cancer of all ages. Cancer, as we all know, never discriminates, so his thoughts and actions through his foundations through the years resonated with most, if not all, the parents and caregivers in attendance. He then led a panel discussion with a bereaved parent (Sharon Johnsen); a sibling (sister) of a cancer patient (Emma); a long-term survivor (Malcolm Jones) and a parent of a 23 year survivor (me!). It was tough facing some of the questions posed to all of us on the panel, but we answered honestly and poignantly on topics few ever discuss, especially in an open forum. However, if something we said could help one person in that room once back with their loved one in the battle of their lives, then our discussion was all worth it for sure. 

Of course, we all realize that this "cancer club" is something no one would ever want to be a part of, but in the waaay outside chance a loved one is diagnosed, there are wonderful people and organizations in this world that CAN and WILL HELP anyone who seeks it out. Stupid Cancer is one of those organizations, as well Special Love, Inc., in helping relieve isolation and building wonderful communities to fight the good fight!

A huge HOW-HOW to the parent committee, Jan Bresch, and the Special Love staff for hosting this stellar weekend, all our wonderful volunteers (make-up artists, yoga instructor) and Matt Zachary of Stupid Cancer, and now his raw, unapologetic podcast about advocacy and health care; OffScriphttps://offscrip.com/ is a must listen to on your favorite podcast place. 

BSoleille! The bright side of being inspired by my tribe of cancer fighting mama and papa bears!


Below: the PGW committee with Matt Zachary: Marilyn Eichner; Shari Fisher, Matt, me, Sharon Johnsen and Special Love's CEO, Jan Bresch

Matt Zachary

Panel discussion

Matt, Sharon, Emma, Malcolm Jones and me
Sharon Johnsen just finished with pampering and make-up by Chrissy Tamsi!

Matt and Bill

Friday, November 22, 2019

Special Love's Parents Getaway Weekend

One of my favorite events of the year is Special Love's Parent Getaway weekend, a respite for parents that are in the good fight with a child fighting some type of childhood cancer. Our kick off is always a delight when the parent committee meets at the George Washington Hotel in Winchester, VA, and then heads to dinner at the Piccadilly Restaurant down the street to "strategize" our weekend activities (they are all done and ready to go!) We come from all over the Metropolitan DC area, so we don't see each other enough with, thankfully, busy and full lives now that our kids are older and doing well...except those parents that are bereaved, though still busy and lead busy lives too.

This group of folks have been the nucleus for helping one another back in the day, and we continue to provide help, hope and inspiration to the parents that are currently in the throws of their child's treatment, especially through this awesome bonding weekend.

BSoleille! We are all looking forward to another great weekend in Winchester, Virginia!


Dinner at the Piccadilly: L-R: Sharon Johnsen; Joe and Maureen Lilly; Shari and Andy Fisher; Tom and Marilyn Eichner, Terri and Bill Tomoff and Lee Johnsen.

Lee and Sharon filling the goodie bags for our parents

Yep, just about filled!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Can you Trolley on Over to the "Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood?"

Bill and I are thankful this evening to take in the opening night movie of Mister Rogers "Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" starring Tom Hanks. It was a good movie portraying kindness on another level that Mr. Rogers exuded throughout his lifetime. This was a definite "feel good" movie but had hidden messages in the story line that made it about the human experience and our emotions to that experience told through the story of Lloyd Vogel, a journalist on an assignment to profile Fred Rogers (based on a true story). Raise your hand if you watched his show back in the day?

In writer Jeanne Marie Laskas' review of Mr. Rogers, "Won't You be my Neighbor," in the NYTimes recently, she met Fred Rogers when she was 26 and fresh out of grad school (her Uncle worked with Fred).  Although she didn't know it at the time, Fred Rogers seamlessly taught her a lot about life and the pure human emotions associated with being alive...especially with easily impressionable children. She mentioned that Fred liked to live in the moment - not bringing the baggage from the past, nor the anxiety of the future into his life, his work and his friendships.

Although it was not portrayed in the movie, per se, Ms. Laskas' articulated that Fred told her many things in life involve giving and receiving. "It's so very hard, receiving," he said. When you give something, you're in much greater control. But when you receive something, you're so vulnerable. I think the greatest gift you can ever give is an honest receiving of what a person has to offer." 

To wrap up the movie without giving it all away, is Fred Rogers favorite quote: "What is essential is invisible to the eyes," from Saint - Exupéry's "The Little Prince." What is essential about you that is invisible to the eyes?"

BSoleille! The bright side of "It's you I like." Fred Rogers


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Purple Cauliflower Anyone?

