Hello June. Birthstone the pearl. So fresh and new.The first month of the summer. We all cannot wait to embrace and enjoy all that you have to offer. The beginning of the summer is so exciting and happy. We welcome summer. We can grow weary of summer and look forward to the Fall when the end of August rolls around. But now, we can hardly wait to experience summer and the glory of June, but as June unfolds I wanted to create a blog with 5 things I love about June.
5 Things I Love About June
Episode 41. 5 Things I Love About June. Guest Pam Strickland Strawberry Jam
White, light pink and fuchsia pink all give us spectacular graceful large flowers, so colorful with fragrant blooms. Do not be turned off by the ants, they are attracted to the sweet sap produced by the peony bud, I mean, wouldn’t you be if you were that small?! This is a flower you can count on to be hardy and come back year after year with exceptional blooms. Peonies in a vase make for an eye catching arrangement. Certainly flowers from a florist are always a delight but when you can enjoy a vase from the flowers from your own garden…it’s so satisfying.
Beautiful peonies from the garden getting ready to open their graceful pedals.
The Longest Day of the Year June 20 or 21
This summer solstice is the day with the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. For June 20, and again June 21, which is actually the first full day of summer, Buffalo will enjoy just over 15 plus hours of daylight. More light means more time outdoors. Time to swim, swing, and play outdoors. Look Up! Look at the sky, the clouds, the glorious sun rises and sunsets.
More daylight means more times out doors!
There is no question we need dad’s and it’s important to make them feel appreciated. Dads really give your family strength and there is nothing like a man sitting at the end of the dining room table. Encourage the men out there, we need them. If your relationship with your own father is strained, remember your Father up above is there for you, your creator who loves you more than you can fathom.
My Birthday Month.
How often do we think that birthday celebrations are just for kids? I’ve changed my way of thinking since it is so important to appreciate the life we have been given and to embrace our age. This year, I invited 3 other women who I knew shared birthdays around me out to dinner. What a marvelous time we had. It’s always good to broaden your base of friends and enjoy the company of others. Make your own happiness, it is a choice. Instead of always expecting our spouses and our family to host our birthday dinner, initiate one yourself. Reach out, connect and make a new memory. We all are smiling in this picture and we have all suffered our own heart ache, but we have all made a choice to go out and be together and enjoy our connection.
Strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, strawberry jam. Get them while you can! When July rolls around all the fresh home grown strawberries will be gone. There is nothing like tasting the sweet goodness of June strawberry jam in January. It makes you so thankful for this beautiful month of June. Let’s make a strawberry pie, it is so simple, we can even buy refrigerator crust at the grocery store. Listen to my dear neighbor and friend Pam Strickland talk about her tradition of picking strawberries and making jam.
Here is Pam in her kitchen showing off the fresh strawberry jam she has just made. Pam is such a wonderful person reaching out and sharing her jam with others.
In a world that it is easy to complain about the heat, the business, and anything that comes up, it is important to stop and remember how special each month is, and how lucky we all are to experience another month, in another year. This day, this month, this life is a gift. Thank you for being part of my little life.
We all want to look good in pictures and today we are getting tips from my sister, Anne Cronin. She is being her best self by taking pictures to make people look their best. What a gift. Hey, we all have seen unflattering photos of ourselves and it certainly doesn’t make us feel very good. Anne is here to make us feel good and learn a few tips. In life, a treasured photograph can be your best possession, a focal point in your room, and a snapshot in time that can evoke memories in your heart from the day it was taken. She has her own photo business and you can check out her work on her web site here.
Look Good in Pictures! Guest Anne Cronin Professional Photographer
Now, after looking at those photos on Anne’s website and oo-ing and aww-ing at her beautiful photos that are all complementing, let’s learn from the professional.
Here are the Top 5 Ways to Look Great In Photos
1. Drop your shoulder and bend. This is surprisingly complementing
Notice the dropped shoulder, the bent knee and the chin slightly down. Standing up straight is not the way to go.
2. Look for door frames, arches and interesting architectural details.
There is something captivating about photographing someone in a door frame. The photo turns out very inviting, yet also dramatic. The way the light hits your face brightens the forefront of the picture, but the dark background serves to brighten the lighting on your face more.
3. Hands in your pockets men! Men tend to fold their arms across their chest and look up slightly. Not too complimenting. Better to use your pockets and keep your chin slightly down.
This picture has architectural detail plus notice the chin slightly down with the hands in the pockets. The relaxed feeling you have in front of the camera will transcend into the photo, which is much more complimenting than an up tight photo.
