Friday, August 30, 2013

18 National Flags Made of Signature Foods...

A friend posted an interesting article from on FB today, "National Flags Created From the Foods Each Country Is Commonly Associated With" by Paul Caridad...

Australian advertising agency WHYBIN\TBWA created this amazing visual display to promote the Sydney International Food Festival.  Each year, Australia's largest food festival draws millions of attendees and chefs from around the world.  The images below represent the national flags of 18 different countries made with foods common to each....I am blown away by this creative vision that accurately represents the culinary flavor of each nation! My favorites are Italy, France, and Japan (go figure)....Sadly, the U.S. seems to be the only country with the king of processed foods, surprise, surprise...Enjoy!

Australia - Meat Pie & Sauce

Brazil - Banana Leaf, Limes, Pineapple, Passion Fruit

China - Pittaya / Dragon Fruit & Star Fruit

France - Blue Cheese, Brie, & Grapes

Greece - Kalamata Olives & Feta Cheese

India - Curries, Rice & Pappadum Wafer

Indonesia - Spicy Curries & Rice

Italy - Basil, Pasta & Tomatoes

Japan - Tuna & Rice

Lebanon - Lavash, Fattoush & Herb Sprig

South Korea - Kimbap & Sauces

Spain - Chorizo & Rice

Switzerland - Charcuteries & Emmental

Thailand - Sweet Chili Sauce, Shredded Coconut & Blue Swimmer Crab

Turkey - Turkish Delights (Lokum)

United Kingdom - Scone, Cream & Jams

United States - Hot Dogs, Ketchup & Mustard or Cheese

Vietnam - Rambutan, Lychee, Starfruit

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Perhaps It's Just Speculation...But I Vote YES to Sandra Bullock + George Clooney

Celebrity couples come and go as fast as you can say 'Hollywood', so I am not proposing marriage here ...but after all of their past relationship dramas, how cute would these two be together? Perhaps it is just media speculation since they recently traveled to Venice to promote their new movie Gravity, (looking super cute while doing so)...but it appears that Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are having some fun together as of late.

He always seems to pick the 'arm candy' type whose brains / talent never seem to match his own....and she fell victim to that Jesse James loser who certainly didn't know what he was giving up...  

They are both incredibly talented actors, they appear to have fun together, and they look fabulous together...I vote YES!

LHJ's "11 Stories That Prove People Are Really Nice" by Caitlin Kelly...

After that dark and depressing post about the crisis of American culture, I found an inspiring and uplifting article I had to share...For those of you who know me, you can attest to the fact that I usually have a more positive and light-hearted outlook on life!

While reading September 2013 Ladies Home Journal (yes, I recently became a shameless fan), I stumbled upon "11 Stories That Prove People Are Really Nice."  After recent news reports of Miley Cyrus antics, and thugs taking innocent lives, I was thrilled to have my faith in Americans restored.  I genuinely believe the number of good people in America outweigh the bad...but sadly, our media does not always reflect this reality.

I recall witnessing my own 'good Samaritan' scenario a few months ago.  I was at Barnes & Noble and saw a complete stranger offer to walk 2 blocks away in the sleeting rain to feed the meter for a struggling mom with 2 squirming babies and a stroller.  It was so refreshing to see such a random act of kindness!

Enjoy reading the following article.  Hopefully it will make you smile today!

11 Stories That Prove People Are Really Nice

File these tales under "faith in mankind, restored!" We asked readers to share the random acts of generosity they'll never forget.

