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Sites to See (87 posts)
The Internet can be a dangerous place, particularly for wallets, particularly when you find yourself wandering down the virtual aisles of Etsy and other purveyors of lovelier-than-lovely t-shirts you are sure will express everything you mean to express about your appreciation for good design AND your philosophy on life, and before you know it, you've spent a bunch of money and have your budgetary tail between your legs. But how about if said extremely cute garment also contributed to providing safe shelter for sex trafficking victims, or bringing clean water to developing countries, or providing therapy for children with autism? Why, it might start to feel like a truly crucial addition to your wardrobe after all!
Sevenly is the brainchild of two young entrepreneurs, Dale Partridge and Aaron Chavez, who wanted to find a way of battling apathy in the face of widespread suffering. Sevenly's Ryan Wood told me, "Sevenly was developed around the belief that people matter. We figured that if we could just start getting people to give, then we could get them to care." So every week, they choose a cause they'd like to support, from battling poverty among Thai children to helping people suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts. They assess the appropriate charities, find one they think is most effective, and then work with their team of designers to create the t-shirts. Each time someone buys a shirt, $7 (Get it? Sevenly?) goes to the charity of the week.
It's a clever concept, and one that's proving to be effective: check out the page of past campaigns and the amounts they've helped to raise. What an appealing way to do your good deed today, am I right?
Help For Kids Aging Out of Foster Care
A Social Network for Good Deeds
Boom Boom Cards Make Acts of Kindness Easy
The site Spontaneous Smiley offers an online trove of unabashedly happy mugs in the least expected places. I defy you to look at the smiley gallery without cracking a smile yourself. In fact, I believe such a feat is physically impossible. Within a few moments you'll figure out that even cookies and car bumpers smile, even houses and haystacks. It's like the secular version of the Virgin Mary potato chip phenomenon. Before you know it, even the most mundane of everyday objects seems animated, friendly, imbued with a mysterious, goofy, affable life. Go ahead, join the hunt and upload your own found face, because here's the best news of all: for every photo uploaded to the gallery, the site donates a dollar to Operation Smile, which provides operations for children with facial deformities. By spotting a smile, you help make a new one. Pretty sweet.
Collecting Every Smile in the World
The Invention of the Smiley Emoticon
How Smiling Makes You Feel Better
Photographer Tanveer Badal spent 101 days traveling Asia and Africa, and in so doing created one of those blogs that sears your eyeballs with its ridiculous beauty. It's a good place for a quick dose of vicarious travel, or many lost moments bathing your brain with images of pretty places. World feeling small? Not hardly! Look!
So anyway, Badal recently posted about the unexpected highlight of his extensive travel in Southeast Asia: Laos, AKA, "'that thing' between Thailand and Vietnam." He explains how Laos took him by surprise with its beauty, ruggedness, the friendliness of the natives, and above all, that mysterious sense of enchantment that accompanies all indescribably great experiences. He describes their first day in Laos: "...some of us went on a long hike to explore caves at a nearby national park while others napped. (And that’s what I like the most about SEA and extended travel in general. You can either go on an adventure or you can nap. And it’s totally cool either way.)"
It seems like a kind of travel Rorschach Test -- Answer quickly, without thinking: adventure or nap? I'm no psychiatrist, or even a travel agent, but I'm going to go ahead and say you should probably, for optimum health, think both. Adventure and naps are the yin and yang of life, the alpha and omega of recreation, the peanut butter and jelly of leisure. True for any of us enjoying a free moment, whether we're cooling our heels in a Laotian bungalow or kitty-cat-curling-up on a sunny couch, whether by adventure we mean long hike in caves or an afternoon making sand castles at the beach. And it's totally cool either way.
For more on Badal's photogenic adventures (and naps), visit his site.
The 8 Secrets of Budget Travelers
10 Places to Visit Before They're Gone
The 23-Year-Long Road Trip
Then in 1948, 2,741 acres of the Fresh Kills marshlands (kill is Old Dutch for "stream") were designated a landfill. Seven years later, Fresh Kills was the largest residential trash repository in the world—and the name Staten Island less synonymous with bucolic meadows than with an epic stench.
But now Thoreau's "garden" is making a comeback—as Freshkills Park. In 2008 construction began on a 30-year master plan that calls for nature trails, a bird observatory, and canoeing. The city is also harvesting natural gas from the buried waste and using it to heat 22,000 homes (the waste is "capped" with an impermeable cover to prevent fumes from escaping). This summer the park's first completed section, a playground, is scheduled to open to the public; a pedestrian loop and the Owl Hollow Fields—which include soccer fields, lawns, and a LEED-certified rest area—will follow this fall. Red foxes and deer have already recolonized the upland forests, and park administrator Eloise Hirsh sees goldfinches on her way to work—evidence that "the land is healing itself," she says. "By turning this into something really beautiful, we want to help people be more thoughtful about what they throw out."
Above is a photo of La Tomatina, Spain's annual festival featuring music, parades, dancing and fireworks. Oh, and a giant battle involving about 30,000 people hurling tomatoes at one another. It's taking place today, but if you forgot to book your trip to Valencia, there's no law against staging a food fight in your own backyard tonight. And yes, tomatoes are in season, but you know what else is in season? Cake. Satisfying to throw, satisfying to get hit with, and definitely satisfying to scrape off your face and eat.
It's one of the most humbling experiences a city-dweller can have: gardening. I'd volunteered to work in the community garden, so there I was on a Sunday morning, crouched in the dirt, hopping up every few minutes to find someone to ask, "Sorry, this is so embarrassing, but is this a weed? Is this a plant? Or a weed? Looks kind of planty? Wait, I mean weedy?" By the end of my two-hour-long shift, though, I was already seeing things differently: noticing a spriggy vine of weediness from across the garden patch; a rustling in the purple bushes I realized was a steady stream of visiting butterflies.
