The Mystical Arts of Tibet





I’ve lived all my life in the South, which also means I live in “the Bible Belt.” If you are unfamiliar with this term, in a nutshell it means not only is someone going to ask you “who’s your Mama?,” they are also probably going to ask you which church you attend on Sundays. From the bayous of Louisiana to the hollers of Kentucky, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a First Baptist, First Methodist, First Presbyterian or First AME church. Don’t even get me started on Second Baptist and Third Baptist churches. Just like how you take your tea, which mayonnaise you use, and which SEC football team you yell for, your religion is everybody’s business in the South.

With all of this in mind, when we found out that the Tibetan Monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery were revisiting the Jepson Center Center for the Arts, we knew it was time to take a drive down to Savannah. The lamas were at the Jepson for a week-long residency to create a sand mandala.

Mandala, a Sanskrit word meaning “sacred cosmogram,” is a sand painting. Beginning with an opening ceremony in which the lamas consecrate the site through chanting and music, the monks began creating the mandala outline from memory. Each manifestation of the Buddha has its own design. The monks began by drawing the axes in the four cardinal directions using chalked string that has been blessed. Using simple geometric tools and rulers, the lamas drew parallel lines, overlapping circles and concentric squares to create the mandala.

In the following days, the monks painstakingly created the mandala grain-by-grain using crushed marble. Dressed in dark red and golden saffron, the lamas poured sand from traditional metal funnels called chak-purs. Each monk holds a chak-pur in one hand, while running a metal rod on its grated surface; the vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid. The lamas created the Akshobya Mandala, also known as the “Unshakable Victor,” for conflict resolution and peace.

On Sunday, the mandala was destroyed by sweeping the sands —a metaphor for the impermanence of life. The sands were swept up and placed in an urn; half was distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony. The remainder was carried by the monks to the Savannah River. The waters then carried the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.





The 2012 Euro Cup is Half Empty

Well, that didn’t go so great. The 2012 Euro Cup Group of Death continues, and the Dutchman is an unhappy Dutchman at the moment. However, all is not lost. The Oranje play Portugal on Sunday. It’s time to settle the score after the Battle of Nuremberg in 2006. This is the famous World Cup match in which a record four red cards and an unprecedented 16 yellow cards were issued between the Portuguese and Dutch teams, thus setting a new record for number of cards shown during a FIFA game.

Disclaimer: Now before anyone actually thinks I know anything about soccer, let me go ahead and clear that up. I don’t. I mean look at me, I refer to it as “soccer,” not “football” or even “voetbal.” It’s just that when you are married to a Dutchman, you kind of need to learn these things: Like how to make kroketten and bitterballen, how to get used to Dutch “directness,” how to make a sprinkles sandwich, and how to accept the color orange when you previously thought it was such an awful color that only tacky Florida Gators wore it with their jean shorts ensemble.

This two-year-old kid knows more about Dutch soccer than I do. The poster of the Dutch National team poster has only been hanging in cute little Noah’s room for two days, but he knows all of the names of the players:

I think I need to take a lesson or two from him. In the meantime, I am sticking to the things I do know: I started a new sewing project. I am making taggie blankets for some friends with new babies.

While Bert and the boys get ready for Sunday, let’s all enjoy some moves by my favorite player, Wesley Sneijder.

Oh yeah, please wish me luck. I am going back to Georgia to surprise my Dad for Father’s Day and hang out with my family for a couple of days. So in other words, I am going to attempt to watch the Netherlands vs. Portugal match with my parents (two people who even know less about soccer than I do). This means I will be the soccer “expert.” What a scary thought.

Dining High on the Hog

So let’s get the bad news over with first. The Dutch lost to the Danes today in their first match in the 2012 Euro Cup. Ouch. I won’t go in to a lot of detail about it; I really don’t want to have to relive it. I will say I learned an important lesson, though: I am so going to call our insurance agent before the 2014 World Cup and take out a new life insurance policy on the Dutchman. As much as he yelled and cussed out the boys in orange on the TV today, he might just stroke out if they play like that again. Holland’s loss might be my financial gain. Hello early retirement!

Just kidding.