"I was stuck in traffic in Times Square when a policewoman waved me over. I was sure I was going to get some kind of summons. Instead she gave me her tickets to see a Liza Minnelli concert that night, which she couldn't attend because she had to work. She told me she had tried to stop other people, but they just kept driving. The tickets were probably worth about $100 each. I went and I had a fabulous time!"
- Tina Mosetis, 48, Great Neck, New York
"My husband, Adrian, who's in the navy, once took me on a weekend trip to Chicago. As we were checking into the hotel we started chatting with an older man who was also staying there. When he found out Adrian was in the military, he told us he was a veteran -- and he paid for our weekend stay at the hotel to thank my husband for his service. No stranger had ever done anything that nice for us."
- Erica Grajales, 33, Mundelein, Illinois
"One evening I went out grocery shopping with my young sons while my husband, Dan, was working late. When I got back to the car with two tired boys, I realized the keys were in the ignition and the doors were locked. 'I'll call AAA,' I thought. Then I noticed my cell phone was on the passenger's seat. It was 8:00, the temperature was dropping, none of us had a jacket, and my 3-year-old, who had been riding in the shopping cart, wasn't wearing shoes. When a woman standing nearby overheard me explaining the situation to the boys, she immediately offered her cell phone and her AAA membership number. She waited 45 minutes with us, and even got a jacket and blanket out of her car to keep us warm."
- Colleen Clemens, 38, El Toro, California
"Shortly after our third child was born, someone stole our camera. It had all of the precious pictures of her birth and her first weeks home. We were heartbroken. Then, two years later we received a package in the mail: It was our camera, with every single picture still on it. Apparently someone had found it, recognized our older daughter's former preschool teacher in one of the photos and tracked her down. Because we had moved, the teacher asked around to get our new address. What a blessing to have our once-in-a-lifetime pictures back!"
- Leah Chamberlin, 31, Excelsior Springs, Missouri
"My husband and I were shopping at a department store with our two young children when a voice over the loudspeaker asked 'the couple with the two umbrella strollers' to come to the main office. That was us! We were told that someone had anonymously bought us a double stroller. This was a godsend since the two strollers we were using made it difficult for me to go places on my own with the kids."
- Whitney Idalia Stevenson, 23, American Fork, Utah
"We live in a college town with our three small children. Our building is a three-floor walk-up and students live in the other two apartments. The porch of the building is filled with my kids' stuff -- bikes, scooters, helmets, and toys. It's a mess. One evening when I came home, the porch was completely clean. The floor had been swept, the toys and gear were stowed neatly in buckets, and our bikes were hanging safely on the rail. I like to think it was done by a student helping out my frazzled family."
- Isra Hashmi, 40, Boston
"On our way to the Jersey Shore one weekend, a bike fell off our car rack at the entrance to the George Washington Bridge. A tow truck driver came up behind us, turned on his lights, and blocked traffic so my husband could retrieve the bike."
- Jennifer Wu Miles, 49, Sleepy Hollow, New York
"When I was 18 I was in the navy and stationed on the opposite side of the country from most of my family. I had planned to cook dinner for my boyfriend, but as I walked through the grocery store, I realized that I had no idea what I was doing -- and I started to cry. I felt a hand on my back and a sweet Southern voice asked me, 'What's all this fuss about, sugar?' I told the woman why I was overwhelmed. She said, 'Honey, you come with me. We'll get you an easy meal to cook for that nice young man.' And she did!"
- Rachel Cavey, 29, Redding, California
"I was working a second job as the night supervisor in a pharmacy when it started to snow really hard. I was dreading the prospect of digging out my car and navigating the snow-covered roads to get home. But when I got out to the parking lot, I saw that someone had cleaned all of the snow off of my car and scraped my windshield. In the small bit of snow they left on the hood, they had written, 'Get home safely!'"
- Jerri Green, 52, Cincinnati
"Last summer, when our lawn mower broke, my husband had to use a weed trimmer to cut our grass. It was hot out, so he came in to take a break and get something to drink. When he went back outside, a beautiful used mower was sitting in our yard with a note that read, 'I had what you needed!'"
- Kathryn McGuire Richards, 46, Oran, Missouri
"I was at the drugstore picking up a few little gifts for my grandmother, who was in the hospital, and was talking to my mom on the phone about what to buy. Obviously, someone overheard me, because when I reached the front of the line the cashier told me the woman ahead of me had paid for my things, about $50 worth. I don't know who she was, or where she went -- or even how she knew how much to pay. I'm still baffled!"
- Julia Stone, 41, Narberth, Pennsylvania

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Culture Crisis in America (According to Our Media)

Today is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech...Thousands flocked to the National Mall in Washington D.C. to celebrate this monumental event in our nation's history.  Thankfully, in terms of race relations and equality, we are certainly better off today than we were fifty years ago, (though some current events may indicate otherwise).  Yet, I wonder what Martin Luther King Jr. would think about America today.  What would he say about our nation's current character barometer? Are we better off in terms of cultural advancement, national stability, peace, and prosperity?

In some ways, perhaps yes...but in others, sadly, I do not think so.

What is happening in America? Why is our nation becoming a landfill of ugly behavior, devoid of any respect for human life and an irreverence for the blessings that come with it?  At least, this is the picture of America the media (sadly) portrays.