While up in the Lancaster, PA, area today (getting our sewing machines serviced in Hinkletown), we had to make the "obligatory" stop at Goods, not only for the Amish/Mennonite food, but some cool stuff we can find only there (non-electronic toys, wool clothing, fabric and Traeger grill items for the son who grills). Most interesting was the purple cauliflower at the Market which I've never made or ever had. I guess it's a "thing," but I didn't buy one, but certainly took a photo of that awesome purple hue that looked quite fake.

Once home I looked it up and whaddayaknow, it gets its beautiful hue from the antioxidant anthocyanin which is also found in red cabbage and red wine. Who knew? It also contains 25% more Vitamin A than white cauliflower. Next time, I'll pick one up and try it. 



Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Leaves of Fall

The Kenny Chesney hit song, "The Boys of Fall" has nothing on the current outdoor situation with "The Leaves of Fall," more specifically, "The Red Leaves of Fall." Can you believe these super vibrant colors the Mid-Atlantic is showcasing (and I suspect other parts of the country as well)? All one has to do is look up (if, by chance the leaves on still on the trees); but apparently, they still are! So that means more days to enjoy these rich autumn colors until the last leaf falls...

And, with all the weird weather a lot of the states are having lately, it's a testament to the power of Mother Nature and the beauty that "wins" over everything else.

BSoleille! Cheers to "The Red Leaves of Fall."


Monday, November 18, 2019

Getting Squirrelly 

This ambitious squirrel was not going to leave this piece of bread no matter what was near him (even me as I kept taking photos of him in downtown Charlottesville, VA.)

Winter is coming so I presume he’s fattening himself up for a bit of hibernation on those upcoming cold days and nights ahead.



Sunday, November 17, 2019

Whirlwind Wedding Weekend for Liz Verrecchia and Stephens Schaefer!

A crisp fall day on the Afton Mountain, Virginia, at the Veritas Winery was the perfect November wedding setting for the nuptials of Lizdot (Elizabeth Dorothy) and Stephens Schaefer! "The Best Daughter" was Liz's Maid of Honor, and Wes France was Stephens' Best Man, where they took their roles "seriously" and did a fantastic job in keeping their "charges" cool, calm and collected throughout the weekend. Our whole family was happy to celebrate this special weekend with Liz and Stephens families and friends; including the rehearsal; wedding and farewell brunch.

This mountain is considered the Rockfish Gap (a wind gap) between Charlottesville and Waynesboro, VA, and truly breathtaking. However, as beautiful as the area is, it could not hold a candle to stunning bride, Liz, and her dashing groom, Stephens, along with their guests who descended from all parts of the country to revel (and sing and dance) with them on their extraordinary day! It was pure love and joy for this handsome couple, and we all wish them a lifetime of happiness as they go on as husband and wife.

I must admit that I love to dance, and so did most of the guests as the dance floor was on fire all night long! We all realized that these folks really know how to throw a party, and that can be attributed by a special Shout Out of  THANKS to Margaret Walters, Mother of the Bride (MOB) who seamlessly orchestrated all the events which inevitably helped Liz (and Stephens) realize their dreams of a perfect day.

BSoleille! The bright side of the newlyweds, Liz and Stephens Schaefer!


Officiant Rebecca deGuzman 

Liz with her sisters Jackie on left and Caroline on right; and MOB Margaret and Olivia at the Catherine Lewis House

Me, Olivia, Bill and Ryan

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Post Traumatic Growth Presentation at Adelphi University

My husband Bill and I were "lucky" enough (frankly, honored) to be invited by my good friend, Mary Jean McCarthy, a Clinical Associate Professor at Adelphi University on Long Island (Garden City Campus), New York, in presenting on the sobering topic of Post Traumatic Growth, or PTG. The students we talked to are in the service living and learning community, and the class is called Compassionate Citizenship (for freshmen).

Bill and I had plenty to discuss with the eager minds in front of us by sharing our story about our son's/family's journey of Childhood Cancer and beyond.  We discussed the resilience, positive thinking, and an army of family and friends who got us through some very difficult days...weeks and years (the village mentality).

While preparing for the presentation (an hour and 15 minutes); we knew to "share the stage" and ping our vignettes off each other and engage with the class as much as possible. We knew they were passionate and compassionate students, and we hoped to help provide some insight how they also can do many things to help others no matter how big or small the scale. It's as easy as opening a door for someone, or giving a smile to a "stranger."

Interestingly enough, and even when Ryan was in the throws of treatment, the start of our PTG was a slow growth that silently worked through us by, first, me becoming a founding member of a Parent Advisory Board (PAB) at Georgetown University Hospital, and other working boards at Georgetown, along with donating quilts provided by my guild, Southern Comforters Quilt Guild of Bowie, Maryland), plus many meals delivered to the pediatric floors for many years. We felt these things provided some comfort and happiness for patients and their families during very trying times.