However, all was not lost today. We headed over to the First Annual High on the Hog BBQ Contest at Whitehall Plantation on Lady’s Island. All the barbecue samples you could eat, beer, ice cream, and ice cold slices of watermelon; with all proceeds benefiting Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity.

Ladies and gentlmen, swallow an extra cholesterol pill, put on your stretchy pants, and get your plastic forks out because it is time for some ‘que!

We tried out more than a dozen samples of ribs and butts today from pit masters from all over South Carolina, North Carolina and coastal Georgia. Not actual butts, mind you, just a cut of meat called “Boston Butt.” We do eat some weird stuff in the South like fatback and boiled peanuts, and we put enough sugar and ice in our tea to make your cavities freeze but we aren’t THAT crazy.

The Dutchman and I thought S’Lowcountry Q was hands down the best barbecue. Their Carolina Gold mustard-based sauce was phenomenal. I know some barbecue experts think it is blasphemous to drinch the meat in sauce but I couldn’t help it. This sauce was awesome! I think other people must have agreed with us, too. When we went back for seconds they had run out of barbecue and the Carolina Gold sauce container was almost empty.

We even took Marley, our sweet old beagle with us. I think she thought we took her to Doggie Disneyland or something. People played with her and rubbed her ears, she got to eat barbecue galore, and all of this involved her favorite activity besides napping: riding in the car!

So how was it all? I think Marley’s expression during the car ride home speaks for itself:

Stick a fork in me, I’m done. It’s time for a nap.



Happy Girl

1. Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV by Warren Littlefield 2. Speculoos Cookie Butter from Trader Joe’s 3. Queen Elizabeth II

Summer is finally here! Actually, here in Beaufort, South Carolina, it has been here since mid-March. We really didn’t have much of a spring (or a winter for that matter), we just went full steam ahead into summer. And when I say steam, I mean steamy. South Carolina really isn’t much hotter than my hometown of Athens, Georgia. It’s just a heck of a lot more humid if you can believe it. Hello big frizzy hair!

Despite my bad hair and scary electric bill, here are a couple of things that have made me a happy girl lately:

I just finished reading Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV by Warren Littlefield. Who wants to read a book by a former TV executive? Not me really, but it discussed some of my all-time favorite TV shows: Cheers, Fraiser, Friends, ER, Will and Grace, and Seinfeld. This book isn’t going to become a classic or anything. However, it was actually a fast easy read.  It was nice to turn back the dial and get all of the goods from behind the scenes with some of my favorite actors and learn how these shows came to be on our TV screens each week. I don’t watch reality TV shows except for No Reservations and Housewives (I know, I should be ashamed to admit that last one openly), so reading this book made me long for the days for a place where everybody know’s your name; the doctor is listening; an ugly naked guy lives across the street; yada, yada, yada…

I stopped by Trader Joe’s the other day when I was in Charleston and was immediately drawn to the big sign that said “Cookie Butter.” It was like a beacon in the middle of the store with two of my favorite words in big bright letters: Cookie. Butter. What’s not to love? I also noticed the word “speculoos.” Granted, I only know about a dozen Dutch words, but I do know what speculoos means. Delicious gingerbread-like cookies with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger cardamom and white pepper. I grabbed a jar and brought it home to the Dutchman. The verdict? Stop whatever you are doing and go. Go now to the nearest Trader Joe’s or as I like to call it, the place to blow a paycheck on cheap wine and dark chocolate pistachio toffee. Grab a jar of Speculoos Cookie Batter and get ready to spread it on anything and everything. Better yet, why waste time with a vehicle for the spread? Just eat it with a spoon out of the jar when no one is looking.

Last but not least, congratulations to you, Liz. Sixty years on the throne and still counting! I bet Charles and the Rottweiler are peeved.

Orange vs Oranje

Alright, it’s that time again. Time to put out the flag, set the Tivo, and drape anything that won’t move in orange. It’s time for some Dutch soccer! Hup Holland Hup!