Not to get all preachy or Bill O'Reilly (at the risk of sounding righteous or prudish, of which I am neither), but seriously, is it not embarrassing to witness such evolution during our journey into the 21st Century?  Please bear with the dark/depressing nature of this post....I know I may sound like a cliche-spouting old fart, but I just have to get this off my chest...

First, let me say that I fully recognize that our media sensationalizes dramatic and extreme events, often over-reporting the bad and under-reporting the good.  There are plenty of inspiring and encouraging stories of heroes, good Samaritans, positive role models, and good people in America.  I am certain of this reality because such people happen to be family, friends, neighbors, and relatives.  I am equally thankful and proud to live in this country for countless reasons.

Yet, I can't help but feel outrage over recent media/news reports highlighting an erosion of culture in America....from the ridiculous near X-rated MTV performance by once-upon-a-time-Disney-sweetheart Miley Cyrus to the seemingly random acts of violence.  Who are our children looking up to? Our little girls are bombarded with media and marketing images, clothing, and products of over-sexualized, over-materialized Barbies, pop-stars, and princesses.  Our boys are bombarded with increasingly aggressive/violent characters, shows, and video games.

There exists a hyper-competitiveness when it comes to materialism, academics, athletics, and other extracurricular performances and achievements, while we are increasingly apathetic to character development, good citizenship, empathy for others, and service to the communities in which we live.  At least, this is what I gathered from reading Madeline Levine's interesting book, The Price of Privilege about her work with countless American teens, as a clinical psychologist.

Please note, I am not referring to my experience from the communities in which we have lived in recent years (i.e. Cleveland (OH), Atlanta (GA), Charlotte (NC), Overland Park (KS), Newburyport (MA)).  I have witnessed countless acts of service and good citizenship every day among my neighbors and friends.  I feel lucky to have found such a warm and welcoming community with an environment in which I am thrilled to be raising our family (current town of Rocky River, Ohio).  Rather, I am referring to the vibe of American (media) culture in general.

In addition to the cultural commercialization/media wasteland influencing our youth, shocking and horrific crimes are taking lives of innocent citizens.  Australian collegiate baseball player Christopher Lane was randomly targeted by two teens who were reportedly 'bored' and sought entertainment via killing him, a stranger jogging through a residential neighborhood in Oklahoma.  Next, we hear reports that Delbert Belton, an 88-year old WWII Veteran is brutally beaten to death outside a bar in Spokane, Washington, after a botched robbery attempt.  How ironic and sad that this selfless war veteran risked his life to fight for and defend the same country who later produces a generation of thugs who take his?  Can it get any more appalling or shocking? Don't even get me started on the random shooting rampages on hundreds of innocent children in our schools, the places intended to be the bedrock for the future stability, advancement, and success of our nation? Our news headlines are littered with such stories on a regular basis.

There are various external influences present as much today as in the past, putting our youth at risk: gang warfare, bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as factors outside our control such as mental illness, poverty, discrimination, etc.  Yet, one basic underlying value is deteriorating....our respect for human life, its sanctity, and preciousness.  When you hear these stories, it seems our respect for ourselves and empathy for others has literally gone up in flames.  And our children are suffering the consequences.  

Many say children are becoming desensitized to sex and violence through excessive exposure to video games, shows, and movies.  Some studies show that the more children watch violent scenes play out, the more they believe the world is inherently unsafe, and they are therefore more accepting of violence toward others to resolve conflict.  Others argue such media violence, for example, does not lead to violent behavior.  Rather, they suggest these games, comics, etc., offer a safe outlet for such aggressive impulses.  Interestingly, Japan has a relatively low level of violent crime, yet violent comic book entertainment is a cultural norm.

Some studies have shown the 'Tom & Jerry' effect produces higher levels of aggressive behavior in children who watch this cartoon while other studies have shown the opposite effect....that children are actually MORE calm after watching Tom & Jerry (perhaps vicariously getting their 'crazies' out by watching the crazy antics of this famous cat and mouse duo)...As a side note, I was a big Tom & Jerry fan as a kid, and admittedly let my kids watch it today....but I suspect intangible factors such as context in which it is consumed, a child's predisposition/temperament, family moral/ethical upbringing, and balanced vs excessive exposure are key components in determining the impact on children.   I am not an expert to debate this subject, but I certainly find it intriguing.