These are the moments we need, when you look at a thing long enough to see what it really is. As in these otherworldly shots of migrating butterflies on Environmental Graffiti: seeming at first to be a tree branch, or a smattering of leaves, the swarms of color reveal themselves to be instead bouquets of butterflies, masses of monarchs, and reason enough to look closely.
Visit Environmental Graffiti for more amazing images of these surreal butterfly swarms. Suggested listening while viewing:Muriel Rukeyser reading her poem "The Speaking Tree": "The trunk of the speaking tree looks like a tree-trunk / Until you look again...It calls your name." What else is calling our names, if only we would listen? What else could we see if we looked, looked again?
Instant Inspiration: Photographs of Trees
Breathing Space: Favorite Places on Earth
And, indeed, they had. Originally hailing from Youngstown, Ohio, the 1922 carousel—it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places—had long since fallen into disrepair when Jane Walentas, a former art director for Estée Lauder, and her husband, a real estate developer, bought it at an auction in Ohio in 1984. "It was loaded with charm, and so elegant," says Walentas, who saw in the tired structure a star attraction for the neighborhood her husband was helping transform from rotting piers and abandoned warehouses into apartments, cafés, and playgrounds.
Walentas got to work refurbishing her treasure, mane by mane, bridle by gleaming bridle. She mended broken legs and used an X-Acto knife to scrape decades' worth of chipped paint off the horses, occasionally even hauling one home in her Jeep to work on late into the night. She enlisted local artists to help repaint the herd and chariots an earthy palette of forest browns, aubergine purples, sea-foam greens, and wine reds—all faithful re-creations of the carousel's original colors.
The carousel complete, the Walentas family donated their masterpiece to the city in 2011—27 years after the project began. "I was raised to finish things," Walentas says with a laugh. The horses have already attracted more than 200,000 visitors. When Walentas passes them, she says, "I think back to when the carousel was in my studio in hundreds of pieces, caked with grease and grime—and I feel proud that I saved it from extinction."
Can you imagine explaining Facebook to an alien from outerspace? Or your grandmother? "It's, you know, you put...pictures...you share whatever little thought you have...to like 900 people..." "But why?" the alien grandma would ask, and you would have to shake your head and admit that you just didn't know. Then there's the brand-new Camellia Network. This site, founded by a business strategist and a bestselling author, is designed to help kids aging out of foster care. It's a social network that provides a tangible good, the kind of thing that makes you think, "Oh THAT'S why the Internet exists."
You may have never given much thought to what happens to foster kids when they turn 18, but consider this: According to the Camellia Network, "For youth who age out of the [foster care] system without a permanent family to support them, life is often tough. 25% of these youth become homeless by the time they turn twenty. 25% become incarcerated. 60% have children of their own within four years, and those kids are twice as likely to be placed in foster care themselves - continuing the cycle for a future generation." Kind of makes your veins go cold for a minute, doesn't it? I know when I was 18 I was completely ready to be out on my own. By which I mean, in a dorm room where all my meals were provided at a college my parents were paying for, on a clearly defined path to an adult life I'd grown up studying. Imagine trying to find your way without any guidance. Or dorm-meal-plan-provided cereal.
So what can you do to help? Well, thanks to the Camellia Network, you can post a job or internship opportunity, let the Camellia youth know about your healthcare, education, transportation, etc, service, or even just buy a kid a toaster. Browsing the profiles is its own kind of education, and reveals the genius of Camellia Network's premise: when you see a name and a hopeful face, when you read about each person's goals and how they are working toward them, you are suddenly invested. It's not an "issue," it's a person, a young person setting out into adult life without a safety net.
Learn more about Camellia Network's co-founder Vanessa Diffenbaugh's bestselling and widely acclaimed novel, The Language of Flowers (which is about a foster child aging out of the system), at her website here. Speaking of which, in the language of flowers, "camellia" means "My destiny is in your hands." How's that for a poetic call to action?
Visit the Camellia Network to find out how you can get involved.
The Baby You Give Back: Fostering Infants
A Summer Camp That Connects Siblings
I was reminded of the power of cuteness recently when my husband extracted our daughter from a weepy fit by showing her a photo of a baby sloth. She stopped mid-whine, transfixed. "Why are its eyes so BIG?" she asked, her eyes getting really big as she forgot all about her angst. Thank you, baby sloth!
We all have those moments, those afternoons that seem to stretch on forever, those bad moods that won't burst. The world is a beautiful place, right, whatever, yadda yadda, but sometimes you just need an instant happiness-dose, an injection of adorability shot right into your heart. In short, a flying baby.
Sure, most baby photos are pretty cute, but Rachel Hulin's otherwordly shots of her son flying in midair bring the cuteness to a new level of whimsy. This is surely the sign of advancing cuteness technology. And that's not all -- Hulin has a children's book, Flying Henry, coming out in the spring. You baby sloths out there better get your game up. (via Shine)
Is Your Baby As Cute As You Think?
The Cutest Animal Videos
Unlikely (and Adorable) Friendships
Arranged and photographed by Congdon, an arrangement of vases looks like a group of girls standing around at a party. Her drawing of vintage baking dishes resembles a small flock of expectant boats. Browsing through the blog offers the singular pleasure of readjusting your vision to see the beauty of every day objects (who knew tape measures were so beautiful?) And I especially love that she's included "imagined collections." What could be better than an imagined collection? No storage. No dusting. No limits.
Check out more of Lisa Congdon's whimsical work at her site. (Oh yeah, and for all you print media collectors, Collection a Day is a now a book.)
What Our Cookbooks Say About Our Lives
Collecting Advice from the Antiques Roadshow Experts