Sunday, December 27, 2009

Have Holiday Traditions

Have Holiday Traditions that are unique to you and your family and friends. It makes the holiday season that much more special, and gives you something extra to look forward to. Holiday family traditions are something that everyone will look forward to. Whether it is baking Christmas cookies or going caroling, reading the original Christmas story from the Bible on Christmas Day or making latkes from scratch using an old family recipe, create or continue holiday traditions. My family has Holiday traditions that I look forward to every year. It wouldn't be Christmas Eve if I didn't stay up playing Monopoly with my siblings, or if we didn't take turns reading Christmas stories like the How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Gift of the Magi . These are simple but special traditions I can't imagine growing too old for, and want to someday pass onto my own children. A Holiday tradition can be anything from cooking a special meal, having a secret santa gift exchange with your friends, or seeing the Nutcracker. The important thing is you are doing things that will create memories for a lifetime.

And that's your daily good thing.

My little sister reading us her favorite holiday story
My brother Jack reading The Gift of Nothing
Playing Monopoly with my brother and sister on Christmas Eve
More Christmas Eve stories

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I hope your Christmas holiday was full of good times with family and friends and that you got everything you wished for.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

Our Maui Christmas Tree in its final form complete with plenty of presents. The lights burnt out, but we had fun decorating it.

and that's your daily good thing.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Sorry for not posting for the past few days. This year has gone by so fast and Christmas kind of snuck up on me, so I've been scrambling to get everything ready. But now I am all prepared and ready to celebrate with family and friends. Have a very Merry Christmas if you celebrate, otherwise Happy Holidays and enjoy the season.

The Charlie Brown Christmas Tree (which apparently is a native species of Maui) looking much more festive with some lights and ornaments.

In front of a proper Christmas Tree last Christmas

and that's your daily good thing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

The only Christmas Tree left on Maui. Hopefully with a little love it will perk up, just like the tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas (one of my favorite holiday movies). Whatever your holiday traditions may be, whether it is decorating a Christmas Tree or spinning a Dreidel, enjoy celebrating with loved ones.

And that's your daily good thing.

Movie Night- The Princess and the Frog

Going out to a movie is one of my favorite activities. And while I also love renting a movie and watching it from the couch, there is something about seeing a movie on the big screen that I just love. With movies being so expensive these days, I am usually pretty choosy about the ones I see in at the movie theater. Sometimes you just have to see a movie in a theater to really appreciate it, like if it is a 3D movie. Quick side-note on that- I highly recommend seeing Avatar, but more on that in a different post. But a movie doesn't have to be fancy or high tech to warrant a theater screening. I recently saw Disney's The Princess and the Frog and absolutely LOVED it. Don't get me wrong, Pixar is brilliant, and 3D movies are awesome, but there was something really refreshing, and charming, about seeing a movie in old fashioned 2D. And the story is captivating enough without special effects. I have been wanting to see this movie for a long time (remember my Fairy Tales post) and it definitely delivered. It had everything I loved about Disney movies growing up, with plenty of witty dialogue to keep the "grown up" side of me entertained. Plus it was fun seeing how the film drew on past Disney films for inspiration. I had lots of "Oh that reminds me of Sleeping Beauty/Little Mermaid/Jungle Book"moments. But don't worry, The Princess and the Frog is a wonderful film in its own right. One thing that really seperated it from past Disney Princess movies was the way the "Prince" was portrayed. He was given much more character and depth than past Prince Charmings. He was funny, flawed, and fantastic to watch. He also changed dramatically for the better, which no other Prince, with the exception of the Beast, has done. Princess Tianna also represents a shift in the Disney Princess. While there have been spunky Princesses in the past, Tianna is the most goal oriented and career driven, one of the few whose dreams don't center on catching a man. She leaves that to her friend Charlotte, the spoiled daughter of a cotton king who is willing to do anything to become a real life Princess. Disney is definitely poking fun at past Princesses with Charlotte, and it is a lot of fun to watch.

As great as the main characters are, like in many Disney films it is the supporting cast that steals the spotlight and makes the film shine. And the villainous Shadowman, a mix between Jafar and Ursula the sea witch, is wickedly entertaining. to The New Orelans setting and jazz music soundtrack also add magic to the film.