It was in the summer of 2015 that I was reading the Oprah Winfrey Magazine article "Is There an Upside to Tragedy?", on a plane out West when I nudged Bill and said emphatically, "you must read this right now!"  It was written by Ginny Graves, and the lightbulb moment occurred to both of us that there was a name to what we were already doing...Post Traumatic Growth! We were ecstatic to know others "out there" were doing something after the pain and trauma of their lives.

The term PTG was coined by Richard Tedeschi, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and his colleague, Lawrence Calhoun, PhD. "Dozens of studies have shown that trauma survivors can change in profound ways. And it goes well beyond resilience, or bouncing back from adversity. With PTG, a person/family has faced difficult challenges doesn't just return to baseline, which is what happens with resilience," explains Tedeschi. "They change in fundamental, and sometimes dramatic, ways."

We were grateful beyond words to share our experience and gave examples to the students on how they can #helpothers, and perhaps take on leadership roles whenever and wherever they see fit as they continue their education and beyond. It was a wonderful afternoon spent with excellent students.

A HUGE shout of thanks to Mary Jean McCarthy, and Adelphi University for their support of our presentation on Post Traumatic Growth!

BSoleille! The bright side on National Kindness Day (November 13th).


Italian Dinner afterwards with Bob and Mary Jean

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

58 is Great!

At least it is so far...and I'm looking forward to a year of new found ideas, experiences and inspiration! A Big Thank You to the "love" showered on me today; it's a wee bit overwhelming, but oh, so appreciated beyond words.

Hubby Bill and I drove up to NYC to hike around the city, met with our good friends, Bob and Mary Jean McCarthy for a dinner and a Broadway show (Ain't Too Proud to Beg - the Temptations) and are spending the night on Long Island. It's a whirlwind trip to the Big Apple but very fun indeed. A great way to celebrate a 58th Birthday for sure!

BSoleille! The bright side of the start of my 59th lap around the sun.


Photos below; We spend a good amount of time marching through Central Park...so calm and peaceful once "inside." It was a cold day too.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Home of the Free...

Because of the brave! Those courageous men and women in uniform who valiantly fought for our freedom should be celebrated even more than 11/11. Frankly, I would not be able to blog so freely without them and their willingness to sacrifice themselves (many losing their lives) for the good of our entire nation, and for this, and a whole host of other things, I am/we should be forever indebted to them. Our military is not for the faint of heart, and I salute each and every one  for their unwavering service! THANK YOU!!!

BSoleille! The bright side of celebrating our US Military.


Photo of our Crofton Community's sign of support honoring our veterans with flags.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Visitors at the Retreat Center!

A couple of guild-mates who could not come for the weekend decided to take the lovely fall day and drive down to West River, Maryland, to check on what we all have been working on so far. As a group, we really enjoyed Jane McKinley's and Jean Maassel's visit this afternoon, and Jane even came bearing 'gifts' - a quilt for one of the local hospitals we donate to on a regular basis. What a terrific surprise for sure!

And....NeedleOnFull was in full operation today working on a plethora of tshirt quilts and getting them ready for the upcoming holiday season. I have been thankful that this weekend afforded me uninterrupted time to work tirelessly on preparing these wonderful keepsakes!



Below: Jane and her donated quilt. (Thank you, Jane!)

Jean Maassel and Jane McKinley

Sunset on the West Rive, Maryland

Friday, November 8, 2019

Happy Place - West River, Maryland

I hope most people have a happy place, perhaps multiple happy places. It can be as simple as a favorite chair to read a book with a hot cup of coffee or tea; or someplace totally exotic. One of my happy places is on a quilt retreat on the West River in Southern Anne Arundel County, Maryland. It's truly a beautiful place, but the people inside the retreat center are my inspiration(s) to do my best work. The sisterhood of the sewing needle (electronic at that!) is weaved into unbreakable bonds we share with each other...with fabric and ideas and creating "works of art."

We cheer each other on with each project pulled out of our bags, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Sometimes it is pure magic - the colors; the hues and values, plus the juxtaposition of the squares, rectangles and triangles going into each pattern...or not. It is a creative dance, let's call it that.

My photos below show our group this weekend; our kitchen area and our Friday night meal (potluck). Let the creative juices flow all weekend!



Thursday, November 7, 2019

Say Cheese...

Well, in this case...to eat this cheese will take at least two weeks to consume. My in-house BBQ'er and Chief Smoker, Ryan, says the cheese and smokey taste will be "optimized," if the wait is the full two weeks. Those speciality cheeses bought in deli's or "high end" grocery stores or cheese shops may sell cheese that's been "cured" for six months, and some even longer. But Ryan's methods of smoking regular old cheese is so delicious....we just have to wait it out!

BSoleille! The bright side of "cutting the cheese" in two weeks...maybe even longer.


Photo is of the blocks of cheese hot off the smoker.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Shoot the Flu?

