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June 2012 (119 posts)
In Boardman, Ohio, Val Haller brought upbeat tunes by the '60s pop band the Hollies to her raucous high school cheerleading practices. When she drove off to college in 1975, Haller tossed a box of records and eight-track tapes--Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Carole King--onto the passenger seat of her Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. These days, when she goes to friends' dinner parties in the Chicago suburbs, Haller brings an iPod filled with songs by bands like the Portland indie rockers Blind Pilot. "Life feels flat unless there's music in the background,"she says.
When a pal complained about her teenager's thumping Top 40 songs, Haller, a stay-at-home mother of four, was inspired to launch the Web site Valslist, which helps fellow baby boomers--not to mention busy working moms and anyone else who hasn't followed music since before the days of MTV--find tunes of their own to play at top volume.
Valslist is now stocked with purchasable playlists, including both new and "vintage" music, to suit any mood, from "all dressed up and looking good" to "pensive tunes for a pensive day." Most songs are by bands with names like Rubblebucket and Communist Daughter that Haller delights in discovering on arcane music blogs and Web sites. But she also sprinkles in tracks by better-known artists like Adele and Jackson Browne. A "sounds like" page helps readers find new songs that channel their old favorites. (Love the Dave Matthews Band? Try singer-songwriter Pat McKillen. Former Deadhead? Queue up the band Moe.)
Haller's offbeat, adventurous taste has already won her fans of all ages: Her site has readers in 33 countries, and this summer she'll release an iPhone app. Meanwhile, her college-age twins--who once teased her for starting a Web site when she could barely navigate her cell phone--admit that she's often the first to discover artists who become popular on their campuses. "Sometimes when my kids call me with a band they're excited about," says Haller, "I pretend I haven't heard of it, just so I don't embarrass them."
First, the bad news: A warm winter followed by a wet spring usually means a buggy summer, as insects like mosquitoes and ticks thrive in the type of weather we've had this year. Now, the worse news: For most of us, keeping those bugs at bay means loading up on gross-smelling, cough-inducing insect repellent. Most of these contain DEET (a compound that's been linked to skin irritation and headaches, and which the EPA classifies as slightly toxic) and parabens (a preservative that can harm aquatic life if you go for a dip outdoors).
That's why we love Cold Spring Apothecary's all-natural bug spray, which uses natural oils like lavender and lemongrass to repel insects. Even better than its eco-credentials: The sweet, floral spray actually works. ($8.50, coldspringapothecary.com)
Are you reading Wild with us this summer? Oprah and author Cheryl Strayed are answering YOUR questions about this unforgettable memoir.
Do you have a question for Oprah or Cheryl about Wild? Ask away here!
The other day I was feeling bummed about the paunch, and was glumly considering my options. I asked my neighbor, who's a personal trainer, where I should start. "Three minutes running, three minutes..." "Crying?" I guessed. "Um, no. Walking. No crying." A run in the 90 degree heat? Okay. I immediately went to air-conditioned cafe and the thing is they have these really special donuts.
Evening plans: shame spiral.
Then I was talking to my husband, and moaning about the paunch, and a thought struck me: I love this problem. Don't get me wrong, it's a problem. If there's one thing I hate more than working out, it's shopping for clothes, so never getting back to my normal size is out of the question. But I am so mindblowingly lucky that this is my problem. I mean, I'm not talking the-mom-in-What's-Eating-Glibert-Grape obesity here. And I'm not starving either. I mean: Hooray! It's just a non-delicious muffin top! That's not to say I want to keep it around, but it did occur to me that if I treated my problem with loving kindness, or more accurately, an amused detachment, it's possible that I would have less angst and more energy to combat it. Like, instead of feeling depleted by it, I should be thankful for it. Hey, baby weight! Wasn't that fun when you served a purpose? Guess what, buddy? The baby's out! The baby walks and talks! So, listen, you know what you might really enjoy, is this, it's called "salad"! How lucky, to have this paunch around to convince me to exercise!
What's your paunch? -- that little problem annoying your subconscious all day? A small debt piling up on the Victoria's Secret credit card you refuse to believe you even have? A kitchen that seems to mess itself up when you're sleeping? A sense that your blah haircut is the key to all your life's inadequacies? Trust me, I know that there are big problems that are hard to love: bankruptcy, disease, bangs that refuse to grow out gracefully. But maybe if we can remember to treat our paunch-like problems with love, we can remember that it's actually kind of fun to, I don't know, run for three minutes.