I don't care how old or cynical you are. The Princess and the Frog is a must see film. If you are a long time Disney fan, you won't be disappointed. If you have you doubts, you will be pleasantly surprised.

And that's your daily good thing!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holy Guacamole!

Guacamole! Have it as a snack with tortilla chips, use it as a condiment, or incorporate it into your cooking. Guacamole is one those rare foods that tastes amazing, and is actually pretty good for you too. Avocados, guacamole's main ingredient, decreases LDL (bad cholesterol) and increases HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Avocados also have 60% more potassium than bananas and are rich in B vitamins, as well as vitamin E and vitamin K. Plus avocados have the highest fiber content of any fruit - including 75% insoluble and 25% soluble fiber. And if you don't care about the health benefits, guacamole is always a big hit at parties. The next time you are hosting or going to a party, or just want to turn a dreary afternoon into a fiesta for your taste buds, grab some guacamole. Either get some from your favorite Mexican restaurant or try making your own. Below is one of my favorite guacamole recipes.

Guacamole Recipe from Gourmet Magazine.
Found on


  • 2 ripe California avocados (1 pound total), quartered, pitted, and peeled
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup minced white onion
  • 1 fresh serrano chile including seeds, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 3/4 to 1 cup cold water


Mash together all ingredients in a bowl with a fork until smooth, using enough water for desired consistency. For a smoother dip, puréei n a blender.

and that's your daily good thing!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Feel Good Music- Home

I was hooked from the first whistled note. "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is my current feel good song. Clever, quirky lyrics combined with a beat that you can't help but nod along with, this is a song you can play again and again. On top of the great lyrics and tune, the instruments range from the trumpet to the guitar to the tambourine. Reminiscent of something from the Juno or Garden State soundtrack, "Home" makes me think of cross country road trips and outdoor music festivals. The only thing I don't absolutely love about this song is the dialogue in the middle. "Home" reinforces that it isn't where you are, but who you are with that matters.

And that's your daily good thing.

"Moats & boats & waterfalls, alley ways & pay phone calls,I’ve been everywhere with you
That’s true
We laugh until we think we’ll die, barefoot on a summer night

Nothin’ new is sweeter than with you
...Home is wherever I’m with you"
For Kevin

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Embrace Semi-Homemade Cooking

Master the art of "semi-homemade" cooking. Even if you aren't comfortable in the kitchen, making things "semi-homemade" is an easy way to impress dinner guests, or just improve your own meals. If you are a cooking purist and wouldn't normally combine pre-made store bought items with homemade goodies, consider trying out a semi-homemade meal. You'll be amazed at the time, and sometimes money, you can save. There is even a whole show on food network dedicated to the art of semi-homemade cooking, check out the website, "Semi-homemade cooking with Sandra Lee". I personally like to apply semi-homemade cooking skills when I am making a dish I am not familiar with. For example, I love Indian paneer with curry, but don't know how to prepare it. So one of my personal favorite semi-homemade dishes involves a store bought paneer and curry mix combined with freshly sauteed vegetables and steamed rice. It takes about ten minutes to make the whole dish, and the results are wonderful. I am sure that homemade paneer and curry probably tastes better, but until I know how to make it I am happy with my semi-homemade version. I like to use green beans and sweet potatoes (pictured above with the box of paneer I like to use)but you could substitute in any vegetable. While the rice is cooking I saute the vegetables, and right before they finish cooking I heat up the paneer and the sauce. A delicious, exotic meal in minutes.

And that's your daily good thing!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Back it Up

We all know we should. It is one of those precautions that no one really thinks about until it is too late. There was even a Sex and the City episode about it. BACK UP YOUR FILES! I personally have a hard time believing my computer is not going to live forever, but with thousands of photos and songs saved on it, I wasn't willing to chance it. So I recently backed up my files on an external hard drive. It only took a few hours, and since then my desktop has had problems and my laptop won't charge. My laptop is currently in the shop (fingers crossed!) but if it doesn't make it, at least I've got all of my important data. Seriously though, invest in an external hard drive and back it up. Another good option is to store your photos and important information electronically.