4. Go Outside! Morning light and an hour before sunset are the most complimenting light. Mid day is tough, find shade. Pictures taken outside are more flattering than with a flash indoor.
Interesting clouds and close to sunset all make for good lighting. No need for sunglasses or squinting of eyes. Relaxed and comfortable.
5. Shoot High to Low. If you want to look slender, it’s best to shoot from above. If your face is closest to the lens the rest of your body will be farther away from the lens and give the illusion of being more slender.
Focus on the face from above is a very complimenting angle.
So there you have it…top 5 tips to look good in photos. Don’t stand straight, bend! Drop a shoulder, bend a knee, and keep your chin down. Find a door frame, an arch or something interesting architecturally. Go ahead and put your hands in your pockets guys! Outside light is better than a flash inside and nothing beats the hour before sunset light, but if you are inside and there is lighting, turn toward the light! And the last tip for a complimenting angle is to shoot high to low.
Hey, we all want a complimenting picture of ourselves. Thank you Anne Cronin for sharing your expertise with us, and giving this Earth your talent!
Nothing means summer to me more than swimming in an outdoor pool. It’s something that I look forward to all year.
Swimming and being happy is synonymous with Natalie.
The benefits of swimming are many!! No wonder it was the sport that Natalie loved the most.
Laps For Nat. Saturday, June 11, 2016 Just Get In the Swim!
This Saturday June 11, 2016, is something called LapsforNat. It’s an event that was initiated by a University of Richmond Alumni Swimmer Mary Adams and was embraced immediately by the swim community at Richmond, and in Buffalo.
It is simply a way to honor Natalie. All that is required is to jump in a pool, a lake, a body of water and do something good for you…SWIM! It’s not a fundraiser. No money is involved. It’s simply a way to remember Natalie and do something good for you too…which is swimming. If you are alive and have the ability…seize the opportunity! The best part about it is there are no requirements for swimming X amount of laps, all swimming counts. Wether it be one lap, or one hundred, LapsforNat is a way to remove yourself from the stress of life, and remember and honor someone who brought so much to the table. Our lives are richer because of her being in it, and this unifying event can exponentiate the effects of happiness.
The fun part is posting pictures and videos on social media with the hashtag #LapsforNat, unifying an event that can literally happen anywhere in the country, or world, at the click of a button. A simple picture and hashtag, proving all of our hearts are in the same place that day.
I’m forever grateful for this simple yet brilliant idea. Get out there and swim.
The benefits of swimming are enormous.
Swimming is fun. Swimming is something you never outgrow, and when you get to an age when you feel you need relief on your joints, it feels great on the knees and hips! It’s so refreshing and invigorating. You are literally immersed in quiet vast water, engulfed in weightlessness, and it truly takes you away from life outside of the pool. There are no computers in the pool, or phones, or texts, or election updates. It’s an escape. It’s a place to clear your mind and improve your muscle tone. A chance to play; There is nothing like doing somersaults in the water and doing handstands.
I marveled at Natalie’s dedication to the sport of swimming. Competitive swimming is tough. Swimmers train 10,000 hours to drop .01 second. Crazy! I do believe that swimmers are of course the cleanest athletes with no dirty fingernails, and also has a shiny gold shimmer to their hair as a result of the countless hours in the chlorine pool. Swimming is so good for your lungs, your muscles and is so good for you mentally to immerse yourself is water that is lower than your body temperature. Swimming is the sport that you can do no matter what your age. Maybe the hardest part is just finding a pool.
Sometimes when I am at mass the song “Healing Water” is played. It’s a beautiful song. I think of the healing quality of water and think of the swimmer who loved water so much. Here is the refrain…
Healing Water by Trevor Thomson
Healing water flow over me
Mercy’s water renewing me
Mercy’s Ocean transforming me
Healing Water Renew Me
Thank you for swimming. Thank you to all the great swimmers out there. Thank you for living your life with goodness. And for remembering with gratitude those who have gone before us.
Did you ever think you would have 50 kids at the age of 26?
Did you ever spearhead something that no one thought you would ever do?
Did you ever teach something new to someone and it changed their life for the better?
Did you ever find yourself doing something that you did not go to school or college for?
Did you ever think you could run a full marathon with screaming kids cheering you on ?
Did you ever think you would give up a career in fashion to start a learn to swim and swim team in the Bronx?
Eileen Towey wins a Kindness Basket after a parent of one of her swimmers of the Blue Wave Swim Team entered her name.
Inspiring Others to Swim. Guest Eileen Towey.
