Sunday, April 26, 2009

Official Start to Spring and Summer Barbeque Season

Today some friends invited me to their home for a backyard barbeque. It was an absolutely ideal day! The weather was perfect, the company was wonderful, and the food was delicious!

Beautiful view of surrounding countryside

These two girls became fast friends

An ideal day!

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Calls Attention to World Malaria Day

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have declared April 25 as World Malaria Day to bring attention to the fight against malaria. The distribution of malaria nets has been effective but must be "accompanied by extensive and prolonged community education and empowerment efforts". Once again, the solution to our global problems lies in education and community building. The most effective volunteer educators "come from the very same communities (which) makes them more capable to understand and cope with social and cultural issues that might arise over the use of the nets".

This is interesting food for thought for me. What are the local problems that we can address in our own community? Some initial thoughts that come to mind are literacy, education, environmental protection, empowerment of women and girls. Comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Building Houses for Habitat for Humanity, South Bethlehem

Today I took part in a Habitat for Humanity build in South Bethlehem. Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley is building 40 homes in Bethlehem. Twelve homes were at the location where we were working. We built a silt wall, assisted with building a deck, and put up plywood on a frame.

It was a productive and satisfying day. Habitat for Humanity homeowners must qualify with a good credit score and financial ability to make the mortgage payments. In addition, they must put in 250 hours of "sweat equity" working on their home. A family was on site working on their home as we were there. Even the children were participating building their new home!

Habitat for Humanity relies on volunteer hours and donations from the local community. They can accommodate groups, and also individuals can volunteer. Please check the Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley website for information on the local programs and how you can get involved if you are interested. Helping with a build is a very satisfying way to assist a struggling family benefit from home ownership. You can be assured that they will cherish their home because they helped build it!

Two of the houses on the site. We toured one of the houses. It was a modest and beautiful home; I can imagine a family will be very happy living there. The houses are near the top of South Mountain, with a scenic view overlooking Bethlehem.

The silt wall we built

More houses in various phases of construction

The street view

Putting up the wall

More homes

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Garden of Ridvan

Tonight marks the beginning of the one of the holiest festivals of the Baha'i year, the twelve days of Ridvan. Ridvan commemorates the declaration of the Prophet founder of the Baha'i Faith, Baha'u'llah, and the inception of the new religion in 1863. Baha'i writings abound with nature symbolism. This historic event literally took place in a garden, and the idea of a garden evokes the imagery of Paradise.
Enjoy these garden images and this lovely song by our much loved Dan Seals, and have a blessed Ridvan and a joyous Spring!


Why Hate? Go Create!

This blog has been officially designated a hate free blog by "Why Hate?" . Why Hate is the official propaganda site for a hate free revolution! You can find creative ideas to spread the word about diversity, tolerance, and justice. Art can inspire us and transform us to follow our higher natures and show forth our noble qualities of mercy, kindness, and truth. Next time you see a message which promotes division, hatred, or disunity, ask yourself the question Why Hate? and work to spread a message of understanding and compassion. Check out "Why Hate?" for some inspiration and encouragement!

Graphics from Why Hate?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Longwood Gardens

Today we went to spectacular Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Magnolia and cherry trees are in full blossom, and tulips and daffodils are blooming this time of year. The colors were gorgeous, and the air was fragrant with the scent of flowers.

The Italian Garden

Columbine in front of a fountain

Seas of brilliant red and yellow tulips

Blossoming rhododendron

The magnolia tree garden

Cherry blossoms are everywhere

Tulips and daffodils in a spectacular array of colors

Sunny jonquils

Brilliantly colored hibiscus

A beautiful display of color


Visions of beauty from a tropical climate

Orchids in every hue


These are simply otherworldly

Beautiful blues and greens

A redbud tree in a sea of hydrangea

Pretty stalks of flowers

A beautiful garden

Blossoms of every color

Purple flowers in late afternoon sunlight

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cézanne and Beyond

Today we saw the exhibit "Cézanne and Beyond" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Paul Cézanne (1839 - 1906) is considered by many to be the father of modern art.