And that's your daily good thing!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Take a Walk

Take a walk. Wander down city streets. Stroll through a park. Walk down a beach. Meander around your own neighborhood. Go alone, with your dog, or with a friend. Bring an I-pod* or listen to the sounds around you. Just get outside and start walking. Not only is walking great exercise, I find it therapeutic. I love being outside, getting fresh air, and getting somewhere on my own two feet. *Remember, if you are walking alone with an I-pod, be sure to be aware of your surroundings, especially while crossing streets or in isolated areas.

And that's your daily good thing!

Walking through a park in Georgia.
In the California hills. Laguna Beach
Strolling the streets of Manchester, England.
Walking down a beach on Maui.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Waltzing through Life

Learn the the basic steps of a Waltz.The Waltz is a beautiful and classic dance that is well worth knowing. Take a class with a friend, or learn in your own living room with an online tutorial. And if you have been born with zero dance ability (like myself) you can still appreciate and get lost watching a wonderful Waltz. With all the dance shows on tv these days, you have lots of opporunities to watch and learn from the best. One of my favorite reality dance shows, So You Think You Can Dance, often features waltzing. Below is a waltz that I could watch again and again. Whether you are planning a trip to Vienna, have an upcoming wedding to attend, or just want to feel graceful and beautiful, knowing the Waltz is a skill well worth having.
and that's your daily good thing!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Know Your Own Happiness

Know what makes you happy. Whether it is reading, hiking, cooking, video games, or music, identify something that makes you happy. Knowing your own happiness is the first step to being happy.

And that's your daily good thing.
Postcard from the British Library

Friday, December 11, 2009

See a Spectacular Sunrise

Set your alarm a little bit earlier and see a sunrise! I really, really love sleeping in, but sometimes waking up for sunrise is worth it. Whenever I a place where I know the sunrise is going to be special I always make the effort to wake up and get out of bed. So far I haven't regretted it once. You don't have to be on top of a mountain or out at sea to enjoy a beautiful sunrise. Check online for the sunrise time in your area, wake up early, grab a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee, look to the east, and watch the world wake up. I have been lucky enough to see some pretty spectacular sunrises. Enjoy.

And that's your daily good thing.

The sun rises over the Sahara Desert. Morocco.Sunrise over Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Watching the sky wake up from a soft sand dune, Xinjiang China
(photo credit- Jennifer Ball)
Slow sunrise in Halong Bay, Vietnam. We didn't see the sun, the bay just slowly got brighter and brighter.
Moments before the sun came out from the clouds. Top of Haleakala Crater, Maui.
Cue the Sun.
Haleakala Crater, Maui
(also pictured top left)
Worth waking up for.
Special thanks to Fay Gordon for being the inspiration to go to Haleakala.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Put some Lavender in Your Life

Incorporate some Lavender into your life! Not only does it smell wonderful, Lavender can be used for lots of little things. Put lavender bubble bath in your tub, as a result you'll be relaxed and smell lovely. Put a satchel with lavender flowers under your pillow to help you sleep. Lavender infused tea soothes and relaxes at bedtime. Rubbing lavender oil on your temples can help with a headache. Essential oil of lavender even has antiseptic and anti inflammatory properties. If you live near or are visiting an area that has a lavender farm I highly recommend spending an afternoon there. It is an experience for all of your senses. The purple flowers blowing in the wind are a visual feast, and being surrounded by the smell of lavender is intoxicating. If you get close to the bushes you will hear the buzzing of the busy bees, and you can carefully touch the velvet petals of the flowers. Most lavender farms will have a little gift shop where lavender goodies will be sold, so make sure to treat your taste buds to make your visit to the lavender farm a complete sensory experience. NY Times even did a piece about the joys of visiting a lavender farm, you can read it here.

A little Lavender goes a long way.

And that's your daily good thing!

Kula Lavender Farm in Upcountry Maui
Leaping in LavenderFields of Purple

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Homemade Cookies

There is something special about baking cookies from scratch. The dough tastes more delicious than store bought dough. That mouthwatering smell that wafts through the kitchen as the cookies are baking. The whole process, from measuring out the flour to pulling the cookies out of the oven, makes you feel like a bona fide baker. And, most importantly, the cookies just taste better. Baking cookies from scratch might seem like a big undertaking, but it really isn't, and it is well worth the extra fifteen minutes. The important thing is to have the ingredients on hand. Below are the ingredients most Chocolate Chip Cookie recpies call for. 2 eggs, 2 and 1/4th cup flour, 2 cups softened butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1tsp salt, 1tsp baking soda, 2 tsp vanilla, and as many chocolate chips as you like! Baking cookies is a fun to do by yourself or with friends and family. And it is a great activity to do during the winter months when you are cooped up inside. Homemade cookies are also a great treat to bring to a holiday party or as a housewarming gift. It may be simple, but homemade chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven with a glass of cold milk is one of life's small pleasures.
and that's your daily good thing!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