I am going to introduce you to a young 26 year old young lady who I had the pleasure of knowing since she was very small. Her name is Eileen Towey. Dance class, swim team and Nardin Academy were a few of the things that brought Eileen together with our daughter Natalie. Eileen went on after high school to attend FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) but ended up taking a part time job in the Bronx at BronxWorks while in school. She noticed there as a pool with no water and she did something about it. First came the water, then the swim lessons and now a competitive swim team.
Most of my swimmers learned to swim with Eileen either during free lessons during after school or summer camp or in low cost learn to swim classes for the community and then joined the team. The 50 kids on the team “Blue Wave” represent 15 different distinct and diverse countries.
BronxWorks is the largest non profit social agency in the Bronx specifically at Carolyn McLaughlin Community Center on the Grand Concourse in the South Bronx. Instead of taking a job in fashion after graduation she stayed right there and found more fulfillment than any designer label.
Eileen had a goal to bring her team back to her home town of Buffalo to swim at the meet named after her friend, The Natalie Lewis Spring Invitational. Natalie was a source of inspiration for her and she wanted to enter her kids in the meet that really mattered to her. But how do they raise the money?
Eileen Towey and Natalie Lewis together in high school and most of their childhood.
Fundraising consisted of candy bar sales, bake sales, raffle ticket sales, a large Bar B Qs and swim a thons. Eileen ran in the NYC marathon in 2014 and raised close to $10,000 for the team and she has been able to build a relationship with Arlene Alda (wife of Alan) who has donated funds for the kids as well (she is from the Bronx and is passionate about helping to support children’s organizations here). I was especially impressed about the NYC marathon run.
“Once I had decided to do it and to do it for my kids I wanted to make sure I did it right” said Towey. “They all stood out cheering for me at mile 21 in the Bronx so I had no choice but to stay strong the whole time. I couldn’t run up to them without a big smile on my face” she continued. Eileen finished the marathon in 4 hours and 24 minutes which is pretty good for an amateur.
With the money raised, it happened this year. Vans were rented, drivers were secured, a hotel booked and Denise Towey (Eileen’s mom) invited the team for breakfast. What a beautiful showing these kids made at the meet.
What simply started as a part time job has become what matters most of Eileen Towey. The coach, the aquatic director, and soon to add early childhood teacher left the fashion world for a world with more substance. She has become the steady person who gives so many kids an opportunity and learn all the right lessons from being part of an athletic team. And she wanted to honor a cherished childhood friend at her namesake swim meet. Eileen not only” brings them home ” to where she use to swim but also creates a home for the kids at the pool.
The Blue Wave swimmers all swam with poise and confidence and Eileen was the first person the swimmers ran to after completing their race. In life you draw your greatest happiness in serving and giving back. It was such sweetness that I witnessed this in Eileen Towey. They plan on coming back next year. Thank you Eileen, we are so proud of you and your 50 kids.
Eileen with some of her 50 kids.
Natalie and Eileen at a high school mass.
If you live in Buffalo and want a little escape, visit Skaneateles. There will be a treat waiting for you . Beautiful scenery, a crystal clear lake and fabulous restaurants. And that includes the best hamburger known to man. (*my humble opinion). It’s only 2 hours and 15 minutes away.
I know. I know. And I do agree. We need to eat more turkey, veggie, and more tofu burgers. But hey, if you want to try the best hamburger in the state of New York or even the world, (hey, I’m passionate about this) you need to try the Mirabeau Inn and Spa Burger in Skaneatatles, NY. Now this burger is going to cost you, it’s not your average 6 dollar burger, it’s a whopping 17 dollars. Keep in mind that that hamburger is only available for lunch. It’s so worth it folks, and the little ketchup container sealed the deal.
The famous Mirabeau Burger. 8 ounce prime beef, with portobello mushroom, balsamic braised onions, and gruyere cheese.
Caroline is getting ready to order the famous Mirbeau burger. What a beautiful place to enjoy the scenery over-looking the Koi pond.
The lunch menu at Mirabeau Inn and Spa in Skaneateles.
Now, in case you want to enjoy breakfast at Mirabeau Inn and Spa, let me suggest the almond french toast.
The almond french toast tastes like an almond ring. So decadent.
Caroline notes how almost every menu now features small plates, roasted brussel sprouts and beet salad. Gilda’s in Skaneateles sells a lot of risotto balls and sweet fennel sausage pizza. Thumbs up on the restaurant trend. We love the simple homeyness of the menu placed on a sheet of cardboard with office clips.
At Gilda’s, we were real happy with our arugula pizza and roasted cauliflower. Perfect for a lighter dinner.