Regarding the media frenzy over Miley Cyrus MTV 'twerking' performance (apparently this is a real word), Kardashian ridiculous family drama, reality show 'stars', etc....these are all 'real' people in the spotlight often for bad, embarrassing, and disgraceful behavior.  But, they are giving Americans a bad name.   I fully admit to the guilty-pleasure watching of Real Housewives episodes for the moth-to-a-flame sort of entertainment value.  It is like watching a train is so bad and destructive, but you can't help but watch it play out....

Let's stop wasting our time critiquing these young, likely-just-going-thru-a-phase, attention-seeking pop-stars (Miley Cyrus)... and rather celebrate inspiring, courageous, hard-working people and stories deserving of our time and attention...such as Martin Luther King, Jr.  There are countless others like him, who are wonderful role models for our children.  Let's focus on these people and their uplifting stories instead.

I know our nation can become a better place in which to raise our children.  We owe it to them (and to those who have gone before us, sacrificing so much to give us so many blessings) to make it happen...

My favorite MLK Jr. quotations...

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."

"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."

"I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education."

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."

ADDENDUM:  It seems I am not the only one in a frenzy over the social culture of our teens today...Talented blogger, Erin Gates, of Elements of Style, put her own eloquent, charming, and humorous spin on this topic in her recent post, "Lets Talk Teenagers"....Enjoy!

Monday, August 26, 2013

OKL Photography by Gray Malin: Cinque Terre and The Italian Riviera

Today, One Kings Lane features work by the talented photographer, Gray Malin.  This photography caught my eye since it captures the amazingly beautiful scenes of one of my favorite travel spots of all time: Italy's Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre, or "The Five Lands" is a rugged coastal region along the Italian Riviera between Genoa and La Spezia.  It is comprised of five quaint fishing villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.  Over centuries, terraces and trails have been built  along the rugged landscape/cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean.  Paths, trains, and boats connect the colorful villages, and they are inaccessible via automobile.  

I first hiked this trail in the fall of 1996 while studying abroad (based in Luxembourg) and later during a backpacking trip through southern Europe in the summer of 1998, just after college graduation.  On my second visit, we stayed overnight in nearby Portovenere, and traveled by boat to Riomaggiore to begin the hike.  I highly recommend this alternative!  Yet each of these charming little towns have their own, unique flavor, so you cannot go wrong regardless of where you spend the night.  The main attraction is the spectacular view you take in while hiking the beautiful trails overlooking the brilliant blue waters of the Mediterranean.  Soaking up the local Italian culture in each of the five villages along the way is icing on the cake!

Some of my old photos of Cinque Terre...

View from our little hotel in Portovenere

Hiking the Trail...

Evidently, since Rick Steves featured this fascinating and scenic part of Italy, it has become a huge tourist attraction.  Travelers from all over the world travel by boat or train to reach one of the five villages and hike throughout the region, typically starting in Riomaggiore and ending in Monterosso.  

According to OKL, "A Dallas native, Gray Malin hunts the globe for the unusual beauty captured in his photographs. He often plays with perspective through height, helicoptering over the beaches of Brazil or Kauai and sending balloons above the mystical plains of Joshua Tree National Park. Malin first broke onto the scene in West Hollywood, California at a Sunday market where his prints caught the interest of gallery owners, interior designers, and stylish Angelenos. Malin's work has been displayed in the Dallas Museum of Art and has been published around the world in publications such as the London Observer."

The following description is provided for the photographs below:

"A stunning photograph by Gray Malin capturing a beach scene in Italy. Documenting many of Italy’s most famous beaches on a 2000-kilometer road trip, the artist’s “La Dolce Vita” series was inspired by the glamorous Italian Riviera lifestyle that mesmerized the world during the 1950s and 60s. Focusing on the retro-vintage beach umbrellas that seem to have stood still in time, this series is meant to evoke nostalgia for the opulence of what the Italian Riviera once represented."

Capri La Fontelina Beach Club



Rimini, White Umbrellas

Rivazzura, Umbrellas with Tassels


Monterosso, Cinque Terre

Praiano, Amalfi Coast

Riccione, Multi-Colored Umbrellas

Monterosso, Diptych

Cinque Terre, Vertical

I can only hope one day to return to this heaven on earth!  Where is YOUR favorite travel destination?