9 Rules for Everyday Senseless Joy
The No-Gimmick Way to Make Change in Your Life
Ach, the unanswerable questions of a preschooler deep in the whys. Here's something I've discovered: If asked enough questions enough times, you really do start to think of yourself as a Personage With All Answers. So the last time we had this conversation I said, authoritatively, "Well, there's not really that Wonder Woman. But there are other wonder women who help solve problems and make people act nice." She seemed to accept this, although she did want to know whether or not they all wear American-flag-themed leotards.
And as if in answer to my own why-why-why's, here they are: the real-life wonder women. Fast Company has assembled this auspicious, inspiring, and thrilling group of influential women who answering the question: Can a devoted group of concerned women change the world? The League of Extraordinary Women includes powerful CEOs, leaders, and politicians who are working to improve the lot of women and girls throughout the world. As one example, Maria Eitel, the CEO of Nike, was inspired by a visit to Africa (and in particular, the smart girl she met there who was about to married off in exchange for some cows) to start The Girl Effect, the purpose of which is "to inspire girls to believe in themselves; to deliver resources girls need to grow; and to remove the barriers that hold them back." From giving women micro-loans to help them start their own business, to providing access to clean water, the organizations these extraordinary women have started are changing the world, one step at a time.
You have to pore over the whole list to understand the scope of this league of real-life wonder women. Just prepare yourself for a buzz of happiness and relief that these people are using their powers for the purposes of so much good.
Why We Need More Female Leaders
Powerful Women in Training
Talked to the HEAT yesterday. Wow was that interesting - getting to talk to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh just a few days after their great NBA victory. Was sitting in front of my TV during Game 4 of the finals and thought if they win, this will be triple sweet for them after all the naysayers and hoopla surrounding last year's defeat.
So we called and they said Yes; Come on down to Miami after the parade.
It was clear to me, and will be to you too, that this Championship is not just about basketball but so much more. We talked about how sweet it is to prove "I told you so" to yourself.
NEXT CHAPTER this Sunday night at 8/7c.
A Non-Squishy Sandwich
The heartier the bread, the more likely it won't get soggy. You can also take a few precautions: spread each slice with butter or mayo, keep meat and vegetables on the inside and cheese on the outside, and make sure lettuce is completely dry before building your sandwich.
Snack Mix That Won't Leave a Trail
Unless you want the car covered in orange fingerprints, save the Doritos and Cheetos for once you reach your destination. Instead, try making your own salty-sweet nosh. This mix from Cat Cora includes cereal (such as Cheerios or shredded wheat), mini pretzels, popcorn, peanuts and wasabi-coated dried peas for a spicy kick.
In 2010 Julia Silverman and Jessica Matthews traveled halfway around the world, hoping to light up some of the more impoverished villages of South Africa and Nigeria by testing some soccer balls there. But not just any soccer balls: Their Socckets, as they call them, house gyroscopic mechanisms that harness energy from the ball's motion. After being kicked around for 30 minutes, the balls can power a small LED lamp for three hours--long enough for a child whose home lacks electricity to do homework or read a book. Since most communities in Africa are crazy about soccer, the ball was a hit. "The kids thought it was magic," Silverman says, "but I could also see the wheels turning in their heads. One boy came back with a drawing of a ball with windmills sticking out of it. They wanted to be inventors, too."
The idea for the Soccket dates to an undergraduate engineering class at Harvard. There, Silverman and Matthews, working with two other students, drew on their experiences abroad--Matthews's family is from Nigeria, and Silverman had worked in sub-Saharan Africa--to devise a technically simple idea that could make a huge difference to the 1.4 billion people in the world living without electricity. The group knew that kerosene lamps emit dangerous fumes. While brainstorming alternatives, they thought of so-called shake flashlights, which are powered by motion, not batteries. Soon they'd put one inside a hamster ball to demonstrate how the global mania for soccer might help bring light to the places that don't have it. After the term ended, Matthews and Silverman worked with a design firm to create a more realistic prototype, a dead ringer for an actual soccer ball, except for the small plug on the outside.
In 2011 the duo quit their jobs at the World Bank (Silverman) and a social media start-up (Matthews) to focus on the Soccket. With sponsorship from corporations like Western Union, they've now produced more than 6,000 balls and accompanying LED lamps for distribution throughout countries including Mexico, El Salvador, and the Gambia. "We're also thinking of how everything from basketballs to volleyballs can be useful," Matthews says. "We want people to realize that making a difference doesn't have to be serious and boring. It can be as simple and fun as playing soccer."