GLEEful Christmas Music

For all you GLEEKS out there here is a much needed addition to my Christmas playlist. Last Christmas by the cast of GLEE!

and that's just a good thing :)

Christmas Music!

One of my favorite things about this time of year is listening to Christmas music. It just wouldn't be Christmas without Bing Crosby crooning Silver Bells, Mariah Carey belting All I want for Christmas is You, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir hitting every note in Carol of the Bells, and of course Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang letting us know that Christmas Time is Here. Listening to Christmas music always puts me in the Christmas spirit. Below is a playlist with some of my favorite Christmas music on it. In addition to the songs above it has Christmas classics sung by the Chipmunks, Elvis, Bruce Springstein, Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble, Andy Williams and Ella Fitzgerald. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

And that's your daily good thing.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Find Your Zen Place

You don't need to be on a mountain top or meditating in a monastery to find your inner "Zen" and relax. Find a place in your neighborhood, a nearby park or even a local Starbucks. You don't even have to leave your house, a balcony, front step, even your bedroom could be your "Zen" place. Ancient Chinese poetry and methodology teaches us that Zen is truly a state of being, and it comes from within, and that it is possible to find it even in the most unlikely places. The ability to relax oneself, no matter what your surroundings are, will give you a wonderful sense of peace. Our world is hectic, so it is nice to be able to tune it out and relax. One thing I do to help me achieve this sense of "zen" is to remember the feeling I had when I was in a location that made me feel at peace. For some people that might be out in nature, for others in a church. Wherever it is, you don't have to be there to recapture that feeling.

And that's your daily good thing.

Asian Heritage Gardens in Iao Vally.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

See a Show, Support Some Students

Show support for students in the arts! Attend a performance put on by a school near you. Not only will you be supporting performing arts programs, you will enjoy yourself and be entertained. Whether it is a college, high school, or even middle school performance, go out and see it. Make it an experience, get dressed up and go out to dinner beforehand. Bring flowers if you know one of the performers. Even if you don't have kids or friends in the show, keep an eye out in the paper for performance schedules. Another big plus about seeing shows put on by local schools is the price. Tickets are usually around ten dollars at the most, about as much as it costs to go to a movie, and this way you get to see a live performance as well as support the arts. Many high schools have excellent dance companies and great theater programs. There is something extremely rewarding about seeing young people polishing their craft and doing what they love. You will probably be pleasantly surprised by the level of talent and professionalism in the performances. The next time you are looking for something interesting to do, get tickets for a performance put on by a local school. A dance showcase, play, even a talent show. You'll be happy you did. And who knows, maybe you'll witness the next Meryl Streep in action, everyone gets their start somewhere.
And that's your daily good thing!

Curtain Call. Singer and dancer Sydney Roberts with Jack Webber after a performance A piece showcasing the "behind the scenes" warm up routine of a high school dance company
Hula Performance featuring Sydney Roberts Jack Webber as Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet
Jack Webber makes his enterance as Tyblat in an ourdoor performance of Romeo And Juliet

Friday, December 4, 2009

Holiday Decorations!

Holiday decorations are one of the highlights of the season! Whatever holidays you celebrate, have fun putting up or making decorations and enjoy looking at festive decor all around you. These decorations only come around once a year, so get into the holiday spirit and enjoy.

And that's your daily good thing!

Hong Kong has Holiday Fever! Outside of a Hong Kong shopping center

More Hong Kong holiday cheer- a giant purple christmas tree

Blissful Christmas in Hong Kong

Look close to see the words "Happy Holidays" and "Happy 2008" on the buildings. Hong Kong skyline from Victoria harbor
Ho, ho, ho Merry Christmas from Hong Kong!
Giant Christmas Tree at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, California
Carnaby Street festivities in London, England
(photo credit- Jennifer Ball)