“ It is true that there is hardly one modern artist of importance to whom Cézanne is not father or grandfather, and that no other influence is comparable with his.”
—Clive Bell, English art critic, 1922

The exhibition displayed sixty of this influential artist's works, alongside several artists whose work Cézanne inspired, including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and many others. We saw many beautiful still lifes, landscapes of one of his favorite subjects Mont Sainte-Victoire near Provence, portraits of common workers, paintings of Madame Cézanne, and several of his famous "bathers" renditions. They were displayed alongside works which were influenced by him, including a whimsical sculpture of bathers by Picasso, with his own unmistakable style.

Philadelphia Art Museum featuring Cézanne.

Photographs were forbidden in the exhibition, however, I was allowed to photograph several paintings by Cézanne which are part of the permanent collection.

Still life of flowers by Cézanne

Relaxing outside the museum in the warm Spring sunshine.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone! This season is one of my favorite times of year. I love the emergence of the new growth of Spring, the fragrant white and pink blossoms of magnolia and cherry, the arrival of warm breezes, and the reawakening of a new season.

I also love that many traditions consider this to be a sacred time, the celebration of Passover, Easter, Naw Ruz, and Ridvan. Many faiths have a period of fasting, reflection, and solidarity with all of humanity who share difficulties, followed by a time of renewal, rebirth, and growth.

Today I had a wonderful day with my family celebrating Easter. We share the traditional Slovak Easter foods and enjoy each other's company.

I hope you all had a joyous Easter and I wish you much happiness in this new season of renewal and growth.

Easter flowers for my family

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Climbing Mount Misery in the Rain

This morning I went for a hike at Valley Forge National Historic Park. The day was mostly warm, but a light rain fell all morning. We started out by hiking Mount Misery, and spent some time off trail including scrambling up a steep hill, digging our boots in as much as possible to keep from sliding through wet leaves. We were rewarded with a brief sighting of a fox that quickly ran for cover. I don't have any photos to show since I kept my camera out of the rain!

Then we hiked on Mount Joy for a bit, finally ending up in the historic section of the park. Spring is beginning to emerge, white blossoms adorn some of the trees and light pink and dark magenta magnolia blossoms are slowly beginning to open. I am sure these April rain showers will encourage the new Spring growth!

Despite the rain, it was wonderful to be out on the trail, watching for signs of the change of seasons, and getting conditioned for the hiking season to follow. Later, after I was finally home and in dry clothes, the sun came out and skies are blue and clear.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Art is Racing for a Cure!

My friend Art Ritter is running in the Country Music Half Marathon on April 25, 2009 as a member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training. His goal is to raise funds to help stop leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma from taking more lives. He is running in memory of and to honor several people whose lives have been affected by cancer in some way, including someone who is very important to me.

To join Art in his Cancer Kicking Campaign and to make a donation to defeat cancer, see his Team in Training page. To read Art's inspirational story, to learn about the motivation for his campaign against cancer, and to follow his training, see Racing For a Cure.

Thanks Art! You are an inspiration to us all!!!! Best of luck in the race!

Run Art, Run!

Ridley Creek State Park - First Picnic of Spring!

Today was a beautiful day for a hike in Ridley Creek State Park and a picnic. Highs were in the mid sixties and the day was sunny and bright, although cool in the shade. We started the day with a nice long hike. The undergrowth is beginning to turn green, and a few early wildflowers are appearing. I had to adjust the straps of my backpack because they no longer have to accommodate a heavy winter coat, which was a great feeling! After our hike, we had a picnic: grape leaves, hummus, pita, olives, vegetable sushi, roasted vegetables, fruit, rice crispie treats (from Vive Le Vegan), and more. A few of us brought some kites and also tossed a frisbee around. It was a wonderful start to the Spring hiking season!

Ridley Creek

Another view of Ridley Creek

Undergrowth is green!

Lift off!

Pixie made the rounds looking for some handouts. I think she got some!


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