That is...right into your arm (and muscle), and not "flew the coup." This PSA for all those who may still need a flu shot (I'm kind of late this year). But nevertheless, my arm is sore, and hopefully, this flu shot will "protect" me from the bugs floating around the rest of flu season, and if you got one, protecting you too!

And with the flirting of our first frost in the Mid-Atlantic, I am awed by the blooming roses and other flowers in the yard still think it's "summer."




Sunday, November 3, 2019

Ryan's "NEW Birthday": 15 Years Post Bone Marrow Transplant - November 3rd

As most of you know, I tend to be a "milestone" poster; and today is one of those posts. My husband, Bill, already posted on Facebook early this morning, and I am catching up with mine (refereed soccer all day). Fifteen years ago today/tonight,  a Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, a frightened 10 year old and his family could hardly breathe when Ryan began the 900 cc's of precious bone marrow and A+ blood for the 8 hour transfusion to save his life! (A BIG Shout of THANKS to Scott Harris). It's incredible to note that so many participated in our cancer journey, and we are forever grateful to all who played any part in getting Ryan to full strength and restored health.

Nothing short of a miracle!



Photo from Bill's FB page...
Olivia and Ryan; Nurse Donna Currie-Cook and Ryan holding the marrow; Ryan with Scott Harris (the MUD Donor or match unrelated donor one year and one day later); and Ryan and Olivia the night we met Scott (in Great Neck, New York - Party for Life).

Friday, November 1, 2019

#CelebratingOthers with Filmmaker Kristi Gatto!

When 28 year old, Kristi Gatto, who founded Risk It Productions in 2016, came to our home a few weeks ago to interview Ryan and his parents for her upcoming 7 part docuseries on Childhood Cancer; "The Promise," I wanted to know more about her, and why she chose the topic to explore further. There was something irresistible about Kristi, and her views in life to keep giving back (she's young!), that I wanted to interview her for a #CelebratingOthers post.

A self-proclaimed researcher on anything, Kristi is intrigued with or interested in has her scouring the internet and google any chance she gets. While she was a college freshman about 10 years ago, and checking on her Twitter feed, she discovered the journey of a 4 year old little girl battling cancer;  neuroblastoma. At that point Kristi did not know any adult with cancer, let alone a child, and never knew this girl except for her Mom's social media posts.

Kristi stated that this little girls' mom wrote quite often about her ailing daughter, and this lit a spark in Kristi like you wouldn't believe.  Devastated when this little girl did not make it, her death really affected Kristi that she wanted to put her grief into something good. Kristi, the youngest in her family (she has two older brothers), from Bethpage, Long Island New York, worked tirelessly in childhood cancer advocacy beginning with shuttling to events in Washington DC during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and beyond over the last decade.

This entire topic has touched Kristi so deeply that it appears she has made it her life's mission to inform the general public the "true story and stories" of those in the trenches and battles of the "everyday" life of a childhood cancer patient, plus their families, communities and medical teams.

But before she started her production company, Kristi graduated from Baruch College in Manhattan, majoring in music management and film. She mentioned that she liked film best, beginning when she was in the 7th grade and began making short videos using Windows Movie Maker. She then decided to enhance her film studies and got her graduate degree from Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY. Today, with her love of film, she has "upgraded" to using Adobe Premier which is best for her work in documentaries and music videos, and she has never looked back.

It's now full steam ahead for this dynamo because now that her filming for the documentary is done, it's long hours in post production: typically one minute of film = one hour of editing; plus color correction and audio correction. You can honestly say, it's such a production! It is!!

So when I asked this very ambitious young lady (watch out, Ken Burns) what makes her "tick," without missing a beat, she says it's all about helping others and doting on her awesome little cousins. She says she rarely buys anything for herself, rather she loves to give to others for any occasion.

Interestingly, Kristi has crazy good hearing and musical pitch which allows her to wow anyone within earshot, and a piano, to play a song after hearing it once! And you know how clever this pink-coral loving gal who lives with her blind dog named Jordan (a pooton) came up with the name Risk It Productions? Well, Risk It is also the letters in Kristi, and I think a very fitting name for her company, don't you?

Before ending our conversation, Kristi expressed to me that she got way more out of the interviews for "The Promise" that she thought she would, and was candid to say that her interviewees opened up more to her than she ever dreamed possible. She never expected the the excellent content they filmed with each person, family or doctor they interviewed, and she hopes to bring even more awareness to the entire topic of childhood cancer, and not just in the month of September (Childhood Cancer Awareness Month) through this 7 part docuseries (will be released in 2020).

I'd invited Kristi to share some websites with me that are below. Please click on them and learn more about Kristi, "The Promise," and anything that may interest you going forward. Please click on the song: I Promise You, by Jadyn Rylee (a Youtube Influencer)





BSoleille! The bright side of #CelebratingOthers with filmmaker, Kristi Gattos!


Below is Kristi Gatto