Now I am a Southern girl and I live for SEC Football. Football in the South is second in attendance by its faithful; only slightly behind weekly church services. I love my Georgia Bulldogs. Junkyard Dawgs, Herschel, Vince, Irk, Larry Munson, the Redcoats, playing ‘tween the Hedges, Sanford Stadium, Uga…need I go on?  I am pretty sure the blood running through these veins is red and black. I grew up with an English Bulldog named Georgia Dawg, for goodness sake. As long as you don’t wear orange (that means you Tennessee Volunteers, Auburn Tigers and, ugh, Florida Gators), you are alright by me.

However, I have come to embrace the color orange. Sacrilege!

I was raised to think: “Who would actually WANT to wear orange? Such a garish color, it will blind you if you stare at it a little too long!”  However, once my husband came into my life, I began to understand how significant the color orange –or oranje as the Nederlanders say– was to the Dutch. The Royal House of Orange, the Orangemen, Go Orange!, etc. Once I understood that this particular color had such a long, storied and proud history with the Dutch people, I began to soften…albeit slowly. Orange tulips from the market appeared on our table, orange earrings were worn with my favorite black sweater, and soon I began carrying an orange Kate Spade purse.

Honestly, orange is a great color…as long as it is for representing the Netherlands. It’s still a tacky, hideous color if it is associated with any rival football teams that play my beloved Bulldogs.

So, here we are, a couple of days before the 2012 Euro Cup begins. The Dutch flag is hanging up in our home and the bunting will come out tomorrow. The menu full of Dutch delights is being planned, and my Wesley Sneijder #10 orange jersey is in the wash as we speak. The first match against Denmark this Saturday is Tivo’ed and ready to go.

Go Orange! I mean, “Go Oranje!”

Taking the Plunge in 2012

Happy 2012!

Every holiday has its traditions. Watching football while eating collard greens and black-eyed peas is the norm for me on New Year’s Day. However, we decided that since we moved to the beach it was time to kick off 2012 with a new tradition. We took the plunge. The “Pelican Plunge,” that is.

The Pelican Plunge is a local event modeled after the “Polar Bear Plunge” held in places like Boston and New York. Basically, you go out to the beach, psych yourself up, and with adrenaline pumping, you run like an idiot into the pneumonia-inducing, who-the-hell-thought-this-was-a-good-idea, freezing seawater. Sounds like a great new tradition, right?

If you have never been to Hunting Island, go. Go now. It is a gorgeous even in winter!

You can walk to the top of the lighthouse.

At the Pelican Plunge, there was a reggae band, a costume parade, and a Kazoo sing along. The donations raised go to support “Discover Carolina” South Carolina State Park Programs, a program that transforms South Carolina State Parks and the South Carolina State House into living classrooms.  

Now, onto the day’s festivities. We jammed to the music…

We watched the costume parade…

Then it was time for the main event. It was rather unseasonably warm with a daytime high of 71 degrees, but don’t let that fool you. The seawater was unseasonably cold, according to officials. Believe me, it was COLD!

You know, Mother Nature may not be kind to women sometimes, but today was a good day to be a woman. I shudder to think about how many men were recalling this episode of Seinfeld when they hit the water:

We came. We plunged. We got the commemorative t-shirt and kazoo. Now bring me an electric blanket and some hot chocolate.

Learning Dutch with Sesame Street (I mean, Sesamstraat)

They say you learn something new every day. Lately for me, it’s been in Dutch. 

My world got a bit larger when I married a tall, cute guy from The Netherlands seven years ago. I never dreamed I would like chocolate sprinkle sandwiches, fries with peanut sauce, or own so many things in the color orange. However, it is all these things that make being married to the Dutchman special.

The first Dutch phrase I ever learned will always, without a doubt, be my favorite: Ik hou van jou (“I love you.”). The Dutchman taught it to me in the car while we were driving to have dinner with his family. It was a moment I will never forget, and it is the most meaningful phrase that exists in any language. I even have “Ik hou van jou” as my inscription on my wedding ring with our wedding date and his name. I also love that it is the only Dutch phrase Matt Lauer knows, too. He’s married to the Dutch model, Annette Roque.

Lately, I’ve decided it’s time to tackle the Dutch language itself. Believe me, it hasn’t been easy. Between the guttural g’s, diphthongs, and rolling r’s, it’s a tough language to learn. 