Looking for a more casual spot for breakfast and lunch that is absolutely delicious? Try the Skaneateles Bakery.
This is what the best grilled cheese sandwich looks like. The grilled gruyere sandwich with caramelized onions, sliced apple & whole grain mustard on marble rye.
Now you might be wondering if all we did in Skaneateles was eat, well, of course not. But that’s another blog. We had some great work outs, walks, and bike rides. There are other wonderful places to eat in Skaneateles but we highly recommend Mirabeau, Gilda’s and Skaneateles Bakery.
Hope you enjoyed reading this blog. I love being with my children and photographing them. Take the mini trip. Love them up. And you know one of my favorite topics is food. Oh dear.
I just had the pleasure of spending time with some people who were closest to Natalie. Katie from Richmond, Michael, and her sister Caroline. I could not help but think of the word restore. To restore means to bring back and in many ways they helped bring back Natalie…with stories, memories, laughter and the same attitude of “I’m going to enjoy this moment”, and “let’s help others have a better day.”
Katie mentioned a book called 14,000 Things To Be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kipfer. Katie likes the simple joy of eating a banana everyday, and looking at the colors of front doors on homes. My list went on and on….striped candles, post-it notes in fun colors, oxford shirts, the fragrance of star gazer lilies, a neatly made bed and listening to frogs ribbet near a pond.
Natalie was Katie’s #1 fan.
Enjoying time with Katie, Caroline and Michael
Episode 34. Add Marshmallows to Your Hot Chocolate. Guest Katie Sieben
The quote that Katie has on her desk.
“ Watch the sunrise at least once a year, put a lot of marshmallows in your hot chocolate, lie on your back and look at the stars, never buy a coffee table you can’t put your feet on, never pass up a chance to jump on a trampoline, don’t overlook life’s small joys while searching for the big ones.”
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
The small things that Natalie did for me stay with me. The foot rubs, brushing my hair, the little notes, the special meals, all left a beautiful ripple in the pond that travels on and on….
We don’t know what each day will bring but we do know to take notice of the beautiful gifts that surround us and to leave someone and every situation better than you found it.
Yesterday, my husband was straightening up the hallway upstairs, something we rarely do. He is not even sure why he had the motivation to do so. But, he came across a white pillar candle that was Natalie’s First Holy Communion candle from May 2, 1998….exactly 18 years ago! He paused and called me up to see it. He lit the candle and prayed and thanked God for giving this little sign from heaven. What a beautiful reminder of how important it is to have your children receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. Today, I received a beautiful plant from a friend who raised her son Nicholas along with our son Evan. She simply wanted to remind me of the beautiful memories she has of Evan’s beautiful little sister watching the “big boys” play. May is filled with new life, blossoms, signs of goodness and people reaching out.
What is the likelyhood of my husband coming across this candle exactly 18 years later? The reminder of Natalie’s First Holy communion day and the little signs from Heaven above.
Episode 33. Open Your Door. Guest Julie Snyder.
Julie Snyder has been the friend at my side. Not only did she set up camp at our house when this tragedy happened to us, she also planned the funeral, made the program, and organized everything we were too numb to do. But perhaps the best gift Julie gave me was hiring Natalie in the summer of 2011 to be one of the first interns at BCBS in the Communication program. That meant Natalie would be home in Buffalo spending all her free time with us. A gift so great ..that the word priceless falls short. Natalie with her positive energy, making us meals, motivating us to work out, organizing the house, taking time for others and inviting people over. Life was always so much better with Natalie.
Julie understands our family and has been a major part of it. She knows us deeply and personally. She nicknamed Natalie ..Nat-a-leah-a. She thought I took too many pictures of her and all my kids, she was a witness to me ending any phone call abruptly if the caller ID said Natalie.
When you open your door to others and expose ourselves, life is richer. Remember the song by the Goo-Goo Dolls to “Let Love In.”
Isn’t life better when we involve and invite other people in our life? Isn’t life so much deeper when we watch other children grow up and take part in their lives? Loving others that are just not our own is so satisfying.
Julie has always been at my side all the years we were raising our children.
God dispenses grace through human beings. There is so much bonding that happens when we celebrate joyful times together. Yet when we experience suffering, and life gets messy, it’s when we really bond and realize we can get through anything. Marriages unite. Friendships solidify. Our faith is strengthen. Open your door, allow people inside and let love in.
Natalie working as a Summer Intern for BCBS and being filmed for a commercial.
Natalie was the best hula hooper around and people would stop and say “Hey Hula Girl!”
Julie and Natalie at the far left at a luncheon in 2014.