So in addition to working on my Rosetta Stone software and asking the Dutchman lots of questions, I’ve taken to watching videos on YouTube. I watch everything from news stories to videos about the royal family, talk shows to even Sesame Street. I thought I would share a couple of videos for you to enjoy:

Learn your ABC’s in Dutch with Oscar and Grover:

Learn to count from 1 to 10 with Bert and Bernice the pigeon:

And for good measure, here is a little Super Grover for you!

Dag! (Goodbye!)

Halloween Felt Garland

We are getting ready for some visitors around here!

It was a bit trickier this year to figure out how to decorate our front door for Halloween. We moved in to an apartment building that is painted sherbet orange. That may sound a bit strange, but living on the coast invites people to paint buildings a wild array of colors. It’s actually a lot of fun to drive around and see all of the pastel blue, yellow and even pink houses that brighten up the scenery.

However, having an orange building with a black door made it a perfect combination for Halloween decorations. You have to let the kids know you are open for business on Halloween, right? I did have a couple of challenges. I couldn’t nail anything in the door or the walls, and I couldn’t go crazy with decorating on the ground or around the door because of restrictions put in place by the property managers. So a door decoration it is!

I made a felt garland to drape around the door and tied a cute sign to the door knocker with orange baker’s twine. I’m sure anyone walking by our building at 2 a.m. would have wondered what the heck I was doing on a step ladder hanging our decorations, but I just had to see the finished product!

The garland was a lot of fun to make, and took only about two hours to construct and sew.

  1. Cut assorted shapes from felt. I doubled-up on the pieces of felt when I cut out the shapes. I free-formed my shapes for the most part and made three sizes of circles and a star, but I did make paper patterns to follow when I was cutting the felt so that the shapes were somewhat uniform in size. I also used pinking shears for variety.
  2. Layout your felt pieces in the order you want, and make sure you vary the sizes, shapes and colors to make for an interesting pattern.
  3. Using a straight stitch, stitch down from the top of the felt through the middle. Near the end of the first piece of felt, add the next piece of felt right next to the bottom of first piece so that you can make one continuous stitch. This is how you create your chain.
  4. Back-stitch over the first piece of felt over to the next piece of felt so that you don’t have to worry about the thread breaking when you hang in your garland.
  5. Stitch together all pieces of your felt garland. You can stitch on ribbon or baker’s twine at the ends of the garland for a nice finish. I used orange baker’s twine (I can’t get enough of the stuff). Now you are ready to hang your Halloween garland and welcome visitors on All Hallow’s Eve!

A Wicked Good Time

It’s that time of year for pumpkins, ghosts, skeletons, zombies, and witches, so it is also the perfect season to read about the life and times of the most famous witch of them all in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire.

Wicked is such an interesting take on the characters from L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Who would guess you would actually feel sympathy towards Elphaba, the little girl who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West?

I have to admit The Wizard of Oz was my favorite book as a child. My mom and dad said that when it came time to read me a bedtime story, they would cross their fingers and silently hope that I would reach for a different book other than Oz. However, they would read the book over and over to me because I apparently couldn’t get enough of Dorothy and her sparkly red shoes. My parents told me that even when they would try to skip a page so they could tuck me in bed a little faster, I would always interrupt to let them know they skipped a page and asked them to go back and read it again. 

I loved the story so much that my mom decided to throw me a Wizard of Oz birthday. My mom is an elementary school teacher, so with her creative brain you can only imagine what all she made for my big day. She constructed an Emerald City and braided my hair, and I even remember that she took an entire roll of yellow bulletin board paper and rolled in down our driveway so that my friends and I could walk on the yellow brick road.

So in honor of the wonderful memories of the Wicked Witch of the West, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, Dorothy, Toto, the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Munchkins, take a look at some of the fabulous Wizard of Oz-themed handmade items available by talented members of Etsy:

1. Wizard of Oz buttons 2. Cupcake topper kit 3. Infant knit hat with Toto 4. Somewhere Over the Rainbow cowl scarf 5. Wicked Witch original art print 6. Somewhere Over the Rainbow printable calendar 7. Tin Man and Dorothy hand-stamped necklace 8. Yellow Brick Road print 9. Wicked Witch bookmark